Monday, December 21, 2020

Last Post, Merry Christmas, Better 2021?

It is an illusion but a pleasant one that on 1 January 2021 all the trials and tribulations of 2020 will disappear and a better year will begin merely because the number of the year changes.

Fortunately there is some hope - vaccine discovery and distribution - that in the months ahead, life a la the Pandemic will get better. But 1 January itself makes no difference!

21 January 2021 will make a difference for more than a few people on our planet: on that date we will see the back of Trump who even in the past 48 hours continues to inspire people to threaten - yet again - to dismantle democracy in the USA (the ramifications of which, should it happen - ever - would be untold for the democratic nations of the world, to say nothing of the encouragement it would give to undemocratic regimes everywhere.

So the year and the Trumpian era draw to a close. Christmas is but a few days away and this is the last and fiftieth post on ADU for 2020 - don’t look for the next one until 18 January 2021. “I need a break.”

Highlights of this year? The lens here is local, ecclesial rather than (say) global, political, personal:

- looking back, Lockdown was a really neat “rhythm of life” - a Sabbath of sorts, despite the many emails and Zoom meetings;

- our Cathedral Project made considerable progress and we are seeing significant steps in the stabilisation of the building taking place;

- our clergy and congregations have been faithful and fearless in responding to the challenges of the year.

In summary: God has blessed us.


- The fact of a Royal Commission in NZ on Abuse in State and Faith-based institutions: how can (some) Christians be so evil? Which is also a question about how the Spirit of God works within us to transform and change us into (not away from) the likeness of Christ?

In summary: the questions of evil and suffering has been very sharply posed this year for our church and other churches.

Finally, a Christmas thought?

There are so many and social media doesn’t necessarily need to communicate another one from me. But since you have read thus far, how about this?

When Mary sings in the Magnificat about a world of injustice being turned upside down, we are faced, 2000 years later, with the question of how much more needs to be done in God’s project to bring the world under God’s rule - the kingdom of God.

Are we up for the challenge of Christmas when viewed through this Marian lens?

Monday, December 14, 2020

The Royal Commission on Abuse

"The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world" (John 1:9).

This verse was not part of the Gospel reading yesterday (which was John 1:6-8, 19-28) but it was a verse I mentioned in my sermon.

Having spent three days last week in hearings of the Royal Commission on Abuse which were focused on Anglican complainants and how we had provided (or failed to provide) redress,* I felt strongly that yesterday's sermon could not by-pass the reality that while our readings invited us to speak joyfully and constructively about God's intention in Christ for the world, some people have experienced the church as a negligent and uncaring institution or suffered perverse, predatory abuse by its officers.

How can the church be an agent of the good news that the true light has come into the world when in its history there have been corners and crevices filled with deep darkness?

Yesterday I offered three reflections in response to the disparity between our claim to offer Christ's light to the world and the reality of darkness within. With some further development here in this post, I offer these reflections to you.

1. In the sweep of human history, the true light of Christ is still finding the darkness within human society, including within the church. The Royal Commission is an agent of that light, exposing that which is either not yet right or not yet put to rights. As darkness is replaced by light we need to maintain the light (e.g. by continuing commitment to boundaries training, to safguarding practices).

2. We can only be a church shining the light of Christ out to the world if we have that light shining also on us because we know we need help with our dark tendencies.

3. We should remind ourselves of the doctrine of sin: ALL (including ourselves) are sinners in need of God; Christ died to save ALL. None of us is beyond need for the redemptive work of Christ. Sin is pervasive in this life, and none of us should ever be complacent about our propensity to do wrong.

*Stories reported in NZ media here, here, here, here, here and here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

The energy of Mark’s Gospel

Reading Mark 1:1-8 for last Sunday’s sermon [Advent 2] reminded me that despite Mark’s deficiencies relative to Matthew, Luke and John - no Beatitudes, Good Samaritan, Road to Emmaus, Exposition on the Bread of Life, etc - Mark is nevertheless a great gospel and worthy of much praise.


Mark takes us almost straightaway to the action of Jesus. No wasting time and papyrus with a genealogy, story of conception, pregnancy, birth and infancy. No Herod or Quirinius, census, shepherds, or wise men. No songs. Eight verses acknowledging the forecast of ancient prophets and the announcements of a contemporary prophet and then, 1:9, “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth ...” Preaching, forming a band of disciples, and healings soon follow.

Among Mark’s achievements with his gospel is the confrontation of the reader with the power and provocation of Jesus. Mark’s Jesus changes his world - people and power structures are either transformed or challenged. As a reader, what is my response to Mark’s Jesus? Mark does not allow me to be neutral about Jesus.

In Mark 1:1 we read that we are reading a “gospel” - a good news story or great announcement of importance for the world - and Mark’s urgency in communicating this story to us lies in the word “beginning”.

The beginning of the gospel for Mark is not Matthew’s Abrahamic genealogy or Luke’s Zechariah on duty in the temple or even John’s “before the beginning of history.” The beginning is the coming of Jesus himself as a full fledged, adult agent of God’s dramatic plan for the healing (salvation) of the world.

So there is (Christological, missiological) energy in Mark’s Gospel and he does a remarkable job of conveying that energy to his readers and sweeping us along through his breathless narrative.

This is the Gospel of Christ.

Praise to Christ the Word!

Monday, November 30, 2020

Anglicans in turmoil: Is there a solution other than schism?

Once again dear friends, Anglicans in turmoil - in Australia and in England, per the previous two posts here - raise the question, Is there a solution other than schism? 

 Some thoughts - of a most general nature for I do not want to get into the particularities and peculiarities of the constitutional arrangements of the Anglican Church of Australia and of the Church of England - are these: 

1. We are all Anglicans, even in this turmoil of disagreement. 

2. Anglicans have been and continue to be very adept at holding together, in one church, disagreements that make a Presbyterian blanch and a Roman Catholic wince. 

3. The present disagreements concern our differences in pastoral responses to people in our pews, as prompted by changes to civil legislation. 

4. Anglicans have been and continue to be very adroit at responding to pastoral needs and to living respectfully of civil authority. 


5. There are grounds - based on Anglican history and Anglican character - for thinking and hoping that the present turmoil does not necessitate schism but will require forbearance and wisdom not unknown through history to both the prelates and parishioners of our churches.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Living in Love and Faith: what will its reception history be?

Very recently the Church of England has published a book (and associated resources) called Living in Love and Faith. The website associated with this project and thus with lots of links is here. From that website we read:

"What is the purpose of the Living in Love and Faith resources?

The hope is for people in Church of England churches across the country to use the LLF resources to study and pray together. The resources are designed to encourage and enable engagement and learning in a variety of settings. This church-wide learning together, listening to one another, and listening to God is part of discerning a way forward for the Church of England in relation to matters of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage. The purpose of the resources is to enable the Church of England churches across the country to participate in a process of learning and praying together as part of discerning a way forward in relation to matters of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage.

The Church of England is keenly aware that issues of gender and sexuality are intrinsic to people’s experience; their sense of identity; their lives and the loving relationships that shape and sustain them. We also know that the life and mission of our Church – and of the worldwide Anglican Communion – are affected by the deep, and sometimes painful, disagreements among us which have been debated and discussed on many occasions over the years.

These divisions have come into sharper focus because of society’s changing perspectives and practices, especially in relation to lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual and intersex people. The Church wants to understand what it means to follow Christ in love and faith given the questions about human identity and the variety of patterns of relationship emerging in our society, including marriage, civil partnership, cohabitation, celibacy and friendship.

The LLF resources explore these matters by studying what the Bible, theology, history and the social and biological sciences have to say, and by telling the real-life stories of followers of Christ with diverse experiences and convictions. Find out more about what the learning outcomes of the resources are.

We hope that people in worshipping communities across the country will get involved and use the resources to learn together. That is why there is a range of resources in a variety of formats.

We believe that the Holy Spirit will be active among us as we pray, study and deliberate together to discover Christ’s call to the Church today. We do this with a deep sense of hopefulness for a future in which Christians can follow Christ together joyfully, fruitfully and with integrity."

My post today is primarily to inform Down Under readers of this development and to point yourselves and myself to the website and its resources, though for me personally I have no time at the present to digest them.

Secondarily, I am also pointing readers to some responses:

Ian Paul writes at Psephizo on "(How) should we engage with Living in Faith and Love?"

Paul Handley at Church Times offers a "quick guide" to the Living in Faith and Love book.

Prof Diamid MacCulloch, writing in 'critical review mode' at Modern Church about Living in faith and Love, offers this "drawing the reader in, to read the next sentence" opening sentence:

"The end-result of the Living in Love and Faith process, all 482 pages of it (hereafter LLF), is a good deal better than it might have been."

Thereafter he offers many thoughts on marriage and such like, not all of which are agreeable (it would seem - me having Tweeted this article the other day and receiving some critical responses, not least to what he says on 1 Samuel 20:41).

Comment as you will but to attempt to be clear, I am not myself offering these links to argue anything, one way or another. Perhaps at a later point in time I will have time to offer my own thoughts on Living in Faith and Love.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Across the Tasman, an Appellate Tribunal Decision

IMPORTANT UPDATE: The Australian Bishops have offered a response to the Appellate Tribunal's decision - a model of Anglican balance!! Also note this report from the Diocese of Sydney.

ORIGINAL POST: A few days ago, an Anglican Church of Australia Appellate Tribunal published an opinion (this is the official term) on the matter of a blessing of same-sex marriages proposed by the Diocese of Wangaratta.

The opinion (more precisely, two: 5 for a majority opinion, 1 for a minority opinion) is published here. (Spoiler Alert: it is a lot of reading!)

For a quicker read, here is Muriel Porter's Church Times article, and here is Julia Baird's SMH article.

This is Julia's summary of the decision:

"The issue was a legal one, fundamentally about where the authority lies to make a decision of the kind that would allow a liturgy for the blessing of same-sex couples married under Australian law. Who gets to decide – the individual dioceses, of which there are 23 in Australia – or the national church at its General Synod? The tribunal ruled it was the diocese, because this liturgy was “not inconsistent with the Fundamental Declarations and Ruling Principles” of the Constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia."

Dr Mark Thompson, Moore College, offers his "disappointed" response here. He writes,

"This opinion, if acted upon, may indeed have devastating consequences for the Anglican Church of Australia, as similar decisions have done elsewhere in the world, but it cannot change the revealed will of God. The opinion is deeply wrong because it opens the door for the blessing of behaviour which the Bible clearly says will exclude people from inheriting the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10). As the Board of Assessors and the House of Bishops made clear, the prohibition of this behaviour is not limited to an isolated passage in the New Testament but is consistent through the entire Bible. God does not change his mind. He does not need to. He has always known the end from the beginning.

Since its release, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Archbishop Geoff Smith, has described the decision of the Tribunal as ‘an important contribution to the ongoing conversation within the church’. He clearly does not see it as the final word. It is important that only Scripture occupies that place."

There are some points of ecclesiastical frisson here. 

For instance, on the matter of blessings, not that long ago the Australian Bishops (two of whom were on the Tribunal) unanimously ruled against blessings. 

Further, the Australian General Synod when it met a couple of years back censured the Episcopal Church of Scotland for legislating for same-sex marriages.

That is, the opinion of the Tribunal that the Wangaratta decision is not inconsistent with the Constitution is itself not consistent with the Bishops nor with the General Synod.

In other words, as a matter of debate and decision-making for our Across the Tasman Anglican cousins, it looks very much like clarity needs to occur at the General Synod level. That is, clarity over whether or not the opinion about "not inconsistent" with the Constitution becomes canonical fact or not, as applied to the whole of ACA, not only to the Diocese of Wangaratta.

For Kiwi readers, it may be important to note that ACA is not the same as ACANZP constitutionally (for example the former’s constitution gives more power to each diocese than the latter’s constitution does).

My opinion on the formal opinion of the Appellate Tribunal:

1. The majority opinion works very hard, with admirable detail in analysis and reflection on changes through history, on how an Anglican church generally and how the Australian Anglican church specifically, can respond to changes in civil legislation concerning marriage.

2. The minority opinion works very clearly and carefully on a biblical theology of sex and marriage which yields the conclusion that changes to civil legislation on marriage does not overturn a universal ban on same-sex sexual relationships.

3. In important ways, both positions are "honourable." It is appropriate to follow the Bible - Romans 13 and all that - in making accommodation between church and state. It is also appropriate to follow the Bible - Revelation 13 and all that - in resisting the temptation to accommodate changing culture.

4. Thus an obvious challenge for ACA, as it has been for ACANZP, is whether and how both honourable positions might be held within the one church.

5. And, sadly, a salutary warning from the recent history of ACANZP with disaffiliations leading to the formation of CCAANZ, is that (4) may not have a straightforward resolution.

6. There is, nevertheless, a pastoral dimension to the Appellate Tribunal's reports, beyond questions of civil legislation and social change becoming a cultural tide washing over the church. When two Christians of the same sex determine that they wish to live their lives together in a bond of marriage, may the church formally permit freedom for its ministers to follow a pastoral instinct to pray for them?

7. The genius of the Anglican church has been that it has found many ways to permit freedom for its ministers to follow a pastoral instinct!

To all commenters: this post is NOT an opportunity to once again rehearse for/against arguments about homosexuality or same-sex blessings or same-sex marriages. I may not publish your comment if your comment offers such rehearsal. Comments should focus on matters relating to Anglicanism Down Under with special reference to the Anglican Church of Australia - its constitution, its polity, its decision-making, etc.


GAFCON Australia have published a first response to the Appellate opinion, here.

I think the challenging paragraph here is this:

"The teaching of Scripture is that while marriage is not necessary for salvation nor for the experience of life to the full, obedience to God’s Word is.  The Lord brings about in us what he commands, whatever our marital status or sexuality. The gift of marriage, in accordance with the doctrine of Christ as it is clearly taught in Scripture and expressed in the Book of Common Prayer is ‘an honourable estate’ given for the union of one man to one woman for, among other purposes, the raising of children.  Likewise, those who are not married, through their union with Christ, are holy and called to lives of chastity and fruitful, joyful service of the Lord."

A challenge is that this statement simply avoids tackling the otherwise "clear" (but seemingly difficult to actually follow) teaching of Scripture on divorce and remarriage (especially our Lord's own teaching). 

Thus a further challenge is that this paragraph assumes that Scripture teaches "clearly" on matters that, in fact, churches find less than clear when it comes to engagement with the circumstances of real life.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Quietly Fades the Don?

In Australasia the most famous Donald is not Donald Trump. It is Donald Bradman, cricket’s greatest ever batsmen and Australia’s greatest ever cricketer.

In 1949 Jack Fingleton, himself a very good batsman, but by then cricket writer, wrote a book about Don Bradman’s final Australian XI tour to England in 1948. Wittily he called it Brightly Fades the Don. That title was a spoof of the title of Mikhail Sholokhov’s four volume novel Quietly Flows the Don (1928-40) - also known as And Quiet Flows the Don. 

The former book charts the final pathway towards Don Bradman’s retirement (at the age of 40 - still a remarkable age to be playing international cricket). The latter book is the story of the Don Cossocks - Cossacks who live along the Don River - during the First World War, the Russian Revolution and the Russian Civil War.

As I write, victory has been declared for Joe Biden in the US Presidential Election and thus defeat for Donald Trump. Unfortunately Donald Trump is not currently accepting defeat let alone admitting it. But the flow of the river of popular acclamation of Biden and his victory is against Trump.

Whether Trump goes quietly from the White House or not, I think we can see that over the next year or two he will quietly fade away from our consciousness.

"Trumpism" may or may not be a political thing (I see some saying it is and others that it is not) but Trump is finished. Why? Simply, there are only so many lies a body of people can stomach. He has told many lies and the past few days of egregious claims of electoral fraud are among the worst of them.

Even in defeat he cannot face let alone tell the truth.

The irony is that Trump has in fact received a record number of votes (but Biden has received even more). With a smidgeon more effort against Coronavirus, a tad more empathy for suffering humanity (especially in his own country) and a few less lies, Trump could have succeeded in garnering the Electoral College votes he needed to remain President.

He is the living embodiment of tragedy - so close to success, so unnecessarily falling into failure, and all through personal choice to take the moral low ground when the high ground was easily in reach.

So far so Greek drama!

And it may get worse for him as his family appears divided over whether to support his claims of the election being rigged or not.

What is Trump in biblical terms?

It is hard to get past thinking of him in terms of Israel's kings - the ones in the line of Saul who manage to stuff things up, principally by disobeying God and often coming to a bad end.

I wonder if those US pastors - e.g. Paula White - who have so vigorously and publicly supported Trump as God's anointed ruler will open their Bibles to review their support and find a better biblical understanding of what kind of "king" he has in fact been?

My suspicion, perhaps yours too, is that such public but erroneous support for such an immoral king will quietly fade away, never to be referred to again!

PS For those keen on literature and its relevance to life in actuality, read Maureen Dowd's last sentence in this article.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Biding with Biden or Trumped by Trump? This is THE week! Also, Sacks on Genesis.

So, this post might get extended later in the week, if the US election results are worth commenting about in some kind of Anglicanly way ... we can otherwise expect lots and lots of commentary, whatever happens.

Meanwhile, in Anglicanland, Ian Paul at Psephizo continues to post always-worth-reading material and a recent post (mostly a book review by Philip Seddon) alerts us to an excellent looking commentary on Genesis - actually,  to a set of commentaries on the Torah called Covenant and Conversation  - by Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks.

The blurb from the Genesis volume says:

"In this first volume of a five-volume collection of parashat hashavua commentaries, Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks explores these intersections as they relate to universal concerns of freedom, love, responsibility, identity, and destiny. He fuses Jewish tradition, Western philosophy, and literature to present a highly developed understanding of the human condition under Gods sovereignty. Erudite and eloquent, Covenant & Conversation allows us to experience Chief Rabbi Sacks’ sophisticated approach to life lived in an ongoing dialogue with the Torah."

Naturally I encourage you to read the whole of Philip Seddon's review, and even better, obtain the commentary or the whole series for yourself (as I am now aiming to do). But for today, and as a follow up to last week's post, here is one observation Seddon makes, about an distinctive feature of Sacks' writing which impressed him:

" The unbroken line of rabbinic tradition of what we could call ‘Rabbinic scriptural reasoning’, the single story of interpretation, by contrast with the divided and hardened competing histories of interpretation in Eastern Orthodoxy, Western Catholicism and Western Reformation Christianity. Unlike a former generation’s mockery of endless conflicting rabbinic authorities, there is deep respect for the prayer and thought of generations of ’the wise’. In a Christian context, this would be the approach of a Christopher Seitz, Brevard Childs, Ephraim Radner or Hans Boersma, of Ressourcement—returning to the original sources and foundations with a grasp of the full tradition."

That last sentence in large part is a point I was trying to make last week. That if to be "evangelical" is to read Scripture and then to re-read Scripture and then to re-re-read Scripture to find its meaning for today (as, indeed, rabbis have done through the centuries), then one way to do such reading and re-reading is to do so with an eye on how the "full tradition" of reading has taken place.

And noting Sacks' point, that the way to understand "conflicting ... authorities" (rabbinic and/or Christian), is not to mock the contradictions, let alone the authorities, but to dig deeper for the wisdom that may be found beyond the contradictions.

Which may be something for Anglicans to ponder, when so often in our history we have wanted to resolve all contradictions rather than live with (into?) them.

Monday, October 26, 2020

A Moabitess set loose in the House of Israel, contrary to the Law?

 Two weeks ago I posted about a quirk in the Book of Ruth - a quirk which highlights that what we call "Scripture" or "the Bible" is complicated. In this case the complication is the difference between how even the original text (Hebrew) is written and how it has been read (by Hebrew speaking Jewish scholars who compiled the standard Hebrew manuscripts used in our English translations. I noted that how one word is written in Ruth 4:5 is reflected in a recent translation (REB) but how it has been read is reflected in most other translations I have to hand on my shelves.

This kind of complication is not the only complication in Scripture when we dig into it and the Book of Ruth illustrates another kind. My guide in this post continues to be the JPS Bible Commentary Ruth by Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Tikva Frymer-Kensky (Philadelphia, 2011). The complication discussed here is change to our understanding of the Law of Moses within the pages of Scripture itself.

Ruth was a Moabitess who had married an Israelite (Ruth 1:1-5). The Moabites were descended from an incestuous liaison between Lot and his older daughtet. Numbers 21-22 tells the story of the king of Moab seeking to destroy Israel in the wilderness. Numbers 25:1 reports that Israelite men profaned themselves on the eve of entering the promised land with Moabite women. Thus in Deuteronomy 23:4-7 the Moabites are denounced in no uncertain terms: they are specifically excluded from the community of Israel. Further, Deuteronomy 23:8-9 follows up the immediately prior exclusion of Moabites but affirming that Edomite and Egyptian offspring of Israelite spouses are able to be included in the third generation. 

How can Ruth become an ancestor of David when neither she nor her offspring should have existence within the community of Israel according to unambiguous Law of Moses?

In the Eskenazi and Frymer-Kensky commentary it is pointed out that rabbinic commentators were alive to this difficulty, for instance, arguing that the Deuteronomic passage applyed solely to men and/or that Ruth converted to the faith of Israel (as a possibility pertaining to Moabite women but not to Moabite men) (pp. xlv - xlvii).

But Eskenazi and Frymer-Kensky observe that within Scripture there are "competing traditions" about Moabites:

"Interestingly, Deuteronomy also preserves a different tradition about the Moabites in which the Moabites welcome the Israelites during their wilderness trek (Deut. 2:26-29). The coexistence of competing traditions suggests that the debate about Moabite status was already embedded within Deuteronomy and reflects different hands or changes in attitudes over time." (pp. xlvii-xlviii)

That is, the deeper we dig into what Scripture says, the more we have to ponder about how the "one" Scripture nevertheless includes "more than one" perspective on matters of importance.

The Book of Ruth also figures, in respect of competing traditions about intermarriage.

It is well-known, for instance, that biblical accounts in Ezra-Nehemiah strongly oppose intermarriage between Israelites and people of other nations. On the one hand this "post Exilic" writing reflects the vulnerability of Israel as it is reconstituted in its own land. On the other hand it is not the only postExilic voice which reflects on Israel among the nations. Eskenazi and Frymer-Kensky note that, in contrast to the exclusivity of Ezra-Nehemiah,

"Isa. 56:3-7 (also likely from the fifth or fourth century B.C.E.) promises the foreigner a venerable place in God's house." (p. xli)

In respect of Ruth, our commentators observe that,

"her story functions as a counterpoint to the negative attitude toward Moabite and other foreign women in the biblical accounts in Ezra-Nehemiah. In its own biblical context, then, the Book of Ruth exemplifies a way that a Moabite woman can marry a Judean and join the community, despite what we read in Deut. 23. Rabbinic sources will seek a basis for reconciling the tension between Ruth's place in the Jewish community and Deut. 23:4-7 regarding Moabites." (p. xlv)

In other words, on the questions of (i) intermarriage between Israel and other nations, and (ii) exclusion or otherwise of Moabites from existence within Israel, the Scripture of Israel (the Christian Old Testament) do not speak with one voice.

It is not so much that we then conclude the Old Testament contradicts itself as that we observe that within the Old Testament there are signs of lively debate on matters critical to Israel's identity as God's people.

Within the New Testament we also see signs of lively debate - not all of which is resolved neatly (see, for instance, 1 Corinthians 11:16 on a particular, but relatively small matter; and Romans/Galatians and James on a relatively large matter concerning salvation via faith and/or works, with considerable importance for major difference within Western Christianity, between Protestants and Roman Catholics).

One of the questions for the church in the world today, which all too often seems to want to present binary solutions for discussion with a disposition to choosing (or imposing) but one option for permanent solution, is whether "faithfulness to Scripture" is understood, or not, as openness to lively and continuing debate.

Monday, October 19, 2020

True Christianity marches through the institutions, including the church?

My attention has been drawn to an article which sets out the history of the recent schism in our church (here). The article is well researched and well written and interviews some of our key religious, academic commentators. Not sure about the headline the sub-editor has given it!

Now, this post is NOT about the schism and I may or may not publish your comment if you are going to comment about the schism.

In the course of the article it quotes Peter Lineham, arguably the most well informed observer of our Kiwi religious landscape.

"That’s led to uncertainty about organised religion’s future. “The whole idea that religion can be held together through institutional structures could just be wrong,” mulled Lineham. “A lot of religiosity today is not neatly confined within traditional frameworks, as [it] used to be. And issues like [homosexuality or transgender rights], which institutions make such heavy weather of, most individuals navigate around much more easily.”"

Now, again, for clarity and for deterrance of possible comments, this post is not about issues like homosexuality or transgender rights, nor about whether institutions are making heavy weather of them compared to individuals.

The question here, the point Peter Lineham makes, which seems worth pondering (albeit at risk of making me positionally redundant) is that of whether institutions [churches in the case of Christianity] are needed to "hold religion together"?

Of course, as a simple statement of fact it is true, "A lot of religiosity today is not neatly confined within traditional frameworks, as it used to be."

It is also true that there is a way of reading the story of Jesus of Nazareth and then of his apostle, Paul of Tarsus, as the story of the breaking down of the "institution" of Judaism (as then experienced) and as the story of a religiosity - the dynamics of the Christian experience in the First Century - which could not be confined in frameworks as traditioned in the consciousness of those who became the first Christians.

What do you think?

For myself, I can see that the church is often an institution (and, on many matters, not only those most controversial, makes heavy weather of things).

But the church reads the gospel. It always has a shot at being what it is meant to be!

Sunday, October 11, 2020

I just love it when ...

... I discover something new in the pages of Scripture, especially when it is a little bit quirky.

So, if you would like a post on the profundity of Anglicanism, please read or reread last week's post on "Participation". 

If you would like some biblical quirkiness then read on.

It begins a little while ago when the Dean of Dunedin, Tony Curtis, gave an illuminating talk on the Book of Ruth. It got me realising that my commentary shelves are a bit light on Ruth and, natch, I ordered a new commentary.

It is the JPS Bible Commentary Ruth by Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Tikva Frymer-Kensky (Philadelphia, 2011).

So far I am making my way each night before lights out a few paragraphs at a time through the Introduction - some 70+ pages of erudition, beautifully written.

Yes, yes, I know, normal people read romantic novels and not commentaries on romantic novels!

Anyway, anyhoo.

A vexed question or three in respect of the lovely and flourishing romance between Ruth and Boaz concerns the nature of the law or lore or custom concerning the contracting of a marriage in ancient Israel between people with some kind of kinship tie.

For instance, is the marriage between Ruth and Boaz a "levirate marriage" - a marriage between a man and a childless widow of the man's deceased relative, contracted with the intention of producing a child who will continue the deceased relative's name.

This is discussed in the above commentary from page xxxii to xxxviii and concludes,

"But if levirate marriage does not serve as the rationale for the union between Boaz and Ruth, why does Boaz marry Ruth? And why does he go about it in the complicated, confusing manner described in the book?" (xxxviii)

The next discussion in the Introduction sets out to answer these questions.

Along the way of the levirate discussion my interest was piqued by its discussion of Ruth 4:5 which raises the question whether Boaz says to the nearer "redeemer" on the question of acquiring some land held in the name of Ruth's deceased husband, that, simultaneously, "I will acquire Ruth" or "You will acquire Ruth."

It happens that the Bible I keep at hand by my bed is the Revised English Bible, which I looked up. It reads,

"Boaz continued: 'On the day you take over the field from Naomi, I take over the widow, Ruth the Moabite, so as to perpetuate the name of the dead man on his holding'."

There is no footnote indicating an alternative reading. Something in my memory suggested this was an unusual reading.


The NRSV has,

"Then Boaz said, 'The day you acquire the field from the hand of Naomi, you are also acquiring Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead man, to maintain the dead man's name on his inheritance."

Although there is a footnote indicating a variation in the Old Latin, Vulgate text, it is not a variation which concerns us here re "I acquire" or "You acquire".

Following the NRSV are the CEB, GNB, NEB, NJB, and NIV.

Is the REB an outlier? If one major translation can differ from others, why not mutually informative footnotes re the viability of the two possible readings?

Back to Eskenazi and Frymer-Kensky. Their explanation of the possibility of two different translations is this:

"it is uncertain whether the unnamed redeemer is told that he has acquired Ruth - or will acquire her, when he redeems the land - or whether Boaz himself is acquiring Ruth. The interpretation depends upon whether one follows the written consonantal text (ketiv), kaniti, which seems to mean, "I will acquire" (namely I, Boaz) or whether one follows the Masoretic reading instructions (kerey), kanita, which means "you will acquire" (i.e. the other man). The latter would mean that the redeemers, as a redeeemer, is obligated to take the widow, an expectation not connected with any biblical law of redemption. Because redemption, not levirate marriage, has been the only subject discussed by Ruth (3:9) and Boaz (3:10-13 and 4:3-5), and because nothing indicates either the other redeemer or Boaz is a levir, Boaz's statement stands in tension with all known biblical laws." (page xxxvi)

That is, for those unfamiliar with how Jewish reading and interpretation of the text of the books we Christians call the Old Testament works, sometimes what is written in the text (usually meaning the Masoretic Text) is deemed to be not right and an alternative reading is offered in the margin of the text, a writing down of a spoken or recited tradition in respect of the text. The latter is the kerey. The former is the ketiv.

Eskenazi and Frymer-Kensky observe, on p. 76, 

"As a rule, the Masoretes and Rabbinic halakhah consider the kerey the preferred reading of the text."

So, the NRSV etc (indeed, Eskenazi and Frymer-Nkensky themselves) follow the kerey. The REB is a bit of an outlier, following the ketiv.

There you go!

Isn't that more interesting than an ordinary romantic novel?

But, wait, there is more. Next week, or soon after, I will come back to some other points of great and relevant interest in the Book of Ruth.

Maybe our reflection till then could be, 

"What is the actual text of Scripture, from which we seek a "literal" translation?"

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Participation: God in the world; our deification; our ecumenical fellowship

I was very helped in sermon prep this past week by reading a review in Church Times.

The review prompted a bit of a trawl into the subject of "participation" - more on the review and the trawl below - and led to me offering the following thought this morning when celebrating the re-opening of St David's Belfast, a Hurst Seagar church here in Christchurch, which recently has undergone restoration of its woodwork, new and improved lighting (which show off the woodwork), better heating, a new font and new communion rails.

That thought was that it is a mistake to drive a wedge between church as people and church as building because while church as people is important to God (e.g. 1 Peter 2:1-10, our epistle reading), so is church as building because church buildings represent the participation of God in creation as God gifts to us wood and stone and grants to humanity gifts of design and craftmanship.

The review which caught my eye was by Paul Avis (who else!) and it was on the 2021 book by Paul Anthony Dominiak, Richard Hooker: The Architecture of  Participation.

The Amazon blurb is:

"Richard Hooker's Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity has long been acknowledged as an influential philosophical, theological and literary text. While scholars have commonly noted the presence of participatory language in selected passages of Hooker's Laws, Paul Anthony Dominiak is the first to trace how participation lends a sense of system and coherency across the whole work.

Dominiak analyses how Hooker uses an architectural framework of 'participation in God' to build a cohesive vision of the Elizabethan Church as the most fitting way to reconcile and lead English believers to the shared participation of God.

First exploring Hooker's metaphysical architecture of participation in his accounts of law and the sacraments, Dominiak then traces how this architecture structures cognitive participation in God, as well as Hooker's political vision of the Church and Commonwealth. The volume culminates with a summary of how Hooker provides a salutary resource for modern ecumenical dialogue and contemporary political retrievals of participation."

Hooker himself does not say much directly about "participation" and no doubt Dominiak's thesis will be critiqued in terms of whether he rightly takes those few things as setting out the architecture of Hooker's thought. The five critical things Hooker says which catalyse Dominiak's thesis are:

"all things in the world are said in some sort to seek the highest, and to covet more or less the participation of God himself" (I.5.2)

"‘No good is infinite but only God: therefore he our felicitie and blisse. Moreover desire tendeth unto union with that it desireth. If then in him we be blessed, it is by force of participation and conjunction with him’." (I.11.2)

"how God is in Christ, then how Christ is in us, and how the sacramentes doe serve to make us pertakers of Christ" (V.50.3)

"Participation is that mutual inward hold which Christ hath of us and wee of him, in such sort that each possesseth other by waie of speciall interest propertie and inherent copulation" (V.56.1)

"wee are therefore adopted sonnes of God to eternall life by participation of the onlie begotten Son of God, whose life is the wellspringe and cause of oures" (V.56.7).

Dominak's book, incidentally, is fearsomely expensive, but the doctoral thesis on which it is based is obtainable here

Naturally for a monograph which is demanding for even the most academic amongst us, a review helps to understand, and to relate the importance of the book to those of us without time to dive into the dense depths of Dominiak's scholarship.

In his review, Avis makes this point which connects to some recent threads of comments here on ADU, and which generally touches on that age old chestnut, that somewhere between Jesus of Nazareth and what Christians think today, a terrible Hellenistic corruption changed plain peasant parables into a sophisticated theology which falsely transformed a radical rabbi into God Incarnate:

"As Dr Dominiak shows, the idea that binds the Platonic philosophical-mystical tradition and Christian, biblical, theology together is participation in God. Though, until recently, the idea of participation in God through grace has been largely neglected in Anglican theology, it is found, not only in Hooker, but in his near-contemporary Lancelot Andrewes and in the subsequent High Church tradition. We also see it in the Cambridge Platonists, John Keble, E. B. Pusey, F. D. Maurice, B. F. Westcott, Charles Gore, William Temple, Michael Ramsey, and Rowan Williams, to name but a few.

To hold this doctrine and to live by it, we need to believe that God has poured God’s power, goodness, and beauty into the creation; that the incarnation has elevated and transfigured human nature; that the sacraments are effective means of union with the Triune God; and that the Holy Spirit never ceases to energise and purify the Church."


"Participation in God connects with the mysterious text in 2 Peter 1.4: “that you may become partakers of the divine nature”. The concept of “divinisation” or theosis, found particularly in the Orthodox tradition, is viewed with suspicion by those who believe that it transgresses the boundary between Creator and creation, divinity and humanity.

But Dominiak shows that deification has many shades of meaning and that such fears are misplaced. He brings together “participation” and the key biblical concept of ecumenical theology, koinonia (fellowship, communion). He suggests that Hooker’s doctrine of participation can be a bridge to closer agreement with the Orthodox Churches."

There is a lot to reflect on here.

What excites me (apart from a helpful insight towards the construction of this morning's sermon) here is:

- claiming Hooker's place in that "best of all theology" pantheon, where the great theologians help us ordinary Christians understand the involvement of God in our lives, in the world we live in along with the purpose of our lives in relation to God;

- setting out how the depths of Hooker's thought relates to the simplest of Christian concepts: fellowship;

- offering a vision for the universal church: all who participate in the God who participates in them may have fellowship with one another.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Common Good and Civil War

It is difficult being a concerned citizen of the world, looking on from afar, as the United States of America bit by bit becomes the Divided States of America, excruciatingly travelling day by day towards destiny's deadline in November.

Spoiler Alert: no one knows what will happen!

One analysis I heard the other day (can't recall the source) is that the USA is in a "Cold Civil War." This comment by Robert Reich, Amid Talk of Civil War, America is Already Split , highlights how divisive Trump has been and continues to be, though Reich seems to see the civil war as coming rather than already arrived, albeit "Cold."

Andrew Sullivan, in Yes, This is the Face of a Tyrant , makes the fascinating point that when most view Trump as incompetent, he has in fact been supremely competent ... at destruction. The associated, brilliant point, is that Trump stands in the tradition of Shakespeare's Richard III.

Bonus: read on further in Sullivan's column to see what he says about certain "woke" leaders in the USA. They are as frightening as Trump!

Postscript: yes, like you, I have been reading about Amy Coney Barrett, the nomination to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. Whatever the situation re the Court thereby becoming unreasonably stacked 6-3 conservatively, I am aghast as a Christian that Barrett is being attacked (1) for her faith (2) on the grounds that she has adopted two children from Haiti (apparently this is some kind of white supremacy colonization ... and the more scurrilous attackers also want to check that the adoption was perfectly legal). Will the day ever return to the States when prospective judges are assessed on their jurisprudential competence?

Meanwhile, in the Blessed Isles Down Under, our election is a pleasant picnic in a lush green meadow by comparison with the States' democratic meltdown.

We have a chief contender party, Labour, which has led a coalition government since the last election in such a manner that polls suggest we think Labour's competency means it should govern alone and, by contrast, that the coalition partner party, NZ First, should be executed and dispatched summarily from the political landscape. 

Then we have a chief opposition party, National, which until recently was more popular than Labour in the polls, but which has harmed itself by changing leader twice this year and then recently, while campaigning on the strength of historic reputation as good economy managers, has stuffed up key figures within its alternative budget. It is now in "more than a miracle" territory if it were to somehow rise up to lead a coalition government.

So, no "dirty politics" needed here to explain either Labour's strength or National's weakness, though we can say that the Pandemic has been very good for Labour and very bad for National (and NZ First).

How then should Kiwi Christians vote in our General Election?

Liam Hehir, a right of centre commentator and openly Catholic Christian, made a good point the other day when he posted on Twitter a thread emphasising the "common good" and how we view it being enhanced by Party X or Y or Z:

(Unfortunately, for reasons unknown to me, this thread has been deleted but you can get the gist of how you might think about (e.g.) the Greens, ACT, NZ First contributing to the common good and whether that would incline your vote for them or not.)

I realise the "common good" is a concept which I know nothing about in a technical and academic sense, but I understand Liam to (at least) be prompting voters to think about what will yield the greatest benefits for the most citizens over a lengthy period of time.

I don't think I have ever quite thought of voting with that concept in mind but I see it as a better concept (from the perspective of Loving my neighbour) than "which party will put into or leave in my wallet the most dollars"!

Nevertheless in Aotearoa NZ, the notion of the "common good" needs some careful teasing out. And Anglicans may be in a good position to do that because of our experience of Three Tikanga which heightens recognition that "common good" is not just what is good for most of us over the long haul (because "most of us" are Pakeha). The common good in ACANZP is what is good for Maori and Pakeha and Pasefika.

Last Tuesday night Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins debated on TV One. One observation made afterwards was that neither leader mentioned Maori and the issues Maori face. Was that (classic) Pakeha forgetfulness of Maori? Was that political strategem? 

(For those readers out of NZ, it is all too often politically strategic to (at best) not mention "Maori issues" and (at worst) deliberately mention "Maori issues" as a political dog whistle seeking to round up Pakeha voters who feel (e.g.) that Maori "get more than their fair share" of resources or that we are/should be "one nation".)

What is the common good in Aotearoa NZ as we seek good for everyone, Maori and Pakeha and Pasefika and recent migrants from other nations?

On the one hand, that is not an easy question to answer in one sentence or less!

On the other hand, we who have a vote, should use it, and must make a choice and thus we will (whether we think about the common good, or what will be good for our wallet, or not) be voting for what will be good for our nation and the peoples within it!

Monday, September 21, 2020

Encouragements and Challenges

 Briefly, as travelling a bit through these days.

One way to sum up an interesting week of meetings, conversations and a number of church services, not only on the last two Sundays, is "encouragements and challenges."

I am grateful to God, you will be also, for encouragements - for those signs that God is at work among us.

I acknowledge to God, you will also, that challenges are opportunities - primarily for faith, for trusting that God knows best, over the long term, and is, according to the Word, working out all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).

And today may be a larger encouragement: our Government will announce whether most of NZ (including our Diocesan area) goes to Level 1 ... or not.

Hopefully more depth and detail re being Anglican Down Under next week.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Strange Times?

So, in good news in Level 2, we held our Zoom Synod business sessions on Friday, 9am to 5.20 pm (with breaks) and everything went along very well, including passing some needed legislation and making some helpful-going-forward resolutions.

I imagine many Synod members enjoyed a Saturday break (diaries otherwise having committed us to being at the physical Synod had it gone ahead) and it is always a good day in the garden when at the end of it tomatoes have been planted in our glasshouse, fingers crossed that some fruit might appear in time for Christmas. (Potatoes having already been planted!)

Meanwhile, NZ continues (with much of the world) to grapple with Covid-19, and as I write we remain in Level 2 (or Level 2.5 up in Auckland), waiting to see what the Government will announce today re a possible change in levels.

Along the way of this national and global saga, we have had an interesting ecclesiastical-national saga: a church in Auckland, the Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship, has been the centre of an Auckland "sub-cluster" with - it appears, according to news reports - some initial hesitations re submitting to tests and some careless practice re not socially isolating due to (in my words) not accepting the scientific basis for authorities requesting tests and requiring isolation as the first members of the church were diagnosed with the virus. 

For a couple of commentaries on the situation, from a source I do not think I have ever cited before, The Daily Blog (one of NZ's premiere political commentary blogs, albeit "leftist"), here is Curwen Ares Rolinson and there is Chris Trotter.

We are seeing, it would seem, some unfortunate fruit of a development in evangelical Christianity which has affected to disdain the reliability of science - a development which may well have at its foundation a scepticism about evolution.

Incidentally, after initial reluctance it appears that everyone connected to this church is on board with the need to be tested and to socially isolated until this transmission hotspot has cooled down.

But some damage has been done. As Christians around me are observing: the impact of the story of this one church is that all churches are tarred by their brush, whether or not we claim to have kosher scientific credentials. 

On the one hand, we might recognise that no church is "independent" of other churches. We all represent Christianity, we are all ambassadors for Christ and witnesses to the gospel. When one church - even an independent church such as this one - hits the headlines for reasons not praiseworthy, all of NZ Christianity suffers.

On the other hand, we might also recognise - in line with comments worth pondering made to the post below this - the importance of continually understanding what the gospel actually is? What did Christ do and what did he teach? What is God's purpose for us and meaning for our lives according to God's purposes in Christ?

These are "strange times" but the church always lives in strange times and it has always needed to work out what the gospel is and how it should be communicated in strange times.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Not a Post

 A bit too much happening this week to post.

It is our Synod, Thursday evening and Friday.

And it is by Zoom.

Which has its challenges for a large event.

And a few other things going on by way of deadlines looming.

Next Monday should be fine :).

Monday, August 31, 2020

Let me Level With You ... My Concerns about Church in Level 2

 Every country is dealing with the Pandemic in slightly different ways, so what follows may make most sense to Kiwis.

Until 11.59 pm last night, most of NZ by area was in Level 2, and our largest population centre, Auckland city (c. 1/3rd of total population) was at Level 3. Today Auckland is at Level 2.5 and the rest of NZ is at Level 2. By the end of Sunday 6 September the Government will have clarified what level or levels we are in after that. Some of us are predicting that we will remain in Level 2, across the whole country, for a few more weeks.

Explanation: Level 2 means congregations up to 100 people can meet. Level 3 congregations of up to 10 people can meet. (Level 2.5 has same meeting numbers as Level 3, except (from memory) funerals can have up to 50 people). Level 3 meant Aucklanders were restricted from travelling outside their city, unless they had an exemption.

So, from a Diocese of Christchurch point of view, yesterday we were in Level 2 without Aucklanders or recent travellers from Auckland present but next Sunday we will be in Level 2, potentially with Aucklanders or recent travellers from Auckland present.

Should we change our Level 2 Guidelines to our parishes before next Sunday?

I am not going to answer that question here. Any answer needs to be communicated to the Diocese via normal channels!

But what I am happy to observe here (accumulating observations from a number of services in different locations across the last three Sundays, as well as some funerals) is that it is very challenging to follow all Level 2 Guidelines scrupulously. We are giving it our best shot but it is very difficult (say) to remain 1m, let alone 2m, from someone we talk to after church!!

Let's put that another way: to be as scrupulous as the Pharisees, let alone the Essenes, in following "ALL the requirements of the Law/Guidelines" raises the question: is it actually possible to be church (gathering physically within a building) in Level 2?

Now, it could be that by next Monday 7 September, NZ is back in Level 1 and we all relax ecclesiastically speaking.

But if we do remain in Level 2 for some weeks, even months ahead, what are we to do in order to be safe and in order to not be a church congregation which is a "cluster" maker?

Personally, I wonder if the Government would help us out if it were to extend its current regulation making facemask wearing compulsory on public transport to include all public gatherings such as church services.

There are no easy answers (that I can see) to the dilemmas Level 2 raises, and my sense is that if we remain in Level 2, then the churches of NZ (not just of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch) are going to need to take a phrase within the epistle reading yesterday (Romans 12:9-21) to heart:

"Be patient in suffering."

Monday, August 24, 2020

Messy Anglicanism?

Mark Chapman is a leading Anglican historian (Cuddesdon, Oxford University) so when he writes I do not dismiss him. Indeed his article in a recent Church Times makes for disturbing reading, in the sense of disturbing sanguine thoughts about Anglican growth and development in its understanding of itself.

Entitled "Lambeth Conference: Early Steps on the Path to Unity", the article opens with this arresting thought for this evangelical-come-I-am-not-ashamed-to-call-myself-Protestant Anglican:

"THE 1920 Lambeth Conference’s “Appeal to All Christian People” is justly famous as a landmark in ecumenical history: it is a bold invitation by the “Bishops of the Holy Catholic Church in full communion with the Church of England” to other Churches to forget “the things which are behind and reaching out towards the goal of a reunited Catholic Church”. This would require them to absorb episcopacy into their systems.


The Appeal, which paved the way for the great United Churches of the Indian sub-continent, was also significant for another reason: it redefines Anglicanism as something that was at its heart both un-Protestant and un-English. The form of religious life which had emerged in England from the 16th century was fundamentally transformed by the Lambeth Appeal: Anglicanism was finally freed from the Protestant religion of the English State and had mutated into a form of non-Roman Catholicism detached from its Reformation roots. 

In the whole 1920 Appeal, there is nothing at all about the Book of Common Prayer or the Thirty-Nine Articles. Instead, the Anglicanism expressed in the Appeal is a kind of inclusive Catholic Church without a pope, which seeks to expand its networks in the name of wider unity or Catholicity. This seemed particularly suited to the post-First World War world, which the Appeal called a “new age with a new outlook”. "

This raises the question how 16th century Protestant Anglicanism became early 20th century Catholic Anglicanism. Chapman poses and answers the question:

"SO, HOW is it that a clearly Protestant Church could mutate into something defined by the portentous Catholicity of the Lambeth Appeal? Crucial is the idea of the via media which became increasingly part of Anglican self-definition from the 17th century. Initially used to portray the English Church as filling “in the gapp against Puritanisme and Popery, the Scilla and Charybdis of antient piety”, as Richard Montago put it in 1624, a few centuries later the idea had mutated into a reconceiving of Anglicanism as something opposed to Protestantism altogether.

In 1813, for example, the Irish lay theologian Alexander Knox declared that the “nick-name protestant” had had a “perverse influence” on our Church: Anglicanism thus stood between the two extremes of Protestantism and Papism.

The leaders of the Oxford Movement agreed: their desire to return to the Early Church was part of a more general desire to rid the Church of England of Protestantism: a form of Anglicanism established on the Early Church, which was the central thrust of the Tracts for the Times, left little space for the Reformation or Protestantism."

Chapman then develops this explanation, bringing into the picture the history and development of the US Episcopal church's self-understanding as a form of Anglicanism, the shattering effects of Vatican 1 on Tractarian hopes of reunion with Rome and the reaction to Vatican 1 which steered some Anglican leaders to rapprochement with the Old Catholics, the shock of WW1 and, finally, openness to dialogue with Eastern Orthodox. Each of these topics is interesting in its own right but I am not worried about them here.

It is Chapman's concluding paragraphs which I want to reflect on this week on ADU:

"The Lambeth Appeal of 1920 was a response to another industrial war, and helped to reshape Anglicanism for the rest of the 20th century: Anglican identity no longer required adherence to anything English or to any Protestant formularies. Instead, it was defined in the most minimal way possible around scripture, creeds, the two dominical sacraments, and the “historic episcopate”. Lambeth 1920 marks the culmination of the “un-Protestantising” and “un-Englishing” of Anglicanism.

The Anglican Communion has lived with the consequences of such a minimal definition ever since. Whether an inclusive version of non-Roman and un-Protestant and un-English Catholicism has a future in today’s crises, only time will tell. What is clear is that many Anglicans have already given up on the idea and want something quite different."

I am unclear what his last sentence means. On the one hand there are certainly Anglicans in the world today (centred on movements such as GAFCON) which do not understand being Anglican as "an inclusive version of non-Roman and un-Protestant and un-English Catholicism" but many such Anglicans have never had that idea and thus are not "given up on the idea and want something different." On the other hand, where there are Anglicans in the world today who have given up on "an inclusive version of non-Roman and un-Protestant and un-English Catholicism", it is not at all clear to me what the "something quite different" is that they want.

That is, I wonder if Chapman's article would come to a clearer conclusion if it acknowledged along the way that strand of Anglicanism which never moved far away from its Protestant heritage from the 16th century - the Anglicanism which included in subsequent centuries the founding of CMS, the inspiring examples of Simeon, Newton and Henry Martyn, the founding of influential seminaries such as Wycliffe Hall and Ridley Hall, the development of "CMS dioceses" in Africa and the influence of the Diocese of Sydney on global Anglicanism?

But, be that criticism as it may, Chapman nevertheless raises the intriguing question whether much of current Anglicanism is well explained as:

"an inclusive version of non-Roman and un-Protestant and un-English Catholicism".

What do you think?

Of course there is a redundancy, actually two, in Chapman's description: to emphasise "Catholicism" is "un-Protestant" and we are talking about Catholic Anglicanism so it is likely to be "non-Roman".

Does his argument boil down to a loss of English character to Catholic Anglicanism?

Not quite, because we need to come back to the word "inclusive," but to the extent that he has brought in the history of the Episcopal church in America, I wonder if he has over cooked his argument re loss of "English" character. Down here in the ex colony of Aotearoa New Zealand, it seems like the Catholic influence on our Anglicanism is very English!

Perhaps the description should read "an inclusive version of a mixed English and American Anglican Catholicism"?

And, about "inclusive"? What does "inclusion" mean in a context of a specific Anglican "party" or "movement" which is advocating for a specific character to be the dominant if not comprehensive character of Anglicanism? Of course, "inclusion" means "all welcome" in Catholic Anglican churches as in people walking through the door but does it also mean "all Anglican styles of liturgical practice" welcome here? Of course not!

There is also, we should observe, an unfortunate description here of the positive force of Anglicanism in mostly negative terms: not Roman, not Protestant, not English!

Again, be that as such verbal particulars may be, Chapman's larger point across both concluding paragraphs is that 20th and 21st century Anglicanism has widest agreement on the minimalist of self-understandings at the expense of a loss of historical moorings into the 16th century - the critical turning point when a church in the Western tradition determined its identity would no longer be Roman in character. And the price being paid, I infer from Chapman's article, is that global Anglicanism is muddled about its future direction. And a final inference is that in that muddle space has been created for an Anglicanism which offers clarity about its self-understanding and continuity in its history with the 16th century: GAFCON and Global South.

If my final inference is correct then Chapman unaccountably leaves out of his account of post 1920 Anglicanism that the majority of global Anglicans are not at all described by "an inclusive version of non-Roman and un-Protestant and un-English Catholicism." At best this is a description of the majority of Anglicans in Western provinces such as those in the UK, North America and Down Under.

Conversely, my own plea through the years of blogging here at ADU is for an Anglicanism that is confident in its own life as a church of God, understanding what it affirms is more than what it negates, building on rather than embarrassingly denying its peculiar history, and constantly evaluating what it thinks is fixed and what is flexible in its ecclesiology.

Further, the Anglicanism I seek to influence - somewhat in line with 1920 currents Chapman highlights - is that which yearns for unity in Christ and consistently acknowledges its unique placement within diverse ecclesiologies to bridge Catholic and Protestant, and even East and West.

Dreams are free!


If you want something less challenging for the Anglican grey matter this week, then bask in the blessing of "The Blessing: Aotearoa"!

Monday, August 17, 2020

Lockdown Life: Let's Look Again At Eucharists Online

 For overseas readers, NZ having enjoyed a few months of Level 1 (more or less normal life), is back up a level or two. Auckland (our largest city, about 1/3rd of our population) is in Level 3 (stay at home, church for 10 or fewer people, etc) and the rest of us at Level 2 (work from home if possible, schools open, church for 100 ir fewer people).

Natch it is time on ADU for another look at eucharists online.

Our guide is none other than Thomas O'Loughlin (previously featured here on ADU) who has had a few things to say in a YouTube post about eucharists in the time of Covid-19, reported here by the Catholic Herald.

The YouTube post is provocatively titled, Can you send an apple by email?

Note that we should presume O'Loughlin in a Catholic context is talking about viewing eucharistic services online, without domestic consumption of bread and wine; and not about "Zoom eucharists" meaning eucharists viewers participate in using their own bread and wine

According to the report, there are several lines of critique:

1. Online eucharists are not real experiences:

"The Catholic Church is selling “the Eucharist” and people short and is making a mistake by turning Mass into a YouTube experience.

The comments are from Thomas O’Loughlin, emeritus professor of Historical Theology at the University of Nottingham and Director of Studia Traditionis Theologiae.

“There are some things Zoom and YouTube just won’t do because real experiences are whole human experiences,” O’Loughlin said."

2. Communion is about community and an online experience is not a community experience:

"People wanting to have Mass on their TV or computer at home and priests supplying it sounds a warning about the real nature of the community, he said.

“Eucharist makes little sense without a community.”

Challenging the meeting, O’Loughlin posed the question as to whether the Church had stopped being a real community and is being reduced to religious ideology."

3. In a note that could also apply to "Zoom eucharists", O'Loughline observes:

"He sounded a warning that we may be reducing the Eucharist to just getting communion, almost makes it a commodity!"

4. There are better ways of praying and worshipping virtually:

"O’Loughlin said that the Liturgy of the Hours, shared prayer, Lectio Divina, prayer together and scripture study we just some of the examples from the Church’s spiritual tradition that respects the characteristics of the liturgy and that are easily adapted to a virtual environment.

“Why did we pick on something so physical such as eating and drinking?” O’Loughlin asked."

5. Spiritual Communion is dangerous re-emergence of Jansenism (!!):

"Questioned on whether it was appropriate to use the readings of the day and make a “spiritual communion,” O’Loughlin sounded a stern warning.

He observed that spiritual communion came from the time when only priests received communion and was developed by the heretical Jansenists to a point were nuns were not seen as worthy of physically receiving communion.

Spiritual communion “is tied up with notions of unworthiness and impurity” and it is a part of a moral theology we left long ago, he said."

6. It's clericalism!! Bonus critique from an NZ Catholic liturgical leader:

"Host of the conversation, Dr Joseph Grayland, Director of Liturgy in the Palmerston North Diocese, New Zealand, says the idea for “Let’s Talk Liturgy” came about due to the disruption to worship brought about through the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Grayland says the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted laity and clergy alike.

“For many people, the online Mass, viewed from the living room was sufficient, they didn’t have to go out and it fulfilled the need for Sunday Mass.”

“The priests also liked doing this because it was readily identifiable as part of their mission”.

Labelling online video Mass as a form of clericalism, Grayland says there are real concerns around the passive, observer approach and the personal nature of the “priest’s Mass.”"

Well. What do you think?

I have some thoughts but let's have your comments!

Monday, August 10, 2020

The cult of the individual

 Rolling Stones, I understand, may have had more than its fair share of brilliant writers over the years.

This article (with H/T to a couple of clerical colleagues in the Chch Dio) mourns and explains the passing of the American era.

From a Christian perspective it implicitly poses the sharp question: how could US Christianity not contribute to the development of a US welfare state in the way that Christianity has done elsewhere (including in NZ)?

From a human perspective it is alarming that the new imperial game in town is China which is a dictatorship - ruthless (its treatment of Uighur Muslims, Christians), heartless (Hong Kong) and impervious to shame (it has a chilling influence on life in a faraway country such as NZ).

Monday, August 3, 2020

This is how we should vote in the coming Election!

NZ has a General Election coming up and, frankly, the result looks to be a foregone conclusion: we will have another Labour-led government.

The USA has a General Election coming up and, frankly, the result looks to be a foregone conclusion: President Biden will lead a Democrat majority in Senate and House.

But foregone electoral conclusions do not take away from Christian voters the decision(s) we need to make when we mark our ballot papers.

(Here in NZ we will have four decisions: our local electorate MP, the party we wish to see in government and two referenda questions, on "End of Life" choice and on legalising marijuana.)

How should we vote?

I suggest yesterday's RCL gospel reading helps us - Matthew 14:13-21, The Feeding of the Five Thousand, could be our guide.

In this reading we have a vision of the Kingdom of God - a kingdom in which there is compassion (exemplified by Jesus), concern for need (with conspicuous rejection, as it happens, of a "user pays" or "send them off to buy their own dinner" approach by the disciples), inclusion and welcome (all present got fed, there were no tests to pass), service (the disciples distributed the food made available by Jesus) and care of creation (all waste was gathered up in a responsible manner).

Why would a Christian vote for any politician and/or political party which did not offer an approximation to this vision for human society?

I can think of at least one reason!

While this passage offers a vision of human society which is compassionate and which satisfies needs, it is also a miracle story and thus not a guide to the economics of a compassionate, welfare-oriented society. That is, the passage is not a guide to how we might best construct and develop a society in which (e.g.) food is produced, distributed throughout the land and made available to all, rich and poor alike.

Cue the reality that some politicians promise more on the delivery of  compassionate care for the needy and less on the funding of that delivery and other politicians focus more on the cost of production and distribution and who will pay for it.

But, important though it is in making our political choices in the ballot box that we have a grasp of economic realities, could a Christian who follows the compassionate Christ of this gospel reading ever vote for that which decreases compassion in society and increases hard-heartedness?

With respect to the country I know best, Aotearoa New Zealand, I am glad to report that there are several parties we can choose from as we exercise our Christian minds in making our choices!

Of course, to ward off the obvious observation, each of those parties will have a policy or three which means we as Christians need to swallow a dead rat if we vote for them.

Politics in the Kingdom of Humanity is always, ahem, "the art of the deal"!