Monday, June 26, 2023

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

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

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

What is common to these items of news?

The over weening importance of self.

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

Jesus said:

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

No wonder Christianity is unpopular today!

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

Monday, June 19, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the question du jour:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does this matter?

As is often the case, Yes and No!

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

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

Appendices: (derived from here)

Title G Canon 13



Admission of Clergy of Churches in Communion with this Church



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

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

Churches in full communion.










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

Permission from Bishop.


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

Eligibility for licence.


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



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

Other churches.


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



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



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



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

Role of Bishop


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




 Lutheran Churches

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

 Orthodox Churches

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

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

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




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


Monday, June 12, 2023

The humbling of churches in our day?

It would appear that the church(es) of the world have a lot to be humble about. Here is a quick round up:

The famous Saddleback Church a while ago was ejected from the even more famouse Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) for having the temerity to appoint a female pastor. It is attempting to regain lost fellowship. No doubt the SBC is not corporately feeling humbled by what it has done. It ought to!

The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), especially through its Archbishop Foley Beach, Chair of the Gafcon Primates' council, is leading the charge that the Anglican Church in Canada and The Episcopal Church (in the USA) and more recently the Church of England are "bad boys" of global Anglicanism because of, you know, not getting a certain topic right. Is it humbling, I think we may quietly wonder, to find here that ACNA has a quandary or three of its own about getting other things right?

In an update of the situation in which the Anglican Church of Uganda, via its Archbishop, is enthusiastic about the criminalization of homosexuals, the Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a statement. Along with many others, I find this statement compelling. Unfortunately, Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba does not. He has issued a robust response here. I think it is called “doubling down.” Definitely not a humbling of the Ugandan church then. Though I do wonder, you may too, why, when the Ugandan parliament offered a golden opportunity for critique of the criminalization of homosexuality, it chose to miss it and instead to doubledown on endorsing it.

In the Church of England itself there is plenty to be humble about (and I think the CofE is aware of that) as it comes to grips with a series of challenges re safeguarding or insufficient safeguarding in times past and possibly times present. One example involves how the church, two bishops in particular (then Sheffield, now Oxford; then York, now retired), handled a complaint (here for a recent statement by +Oxford). Another involves Soul Survivor, a famous ministry, inaugurated by a man called Mike Pilavachi, now the subject of an investigation into poor if not abusive behaviour, with perceptions of past inadequate responses to surfacing knowledge of allegations, and present consequences re staff being stood down.

Meanwhile, across the Tiber there are many stories to potentially follow up and read, and further across some other rivers, we continue to find the very contemporary scandal of the Russian Orthodox Church supporting the least supportable war of recent times.

We churches have a lot to be humble about. That includes my own as we attempt to be better in the light of our Royal Commission on Abuse. More generally, being a bishop in an episcopally led, synodically governed church gives me a front row seat view of how difficult it is to be a humming, thriving, darn near perfect church. Instead the reality, starting with myself, is how flawed and frail we humans are as we attempt to do things together, for God and for the flourishing of God’s church.

There is much for the church to be humble about and we seem to have a lot going on these days which humbles us.

This is a good thing.

It is also far from the most difficult situation churches can face.

This item, about the possibility of an Anglican Christian in Pakistan being hung for blasphemy, sharply reminds us that hard though it is to be humbled, there is worse for Christians to face in the world today.

This post is not about the individual situations noted above each of which, no doubt, involves considerations not reported upon and concerns by those with complaints against churches which are not voiced in the articles cited. I may not publish your comments if you comment on the individual situations. I am open to publishing your comments about my "slant" here but my wariness is if we stray into discussing situations which then involves the comments making judgments calls on individuals named in reports above without supporting evidence I may run the risk of being unfair to those individuals. 

Comment generally about "the humbling of churches" in our present day is welcome.

Monday, June 5, 2023

King’s (Defender of the Faith’s) Birthday Weekend: Defender of Confusion?

This is King’s Birthday weekend in Aotearoa New Zealand. Our first for a long time - the Queen having reigned for 70 years - or, we might say, last year’s Queen’s Birthday weekend was the last for a long time, noting the succession plan of Charles, William and George, or even ever. Dare one observe that before the end of this century NZ might have become a republic?

As Defender of the [Church of England variation of the Christian] Faith, Charles presides over what, this weekend in Anglican history?

Unfortunately Uganda rears its head again, the proposed draconian law against homosexuals/homosexuality now having been passed (despite a few pundits saying it might not become law, it has), with Archbishop Stephen, Uganda’s Primate “grateful” for its passing (though he offers the gracious modifier of preferring imprisonment to execution as the severest outcome of the legislation).

Read Church Times report here, and The Other Cheek here.

Cue a certain restlessness in CofE Twitter that neither the ABC nor the ABY have spoken out against their fellow primate. My own thought is a little patience might be in order. Archbishops are busy people and should not make hasty pronouncements!

My own response, made in this past week’s eLife message to our Diocese was this:

 Back in April 2023, the conference of Anglicans around the globe known as GAFCON, meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, made a public, damning criticism of the Church of England for its recent decision to permit prayers for same sex partnerships or marriages (a similar but not exactly the same decision as our church made in 2018). This condemnation was made with not one word said criticising an anti-LBGTQi bill before the parliament of Uganda which had received strong endorsement at Easter from Stephen Samuel Kaziimba Mugalu, the Archbishop of Uganda (and one of the leaders of GAFCON). Read Archbishop Stephen’s message here. A provision in the bill included the possible of execution as a punishment for certain offences by homosexuals. At the time of GAFCON there was a thought that the bill would never be signed into law by the President of Uganda. This week, however, we learn that the bill has become law—read more from Reuters here. We also learn that Archbishop Stephen enthusiastically supports its passing, although resiles from the death penalty being imposed—Read more here. The chances of GAFCON leaders condemning this decision by parliament, let alone its support by the Ugandan Anglican church appear to be zero. It is tragic that a significant global network of Anglicans can condemn one province of the Communion for openness to praying for same sex partnerships while tacitly, if not explicitly endorsing this inhuman legislation endorsed by another province.”.

It is (at best) a bit confusing, is it not? Gafcon’s moral high ground has always been its resolute opposition to any change to Anglican teaching on marriage/human sexuality combined with deep compassion, welcome and inclusion for all homosexuals who love Jesus and wish to follow his teaching (cf. Lambeth 1998 1.10). The inability to hold Uganda to account for the Anglican church’s fervent embrace of the now passed draconian law suggests Gafcon is not as committed to deep compassion etc as it says it is. Is Gafcon confused about its own moral theology and its application to its own member provinces?

(Nevertheless I acknowledge, courtesy of some posts on Virtue Online, that there is a certain confidence in the counter to the criticism, a sense that Uganda is right and, er, I, ++Welby, the Communion as currently constituted, etc are wrong, weak, weak, wrong: here, here, here, here.)

But, we should hastily add, confusion is a feature not only of Anglican (other, non-Gafcon examples can be adduced), but also of Christian life generally.

Recently, for instance, my eye was caught by a controversy over a book written by an Australian about confusion within evangelicalism, focused largely on North American evangelicalism, or, more specifically, what could be called Trumpian evangelicalism. But the intriguing feature of the observable controversy was over an Australian (Presbyterian) review of this book, which in turn has led to a review of the review.

Again, The Other Cheek has the story here and here.

In all these kinds of current stories - examples mirroring these Protestant contretemps can be found in the Catholic and Orthodox worlds - there are two aspects to what I am calling “confusion.”

One, the most worrying, is that an outsider looking in is appropriately confused about what Christianity is about. 

Are we about the truth? (If so, how comes there is so much disagreement?) 

Are we about love for one another? (If so, how come there is so much vitriol from one Christian (or tribal grouping of Christians) to another? 

Are we about faith in God? (If so, and we each have faith in God, how come this common factor seems to have so little power to glue us together?)

Two, our internal confusion about … well, some days it seems “everything”! Let me (the blogger pleads) focus on two confusions (because I think they are important and if we were less confused on them we might be better witnesses to those who are not yet of the Christian faith).


Somehow, in these “culture wars” within the church itself, Scripture is often used as a single book, of one genre (essentially, instructions/rules), which is very clear on any matter of importance in 21st century life.

But this is not Scripture which is a collection of writings, of differing genres, which both includes some instructions/rules and a strong sense, from Jesus himself, that the church is going to need to make decisions about various matters as life goes along.

Scripture, that is, is clear on some matters (God so loved the world, love your neighbour, do not kill (as a general instruction)) and not on others (What is the nature of the love God has for “the world”, and what is “the world” that God loves, does neighbour extend to enemies (so Matthew/Luke) or get refocused on “one another” (John’s Gospel), or both (Paul’s letters)? What does “do not kill” mean for governments (may they use capital punishment as a means of ordering society?) and for Christians (may we serve as a soldier?). It is not so much that Scripture is some kind of “confusion” as that God through Scripture calls God’s people to talk to one another about how we shall live - together as church, in local communities, in national societies, as employers-and-employees, in households - and to do that talking together, well, together and not schismatically apart.

Further, Scripture treated as some kind of uniform volume from which clear guidance may be distilled with the barest of preambles, “The Bible says …,” fails to read Scripture fully and carefully as a collection of writings often in tension with each other.

In my last post I highlighted differences and connections between the Synoptic gospels and John’s Gospel. Since then I have read this important observation (by way of question) by C. F. Evans:

“Does the New Testament contain not one but two religions, the one, to be found in the synoptic gospels, Acts and some epistles, a Semitic, hebraic, historical, prophetic, messianic religion of obedience to commandments … the other, to be found in the Pauline epistles and the Johannine writings, a Hellenistic, oriental, unhistorical, mystical and sacramental cult of union with a dying and rising Lord (a particular variation of the popular pattern of religion in the Graeco-Roman world), and if so, how do these two religions belong together? To some extent these questions have haunted theology ever since.” (Explorations in Theology 2, London: SCM, 1977, p.95)

The genius of developed Christianity - the “religion” that came to approve the canon of Scripture, to settle the doctrine of the Trinity [some writing of this post is on Trinity Sunday!] - is that it bound these differences together, in one whole, and refused to separate them. The least point of this genius decision is that it invites, even instructs the people of Scripture to live with tension, to engage in conversation about what we differ on (while bound to the one God, the one Lord, the one Spirit!).

But of this approach to Scripture and its consequences for God’s people you will find precisely nothing, zero, zilch in the prognostications of … Gafcon, Archbishop Stephen, Mark Powell reviewing Constantine Campbell’s book, various Catholic pundits bewailing the demise of their church because of … their Pope, etc!

Postscript: at an extreme, misreading of the Bible leads to a very dark place - see here.


In all the various perambulations of modern / post-modern Christianity, we seem - in my judgment - to (fairly) consistently misrepresent the God whom we Christians say we believe in. 

Whether we are proposing “Christian nationalism” or promoting the Latin Mass as highest and best worship of God or presenting a slam dunk five or nine step argument against committed love between two people of the same sex or (for that matter) ceasing to be anxious about the state of the church because, you know, God is still at work in the world, whatever happens, we (I would argue) misrepresent God.

We misrepresent God because in our fervour for … Christian nationalism, the Latin Mass, excluding same sex partnerships from prayer, ceasing to care for the church … we imply (however unintentionally) that God is a Latin speaking Christian nationalist with a downer on homosexuals and a careless attitude towards the Body of his own beloved Son.

That is not the God revealed in Jesus Christ and attested to in Holy Scripture. Alternatively put, there is a lot we do and say (and I am no less a sinner on this score than anyone else) which is not Jesus-like. Our Aramaic speaking Lord of the church who failed to lead a nationalist uprising … you get the drift!

In our fetish for the fashion of the moment we are confused about who God is and thus about what our God calls us to be, to do and to say.

I suspect our King is not a reader of this blog!

But if perchance I am wrong, I ask our King to “defend our faith” in a mode a lot less aggressively than my fellow keyboard warriors of 2023 do.

If God calls us to anything it is to meekness and humility.