Monday, March 25, 2019

A few things we can say

Still lots of comment washing around the world, mainstream and social media, about the terrorist attack on mosques in Christchurch on Friday 15 March 2019. Here I will add a tiny amount.

(1) A Christian theological account of what has happened enables us to resolutely call what has happened evil and to acknowledge that evil perpetrated through human choice is a tragic fact of human life. A tragic fact made possible by freedom to choose good or evil being a mark of and gift to humanity as created by God. Thus I am less than tempted to side with those commentators who wish to apportion responsibility to loads of other people, whether, say, to white European New Zealanders who have not completely solved racism in these islands, or to alleged deficiency in our intelligence services.

(2) Nevertheless, and with yesterday's RCL readings in mind, Isaiah 55:1-9/Luke 13:1-9, focusing on repentance, it would be escaping the accountability of this moment in history to not take the opportunity to repent of what the terrorism highlights: (e.g.) everyday, structural racism in our country; Islamophobia; lack of inclusion of migrant communities in our society. In Christian terms, have we loved our neighbours as ourselves? I cannot speak for you but for myself I see much to repent of.

(3) As we headed towards a national two minutes of silence at 1.32 on Friday 22 March, the government initiated a nationwide broadcast of the Islamic call to prayer  and many Christchurch folk, including myself and many Christians, headed to Hagley Park to be "Hands Around the Mosque" in support of our Muslim community gathering for their Friday prayers. That governmental and Christian support created some kerfuffle. At a national level, Bishop Brian Tamaki of Destiny Church, was reported as voicing his strong opposition to such a call being broadcast. This went down like a cup of cold sick in the media (and, I imagine, in the minds of many Kiwis). At a local level my support for the call being supported as a matter of respect and honour to the Muslim communities has led to some opposition. E.g.:

"Thank you for encouraging the Adhan to be said: 
"Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest. I witness that there is no god but Allah. I witness that there is no god but Allah. I witness that Muhammad is Allah's Messenger. I witness that Muhammad is Allah's Messenger. Come to the prayer! Come to the prayer! Come to the salvation! Come to the salvation! Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest. There is no god but Allah." 
Wasn't 2 mins of silence, and /or the National Anthem enough?The Christchurch Diocese and it's bishop have, in the eyes of Islam, become Dhimmis, and in the eyes of other Christians, become Apostate."

There is, of course, no neutrality between Christians and Muslims on the matter of what we believe about Christ and Mohammed. Each respects the other faith as distinctive, different and in disagreement. By contrast, I am confident that the underlying presupposition of much media reporting and comment this week is that "all religions are the same."

Nevertheless, I think what Bishop Brian said was tone deaf to a tragedy of global reverberations and that Christians supporting Muslims in a respectful way through these days and weeks of grief is the right thing to do. As best I understand, many if not most Christian leaders in NZ this week share the latter approach and not the Tamaki approach. 

The gunman makes no claim (so I understand) to be Christian - thankfully - but once he started shooting with a gun bearing names on it of European leaders in past Christian-Muslim battles, Christians lost the right to claim control of the narrative of the subsequent course of events.

If the devil is winning a spiritual battle for NZ at this time, it is due to 50 people being killed by a terrorist, not to Christians leaders supporting Muslim communities as the least we can do in order to love our neighbours as ourselves.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

What can we say?

Not much.

Sometimes a picture says it all, here.

Every reader here at ADU will know that a few days ago, on Friday 15 March 2019, a terrorist, in the name of white supremacy, carried out a deadly plan to shoot people at two mosques in Christchurch. 50 people died, over thirty more were injured. Every news outlet in t he world has carried the story and countless words have been written about the meaning of this event. No further words are needed from me here. I have, however, said a few words in my capacity as Bishop of Christchurch, both to the Diocese and to whomever might be listening to several different radio stations.

A few comments have been made on the previous post’s comment thread. You are welcome to comment here.

Millions are praying for us around the world. Keep praying. Especially for those who are receiving the bodies of their loved ones around now, having been at last released by the coroner, to be buried as soon as possible, according to Muslim custom, and pray for those who continue to sit with loved ones recovering from wounds. For many citizens, maybe even all of Christchurch, and beyond, this tragedy has awakened grief and fear triggered by the quakes. Pray for us that healing and peace will come to a community already with heightened mental health statistics. And pray please for those people who have seen and been traumatised by the terrible video posted by the gunman as he went about his dastardly deed.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

A picture does not tell the whole story

It has been my privilege to be in Suva, Fiji this weekend, for the ordination of Fereimi Cama as bishop and for his installation as Bishop of Polynesia and thus his formal recognition as Archbishop of Polynesia and thus one of our three Primates. All three events took place within a single, two and a quarter hour service.

Here is a photo I nicked off Facebook of the bishops gathered around Fereimi, just before the laying on of hands:

I am in that circle (left hand bottom corner of the circle). There are a lot of bishops - it was a very good turnout of our bishops, along with a bishop from Australia.

What does the photo not tell us?

1. It was a very warm and humid in the cathedral - notwithstanding a great array of electric fans. I needed a shower between the service and the festivities which followed.
2. This was an event in the life of our church with international interest: the service began with greetings from the Anglican Church of Australia, the Diocese of Lincoln (a companion diocese) and the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Episcopal Church of the United States of America.
3. Archbishop Fereimi is the first Fijian Bishop of Polynesia which has its cathedral and diocesan headquarters in Suva, Fiji. His six predecessors have been of European descent (the first four), then respectively Samoan and Tongan.


Taonga article here.

Fiji Sun article here. (The photo used above may have its source with the Fiji Sun)

Monday, March 4, 2019

Flaws in Canonical Theism?

Adduced here in recent days, "Canonical Theism" is the proposal that the Holy Spirit, for the church's benefit, has not only blessed the church with a canon of Scripture but also with a canonical heritage which includes "a canon of doctrine, a canon of saints, a canon church fathers, a canon of theologians, a canon of liturgy, a canon of bishops ... a canon of ecclesial regulations, a canon of icons, and the like." (from Thesis IX, p. 2, Canonical Theism:A Proposal for Theology and the Church, edited by William J. Abraham, Jason E. Vickers, Natalie B. Van Kirk, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008).)

Having been invited to reflect on this proposal, after dipping into the book cited from above, I am left underwhelmed.

Before we get to the underwhelming of me, let me underline the great strength of Canonical Theism: it joins with movements in theology, past and present, in which we the church are reminded and renewed by re-acquaintance with the riches of the past. Christianity is now historically old and it is highly probable that few issues and question of today were not addressed in the past and so ... why reinvent the wheel?

Why am I underwhelmed?

1.  Canonical Theism - in itself, as a conception of how the church might refresh its life and mission through retrieval from its heritage - offers no ability for the church to discern what is unhelpful, unhealthy and uncongenial from its canonical heritage. Lurking in our canonical heritage, for example, are some appalling attitudes to women, expressed in writing by some of the same saints that, otherwise, are properly lauded for their contribution to theology and liturgy. Our criteria today for rejecting those appalling attitudes of yesterday are not informed by Canonical Theism.

2. While it is true, as I mentioned above, that there are few issues and questions today that were not addressed in the past, the fact is that there are a few issues and questions today that were not addressed in the past, and thus Canonical Theism is of limited value in addressing the sharp edges in the contours of modern Christian life. Take, again, a matter concerning Christian women. Even if there were no appalling attitudes to women among the ancient Fathers, we could not get from those venerable men a positive steer on the ordination of women. Yet many of us - valuing though we do, what is good about our canonical heritage - think we are not bound by that same heritage to refuse the ordination of women.

That is, there are, notwithstanding the attractions of talking about the blessings of the Holy Spirit for the church today by reacquainting ourselves with yesterday, significant limitations in the proposal called Canonical Theism.

The Holy Spirit continues to bless us, of course! But the blessing of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church today is the blessing which comes from hearing what the Spirit is saying to the church, and what the Spirit says to the church today is not bound by the limitations of Canonical Theism.

This will be my last "provocative" post till after Easter. In a Lenten fast I will post weekly in as anodyne way as possible, eager that no one comments - your Lenten fast! - but also, being honest, I have another writing project to complete before the end of March, and there is a bit of travel coming up, and ... well, Easter creates its own episcopal deadlines re my workload.