Monday, September 25, 2023

Update on election thoughts as the NZ General Election draws nigh

Please note dear readers that due to some international travel to another part of the Anglican Communion and no idea what internet access I may have - and, in any case, am not taking my laptop!! - this might be the last post for a few weeks. Weekly posts will resume no later than Monday 16 October 2023. Also, posting comments you submit may not be feasible through this period.

Update on election thoughts as the NZ General Election draws nigh - takes place 14 October 2023

The following are a series of lightly edited comments I have been making in my weekly eLife message to the Diocese. I propose a conclusion at the end.

1. One of my wonderings, noting how close National and Labour’s policies are, and how relatively tepid those policies are in respect of the big issues of our time – such as mitigation of climate change and enhancing the productivity of our economy – is whether our leaders are timid or really good at discerning what we the voting public will actually support by way of change. The ultimate question a general election addresses is not who the next PM will be but what the voters will accept as adjustments to the status quo.

2. Despite the claims of some that this year’s election is the most important in their lifetimes, I see that the Press frontpage headline this morning is very lowkey and evenhanded, “Leaders on the campaign trail”! We face issues, but overseas there are much greater issues being experienced. Two countries, Morocco (earthquake) and Libya (flooding), are experiencing appalling loss of life through natural disasters. The war in Ukraine continues, and Kim Jong Un and Putin have had a meeting. Presumably, they have not been talking about the Rugby World Cup. Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, by contrast, we have issues, but we have a lot to be thankful for.

3. (Referring to Sunday, 10 September 2023, Ordinary 23 and the epistle reading is Romans 13:8-14). The lectionary skips the first part of Romans 13, which is a pity so close to a general election, not least because these affirm the authority of government to oversee a justice system and to collect revenue! Our epistle reading this week is still germane to election seasoning of the airwaves with promises and policies. 

First, as we discern how we will cast our vote, which set of policies and promises will fulfil the law, “love your neighbour as yourself.” 

Secondly, the last part of the passage lifts our horizons beyond the situation of this time. The day of the Lord – the day when we will all be held to account before God for how we have lived – is “nearer to us now than when we became believers.” Are we living in readiness for that great day?

4. Referring to Sunday, 3 September 2023,  Ordinary 22 and the epistle reading is Romans 12:9-21). Quite a bit in this passage (and in Romans 13) is useful reading as we prepare for our General Election (14 October). Which party, for example, offers a vision for a society in which we “live in harmony with one another” (v. 16)? Who is offering a way forward so that NZ “extends hospitality to strangers” (v. 13)? In the next few Sundays we read on into Romans 13 which also challenges us about the kind of society we want to shape as Christians, summarised in the commandment, “love your neighbour as yourself” (13:9).

5. It is hard to escape the fact that there is a General Election this year, with final voting day on 14 October. Although the polls imply we already know the result, there is a lot to think about. Media focus on National and Labour, sometimes revealing that their respective policies are more or less identical, may be distracting us from considering the ramifications of policies of potential support parties for either Labour or National.

6. We live in challenging economic times. Whatever we make of the wisdom of proposing a change to the general principle of GST (that it be applied without exceptions), we appreciate that many Kiwis need every extra dollar available to them to meet basic costs of living. We also appreciate that financial penalties make life very difficult for those struggling to meet those basic costs. One such penalty is the cost of disconnection and reconnection fees when power bills are not paid. I thank the Reverend Jolyon White, our Director of Anglican Advocacy for speaking up about this, (behind a paywall). 

In the advocates’ petition, launched earlier this month, they also called for a ban on disconnection/reconnection fees relating to unpaid bills. Jolyon White, director of Anglican Advocacy, a Christchurch based organisation, described disconnection fees as “kicking someone when they’re down”.

7. There are a number of news reports these days about an evangelist called Julian Batchelor who is crusading around our islands against “co-governance.” Co-governance is an emerging feature of national life which deserves respectful conversation and empathetic understanding of our obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi. Nothing is helped by divisive and inflammatory antagonism. A thoughtful essay on co-governance and  on Batchelor’s crusade has been written by Denis O’Reilly and can be read at . (This comment goes back to a message a couple of months back)

8. (Present comment on this blog, not drawn from an eLife message) More recently - Sunday 24 September 2024 - a columnist I appreciate (but do not always agree with) - Damien Grant - writing on Stuff, about whether we can believe political slogans, makes this astute observation, citing the great Henry Mencken:

"HL Mencken, a wry observer of American life and politics, quipped that an election is a sort of advance auction of stolen goods. There is an electoral logic to Mencken’s analysis. If there are ten rich voters and ninety poor ones, you will win an election promising to redistribute wealth. Some readers will cheer. Why should those who have wealth not be forced to share it with the needy?  

Except; it isn’t all of the needy, is it?   

A few short hours from these blessed islands lives the troubled nation of the Solomon Islands. 700,000 souls live in a bountiful but impoverished archipelago where the per capita GDP is about a third more than the retail price of the new iPhone 15.  

A dollar spent in Honiara would alleviate more suffering than ten spent in Horotiu [a place in NZ] but no one is promising that. This election isn’t about justice, or poverty, or fairness. Ask not what you can do for humanity but what a politician can do for you, and we elect whoever we think is in it for us. "

Further on Grant observes:

"We are untroubled by the suffering of those we cannot see but are exercised to outrage at the inequity that others can enjoy the perks of their labour while we are forced to cover the cost of our own dental care or, heaven forbid, pay a market price for daycare.  

This election, like all elections, is about finding the balance between taxing the productive to buy the votes of the poor, but not overtaxing them so that the flow of output is degraded. "

And his resounding conclusion is:

"It was a 19th century French economist, Frederic Bastiat, who speculated that government is a great fiction through which everyone endeavours to live at the expense of everyone else. We remain in thrall to this delusion; that there is a free lunch that can be provided by taking the wealth or income of others.

There isn’t, obviously, but so long as we believe we can enrich ourselves at the expense of our fellow citizens there will be politicians promising to sell us that dream while those enduring real poverty remain comfortably over the horizon.

When Hipkins claims he is in it for you, he is being honest, as is Luxon when he sings a similar refrain, but we should be clear-eyed that this is neither an admirable nor a noble path that either gentleman is pursuing."

My conclusions:

9. I am fascinated (as something of a swing voter) by how close National and Labour have become in various things they are promising. Is the critical difference between them Labour's record of delivery through the past six years and National's promise of better delivery, through the next three years?

10. I am intrigued, per a comment above, by how little quizzing there is of what a Labour-Green-Te Pati Maori coalition might entail - compared with a lot of quizzing about a National-ACT or National-ACT-NZ First coalition might entail. Have the media determined who the winner is going to be? (To be fair to the media, the polls support any such assumption.) That is, if National/Labour promises are broadly "good" for middle NZ - they are clearly aiming at middle NZ - then the potential "not so good" or "bold and brilliant and very good" for middle NZ lies in what radical changes to NZ life potential coalition partner(s) may seek to extract in a coalition deal.

11. I am concerned by possible changes (even if they are remote possibilities) should some minor parties gain traction after 14 October: I do not agree with the radical opposition of ACT to "co-governance"; I do not agree that there should be no prisons (Te Pati Maori wishes to phase them out from now, and to abolish them from 2040); I do not agree with a "wealth tax" (Green Party and Te Pati Maori proposals, on the grounds that such tax assumes continuing prosperity for NZ even after we have driven the wealthy to Australia). (I would, for clarity, support an enhanced capital gains tax; and always support review of our tax settings in an ever changing world with respect to all incomes levels and all sectors of society and business); and I am concerned that ACT with increased presence in parliament will have a go at widening settings re euthanasia in our country.

12. In other words, as someone still to make up my mind re whom I shall be voting for, I see that I will be swallowing a dead rat or two of policy promises, whether voting for one of the minor parties or for one of the major parties, knowing that - on current polling -  neither Labour nor National will form a government after 14 October without support of one or more minor parties.

13. BUT I will vote. I urge NZ readers to do so. I see no gain for the body politic if voters refuse to vote on the grounds that it is difficult this time to know whom to vote for (as, it would appear, anecdotally, many Kiwis are finding this time round.)

Monday, September 18, 2023

Oxyrhynchus and composition of the gospels #POxy5575

Every so often there is a bit of excitement in New Testament studies.

The past couple of weeks have seen excitement over a papyrus called P.Oxy.5575 (or, on social media, #POxy5575).

A good initial article to read is Candida Moss's "Scholars Publish Early Papyrus with Early Sayings of Jesus" in The Daily Beast.

Scholarly follow up could be here, here, here, here and here.

Moss sums up the matter in this paragraph:

"The significance of the fragment lies in its date and contents. In conjunction with distinguished papyrologist and paleographer Ben Henry, the editors—Jeffrey Fish, Daniel Wallace, and Michael Holmes—date the fragment to the second century CE. This is important because, as Dr. Fish told me, 

“Only a few gospel papyri can be securely dated to the second or beginning of the third century.” 

This is the earliest period from which we have Christian manuscripts. 

“What is so significant about this papyrus,” continued Fish, “is that it contains sayings of Jesus which correspond partly to canonical gospels (Matthew and Luke) and partly to sayings we know only from the Gospel of Thomas. It is as early or earlier than any of our papyri of the Gospel of Thomas [our earliest non-canonical Gospel],” including other fragments of the Gospel of Thomas found at Oxyrhynchus."

Why get excited?

Generally NT scholars get excited over any early find of any pieces of scriptural writing but there is a bit more going on here.

A papyrus focused on sayings of Jesus raises the question whether this papyrus has any links to the hypothetical Q (the document many suppose undergirds the passages common to Luke and Matthew but not found in Mark). Q is mostly sayings of Jesus, so is the Gospel of Thomas. Clearly people were interested in the sayings of Jesus (e.g. Matthew and Luke add many more sayings to Mark's Gospel, whatever the written or oral sources of those sayings).

Q and Thomas imply a fairly exclusive interest in recording sayings of Jesus. This papyrus is focused on sayings - though it is a fragment and perhaps in its original form it had other material such a miracle stories. Is this papyrus simply a continuing interest in sayings, using well established and circulating gospels?

Is it in a direct tradition with a written Q and demonstrates development by adding a Thomas saying into its Q source?

Lots to think about!

Monday, September 11, 2023

So, we had a Synod ... and the All Blacks lost ...

A few posts back I mused about the challenge of the All Blacks playing finals matches on successive Sundays in October at 8 am in the morning (NZ time) and coinciding with 8 am / 9 am / 9.30 am services and pushing limits of faithfulness (for Christian rugby followers!) as long, over-refereeed games could take up till 10 am to finish.

Then, yesterday morning, the ABs were well beaten by France in their opening pool game and that is two losses in a row, so the chances of the ABs progressing beyond the quarter-finals seem remote and the challenge noted above recedes ... or, does it?

I watched the first half of the game yesterday morning before making my way to the second full day of our Synod, which began with a lovely service on Thursday evening (view here - with apologies in advance for the music sound - our music group used an independent system which was not feeding into the Cathedral's own livestream system). 

A synod is many things to the many people who gather. A steep learning curve, perhaps, for those who have never participated in a synod before. A nervous experience, maybe, for those hoping a decision will go one way and not another. Hard work, of course, for the organisers (my staff, the Resolutions Committee, our Chancellor and Vice Chancellor) and hosts (we have been hosted by the Parish of Avonhead for many years now). A surprise, it could be, for those not anticipating being elected to a committee or board.

Speaking personally, I have generally enjoyed synods and have been to many diocesan synods in two dioceses and a lesser number of General Synods. However being bishop is something different again. On the one hand I am now the President [chair] of Synod and so run its proceedings. On the other hand I can't speak to issues and proposals in the way I used to :).

I acknowledge that in the Nelson Diocese I was a fairly influential synodsperson. I once received feedback that some critics thought that I bent that synod to do my will. As if!? The truth was much more prosaic. There was a synod where I brought three proposals to it. One was passed. One was lost. One was not resolved - I think we moved onto other business or something.

I learned my lesson. Thereafter I only brought proposals that I thought the synod would agree to. I discerned well, made modest but, importantly, agreeable proposals. But my learning from experience then led to the criticism noted above. Oh, well!

Our Christchurch synod, this weekend past, saw some excellent debates and adroit amendments brought to significant proposals. One line of amendments, relating to the ongoing implementation of our Diocesan Mission Action Plan, enabled us as a diocese to acknowledge clearly the challenges of developing healthy ministry in small towns and rural districts, compared to engaging the challenges of ministry in Christchurch city and Timaru (our largest urban areas).

Another proposal, which gained prominence in secular media (e.g. here, here, here, here), concerned the dissolution of the Parish of St. John's, Latimer Square. The bare report of the resolution we reached is in our media release below. The debate was wide ranging and included concerns that the iconic, award winning Transitional (Cardboard) Cathedral not be lost to the city as an important building along with what future we envisage for ministry in our inner city. We will form a working group to take matters forward.

The brilliant thing about synods is that they enable a range of views to be brought into open consideration. Overall - working from comments made as the synod ended and people headed home - it was a good synod, and I think that is because we had useful open discussions on important matters.

Media Release

Saturday, 9 September, 2023

The Right Reverend Dr Peter Carrell, Bishop of Christchurch

The Dissolution of the Anglican Parish of St. John’s, Latimer Square

This morning (Saturday, 9 September, 2023) the Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch agreed to the dissolution of the Parish of St. John’s, Latimer Square. 

This decision opens the way to consider the future of the property associated with that parish, on the corner of Madras and Hereford Streets, Christchurch.

The Christchurch Transitional (or Cardboard) Cathedral is part of that property. 

When we resume worship and other activities in the Cathedral in the Square, planned for late 2027, the Transitional Cathedral building will no longer be required as a cathedral.

The Synod has requested that a working group explore all issues regarding the future of the land and buildings on the corner of Madras and Hereford Streets, and report back to Synod in 2024. 

Monday, September 4, 2023

Which Scripture, whose church?

Years ago, the Protestant evangelical in me received a helpful jolt, at least in respect of thinking along standard "anti Catholic" lines, as Protestants/evangelicals tend to do, or at least tended to do back in that day.

The jolt went something like this, Catholicism reads Matthew's Gospel while Protestantism reads Romans and Galatians.

As an evangelical I had to take notice because that explanation involved an appeal to Scripture and not to Tradition. I could see then why Matthew as an apt Scripture in respect of Catholic theology: Matthew present Jesus as the new Moses and his teaching as the new law, with an emphasis on obedience (works done in response to the law), accordingly, and somewhat contrastingly with Romans and Galatians. We might simply mention the last part of yesterday's gospel reading, Matthew 16:17, where Jesus speaks of the return of the Son of Man in judgement,

"then he will repay everyone for what has been done."

It is not that Matthew is a gospel of works-salvation but that Matthew's Gospel proposes a subtle mix of faith-and-works attuned to a Catholic soteriology in a way that a Romans-and-Galatians alone approach is not.

Now let's have a bit of serious fun, if you will. And if you won't, stop reading now!

If Matthew is representative of Roman Catholic theology, then, we might say that Pope Francis' version of it adds in the great Lukan parables on mercy to it (Luke 7:36-50; Luke 10:25-37; Luke 15:11-32). Conservative criticism of Francis (currently focused on his proposed Synod on Synodality) is a doubling-down on Matthew, perhaps especially Matthew 16:13-20.

Protestantism generally and evangelicalism within it is very keen on Romans and Galatians - on the soteriology which emphasises the unmediated by the church but solely mediated by Jesus Christ salvation of God based on the unique sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

But Protestantism somewhat cheerfully incorporates other books to major on. The Pastoral Epistles are favourites in some circles with the oddity that they say very little if anything about justification by faith and quite a lot about rules for the church. Revelation (and Daniel) are relished by those with eschatological inquisitiveness (and are crucial for Seventh Day Adventist theology). Ephesians plays an important role when predestination is a focus, or, for that matter, spiritual warfare.

By contrast, Pentecostalism is keen on Acts - the dynamic, miracle working Holy Spirit has lots to offer a new expression of the most primitive church in our modern world.

Perhaps a commenter can help me with the Eastern Orthodox church and its "founding scriptures." I suspect John's Gospel is significant.

Obviously we need to get to Anglicanism. Is there a significant Scripture? To the extent to which Anglicanism is reformed and catholic, evangelical and Anglo-Catholic, as well as broad, we could claim "all the above," but I suggest John's Gospel is important to our self-understanding of what kind of church we became in the 16th century and have become across many countries and cultures since. 

That is, we have cherished the ability to be a distinctive national church - The Church of England ... of Australia ... Kenya ... Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, and done so understanding that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" means we feel confident that the one church can be differently expressed in the different forms of "flesh" (human life) found around the world.

This thought about Anglicanism is tentative - I would be interested in responses any readers care to make in comments. 

The obvious deduction, however, is that all the scriptures cited above are included in the one Holy Scripture! Somehow, in our journey towards Christian unity - towards the healing of the pain of our divisions and towards the completion of our witness to Jesus Christ the Reconciler of the world to God - we need to appreciate that most of our differences are differences which flow from the one authoritative Source - God's Word written!

Monday, August 28, 2023

New Dean for Christ Church Cathedral, Christchurch, NZ

I've been busy ... among other things working on a new appointment - a new dean for our cathedral.

Please read about the appointment of the Reverend Canon Ben Truman (Vicar of Opawa-St. Martins and Chaplain of St. Mark's School) to be our next dean here. With an article in this morning's Press here.

There is also, thinking of busy days, preparation for our Diocesan Synod on my and a number of other people's plates (7-9 September).

In other news, the All Blacks got thrashed yesterday by South Africa. Perhaps my concerns in the post below about Rugby World Cup clashes re Sunday services [NZ times] through the finals weekends won't be realised! Whomever we play in the quarter-finals (Ireland or South Africa) could be too tough for us, and so, out we go!

Finally, it is not often one can read that "Sydney Anglicans" back down on anything, but I read a small item in this morning's paper Press, likely derived from SMH (but that is behind a paywall) but here is another link. Reality meets ideology! (The issue: "However, the diocese will no longer insist principals attest they believe marriage should be between a man and a woman. Instead, principals will be required to show they are of Christian faith and character, and actively involved in a Bible-based church. They will also need to sign a commitment to ‘organisational faithfulness’. The diocese faced a backlash from parents at several schools over the clause.")

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Watch World Cup Final[s] or Go To Church? [Update]

Update: Not for the last time, a post elsewhere is relevant: This time it is by Ian Paul, based in England, and reflecting on the approach taken last Sunday re the clash between church services there and the Women's Football World Cup final. At the foot of the original post I have added some citations from Ian's post.

Original Post: Over the weekend I noticed on Twitter a bit of CofE controversy: The Women's Football World Cup Final (featuring England v Spain) was going to be shown at a time clashing with many church service times in England. Cue a newspaper article about changes to service times, setting up TV screens in church halls and that sort of thing ... and some Twitter comment about perfidious, feckless church leaders giving into the spirit of the times etc etc.

Now, as one able to watch the match at the non-problematic-ecclesiastical time of 10 pm in NZ, I have no comment to make about what CofE bishops, vicars, parishioners should or should not have been doing. BUT I have been alerted to a leetle problem looming on our ecclesiastical horizons ...

Very soon the 2023 Rugby World Cup kicks off in France and the All Blacks as always are going to win it, by winning semifinal and then final matches. (This time around they are very unlikely to lose a quarter-final match - it did happen in 2007 - but never before or since, so we will only worry about the ecclesiastical impact of the semi-finals and final matches.)

Yes, yes, of course I understand that since it is a foregone conclusion that the All Blacks will win there is no need to bother with watching them, but, there is just the slightest sliver of a chance that they won't so we should work out whether we can watch them play or not. Actually, that sentence is just a bit of journalistic bravado: there is quite a big chance they won't win because some very good teams - Ireland and/or France stand in their way. Possibly South Africa too.

So, to the reality of the timetable:

Semi-finals, NZ time: 8 am Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 October

Final, NZ time: 8 am Sunday 29 October.

ABs in first semi-final, no probs; ABs in second semi-final and/or in final, a bit of a challenge ...

Obviously an 8 am match clashes with every 8 am service in our churches.

And, given the length of time matches of this importance take, matches will finish hard up against the start of 10 am service and cross-over 9 am and 9.30 am services.

What to do?

In what follows I am trying to explore the matter and intentionally not come to a definitive judgment (which I may need to do as a bishop to my diocese, and, if I do, I won't be publishing it here before communicating it to our parish leaders).

Possibilities appear to include:

- no episcopal direction, leave matters to local choice [by statute vicars have right to set service times] and local creativity (e.g. setting up a screen in the church hall so people can quickly move to church for the beginning of the 10 am service);

- (with or without episcopal direction) staunchly offer all services of worship as usual and leave it to parishioners to choose ... and, always remembering, not everyone is a rugby fan! Matches can be recorded, watched later in the day, etc.

- cancel the 8 am service but stick with the 10 am service (where that is the morning programme) or, if say, a 9.30 am service is the service for the morning, start it at 10.30 am ... etc re changes to usual programmes. The frisson here is the possibility of needing to do this for two Sundays in a row.

- wake up on the Sundays concerned and say, "You know what, I think I'll go to Evensong tonight"!

What about the theology of whatever we might do?

That is where things get a little interesting (IMHO).

Absolutely, there is a theology of commitment to Christ being understood as commitment without distractions or deviations. You go to church at [say] 10 am on a Sunday morning. You go every Sunday (save for illness and snowstorms) and certainly go if something as ephemeral as sport proposes an alternative. A Twitter correspondent, Fr George Reeves expresses one aspect of this theology of commitment with a well made point for clergy to consider:

I'm a football fan, but honestly - if those of us who are clergy don't think that going to church should take priority over watching the game live, how on earth can we expect anyone to ever prioritise getting up on a Sunday morning for worship?

But, is there not also a theology of well, I am not sure what to call it, but along the lines of "living in the world, sharing the joys and sorrows of society, enjoying the gifts of creation, one of which is the joy and pleasure of sport, and serving a God who never actually laid down a rule that being a disciple means choosing one and only one regular time of worship and whatever happens (apart from illness and snowstorms) sticking to it"? More technically, might we invoke theologies of creation and of incarnation?

To which, of course, a reply might be, "And does not a theology of creation imply a theology of Sabbath - of commitment to rest from the ordinary things of life and to using the "restfulness" of the Sabbath to worship the Lord without distraction?"

(Let's be honest, racing from the glories of a might AB victory concluded at 9.55 am or the despair of a disgraceful loss at 9.54 am, to worship God at 10 am, is not to arrive in church in an undistracted frame of mind!)

Somewhere in a theology of commitment to Christ intersecting with a theology of Sabbath, there is a call to us to consider what it means to live a holy life, one which stands apart from society and lives distinctively and differently to its drum beat.

In short, before we determine "what to do", we should focus on "what to think": I look forward to your comments ...

Postscript, after the Women's Football Final: It is, after all, just a game!

Back to update, words from Ian Paul's post:

"This then leads us to the issue at the heart of this discussion: does Christian discipleship make demands of us, and should weekly attendance at gathered worship in our local faith communities take priority over other interests? My favourite comment on this came from someone in quite a different ‘tradition’ from me, but made the point eloquently:

Our principal act of worship takes place at 10.30am…For those wishing to watch the match without turning down the lavish invitation the Lord makes to share communion at his table, there’ll also be a celebration of the Holy Communion at 8am lasting around 45 minutes. All are welcome, and there’s no charge to enter. And we’ll warmly cheer on England in the World Cup Final once our obligations to the bread of life and the cup of salvation are honoured.

As Niall Gooch notes:

It’s easy to roll one’s eyes at these stories, but there is perhaps a serious point to be made about how British Christianity—not just the Church of England—so often appears to be apologising for making any demands at all on its adherents.

In fact, the statement about Sunday worship on the C of E website is rather good, and it includes this quotation from William Temple:

The fundamental business of life is worship. At the root of all your being, your intellectual studies, the games you play, whatever it is, the impulse to do them well is and ought to be understood as being an impulse towards God, the source of all that is excellent. All life ought to be worship; and we know quite well there is no chance it will be worship unless we have times when we have worship and nothing else."

"Even a cursory glance at the gospels makes it clear that Jesus was unafraid to make demands of those who would follow him. Matthew gathers together some of his most challenging statements in Matt 8.18–22, but in fact they are threaded all through the gospel, from start to finish.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matt 7.13–14).

His invitation is sometimes quoted as telling us that ‘my yoke is easy’ (Matt 11.29) but the word here is χρηστός, which has the sense of kind, the yoke put on an animal by a kind master, enabling the animal to work well and effectively. It is a yoke that does not chaff as we go about the hard work of being a disciple of Jesus.

We don’t want to put unnecessary obstacles in the way of those who are on the fringes of faith, or wanting to explore, or who are at critical junctures in their transition in both life and faith. That is why it is sensible to have a flexible approach to ensure, for example, that teenagers with sports interests are still able to be part of Christian fellowship as they grow in faith. And Jesus never tells us that we must ‘come to church’ at a particular time!"

Monday, August 14, 2023

Keys to Anglican unity in a fractious age: ecclesiology for Anglicans qua Anglicans

The genesis of this post is not division within the Communion or in ACANZP over homosexuality. There are - believe it or not - other faultlines in the Communion and in our church and it is the general, longstanding aspiration of this blog to argue for Anglican unity and away from division, so the concern here is that we look again at the theological "why" of  always working collaboratively to bridge faultlines and thus prevent them from becoming chasms.

What is church? Just about any answer you or I read in a book on "ecclesiology" (study of church) is more or less going to be along these lines: that church is people gathered together in response to the call ("klesia") of the God of Jesus Christ to meet for prayer, praise, proclamation and participation in the eucharist, and from such meeting together, to engage in practices of pastoral care and provision for the needy.

Critical to understanding what it means to be church is: 

(1) God forms the church - God, not us, is in charge - Jesus Christ, God's Son has been appointed Lord of the church; 

(2) church is people bound together, united as one body of people by virtue of God calling all to come together - yes, each individual is called by God to respond to Jesus Christ as a matter of "personal" salvation, but a series of discrete saved individuals is not "church". Church in the NT is always associated with cooperation, collaboration, community and communion of the saved ones.

More, of course, can then be said about "one body of people" because Paul develops the notion of such a body (= group, community, association) as a visible, physical representation of the body of Christ on earth: body of Christ means the association of people is (should be?) a union of people knit together like organs and muscles and bones in a human body, held together by ligaments etc and contained within one skin.

Unity of the church, in Pauline theology, is not a slogan but a reality of understanding who we are in relation to Christ through whom God has called us into being the church: a communion, a union, a body of people actually like a human body which is both "in Christ" (Christ is our Lord, our life together as communion/union/body is life within the very life of Christ) and "Christ in us" (Christ through the Spirit lives within the church, empowering us to be what we are called to be as church).

Put in different words, we should not, when faced with faultlines, let alone church-chasms, resort to pleas to be "united" or "more united", as though obeying a command to be united is more important than living out the reality of union. 

We should, instead, talk about what it means to be church, to live out what God has called us to be, to work together on how we either overcome our differences (an NT example is found in Acts 15) and/or live with our differences (an NT example is found in Romans 14) and/or respect our differences (an NT example is Paul's exposition of the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12: we cannot all be toes or ears or hearts).

"Talk about what it means to be church" means we gather at the table of discussion - we do not stay away from it - even if we are struggling with gathering at the table of the eucharist!

All this, of course, can be approached in similar but not exactly the same way, via Johannine theology of church, because in that theology, unity of disciples of Jesus is paramount (John 17), and (com)union of disciples together in Christ and indwelt by Christ is Christ's vision for the future of his mission (e.g. John 6); and John 21 specifically envisions the church of difference and different personalities remaining the one church of Christ, of those who obey the command, Follow me.

Although I write as  Pākehā , everything here relates to important Māori concepts and life-practices of whanaunatanga (relationship, kinship, connection, unity) and manaakitanga (hospitality, generosity, respect, support).

So far, so "church" in general. Church understood biblically and theologically means staying together, being present to one another, and resisting temptations to walk apart on different pathways.

There is a specifically Anglican aspect to church staying together and not letting faultlines develop into chasms. It goes like this.

Rightly (so Catholics, Orthodox, some Lutherans and Methodists might say) or wrongly (so others might say), we Anglicans have a settled on being an episcopally-led, synodically-governed church, bound together in various ways (so dioceses (are) compact(ed)/contract(ed) together to form a province/national/international church;* so provinces/national/international Anglican churches voluntarily come together in bonds of love and affection to form the Anglican Communion).

Our commitment, both in love (in Christ, for one another, for God's church) and in specific promises made when (e.g.) being ordained, being licensed to a lay or ordained position, accepting office such as churchwarden or synodsperson, as Anglicans, is then to abide by the lawful authority of our bishops (and archbishops) and of our General Synod/Convention/like and of our local synods.

As Christian Anglicans we should, of course, go above and beyond any mere duty ascribed by canon or statute or liturgical rubric, so "to abide by the lawful authority etc" is not only about obeying the rules but also living into them - growing and developing relationships with one another in Christ, including those in authority over us, whether an individual such as a vicar or bishop or archbishop, or a committee/synod/council whom otherwise we might be tempted to cast aside as a bunch of faceless bureaucrats! [A temptation, I must confess, I have not always resisted through my lifetime!]

Put more simply, Anglican church members are members of the body of Christ and members of a specific body or association of people with agreed rules, procedures, officers and governance groups, and thus as both kinds of members, have obligations to the well-being and good order of the church, and the well-being and good order of the church is always about our union/communion with one another in Christ.

Faultlines may develop, chasms should not.

*ACANZP is an international church, covering the jurisdictions of NZ, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa; likewise TEC is an international church, including a few countries other than the USA; etc.

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Who to vote for at the coming General Election (14 Oct 2023)?

Some critical votes around the world loom - the Voice referendum in Australia, the Presidential election in the States (ok, in dates, a long way off, but in candidates gearing up to trump one another, it is all happening now) - and here in NZ our triennial General Election.

Why "critical" here in the Blessed Isles?

My concern is the direction of travel our economy is travelling in. We don't seem to be in great shape. Perhaps we cannot do any better - it is always the case that we are somewhat subject to global winds etc (if so, let's vote for the incumbents). Perhaps we can - we are not completely powerless (if so, let's vote for change).

In my understanding of modern, Western, liberal democracies, the economy matters for any aspiration we have: improving housing, health, education, defence capabilities, welfare for the vulnerable, superannuation for the, ahem, older persons [I may be biased on this one!!] - all need $$$. And the basic question for any election is not whether Christchurch will host the Commonwealth Games in 2026 [nuts!!] or whether the Government should provide free (basic) dental care for all [actually a meritable, Green Party proposal], but how we produce $$$, how we should tax those $$$, and what is a wise, fair and fruitful distribution of those $$$ (i.e. when we cannot do everything we conceivably would like to do with taxed $$$, what is highest and best use for them)?

Should we change the Government? If so, to what party or combo of parties?

I don't want to answer that question here since that then becomes quite directive. But I am happy to make a few observations :)

1. I find each party has a policy or policies I could vote for AND a policy or policies I would prefer not to vote for [but I will vote, so I may have to swallow a dead policy rat].

Now, sure, that could be said pretty much every election, but this election my own assessment is that some policies are very objectional!

2. I am concerned about talk of a "wealth tax" (Greens, Te Pati Maori). In principle we who are not wealthy could warmly vote for such a policy. In practice, what would the effects of such a policy be? For example, if it drove wealthy NZers overseas, or to at least re-locate the headquarters of their businesses overseas (i.e. in a more friendly tax environment), would we damage our economy, not only resulting in fewer tax dollars than anticipated but also in fewer jobs?

For non-Down Under readers: there are always possibilities for Kiwis to re-locate to Australia when we don't like how things are here. We cannot operate an economy here which ignores Australian realities such as their housing affordability, wage rates and tax rates.

3. Shouldn't we put more (political) energy into growing our economy so the tax take grows with it in a natural way? Everyone benefits from a growing economy (even though, acknowledged, people will benefit in different ways and to different degrees).

4. Which party both addresses fundamental questions of education - we seem to have decreasing rather than increasing rates of literacy and numeracy - and proposes achievable answers to the questions?

Again, "it's the economy!" Economies grow with better education.

5. Is war looming in the Pacific? If so, which party is best geared to respond, whatever "respond" means or should mean? Are we too dependent economically on China? (The answer pretty much is "yes"!) Can we change that? What value do we place on human rights and freedom of speech - in China right now, and here if  (or, as) China's influence grows? 

It is not clear to me that any of our political parties is willing to engage with these questions with boldness and frankness.

6. In the plethora of talk about bicultural life here, and longings for or fears of "co-governance", we need to find a way to honour the Treaty of Waitangi, to improve the well-being of Maori in Aotearoa New Zealand today, and to work for justice. 

All parties have something to say on this, but all parties are not united in what they are saying ...

For Christians, there are a number of issues touched on above (and other issues not touched on here) which invite us to consider what it means to be a society with each member a human being made in the image of God, with resources available to meet our material needs, and possibilities for providing opportunities for the flourishing of the human spirit.

Lord, guide us!

Monday, July 31, 2023

Yes, go to the Barbie movie!

 I cannot even recall if I have given a movie recommendation in an ADU post before, but here is one:

Go to the Barbie movie!

I haven't been to the Oppenheimer movie so no recommendation for that, but perhaps one should, especially as the planet is now at - according to a UN leader - "boiling point."

Back to Barbie.

It is a profound movie. Of course it is difficult to say why in any kind of detail without giving away "spoilers", so my comments will be general.

If, by the way, you have seen the movie, a very good theological reflection has been posted by Amy Peeler here. This post does not seek to do the work of that post!

Why recommend this movie as a go to see movie?

1. It is a lot of fun!

2. It is for both men and women to see, since it speaks to the battles between gender in the politics of social power, so of relevance to all of us. 

(In the small Chch cinema I saw it in - Alice's, for locals - I think there were only two guys there among a sea of women; and I was there with wife and two daughters; but, really, it is for both sexes to see).

3. It challenges the gender-based power structures of society.

4. It is very funny!

5. Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are superb actors. Will Ferrell is goofily great too!

6. There are lots of tributes to other movies (reason for movie buffs to go).

7. Big shout out for Margot Robbie, solely, of course, because she is from Down Under [Australia].

8. There is lots to think about because the movie explores profound themes concerning life and death, ideality and reality.

9. It is a visual riot of colour and costumes.

10. Re 8, see the link above re the theological reckonings of the movie, but a similar essay could be written by an atheist, just focusing on the various philosophers/philosophies the movie prompted me to think about: change/Heraclitus; the role of thought in human understanding/Descartes; real/ideal worlds/Plato et al, etc.

But, basically, go see it because it is both fun and profound, which is a great movie mix.

I get the impression Oppenheimer is profound and, unsurpisingly because of the deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, - not fun.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Does it take a cataclysm to foster unity?

We are entering a dangerous phase for the world. It has been very hot in many places (not NZ). People are dying in extra-hot parts of the world. Average temperatures are shockingly high (here and here). Even our cold winter is not as cold as once was upon a time. One sign of global warming here is the state of the Franz Josef glacier. That’s the glacier at the left of centre in the photo below (snapped by me on my phone on a plane, returning from Oz, a few days ago). It looks like an extracted tooth!

The point is, the glacier once used to fill most of the valley as it snakes down the left hand corner of the photo. It is melting away as the world heats up. 

Sure there is a lot of snow in this photo, but these are our highest mountains (including Aoraki (Mt Cook) the highest peak in the upper right hand corner of the photo). Generally (until a storm this past weekend) our skifields have been unusually short of snow through June and early July.

Some reading on the plane as we crossed the Tasman alerted me to the scenario we Christians do not always want to contemplate, that unity may be forced on us (speaking of humanity generally) by calamity.

So far the world is not particularly united on anything, and definitely not on collective action to mitigate climate change. (Including, I acknowledge, as a recent flyer, action to stop air travel).

But, do recent heatwaves and high average temperatures mean we are closer than ever to climate change calamity and thus nearer to the possibility of humanity being pressed to unify on what we will do?

If the gospel is as Masure says (on my sidebar), that is, "Fundamentally the Gospel is obsessed with the idea of the unity of human society.", then Christians are always keen on unity - our common mindedness, our fellowship, our common life - and must reckon that a wake up call sounded by cataclysm does have at least one benefit, pressing humanity to set aside differences and work for the common good.

Speaking of such unity, I noticed a Tweet by Australian biblical scholar Michael Bird this week which fits the theme of this post:

"Just realized that Rom 15:5-6 is a perfect summary of Phil 2:1-11.
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 15:5-6)."

Romans 15:5-6 comes at the end of Paul's great passage through Romans 14 on how his readers might unite despite strong differences over eating food offered to idols. That is, Paul is not setting out an ideal unity in Christ without reference to the reality of sharp division. 

Having engaged with the sharp division, offered a way forward out of it, he prays for the Roman Christians for that which he also seeks for the Christians in Philippi, a unity of attitude to one another and of shared Christ-mindedness among the body of Christ which draws on the example of Christ himself.

If the chief end of humankind is the glory of God, then the implication of the last part of 15:6 is that we may not have capacity to glorify God when we have not unity!

None of us wishes the world to reach cataclysm, yet that is where we are heading, ironically because we cannot and will not motivate ourselves to find common cause on a means of avoiding cataclysm.

Of course, implicit in Romans 15:5-6 and Philippians 2:1-11, is the sobering point that if the world is to be unified, the church is to be a signpost and a model of that unity.

I need say nothing further about whether the signpost points in the right direction or the model is functioning well.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Matariki musings

Here in Aotearoa New Zealand we are getting used to a new public holiday - Matariki - a Friday, varying a bit around the mid June to mid July period, offering opportunity to celebrate the (re)appearance of Matariki or, in other language contexts, Pleiades. This is just our second year of having this holiday.

For Maori, this represents the turn of the old year into the new year.

For Christians in our islands, I see a warm embrace of this new interest in an old custom, with opportunities (at least as I have experienced them) for reflecting on the God of creation, Christ the light of the world, and doing so out of respect for our Treaty of Waitangi partners.

Links which may be of interest and edification are here, here, and here. But not all are keen: here.

Matariki is referenced specifically three times in Scripture: Amos 5:8; Job 9:9; and Job 38;31.

This year I also noticed a case advanced for considering the "seven stars" of Revelation (e.g. 1:12-20) as a reference to Pleiades/Matariki. (There is a bit of a challenge here since the count of brighter stars in this cluster often counts up to nine and not just to seven. See further, here.) 

The larger challenge here, noting, for example, the reasonably widespread endorsement of the spirituality of Matariki (e.g. on advertisements on TV), in a manner scarcely similarly endorsed at either Easter or Christmas, is how we as Christians respond to something new (or newly emphasised) in our culture.

Overall - my musing is thus - Christians are seeking to find in Matariki (the stars, the event of their appearance, the talk of their meaning) all that is consistent with the revelation of God the Creator in Jesus Christ the Light of the World.

A different musing this weekend. For service this morning in one of our parishes, where I knew a sermon-with-some-discussion would be appreciated, I responded to the readings, Romans 8:1-11 and Matthew 13:1-8, 18-23, in the following way:

The assertion of the Christian gospel is that humanity can change, that we are able to receive a message from God – the gospel or good news, hear it, receive it, digest it, possibly reject it, or, hopefully work with it and for this message to work within us to change our minds, change our attitudes, change our behaviour and, bit by bit, change the world.

It is an extraordinary claim because it is a claim that something deep within us can be reached by God working within us in a way that cannot be reached by (say) education, or punishment according to a state judicial system.

This is not to say that education or appropriate punishment cannot have good effects – they do and we rightly pay taxes to ensure their benefits are widely shared in society.

But, and we see this being played out in our society today, highlighted by media headlines and spotlighted by politicians seeking election, we have some deep, seemingly intractable problems in society.

Something deeper by way of changing people and fixing social breakdown is needed. Something more powerful to transform us than what is currently on offer by any politician or media pundit.

Our passages today are chalk and cheese in many ways. The gospel reading is an earthy parable about the way crops are planted and successfully grown or otherwise. The epistle reading is very spiritual – literally so because there is a lot of talk about the Holy Spirit.

Yet both passages are about the assertion of the Christian gospel that humanity can change through the receiving into the depths of our being the good news message of God.

The seed in the earthy parable is a word of God which falls into people’s lives. Some are distracted, etc, the word does not take root. Some are not, the word brings good consequences, fruitful change in their lives.

Romans 8 is at the end of a sequence of arguments and proposals by Paul relating to the plight of humanity. Beset by sin, can humanity be made righteous – put into a right relationship with God? Yes, Paul says, because of what Christ has done for humanity, through his sacrificial death and his rising to new life. (Romans 1-4)

Humanity Rightly relating to God, nevertheless is beset by sin: can humanity – more precisely, you and me – overcome the tendency to wrong-doing rather than be overcome by it?

This is the subject of chapters 5-8.

Paul’s answer is guarded. Yes, we can be overcomers – God’s power is available to help us, through the Spirit of God working within us, we can change – but we need to work with God on this, consistently saying Yes to the prompts of the Spirit to live godly lives, and consistently saying No to the prompts of our sin-tending natures.

Chalk and cheese, two very different passages, both seeking to persuade readers/hearers that God’s powerful love seeks to empower us to change for good.


What is our response to be?

A fascinating discussion followed this reflection and concluding question!

Please note that due to travel this week I may not be able to respond to comments, including posting them, with my usual speed.

Monday, July 10, 2023

It is complex, isn't it? [updated]

I have been following the establishment of the Diocese of the Southern Cross (an entity established in Australia as a "company", with an overseer, Archbishop Glenn Davies, for Anglicans, and others, unhappy with the direction of the Anglican Church of Australia, or, respectively, their denomination such as the Uniting Church). 

My interest is slightly greater than it might otherwise be, because the second clergyman to join was the Reverend Peter Judge-Mears, a former colleague in the Diocese of Nelson, who was our youth worker and then, after ordination, curate in the Parish of Blenheim South, when I was Vicar there.

At The Other Cheek, John Sandeman has published a talk Peter recently gave, titled, "Why I left the Brisbane Anglicans to join the Diocese of the Southern Cross."

I appreciate this account because it sets out a much wider theological context for Peter's decision to leave (along with about half his former congregation who have left with him) than what it initially seemed when the news first broke. News more along the lines of, "it's about same sex stuff."

On the one hand, I want to write carefully here because the Brisbane leadership (both diocesan and ministry training) doesn't get their side of things presented, so a rush to judge them is to be avoided.

On the other hand, Peter spent thirteen years in the Diocese of Southern Queensland, so it is quite reasonable that his case for leaving represents an accumulation of evidence, some of which is cited in his talk, and not a sudden decision based on one disagreement. His departure is a departure over difference, and, on the face of it, the differences are striking.

An argument that ethical commands of Scripture are not prescriptive, for example, raises many questions in my mind, as well as Peter's!

At one level, when Peter writes descriptively, he could be describing any Western Anglican context from the 1960s onwards!:

"Both in radio interviews and in print publications, calling for discarding the creeds and rejecting the 39 Articles. 

One friend of mine was told in front of the class that if she upheld the 39 Articles, then her God was a different God from the lecturer’s God, and her God was a monster. This is in an Anglican theological college."

At another level, it is one thing to doubt or even deny the validity and relevance of the 39A and another thing to ascribe to a holder of the 39A that the God of the holder is "a monster." Quite a few questions raised, if not alarm bells sounded!

Now there are two things I am not attempting to discuss here: 

1. whether all this is reasonable grounds for leaving a diocese; 

2. what the overall state of the Diocese of Southern Queensland is. 

UPDATE: A veiw from one of the Southern Queensland bishops, Jeremy Greaves, can be found in another post by John Sandeman, here - a post which is itself interesting for its exploration of Anglican "comprehension."

On 1, I can only respect Peter's decision and observe that, presumably, there are others of a similar theological outlook to him who have not come to the same decision (including the half of his congregation that remained). 

On 2, I have no idea. 

What is worth discussing is a general-Anglican question arising from an intriguing observation at the foot of the talk:

"The rejection of the scriptures: well, we’ve heard about that in terms of the quote from the archbishop, the rejection of the virgin birth, the rejection of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. All of this stuff was acceptable in our diocese. In the Anglican Church of Southern Queensland, those were acceptable deviations. That is an astounding thing when we have a constitution that says they’re not [acceptable deviations]. "

The question that the observation raises, in my mind, is the question of coherency in Anglican contexts - parishes, dioceses, provinces, the Communion or Gafcon.

A diocese in which everyone says the Nicene Creed and means it, has a coherency to it. A diocese in which no one says the Nicene Creed because priests and people no longer believe its statements also has coherency to it. Ditto, parish, province etc.

Of course, most parishes and dioceses and provinces around the Communion have a degree of difference and diversity in beliefs. 

The question then can be whether such difference means a high degree of tension between members, e.g. because there is a 50:50 division of views, or because adherents of one set of views are somewhat strident and loud in their support. 

Or, whether such difference is manageable, e.g. because a strong majority do agree together, the smaller minority quietly accept the status quo, and the majority do not seek to eject the minority. In the former case, the situation is experienced as incoherent; in the latter case, the situation is experienced as "somewhat" coherent.

Of course, Anglican life is complex. I might live in the Diocese of X where most people say all of the Nicene Creed happily but a few refuse to say the filoque clause and keep bringing motions to synod urging the dropping of the filioques clause [somewhat coherent], however there are other differences which manifest themselves from time to time: recently X's synod could not agree on a motion condemning civic legilsation permitting euthanasia [incoherent] but did agree with great enthusiasm to a motion requiring all churches with pitched rooves to install solar panels [coherent].

At what point in a "mixed ecology" do I find myself unable to continue with a mix of incoherency, coherency, and somewhat coherency?

This might be a sharp question for some CofE members following the conclusion of the very recent session of their General Synod where, as best I can tell from various reports, there is inocherency, coherency and somewhat coherency at play, and on some pretty significant issues (including where parishes fit into the "mixed ecology" approach to ways of doing and being church).

For myself, I cheerfully live as an Anglican in my diocese, ACANZP and the Communion because I am reasonably comfortable with the range of incoherencies and coherencies currently being experienced!

Monday, July 3, 2023

Conferencing can be invigorating!

 Last week, as I mentioned at the foot of the previous post, we held our annual Clergy Conference, Monday evening to Wednesday evening.

"Clergy" Conference is a slight misnomer because lay staff on our Diocesan Ministry Team, a lay school chaplain and one or two lay ministers in parish leadership (and about to be ordained) have been included in the invite list.

We met at College House, an amazing complex of buildings, mostly for the purpose of providing accommodation for university students at the University of Canterbury, which has been built on "Oxbridge" lines, with buildings, including a chapel, surrounding a grassy quadrangle.

But a lovely secondary purpose is that there are facilities for conferences available when the university is on vacation. For our purposes it was especially beneficial to have a chapel for worship services, and, for all of Tuesday, for our retreat talks.

This chapel is not well known in NZ but architectural experts know it is one of our finest buildings, and arguably the masterpiece of one of our leading architects in the 20th and 21st centuries, the late Sir Miles Warren. The Chapel of the Upper Room - it is entered by ascending stairs - was opened in the 1960s, put out of action by the 2011 earthquakes and re-opened last year by me after considerable fundraising to secure the several million dollars needed to strengthen and repair the chapel.

If the chapel is a reinvigorated building, our conference gave us opportunities for personal and corporate invigoration.

One day was spent on retreat - opportunity for personal invigoration.

One day was spent on upskilling/development - opportunity for corporate invigoration.

A specific piece of invigoration on the second day was a challenging address on "Millennials."

I understand millennials to be those born between 1982 and 2004.

The gist of the address (from a vicar with many millennials in the congregation) is that millennials have expectations about church which differ from the "business as usual" approach of many Anglicans, otherwise doing things as they have been done through the second half of the twentieth century.

Those expectations relate to everything from seating, songs/hymns, liturgical matters, use of microphone by preacher [comedian mic better than Madonna mic] to how children are cared for in church. Etc.

Wow. There was good discomfort in that address, but it was discomfort.

In short, as I must bring this post to a close, because of time, the challenges the Anglican church faces in the Blessed Isles are not all about theologically diverse/divisive matters.

Arguably the greater challenge is whether we can connect with the next generations simply through "how" we do church, let alone "what" we might be saying in our sermons.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Yesterday's gospel reading and this past week's news

This post rehashes some points made in my sermon yesterdqy (which also spoke about the readings from Jeremiah 20:7-13 and Romans 6:1b-11 but causa brevitatis/tempora brevitatis* I omit those from this consideration, focusing on one verse from the gospel, Matthew 10:24-39).

Sadly the news this past week has included the imploding submarine which killed five people attempting to explore the Titanic four kilometres under the sea, seventy-eight people drowned out of five hundred people jammed into a boat on the Mediterranean by people smugglers, an attempted coup (or something or other) in Russia which has or has not weakened the ever marauding killing machine that is Putin's government, and, quite different in category, but still sad, news of a pupil in a UK school identifying as a cat and the principal of the said school taking a critic of the cat to task [addendum: this last item may not be true ... it turns out].

What is common to these items of news?

The over weening importance of self.

My rule of Russia as sole charge autocrat (or my ambition to autocratically lead my own private army). My greed as a people smuggler. My disrespect of compliance constraints on my innovative submarine. My aspiration to be whomever I want to be.

Jesus said:

"Those who find their life will lose it and those who lose their life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 10:39)

No wonder Christianity is unpopular today!

*Today our annual Clergy Conference begins. Pray for us!

Monday, June 19, 2023

Technical "Anglican" question (or, "ecumenical" question)

Look, if you don't want to read what I write below, there is a stimulating post here you might like to take a squiz at, "The End of Evangelicalism and the Possibility of Reformed Catholicism." It doesn't hugely move my theo-ecclesiological boats, but it may do so for yours ...

Alternatively, Bishop Kelvin Wright has posted a lovely reflection on the meaning and content of prayer, "Prayer as Relationship."

Otherwise, unless you stop reading now, you're stuck with me!

The Other Cheek reports here that in Australia eight Uniting Church ministers [conservatives feeling unable to continue in that denomination] have been welcomed into the Diocese of the Southern Cross [a new development in Australian Anglicanism whereby a Diocese of Sydney supported venture with no recognition/status within the Anglican Church of Australia, but naming/claiming to be "Anglican", including having an overseeing bishop, retired Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies].

This post is not about the reasons for the Uniting ministers joining Southern Cross nor the reasons for the formation of the Diocese of the Southern Cross.

This post is about the intriguing claim - a technical-theological-ecclesiological question - that the newly joining ministers' (from a church which does not have bishops) need not be re-ordained by a bishop but simply be recognised as fully functioning "presbyters" within Southern Cross:

"Bishop Glenn Davies presided at a service titled “The Service of Recognition of Ministers of the Word and Sacramentsts.” The Ministers newly recognised as “presbyters” are ... The “recognition” of these ministers is distinct from “ordaining” them which would indicate that they are becoming ministers. Instead the term “recognition’ is used to indicate that they have already been serving as ministers in a different denomination.

Our sister and brothers, have already been baptised into Christ and have formerly been ordained as Ministers of the Word and Sacraments, under the rules of the Uniting Church of Australia, ” the Bishop said in a liturgy welcoming them. “They now wish to have their orders recognised by the Diocese of the Southern Cross and seek our prayers in the fellowship of this Church.” 

Turning to the Minsters, Bishop Glenn continued “”My brothers and sister, we give thanks that you have been lawfully ordained to the office and work of a Minister of the Word and Sacraments in the Church of God.

“I have therefore resolved to recognise you as Presbyters in the Diocese of the Southern Cross.

“That we and this congregation may know that you desire, by God’s grace, to continue this ministry in the Diocese of the Southern Cross, I ask you these questions.” Each minister was asked a series of questions, the key one being, “Do you embrace the faith of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church as described in the Fundamental Declarations and the Jerusalem Declaration?”

The diocese points out that this procedure is not novel. “Similar expressions of episcopal welcome with laying on of hands occurred in the establishment of the Churches of North and South India, and were also contemplated in the Anglican-Methodist conversations in England last century.”"

Now, in a further "not", this post will not attempt to settle questions herein raised - partly because a post on a blog is not a synod let alone a general synod, and mostly because the questions raised by this action have been and are lively questions for a church such as my own and more generally for the Anglican Communion:

- "lively", when, for example, as mentioned above, the Churches of North and South India were established (and the Church of Pakistan also?) - see further below;

- when, for example, in my own church, ACANZP, we engage in dialogue with NZ Presbyterians and NZ Methodists about the status in our eyes of ministers ordained as presbyters/ministers of Word and Sacrament for those respective denominations;

- when, for example, also occasionally happening hereabouts, a ministers seeks appointment as a Vicar, but their ordination as presbyter/priest has taken place in, say, the Free Church of England or the Church of England in South Africa (now = REACH-SA) - churches with bishops. 

The word "lively" applies because from time to time in ecumenical dialogue the question is raised and discussed and exploration takes place of how things might change (or not).

(Simpler, by the way, is recognition of, say, a Roman Catholic or Old Catholic priest seeking to become a licensed priest in ACANZP, or a minister ordained by a bishop in an episcopal-Lutheran church. (See appendices below from our canons.)

There is also the fascinating question, in respect of the report above, whether a bishop may make such a decision re recognition alone, without synodical support - but this is not a question this post is concerned to discuss.

Back to the question du jour:

When I first noted this report I posted a comment on Twitter (along the above lines) and invited Bosco Peters to respond, which he did: (read from bottom upwards):

In other words, our church, other Anglican churches of the Communion (i) find everything most straightforward when recognition of ministry orders is 

(a) according to the principle that ordination is by a bishop and not otherwise, even by churches we are close to, such as the Presbyterian and Methodist churches of Aotearoa NZ; 

(b) according to the canons and standing resolutions of our church (i.e. as governed synodically, and in particular not at the determination of  bishops acting alone);

(c) in coherency with decisions made elsewhere in the Anglican Communion (e.g. from below, re the Porvoo Concordat 1992);

and, (ii) find things somewhat messy (ecclesiologically speaking) and thus requiring considerable working through when (a) to (c) are not aligned (cf. Bosco Peters' point about it taking considerable time for orders for one of the Indian churches to be recognised in contrast to the other).

Back to the Diocese of the Southern Cross and the report above:

(1) Insofar as this decision may be hailed as "Anglican" it would appear to be subject to critique as not, in fact, being a particularly Anglican way of going about things (lack of recognition of local synodical authority, lack of reference to the wider Anglican Communion).

(2) From another perspective, this decision could be hailed as "ecumenical" because it is a decision to treat the same, within the one church, the ordinations of bishops and the ordinations which are not of bishops.

Logically, (2) implies that the Diocese of the Southern Cross may be a new, ecumenically oriented church, yes, with Anglican roots, but not with an emerging, developing Anglican character (because in it ecumenical concern to welcome theologically like minded ministers and their congregations, it has taken an essentially ecumenical and not Anglican step in this recent announcement).

Does this matter?

As is often the case, Yes and No!

No, it doesn't matter particularly what a church, even one calling itself a "Diocese" does re recognition of ministries. Churches make decisions! And, in this case, as a safe harbour for conservatives in Australia, this decision (so to speak) widens the harbour to welcome a variety of ships from more than one navy.

Yes, it potentially matters if the Diocese of the Southern Cross claims some kind of Anglican-moral high ground. Then the question arises why a specifcially Anglican claim (e.g. that Anglicans here and there have ceased to be properly Anglican because, well, you know, That Topic) has relevance when other aspects of being Anglican are playing fast and loose with.

Appendices: (derived from here)

Title G Canon 13



Admission of Clergy of Churches in Communion with this Church



The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia recognises as being in full communion with  itself   (a relationship  of  unrestricted communio in sacris including the mutual recognition of ministries) these Churches, namely:  The Church of England and all other Churches of the Anglican Communion, and such other Churches as shall be recognised by General Synod from time to time as being in the same full communion.

6.1.1     The Lutheran Churches of the Nordic and Baltic Lutheran (Episcopal) Churches, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as listed in the Third Schedule are recognized by the General Synod / te Hīnota Whānui in terms of clause 6.1.

Churches in full communion.










A Bishop may permit any Bishop, Priest or Deacon from a Church in full communion with this Church as defined in clause 6.1 to officiate in any church, parish or congregation for one or more services upon being satisfied that the person is duly ordained.

Permission from Bishop.


Any Bishop, Priest or Deacon from a Church in full communion with this Church as defined in clause 6.1 of this Canon shall be eligible to be licensed or issued with a Permission to Officiate pursuant to Title A Canon II, or to hold office as a Bishop in this Church.

Eligibility for licence.


Admission of ministers ordained by Bishops not in Communion with this Church. 



When a Priest or Deacon ordained by a Bishop of the (A) Roman Catholic Church or other Church in communion with the See of Rome or (B) 15 Autocephalous (self governing) and 4 Autonomous (self ruling) Orthodox churches as listed in the Third Schedule,  or other such Church as shall be recognised by General Synod for the purposes of this Canon shall apply to a Bishop of this Church to hold office in the same, that person shall produce to the Bishop:

Other churches.


(a)   Letters of Orders to the priesthood or diaconate;



(b)   Testimony of character and quality of life from persons specified by the Bishop;



(c)   A signed Declaration of Baptism and membership in the form set out in the First Schedule to this Canon or to the like effect.



The Bishop shall be satisfied that such a person meets the requirements set out in Clause 5 of this Canon.

Role of Bishop


The person to be licensed, in addition to subscribing the Declaration required by Part C clause 15 of the Constitution, shall renounce all recourse to any other ecclesiastical jurisdiction.




 Lutheran Churches

 The Church of Denmark, the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania, the Church of Norway, the Church of Sweden, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

 Orthodox Churches

 The Autocephalous (self governing) Orthodox Churches namely the Churches of Constantinople, of Alexandria, of Antioch, of Jerusalem, of Russia, of Georgia, of Serbia, of Romania, of Bulgaria, of Cyprus, of Greece, of Albania, of Poland, of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, and in America; and the Autonomous (self ruling) Orthodox Churches; namely The Churches of Sinai, of Finland, of Japan, and of Ukraine"

and, from Standing Resolutions on Intercommunion, in respect of Title G Canon 6 Section 6.1 above: "such other Churches as shall be recognised by General Synod from time to time as being in the same full communion.": 

This includes: churches such as the Old Catholic Church (SRIC 1) and various other churches in SRIC 2-10) then:




Adopts the Porvoo Concordat of October 1992  (between the Anglican Churches in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England and The Nordic and Baltic Lutheran [Episcopal] Churches); the Waterloo Declaration of 2001 (between the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada); and the Concordat of Agreement / Called to Common Mission of January 2001 (between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The Episcopal Church of the U.S.A) for the limited purposes of recognition in terms of Title G Canon XIII  clause 6.1, to officiate in terms of clause 6.2; and to be licensed within this Church in terms of clause 6.3 for  any bishop, priest of deacon from the  churches (not being within the Anglican Communion) parties to these Concordats and Declaration, namely the Church of Denmark, the Estonian Evangelical-Lutheran Church, the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland, the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Iceland, the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Latvia, the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Lithuania, the Church of Norway, the Church of Sweden, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada: [2008]