The dreaded "R" number signals good or bad news, <1 or >1, in respect of contagions in pandemic times. In a Church Times article this week R, with respect to church attendance, (could) signal the imminent death of various churches within the lifetimes of some readers here.
But on Twitter Madeleine Davies (responding to a Times paywalled article) questions this bleak outlook:
"Not a statistician but isn’t this model flawed? In 40 years there will obviously still be *some* people going to CofE churches?"
One reply is from Down Under's own Bosco Peters:
"Do most people know about Christianity in Asia? Which was where Christianity used to have the majority of the church. No. Because it died. And in North Africa? Well, that’s the history we are heading towards."
(There are a number of interesting things in the thread to the Davies' Tweet, including an ACANZP sets of points and counterpoints. However this post is not about each and every aspect of our statistical situation (or lack of) and discussion thereof (or lack of).)
Having enjoyed three excellent services through this weekend past, two of which were re-openings of churches repaired after our 2010/11 earthquakes, and one of which was an "ordinary" Sunday morning service, and an excellent Diocesan clergy conference during the week, I have been reflecting in the light of the Twitter thread on the situation we face, as Anglicans primarily, but with a nod to other churches, here in our Blessed Isles.
In no particular order of importance ...
1. While there are problems collecting statistics on attendance in our churches (for a variety of reasons), I don't think, I cannot think of anyone in our leadership, at diocesan or national level, who is unaware of our decline in numbers, increase in age profile, dearth of baptisms/confirmations/weddings/funerals. What we see with our eyes is as important as what our imperfectly collected statistics tell us.
2. It is possible to take a quite bleak view of the whole of our NZ church situation: our mainstream churches are in decline; the Catholic church (the bright statistical exception to the mainstream churches) is struggling to grow its numbers of priests; recently our "megachurches" (the bright statistical exception to Protestant decline) have been in the news for "all the wrong reasons", the most alarming of which, arguably, is that their growth in numbers has been at the expense of fair expectations re the involvement of interns and volunteers; and so forth.
Below, I give some specific statistics about the Diocese of Christchurch, recently shared by me at our Clergy Conference. (Our attendance figures are not particularly fit for analysis, partly because of difficulty in collecting them in recent years - some parishes, despite entreaties, are not sending them in. Then Covid has played with our numbers through 2020 and 2021. So the stats I give are another way of measuring change in our Diocese.)
3. I personally take a much brighter view: in a time of social and spiritual upheaval, in which all verities of former times are being questioned, and in which indifference or hostility to religion (except non-Christian religions of immigrants) is strong, I see across our churches a strong quest for being church relateable to the (ever) changing circumstances we encounter. Mainstream churches are engaging with different ways of being church; the Catholic church is drawing in priests and seminarians from other parts of the world; the megachurches will learn from present difficulties and reconfigure themselves.
4. I have no prediction as to which churches/denominations will survive the "R" factor in their current statistics, and I do not understand the God of Jesus Christ to have a secret codicil to the New Covenant which ensures the survival of the Church of England or the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia :). I know that sometimes Anglicans act as though that codicil exists!
5. I think we should be cautious about fastening on shortcomings of churches relevant to our current age and contemporary culture in such away that we may (even if unintentionally) imply that fixing the shortcomings will lead to a turnaround in our situation. There are shortcomings and they should be fixed. We (Anglicans, at least), for example, are not strong (across all our ministry units and episcopal units) on excellence in web presence and social media communication. We should do something about that. As a matter of fact, in my Diocese, this year, we are doing something about that as our new Archdeacon for Regeneration and Mission, Mark Chamberlain, leads a process of improvement in our parish web communications. But ...
6. It's my conviction that the "big fix" is something we (individual leaders, ministry units, episcopal units, regional presbyteries, national denominations) have little control over because what we are grappling with here (and, as best I understand other Western, English-as-first-language speaking countries: the UK, Ireland, Canada, USA, Australia) is a zeitgeist which blows across our lands:
- a material improvement to life, including lengthening of life expectancy, which undermines our talk of the promise and hope of resurrection;
- a diminution of any sense that we are wrong-doers and are accountable to God for those wrongs;
- an approach within our cultures to religion which is both dismissive of Christian faith and commitment and respectful of all other faiths;
- an amazing array of opportunities to do interesting, exciting and fulfilling activities on Sundays, from sports to shopping, from brunch at the local cafe to lunching in a far off winery (so, even when Christians are involved in Sunday church life, pastors lament that attendance 1 in 5 Sundays is the "new regular.")
7. Might the zeitgeist change in our lifetimes?
8. Nevertheless, in these strange and challenging times for Western Christianity, and Western Anglicanism in particular, it is worthwhile continuing to reflect - every day, every Sunday, every season of the church's year - What is the gospel? What is Anglicanism's distinctive "angle" on the gospel and on what it means to be a follower of Jesus? And, to adjust and adapt accordingly what we did last week as we engage with this week!
9. All is NOT bleak. We have some churches doing well, fighting against zeitgeist. What might we learn from them?
Some interesting stats from the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch
In 1989 we had 73 ministry units (including 3 added to our numbers from the Diocese of Nelson that year). In all but two of the units we would have had (I think) fully stipended ministers, and in one or two parishes there would have been at least two fully stipended clergy). (Ministry unit here = Cathedral and our parishes but not our schools or other places with chaplains).
In 2010, the year I returned to the Diocese (having left in 1990), and the last full year before our most damaging quake in 2011, we had 67 ministry units. By 2022 this has become 55 ministry units. It is not rocket science to discern that by 2030 we likely will be 50 ministry units.
Currently, by my count, we have 38 fully stipended ordained ministers and 28 ministers on part stipends (ranging from 0.8 FTE down to 0.4 FTE). We have a number of ministers serving significant roles in our ministry units who are non-stipendiary.
In 2010, before the quakes, we had 46 churches in the greater Christchurch city area. Today we have 36.
It is good to remember, dear Bishop Peter, that The Body of Christ is meant to be 'leaven' in the lump of the world. It wouldn't survive the baking if there were no other ingredients. Also, Jesus did say that he would build his Church on the 'rock' of Faith that was Peter - and we all know that Peter, from time to time, failed his Master! We also know that the 'gates of Hell' will not prevail - against the Body of Christ that Jesus founded- despite its weakness.
It is almost Pentecost: "Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your Faithful with the Fire of your LOVE!" (not your Judgement!).
I DO SO BELIEVE (Help Thou mine unbelief!)
Peter, social worlds based on universal fear of the Last Judgment are indeed dying. I like your #6, but think of it, not as a toxic church-killing wind, but as a filter sifting the christianities that are viable without state sponsorship from the Protestant and Tridentine ones that are not. In principle, we have more than enough of Father Ron's leaven to knead new/old christianities for postmodernity. The question is: who will try them?
Stats of church decline miss the fuller picture given by both quantitative and qualitative data about other religions that are new or growing religions.
For example, when I ask *why is Buddhism growing in the West?* I uncover factors that also explain say the growth of Orthodox monasticism. Concretely, one could read Buddhist bestsellers (eg by the Dalai Lama or the late Thich Nhat Hanh) and find a lot that sounds almost apostolic or like Mark's Christian contemplatives or like the Philokalia,, but not much like the sort of church organised in early modernity to pacify fear of the Last Judgment throughout the towns and countryside of Christendom.
In Cockaigne, the executives in charge of the realm's waterworks gather for a yearly meeting. It always features an inspirational speaker. However, this year's inspiration was depressing.
The speaker's tone was relentlessly cheerful. Waterworkers, said he, were special people. They stand for excellence in a time of mediocrity. Their pipes connect kindred spirits different from the unthinking herd. Amid the futility of shallow living, waterworkers dare to be more-- salt and light, a city on a hill, even leaven in the dough. Not just in words but in deeds uncontemplated by any other group.
After several minutes of this warm but unlikely praise, an engineer stood up and yelled that all water is tolerably the same, that any dimwitted slob can get public water, and that this lack of excellence and disregard of kinship was essential to the mere existence of waterworks. Unless everyone gets water from the same pipes, you cannot afford to lay them.
The speaker paused. He looked at the audience; he looked at his notes. "Sorry," he said. "That's my speech to the booksellers." Because waterworkers are a kindly lot, they just laughed, applauded, and paid his fee.
But the speech could not be unheard. Far into the night, executives sipped nightcaps with old classmates and wondered aloud, "Is there a way to be a waterworks with high ideals?"
Also need to say that many churches still expect congregants to believe fairy stories. Many ministers are scared of exploring myths such as bodies climbing out of graves, and persons walking on water. Why are ministers so scared of explaining the myths, exploring why they were written, and discussing with a modern, scientific, educated audience.
Thanks, Peter, for picking up this very important thread.
To expand on my tweet: I want to highlight that in Western countries, where every village has at least one church building; with grand cathedrals, Christian schools and hospitals, people often struggle to Hear what the Spirit is saying through the statistics. [Better still: don’t track the statistics over the longer term].
Many (most?) Christians have a Eurocentric (mis)understanding of our faith’s history, and would also struggle to articulate our history, say, between the New Testament and the Reformation. If they can articulate our history - does it cover the large areas of our planet that were once significantly Christian and now no longer are?
A thousand years ago, Asia Minor had 373 dioceses (since this all started with CofE stats - compare that to CofE’s 44). Everyone there was essentially Christian. They, like many now, would not have foreseen that four hundred years later, there were only 3 bishops and 90% of the population had abandoned the faith.
Twelve centuries ago, the Patriarch based in Seleucia (now in Iraq) had more sway than the Bishop of Rome - yet how many contemporary Christians even have an inkling of that now-well-buried history? He appointed the bishops in Yemen, Arabia, Iran, Turkestan, Afghanistan, Tibet, India, Sri Lanka, and China.
Certainly 40 years from now I expect, like Madeleine Davies, that there will be “SOME people going to CofE churches”. When I travelled around Northern Africa, in significant cities I could usually find half a dozen Christians meeting together for weekly worship. But that is a far cry from the 600 dioceses that were there when Augustine was Bishop of Hippo. [And good luck with getting the majority of Christians nowadays to get the continent correct on which was the city where Augustine was bishop!]
Your statistics that stipend numbers are halving in about three decades connect to my own earlier study that Christmas communions were halving in 25 years (down by 60% if you take population growth into account).
I’m interested, as I travel around: what keeps these old people coming to church? They grew up in a BCP 1662/1928 world - often few phrases from that remain. Is it habit? Guilt? Fellowship? The sermon?… What keeps me making the effort? What is the point of church? I relooked at our five marks of mission. In a world where I certainly believe God works outside the church, and where the church often stands in the way of God’s work (as much as being a sacrament for God’s work), the 5-fold mission certainly is helpful. But. A relook: the five statements don’t need/encourage me to be at church on this coming Sunday!
Some years back (when the fifth statement was being added) I tried to get people to have energy for worship & spirituality to be seen as part of our mission. In a church that gathers not around a list of doctrines, not around a particular leadership structure, … but around common prayer, I couldn’t get enough traction to have that acknowledged in our mission statement.
We missed the boat when meditation and spirituality was de rigour - we weren’t out there promoting ourselves as THE place to grow spiritually. We are missing the wellness boat: we aren’t currently out there as THE community that understands fulness of life - even in the face of suffering.
I am convinced that people’s yearning for meaning, for fulness of life, for ethical foundations, for community – all the things answered by the Gospel, the Christian community, and the life of Jesus – are as relevant in today’s world as they have ever been. A few older people gathering in an unusual building does not seem enough to draw people to the fulness of life that we say we access.
How do we find a new, Third Millennium way forward?
Peter, I am glad that you have broached this difficult issue, but I did not notice in your comments reference to recent factors affecting your own diocese. The earthquakes were no doubt a serious blow, but are there not eight or nine parishes which left over your denomination's policy on same-sex relationships? How many congregants did you lose over this, and how many of these were in parishes which are generally younger with active Sunday schools and youth work? Did New Zealand Anglicanism make the "right move" in embracing sexual revisionism? Or was this a self-inflicted wound?
I do not see any sign that sexual revisionism helps Protestant ecclesial communities to grow; it seems instead to promote division. You will know that John Hayward projects that the Anglican Church in Wales will be dead in 14 years, and I think the tiny Scottish Episcopal Church is on the same trajectory. And all this has been evident for years in the American Episcopal Church.
No doubt other more conservative bodies have also declined in our secular, leisure-oriented age, but they may be better suited to ride the storm. I cannot help wondering if western Anglicanism will become like Swedenborgianism. People should reflect on why Michael Nazir-Ali and Peter Foster joined the Ordinariate.
Bosco is right to draw our attention to the near destruction of Christianity in North Africa (outside Egypt) and in much of the Middle East, but it must be pointed out that this was the result of centuries of Muslim and Turkish cultural and political dominance (which Greece resisted). It is also worth noting that there is a significant Christian movement today among the Berbers of Algeria, and many Iranians are joining house churches. And last year we saw the consecration of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia. So surprises can still happen.
Pax et bonum,
Observations, in no particular order.
Demographic statistics, including church statistics, are often misinterpreted. Every population loses members at some rate. Normally, it gains members at some other rate. Behind each rate are a few stories, and all those stories interact through time. Dissimilar realities can produce the same aggregate numbers. We are not having a serious conversation about the numbers until we are also talking about the stories that produce them.
Speaking of church stats, most miss the wider context of declining birthrates in most Western populations. If churches are mainly of interest to those with children, then of course churches will contract as childbearing becomes social marginal. That story implies ideas, problems and solutions very different from those of the *people are smarter than they used to be so they don't believe or go to church anymore* story.
A math point: when individual conversion has a network effect, it grows at a steadily increasing rate (eg the Roman Empire). Those accustomed to relying on weddings and baptisms as a church growth strategy miss the importance of the network effect and can inadvertently tolerate or foster an ethos hostile to it.
When church shrink comes up, as it has off and on for thirty years, some hear this as a source problem ("we need a new gospel") and others as a distribution problem ("we need to try new ways of reaching people"). Those who want to fix the former are ignored by those who want to fix the latter, and vice versa. Those who want to fix both are ignored by everybody. Can we do better?
Clayton Christenson's Innovator's Dilemma was discovered in business, but may have some application here: to do what can thrive in the future, an organization must often pivot away from offerings that are still popular today toward others only beginning to build a following. Few Americans buy electric cars, but that is so clearly the wave of the future that automakers here up yonder no longer have engineers to design and test any new internal combustion engines. Like most organizations, churches seem unable to bear the strain of that sort of decision. Look, for example, at how hard it is for dioceses to close parishes.
An ecclesiology that is (as the Wesleyans spell it) connexional has tactical advantages over one that is institutional. If one believes that way, then of course it has the glorious advantage of being the truth from God. But on the ground, it also has the advantage that one can quickly recognise, adopt, and adapt what is working rather than waiting a generation or so for myriad stakeholders to commit to an innovation through lovingly established procedures. Every bishop is a figure of some kind of unity, but at the extremes a connexional one is empirical, connecting ministries that work with others that also work whilst an institutional one is political, tending to the inner dynamics of diocesan stakeholders with very local interests. Case in point: Methodists v Episcopalians on the American frontier.
Thank you for all comments - they are stimulating and could well lead to a follow up post next Monday (or Tuesday)!
1. Disaffiliation from a statistical perspective was a "clean cut": we lost c. 15% of annual attendees. That means, whether disaffiliation had occurred or not, my post would still be concerned with the future of the 85%. (From a ministry unit perspective the situation is a little more complicated: three ministry units more or less left in toto, and those ministry units were growing in attendance numbers; other new congregations have been formed from those disaffiliating other ministry units which continue; before disaffiliation, some of those ministry units were growing and some were not.
2. It is a subject for another day as to who causes division but I maintain that disaffiliation did not need to occur because we had a means for all remaining but the option to remain was not taken by all (it has been taken by some).
3. I acknowledge that the specific (for want of a better term) "reformed evangelical" approach taken by most who disaffiliated, in line with other parts of the Communion (such as Sydney), is a means to growth in congregational size. But ...
4. Not all Anglicans are enamoured of that approach; not even all evangelicals (e.g. me!!); so the question remains, how might Anglicans of other shades and stripes lead viable if not growing parishes.
Here's the lates, Dear Bishop, from Pope Francis - about overreaching from the point of view of our own holiness and our disdain for the 'unholy' among us: (Have mercy on me, a Sinner).
TUESDAY, MAY 31, 2022
“At times, by over-emphasizing our efforts to do good works, we have created an ideal of holiness excessively based on ourselves, our personal heroics, our capacity for renunciation, our readiness for self-sacrifice to achieve a reward… We have turned holiness into an unattainable goal. We have separated it from everyday life, instead of looking for it and embracing it in our daily routines, in the dust of the streets, in the trials of real life… Being disciples of Jesus and advancing on the path of holiness means first and foremost letting ourselves be transfigured by the power of God’s love. Let us never forget the primacy of God over self, of the Spirit over the flesh, of grace over works. For we at times give more importance to self, flesh and works.”
It is also worth noting that with Diocese of Christchurch statistics there are quite a substantial number of Anglicans in Christchurch that are not measured in your data/numbers. I'd count myself amongst these.
Three of the largest churches/congregations (and a few smaller) left the diocese around 2018 but are still Anglican and are definitely not declining - in fact quite the opposite - and have a much broader range of ages (and lots of kids/youth) than the typical Anglican church.
Well, Craig, pure reason tells me that, by intentionally leaving the official organisation of the Anglican Church (ACANZP) in these islands, you may be 'Anglican-style', but not part of the Anglican Communion as constituted under the rules of our Church Provinces around the world that still regard the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth Quadrilateral as part of our collective DNA.
Perhaps, in view of your outlook on matters ecclesiastical, you might better call yourself a Gafcon/style, Sola Scriptura Anglican. This comes to mind when I remember seeing a one-time Baptist Church advertising itself as 'Bible-Baptist" (perhaps more biblical, even, than the Baptists?). Considering the Fact that Jesus prayed the Father that his Church (the Body of Christ) might be one, do you consider the pathway of intentional schism to tally with that Dominical utterance? "God has gone up with trumpet sound, Alleluia!"
Dear Craig and Ron
I would prefer not to get into an argument on who is Anglican in Chch/NZ and who is not.
My general point around Anglican data is that I can speak most confidently about Anglicans in the Diocese of Christchurch and much less confidently about Anglicans not in the Diocese of Christchurch.
I do not question that "reformed evangelical" Anglicanism is growing in our world.
I am, above, questioning whether it is a form of Anglicanism which a majority of Anglicans are keen to embrace.
The ocean of grace has many shores.
Gosh, we spend a lot of time arguing which boats should enter which harbour.
"The ocean of grace..." Yes.
In other news, different factors influence the growth of parishes, dioceses, denominations, religions. Fast growing parishes here and there are not unimportant, but they are case studies, not representative samples.
In the vast focus group that is the United States of America, the fastest growing churches were clearly those of COVID-denying pastors. In just weeks or months, their rolls leapt from low hundreds to thousands. And there seem to be scores of examples of this.
The briefest of comments about things Reformed and the size of ACANZP.
Among Anglicans down under, there is a vigorous local tradition that calls itself Reformed, but which lacks notes that are prominent in the worldwide Reformed movement. The French, Dutch, Swiss, and German Reformed are not like Sydney.
At ADU, proponents of those missing notes are usually hating on the 39A, Moore, etc in an idiom that sounds, nevertheless, Reformed. Nothing Lutheran or Thomist say hints at an actual theological difference.So, in the love of Christ, it really sounds up here as though you all down there are trapped in *the narcissism of small differences*.
At street level, that conflict cannot be attractive to most people. In parish councils, synods, etc it must make uncluttered perception of the mission field difficult. And it ties bishops to internal conflict-management just when it is urgent that they be outward-looking and connexional. It stifles growth.
I am not Reformed. But I have noticed that hating on the "Reformed" has not worked for you.
And because the progressives worldwide who are advancing social justice, church arts, systematic theology, insightful exegesis, spirituality, etc often do speak the global Reformed idiom fluently, you are missing out.
It could be helpful to ACANZP's future for its progressives to learn the idiom and stop missing out on what the rest of the planet's Body is doing.
Hello Bowman and others,
Whether or not the nomenclature is correct, and whether it makes any difference that (e.g.) I try to talk about "reformed" rather than "Reformed", there are some significant differences going on, or at least one in particular:
That is, there is a form of evangelical Anglicanism in the South Pacific (and other parts of the globe) that appears to have no commitment to a comprehensive Anglicanism, one which includes evangelical Anglicanism (in all its varieties) but which does not presume that one variety of evangelicalism is the one and only true form of Anglicanism.
That lack of appreciation for comprehensive Anglicanism, in some situations, appears to be strengthened by the presence in Anglican congregations of members formerly members of (actual) Reformed churches, conservative Baptist and Orthodox Presbyterian churches. Alongside that observation (which may be nothing more than correlation and not causation) is a particular "driver" in the ecclesiology either explicitly or implicitly taught at Moore College, which seems to draw more from Calvin than from Luther, from Knox than from Cranmer.
(There is a subtle pun in the last sentence for the cognoscenti :). )
Thanks for those clarifications, Peter.
Readers of ADU that want a short primer on Anglican comprehesiveness; I found this clip helpful.
We are small and a long way geographically from 'major powers' here. Sometimes that has its advantages. When I was growing up, in terms of pop music, you could select from British or American pop, and not feel run over by just one form. Similarly (sometimes) in terms of theological trends.
Before you lecture us too much, Bowman, American Protestant Christianity has often wielded an ungodly influence here in recent years, and often to the detriment of our own independent, indigenous theologizing.
Thank you, Peter. I have noticed and enjoyed your precise distinction between being reformed and being Reformed. Obviously, I have not noticed you hating either sort.
Whilst I was grilling some meat sacrificed to idols this evening-- I am only reformed-- it occurred to me that if some can only learn from the school of hard Knox, then why not give them some Torrance?
(Fun Fact. As Moderator of the Church of Scotland, TF scandalised the Kirk with a dutifully Calvinist proposal for bishops.)
Or even Mike Bird. He is as zealous for "gospel people" (as he calls them) to love the eucharist as Father Ron is. I see no daylight between their positions.
Are Anglicans worldwide more comprehensive than the Reformed worldwide? Offhand, I can't think of an Anglican eccentric with no Reformed counterpart.
There are even Reformed with a Cyrillian christology. At which point one wants to ask... But I digress.
Sent into this naughty world as we are, it seems wily as serpents yet innocent as doves to learn the Reformed idiom and renounce the self-congratulatory pleasures of hating those who speak it. In the Lord, if we cannot love them as friends, then we should at least respect them as allies.
Dear Bowman, in reference to your remarks about what you perceived to be the unfocused-ness of Down Under Anglicanism, I must admit that we Kiwis are distinctly independent of some of the more conservative views that emerge from, say Sydney diocesan interests. For instance, when bishops from Sydney and Tasmania came to New Zealand to try to persuade our ACANZ bishops that it would be a mistake to bless same-sex legally-married couples who are members of our congregations; our bishops firmly resisted them - on pastoral grounds. I guess they were thinking: "What might Jesus do in our situation?" - Not a bad reaction to reactionary interference from another province. GAFCON, of course - as we know only too well in our diocese - has other ideas about suborning the dis-satisfied in other provincial Churches to subscribe to their own agenda. I have a horror of piratical interference from the self-styled 'orthodox Anglican' world - an emotion shared, I think, by our bishops.
Thank you, Father Ron, for the favour of your 11:53. As usual, I have enjoyed your recent comments.
In late 1990, I traveled to Yugoslavia. I knew only a small vocabulary and a few sentence patterns of the South Slavic continuum. When I spoke in Croatia, the locals there denied that I was speaking Serbian. When I spoke in Serbia, the locals there denied that I was speaking Croatian. Shortly after I left, they began killing each other.
"the unfocused-ness of Down Under Anglicanism"
We seem to agree on this: some follow Sydney, others try to be situational and pragmatic, and still others are better described in another way.
We probably disagree on this: many who hate Sydney nevertheless base opinions in the Reformed suppositions that are pervasive among English-speaking Protestants. Some get very angry when this is pointed out to them. But why? They do not say.
In that way, Anglicanism Down Under sounds, not quite focused, but familiar.
"a horror of piratical interference" (nice)
Again, yes. Bishops of other provinces should not perform episcopal acts in yours without local permission. This is intrinsic to episcopacy.
"orthodox Anglican" (not nice)
Teachers in any church should have an empathetic understanding of the tradition that they represent. But the creeds and scriptures frame every tradition, and understanding of these continues to improve. Therefore, fluency in one's tradition is sane, attainable, normal, and useful; restoration or stasis in it is not.
"bishops from Sydney and Tasmania came to New Zealand to try to persuade our ACANZ bishops"
Bishops have opinions and talk to other bishops about them. When they do that, conversation is better than communiques, and face to face is better than Zoom. So, for example, bishops from TEC who have urged their African colleagues to ordain women have done so in Africa.
That said, it is best for travelers to other lands to bring something that is not already there. Imagine ACANZP bishops in Sydney describing SSB and the Community to local bishops who have no experience of either. Or what's a Communion for?
The Kiwi theologians that I know are as good as Kiwi rugby players. Is there anything in the world to be afraid of?
Whether a practice is "legal" or not has very little bearing on a Christian's obedience unless we are speaking about the Law of God. I commend readers interested in the metaphysics of law to consult St Thomas Aquinas's Treatise on Law, probably the most profound discussion of the subject ever offered. Professor J. Budzsizweski of the University of Texas (Austin), a foremost Catholic scholar in natural law theory, has recently brought out a 1200+ page commentary on the Treatise, but fortunately he also produces shorter digests of his profound scholarship.
Professor Budzsizweski would be quick to point out that the number of things men have declared to be "legal" is legion - prostitution, abortion, polygamy, fornication, adultery, infanticide in China (and now recommended in Virginia and California), so "legality" is not a good guide in itself to morality.
We are indeed witnessing the disappearance of liberal denominations in "the west", and New Zealanders of all people should appreciate this. That great flightless bird that once stalked the land could not survive the arrival of spear-wielding Polynesians and within 150 years "it was gone and there ain't no moa". If you cannot fly, you won't survive - and simply imitating and blessing the national substitute cult of "niceness", ecology and increasingly expensive social welfare will not save the Protestant churches. Most NZers think of themselves now as "non-religious". The only churches that will survive are those that have learned how to fly: those that believe in the absolute truth of the gospel and the realities of heaven, hell and judgment. Being a weak simulacrum of modern secular liberalism won't cut it.
Pax et bonum
This is a comment which broadly relates to comments above, but not to any one comment in particular …
I have been amused (bemused?) in recent days to be part of a conversation about perceptions of my Diocese (i.e. In its majority presentation) which see it as quite conservatively evangelical (and thus exclusive or silencing or diminishing of liberal or liberal catholic voices) (As an aside, I leave the question of the truth of the matter to the One Who Sees All).
Yet the view of Sydney/GAFCON, and (perhaps) of William commenting here, is that we have gone the way of extinction by drinking from the cup of cultural accommodation …
Peter, I am not bemused, and only briefly amused, by what you describe.
Here up yonder, it's a commonplace that we live today in the tyranny of minorities at extremes who agree only in their disdain for the majority around the centre.
The individuals who gravitate to these extremes often seem to have steady hates but no grounded thoughts. They are not stupid, but they are strangely ignorant. They wave a favourite idea like a talisman at every force they oppose, but they have no idea how much they do not know. When one points out some reality that they have not yet noticed, they are not delighted but sullen. They expect political correctness or authority to do what only intelligence or spirit can. Why?
A narrow passion does not illumine an ocean. An unreasoned aversion to anything ensures that one will never understand it. We cannot truly know what we do not rightly love.
Conversely, the agape that the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts is indeed an unfair advantage in making sense of the world. I Corinthians xiii is as pertinent to knowledge as to marriage.
Why do Anglicans keep going to church? I have two faithful Anglican friends. One loves the weekly communion as a special connection with her Lord. The other loves joining in the sense of tradition and history through the liturgy though she has all sorts of theological questions. I go because I am strengthened in spirit by joining in worship regularly. However a young woman, an unchurched believer, strayed into a liturgical service and commented that it seemed as if she had come into the middle of a history book and hadn’t read the first half! Our church has both positives and negatives and will never be more than a small part of the universal Church, but nonetheless precious.
Father Ron, you will like this--
Thanks, Bowman. Dr Cahill offers a good Catholic (all-embracing) - and most necessary - view of the virtue of 'Situation Ethics' a woman's wisdom much needed in today's world. "Come, Holy Spirit, fill the Church with the fire of your love!" AMEN. ALLELUIA.
Before + Peter moves on to the next topic, a final thought that should have been my initial thought: the gospel is spread at grand scale when it is generating cultural capital where it goes, and so, although we do need to know our scales and arpeggios to play, the music is improvised from some larger sense of what cultural capital God wants some people somewhere to have. Jesus himself models this in a way one can only call divine.
From another perspective, Graham Kings was able to write about *missionary spirituality* because evangelism is cultural work that requires an alive spirit. It can be done disastrously when religion is pushed as a human work, but there is no higher vocation than to participate in the Spirit's inculturation of the gospel. The present impasse is not that the numbers are bad, but that churches are not nurturing sons who dream dreams and daughters who prophesy.
We are not thinking at the scale of the question posed.
Also, my thanks to Mark for raising one and a half related topics that do not get the attention that they deserve--
Union with Christ. In the past generation, this theme has swept the Christian world, yet Anglicans have bizarrely ignored it. Every theological tradition has rediscovered its own *theosis* doctrine and compared it with the Byzantine prototype. Biblical scholars like Grant Macaskill have pursued the theme past the usual tests in SS Paul and John into the synoptics. Reading church history through this lens brings long stretches of it into a focus that we lack when we read either for the story of how one unlikely see climbed to global influence, or else as the loss and eventual retrieval of a theory of justification. Personally, the more I have thought about union with Christ, the more sleeping dogs have awakened.
The Articles. They are mentioned in a heated and disrespectful way when some ideology is generating embittered passion that few can otherwise find in an irenic document of the receding past. On one side, this ideology seems ultimately to be that of revering English settlers (eg Ireland, North America, the South Pacific, etc) as a permanent culture in the face of critical alternatives here and there. The other side's ideology seems to be that of a non-magisterial Anglicanism of majorities and eccentrics conscience-stricken by a postmodern view, not of the Articles, but of those settlers. I have no idea what Mark thinks about any of that, but his contribution to us here was to pair this theme with Union with Christ, which is exactly the right context for discussing the Articles and Prayerbook and indeed the two lurking ideologies that embitter so many in our time as well.
Moya, those who intuit that their non-participation is an existential threat can think of participation as salvation. For them, a liturgy of participation in the Christ in whom all things coinhere is an unsurpassable solution to the ultimate problem. Lacking that intuition, people just make do in various ways, all of which make them more or less sophisticated spectators. What we teach about salvation determines what happens in the liturgy.
Thanks to you, Bowman, and other contributors to this thread who have recognized the paradox of our Faith. With Paul, the improbable APOSTLE who, although he was aware of, and was able to admit to, the reality of his own state of sinfulness; was yet (by the indwelling Holy Spirit) enabled to declare the underlying truth of his theosis: "Christ in me; the hope of glory". For me, this special relationship with Christ and His Body is best experienced in the Sacramental Life He gave to ALL who seek and follow him.
You're welcome, Father Ron.
What do you think of Francis's Pentecost remarks on discernment?
Francis leads from a vision of bishops who are personally and collegially empowered to be pastors. Ultramontanists hate this, and we hear about that.
But his ideas are also reforming. We hear too little about them. Thanks for posting some of them here.
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