Monday, January 23, 2023

2023: what a year, and it's only 23 January!

The giddy breathlessness of events of this 2023 year has not ceased in the last seven days!

On the domestic, NZ front, our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern resigned on Thursday, and with a smooth internal election of Chris Hipkins to be the new Leader of the Labour Party and thus new Prime Minister, I think it is by the end of today that we will have a new Prime Minister.

I admire Jacinda immensely for a variety of reasons but none more so that that she has looked at her personal reality - she said her tank is empty - and made an appropriate decision as a leader. Great leaders know when it is time to go.

I don't have much admiration for all the harping critics of the last few days: not for the ones who have not wasted a nano second of social media time to tell us about all her (alleged) shortcomings and not for the ones who think she should have pressed on and not "given up" because it go a bit "hard." What is it about personal burnout which these critics do not want to empathise with? What is it about pushing "Pause" before rushing to judgment when a momentous decision has been made such as Jacinda has made?

I also admire the Labour Party for making the right decision in choosing Chris Hipkins as their next leader. Any party in such a situation needs to be listening to the nation as much as looking around their caucus room. Chris Hipkins, among other plausible candidates, stands out as someone the nation can warm to, listen to and appreciate. (That a political party might not achieve this simple feat in political wisdom was amply illustrated last year when the British Conservative Party chose Liz Truss to be its leader.)

The lovely thing about the decision re our new Prime Minister is, with an election looming later this year, we ministers of relgion who traditionally give no hints as to how we think people should vote could wear badges saying "Let's vote Chris for PM"! 

[Note for those not in NZ: the next Prime Minister will be the Leader of the Labour Party, Chris Hipkins, or the Leader of the National Party, Chris(topher) Luxon, whatever permutations our MMP voting system throws up.]

Meanwhile, in Anglicanland, the CofE House of Bishops has published its decision about the blessing (or, it appears, more strictly speaking "praying for") same sex partnerships/marriages (but no actual same sex marriages in CofE churches), to something of an uproar, at least on Anglican social media, with those who think there should be no change lambasting the decision and those who think the change should go further ... lambasting the decision. And there is more (e.g. weighing in against the ABC) but I won't detail it here - you may or may not want to follow links on the sidebar here, especially on Thinking Anglicans and Psephizo.

My commentary is both general and focused:

My general comment is that the decision is similar to (but not exactly the same as) the decision ACANZP made in 2018. The comfort in that observation is, I suggest, that in a divided church there are not too many options if the status quo is to change - if the seemingly interminable debates are to give way to a decision for some change and thus ACANZP did not head down an eccentric pathway in 2018. It will now be interesting to see where Australia goes on the matter.

My focused comment is on a common charge, from the right and the left, seen numerous times on social media in the past few daysm that the CofE HOB decision is "incoherent." (E.g. because it purports to not change the doctrine of marriage while offering some recognition of marriage which is not between a man and a woman.)

"Incoherent" sounds pretty terrible, doesn't it? But might we give "incoherent" a little bit of empathetic reflection?

Think about what marriage means as a "doctrine", per the past two thousand years: a man and a woman marry [diversity, two into one], for life [permanent], faithful to each other [no adultery], promising to love one another through thick and thin [covenanted love, companionship], and open to procreation [kind of basic to the continuation of the human race!]. That's coherent in the sense that most of us on the day we marry agree with it and intend to live it out, in the sense that it conforms to the story of creation and various aspects of marriage worked into that narrative, and in the sense that it conforms to the Law of Moses and to Jesus' renewal of that law according to the gospels.

Of course, marriage doesn't always work out according to such intentions: adultery occurs, relationships break down for reasons other than adultery, divorce takes place, a new marriage is sought, one spouse dies, a new marriage later in life may not plausibly be able to entertain the possibility of procreation occurring, and, even where there is openness to children being procreated there can be desire to limit the openness of each act of sexual intercourse to being procreative. The church has really struggled to offer a "coherent" account of what happens when marriages fall short or fail "intentions" for marriage according to the Bible. The most obvious incoherency is in the approach we take to divorce occurring and a new marriage being entered into: the universal church on earth does not have an agreed set of grounds for divorce to be accepted, let alone for a new marriage to be entered into with divine approval. Neither does the universal church have an agreed set of grounds for limiting the openness of the act of sexual intercourse to procreation occurring as a result.

Now, the point of suggesting "incoherency" on marriage already exists in the life of the church at large, to say nothing of individual denominations, is not to then determine that "incoherency" doesn't matter and that any old incoherency is fine. The point is, merely saying "incoherency" does not get us very far in assessing a decision to make change, such as the CofE HOB has done.

Might it be better to ask whether the decision made is a reasonable one?

Reasonable, that is, taking account of a variety of significant factors, the most obvious of which is assessing what the people of God within the CofE might live with?

Ultimately, of course, it will be for the people of God within the CofE to determine whether the decision made is liveable incoherency and reasonably liveable!

Then there is the question of how the Communion responds ...

Finally, thankfully, this past week has been an opportunity for me to attend two Christian funerals, to visit one of our parishes, Westland, which lives its mission out far from the well-resourced, well-populated centre of our Diocese and to participate in the induction of a new vicar. In each instance it has been uplifting to see and experience the the power of God's love working through his ministers, ordained and lay, and to have underlined the difference faith in Christ makes to life. The faithfulness of God's people, and the faithfulness of God towards his people, experienced through these past seven days, is at odds with some of the wilder claims made about the diminishment of the church because it decided X rather than Y or Z.


Father Ron said...

Dear Peter, as you may know, our former Bishop Victoria, some years ago, headed a Commission in the Anglican Church of Canada (St. Michael's Commission) to look into the basis of what constitutes a Christian marriage. Their finding did not outlaw the possibility of monogamously-related same-sex couples from entering into just such an arrangement in that Church. Accordingly, S/S Marriage has become a welcomed resource in both the Anglican Church in Canada as well as the Episcopal Church in North America (TEC).

That there was outrage about this movement by the leadership of some Anglican Provinces - especially in the Global South - has now been evidenced in the rise and rise of the Gafcon reactionary movement - initiated by conservative Church leadership of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, which has now spawned a Gafcon-related 'Confessional Anglican Church' in Australia under former Sydney Archbishop Glenn Davies.

It was Davies who, together with Tasmania's Anglican Bishop Condie, who visited New Zealand in an effort to forestall our Church's decision to allow for the Blessing of Sames-Sex couples legally married by the State - to no avail - prior to their assisting at the ordination in Christchurch of a former Christchurch priest as the bishop of a rival 'Confessional' Anglican Church in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

I am glad for the new initiative of the C. of E. bishops; but disturbed that the ABC has declared that "for the sake of unity within the A.C.C.", he feels constrained not to use the new Blessing provision, personally. Whether intended or not, this does seem to somewhat negate his assurance that the ABC is happy about the new provision. The Archbishop York, Stephen Cotterill stated that, conversely, he would be happy to preside at the Church Blessing of the legal Marriage of a same-sex couple! (We met this English bishop at the Wellington-based Anglo-Catholic Hui.)

However, I am pleased that this historic overturning of institutional homophobia has now been officially declared by Mother Church, and look forward to a better and more gracious treatment of the LGBTQI community in Anglican Churches throughout the world. If this means a parting of the ways from the isolationist Gafcon Provinces - based on our movement towards a more open and just treatment of LGBTQI people in our churches - then I think it might better serve the Anglican Communion's commitment to the Good News of the Gospel of OLJC to ALL people.

Father Ron said...

Dear Bishop Peter, it has just occurred to me that the situation in the Church of England, where the legal marriage of a Same-Sex Couple remains the responsibility of the State - consequent upon which legal formality, the Church is now offering a liturgy of Blessing on an already legally married couple. This is precisely what is now happening in our own Province of Aotearoa/New Zealand - where a couple married by the state is now eligible for a Church Blessing of their legal relationship. Plain but not simple!

However, this is no different from marriages performed in some European countries, which are, de facto, performed by the State; FOLLOWEED in some instances (at the couple's option) by a further ceremony in a Church which - however spiritual its function - is not necessary for the marriage to be legally recognised by the State. This is a reality in all countries where the Church is not toed to the State - as is the situation in the U.K.

Anonymous said...

"The faithfulness of God's people and the faithfulness of God toward his people..."



MsLiz said...

Further to Father Ron (11:02). My OH is from the UK and we were married there. We had wanted to be married in the same church where his parents were married and were living in the same locality. But parish boundaries had changed and we weren't quite within that area. We had to opt for a civil service and then have a marriage blessing in the church. I couldn't believe what a hassle the whole thing was!

Mark Murphy said...

Dear Ron,

I quite like the Cotteril/Welby double act on this one. I do accept the need for the Archbishop of Canterbury to position himself in the unity camp, as beyond the fray to some extent, but I really like how they're improvising this old, idiosyncratic two archbishop structure to also allow York to give a quite unencumbered, welcoming message.

Peter, you raise an important point: how come people find it difficult to empathize with burn out? I wonder if there's some envy here. In family systems centred around alcoholic parents, there's often three organizing principles in the background: Don't feel, don't trust, don't speak...

Mark Murphy said...

Hi Moya,

Be careful who you take as a patron saint!

The 'believing, becoming' quote from Pelagius needs a bit of context: it was a polemical statement, and a comment on the state of Roman Christians. When Pelagius started living in Rome, he was shocked by the moral conduct of local Christians.

Pelagius very carefully and fully defended orthodox belief numerous times, including in a statement to the Pope, after he was accused of heresy by Augustine.

Despite being cleared by the Pope, courts, and even church councils, Augustine wouldn't stop, kept hounding him with the backing of the African bishops, and eventually had him excommunicated (from the Church - and God!). So much for the preeminent Church Father and high peak of Western theology, but it really proved Pelagius's initial point. Of course, this is a very relevant contemporary issue (Christians who aggressively defend so called orthodox belief, and behave rather appalingly in the process).

Since then Pelagius has been mainly reconstructed on the basis of his opponents' writings against him, mainly Augustine, and turned into an ism for theology assignments: Why was Augustine right to condemn the heresy of Pelagianism? etc.

More recently he has been treated more sympathetically, mainly after we have had better access to his original words. Contemporary commentators also perceive his influence in the more positive approach to creation and life - God as the Life of the world, not just it's 'religious aspect' - that characterizes Celtic Christian prayer and spirituality.

Moya said...

Thanks for that link to Pelagius’ letter Mark. I do believe in free will in the way he describes so maybe I am less of an Augustinian than I thought. I also had experience over years of the grace of God at work in me to enable my surrender to him - eventually - and begin to find the freedom of choice not to sin, which the Gospel offers. And yes, I see Christians sometimes behaving in appalling ways so I can understand Pelagius’ concern and desire to deal with that. The letter of James is in my mind again!

Mark Murphy said...

Sorry, that lady one for Moya was meant for another thread!

Moya said...

It is on both so people can look at December 30 at the origins of the Augustine/Pelagius comments! Sorry +Peter

Mark Murphy said...

* last not lady

Anonymous said...

Mark and Moya, what are you really interested in when you are discussing Pelagius v Augustine? This does not sound quite like theological argument (cf Julian of Eclanum) or spirituality (cf John Cassian) or historical reconstruction (cf Peter Brown). Which is all fine and well, of course, but then what are you up to?


Moya said...

Re BW 3.02, none of them! I am widening my horizons through the 30/12 comments and Mark’s last one and it is happening, and does happen through reading ADU. Now I will keep quiet!

MsLiz said...

AP interview with Pope Francis (Tuesday) ...

Pope Francis criticized laws that criminalize homosexuality as “unjust,” saying God loves all his children just as they are and called on Catholic bishops who support the laws to welcome LGBTQ people into the church.

“Being homosexual isn’t a crime,” Francis said during an exclusive interview Tuesday with The Associated Press.

MsLiz said...

Meanwhile in NZ ..

Important / excellent article by Chris Finlayson in E-Tangata about how Co-governance should be embraced...

"Some people have been busy lately stirring up public alarm over the supposed threat posed by “co-governance”, seemingly unaware that we’re already doing it and without the sky having fallen on us.

Maybe they should be talking to Chris Finlayson about what he learned when he was the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations in a National government, from 2008 to 2017 — and why he sees nothing wrong with co-governance and sharing power with Māori."

Here's the article:

Mark Murphy said...

Great, thanks Liz. A really important issue.

My brother works in a co-governance project - an Environment Canterbury/Ngai Tahu project to restore the health of Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere. Nothing very radical about it, just a lot of hard work and collaborative partnering, each side brings some distinctive values that overlap and complement. Goes on all the time in NZ.

Peter, could we call Te Hahi Mihinare an example of co-governance?

Peter Carrell said...

Yes, we invented it! :)

More seriously: yes, the constitutional structure of our church since 1992 gives each of the three tikanga co-governance roles because each tikanga has the power to veto any proposal [similar, of course, to a different form of co-governance: between bishops, clergy and laity, whereby any of those houses can (by majority vote within that house) veto a proposal supported by the other two houses].

In the late 1990s (in particular) some Maori Anglicans were at the fore of discussions about "our model" becoming a model for parliamentary government of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Ultimately civic co-governance gives expression to the voice of Maori so it is well heard and not drowned out by Pakeha voices. Here in Chch I see signs of co-governance which works well and for the good of all.

Anonymous said...

Reifying New Zealanders of Maori and Maori-Pakeha descent (actually the great majority) as some kind of anarthrous collective called "Maori" is a strange and misleading procedure designed to give the impression that all individuals of such racial or ethnic descent think and believe alike. But this is nonsense.
There is no "voice of Maori", because different Maoris believe different things and nobody can claim to speak for all the members of a racial or ethnic sub-group. This idea has been explored and exploded by Michael Reddell of "Croaking Cassandra".
In reality it means that activists get themselves seats on government boards and try to carve up natural resources like water. Why should 15% of the population have powers of veto over 85%? The strong reaction against the "Three Waters" programme is a sign that people are getting fed up with political efforts to ensconce minority racial identities into the political economy. What will happen when NZers of Asian descent surpass "Maori" in numbers by the end of the 2020s? Will you want "tri-culturalism"? A divvying up of jobs and resources according to who your grandparents were?
It is dismaying to see the western world wandering into neo-tribalism, just as we are witnessing in California, with conflict between blacks and Latinos over political control of Los Angeles. Christians should be pointing to a post-racial future, not fostering "separate development" based on skin colour.

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Mark Murphy said...

Ah, William…

1. At some level we use the word Māori to acknowledge the commonality – cultural, linguistic, historical etc – amongst the indigenous peoples of Aotearoa and their descendants, just as we use “Irish” and “NZ European” to navigate similar broad ethnic ancestry . When it comes to the rubber meets the road of co-governance, it is the mana whenua in a local area that hold the local knowledge, expertise, and are sought out for consultative status. So in the case of my brother’s Whakaora Te Waihora project, it is so much more fine-grained, local, and particular than your framing of this as consulting with an “an anarthrous collective”. In this case, it would be ridiculous to enter co-governance with, say, Te Whānau-a-Apanaui or Moeraki whānau, or someone broad and monlithic called Māori. Whakaora Te Waihora works with Taumutu and Wairewa marae and hapu predominantly, as well as input from Koukourata, Rapaki, and Onuku as is needed, and from Te Runanaga o Ngai Tahu as is needed too. They are the ones with the historical, local, and current knowledge regarding, say, eel feeding patterns, lakeflow, and plant diversity, as well as being promised the full enjoyment of these local rights and powers (rangatiratanga, taonga) under Te Tiriti.
2. New Zealand is a country with indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples are not just another cultural group in the liberal democratic hall of minorities. Gross numeral analysis – Maori make up 5% or 25% or whatever of the country – and ahistorical, first-generation, liberal universal human rights discourse aren’t sophisticated enough to capture the reality of indigenous peoples, as is well recognized by bodies such as the UN now.
3. Regardless of international law and ethics, New Zealand is actually founded on a clear, particular, and thorough recognition of the rights of the indigenous peoples vis a vis the rights of non-indingeous peoples. What’s more, Evangelical Quakers and Anglicans were central to such a treaty being secured. Under the sign of “atonement”, Christians worked hard to ensure that the ethical momentum of anti-slavery became refocussed on other instances of colonial injustice and brutality.
4. Scare-mongering and slandering is an unfortunate way to engage with the issue of co-governance: in the co-governance projects we have mentioned here so far – Whakaora Te Waihora and the Anglican Church – there is no question of one group being held to ransom by another, of one group wielding its power in unjust and domineering ways, but rather of respectful, challenging, mutual collective action in terms of issues that are bigger than all of us.

MsLiz said...

"Why should 15% of the population have powers of veto over 85%?"

Couple of thoughts why I as a Pākehā NZer agree with co-governance:

In Aotearoa/New Zealand the Mǎori people are Tangata Whenua.. the ‘people of the land’ - and we have a Treaty Partnership.

Planning based on co-governance helps ensure proper and full consideration is given to past, present, and (long-term, multi-generational) future, and will achieve better buy-in from the whole community for decisions made. I'd also expect those decisions will be better thought out and solutions more robust.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Mark, if I wanted to look after the ecology of a lake, I would consult independent scientists with monitoring equipment, not people who happened to live nearby and sometimes fished in said lake - just as I would seek the help of a doctor if I was sick, not a tohunga. Africa is going through the same politically inspired nonsense and it isn't helping public health. Time to give up the Rousseauist romanticism and to embrace rational science. Despite my European origins, I will not sanctify Hippocratic medical theory or Ptolemaic astronomy
Nor does filling sentences with strings of Maori words (as if they had some mysterious untranslatable significance) make the weak political argument any stronger .
And when does one become "indigenous"? My nephews are 8th generation New Zealanders on their father's side. That sounds pretty indigenous to me!
Pax et bonum/peace and good,
William Greenhalgh

Mark Murphy said...

I don’t hear any talk of scientists complaining about the loss of western rationality and the triumph of dark age superstition in the Whakaora Te Waihora project, William – that’s a cartoon. On the whole, scientists are much more pragmatic, less ideologically driven, and really value and benefit from the sharing of diverse *field-knowledge*. Likewise mana whenua, who engage more with the experimental science regarding Lake Ellesmere that you or I most likely ever do!

Local farmers and land-owners (mainly Pakeha) are also heavily consulted and involved. It’s these sorts of projects that knit together a new New Zealand – one that moves beyond the western rationality vs indigenous nonsense duality you are peddling here, and into a new land of possibility and hope.

Actually, in the real world, there is so much work to be done, so much mystery to be respected and explored, so much interconnection to be awakened, we simply can’t move forward without each other.

MsLiz said...

"just as I would seek the help of a doctor if I was sick"

William, perhaps you should seek help. I'm weary of your antagonizing words in ADU threads, and your disrespectful attitude to Mǎori is extremely offensive to me.. the final straw.

Thanks very much to other ADU folk, especially Bishop Peter, and for BW's patience in prodding me along the path of learning. Haere ra!

Anonymous said...

Mark, some genuine questions:
How would a Maori scientist monitoring water pollution, fish stocks or fish diseases in a lake do his or her job any differently from a Canadian or Chinese scientist?
How does matauranga Maori help you to do biology, chemistry or physics? Or differential calculus?
Would you use the Bible to teach geology?
Would you agree that rationality and logic are God's gifts to all the human race?

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

Mark Murphy said...

Dear Liz,

Sorry to hear of your distress. Some of these conversations are really difficult!

Glad you can take a breather. I do hope you may return at some point. Thanks for your heart-ful presence and curiosity.

I'll be keeping in touch with your colour explorations!


Dear William and Bowman,

I will be back in touch to respond to your questions and interests....just having a few chunky clinical days, but I'll reply as soon as I can.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Liz
Thank you for participation here and you are always welcome back.

I am not comfortable with the tone or content of William's recent posts re bicultural/co-governance arrangements in our nation but I am loathe to be heavy-handed re refusal to print comments that are (in my, or in my other people's views) objectionable - principle of free speech and so forth.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear William
I have many years of experience in Anglican "co-governance" and note that even after those many years, Pakeha still manage to find ways to hold onto and certainly are never deprived of our advantages or assets.

With respect to the situation at large in our country, my questions are whether:
1. I/we will honour the Treaty of Waitangi [Yes]
2. The Treaty implies "co-governance" on a range of matters [Yes]
3. The years without co-governance have served Maori well (i.e. outcomes for Maori in our joint society are equitable with Pakeha) [No].

On the specific matter of the environment, I note that science and politics and economic aspirations are mixed together and thus the water under the plains of Canterbury has become gravely polluted in a manner unknown for those of us of a certain age who grew up believing we had access to the purest drinking water in the world. Co-governance of our water will lead to better quality water because cultural considerations, as well as historical knowledge of Maori will influence decision making along with measurements of water quality.

MsLiz said...

Dear Bishop Carrell

Thank you.

I wonder if the ADU moderation policy could be extended to include some form of control on language about race, perhaps ADU could discuss this?

E.g. the sentence: "Nor does filling sentences with strings of Maori words (as if they had some mysterious untranslatable significance) make the weak political argument any stronger."

I feel it's reasonable to object to this statement on the following grounds:

1) a lot of hard work's been done in NZ to uplift the use of te reo Māori and we need to support it.

2) Mǎori is one of only two official languages in NZ:

"English is the most common spoken language in Aotearoa New Zealand, while Māori and New Zealand Sign Language have special status under the law as official languages."

It would be very encouraging if we could safeguard respectful and factual discussion around issues that relate to our Treaty Partner.


Dear Mark, thank you!

Anonymous said...

Yes, Peter,

I do see some free speech interest in words that test ideas in current discussion. For present example, one could support or oppose co-governance on its merits.

But even after years of reflection that began at Fulcrum, I see none in other words that invoke and attack names that happen to be on the screen under a URL like ADU's. For example, characterising supporters or opponents of co-governance tells us nothing of value about the thing itself. The freedom of persons to be insulted for talking about things is not interesting.

Why is offense taken at such attacks? Ultimately, it is because a churchly blog is not a secular newspaper.

As all have seen, insulting "free expression" is more endured than tolerated on some commercial sites in the way that litter or defecation are tolerated in the shadows of unpatrolled streets. But on churchly blogs, comment threads tend to be the "free association" of persons with some faith in common, mutual respect, and a certain sense of responsibility. After the OPs atop the threads, it is the *network effect* of this free association that commenters and readers find attractive when it works and unpleasant when they are attacked.

As a believer, I myself view habitual attacks on the faith and churches of other persons as at best grave sin, at most likely embittered apostasy, or at the silliest trolling from a bot-farm. However that may be, the Roman Catholic Church for example also sees the evil in such remarks--

"Can. 1369. A person who in a public show or speech, in published writing, or in other uses of the instruments of social communication utters blasphemy, gravely injures good morals, expresses insults, or excites hatred or contempt against religion or the Church is to be punished with a just penalty."

In this, the Code of Canon Law merely echoes several admonitions of the apostles who themselves echo the Lord himself and the ancient Proverbs on sins of the tongue. Surely we cannot think that an expectation that believers in Christ will not be attacked for their faith in these threads is arbitrary.

If there can be tele-eucharist, how can there not be tele-excommunication too? While I am not fully convinced of either possibility, I have noticed down the years that almost no religious bloggers have had infinite patience for those who have chronically disrespected other commenters in their threads. In is in because for believers this is something more than sacred; out is out for reasons only the Father knows. We ring the church-bell with no responsibility for who comes in and who does not.

Meanwhile, surely the most common adage in the internet is: "Please do not feed the trolls." The Holy Spirit fills the hearts of all who truly believe with an habitual charity. Personally, I ignore commenters who have not earned attention by that sign of grace. This is not hard to do, and saves time for serious inquirers and those in Christ.


Moya said...

If my understanding of Māori culture is correct a Māori scientist working with a lake would be using not only reason and logic but also using his attachment to the lake, perhaps as a taonga, a treasure to be cared for, plus remembering the history and activities of his people who have lived by it. This means things like sustainability and conservation even if those words were not Māori terms. This is true of many indigenous cultures who live on the land whereas the European attitude seems to look mostly at productivity and profit without engaging the heart. The book ‘Land’ by Simon Winchester details the essential differences between these two views and is a telling indictment of the European settlements of the last few centuries.

Mark Murphy said...

Hi William,

"How would a Maori scientist monitoring water pollution, fish stocks or fish diseases in a lake do his or her job any differently from a Canadian or Chinese scientist?"

Not sure, I'm neither Maori nor a scientist.

"How does matauranga Maori help you to do biology, chemistry or physics? Or differential calculus?"

See above (I dropped maths and sciences as soon as possible in high school, opting for history, english, classics, art history, and religious studies, as sciences unduly interfered with my mystical apprehension of the world).

"Would you use the Bible to teach geology?"

Yes, by working out if Mt Sinai was igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic.

"Would you agree that rationality and logic are God's gifts to all the human race?"

Yes! But too much of them makes us sad :(


William, a few genuine questions of my own:

Did Maori enjoy gifts of rationality and logic prior to the arrival of Europeans? And if so, where do we find this in matauranga Maori?

What are some of the chief ways that matauranga Maori intersects with scientific knowledge?

How might matauranga Maori contribute to conservation values and practices today? To Christian theology in Aotearoa?

Are rationality, logic, and empirical science the only ways of generating true knowledge of God, the world, and each other?

Anonymous said...

Mark, only space for a brief comment here:
1. The Bible won't teach you anything about the geology of Mount Sinai.
2. You can't have 'too much' rationality and logic - these simply mean thinking according to truth, the best evidence we have and following correct inferences of reason (using true syllogisms, avoiding logical fallacies). Rationality is not the opposite of emotions but it does mean emotions ruled by facts and correct reasoning.
To answer your questions to me:
1. Of course pre-European Maori had God's gifts of rationality and logic and they used them as they could in their daily life, in sailing, fishing, building, wood and stone-carving, agriculture, hunting moas and seals, and in warfare. But remember, they were the descendants of peoples aboriginal to Taiwan, the proto-Polynesians who had been island-hopping for many centuries eastward across the Pacific, coming last of all to New Zealand c. AD 1300 - the last place on earth to be settled. But note these two things:
a. For nearly 500 years (barring 1642) the descendants of the Great Migration seemed to have lived in total isolation from the rest of the world. Some of them settle the Chatham Islands c. 1500 but nobody seems to have returned north. Why was this?
b. The Maori had basically the same material culture and belief system as their relatives to the north. But development was stymied by lack of literacy, metallurgy or the wheel - and absence of large domestic animals like the horse and cow in the mammal-free archipelago (excluding bats and seals, of course).
A civilisation can't advance in its knowledge without literacy, metals and wheels - or horses that facilitate movement from place to place.
The encounter between advanced technologies and 'primal' cultures has always been harmful to the latter (some worse than others, e.g. Australia). But cultures that westerners tried to colonise with their military and commercial might which already possessed their own literacy, metallurgy and wheel-based technology (viz. the Middle East, India, China) were able to resist western colonisation. These lands were anciently profound literary and mathematically-based cultures.
2. You asked: 'How does matauranga Maori intersect with scientific knowledge?' I can't see how it does. It's interesting from a cultural anthropology point of view but what does it add to chemistry, biology or physics? Do you think Maero is in the forests of the South Island? Or Turehu?
3. You asked: 'How might matauranga Maori contribute to conservation values and practices today?' I don't know - there may be some good traditional practices out there, but we mustn't romanticise the past, esp. one that comes to us from an uncertain oral tradition. I have read things which are rather critical of pre-European Maori land use in the South Island, asserting it was chiefly slash-and-burn agriculture, and the extinction of the moa wasn't good conservation practice.
We must avoid "ideal" notions of cultures. Dynamic cultures are typically changing and absorbing ideas and practices from outside ("appropriation"!) but cultures can stagnate as well, through isolation.
4. Rationality, logic and empirical science are indeed "the only ways of generating true knowledge of God, the world, and each other" - because that's the way God made us: rational (logikoi) beings who investigate the world made by the Logos who speaks to us in words (logoi).

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Mark Murphy said...

Oh William, this would make me very sad indeed.

Whither dreams, poetry, love and art?

Mark Murphy said...

"Is the ground underneath the Vatican shifting?"

Mark Murphy said...

William, this is a bit too greek for me - Christ as Pantocrator with stern eyes holding the book of reason.

(As I write this I brace for correction from Brother Bowman).

Your Word is the Logos, yes - the centre of all ordering cosmic energy; intellectual illumination, the Father of Lights?

But that apprehension is a bit too chaste for me. Looking at his world, God seems more fecund and in love with sex.

The Spirit blows where she wills, often tipping our scriptorium ink out across this carefully marked vellum.

God bless reason for tidying things up, and Reason for holding us all together. But, like vegetables in winter, we can't get warm by eating reason alone.

"The actions of the Lord are strange and wonderful, as they always were, and as the scriptures bear witness." (George Fox).

Moya said...

Where does the story Jesus told of the Prodigal Son fit, if the only “true knowledge of God” is through reason and logic?

Mark Murphy said...

Hi Liz,

I wonder if you are in the role of conscience of the group? Groups, even online ones, form interesting, unconscious dynamics. Often these get revealed in rupture moments of big feeling and conflict. (I guess William and I sometimes play the role of group provocateur at at times).

Some of William's views here re. Maori are very distressing, especially if we take them seriously against the background of the large-scale injustice and suffering that has occurred in our colonial past (and present). Charitably, we assume that William isn't full aware of this, or aware but in a rather distant mode.

I remember attending a psychotherapy hui where a prominent, very intelligent Maori therapist and educator spoke of the 'ocean of tears' within herself and her people.

Williams's words regarding Te Reo Maori (which you re-quoted) and matauranga Maori are clearly devaluing and derogatory in terms of deeply cherished, prized treasures (taonga). It might be akin to someone throwing the communion wafers into the cup of wine and splashing it round the sanctuary (for Catholics).

The view that Maori are basically a backward culture that haven't advanced because they didn't have (or particularly need) access to certain material goods and technology etc etc is an old form of devaluing. Charitably, we could call it Euro-centrism, but we know that this knowledge gets used by dominant cultural groups to legitimize the stripping of land, home, and cultural treasures, and to perpetuate the oppression and depression that follows. So racism and colonization are better words.

So what do we do with this on ADU? That's a real dilemma. Bowman's given us a typically dense and rewarding meditation, which many of us will keep unpacking and return to. Peter's summarized his personal and Anglican (via media) dilemma. If I were Maori I'd probably want it banned.

It would be good to hear from - and know - if we have any Maori readers out there and how they feel!

I come from a family that tended to hush negative things up, so I prefer out in the open and not banned, but sometimes that is not wise and safe for everyone else too.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Mark - it's better to play the ball and not the man, to deal with a person's expressed arguments rather than to speculate in public about "motives" or mental states. But for the record, let me state this:
1. There is a strong streak of the linguist in me (learning and teaching languages ancient and new) and I often think about the evolution of languages and the death of many of them in the modern world. One of my great-grandfathers spoke Gaelic. Why does no one speak Gaelic today? I also know that every child in the Republic of Ireland has 11 years of compulsory Irish in school but very few achieve much competence. As a onetime language teacher this is disturbing to me. (Think of Brian Friel's play 'Translations'.) I know that the majority of languages in the world today are destined to die in the next 70 years or so. Cultural anthropologists may regret this but the reason is simple. Languages live to the degree that they are useful for everyday living. And the same with second languages. If a Chinese or Korean wishes to do business with a Bolivian, they will do so - in English. We cannot keep culture in aspic.
2. Lamin Sanneh (d. 2019), a Muslim from Gambia who became a Catholic and the Professor of World Christianity at Yale, wrote a lot about the translation of the Bible into the indigenous languages of Africa. He used to stress that Christian missionaries were actually defenders of indigenous cultures by giving them 'The Book' in their own tongue - and that is certainly what happened to the Maori language. But at the same time, Sanneh stressed that it was precisely the *translatability of the Bible that facilitated the spread of Christianity in Africa. Contrast that with Muslims who claim that the Quran is essentially "untranslatable". Such mystification of language is scarcely true.

Anonymous said...

3. Similarly, the custom of using untranslated Maori (or neo-Maori) expressions in writing doesn't actually aid communication but "otherizes" the 96%+ of NZers who couldn't follow a simple conversation in Maori (2015, Statistics New Zealand) and may give a false mystique to ideas that are perfectly translatable.
4. Here's what I think is the real tragedy (a story repeated all over Asia and Latin America in their own way): the urbanisation of rural Maoris in the 20th centuries meant for too many lower paid jobs, poorer housing, poorer health and poorer educational outcomes - but without traditional familial support networks. Christianity went a long way to countering the harsh effects of modernity on traditional rural societies, but as Christianity has receded from NZ, too many young Maoris have grown up without the support and sense of purpose that a living faith gives. A strong religious faith is often a route out of poverty and harmful social networks. This may shed light on the appeal of Mormonism and the Destiny Church to many Maoris.

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Mark Murphy said...

Yeah there's still a colonizing narrative woven through what you're saying here William, though I'm sure you don't see it. A sense in which after being separated from their land and traditional family structures (through modernization, urbanization, industrialization), we'll make that deprivation and impoverishment all better by giving them Western Christianity.

Mark Murphy said...

"As a Pakeha I don't think it's right to leave all the heavy-lifting to Maori (encouraging non-Maori to communicate with respect)" (Liz).

Great point!

Jean said...

What an interesting tangent this thread has taken. I suspect many people don’t fully understand co-governance and how it operates and that this is what has created some of the furore around it. I also think, as Chris Hipkins has acknowledged that aspects around the three waters have not been well communicated - I for one have no idea of how it is/was to work (perhaps that is an indictment a little on our media’s attention on opinion over information).

Cindy Ruakere references in her album ‘the lamb who was slain’ that In 1766 the Māori prophet, Toiroa prophesied about the arrival of the Europeans: “The name of their God will be Tama-i-rorokutia (Son-who-was-killed), a good God, however the people will still be oppressed.”

Re the use of Te Reo in everyday language. In my context Maori words have been present from childhood such as Taonga, whanau, Arohanui etc etc and used in spoken and written text. The use of the Maori language has dramatically increased recently on television and by companies, and government agencies etc... Personally I see this as a positive step but I understand the change can be disconcerting and if a translation is not provided cause frustration. When I felt the latter on one occasion I was bought up short by the acknowledgement of how difficult it must have been for Maori when their language was basically outlawed by our first education system. My uncle by marriage was hit for speaking Maori at school. Today I think translation for the less common words or phrases is helpful to aid in comprehension but also to ease the minds people who perceive increasing use as a threat. Keep in mind too that the Maori seats in parliament were originally set up to limit the number of Maori in parliament to a certain number - when the Maori population was far greater than newer arrivals; hence the arguments that they are non-representative has very ironic undertones.

William I have found Te Reo Maori a bit like Old English when I studied it at University, the depth of meaning containing in some of the words cannot be adequately expressed by the use of modern English and so alongside the gift of identity language grants to a people I think a treasure would be lost if this language was.

In respect to Te Ao (the world) Maori and the benefits (or not) depending upon your perspective this brings to many areas of society including the rational and scientific... Metaphorically I could relate it so say my nephew who has a rare genetic disorder and the knowledge of his parents alongside the knowledge of the medical professionals. Undoubtably scientific learning and doctors have played a large part over the years in his care, however, the knowledge gained by his parents through the journey and what they see and learn on an everyday basis has played an equally significant part in his development and welfare, such as eating after 19 years of being tube fed. No methodology is without its downsides and no ethnicity or culture is without it’s not so good aspects and it would be foolish to ignore this, however, equally important and more so - if those doing the discerning when it comes to practical applications are wise - there is much to to be gained by different outlooks.

Locally where I am a Maori organisation (with knowledge of native plants and seed harvesting) is working with the department of conservation to increase native bush around the Rangitata river to restore the ecosystem in order to aid in improving the health of the river which has been a growing concern for all. Agreed William, from what I know of NZ history the past urbanisation of the Maori population had devastating affects on their health and wellbeing. I have found myself quite humbled by some encounters Christians who are Maori. Most recently listening to Puna Wano-Bryant a descendant of the people of Parihaka talk at last years Justice Conference.

Anonymous said...

MRK WRITES: "Yeah there's still a colonizing narrative woven through what you're saying here William, though I'm sure you don't see it. A sense in which after being separated from their land and traditional family structures (through modernization, urbanization, industrialization), we'll make that deprivation and impoverishment all better by giving them Western Christianity."

Give up the Bulverism, Mark. I see more a little more than you may credit, and there is no "colonizing narrative woven through what [I'm[ saying". Christianity spread deeply among Maoris in the 19th century, as it did among other Polynesians to the north, for whom Christian faith is virtually constitutive of identity. Christianisation took place before urbanisation. But in the latter half of the 20th century, as Maori urbanisation gathered pace, the churches seemed to lose their hold and today most Maoris don't profess any religion (like most other New Zealanders). The exception seems to be Pasifika communities, where church identity is still quite strong. Why is this? Because the Pasifika community is more recent?
My simple point was that a strong and wise religious identity may shield a community, especially its young males, from some of the worse features of urban deprivation (school failure, drugs and alcohol, gangs) - not that rural areas don't have these problems as well. That was the point of my reference to Mormonism and Destiny Church, with their tight community structures and hierarchicalism. The sexual revolution from the 1960s was disastrous for everyone but above all for the poor (the girl literally left holding the baby).
Not that any system is perfect, and even in Eden the serpent found a way. In my early youth I was something of a fan of James K. Baxter, so the later revelations of his actual conduct dismayed me, of course. Same with Jean Vanier. Best not to have idols, I sadly concluded.

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

MsLiz said...

Dear Bishop Peter, if ok with you would you please post. Thanks!

>> I've previously saved these two links.. they're helpful to learn about a Māori perspective. I've also read Dr Kaa's book about the history of the Māori Anglican church - sadly a library copy so I don't have it to hand.

Dr Kaa is an ordained Anglican minister, academic historian, and was born to a Māori Anglican minister father and a Pakeha mother, who met at theological college.

1. Hirini Kaa: 'Māori and Christian ideas of the sacred, reciprocity, and spiritual flourishing'. Broadcast via ABC (Australia), Sun 13 Mar 2022. 1-hour conversation. [Overall, he's surprisingly optimistic looking ahead]

Listen here:,-reciprocit/13792576

2. A conversation you can read, published via E-tangata, Dec 05 2020.
'Hirini Kaa: Māori and the church'.

Read here: