Friday, February 23, 2018

Inspiration, Authority and Revelation but does Theology Develop?

Longish but helpful post here on ETC on the inspiration of Scripture.

That raises questions about authority in relation to Scripture as God's revelation.

Then Michael Bird has posted a very thoughtful piece on the development (or not) of theology.

I will take comments which discuss these matters but NOT if a cross reference is made to discussion of That Topic. We have done that topic extensively, recently, and I am taking a rest from it.

Thursday, February 22, 2018


I am not long back from a lovely three day retreat-come-business meeting in the Wairarapa (southern North Island). Relaxing and work seemed, in certain ways, far away. Back into the fray and I notice some items, perhaps bound together by the theme of "endings."

Billy Graham has died, as noted by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the New York Times. I once heard him speak and then very briefly met him in person - Dunedin 1969. I was a young boy, he was world famous and, meeting me and my brothers, he said, "God bless you."

On Cranmer there is a good article about the dignity of dying - timely for a current debate in NZ society re euthanasia  and a bill doing the rounds through Parliament. On this issue the NZ Anglican church is quite united, as far as I can tell ... [that is not a cue to discuss That Topic on this thread].

There is nothing directly theological or ecclesiastical about a longish post I want to draw your attention to, but indirectly, should we Christians not be concerned by our country's relationship with China (which recently has forced the Roman church into some terrible contortions re episcopal appointments)? When an academic dissident (on NZ Chinese policy) has her office and home broken into, in one's own city, it is not a theoretical matter to consider what might be our Christian concern about our peculiar dissidence ... are we on the verge of an ending to the freedom we Kiwis have enjoyed as a liberal democracy?

Monday, February 19, 2018

Mark Mark's words

I was struck, preparing for yesterday's sermon on Mark 1:9-15, by how pithily Mark signals a lot of theology in a few words, when writing about the temptation of Jesus.

"12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him."

Wilderness conjures up Israel in the wilderness as well as Elijah in the wilderness: a place of testing. But "forty" takes us specifically to Israel in the wilderness. The next word, "tempted" recalls Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, and "tempted by Satan" reminds us of the tempting of Job, especially the first chapters of Job when Satan seeks God's permission to tempt Job.

In these few words (I suggested in my sermon) Mark, whose gospel is a gospel of restoration (healings, deliverances, feedings), tells us that Jesus comes to put things right for broken down humanity.

Jesus in his own person is reliving the history of us by reliving the story of Adam and Eve being tempted, but this time not falling for the temptation. And, Jesus relives Israel's story of of being tested in the wilderness and passes the test. That is, Jesus in his own person begins the restoration of humanity by showing that the story of human life can be different. The new Adam obeys God and resists Satan. The new Israel demonstrates understanding of the identity and mission God gives to Israel, to bear witness to the one true and life-giving God.

Jesus is also like Job: he has utter faith in God, that God will see him through life, no matter what suffering comes his way.

A further sign of restoration of humanity being the critical theme of these verses is the mention of the "wild beasts". Wild beasts normally eat humans and that did not happen here. That phrase, "wild beasts" thus recalls for us prophetic visions of restoration, when the lion lays down with the lamb.

Thus, when in the next verses we find Jesus proclaiming that the time has come and the kingdom is near, the message is effectively that humanity is about to be restored. The challenge of the passage is for us to also be in the business, within family, community and wider world, of contributing to the restoration of humanity to what God intended us to be.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

First Female Bishop in GAFCON Africa?

On Sunday +Kay Goldsworthy was installed as the Archbishop of Perth. I notice some comment, description about her being the first female Archbishop in Australia, but is she not also the first female archbishop in the world? (NB ++Katharine Jefferts Schori was the first Anglican primate but her TEC title was "Presiding Bishop.")

Today, on Thinking Anglicans, I read that there is a new female bishop in South Sudan. Is Elizabeth Awut Ngor the first female bishop in GAFCON Africa? It would seem so. There have already been two female bishop in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (which is not aligned with GAFCON). (Details re all Anglican female episcopal developments here.)

An intriguing element to this story is that Thinking Anglicans is posting about it now, through citation of an Anglican Ink article but the consecration happened at the end of 2016. The TA article also carries a citation of GAFCON's reaction to this news, which is a tremor in the unity of GAFCON.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

What leads young people to Christ?

Good story with something to ponder about what draws young people to Christ.

Weighing responses to the Final Report

I have been thinking. Dangerous, I know! Thinking, that is, about the persistent lines of responses being made here (and, blogwise, near here) and why, to a degree, I remain relatively unperturbed about continuing to support the Motion 29 WG Final Report proposal [same sex blessings] ("the proposal"), at least in general terms.

First, the persistent lines, which I paraphrase here in my own words. If they are not exactly the views espoused by those named below, my words represent what has made an impact on my own thinking as I have read your comments and blog posts.

Theological Anthropology: we cannot and should not set forth on a matter of human flourishing (such as deciding what human actions and relationships we might bless) without starting that journey in a theologically informed anthropology, such anthropology being resolutely coherent with the story of creation, fall and redemption, with particular attention to creation of humanity being creation of man and woman, man for woman and woman for man. Our church has not done this and it will regret its absence if it proceeds with the proposal. This impact on my mind is especially associated with Bryden Black in comments here, and in published writings elsewhere.

Pastoral Care: God is love, God calls his people to love one another, such love recognises that where there is love, there is God, and such love covers a multitude of sins. As a church we are called to love the GLBTQi members among us and we should bless marriages and marriage-like relationships between people of the same gender, whether on the grounds that such blessing recognises that where love is, there is God; or, even if we think a sin is being committed, such blessing might be permitted under the rubric that love covers a multitude of sins. This impact on my mind is especially associated in my mind with Ron Smith in comments here and on his blog Anglo-Catholic Liberality.

Healing and Wholeness: We are stuck on arguing over the wrong questions, let alone unhelpful answers being proposed to the questions. Our most important question is what is helpful in the long run (i.e. into eternal life) for the healing and wholeness of individual members of the church, as well as what contributes to the health of the body of Christ as a Christian community; and the answer to this question, for individuals and for the community of faithful individuals must be drawn from Scripture, with a particular alertness to guard against reading Scripture in cultural frameworks which are not themselves Scripturally informed. In sum, we need to reconstruct our understanding of marriage, of the church's role in marriage, of the blessed life and what God does and does not bless, and do so in a radical manner, so far rarely attested to in current Communion and individual Anglican provincial debates; and if we do this we might find that both conservative and progressive responses to date are misconstrued. This impact on my mind is especially associated with Bowman Walton in comments here.

Justice: Canon and Liturgy: The church is called to fairness, to equitable outcomes for its members, as it both governs and manages its life as community of believers. Given the pathway ACANZP has taken to secure a canonical and liturgical response to remarriage of divorcees, even to the point of setting aside the teaching of Jesus and concomitantly to a workaround past its own constitution, it is a simple matter of justice that the same church secures a canonical and liturgical response to same sex couples, with the same willingness to be exegetically and theologically dexterous. This impact on my mind is especially associated with Bosco Peters in comments here and on his blog Liturgy (noting three responses to date to the proposal, One, Two, Three). Recently a mutual colleague here in the Diocese of Christchurch, Chris Spark has written and the Latimer Fellowship has published a paper which precisely tackles the possibility of "Double Standards?"

Unchangeable revelation: God has spoken about human sexuality and God has not changed his mind. Whether we espouse this through an Eastern Orthodox lens (many of Andrei's comments) or a Roman lens (many of Nick's comments) or an Anglican lens (many of Glen's comments, with special reference to the unchangeability of ACANZP's constitution in respect of its Fundamentals), the result is pretty much the same: no to SSB, a resounding NO to SSM.

Family and Freedom: my persistence


Almost needless to say, as the most moderate centrist writing here (!!), I find something agreeable in all of the above!

I find, for instance, that theological anthropology helps support me to maintain distinction on the question of whether gender matters for understanding marriage. It does matter: marriage is a one flesh relationship between a man and a woman. Whatever the situation, the grace, the qualities of two men or two women in a relationship, I do not see a way for theology to enable a change to the definition of marriage in Christian understanding of marriage. (Thus I remain concerned that our church will not settle for SSB but see it as a step on the way to SSM incorporated into the doctrine of our church.)

To that extent, as far as we can make out the mind of God through Scripture, we have an unchangeable revelation re marriage. I am not so sure, however, that we have an unchangeable revelation about how we might respond and support people in the circumstances of their lives. Whatever we make of discussion about divorce and remarriage, the church has struggled with this matter, a struggle which has led to some theological dexterity, both in the Roman church ("annulment"), the Orthodox church (differing marriage ceremonies), and the Protestant churches (where today much is at the discretion of the minister presiding over the wedding)

Consideration of pastoral care combined with the question of Justice:Canon and Liturgy means there is a case for our church (for any church: as has been pointed out here recently, some Roman episcopal/cardinal leaders are opening discussions on SSB) to consider ways and means by which we (to quote German Bishop Franz-Josef Bode from the just linked article)

"ask ourselves how we’re encountering those who form such relationships and are also involved in the Church, how we’re accompanying them pastorally and liturgically.

The question of Justice is the question of whether our (canonical, liturgical) ability as a church to accompany divorced persons seeking remarriage might be matched by a similar ability to accompany committed same sex couples. For those concerned that (in God's eyes) we are blessing illicit sex, we might ask whether we may pray at least for the love shown by a couple for each other - a couple willing to defy the promiscuous norms of the world in a committed-for-life relationship.

But the answer to that kind of question should take into account the concern of Healing and Wholeness. What is the church's role in accompanying people towards eternal life, indeed as we begin to experience eternal life here and now? Is it a role which necessarily involves rites? Is there a danger that we are either inventing a new rite or transforming a traditional rite of marriage on the presumption that we properly understand rites? Is there not a prior question of what it means to be a disciple? Then questions arise about the life of the church: what are we doing that enlarges our life as a community of faith? What leads to convert-led growth? (Noting that if we do not ask that question we may be simply rearranging the ritual deck chairs on the Titanic with the proposal. It is not as though the parishes with the largest youth groups are the ones pressing hardest for the most change here). If any Kiwi Anglican thinks that the proposal will somehow turn our church's decline around in a secular society, then this viewpoint has news for you.

Obviously I am posing these matters in a way which introduces a circle of interrelated difficult questions and probing issues, with all the danger that it is a vicious circle yet also with all the hope that fronting up to these matters means we would find ourselves in a virtuous circle.

In the meantime we have a proposal on the table and a decision or three to make. And my very strong conviction is that GS wants to make a decision, even if some of the difficult questions and probing issues remain for future decision-making

Family and Freedom: a consideration to consider

Something which does not much figure in comments here on ADU is consideration of two aspects which, as I ruminate on what matters to me about the present situation, are very important. One aspect is "family" and the other is "freedom" and they are interrelated.


Many different experiences of being Anglican exist in our church and I understand that not all Anglicans feel, as I do, that our church is a large, extended family (whanau). But my experience of church as family - see, by the way, Ephesians 3:14-21 - with fathers and mothers in the faith, with brothers and sisters in Christ, means that I ask why we cannot be a family in our working out of the differences we have. A family that is determined both to remain intact as a family and to work out how we live with our differences. In short, like most families do!

Sometimes when I speak about the importance of church unity, apart from the argument that "truth is more important than unity", I receive back remarks along the lines of, "But, Peter, you are valuing institutional unity whereas the important unity in Christ is organic, the unity we have when we agree on essentials, a unity we Anglicans might have with, say, Presbyterians."

My response (apart from rejoicing, of course, in ecumenical unity of all institutional and organic kinds) is to say that if we understand church as family (rather than institution) then we won't pit "truth" versus "unity." Rather we will ask how we can eat together (as families do) with conversation which engages our differences (as families should do) rather than with conversation which avoids our differences (as, unfortunately, families often do, "to preserve the peace").

From this "family" perspective I see the proposal as generally - one or two things could be tidied up - enabling us to be a family which eats together and continues to talk about our differences.


The Anglican church has a remarkable history of tolerating diversity of viewpoint, even dissent from authority. There are very few strictures on preachers and we are reminded of this every time a preacher is headlined in the media as "not believing in God" or "denying the resurrection". Such occasions are not really the Anglican church's finest hour but they are a measure of considerable freedom.

We can also think, in terms of freedom, of being free to do things differently. Think, for instance, of the possibility that a Martian worshipping over successive parishes across a set of neighbouring parishes would encounter everything from heavily robed clergy to a nondescript vicar in jeans and open necked shirt; from a bare building with little or no Christian symbolism to a space dominated by statues and icons; from music with more trills than Mozart through to choruses played on a guitar; from speaking the Elizabethan cadences of the BCP through to speaking in tongues. All validly Anglican; all Anglicans and non-Anglicans welcome; no one turned away.

This is not the whole story of Anglican "freedom." We are not free to refuse to perform baptisms of infants of believers (cue various dissenting and Dissenting departures through our history since the Reformation). We (who hold a bishop's licence) are not free to disobey our bishops when they give us "lawful instruction". Indeed, we are not free to minister anywhere and everywhere without a bishop's licence - I cannot go to Auckland city next week and offer a eucharistic service in Cornwall Park ... unless I ask for and receive permission to do so from the Bishop of Auckland (and he would ask me to also seek permission from the local vicar). And laypersons not holding a bishop's licence and laypersons holding a bishop's licence (e.g. to preach, to lead a service of "extended communion") are not free to preside at the eucharist, not even in an emergency.

So, Anglican freedom is freedom with restrictions, and the freedom is a freedom to explore a wide theology and to experience a broad set of liturgical possibilities. This exploration and experience is with special regard for what enables us to be the "Church of England", that is, a church for all the people.

In that spirit of our church being a "large space" I support the proposal before General Synod because it offers the opportunity for those whose theological convictions are different to mine and to yours, who are motivated by intention to be part of a church for all the people, to exercise a ministry of prayer and support for those couples who determine before Christ that their love for each other is a godly, covenanted love.

And the proposal does so while also guarding the freedom of Anglicans such as myself who do not share a theological conviction that God blesses sexual relationships which are not marriage between a man and a woman.

Families only work for the well being of each member if there is some freedom to be different from other members of the family. If, as I argue here, ACANZP is a family then we may also ask what freedom exists in this family for differences in conviction and in practice.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Anglo-Methodism meet Anglo-Catholicism: will they or won't they marry?

The C of E General Synod in recent days has debated and welcomed a report on greater cooperation and communion between English Anglicans and Methodists. Welcoming reports is a synodical thing. Nothing actually changes. But, potentially, a welcomed report could lead to change and thus the welcome step could be part of a historical journey. Or the end of the matter.

Here in ACANZP a few years back we announced to a great flourish of trumpets that we had a new covenant with NZ Methodists. Of course, in terms of actual change, such as the Holy Grail of Mutual Recognition of Orders, there was and still is, precisely, none.

Ian Paul has a couple of insightful posts about the possibility of Methodist orders of ministry being recognised by Anglicans, here and here. Reports on the GS debate on the report are here and here. A guest post on Cranmer is here. Quite a lot of discussion has been generated and quite a few theological issues are involved.

Here I do not have time to delve into these matters save for the few remarks I now make; but your comments would be welcomed.

(1) Anglicans generally seem keen on greater communion with other churches.

(2) Great energy has been expended on the possibility of greater communion with the Roman Catholic church. There is a natural fit in that direction because both churches are committed to the historic episcopate and thus both churches have similar commitments to (putting it bluntly) bishops' hands being laid on heads to make deacons and priests; and to bishops and priests presiding over the eucharist. There is the little (but so far "yuge") matter of whether we accept each other's historic episcopate and accept each other's eucharistic prayers. Despite the immense energy and time put into Anglican-Roman Catholic relationships not one bit of actual change re orders and communion has changed. Nevertheless there has been significant change in the past 50 years or so in respect of general relationships between the churches, and this week, in many parts of Aotearoa New Zealand there will be joint (non-eucharistic) services for the Imposition of Ashes.

(3) Considerable energy has been expended on the possibility of greater communion with the Methodist church, driven, it seems, by a kind of guilt that (putting it bluntly) the Church of England in the late 18th century failed its own members who left to form the Methodist church. Rehearsing the story of the beginnings of Methodism we ask whether it was necessary for Methodism to begin separated from the mother Anglican church and thus it is inherently plausible that we could be reunited as one family of English Protestants. But this Anglo-Methodist longing for re-communion in the 20th and 21st centuries meets the Anglo-Catholic part of the Anglican church (in England, and here) and that has not been a happy meeting. Anglo-Catholic resistance to a marriage with Methodism is twofold (as I understand it).

First, Anglo-Catholicism emphasises and explains episcopal ministry in such a manner that the Methodist account of its own episcopal ministry falls short of being a proper episcopal ministry. Secondly, Anglo-Catholicism is very interested in communion with Rome and thus is very hesitant about varying Anglican understanding of orders of ministry (e.g. if we were to accept Methodist presbyters as full presbyters of our church without their being ordained (again) by an Anglican bishop). Such a variation would be an impediment to union with Rome.

(4) I do not want to pit relationships with Rome versus relationships with Methodism - I am keen on communion with both. But I ask why, if I were to go to a Methodist church and share in their communion as a genuine communion with Christ within the body of Christ I would then devalue the orderliness of the Methodist church, an orderliness due to their understanding of episcopal and presbyteral ministry, by refusing to receive Methodist presbyters into this church as full presbyters in the church of God?

[A few caveats:
A. I am aware that not all Methodist communion services would be experienced by me as "genuine communion with Christ" communion services because there is freedom for Methodist presbyters (at least in NZ) to write their own communion services and the content of the eucharistic prayer of such a service might or might not be agreeable to me. I once had experience of such a prayer which completely omitted any aspect of remembering our Lord's death ...
B. In the last paragraph I deliberately omitted admittance of "Methodist bishops" (again, at least here in NZ, there are variations re episcopacy across world Methodism) because, as I understand things, Methodist episcopacy is expressed through a person holding non-permanent office, i.e. the office of Methodist President.]

Friday, February 9, 2018

What did Jesus look like?

One of the interesting things about life is that it throws you into groups as you grow up (classes, clubs, teams, etc) and in most groups I have been part of we have been "just a bunch of guys and gals". Occasionally someone in the group has stood out, though even then one might not predict exactly how great that person would become. I think for example of some peers at school who were clearly very, very good at sport, but none of us realised they would become All Blacks or represent NZ at other sports. By contrast, at primary school I had a great friend who has been and now (in our new government) is one of NZ's leading government ministers. I never saw that coming when we were aged 8!

To the point ... when I studied theology at the University of Otago it was with a bunch of mainly aspirant Presbyterian ministers (our classes were at Knox Theological Hall!). We were very studious (of course!!) and got on with our studies, without (in my memory) any obvious signs of academic ambition among us. But at least one of the group, Joan Taylor, has gone onto greater academic honours, and is now a prof at Kings College, London, with a fine publishing record.

And I see in an overnight email from T & T Clark a new book by her with an intriguing title,

Spoiler Alert: no actual photographs have been discovered from c. 30 AD.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Double Standards?

Chris Spark, a colleague here in the Diocese of Christchurch, has written a paper which the Latimer Fellowship has published, with the following title:


The title tells the story of what the paper seeks to do and offers the context into which the theological work Chris does is directed. In short, the paper addresses a significant question in our current debates, one much mentioned here on this site. The paper is here.

I am prepared to take comments on the paper here, but somewhat selectively, that is, I will judge whether I think your comment is helpful to the Fellowship as publisher of the paper, helpful to current debate, and generally constructive in respect of the questions Chris addresses. There are other posts here where other points can be made.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Podcasts Kiwistyle

Recently I learned that my friend and colleague, Spanky Moore (Christchurch Dio), and his friend and colleague, Scottie Reeves (Wellington Dio) are developing a series of podcasts.

Number one in the series can be found via this webpage.

Number two is about to hit the editing suite ...

I saw a really good joke about podcasting on Twitter the other day:

Friday, February 2, 2018

Important argument in favour of primacy!

Fascinating and well argued paper here on the importance of primacy.

The target is the Orthodox churches which both do not have a primacy (in the sense of one patriarch to rule them all) and do not see the need for one. The author sees the need for one ...

Excellent line at the end of the paper ...

For Anglicans this paper may draw our swimming togs out of our wardrobes and see us diving into the Tiber ... or cherishing the value of the Archbishop of Canterbury!

Actually, given that we are seeing certain questions about the primacy being exercised by Francis (e.g. re divorce) and by Justin (e.g. re Bishop Bell) - "What do we do when we think the Primate is wrong?" - the eccentric primacy of ACANZP may be worth looking at.

We have three primates exercising a joint primacy (one for each of our Three Tikanga). This means primatial statements are statements on which all three agree. Thus much less room for oddities, even heresies with the ACANZP approach.

Now three Persons needing to agree on something ... where have I heard about that model before?

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The importance and signficance of the General Synod vote in May [revised]

Our Diocese is in the midst of a series of pre Synod meetings, prior to our 3 March Synod to discuss (among other matters) the Final Report of the Working Group (see posts below). Then, in May, General Synod meets in New Plymouth to receive the report and to address its recommendations.

In the to-ing and fro-ing from one commission to another and from one General Synod to another, various proposals have been mooted and that has generated notions that whatever General Synod decides in 2018 there will then be a further round of diocesan synods and hui amorangi to discuss and vote on things, then GS 2020 considers further and then a year of appeal before anything ACTUALLY HAPPENS.

Not so.

Between a statement yesterday in a circular email to the Diocese and a Pre Synod Meeting tonight, we seem to be clear (unless you, Dear Commenter, say otherwise!) that in my own words:

(a) the recommendations of the Final Report, concerning new declarations by office-holders, bishops and clergy, require the "twice round" GS and local synod approval process (because related to the Constitution);

(b) the remaining recommendations to either amend existing canons or introduce new canons require a simple, single decision of the General Synod.

While there is some timing contradiction between my part (a) above and part (b) above, it is possible that by later this year same sex blessings could be offered in our church. 

Two observations may be important to digest for those for whom this clarity may be a surprise. (The second is thanks to a correspondent.)

(1) That we do not have anything as strong as a Formulary (requiring the "twice round" procedure) is (IMHO) the outcome of the WG listening to conservative voices (both at the last GS and subsequently). That is, the WG has taken on board conservative concerns and refrained from proposing a change (or added innovation) to our Formularies which would be a formal change to our doctrine. So, while conservatives may have desired a longer process of decision-making, the shorter process is due to the conservatism of what is being proposed.

(2) (Hypothesising that GS accepts the recommendations in toto) conservatives after May will have greater freedom to be conservative within our church than after a Formulary change. A Formulary change applies everywhere and to everyone (because Formularies are integral to the doctrine we say we believe when we accept (lay or clerical) office in the church). What is proposed requires bishops to make decisions which will be impactive on their episcopal units but not on others. A Diocese via its bishop, for example, could opt out of any SSBs being performed in that diocese. And, even where a Diocesan bishop does authorise SSBs, the formation of Christian Communities can ring fence a group of parishes off from SSBs taking place within those parishes, including ensuring succession of clerical leaders to continue such discipline.