Sunday, December 24, 2023

Christmas Greetings, New Year Wishes, Holiday Break

 Dear Readers,

Thank you for reading and for commenting in 2023.

Thank you for recent expressions of Christmas and New Year Greetings!

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

May 2024 involve great strides to world peace, especially in Ukraine, Gaza/Israel/West Bank, Sudan and other places we forget about. Let's keep praying to this end, to the Prince of Peace.

As my custom at the turn of the year, I will not be posting for a couple of weeks: should be back c. Monday 15 January 2024.

Likely by then I will have a solution to all Anglican ills, Christian theological puzzles of our day, along with a proposal to get NZ out of the economic mire.

Or not :)



Monday, December 18, 2023

NT Wright, Romans 8, important stuff from one of the greatest chapters in the Bible

Our frequent commenter here, BW, has alerted me to a fabulous podcast with Russell Moore asking questions N.T. Wright proposes answers to.

BW's own summary of the podcast is this: "Nearly all podcast interviews are expositions of ideas elsewhere published, but in the best ones artful questions also open a serendipity in which insights are presented and developed in a fresh way. On the high ground of Romans viii, Moore elicits Tom's best comments yet on-- how moralism promotes repression and misses the gospel, how penal substitutionary atonement fits the wider biblical narrative, how that narrative is an alternative to Enlightenment hubris, how the complementarity of genders grounds the ordination of women, and how the resurrection warrants faith today. "

The podcast is entitled: N.T. Wright on the Bible's Most Miunderstood Verse

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Our new masters in Wellington? On the use of Te Reo

I don't often publish sermons I have written but this week the beginning is apt for some of what is changing with our new political masters in Wellington. To be clear: I think we needed a change of government, I am not opposed to all changes in the wings. Yet not all changes a change government brings in are to be accepted without comment. The occasion for the sermon was the installation of a new canon for our Cathedral.

Installation Cameron Pickering, Sunday 10 December 2023

Readings: Isaiah 40:1-11; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8

Ko te tīmatanga o te rongopai o Īhu Karaiti, o te Tama a Te Atua

The good news of Jesus Christ is spoken or written in a language.

John the Baptist and Jesus spoke their messages in Aramaic, a language not dissimilar to the Hebrew language of Isaiah.

Such prophets spoke so they would be understood by their hearers.

Mark wrote his gospel in Greek. Peter wrote his epistle in Greek. That was the universal language of the Mediterranean world (incidentally, Greek it was, rather than Latin, even though this was the territory of the Roman Empire).

Not so many people today understand Greek or Latin, so we do not have our lessons read from versions of the Bible in those languages. We like the Bible in our own familiar language.

For many of us that is English. Like Greek, it is something of a universal language. But it is not the familiar language of all peoples.

So we understand that the process of communicating te rongopai, the good news, goes from Aramaic to Greek to English to ... Chinese ... Spanish ... Māori – Te Reo of the indigenous people of NZ.

Te Reo is not just a familiar language to many Kiwis. It is an official language of our country. But we are slowly, very slowly waking up to the possibility of being a bilingual nation.

Certain moves lately imply a diminution of the importance of Te Reo. We can protest these changes creatively by ourselves using Te Reo (or permitting its use) as much as possible.

The best way to defy our masters in Wellington is to do what even they cannot forbid, speak Te Reo!

The Good News – Te Rongopai – is an announcement of the kingdom of God – te rangatiratanga o te Atua – that God is directly engaged in our world, reconciling people to himself, putting wrongs to right, working for justice between and among people, and healing diseases and brokenhearts.

That is a summary of the vision of a restored Israel which Isaiah begins to announce with the passage we heard this morning – a vision which through Īhu Karaiti escalates to a vision for a restored world.

The kingdom of God – te rangatiratanga o te Atua – has begun, its fulfilment is not yet complete – our epistle tells us both to wait for that fulfilment patiently and not to be complacent about our role in bringing it to fulfilment: in verse 12,

“waiting for and hastening the coming day of the Lord.”

December is a season of busy preparation for Christmas and that makes the church season of Advent a fraught time for carving out time to reflect on the first coming of Christ to begin the kingdom of God and on the second coming of the Kingdom to complete the kingdom of God.

But this morning we have a few minutes to do some reflection and on the occasion of installing Cameron Pickering as a clerical canon of this cathedral, we might focus that reflection on the role of the cathedral in hastening the kingdom of God.

Canons are members of Chapter, the governing body of the Cathedral, brought together to support the Dean in his leadership of the faith community associated with the Cathedral.

The governance of the Cathedral should ask and keep asking, what role can the Cathedral play in the kingdom of God growing in the world?

In reality, we get weighed down by mundane matters of finance (not enough!), compliance (too much!) and so forth. Cameron, help us not to be distracted from our primary purpose!

To be at the forefront of hastening the kingdom of God, the Dean, Chapter, the Regulars, the Volunteers, the staff, all visitors and myself – we - should keep asking, how can this Cathedral speak Good News – Te Rongopai – to the world – to the city and to Canterbury?

What language do we need to speak that Good News in? Yes, in English, in Te Reo, in Chinese and so on.

To speak the Good News in English or Te Reo or Chinese or any other language is simply a starting point in engagement with the language of the culture of the people of the world whom God loves.

How will we speak the Good News into the culture of our day, in ways, in forms of communication which this generation will receive and engage with?

That is a challenge because Cathedrals have become guardians of traditions of the church as well as places of intrigue and sacred mystery to which visitors come and to which seekers of God are drawn.

The culture of our day represents the traditions of past times evolved and adapted to present day norms and expectations which themselves will change as tomorrow comes.

To be a guardian of tradition and an adaptor to an ever changing world is a huge challenge, but ...

Cathedrals need to discern the cultural moment if the Good News is to be proclaimed in a manner which wins a hearing, leads to changed lives and to a changed world.

One of the strengths Cameron will bring to the role of Clerical Canon is an ability to discern the cultural moment.

Cameron, help Dean Ben and all of us with the primary Christian task of proclaiming the Good News in ways which mean we herald and hasten Te rangatiratanga o Te Atua. 

Monday, December 4, 2023

What is being Christian "all about"?

A profitable blogging voice across the Ditch is "The Other Cheek", run by John Sandeman, but with a regular contributor under the nom de plume, Obadiah Slope. A recent Slope post includes the following which I cite in full because, as you will read, Slope is citing someone else who cites someone else! 

My reflection further down builds on the insights of Saint Maximus, but with gratitude for Obadiah Slope drawing my attention to the passage via material from a Catholic writer, Anthony Marco, to whom I am also grateful, for his summation of Maximus' thinking abut deification and the human will ...


God’s will and my will: Does being a Christian obliterate my will in favour of God’s will? A voice from the ancient church might help.As a writer in the Notre Dame Journal, Catholic Academic Anthony Marco outlines, it is a topic that fascinated Maximus the Confessor. (Obadiah takes it as practical commentary on Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved meand gave himself for me.”)

But let the saint speak [via the introductory paragraphs to Marco's article]:

“Saint Maximus the Confessor offers a curious reassurance to the reader of his Ambigua to John. In his description, deification, the “state [when] nothing will appear apart from God,” is the eschatological unity we hope for in Christ. The Confessor addresses the reader directly: “Let not these words disturb you, for I am not implying the destruction of our power of self-determination (αὐτεξουσίου).”[1] Maximus holds in tension obedience and freedom—of conforming our lives to Christ and retaining our own identity.

“The Confessor’s thought addresses an underlying problem that vexes our secularized age: the disconnect between faith and life in the world. Two themes are central to this issue: freedom and meaning. First, how does human freedom interact with God’s will? Second, does human creativity and meaning-making add to God’s plan for creation or are these faculties mere temptations that cause us to stray from the divine will?

“Maximus’ answer can be found in Christ, the Logos, who wills to unite all things in his one person. On account of this union, the Confessor extends what we say about Christ in the hypostatic union to the Christian who is joined to Christ. He masterfully unites human self-determination with the divine in Christ and in the life of every Christian by participation. Maximus envisions the relationship between God and humanity drawn from the hypostatic union as an endless exchange of loving communion without assimilation or separation. By a close analysis of this dynamic, we will see that human freedom is not simply tolerated as a permissible reality but is a willed part of this ongoing exchange of love.”


My thoughts

Through this year Galatians 2:20 has been a central verse in my thinking:

I have been crucified with Christ. I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I now live, I live by faith which is in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.

I am delighted to see that Obadiah Slope connects this verse with Marco/Maximus' thinking. At the very least I have been enlightened!

In Paul's verse there is an interesting tension between "I no longer live but Christ lives in me" and "The life I now live, I live by faith ...". As a Christian, have I lost control of my life, Christ having taken it over, or, have I a new orientation in life so that I keep trusting in Christ? (Or, both?).

Marco sees Maximus response as: "Maximus holds in tension obedience and freedom—of conforming our lives to Christ and retaining our own identity."

But the great point made here - the point which directs us to think about all that God is doing in the world, the church, your life and my life is this:

"Maximus envisions the relationship between God and humanity drawn from the hypostatic union as an endless exchange of loving communion without assimilation or separation."

Is what I do in the church (which, to be honest, often looks like "an endless exchange of emails") and in the world, my fitful attempt to love others, my often non-humble refusal to be loved by others aligned with God's great purpose, "the endless exchange of loving communion"?

That is what being a Christian is all about!

Monday, November 27, 2023

CS Lewis on Scripture (and other musings)

 Tim Chesterton, vicar in Edmonton, Canada, has written an excellent post on authority and inspiration of the Bible according to the words of CS Lewis.

I commend it to you (and of course it can be discussed at his site).

Other musings

The terribleness of war continues to destroy lives, notably in Ukraine and in Gaza/West Bank. I find myself able to pray for a lasting, just peace in the Middle East, and constantly refraining from commentary on Twitter/X - it is, to use an over-used but often accurate word, complicated. For instance, I am sure the Palestinian people need a better deal; but would a Palestinian state under Hamas rule be a good thing? It seems to me that such a state would be Iran 2.0.

Here in NZ we have a new government with a very tight policy agreement binding the three coalescing parties. Some of the policies to be enacted take us back to 2016 (i.e. before our previous Labour-led government), others (some pundist are saying) will take us back to 1986! Some policies will undo significant steps taken in recent years to level the social and economic playing field between Maori and Pakeha. Other policies may do that, but may, nevertheless yield better outcomes for Maori. There is a lot to consider. But I note that a lot of commentary seems to be "oh, no, the new Government is going to do THIS to us." Shouldn't the commentary be, "THIS is what we voted for, do we still want it, now that it is going to happen?" Governments respond to the people and are hired and fired by the people. Criticism of the new policies should be self-criticism of us, the people of NZ ... shouldn't it?

One policy is both terrifying and intriguing. That policy is not to proceed with some drastic restrictions on smoking of cigarettes in NZ, to have been enacted in a couple of years time. The terrifying bit is that the new Finance Minister sees some good in a higher tobacco tax take because more rather than fewer people will buy cigarettes. (I am not saying the FM wants people to smoke cigarettes; just that she has calculated benefits to the balance streer through predictable consumer habits).Whether or not we should legislatively restrict cigarette consumption, surely we all want no one smoking cigarettes? 

Anyway, the intriguing thing - IMHO - is that the situation highlights this possibility: if citizens of our fair land non-violently resisted this policy, by voluntarily giving up smoking (or not starting smoking), then two things would happen:

- the tax take assumption would fail;

- the assumption that legislation is the only way to control desired social and economic outcomes would also fail.

On a much brighter note, we had a lovely ordination service on Saturday morning in our Transitional Cathedral, for three new deacons (Jo Cotton, Sammy Mould, Matt Maslin) and a new priest (Andrew Butcher).

Sunday, November 19, 2023

NZ Faith and Spirituality update: impact of immigration

This likely will be one of several (though not necessarily serial) posts reflecting on some interesting data which has recently been shared around church leader gatherings in Aotearoa NZ - thanks to the work of the Wilberforce Foundation which has recently conducted a "church life" survey and a national study of 1,009 people who live in our country, "representative by age, gender and location." (Available in, Faith and Belief: Te Patapatai Whakapono: Exploring the Spiritual Landscape in Aotearoa New Zealand (November, 2023).)

Today's point of interest (to me, at least) is one set of data Wilberforce has produced, published in a booklet, Insights from the 2023 Church Life Survey New Zealand: The perspective, character and values of church attendees across Aotearoa New Zealand.

On page 07 is a chart, Percent of attendees born overseas by denomination. A bunch of denominations range from 21%-28% (Anglican, Baptist, CCCNZ, Confessing Anglicans, Methodist, Presbyterian, Salvation Army, Uniting). Independent churches are at 37% and Wesleyan Methodist at 39%.

Guess which church comes in at a whopping 59% overseas born? The Roman Catholic church!

40% of all participants in the survey were born overseas. Auckland churches have 60% attendees born overseas, other cities are around 29% with 23% in the South Island outside of Christchurch and 24% in the North Island outside of Auckland and Wellington.

There is a bit to think about, isn't there?!

Thought 1: Gospel work is hard work among NZ born Kiwis. Is the good life here so good that we do not feel the need for good news from God?

Thought 2: The future growth of the church, the future of the general resilience of the church here is hugely dependent (from today's perspective) on immigrants. Many people here debate the good and the bad of immigration. Perhaps the church should more clearly side with the good!

Thought 3: I am thrilled for the Roman Catholic churches in our land that many congregations are boosted in numbers and in general congregational life by such a large participative presence of overseas born members.

Two quite Anglican oriented thoughts:

Thought 4: Perhaps our Government would recruit more Anglicans from countries with larger Anglican churches than is the case in the countries from whom many migrants currently come.

Thought 5: We are a long way from the make up of our clergy reflecting the make up of the "new" New Zealand population. Change in the right direction is taking place. Could it be faster? How?

As William, a commenter here often says, Demography is destiny!

Monday, November 13, 2023

Evangelical Supremacists?

Ian Paul has posted on the question "What is an 'inclusive evangelical'?" 

When I first looked at the post a few days ago, there were 136 comments. Tonight as I write there are 289.

Behind the question is the now quite complex story of where the Church of England is going, or not going, in respect of blessings (or not blessings, because "only" prayers) for same-sex partnerships, as their bishops (who meet in two differently formulated groups) make a move or three, and their General Synod will, or will not make a decision according to this, or may be that canon, or may be not because the bishops have the power to do ... something which is not completely clear yet. Within that complex story, 600 Inclusive Evangelicals wrote a letter, provoked, it seems, by the Church of England Evangelical Council speaking out ... for evangelicals (some, most, all, not the inclusives ...???).

OK. I am having a bit of fun here but, seriously, it is a complex story and clearly many English Anglicans are frustrated whether because change is not happening fast enough and what change is in the air is insufficient or because any change is being mooted - the matter at hand being an unchangeable doctrine.

With respect to the latter frustration, Lee Gatiss, Church Society, is uncompromising re error, errants being disciplined and ++Justin resigning as he reports on a recent meeting of conservatives with the ABC. (For a contrasting meeting, progressives with the ABC, held on the same day see Colin Coward's report here).

Well, let's not discuss, again, That Topic, but a few thoughts about evangelicalism may be in order. (Please discuss Ian's own thoughts at his site.)

One (I think many evangelicals would agree) is that "evangelical" or "evangelicalism" is tricky to define in a widely agreeable manner. From that perspective an extra adjective such as "inclusive" (or "conservative" or "open" etc) may be useful.

In some Anglican conversations I think we could be forgiven for thinking that "evangelical" means "I don't wish to be identified as anglo-catholic, nor as liberal/progressive on certain issues, though I might be liberal/progressive on how I view adaptations to the agreed liturgies of the church, and the songs I really like are never sung at diocesan occasions because some aspects of their theology are vigorously disputed."

In other conversations, of course, "evangelical" ticks more positive boxes: for the Bible being read, studied and preached; for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; for the enduring value of the insights of Luther and Calvin, expressed Anglicanly in the 39A and the BCP and represented in modern Anglican liturgies where such liturgies clearly stand with the BCP and not differentiated from it.

One thought (picking up from Ian's post, but expressed in my own words) is that evangelicals' sharpest edge in distinction from other Anglican groupings is a commitment to "the supremacy of Scripture." 

I have subscribed to this kind of proposition through much of my life (e.g. as part of the doctrinal basis of the Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship here in NZ). But I think it problematic without some extra words around.

In favour of it is that when many things compete for our attention as Christians - fads and fashions, local traditions and the global Tradition of the Christian faith, theologians and their theologies, interpreters and their interpretations, we must test everything through reading and studying Scripture. Scripture is supreme as the written Word of God before which and by which ideas and thoughts, theories and proposals must be tested. No other book - not a prayer book, not a compendium of Barth/Calvin/Piper/etc, not a catechism - has that supremacy.

But there is a shortfall in the conception of "the supremacy of Scripture": Scripture alone cannot determine which part of Scripture is more important than another part, nor how to understand one part when another part appears to be in contradiction of it, nor what we are to do when Scripture (at least as previously understood) is contradicted by new understandings of the world (the classic example being our understanding of Genesis 1 and 2 in the light of understandings of the creation of the world and of life within it which are not the same as what we thought Genesis 1 and 2 were telling us).

The supremacy of Scripture is a limited supremacy (we might say). Scripture can both settle debates in the church and it can be the catalyst of debates. Luther invoked Scripture as supreme over the errors he detected in medieval Catholicism. But Luther+Scripture couldn't settle debates that a new freedom to engage with Scripture engendered (e.g. debates over the meaning of the eucharist).

One of my questions (from within my experience of evangelicalism) is whether evangelicals have really been honest with ourselves about the limitations of the concept of "the supremacy of Scripture"? Haven't we always found we needed - like Catholics! - a magisterium, a teacher or set of teachers whose interpretations of Scripture settled debates for us? Back in a certain day, many of us (especially evangelical Anglicans/Anglican evangelicals) looked to John Stott; or may be to John Stott, Michael Green, Dick Lucas and various contemporaries of theirs who wrote IVP commentaries and other books published by IVP. Scripture was supreme for us but if a tricky question came up, we looked up an IVP book, starting with those authored by John Stott!

Is it time to find another phrase than "the supremacy of Scripture" as part of accurate description of one evangelical distinctive?

Monday, November 6, 2023

Anglican Communion Ties

I have said to my Diocese that I will write a full report on my recent trip to the Diocese of Western Tanganyika. For readers within Christchurch Diocese, this post could be read as a first draft of that report.


Prompted by David Close, a former NZCMS missionary in the Diocese of Western Tanganyika (DWT), the current Bishop of that Diocese, Bishop Emmanuel Bwatta and I met at the Lambeth Conference in 2022. +Emmanuel kindly followed up that meeting with an invitation to me to visit his Diocese, with the proposal that I would share in confirmations, and in opening various buildings.

Wonderfully, through the kindness of friends, Teresa was able to travel with me and share in the experience of engaging with this part of Anglicanism in Africa. We left Christchurch on Tuesday 26 September and returned on Wednesday 11 October 2023. We arrived in DWT on Friday 29 September and left on Monday 9 October.

During those days we participated in nine confirmation services (me preaching at seven of the nine), one church opening service, visits to five other parishes, a visit to St. Andrew's School, Kasulu and an associated unveiling of a foundation stone at the new greenfields site for the school, visits to five churches each of which is being rebuilt as a larger church, and a visit to an orphanage. Along the way there were unveilings of foundation stones for two new vicarages and a church office. Teresa's count of the number of people I confirmed is 445 - nearly 900 confirmations between us two bishops. Most of the visits above involved travelling around the Diocese, a few were in Kasulu itself, the second largest city in the Diocese and the place where the Cathedral and Diocesan headquarters are located.

If that sounds busy - it was - nevertheless it was not burdensome - we never cooked a meal while in Tanzania, all travel within DWT was courtesy of the Bishop's Landcruiser and George, his full-time driver, and we had a spacious unit in which to stay when we were in Kasulu (7 out of 10 nights when we were in the Diocese).

To answer a question often asked since we came back: it was hot. Most days, the temperatures rose to between 30 and 35 degrees Celsius, but a few days - when in the highlands of the Diocese, up towards Burundi - the temperatures were between 20 and 25 degrees. The heat was made bearable, especially during long services inside church buildings, by sipping water frequently - courtesy of readily available bottled water.


The strongest, most overwhelming and moving impression made on me during this visit was the growth of the churches in DWT. Services filled with people, especially young adults, teenagers, children and babies combined with seeing new, larger churches completed, nearly completed, or underway.

The contrast was clear with (say) my own Diocese of Christchurch which itself - as one reads and hears reports - is illustrative of most Western Anglicanism - some growth, somedecline, increasing average age of regular worshippers.

Church growth is possible in the 21st century - I have seen it with my own eyes!

Yet, even in the midst of this growth, it was intriguing to hear some similar concerns to ones here in Christchurch: where are the men? (It was quite observable that women were the majority of each congregation. And this is so, despite the clergy of DWT being exclusively male, and the membership of vestries being strongly, though not exclusively, male.) 

How do we hold our young people as they move into adulthood - out of education and into the wider world? Both questions are our questions here in Christchurch.

The concrete expression of munerical congregational growth in DWT was seeing the number of buildings being enlarged or replaced with larger churches or having been replaced with larger churches within the past decade. I was told that  age-old questions concerning "buildings" versus "people" are discussed in this diocese, but it seems that "buildings" prevail. Apart from the obvious advantage that buildings confer on a congregation (a dedicated space to meet in, a space protected from the elements in which to gather), it struck me that church buildings - often the largest buildings in villages also stand as a testimony to the living God. Note, incidentally, that often in villages there were three large church buildings: Anglican, Catholic, Pentecostal.

Large recent church beside smaller former church

Seeing church growth in a diocese such as DWT made a great impression, not only about growth in people at worship, in size of church buildings and in new church plants, but also in the self-confidence of the African church. Our experience was of an Anglican church which has the confidence of knowing it is growing, it is contributing to community cohesion, and it is controller of its own destiny. Projects such as church builds and a new school being built no doubt benefit through support from outside of Tanzania, but at no point were appeals made to us for assistance nor was there talk about any regular supply of such external support. The sense we had was that this diocese is full of generous givers committed to development for a better future.

But the impression of self-confidence was also of a church which despite its origins in British/European/Australasian missionary work, had moved a long way on from dependency on a far off mother church. This was a post-colonial church developing its own style, character and engagement with Tanzanian society and culture.


The cultural situations of Tanzania and New Zealand are very different in many ways, though we share a love of smartphones! From a church and gospel perspective I have come away from Tanzania with the realization that churches engage with the cultural hand they are dealt with, and no church is necessarily better at that engagement than another.

In my understanding the cultural hand dealt to the Anglican church in Tanzania - or, at least, in the Diocese of Western Tanganyika - is one in which natural population growth offers opportunity for churches to naturally grow as children are brought up in the faith. (On population growth generally in Africa, see this NYT article).

Further, compared to the material, social, sporting and outdoor opportunities available in a country such as NZ (i.e. plenty of things to do at the weekend rather than participate in church), it struck me that there were few attractive alternatives in Tanzania to being involved in church. (Arguably, this situation, broadly speaking, has similarities with NZ in the 1950s: a "baby boom", few alternative activities to church on Sunday mornings, churches at the centre of community activities including church-based sports teams, churches being built as housing expanded in new suburbs in our cities).

Thirdly, my sense out of various conversations, is that in Tanzania, the general cultural attitude to faith (Christian or Islam) is that this is a good and normal thing. (Compare to NZ culture where actual Christian commitment demonstrated by regular church involvement is often seen as a weird and strange thing.) That is, the cultural hand dealt to the Anglican church, indeed all churches in Tanzania, is a pretty good hand to be dealt with when aspiring to lead churches into growth.

Put in another way, here in Aotearoa New Zealand, we are working hard to be church and to share the gospel of Christ in a challenging cultural milieu, with many things against that work - a hardened post-Christian indifference to the gospel, alternative activities in life, lives which through good health and material benefits mostly have no urgency about engaging with spiritual realities. We may be tempted to despair when we work so hard for the Lord, but we can and should rejoice: we are doing the Lord's work in this particular time and place and culture. Meanwhile, in Tanzania, church workers also work hard and they are doing the Lord's work in their particular time and place and culture and we rejoice with them in the growth which is taking place.


An image in my mind is that if culture is the sea and the church is a surfer with a surfboard then the wave of Western culture has crashed down on the Western church. As a result we are discombobulated, disrupted and distracted as we ask the question how can we get back on our surfboard and find again a wave to ride triumphantly.

By contrast, on this imagery, the Anglican church and other churches in Tanzania are riding the crest of a wonderful wave. May it never crash down on them!


I am very grateful for the support of the Church Property Trustees/Diocese of Christchurch in covering the expense of my return air tickets and other associated expenses of the trip. Air travel is not cheap these days - even when travelling economy - and the final thoughts here are my thoughts on the benefits of the visit to DWT for my ministry as Bishop in the Diocese of Christchurch.

In no particular order of priority:

- A general increase in breadth of experience and understanding of the role of bishop (I have not previously spent 11 days in the company of just one bishop!).

- A specific gain in understanding of African Anglicanism through a Tanzanian lens. African Anglicanism is both the majority Anglicanism in the globe today and the fastest growing part of global Anglicanism.

- I appreciated seeing with my own eyes the roles (i) culture and (ii) natural population growth are playing in the growth of Anglicanism in this part of the world.

- A particular insight into the role the Gafcon movement is playing in African Anglicanism: I learned that while GAFCON the conferene is appreciated, Gafcon the movement telling people whom they may or may not associate with in the Anglican Communion is not appreciated by all African Anglicans!

- In my own ministry, as a result of the visit I would like to review (or immediately change) the following aspects of ministry:

1. Joint visiting of ministers/parishes with the local Archdeacon.

2. Require specific ministry work to be undertaken in a parish by a person seeking ministry discernment. (For clarification: most people seeking discernment in our Diocese are working well on specific ministry tasks. )

3. Review how we give our monetary offerings during church services. (Without implying any specific change, I was taken by the active manner of giving in services in DWT, whereby each individual, including children, walked forward to place their offering in a collection basket/bowl.)

Finally, there is plenty to think about in respect of developing a relationship with DWT and/or another Tanzanian diocese, projects re education and parish ministry that might be supported, and an appropriate way or ways in which we might receive ministry here from DWT and/or another diocese.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Reset progress

During and since the Lambeth Conference 2022 there has been talk of a "reset" for the Anglican Communion, with a specific initiative coming from the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches - a group with overlaps to Gafcon but not exactly contiguous with it.

Recently "Anglican Orthodox Leaders" met in Cairo, Egypt had produced a statement which included these paragraphs on reset progress:


9. To press on in resetting theCommunion according to its biblical & historical roots: 

a)    The Anglican world has changed so dramatically in the last century. In 1900, about 80% of the Communion lived in England. Today, about 75%of Anglicans are estimated to live in Global South countries. The demographics have changed, and sadly in our day the theology of many bishops in the Church of England has also changed towards revisionism. We need new wineskins for a new reality.

b)   On the 9th of October 2023, the Church of England House of Bishops signalled their intent to commend prayers of blessing for same sex couples. Despite all that is happening, we as orthodox leaders are very encouraged to see orthodox groupings within the Church of England beginning to collectively stand against this revisionism in their Church. We applaud the 12 bishops in the Church of England who have indicated that they are unable to support the decision by their House of Bishops, and we will uphold them in our prayers. We will stand with orthodox Anglicans in England both now and going forward.

c)    We lament with tears all that has happened to the historic ‘mother church’ of the communion, and continue to pray for her restoration. At the same time, orthodox Anglican churches and entities will press on with the work God has given us to do as he renews the fallen creation through the finished work of Jesus Christ our Lord. 

d)   In relation to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other instruments of communion, we affirm the Ash Wednesday Statement and the Kigali Statement.

10. As orthodox Primates, we reaffirm our adherence to Lambeth Resolution 1.10 of 1998 in full, both in moral teaching and pastoral care. We recognise this resolution as the official teaching of the Anglican Communion on marriage and sexuality and urge that renewed steps be taken to encourage all provinces to abide by this doctrine in the faith, order, and practice.

There is no doubt that a demographic shift in the Anglican Communion has taken place and that the shift to the vast majority of the Communion being African and Asian rather than British/Irish, North American and Australasian will continue through this and the next century.

Population growth in Africa is immense (see, for instance, this NYT article) and church decline in numbers in "white" Communion provinces is salutary.

Just where the Communion goes between a natural reset (the people who make up the Communion), a structural reset (provincial leaders proposing this and that as a new way forward for the structure of the Communion to match the people of the Communion), and our actual historical setting (the role of the See of Canterbury) is both a matter for debate (what do we want to do? who do we want to be as Anglican Christians?) and for speculation (where will we end up? Will there ever be another well attended Lambeth Conference?).

My own wish is that there was less emphasis placed on (say) what the Church of England is doing within its own house, and more emphasis on exploring what being Anglican means in the differing contexts of each Anglican province, with an empathetic openness to understanding those differing contexts.

There are reasons why the CofE is in its particular situation AND why the Anglican church in Egypt is not in that situation - and they are not solely theological reasons!

Friday, October 27, 2023

Disruptive Gospel

A couple of weeks ago we had a lovely and well-attended "Leading Your Church into Growth" conference, with UK presenters, Harry Steele and Rhiannon King. At the conclusion of the conference, during our closing eucharist, I preached a short sermon, the text of which is published here

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Anglican and Catholic Bishops' Statement on Gaza / Israel

Last week our House of Bishops met over three days in Wellington. On the third day we met with the NZ Catholic bishops. One outcome of that third day meeting, as we digested news of a deadly explosion at Al Ahli Arab Hospital (sometimes described as a Baptist hospital but in fact run by the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem for many years), was the following statement (reported here).

"War is once again destroying people’s lives in the Holy Land.  This new cycle of violence in this long conflict brings us new images of bloodied bodies and the anguished cries and faces of children, women and men – both Palestinian and Israeli.  We’re seeing homes destroyed, lives shattered and hope for peace strangled. 

The Anglican and Catholic Bishops of Aotearoa New Zealand, meeting together in Wellington this week, jointly express their horror at the latest acts of violence and join international voices in calling for an immediate ceasefire.


Anglican Archbishop Philip Richardson said: “Hospitals and civilian infrastructure are protected under International Humanitarian Law.  Such niceties of law did not protect the wounded in Al Ahli Anglican Hospital and the people who were seeking sanctuary and protection. There are no winners in war: so often, it is innocent people who are maimed and killed.”

The conflict between Israel and Palestine is a wound that has continued to fester. Various diplomatic efforts to find a solution have failed because of the unwillingness to honour international agreements. Violence will never be a solution.

Bishop Steve Lowe, President of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference said: “As Bishops, we endorse the work of those groups and institutions in Israel and Palestine who work for peace, justice, and reconciliation.  Such work recognises our common humanity. This is the path that we advocate for peace in the Holy Land.”

The bishops jointly ask: “Our government and diplomatic authorities to advocate for an immediate ceasefire and the opening and ongoing safeguarding of humanitarian corridors.

“In this very emotional time, we cannot let anger lead us into antisemitism or Islamophobia. Let us remember that there are innocent victims on both sides of the conflict. To our fellow interfaith religious leaders, we ask: let us unite in prayer and action for a lasting peace.

“To the people of Aotearoa New Zealand: we urge you to pray for peace and to support aid appeals for those impacted by this humanitarian crisis.”

In Psalm 130 we hear: ‘Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord; hear my voice. O let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleading.’

“May we too be attentive to those who call out to us from the depths of despair and destruction. May we commit ourselves to being instruments of peace,” the bishops concluded."

Our Anglican Missions Board is running an appeal for the hospital - details are here.

I continue to ask - at least myself - will Hamas repent of the evil deeds it committed on 7 October 2023 against Israeli citizens?

Monday, October 16, 2023

Postscript on Israel and Gaza

Surveying various things being said over the past few days, the following comes to mind:

1. Much as we all want Israel to stop its retribution against Hamas/Gaza (to save lives of innocent Palestinians), we may be missing the point of what Israel is now intending: to destroy Hamas as a terrorist group once and for all.

2. We may also be missing the point that Hamas itself could stop the intended invasion by (a) handing over unharmed the hostages they have taken, and (b) handing themselves over to Israel. (Obviously this is very unlikely to happen; but it is, in fact, a solution to the problem Gaza is facing).

3. When the Allies faced Hitler in WW2 and Japan in the Asia-Pacific theatre of that war, they had no alternative but to seek the destruction of the Nazis and the Japanese High Command. Only so could peace - genuine peace - be pursued. That destruction involved considerable military action - one thinks of the bombing of Dresden and of the two nuclear bombs. In hindsight we can and do argue whether such actions were excessive - could lesser destruction have achieved the same ends? But what we saw was succssful outcomes to relentless opposition to evil regimes. And, as we have seen since, the countries of Germany and Japan respectively have been at peace and have prospered. Should Israel in relation to Gaza be denied a similar opportunity to destroy an evil regime? (Again, in case this sound like support for war, I remind you that Israel is not the only agent here, so is Hamas.)

4. Hamas is an evil regime. Its pogrom against Jews and others just over a week ago has revealed their true murderous colours: they will not rest until every Jew in Israel is either killed or expelled to a far off country. They are not a regime that can be negotiated with.

5. I can now never hear the cry, 'From the River to the Sea" as some kind of sanguine wish for Palestine to enjoy greater freedom. It is a cry of destruction against not only the State of Israel but also against Israeli Jews. 

6. Nevertheless, inside Gaza is an Anglican hospital seeking to do good for all needing help. Please consider making a response to their plight, as noted here.

Friday, October 13, 2023

What is to be done? Israel - Palestine in October 2023

There is any amount of comment in mainstream and social media about the Iranian-supported, Hamas-led terrorist murder, rape and desecration of Israel civilians a few days ago, including women and children.

I have been sick to the stomach reading about this evil.

Sometimes as a Christian I think there are too many words in the world, and in church, and more silence would be befitting. But this is not that occasion, Silence would mean consent for evil. We must speak out and up and say that evil has taken place, that is was not the result of pressure (no one is forced to behead a child or to brutalise a woman - such things are a choice to exercise power in the worst possible way), that justification for such evil acts (as, unfortunately, many people are attempting to provide) is itself an evil, and that the Israeli government is justified in seeking once and for all to remove Hamas as government in Gaza.

Whether the Israeli government should use means such as starvation of power and water against all citizens of Gaza is a matter of debate, but that debate should include debate about (1) the role the people of Gaza themselves have in removing Hamas - a role they are unlikely to be able to play because Hamas terrorises its own people - which makes its own point about the impossibility of Hamas ever being a partner to peace in the Middle East; and about (2) Egypt’s largely unnoticed role in also blockading Gaza - which I understand at least in part to be because Hamas has killed Egyptian citizens in recent years - which underlines the point about the impossibility of Hamas ever being a partner to peace in the Middle East.

What is to be done?

I have no specific contribution to offer but many good words are available on the internet. One example only, these words by Israeli philosopher Yoah Harari, here.

So, a different question: what might we read in Scripture when faced with the presence of such evil in our world?

When so many of our readings of the New Testament, for example, emphasise the love of God, the importance of our love for neighbour and for one another and the contribution examples of love make to the well-being of communities, where do we turn when face with horrific evil?

My own thought has been to turn to the Revelation of John.

Stop reading now if you hope I am about to link the visions of John the seer to current events as though a specific point in an assume timetable revealed in Revelation has been reached.

Rather, Revelation is Scripture confronting immense and widespread suffering, painful torture and horrific death, as forces seen (Rome?) and unseen (demonic activity of principalities and powers?), as a stark acknowledgement that God’s mission of love is not a seamless robe of progress among humans till the point of human perfection of wellbeing-in-society is reached.

Against that mission of divine love there are evil forces intent on destroying the mission and forcing the world into allegiance with the powers of hatred and oppression. Whether Revelation discloses a periodic unleashing of such evil forces, or a status quo of God’s love-filled mission always being attacked, or a future but always imminent threat of one Herculean, final war against God is a matter for discussion and debate. But what is not debateable is that Revelation presses the case for Christians to face, courageously and honestly, even when painful to do so, as per the past few days, the raw reality of life: that evil exists and is not yet eradicated, and all calculations about progress and improvement in human society should take this into account.

I am back from Africa. In due course I will post some thoughts about my amazing visit there.

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!"