Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and I am on another blogging holiday!

Dear Readers,

Thank you for reading through 2018!

This has been an extraordinary year for me personally, having no anticipation at its beginning that I would be elected a bishop before its end.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

As in previous years, I will be on a blogging holiday for a while, likely to resume service on Monday 14th January 2019.

As my new role Is already showing me how demanding it will be timewise, I am recognising that my aspiration to keep blogging will best be achieved by aiming to post once per week. And Monday mornings will be a good day to aim for making that weekly post.

Here is to Mondays in 2019 :)


I had some fascinating ministry experiences over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Two/four experiences illustrated the continuing reality and potential for the Christian faith to connect with many Kiwis and for "church" to be at the heart of communities. And two/four experiences illustrated the continuing reality and potential for many Kiwis to be disconnected from the Christian faith and for "church" to be at the margins of communities. We live in interesting times, with challenges and opportunities for the gospel.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The season has a reason!

My friend and colleague, Spanky Moore, University of Canterbury Chaplain, was interviewed yesterday on "The Panel", and a recording is here.

It is incredible that we have this almost totalitarian approach to Christmas (see some remarks within an Andrew Sullivan article) with so little attention to the reason for the season.

The listener whom Jim Mora quotes near the beginning of the segment makes a marvellous point: something significant is at work in the birth of Jesus. After all, no one will be celebrating her birthday (nor yours, dear reader, nor mine) 2000 years hence!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Is Theresa May the most important person in the world today? PS: what about Jesus?

Thinking further about last week's post (immediately below this), I have been thinking about the importance of the resurrection to claims that the Christian message is true. In a world of competing religions, where religion can be characterized as that which makes human life meaningful in the face of death (that is, in the face of the fact that we humans know we are going to die and thus we think about what it means to exist and to cease to exist), it is noticeable that religions offer a vision of life after death.

A simple consequential observation, of course, is that our means of knowing which vision of life after death is true, are very limited. No one has ever come back from Nirvana to tell us all about it. No Islamic martyr has returned to confirm the number of virgins available to him in Paradise. Religions, in respect of life after death, either win our adherence because we believe what they say for other reasons (miracles, compelling logic, superlative example of the religion's founder, experiences of the divine associated with the religion, etc) or what is offered as a vision of life after death is simply compelling in its own right.

Christians claim that one person, Jesus, has come back from life beyond death.* Thus our claim that we can look forward to resurrection is undergirded by conviction that we have a direct witness to support that hope.

Having had a few thoughts along those lines, I find today that Andrew Sullivan has written further on the matter of religion and politics, taking on various critics. Here. But, as (nearly) always, discussion of religion, including evidence for religious truth claims, does not mention Jesus.

Incidentally, before you get to what Andrew says about religion, you can read a fascinating analysis of the significance of Theresa May's attempt to secure a Brexit deal. It might just mean she is the most important person in the world today ... apart from Jesus Christ!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Religion is what matters most and what matters most might be politics

Andrew Sullivan is a shrewd commentator and always worth reading. In this article, "America's New Religions," he argues

"Now look at our politics. We have the cult of Trump on the right, a demigod who, among his worshippers, can do no wrong. And we have the cult of social justice on the left, a religion whose followers show the same zeal as any born-again Evangelical. They are filling the void that Christianity once owned, without any of the wisdom and culture and restraint that Christianity once provided."

Along the way, Sullivan offers insights and bon mots on the nature of religion, its necessity for humanity because we of all creatures know we are going to die, and the follies and fallacies of (at least some) well-known atheists.

A challenge - it struck me - is what role does "religion" play in my own life. If religion is that which helps us to make sense of the meaning of life, then, yes, Christianity - the faith based on the gospel of Jesus Christ - is central to and dominating in my understanding of the meaning of life. But, what other things help me find meaning? Are other religions at work within me? As a Kiwi looking at a Trumpian America, aghast at the involvement of evangelical leaders in the "worship" of Trump, I can readily (according to my own lights) identify a certain kind of American tribalism as that which gives meaning to such Americans. And tribalism is always a false religion. But, then, I need to reckon that being a Kiwi also helps me to make sense of my life ...!

Incidentally, the comments at the foot of the Sullivan article are fascinating. Not everyone agrees with him.


Monday, December 3, 2018

A new reformation?

Various convulsions in global Anglicanism over the past two decades or so, allied with a number of changes in Christianity (marked by conceptions such as "post-Christian", "post-evangelical" and by various shifts in ecumenical alignments and allegiances) have raised here and there commentary on the matter of whether we are undergoing another "Reformation". And the "we" can refer generally to Christianity (perhaps with subsidiary arguments about such major convulsions occurring roughly every 500 years) or, in some discussions, to Anglicans.

That is, splits in the Anglican Communion, the formation of GAFCON, etc are global Anglicanism undergoing a significant re-formation, comparable to the significance of the English Reformation itself, in which the Anglicans of the 16th century forged both a new governance for themselves and purified its doctrine of unscriptural accretions while retaining all that was good and true in doctrine and in practice from the ancient, universal church.

Now, we do not yet know how we will see these matters 100 or 300 years hence, so it is too early to make the call whether we are or are not undergoing a reformation which is comparable to the English Reformation.

But yesterday, participating in a well attended worship service in a parish which has recently experienced disaffiliation of congregational members and its vicar departing to form a new Anglican church, this thought struck me ...

In the history of Anglicanism there have been disaffiliations which, essentially, have been "new formations" rather than "reformations": Puritans and Dissenters leading to the modern Baptist church, Methodists, Plymouth Brethren are the most notable such new formations.

I further thought that these departures represent (it could be argued) an Anglicanism that could not contain the movement which moved towards disaffiliation and an objection to the breadth of Anglicanism that would not narrow itself to conform to the tidy uniformity of belief and practice which those disaffiliating required.

The former - as I understand it - especially applies to the formation of the Methodist church and the latter to the separation of Puritans and Dissenters from the Church of England. (I am less aware of the precise circumstances under which the Plymouth Brethren were formed.)

Now, of course, a very precise difference between these historic new formations and the current situation is that everyone is determined to remain "Anglican"!

But it does seem to me that while we may yet see a reformed global Anglicanism - say, 50 years from now, there is one Anglican Communion which is conformed to the Jerusalem Declaration doctrinally speaking and, perhaps, is united by an elected Primate as the focus of global unity - a different scenario is possible.

In that scenario, the broad Anglican Communion cannot contain GAFCON as a movement within it and GAFCON's objection to the breadth of the Communion means that, in the end, there is a parting of Anglican ways.

Now, and this is very important, a further thought is this: from an historical perspective, we can say that God has blessed all God's Anglican and Anglican-at-root churches: Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, Brethren have all flourished.

Whatever the future historical judgement of the present time is, reformation or new formation, there is no need to be anxious about whether God is at work in all our midsts!

Certainly, from my own experience of yesterday, being present in four different events across four different parishes in our Diocese, I have no doubt that God is at work among us.

Note to commenters: please discuss this post without discussion of You Know What. That matter - again - has been discussed very thoroughly a couple of posts below this.

Update: after posting the above, I came across this interesting reflection on Anglican/Episcopal life in North America by Benjamin Guyer.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Turanga viewpoint

Over the weekend Teresa and I had the pleasure of entertaining some friends from the UK. Yesterday we did some exploring in central Christchurch city. That led us to Turanga, our brand new central city library which is spectacular and on the evidence of yesterday, excellently patronised.

Once inside Turanga, there are multiple stairs to climb but the ascent to the highest level is worth it as this gives access to a viewing platform for which the foremost building on display is our Christ Church Cathedral.

I took a photograph ...

As I work my way in to the role of being the Bishop of Christchurch, I am, on an almost daily basis, being brought up to speed with all that is expected of me as bishop in relation to the cathedral. To be honest, this is pretty exciting and I am meeting some very interesting people who are being drawn into the reinstatement project.

I also note that even while the project is getting some steam up and forging ahead, there are continuing arguments in the Christchurch Press letters' page about the cathedral ... well, this past week, cathedrals, since some news about the Catholic Diocese of Christchurch's thinking about their cathedral has prompted a new flurry of letters.

In the midst of these public debates about buildings is a simple-but-complex question: what is the public character of our faith?

Our faith is not in buildings but buildings house faithful Christians. Within such "houses", Christians pray and praise God. Houses of prayer. Bit by bit such spaces, from their design and intentions through to their actual use, become sacred spaces - spaces which attract Christians and non-Christians and people who define themselves somewhere in between those two descriptions. Attachments form. Our faith may not be in buildings such as cathedrals but cathedrals engender some kind of faith, from well articulated, theologically formed faith through to incoate faith - faith in some kind of divine something through to faith in the God of Jesus Christ, whose story is told in Scripture and whose definition is set out in orthodox creeds.

However the future of our cathedrals in Christchurch is worked out, we are privileged to be part of a city where cathedrals matter!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

What is "Anglican heritage"?

Readers here will be familiar with the continuing story of the Diocese of Sydney responding to our GS 2018 decision, referenced in a post or two below. Recently I gather a resolution was passed there supporting the raising of funds for ministers in the emerging new churches here. This week, from our side of the conversation, our Archbishops with the support of our GS Standing Committee wrote a response to Archbishop Glenn Davies. The best set of links is in a Thinking Anglicans post here.

Their post uses the word "overlap" in the heading, meaning that when the ++Sydney proposal is that there might be two recognised Anglican churches in the Blessed Isles of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, it is proposed on the basis of a shared or overlapping Anglican heritage.

In an eLife letter to the Diocese yesterday, I wrote the following:

"In the light of disaffiliations this year and the starting up of new congregations (by my count: 5 to date, 8 by February 2019), some of which are using the word “Anglican” in their names, I encourage readers to read an article published today on Taonga about a letter from our Archbishops to the Archbishop of Sydney (and from that article, there is a link to the whole letter). A particular point made in that letter is this:
“Our General Synod resolution on the blessing of same-sex civil marriages cannot be divorced from this shared history – it was a cross-tikanga resolution, decades in the making. Indeed, had it not been for the extraordinary generosity and patience extended by Tikanga Māori (and Tikanga Polynesia) on this very matter, this province would be in a far less healthy state than it is today. If those disaffiliating want to be committed to that fundamental consequence of being Anglican in Aotearoa New Zealand, then they must stay in these constitutional and Treaty-based relationships. We cannot recognise a Church as Anglican which does not encapsulate this 200 years of relationship and history.”
I want to be clear with you all that I will not now nor when I am Bishop of Christchurch speak or write in ways which disrespect those who are forming new “Anglican” churches – they have been and will remain our brothers and sisters in God’s family. In common law they have the right to use a term which is neither trademarked nor copyrighted. But I completely agree with our Archbishops and the General Synod Standing Committee that we cannot offer formal recognition to a church or network of churches which claim to be Anglican apart from the constitutional and Treaty-based relationships which have evolved in the history of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, often through pain, difficulty, forgiveness and reconciliation. To do otherwise as Pākehā would be to – once again – override and ignore the voice of the first Anglicans of these islands, our Maori brothers and sisters in Te Hāhi Mihinare." END QUOTE

I think it worth a few more lines here on "Anglican heritage".

First, to be clear, if we think of being "Anglican" as working through a checkbox list, then the new churches here tick critically important boxes: having a bishop (from April next year); communion with other Anglican churches (through GAFCON membership); working missionally, liturgically, pastorally, theologically from Anglican roots, articles, prayer books. All ticked.

Also, if we worry about more than one Anglican church within a given territory, that that is somehow a bit "unAnglican", then we can set those worries aside: Europe (as ++Davies has pointed out) has more than one Anglican jurisdiction covering it. (We might, of course, worry that nevertheless such dual jurisdiction has fishhooks - I believe it does - but, hey, it is what it is and it is Anglican.)

So, the critique our Archbishops are making is this: in the specific context of these islands, "Anglican heritage" means more than "the heritage of the 16th century, the heritage of the English Reformation." Anglican heritage here includes and cannot set aside "200 years of relationship and history" between Maori and Pakeha, encapsulated in our "constitutional and Treaty-based relationships."

If there is to be "overlap" it must be an overlap defined by Maori and Pakeha together and not by Pakeha alone. And what Maori are saying through Archbishop Don Tamihere is that the overlap is found within ACANZP and not outside it.

Now, some might say, "the Archbishop's view is important, to be listened to, but, it is only one view of these things."

But, the question before us is not about personal recognitions of other churches, but "formal recognition" - the recognition, in this case, by ACANZP in all its synodical authority, of another church, of the Extra Provincial Diocese which is being formed.

The implication of the Archbishops' letter is that a proposal to formally recognise the new EPD as Anglican would not receive support from Tikanga Maori. (I suspect it wouldn't from the other two Tikanga, either, but I am not predicting that here). Thus it is not going to be forthcoming. The grounds for not formally recognising will be the lack of shared heritage as encapsulated in our constitutional and Treaty-based relationships.

So, the issues before us - when people within ACANZP are concerned about the new churches using the word "Anglican" in their new names, and when it is obviously important for the new churches that they continue to be Anglican in character, ethos and practice - include:

- what role is the voice of Tikanga Maori in discussion about these matters?
- will that voice be heard by Pakeha (within ACANZP and outside it)?
- will Sydney and the wider Anglican world understand the particularity of "Anglican heritage" in these islands?

Finally, with respect to my recent post below, where I proposed that perhaps the wider Communion through a very inclusive Lambeth Conference might give us some direction in respect of ++Davies proposal, I acknowledge that even that body of Anglican resolution-making authority might not be enough to dissuade the Archbishops' from maintaining their response, resting as it does on specific concerns in our particular context.

Monday, November 12, 2018


I am receiving remarkable encouragement and sympathy from many people from all parts of the church as I go deeper into this period of being "bishop-elect" and draw closer to the actual date of taking up the role of Bishop of Christchurch (9 February 2019).

The particular prompt for this encouragement and sympathy is the character of this particular year in the life of our Diocese: (in no particular order of  challenge), making progress on reinstatement of our cathedral, disaffiliations from existing parishes, new Anglican churches being formed in our midst, consequential multiple vacancies in our parishes. Some say this is the most challenging year in our history as a Diocese! (I will let future historians pronounce judgment on that call.)

But also encouraging - very encouraging - is my experience of the continuing congregational life of the Diocese.

Eight days ago, a morning service with a well supported "remaining" congregation in the Parish of Woolston and an afternoon service which filled the brand new All Souls Church in Merivale=St Albans Parish.

Yesterday morning, a very good "remaining" congregation in one of the churches of the rural Parish of Rakaia and then in the afternoon an excellent congregation - full of young families - in the Parish of Woodend-Pegasus.

No one, least of all me, is going to jump to the conclusion that all is well because of these lovely experiences. We who remain in the Diocese will continue to debate and discuss many things - we are still a diverse group of Anglicans. We will continue to struggle with the challenge secularism brings against evangelistic action. And we are on the look out for good, keen vicars to lead parishes forward into what is now a new era for us.

But facing the future is always easier when the present encouragements remind us that God is at work among us.

Monday, November 5, 2018

What to do about Lambeth Conference 2020?

With a H/T to Ron Smith I can alert you to a post by Stephen Parsons exploring "Challenges for Lambeth 2020. The end of the Anglican Communion?"

There is no doubt that the Anglican Communion, in the sense of (my description) "the largest global collective of churches claiming to be authentic heirs and offshoots of the Church of England," is in the fight of its life to date.

The rise since 2008 of GAFCON, notwithstanding its desire to be within and not without the Anglican Communion, is the formation of another large, global collective of churches claiming to be authentic heirs and offshoots of the Church of England. 

GAFCON's particular claim is that its churches' legitimacy as heirs is stronger than the remainder of the Communion because what GAFCON teaches is a doctrine more purely true to the English Reformation.

Just as the English Reformation was a reformation of doctrine (cementing in place the Henrician Reformation in respect of governance of the English church) which resulted in schism from Rome, so we are arguably in another doctrinal reformation, a Communion Reformation which will also result in another schism.

But need that be the result of the present differences and disputes? Can schism be averted? Could Lambeth 2020 be an occasion which holds us together rather than drives us apart (or, just as undesirable, reveals how big the loss of GAFCON-oriented Anglicans is from the Anglican Communion)?

Intriguingly, Parsons offers his own reflection on the state of the play which he sees as a state of warring loyalties within Archbishop Welby himself. I have no idea whether or not this is accurate analysis of ++Justin but it is probably fair speculation in the light of his background:

"Archbishop Welby is faced with a difficult problem in planning for Lambeth 2020. He is caught between two expressions of Anglicanism. The one that he has embraced since ordination is what we would describe as a flexible and even liberal version of the Anglican tradition. At the same time he is still the product of a tradition which is inflexible and strongly into intransigent Church politics.  
The right-wing model of politics in church and state knows only the need to dominate and control. Bodies like GAFCON want to create the whole Communion in their own image – a uniformly monochrome body, affirming the ‘unchangeable’ message of Scripture. The fundamentalism espoused by GAFCON (and the 11 bishops) cannot and will not tolerate differences.  
The problem for Welby is that, while he can claim to belong to a broader form of Anglicanism today, these older strands of thinking still claim part of his loyalty. His major task must be now to try and reconcile the warring factions which exist in the wider church but these rivalries also struggle inside himself. Can he provide the leadership that will hold things together? Will he be tempted to succumb to the intense lobbying and pressure from his old conservative friends?  
The battles being fought before and during Lambeth 2020 will define the nature of the Anglican Communion for ever. Will it become more like a conservative right-wing sect as many desire, or, will it be the place of inclusion and generosity which many of us also long for? The stakes are high, and we must pray that Archbishop Welby rises to the challenge of providing the leadership that Anglican Communion needs at this critical time."
What Parsons puts his finger on is the difficulty of drawing together into one conference (let alone one communion service of bishops) a strand of Anglicanism which "will not tolerate differences" and a strand which will.

The ever hopeful bridge-building optimist in me would be keen to see this explored.

To a degree my optimism can draw on the paper Archbishop Glenn Davies spoke to, at a meeting of ACANZP folk in August this year (which I blogged about here, and the paper is mentioned (with links to it) there).

In that paper ++Glenn talks up the prospect of "distinctive co-existence", proposes that this is worked out in the Blessed Isles (with more than a nod to the model of two overlapping Dioceses of Europe), and offers a working plan for a truly global Lambeth Conference (my bold):

" If the Lambeth Conference is to mean anything it is to be the fellowship of bishops who share our Anglican heritage, not merely those whom the ACC recommend to the Primates to be in ‘fellowship with Canterbury’. If our relationships are not grounded in our belief in the Bible, our practice of the principles of the Book of Common Prayer and our adherence to the Thirty-nine Articles, then it is difficult to say that those who depart from these fundamental provisions are Anglican at all. If, on the other hand, TEC could recognise ACNA as a legitimate expression of Anglicanism; if the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (formerly the Church of the Province of South Africa) could recognise the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church (formerly the Church of England in South Africa); if the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil could recognise the Anglican Church in Brazil; if the ACANZP could recognise an alternative expression of Anglicanism in New Zealand, then we could all gather as bishops of Anglican heritage with the Archbishop of Canterbury. This would necessarily redefine the nature of the Lambeth Conference from its historical role as a resolution-making body. The gathering could celebrate our heritage, our common desire to see Christ glorified, without pretending there are no differences among us. Would that not be a celebration worth having?"

Here I don't want to critique the Davies' paper in its details - save to observe that "recognition" locally involves a specific respect for the Treaty of Waitangi as critical to our understanding of claims to being Anglican - our gospel fellowship between Maori and Pakeha must be just as well as congenial, and the measure of justice - e.g. sharing resources of the church - is the Treaty.

But I offer this reflection which I think is friendly to the intention of the Davies' paper:

Can the ACANZP actually recognise an alternative expression of Anglicanism in these islands without there first being a Lambeth Conference which works out the basis on which we might recognise one another as authentically and faithfully Anglican?

(There are many Anglicanisms around the world. In the Davies' list above there are some notable exceptions such as the Free Church of England. Which Anglicanisms are we going to recognise and which are we not, and how will we know the difference?)

Obviously there is a chicken-and-egg scenario here: a local recognition of alternative Anglicanism could confront the Lambeth Conference with a movement to so recognise which works from the ground up rather than the Conference down; whereas I am proposing the Conference tackles this matter first.

Nevertheless, I suggest a conferencing on what "Anglican heritage" means when there are not only differing but divided claimants to be heirs would be helpful.

Critically, we would need to examine whether mutual recognition that we all have authentic Anglican heritage is a sufficient basis on which to have some local/regional/global meetings of Anglican minds. To say nothing of asking whether "Anglican heritage" is a serious ecclesiological principle when it likely does not mean we can celebrate the eucharist together, even when we are serious about "recognition" of one another.

Is the future of global Anglicanism worth one Lambeth Conference in which we meet to discuss such matters, acknowledging there will be no communion of the whole group and that for the purposes of the conference the invitation list will cohere with the Davies' list above?

What could be lost by doing so? Not much I suggest. Whereas by not doing so we might be facing the Parsons' prophecy that the 2020 Conference will be the last ever.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Being evangelical in the Communion, being evangelistic in the Shaky Isles


Previously I have referred to an impressive and detailed survey of faith in our land. Our Anglican Taonga offers a report on it here.

Being evangelistic anywhere in the world today is challenging but for those of us living here (called the Shaky Isles today because there has been yet another significant earthquake, widely felt) we must embrace the specific challenges of our cultural contexts.

As a sign of the challenge, yesterday we had further confirmation that our representative parliament has no particular collective allegiance to Christianity as it was confirmed that "Jesus Christ" would disappear from the daily prayer which begins parliamentary sessions.

Is there "good news" in the report? Yes. I cite the Taonga reflection:

"The survey findings confirmed that the most effective form of evangelism in Aotearoa today comes from Christians who demonstrate Christian actions first, before sharing their faith in words.

59% of New Zealanders filling out the survey thought they would most likely be influenced to investigate faith by seeing others live out their faith. And if that faith was lived out while caring for people suffering from a personal trauma or life change, the impact of that Christian love and care went up. The survey also found that 54% of Kiwis were open to changing their religious views or exploring other beliefs."

The onus, in our practical Kiwi culture, is on people seeing our good works and glorifying our Father who is in heaven!


Being evangelical in ACANZP is, I think, measurably more challenging as we are now at the end of October 2018. Locally that means that from tomorrow, five new evangelical congregations will have been formed from Anglican parishes in the Diocese of Christchurch. I understand that in December, two more congregations will be added, and through these works an eighth is emerging and establishing itself. All of which means there are evangelical Anglicans who believe they must of necessity be evangelical and Anglican outside of the historical, well-established Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. The move to disaffiliate is driven - if I may say so - by evangelical convictions more than Anglican convictions.

In turn, that raises a question for evangelicals who remain in ACANZP. Are we now somewhat less than evangelical? Have we blunted the edge of our evangelical convictions in order to remain secure in our familiar environments?

Cue attention to a letter a group of evangelical Anglican bishops has written to GAFCON - bishops in the Church of England taking up a GAFCON challenge to explain what it means to be "faithful Anglicans".

I like what they say.

While not every phrase would be adopted by me (because some phrases are specific to the experience of being evangelical in the Church of England), I agree with much of what the letter says. In particular, the Jerusalem Declaration is a document I have never been happy about as a statement of Anglican conviction which somehow ought to be easy for "any evangelical" to sign; the affirmation of the Communion Partner bishops within TEC is welcome; and their commitment to a specific mission within the CofE is encouraging.

As an evangelical Anglican about to become a bishop, I am encouraged by this letter.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Diocese of Sydney votes to join ACANZP!

Criticism of ACANZP's GS 2018 decision re permitting same sex blessings has included:

- where is the prior theological agreement for this step?
- bishops shouldn't be the ones giving permission, not least because it creates different rules for different regions
- this means the church lives with opposing views which is dangerous in the long run - "two integrities" on such a matter is impossible
- it goes against Scripture's clear teaching about sexuality

Thus we have seen and are seeing separation by those who cannot live with this situation.

Being a logician, I assume that overnight news from the Diocese of Sydney means that they have effectively voted to side with ACANZP and not with those disaffiliating from our church.

On the matter of permitting the remarriage of divorcees after a separation occurs because of abuse, the Diocese of Sydney according to this article has:

- not waited for theological agreement on this step
- put it into the hands of bishops of the Diocese whether they give permission or not
- will live with opposing views on the matter (including opposition from the head of its theological college)
- gone against the clear teaching of Scripture (which never mentions a compassionate pathway through Jesus' and Paul's teaching such has now been taken), including the previous response of the Diocese which was consistent with that teaching.

To any disaffiliating Kiwi Anglicans reading this: come back!

Sydney and ACANZP have a common compassionate, pragmatic (or "personalist") approach to challenging matters of human sexuality and are charting the way forward for a realistic engagement with 21st century issues: all are welcome to share in it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Oh, dear

#fakenews which is, well, fake!?

Very expensive mistake!

My question here is whether a misconception of the part of evangelicals about the relationship between theological truth and historical evidence drives some of us to invest money in what is, effectively, a category mistake.


Monday, October 22, 2018

We need more Christianity

A colleague has pointed out an interesting item on The Project recently.

The video clip is here. Its byline is that a Christian, a Muslim and a Jew walk into a bar ...

But the interesting thing about the clip is the discussion by the panel members at the conclusion of the bar scene.

Monday, October 15, 2018

"I’ve been sensing for some time that sacred speech and spiritual conversation are in decline."

Jonathan Merritt makes a case here that I think could be readily transported across the Pacific Ocean, downwards.

What do you think?

I think that where sacred speech and spiritual conversation are in decline the language we use to share the gospel needs translating ....

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Further on Distinctive Co-existence

A thoughtful reflection in Distinctive Co-existence, published by The Living Church, here.

Your comments are welcome on this matter. Please note that I will not comment (these are matters of very direct import to my own Diocese) so please do not address comments or questions to me personally, as I won't be responding!)

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Ecumenical winter? The beginning of the end of ecumenism or the end of the beginning?

A very thoughtful article here here by Michael Root (H/T Bryden Black).

Are we making any actual progress towards the church being one? Do headline moves re agreements and conferences signal any change "on the ground"? Is change on the ground being reflected in decisions within the citadels of ecclesial power?

Winter canvases the global scene, offers some sobering analysis (for ever hopefuls such as myself) and charts some hopeful prospects, but not with great optimism.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Could we have a female York and change the Lord's Prayer?

Under no circumstances should anyone join the Anglican church in order to be in an unchanging church! (I know, I know, lots of aspects of Anglican churches seem unchanging ...).

On the one hand, today we learn that the present ABY will retire in June 2020 and immediately see strong arguments emerging that the next ABY will be female: here.

On the other hand, might we be saying the Lord's Prayer, that staple of all Anglican services, wrongly? See here.

Anyone for a sweepstake on York?
Might we change the Lord's Prayer?

Monday, September 24, 2018

A bit of a blogging break

Dear Readers
Various circumstances mean I need to take a break from blogging for a bit.
I hope it might only be a couple of weeks.
With your new spare time, you could always pray a bit more!
Another Gulf War brewing?
Trump wrecking the world economy?
Planet heating up?
Engaging a world in which truth is unbelievable because #fakenews generates intense hermeneutics of suspicion about truth claims: the authenticity of the gospel as true truth, more than ever, is in how gospel people live ... the Jesus of the gospel must be met in us who witness to him.
In Christ
PS Brexit is a metaphor of our Anglican times: ponder that :)

Monday, September 17, 2018

Keeping the main thing the main thing?

So far being bishop-elect is very interesting (many different aspects of ministry leadership being met for the first time) and very demanding (lots of things to attend to). I am rapidly learning new skills in time management!

I am already conscious that in a sea of details I could get lost.

What is the main episcopal thing which I need to keep the main thing? (Your comments appreciated).

I am not without ideas about what the main episcopal thing is - in simple terms, it is leadership through teaching and pastoring, with a special emphasis on raising up leaders to share this common task of care for God's church (i.e. discerning people for ministry leadership and appointing leaders of ministry such as vicars).

But I can see that to keep that main thing the main thing will be a challenge.

Fortunately yesterday evening's OT reading is helpful (Exodus 18:13-26).
But as I said to someone yesterday, I am finding that even when tasks are delegated, new tasks come in which need new delegations :)

Monday, September 10, 2018

Enclave theology or ecumenical theology?

Thanks to a recommendation here a post or five ago, I am dipping into a beautiful book on eucharistic theology, The Eucharist and Ecumenism: Let Us Keep the Feast by George Hunsinger (Cambridge: CUP, 2008). A Reform theologian builds bridge towards a way for our eucharistic theology to unite us across our differences. Brilliant. A man after my own heart.

Hunsinger captures something which I have never quite expressed in my own mind about theological difference by invoking the concepts of "enclave theology" and "ecumenical theology." It is worth thinking about. Here is some of his explanation, pp. 1-2, 8-9 .

"By "enclave theology," I mean a theology based narrowly in a single tradition that seeks not to learn from other traditions and to enrich them, but instead to topple and defeat them, or at least to withstand them. Enclave theology is polemical theology even when it assumes an irenic facade. Its limited agenda makes it difficult for it to take other traditions seriously and deal with them fairly. Whether openly or secretly, it is not really interested in dialogue but in rectitude and hegemony. It harbours the attitude that the ecumenical movement will succeed only as other traditions abandon their fundamental convictions, where they are incompatible with those of the enclave, in order to embrace the enclave's doctrinal purity. ... Enclave theology makes itself look good, at least in its own eyes, by making others look bad. ... [p. 1] 
Ecumenical theology takes another approach. It presupposes that every tradition in the church has something valuable to contribute even if we cannot yet discern what it is. The ecumenical movement will succeed not when all other traditions capitulate to the one true church - whether centred in Geneva, Constantinople, Canterbury, Wittenburg or Rome - to say nothing of other symbolic locales like Lima, Cape Town, New Delhi, Canberra or Beijing. On the contrary, it will succeed only by a deeper conversation of all traditions to Christ. Ecumenical theology, though properly grounded in a single tradition, looks for what is best in traditions not its own. It seeks not to defeat them but to respect and learn from them. It earns the right to speak only by listening, and it listens much more than it speaks. When in the midst of intractable disagreements, it searches for unforeseen convergences. Its hope for ecumenical progress means that no tradition will get everything it wants, each will get much that it wants, none will be expected to make unacceptable compromises. Each will contribute to the richness of the whole, and all will be expected to stretch to accept some things that at first did not seem possible. Ecumenical theology, while unable to avoid speaking pointedly at times, seeks a charitable spirit which "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Cor. 13:7)." [p. 2]

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Fancy Karl du Fresne noticing something I said!

I love reading Karl du Fresne's columns. He is straightforward, clear and generally conservative in a reasonable way. However I never expected him to notice a minion like me and the words I have said.


Now, it is entirely fair of Karl to critique the role of the church in politics and society, and no doubt we do our share of virtue signalling and falling over ourselves to be relevant in ways which, er, turn out to be not that relevant.

But as a reporter of many years, Karl might at least give me and other church leaders the benefit of the doubt on one matter: that we might have talked about Jesus with our interviewers and those interviewers might have thought it less than newsworthy to report that a Jesus follower thinks Jesus should be at the centre of life.

Blessings, Karl, if you should read this!

Monday, September 3, 2018

A Week in the Life of

Sunday: Lovely Prophets at the Cathedral event with challenging message about importance of pacifism. News that a vicar has resigned.

Monday: Quiet day working from home. Archbishop rings at tea-time. Voting is complete. Majority is replete. Letter of Offer coming.

Tuesday: Sign Letter of Offer. Meet Charlie Gates of The Press for interview. Think that goes well. Sign Declarations with my father as witness. Am now officially "Bishop-elect of Christchurch." Media release. Work afternoon tea. Lovely photo of Teresa and me on the Stuff website.

Wednesday: Buy two copies of the Press to take to Auckland. Dad and me are on the front page. Interviewed by Susie Ferguson of Morning Report over my phone while in airport departure lounge. Not as scary as I thought it would be. Fly to Auckland for two day meeting at ST John's College.

Thursday: Check Morning Report files on internet. No interview to be seen. Either I am Mr Boring or the announcements at the airport made for poor sound quality. Memo to self: arrange interview times not to coincide with airport lurking. Conduct another radio interview. Everyone asks about the cathedral and about same-sex blessings. My colleague whom I have shared a room with says I will never need to share a room again. He is right: there are too many emails and I will need to get up at 5 am when away.

Friday: Post Ordination Training but I cannot make the whole day. Meet with Archbishop Philip x2 in the afternoon. Then to the TC for a celebration of the signing of the Cathedral joint venture agreement - it is the joint venture agreement which means I do not have to work out which mix of mortar is best for the cathedral reinstatement.

Saturday: believe it or not, I get some gardening done. Potatoes planted on 1 September. Strawberries too.

Sunday: Lovely service at St Aidan's Bryndwr. News that another vicar has resigned.

There have been some ups and downs in my first week as bishop-elect but overall Teresa and I have this amazing, and unexpected excitement about the role and about the future of the Diocese.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Oh, so that is why you have been somewhat distracted lately ...

It is true. Blogging will never be the same again. I will need to be even more diplomatic than I have, ahem, always mostly tried to be. But I will keep blogging even though this is now my life. The ways of God are mysterious and I never thought I would reach this day, but it has come to pass - thanks be to God.

Sydney, Hamilton, Dunedin: Anglicans Down Under!


Last Thursday I went to a fascinating and memorable meeting in Hamilton. Its genesis lay in the GS 2018 Motion 7 decisions, a response to that from the Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies, and a response to that response from our Archbishops by way of invitation to meet kanohi ke te kanohi (face to face). Around 20 of us gathered at Hemi Tapu, a Maori Anglican pastorate church and hall, to speak freely to Archbishop Glenn and then, at the end of our day together, for Glenn to speak to us. Those from our church included bishops, clergy, laity, drawn from Tikanga Pakeha and Tikanga Maori, most of whom self-identified in respect of our spectrum of theologies, of responses to GS 2018*, and sexualities.**

It was a fascinating and memorable meeting because of the mix of people and views present, because of the gracious and warm hospitality shown us, because of the warm fellowship in the place as we mixed and mingled over food and drink as well as engaged in discussion, and, last but not least, because of the careful and considerate contribution Archbishop Glenn himself made to our hui.

A report from Archbishop Glenn is here on the website.

I understand that Anglican Taonga may also soon have a report on its site. (It is working on another story at the moment - more on that in my next post, hopefully later today).

I encourage you to read the Davies report.It contains an attractive vision for a way forward for our church but also, and perhaps more helpfully, for the global Anglican movements. (I say "more helpfully" because a shift in tone and stance between global Anglican movements would be very encouraging for us locally as we work on the almost certain future in which we have two Anglican churches in these Blessed Isles.)

(*A leading figure re disaffiliation was there, three key leaders in the formation of the "AFFIRM Christian Community" contributed, I was specifically asked to be present as an evangelical who is comfortable staying in our church. **A gay priest commented that in his experience this  gathering of our church had the highest percentage of gay and lesbian Anglicans ever. Let the reader understand: the percentage was some 15-20%, but there have been gathering to talk about gay and lesbian Anglicans at which no such Anglicans have been present.)


Recently an Anglo-Catholic hui was held in Dunedin and a full report is now on Taonga, here. The event seems most worthwhile and there is the prospect of another such hui being held in the Diocese of Wellington next year. Christchurch in 2020?

Sunday, August 26, 2018

What can a Kiwi bishop authorise re liturgy?

This post has been significantly revised after its initial posting since I thought I had the correct version of Title G Canon XIV. I now have that canon correctly and have revised my words below accordingly.

Within our church we have had a fairly broad approach to what constitutes an "authorised" service. Currently, as the pertinent example for this post, bishops and priests are permitted to use for a eucharistic prayer, any such prayer authorised for use in any other province of the Anglican Communion.

This provision has been welcomed in a number of parishes because it enables use of eucharistic prayers seen as more appropriate for certain contexts than anything comparable within our authorised prayers - a popular example being the use of "Prayer H" from the Church of England's Common Worship service book (pp. 204-205 in my lovely black leather edition).

This provision has also been welcomed in a number of parishes because it enables (say) a new vicar from the Church of Mars to continue to use tried and familiar rites from the Martian prayer book.

At least two criticisms of this universal inclusivity of authorised eucharistic prayers matter in my mind.

1. It unwisely presumes that all Anglican authorised eucharistic prayers are equally valuable (even as they are equally "valid" as Anglican eucharists). But, intrinsically, this is unlikely because (e.g.) we do not find that across the Communion all provinces are equally committed to inclusive language. And, of course, only one province, our own, is committed to the use of Te Reo Maori in eucharistic services.

2.  While it usefully opens the doors to "valuable" eucharist prayers from other provinces, it also potentially closes the door in some parishes to use of our own eucharistic prayers - prayers liturgical servants of our church have laboured over to produce and for which our church through synodical decision has expressed its intent to use as the "common prayer" of this church.

Consequently I support (and voted for at GS 2018) a bill to remove the current permission to use any authorised eucharistic prayer from any Anglican province of the Communion. That removal comes before our Diocesan synod for consideration in a couple of weeks.

Already it is clear that the prospect of not being able to use (say) Prayer H is uncongenial. My own response will be to propose that we observe other aspects of our legislation which provide for use of services.

Specifically, our constitution (part G, cited below) provides for "authorised services" to include services authorised under Title G Canon XIV (cited below). If, as Tikanga Pakeha, we agree that it would be valuable to have (say) "Prayer H" used freely within our Tikanga, we have a mechanism for achieving that end. (That is, if we want to use Prayer H, and we deem it to be not inconsistent with the Constitution or Formularies of this church). Alternatively, if I am understanding Title G Canon XIV correctly, an individual diocesan bishop (following the specific instruction below) could authorise a service which included Prayer H



Constitution part G

PART G    


1.            In this Constitution and in the Code of Canons if not inconsistent with the context thereof or by express words excluded all words and phrases referring to the diaconate, priesthood and episcopate, and in particular, but without limiting the generality hereof the words "Bishop", "Priest", "Deacon", "Curate", "Pastor", "Vicar" and "Minister", shall include both females and males.  In the use of Formularies of the Church words denoting males may be replaced with words denoting females consistently with the above provisions and when the occasion and circumstances so require.
2.            In this Constitution and in the Code of Canons if not inconsistent with the context thereof respectively and unless there are clear words to exclude or restrict such meaning the words and phrases following shall severally have the meanings hereinafter stated, namely,
Words importing the singular number include the plural number and words importing the plural number include the singular number.
Words denoting males or females include the other as the case may be.
“Clergy” includes all persons in Holy Orders who shall hold any spiritual charge or cure or a Bishop's  licence or permission to officiate in this Church, but shall not include a Bishop.
“Authorised Services” includes (a) Formularies, (b) Experimental uses as authorized by the Church of England Empowering Act 1928, and (c) other services authorized under Title G Canon XIV.[1]
3.            Any doubt which shall arise in the interpretation of the Constitution for the time being of this Church shall be submitted for final decision to the General Synod / te  Hīnota Whānui or to some Tribunal established by it in that behalf.
4.            It shall be lawful for the General Synod / te  Hīnota Whānui to alter amend or repeal all or any of the provisions hereof save and except those which have been hereinbefore declared to be FUNDAMENTAL PROVISIONS,
PROVIDED always that no such alteration shall be made until it shall have been first proposed in one General Synod / te Hīnota Whānui and been assented to by Te Runanganui o Te Pīhopatanga o Aotearoa, the Synod of the Diocese of Polynesia and a majority of the several Diocesan Synods in New Zealand and finally agreed to in the meeting of the General Synod / te Hīnota Whānui next ensuing.
In applying this Constitution the Māori and English texts shall be considered together.

[1] Statute 726, 2016


Each Tikanga is authorised to approve forms of service not inconsistent with the Constitution / te Pouhere, or with the Formularies of this Church.
Within Tikanga Māori, Te Runanganui o te Pīhopatanga o Aotearoa may act to grant such authorisation.
Within the Tikanga of the Diocese of Polynesia the Diocesan Synod of the Diocese of Polynesia may act to grant such authorisation.
Within Tikanga Pākēha the Synodical Conference may act to grant such authorisation provided that this authorisation will apply only in those dioceses in New Zealand whose synod has ratified the authorisation of the Synodical Conference.
Ngā Pīhopa Amorangi may authorise forms of service to be produced and used in different situations in Te Pīhopatanga upon such conditions as Te Pīhopa may determine.
The Bishop of Polynesia and other Bishops with episcopal jurisdiction within the Diocese of Polynesia may authorise forms of service to be produced in different situations in the Diocese of Polynesia upon such conditions as the Bishop may determine.
Diocesan Bishops and other Bishops with episcopal jurisdiction within a Diocese in New Zealand may authorise forms of service to be produced and used in individual ministry units, after consultation with the Vestry or equivalent body, and in other particular areas of the Church’s work, upon such conditions as they may individually determine in each case, and in consultation with their Diocesan liturgical committees.
Any form of service authorised under this Canon:
is an authorised service, but is not a Formulary unless it shall have been approved under the provisions of the Church or England Empowering Act 1928 and the Constitution / te Pouhere;
must conform to ‘A Form for Ordering a Service of the Word’ or ‘An Alternative Form for Ordering The Eucharist’; and
must not be inconsistent with the teachings of the Formularies.
A copy of any service so authorised shall be forwarded to the General Secretary, to be held in the records and archives of the Church.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Celibacy: a gift or a mandate?

Richard Rohr, Catholic writer much appreciated by many Protestants, in the light of recent news out of Pennsylvania re widespread sexual abuse by priests over many years, has posted a statement re celibacy here. Cited below:


Fr. Richard’s statement on the new revelations of priestly abuse and coverup:

This moral catastrophe first of all demands public and sincere lamentation from every segment of the Body of Christ, and only then can the deep healing begin.  It also demands public ownership, repentance and reform of our very immature teaching in regard to sexuality in general, male power issues in particular, and our “enforced” understanding of celibacy, which will predictably produce this kind of result.
  • Our own Catholic theology says that celibacy is a “charism” which means a free and empowered gift. In my experience, only someone who has an alive and warm inner experience of God is capable of celibacy at all.
  • It is a contradiction in terms for the Catholic Church to think it can mandate a free gift, which of course, has no precedent in Jesus. It is clearly not necessary for ministry, and is often a liability, creating an aura of spiritual superiority when the exact opposite is often the case.
  • I personally believe the actual charism of male celibacy that produces both happy and healthy men by the second half of life, is quite rare.
  • Until the Catholic church disconnects celibacy from ministry, I think we will continue to have ordained men, who are both unhappy, unhealthy, and a scandal to the Body of Christ. (Lest anyone think incorrectly, I am not saying that celibacy causes pedophilia, but I am saying that the idealized culture of celibacy allowed it to hide there for a long time.)
This shadowy material will keep emerging unless we own it and hold it fully accountable. In the meantime, let’s all pray and try to live more authentic sexual and spiritual lives ourselves.
Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M. signature

Within the context of the Roman Catholic church this is (presumably) a stirring call which many Catholics will agree with and many Catholics will resist (as, to date, all such calls have been resisted). But within the Anglican churches of the Communion, is this not also food for thought in our debates re permanent, faithful, loving same-sex partnerships which often boils down to "partnership" v "celibacy", with the latter mandated without - in my reading - much discussion about celibacy itself.

On the one hand, Rohr makes a statement about Catholic theology's treatment of celibacy as a gift. Anglican theologians might not agree that celibacy is a gift. But then, whatever adjective we use for our theology, a critical Scripture is 1 Corinthians 7:7 where Paul describes his own celibate situation in terms of "a particular gift from God". Anglicans can scarcely escape the force of that, can we?

So, here, to keep discussion focused and not escaping into fields over which we have trampled many times, the specific question for discussion is this: is celibacy a gift or a mandate?

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Writing theology before blogging?

I am introducing myself to the theology of Robert W. Jenson. He is seriously cool and I should have begun reading him years ago. He writes so clearly (unlike another modern theologian I dipped into recently) and yet with such profoundness that he must be read slowly (as advised by my friend and commenter here, Bryden Black).

But I have come across something he has written which (arguably) is written BB (Before Blogging).

In Systematic Theology Vol 1 The Triune God Oxford: OUP, 1997, p. 39, he writes:

"In one way, a reader is therefore more free - it may seem, indeed, omnipotent - over against a text than is a listener over against a speaker. A speaker is there to defend his or her intention against my interpretation. Once discourse has become text, it lacks this defense."

That was in 1997. In 2018 a blogger can post a text and can choose to defend it in the comments section. Or not!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

NZ's Other Religion

On my sidebar I reserve the right to avoid theology and stuff and to "write about cricket and politics." The article I link to below is not about cricket. It is about rugby. It is written by Linda Burgess. And she can write! Her husband Bob Burgess was a brilliant first-five who I saw with my own eyes score two tries against the 1971 Lions at Lancaster Park. (I also saw one of the greatest tries of all time, Ian Kirkpatrick running 50m, fending off Lions' players  as though they were annoying flies, from an amazing viewpoint: the then "Boys Enclosure"on the south-west corner of the Park was in exact line of sight of his run down the field.) I digress. Back to Linda Burgess.

She writes about an era in All Black rugby which straddled changes in our society - to the role of women, to attitudes to sporting contact with South Africa, to rugby's religious role in society. I find her article to be both a walk down memory lane and an evocation of a different world. She also touches on a contentious subject in NZ rugby history, the treatment of Keith Murdoch, expelled from the 1972 rugby tour to the UK, Ireland and France. Indeed his biography sparks the article's writing.

I won't spoil the potential reading pleasure of the whole article by citing from it. It is here.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The bread of life: a sermon on the eucharist

Recently I posted a couple of times on the eucharist (here and there) and promised to post on Brant Pitre's book on Jesus and the Last Supper which remains a sin of omission.

Below I post today's sermon, focused mostly on the gospel passage, John 6 and the bread of life. I don't normally post sermons I have preached. That is mostly because I write them on the back of envelopes. The sermon below is unusual: I actually typed it out on my laptop. I think the sermon below is worth a post, on two grounds.
1. While not directly citing Brant Pitre, my reading of his book is definitely influential on what I say below. I am - of course - responsible for what is written below; Pitre is not responsible for the sermon.
2. I was struck, while preparing the sermon, by the neat way in which 6:41-43 illustrates how the bread of communion can be simultaneously the body of Christ. Your feedback [bad pun] will be gratefully received. I am sure what I write below is entirely unoriginal, but it is a new-to-me insight from this passage.

Ephesians 4:25-5:2 and John 6:35, 41-51:

If we want to live we need to eat the bread of life.

How often should we have communion?
That simple question has had varied answers through Christian history.
From once or twice a year to quarterly to monthly to weekly to daily.
The New Testament, which faithfully reports to us that Jesus told his disciples at the Last Supper, “Do this in remembrance of me”, doesn’t actually say how often we should do this.
Indeed the NT, perhaps to the surprise of Christians who put a lot of emphasis on regular communion, devotes very few words to the subject of “holy communion”.
But among those words are the words we find in John 6 as we read from this chapter over five Sundays – this is week three – if you have lost track.

John 6 – bread from heaven
Five Sundays on the bread, someone once complained.
But what bread it is to spend five Sundays on – the bread from heaven, the bread of life, the bread that gives eternal life.
Eat this bread, Jesus says, and you will never be hungry again.
Now we know, when someone talks like that, but our stomach tells us we are hungry, that this is not the bread we buy at the supermarket or cook in our bread makers.
What is this bread from heaven? Is it metaphorical – bread as a metaphor for spiritual union with Christ?
To be sure, there is an element of metaphor.
What counts is the life of Christ in us and our lives lived in union with Christ. We live this life 24/7, whether we share in communion that day or not.
Yet what Jesus says is very specific about eating him – eating his flesh and drinking his blood.
His flesh is the living bread, his blood is true drink. Jesus says, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (53).
It has been impossible for the church not to join this teaching in a synagogue in Capernaum with the later Last Supper –
the supper in which Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to his disciples; shared a cup of wine in the same way.
So, alongside the element of metaphor is an element of material reality.
To eat bread given thanks for, broken and shared among followers of Christ, is to eat the body of Christ.
To drink wine given thanks for, shared around followers of Christ, is to drink the blood of Christ.

The bread from heaven is that bread which we eat together in communion.
And whoever eats of this bread will live forever.
“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” (56)
At times in our Anglican history we have had long seasons in which communion was (and in some parishes still is) an optional extra (10 am Mattins and 11.15 am Holy Communion for those who stayed).
I don’t think that approach is faithful to John 6 and its connection to what Jesus did at the Last Supper and commanded us to continue doing in remembrance of his death.
If we want to live, really live, to live the life of Christ in the world, we need to meet, to break bread and to eat it and to share the cup and to drink it.
Thus the spiritual life of Christ comes to us through the material reality of bread and wine:
in this way we eat Christ’s body – his crucified, risen and ascended body – and we drink Christ’s blood – in which the life of Christ comes to us,
the life which was given up for the sake of the world.
As the last words of our Ephesian reading puts it, urging us to love with the same love Christ has for the world,
“live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (5:2)

John 6 – bread from heaven = Jesus, son of Joseph (6:41-43)
We may wonder – as many Christians have wondered – how bread and wine from the earth can convey the heavenly body and blood of Christ.
Fascinatingly there is a strong clue in our gospel reading today.
Jesus says he is the bread come down from heaven.
The Jews who hear this complain: this man is no bread from heaven, this is Jesus the son of Joseph. We know his Mum and Dad.
As readers we know that Jesus is both.
He is the bread come down from heaven:
he is Son of Man and Son of God, come to us from the Father, descended to us from eternal, heavenly intimacy with God his Father.
He is Jesus, son of Joseph.
An ordinary and very material/physical human being.
Same as you and me.
Simultaneously, Jesus is heavenly and earthly, divine and human.
No scientist could have done a blood test and found Jesus to be from heaven.
No theologian, hearing the witness of the Jews who were Jesus’ audience that day, could have denied Jesus to be from earth.
The bread we eat today and the wine we drink cannot be taken to a lab at the university and be found to be the heavenly body and blood of Christ.
And no matter what we believe about the body and blood of Christ which we partake at communion, it is simultaneously bread and wine.

John 6 – the wrap up
If we want to live we need to eat the bread of life.
We should not be vague about this and think of Jesus being all metaphorical.
We can be concrete, specific:
we should come – as we have done today – to communion – to eat the bread of life
– to be nourished and strengthened by Christ through the bread and the wine of communion.
And how often?
I am going to answer that question with another question ...
Can we ever have too much of Christ?