Monday, July 29, 2019

Pilate, pitch perfect?

Wonderful, challenging article here, from First Things, on, well, Pilate, but more than Pilate, on all of us who deliberate and prognosticate on what is truth and what the truth is.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Another world

The reason why I was "incommunicado" this past week was a visit to the Chatham Islands.

Most of the Diocese of Christchurch is an easy drive from my home or the Anglican Centre. Only 3/58 parishes on this side of the Southern Alps are more than 2 hours drive away. 2/58 parishes on the West Coast side of the Alps are more than 3 hours drive away, with the furthest away church building being 5 hours drive. That is, 52/58 parishes are within 120 minutes of my home and most of that driving is on fairly straight roads.

Those doing the arithmetic as they read will want to know about the one remaining parish. That is the Chatham Islands, 2.25 hrs flying time from Christchurch (and longer, if, as Teresa and I did, the flights are via Wellington) - east, out into the Pacific, next stop Chile.

It was our privilege to spend a week on the main island (Chatham, also known as Rekohu to Moriori and as Wharekauri to Maori). We were generously hosted and visited most but not all sites of interest. I won't detain you with the general (and very interesting) history of these islands and their people - Wikipedia can do that job.

This was my first visit to this parish, so one essential job was to preach and preside at a eucharist last Sunday, in St Augustine's church, Te One. This photo includes the Vicarage where we stayed. (There is currently no resident vicar. Regular priestly ministry is supplied via an NZ-based priest.)

There used to be a second church, at another small settlement, St Barnabas', Owenga. Services were discontinued there about 14 years ago and the church was demolished a few years ago. Keen to preserve the memory of that church, however, parishioners have worked hard to organise the building of a memorial shelter on the site of the former church. So last Wednesday we dedicated this brand new "St Barnabas' Memorial."

We had a great meal after the dedication and it include important local foods: fish, crayfish, paua (=abalone), and weka (one of these native birds is pictured above). It is illegal to kill and eat weka in New Zealand, except in the Chatham Islands.

We visited two sites on which an 1840s Lutheran mission team established mission stations. The information panel above (if you can expand the photograph of it) tells a sad story. The mission only lasted a few years. It made no converts of local Maori or Moriori. The missionaries gave up being missionaries and decided, those who stayed, to simply make their living there. As one brought up on many missionary stories, some of which were tales of persistence, faithfulness and only after many years, eventual fruitfulness, this is the saddest missionary story I have come across. It is a salutary reminder that there is no guarantee of success simply because we set out to do God's work with godly intentions.

By contrast I am pleased to report that the Christians I came across on the island in 2019 have a lively faith in God, a deep commitment to the well-being of God's church and a care for community and for creation.

We had an amazing week - much of the landscape was unlike anything else I have seen on NZ's main islands; apart from a few i-moments, we had no internet connection to family, friends, and the world; we ate weka for the first time; we waved to everyone who drove a car and they waved back; we never locked the doors of the vicarage; we ate fresh, raw paua during a picnic; and saw ancient carvings on trees.

It was another world. And it was good.

Friday, July 12, 2019


My diocese has some remote corners to it. Today I am heading to one of them. The likelihood of e-connection to the other corners of the Diocese, let alone “the world”, is so low, I have zero expectations of Tweeting up a storm. Silence is golden and internet silence is platinum! So, don’t post a comment, unless you want it to lie fallow until my return. I only ask one expression of sorrow for my connectiveless sojourn ... I am worried that I might not be able to follow NZ v England in the cricket World Cup final at Lord’s on Sunday evening (NZ time) ... :).

Monday, July 8, 2019

Apology, apologia, aggiornamento


A few posts ago, here,  a robust conversational thread included a claim that such and such was the view of another commenter. Within the thread I treated that as a difference in evaluation, an opinion, rather than as a true/false claim. I have now reviewed the thread and accept that the claim is unfounded. I have posted an apology on that thread. Over the years I have been a less than perfect moderator and I accept that in this instance I have been less than fair in moderating the claim made without evidence.


That Topic continues to rumble on. In following a recent exchange on Twitter, I have had a bit of a revelation. It concerns slavery. Hitherto a line of thought has been expressed with a question such as "if the church changed its mind on slavery, why couldn't it change its mind on same sex partnerships?" But that has been a cue for discussions about what the church really thought of slavery, whether there was a trajectory within Scripture re slavery (towards abolishing slavery) which does not exist for homosexuality, etc.

My personal revelation is this: whatever the church (and Israel) was thinking about slavery in the New Testament (and in the Old Testament), by our standards today (slavery is anathema), the church/Israel accommodated slavery. It was wrong, it denied the full and equal dignity of all human beings, it was proleptically destroyed by the cross (which re-created all people as brothers and sisters, see Philemon). Nevertheless the church lived with slavery as part of the culture of its world - culture being the way we do things around here - and sought to make the best of it by asking slave-owners to treat their slaves well and urging slaves to serve in a manner bearing witness to Christ.

That is, the church in NT times was able to offer an apologia for slavery. No church would do that today. If there was a justification for the ancient church being accommodationist on slavery it was that to have attacked that institution would have been to provoke the fury of the socio-economic established order, in the process destroying the church as carrier of the gospel message.

On That Topic: could we ask ourselves whether we are sufficiently recognising the nature of culture and establishment in the West in respect of a sea change in attitude to homosexuality, and thus also ask whether we are in the process of destroying the church as carrier of the gospel message? (This, I suggest, is part or even the whole of the situation in Australia in respect of Israel Folau.) Why should we think we are smarter than St Paul?


I have been travelling recently - perhaps a full report when my travels are completed - but, as is often the case, travelling around the world and connection with the church in its various and varied parts, reminds me that the church is rarely if ever ahead of the world, which ever changes. Thus the question of "aggiornamento", of the updating of the church, impresses me yet again. Of course to move from this very general observation, without examples, to some specific observations would necessarily look like criticism of this (local) church and that (denominational) church, which I don't want to do!

Suffice to say that as we look around and within, observing our arcane disputes and our divisions, on the one hand it is possible (vaguely possible?) to discern that out of present disputes and divisions will come aggiornamento, that is, conclusions which means the church is more fruitful at expressing an "updated" gospel for the world today. On the other hand, it is possible (probable?) that out of these disputes and divisions, the gap between church and world will accelerate to such width that all churches will look like obscure sects. On the third hand, is it possible that we might all wake up one day and recognise that our disputes and divisions could be let go, in favour of a united effort at aggiornamento?

Monday, July 1, 2019

Focus on good (NZCMS) news?

Try as I might to not make this blog mostly about That Topic, the world (Anglican and otherwise) seems to conspire against me. Over the Ditch, in the West Island, the Folau saga continues and continues and continues. While it is now becoming quite a bit about freedom of speech and freedom of religious belief, it has not ceased to also be about whether the Christian gospel requires faithful Christians with a social media presence to spotlight gays and lesbians. Within the last week a troubling story has emerged in the evangelical section of the Church of England - you can catch it in  a recent Thinking Anglicans post. But, enough of that - I acknowledge these news stories but see no need at this time to add to the plethora of comment which circle around them.

Instead I want to link to a good news story here in Anglicanland Down Under. After earlier news that current NZCMS National Director, Steve Maina, is to be the next Bishop of Nelson, we now have news of his successor.

NZCMS announce here that Rosie Fyffe will be the next Director. Rosie will be the first female National Director (or General Secretary) of NZCMS. She will be based in Christchurch and most welcome in the Diocese of Christchurch.

Please continue to pray for Steve and Watiri Maina as they prepare for the their move to Nelson in August and for Steve’s consecration as the 11th Bishop of Nelson on Saturday 31 August 2019.