Sunday, May 27, 2018

Do we want to cross the Jordan?

It looks like I might be down to once a week blogging for a while. There is a lot happening and that is to be expected when the Diocese of Christchurch is without a full-time, residential bishop. So, best to focus on the immediate and one day (blogging) life will get better.

Last week, Monday to Thursday, we had our annual Clergy Conference at Living Springs, a lovely site high up on the hills at the end of Lyttelton Harbour. The view from the not unreasonably named Harbour View Lounge is to die for: straight down the harbour and out through the heads to Chile. OK, so you can't quite see Chile except on a very, very clear sky day.

In various ways the conference was helpful: there were stimulating workshops and plenary sessions with good teaching and horizon stretching ideas and data re the changing world and our place in it. Worship sessions were opportunities to pray and to praise God. Meals and breaks contributed to fellowship and friendship. Here I share two specific ideas which challenged and stretched me.

First, Rebecca Burgess, of Bishopdale Theological College, Nelson led us from 2 Timothy through other passages, especially from the Psalms, to both teach us and challenge us about the gospel. Her specific line was that the gospel is the good news that "our God reigns" (alternatively, "Jesus is Lord"), with reference to Psalm 110 and its huge impact on the first Christian reflections about Jesus.

I won't run you through all my notes (and the multiple Scripture references). Suffice to say that thinking about the gospel in these terms inspires faith and invites us to look around to see what God is doing in the world. And, of course, as Rebecca emphasised the gospel in terms of God's reign leads us to reconcile law (the king's instructions) and grace(the king's bounty and largesse).

Secondly, Chris Clarke, until recently CEO of World Vision NZ, led us through several sessions on what it means to be the church in a changing world, with special reference to our Diocese being at a point of change with a change of bishops. There were many important things said and what we heard was against the backdrop of the recently published survey on religious life in NZ (see post below). Translation: theoretical processing of the issues and questions of the day is urgent. We may not have an Anglican church in these islands in 15 years' time!

Chris also used the OT to bring his challenge home, riffing off the theme of Joshua and the Promised Land. Whether or not the next stage of the life of the Diocese is "the Promised Land" we are at a moment of transition, we stand on the verge of the Jordan River. Will we cross over? How many will cross? Who, like a few ancient tribes, wants to stay behind? What battles do we have to fight and what do we not need to waste our time on? I liked his closing address which proposed that where we are heading is to the Promising Land.


Anonymous said...

"We may not have an Anglican church in these islands in 15 years' time!"

One of my scientific mentors advised: "If you are not making progress on a problem, make it bigger." Is the fate of churches in New Zealand a concern for Anglicans to address or one for a more ecumenical forum? If the Body will not unify now, then when?


Andrei said...

Top story on Stuff this morning at time of posting

Church suffering from same-sex motion sickness

And the caption on the photograph the heads the story

"Alex Saunders, left, Sara Rimmer and their children during the couple's wedding day. Alex has now decided to stay away from the Anglican Church because of some people's attitudes towards her same-sex union."

This of course is all highly manipulative reporting

Glen Young said...

Hi Peter,

The Anglican Church was in The PROMISED LAND, because that is where Christ founded HIS CHURCH [the New Israel]; if you are still waiting to get to the Promised Land,you are not part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

It is possibly more relevant to see the ACANZP as having been in the Promised Land but now taken CAPTIVE and singing:
"By the rivers of Babylon
where we sat down
and there we wept
when we remembered Zion"

"But the wicked carried us away in captivity
required from us a song
how can we sing King Alpha song
in a strange land."

Jean said...

I dare say you make a point Mr BW, ‘United we stand, divided we fall’.....

Andrei yes I was a bit disappointed to see that article or reference in all the news media, manipulative as you say and even out of context. Firstly the couple were married some time ago, and at that time in the publicity it was clear their perspective was the church was there to give you what you want. More genuine reporting would present the viewpoints of a person or people who are current members of a congregation.

Father Ron Smith said...

Interesting, Peter, that you haven't allowed my comment on your pessimistic forecast of just 15 years for the life of ACANZP. Your reason?

Anonymous said...

"The whole point of the way the motion has been put up and drafted is that there is to be no compulsion."

Yes, of course, but the worldly want to know what the point of M29 actually was if people will not be flogged or fined for not conforming to it. We may smile at the perplexities of those ignorant about churches, but it is not unreasonable of them to wonder why churches make such a pretense of solidarity that they have their own parliaments, but then cheerfully disintegrate if one makes a somewhat edgy decision.

The ABC is fond of pointing out that, in principle, churches are, not institutions, but families in which members have a lot of freedom to disagree but still recognise each other as kin. And indeed, a disestablished church cannot compel anyone anyway, unless it is willing to swallow the poison of litigation over property, trust funds, pensions, etc. Bullying people for God is deeply unfashionable in the C21.

But in a holdover from Christendom, most churches and dioceses are still organised as though coercion from above rather than recognition from below were the glue holding them together. Quite apart from the theological qualms that we may have about that, this leads the wishful to think of synods as great pools of top-down authority that, if captured by diligent campaigning, can be used to make Anglicans, of all people, believe what they disbelieve and do what they dislike.

It never happens. What sometimes does happens is that a synod associates its church more closely with causes that matter mainly to the social class of its most influential members. For example, the General Convention of The Episcopal Church decided decades ago that the US Embassy in Israel should forever remain in Tel Aviv. But when synods exercise even a little power on a controversial matter of broad concern, they lose influence, and sometimes churches and members too. Perversely, synods are instruments for unity that attract a politics of disunity that overwhelms them.

What would be better?


Anonymous said...

"This of course is all highly manipulative reporting"

Quite so, Andrei. The children are not "theirs", at least biologically, but were fathered by a man who will not fulfil a father's responsibility to his children. And the masculine dress of one of the parties to this ceremony is a literal demonstration of the Italian word that gives us "travesty" in English.

But this is the Brave New World of moral inversion we have entered. where what we once thought was "bad" is declared "good" and what we thought was "good" is now declared bad - or certainly unnecessary.

It is the same kind of Moral Inversion that leads a British Prime Minister - a vicar's daughter no less - to congratulate her lesbian Scottish political colleague for getting impregnated by AID and to commend the Irish people for voting to allow the unrestricted killing of unborn children. Our Brave New World indeed.

This is the future that the NZ Anglican Church is storing up for itself - but as Dr Carrell says, it may only have 15 years as an institution before it crumbles. And all of this shows the profound theological and moral ignorance (not to say apostasy) of its regnant liberalism. I am reminded of what G K Chesterton wrote somewhere (paraphrasing):
'A liberal crossing a field comes across a fence and says: "I don't understand why that fence is here. I'm going to tear it down." The orthodox believer, by contrast, says: "I don't understand why it is there. I'm going to study and think as hard as I can until I understand why it is there."


Father Ron Smith said...

" if you are still waiting to get to the Promised Land, you are not part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church." - Glen Young

Then, Glen, this may be why the conservatives still struggling - as if they're 'there' already. You may be right, of course, when you say they: "are not part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church."

After all, even Good Pope John XXIII did believe in "Semper Reformanda". He knew that The Church cannot stay in the Middle Ages. It must be relevant in every age and to all people - not just the 'holy and righteous'. This is why Jesus sought the company of sinners - rather than the self-righteous - who thiought they had already 'arrived'..

Glen Young said...

Hi Ron,

Please do not misrepresent what I have blogged.It was Peter,himself, who spoke of crossing the River Jordan.There are two aspects to this;firstly the Jewish Nation have historically crossed the Jordan, andsecondly,Christ,being a Jew, established the 'New Israel',revealing the NATURE and CHARACTER of the ETERNAL GODHEAD.

No where did I say that the conservatives are struggling, because they believe they are part of the ONE,HOLY,CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH;which forms the NEW ISRAEL that CHRIST established. What I question is,those who are sitting on the banks of the Jordan, thinking about crossing; are they part of the NEW ISRAEL?

Again,your blog appears to confuse the two aspects of the Church.Firstly the GOSPEL once given to the Church and secondly,the world in which the Church proclaims that GOSPEL.It is Progressive Christianity [TEC] who believe in the need to change the "once given Gospel" to suit the times.It is the PROGRESSIVES who wish to change the nature and character of God to suit their understanding of the nature and character of man; but sadly,their understanding of man is based on neo-Darwnism,and their solutions for man's problems are based on cultural Marxism.

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Glen, the 'nature and character of God' does not change. What can change for the better - if we humans allow it to - is our growing understanding of the 'nature and character of God'. For instance; the intransigent Scribes and Pharisees who sent Jesus to the Cross did NOT allow their understanding of T N A C Of God to change - to accept the Word-made-flesh in Jesus as God Incarnate.It was their opposition to a change in their limited human perception of God and God's plan for God's world that led them astray.

"Come, Holy Spirit......enlighten the eyes of our hearts"

Anonymous said...

Btw, on Anglican Unscripted episode 400 on YouTube it is reported that Victoria Matthew in her bid to become Bishop of Toronto has declared her support for gay marriage. Paris vaut bien une messe.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi William
Bishop Victoria's answer to a question asked of each of the candidates re ACCan's marriage canon and a proposed change to it is here:

Anonymous said...

“Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up.”

-- John F. Kennedy in private notes (1945) paraphrasing G. K. Chesterton in The Thing (1929).

Besides, it's easier to use the gate.


Anonymous said...

Correction to May 29 at 6:38 pm--

"Quite apart from the theological qualms that we may have about that, this leads the wishful *and fearful alike* to think of synods as great pools of top-down authority that, if captured by diligent campaigning, can be used to make Anglicans, of all people, believe what they disbelieve and do what they dislike.


Anonymous said...

Or the car door, even underwater- pay attention, little brother!

Anonymous said...

Is it wise to debate the shape of clouds? Permanence is not the condition of creatures in this aeon. Change comes of the governing providence of a dynamic God. He knows what he is doing and why he does it; we do not. Learning not to judge God's providence as either progress or decay, but rather to suffer faithfully the change that he works can make one a better Christian, a wiser and happier person, and a saner commentator at ADU.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
My own experience of synods in Kiwiland (where everything is blessed!) is that people take care not to coerce. This is particularly notable re M29. But M29 has this teeth: it enables our church to have clarity about blessings: Yes, the may take place if authorised; Yes, a form of service may be authorised by the bishop; No, neither the bishop so authorising nor the bishop/priest so blessing may be disciplined (and the converse re refusal to do so).

And this does not seem to me like some vestige of Christendom. The feeling inside the process is of the church as family working out what the family rules are and doing so in such a way as to keep as much of the family together. And, just as for some families, this is also an occasion when some in the family are very unhappy with what has been decided.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Peter, we agree that M29 is not coercive; the basic idea is precisely not to punish clergy acting in good faith to avoid doing harm. And I suspect that there are few members of well-sized provincial synods who experience what they are doing as similar to the work of professional politicians in parliaments. But why do you think that your insider's view of your synod-in-action has contrasted with the perceptions of commentators on both sides here?


Father Ron Smith said...

Dear ALL,

Bishop Victoria Mathewws' Acceptance of the canonical structure of the Toronto Diocese - in answer to the questions asked of all candidates for the position of Diocesan Bishop in that part of the A.C. of Canada - conforms to what would be expected of the newly-appointed bishop - in a diocese that gas accepted S/S Blessings alread.

Perhaps that is one reason for her departure from ACANZP - its reluctance to fully approve of such Blessings, which could be outlawed by a local bishop - even when a parish is open to such Blessings. Bishop Victoria is not changing tack philosophically this has been her deep-down conviction all along.

Anonymous said...

Postscript-- Yes again, Peter, to your 1:39's emphasis, not as before on an abstract ideal of Anglican diversity, but rather on what is proper to relations within an ecclesial family.

Whilst M29 was being debated, all the voices seemed to have the usual liberal and conservative biases, and I heard almost nothing directly on That Topic that could not be better explained by moral psychology than by moral theology. (Which is not to suggest, Bryden, that your excursuses around that said Topic were liable to psychologism.)

Now that these voices respond to an actual decision, another heuristic reasserts itself: family members play roles and follow rules learned from their family's *emotional system* (Murray Bowen), and they do the same in the bigger family of their church (Edwin Friedman). Whatever the rights and wrongs of M29, persons now show who they are by their respective reactions to its aftermath. And insofar as the Way is a change in one's emotional system wrought on the cross by Jesus, these responses are open to scriptural reflection.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
To respond to your 9.09 pm question: it could be because some post-GS commenters are insufficiently recognising the representative nature of the GS. Some comment (if not here then elsewhere) since the GS has been of the "we the church just want to get on with being what we have always been and have always believed but this body of interfering elitist busybodies keep imposing their extreme and faithless unorthodox views on us." So here is an observation about the GS voting on the matter at hand: at a quick glance around the room as people stood to vote, the voters mostly represented their dioceses well. And the vote was some 85:15, even 90:10 (it was so overwhelming that no one bothered to ask for a count).

Moreover, the vote was for a highly accommodational, compromised proposal which had been worked and reworked through successive general synods, diocesan synods, working groups and processes of submission. This was no rush of blood, no gerrymandered, manipulated work of the cognoscenti, deftly employing Standing Orders to good effect. I cannot think of a better process towards participation in GS decision-making and with great concern to hear and respond to all voices.

Unfortunately all this seems lost in translation!