Friday, July 21, 2017

2018 Holy Land (and Greece) Pilgrimage

I happily (and freely) advertise a new pilgrimage to the Holy Land tour led by Dean Mike and Patsy Hawke (with extra trip to Greece) in May 2018.

Details are here and here.

A promotional video is here.

Mike is one of our best known clergy in ACANZP (having recently concluded a travelling role with our Missions Board) and is currently Dean of Nelson Cathedral.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Public Theology this Sunday at the Transitional Cathedral

Next in our Theologians at the Cathedral series is Professor David Tombs, Professor of Public Theology at the University of Otago.

All are welcome to participate in Evensong at 5 pm during which David will preach. Then after light refreshments, David will lead a seminar on his topic until 7.30 pm conclusion.

A notice re topic etc and suitable for church bulletins this week is this:

"‘Theologians in the Cathedral’ seminar

This Sunday 23 July at 5pm, the ‘Theologians in the Cathedral’ seminar by Prof David Tombs is being held at the Transitional Cathedral:

‘The Abused Body of Christ: Why does naming Jesus as a victim of sexual abuse matter for Public Theology?’

All welcome."

Frankly I am not sure what the topic entails so I am eagerly looking forward to enlightenment!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Flourishing through Bible Study

Recently Ian Paul through his blog Psephizo has generated a storm or two of controversy (e.g. #mitregate) and he has a stirring reflection/report on the recent CofE General Synod which seemed to be dominated by, er, one or two related issues.

I might yet come back to mitres and other clergy vestments (noting that the same General Synod resolved to permit greater freedom of clergy dress). But today I simply note to you a lovely guest post on Psephizo, by Richard Peers, a recent and well-received visitor in this country when he spoke at the Anglican Schools conference. Richard is Director of Education in the Diocese of Liverpool.

The post is on the value of participating in depth, academic Bible study conferences - a matter dear to my own heart - and its loveliness for me personally is that the conference he went to was at Tyndale House, Cambridge, a study centre and library it has been my privilege to visit on a number of occasions.

The last two paragraphs of the report make an important point in an era when we talk about the church "flourishing" and doing so precisely because we work on this flourishing occurring when we are acutely aware that our differences might inhibit it.

"I gained a great deal from the conference and would love to go again next year although I might be more comfortable with Biblical Theology than the very detailed work of New Testament. Tyndale is, of course, not my natural milieu but, as always, I was struck by the way in which orthodox Christian belief provides a deep fellowship. I met many people with whom I enjoyed talking and getting to know. It is probably just a personality thing—but I especially loved the lack of apparently clever cynicism that all too often pervades Anglican gatherings; there was no attempt at pretending other than that we were a group of people who love to talk about Scripture. There was no embarrassment, over meals or walking between sessions, at talking about this endlessly fascinating subject.

There is much talk in the Church of England about mutual flourishing. I spend a considerable amount of my time and energy trying to ensure that it is a reality. I am convinced that if it is to be real it must mean not that groups each flourish separately but that the ‘mutual’ means that we flourish because we gain from each other. I gained much from this conference and am grateful that I have had this enriching experience."

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Politics of Jesus: the other "marriage" debate

There is a sea change going on in world politics, even amongst those nations full of climate change deniers! Previously unquestioned matters are now being changed without questions asked.

One such change is the (bad pun) coming up, that other "marriage" debate, the marijuana debate, about marijuana being made legal here and there. Actually, I am noticing that there is little debate. Articles in NZ media are mostly of the "look it does no harm and, better, when taken for medicinal purposes relieves pain and suffering." Despite my personal observation that marijuana advocates at promotional stalls seem to speak v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, there is little I can see in the media about the ill-effects of the drug.

Anyway, lest I give the impression I speak as some kind of expert, at this link is a considered piece with respect to the matter as it is being addressed in NZ these days.

Would you vote this election for a party which advocates for marijuana law reform?

Does it make a difference whether the policy is solely focused on medicinal use of marijuana?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Lost (?) comments just published

Have discovered quite a few comments which had not been conveyed to me in the usual way by email so have published them now (relating a number of recent posts).

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Confecting a Valid Eucharist

Confection

Recently the Vatican has been in the news for (according to headlines) banning the use of gluten-free bread at the Mass. Natch the reality is a bit more subtle than that. What the Vatican has done is clarify rules surrounding the bread to be used, in my words (1) not just any old bread from the supermarket (2) low-gluten may be used, where "low" equals some semblance of truth can be given to the description that it is bread made of wheat. Citing from the Cardinal Sarah letter:

"“Hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist.  Low-gluten hosts (partially gluten-free) are valid matter, provided they contain a sufficient amount of gluten to obtain the confection of bread without the addition of foreign materials and without the use of procedures that would alter the nature of bread”"

Now, whether this works for coeliac disease sufferers is something I am not qualified to comment on. Nor do I find sufficient details in this Stuff article about the current Catholic regulations in NZ re "gluten-free" wafers to work out whether or not those regulations are the same as what I have cited above or different.

Intriguingly, for me as an Anglican who is comfortable with grape juice being offered as an alternative to wine (for children, for alcoholics), the letter also speaks about the offering of grape juice instead of wine. But it is not the grape juice we Anglicans typically use when we use grape juice:

"“Mustum, which is grape juice that is either fresh or preserved by methods that suspend its fermentation without altering its nature (for example, freezing), is valid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist”"

But mustum is "thick" grape juice, the result of the initial pressing of the grapes: juice, skin, seeds, stems crushed into a thick liquid with 7-23% solid matter. In other words, this is grape juice on the way to becoming wine, without fermentation, and not filtrated to get the watery juice we call grape juice. (Note to parishes which use blackcurrant juice rather than grape juice: you really, really ought not to do that!)

Juridical approach to Validity

What most interests me as an Anglican, however, about this letter, is the manner in which it represents one aspect of Roman thinking which, mostly, is very different to Anglican thinking. That is, a juridical approach to minute matters of pastoral care and theology. Coeliacs may like or lump the proscription of completely gluten-free bread. Valid bread is defined by law and not by description. The validity of the eucharist, on this thinking, is valid according to following Roman canon law and involves not only a validly ordained priest following a validly authorised liturgy but also validly acceptable bread and wine (or, in certain permitted-by-the-bishop circumstances, low gluten bread and/or mustum).

For Anglicans, I suggest we are happy to use any bread which is described as bread (gluten free, rye, from the supermarket, made by prayerfully commissioned wafer makers, etc). And we do this, not because we do not believe in rules (we have some pertaining to communion, e.g. must be presided over by a priest or bishop)* nor because we are casual or careless (though sometimes we are, but that is a post for another day), but because we cannot see Jesus himself making a fuss over this (imagining there might have been some gluten free bread at the Last Supper, we think he would have happily broken and distributed that).

Also, we think that some rules are made to be broken. A eucharist in a Japanese POW camp, using rice grains and water is a valid eucharist because, under the circumstances, that is the best that can be done to obey the greater rule, Do this in remembrance of me. And, pertaining to coeliacs, we would happily break the rule re wheat-based bread in order to include coeliacs in communion than exclude them. If gluten-free rather than low-gluten bread is the best that can be done to obey the greater rule, then so be it. (See argument made here).

Now, my point here is not to argue the superiority of Anglican thinking over Roman thinking but to note that, when so much of our ways of Christian life, including emphasis on the eucharist, are bound by common traditions, values and attitudes, nevertheless there are some real differences in approach, which, from time to time, are highlighted in global, public pronouncements from our respective HQs.

*On the specific matter of bread and wine for communion, NZPB, p. 515 specifies:
"The bread for the Eucharist should be a good quality bread (either loaf or wafer) and the wine for the Eucharist should be good quality wine."

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Beautiful Anglican Accommodation - Down Under's Way Forward

At last and in plenty of time for our diocesan synods in a month or two's time, we have the interim report and recommendations from the GS Working Group.

Read the Taonga article here, follow the links, and, obviously, read the full PDF document here. (There is a shorter version here but the details in the appendices are what count).

My verdict: a beautiful Anglican accommodation.

Why?

It gives (many) conservatives and (many) liberals what they have asked for, and makes few demands on the middle of our church.

I do not want to have to submit to the authority of General Synod (because it has approved something I am not happy with)?
I will not have to do that because the declarations will change.

I wish the blessing of a same sex partnership to be able to take place in an Anglican church?
In most, but likely not all, dioceses/hui amorangi permission will be given for priests to conduct such blessings provided the local vestry is agreeable to that happening.

I feel I would have to leave the church if it approved a blessing formulary (because that would mean our church had formally changed its doctrine on marriage). There will not be such a change. Services of blessing will be approved at a more local level - the diocese.

I am worried that I will be disciplined by the church if I conduct a blessing or if I refuse to conduct a blessing. That will be ruled out, both ways.

I am concerned that my parish, when it comes time to choose a new vicar, will be bullied by the Nomination Board into accepting a priest who will reverse my parish's policy on blessing of same sex partnerships. That can be prevented because parishes and individuals will be able to form communities of common accord with other like-minded parishes. Bishops must respect the ethos of those communities in making their appointment, indeed the appointee must come from within the community to which the parish belongs.

I do not particularly care one way or another whether my vicar does or does not conduct blessings of same sex partnerships. Nothing needs to be done. Keep cool and carry on as you are!

I want to be part of a parish which not only teaches celibacy outside of (heterosexual) marriage but which supports those who choose to be celibate and look for the support of their community of faith in being obedient to God in this way. That is not only possible, it is specifically provided for by the proposal: like-minded parishes including common commitment to teaching and discipline may group together in structured communities of faith, supported by a bishop.

Thus in a number of ways this is a beautiful, comprehensive Anglican  accommodation of the wide range of views on human sexuality held within ACANZP.

To be very clear: a beautiful Anglican accommodation does not mean that everyone is going to be, let alone has to be happy about what is proposed. There will be disappointment for some.

My argument here is that in a tricky, challenging situation in which we are not agreed, we have a proposal which has a quality of elegance to it, which demonstrates deep listening to speeches at the last General Synod and to submissions made to the Working Group, and, critically, a will to make some significant changes to the way we do things.

And all with a view to holding us together.

I hope this means no one leaves.

But if some do, I believe the losses will be few rather than many.

Postscript:
- for the geeks among readers, this is what I posted re the submission I made to the working group. You will see that a number of things I was keen to see are included in the report/recommendations. (That, incidentally, is not a claim that I had some great influence on the report. Once we failed to secure agreement at GS 2016 there was a logical path to where we needed to go as a church in disagreement, which influenced my submission and, I am sure, directly influenced the working group.)
- Also, Bosco Peters has a considered response here.


Monday, July 10, 2017

The Politics of Jesus: the alt-world?

What do you make of Stanley Hauerwas in this article?

Not hard to agree with him that Trump is a challenge for America and an opportunity for the church.

And he is very perceptive in his insight that "Trump wants you to be in his reality show."

But is our task as Christians to witness to an alternative reality?

Yes and no, I reckon.

Yes, we witness to the way of love in a world of hate, to the ambition to put others first in a world of avarice and greed. Yes, we witness to the kingdom that is not of this world, which is both in this world and is coming to this world.

No, while we witness to an alternative reality, which, as far as it is in our power, we live out, we yet live in the world. In that world we might have to fight a war (whereas Hauerwas is a pacifist) or even lead a country. On the latter Hauerwas says,

"Can you be a faithful Christian and a president? Hauerwas said no, though he said some can come close.
'Good Christians get to run for office once. If they do the right thing they won't be re-elected.'"

I wonder if  Bush, Obama, Thatcher, Blair, and more locally, Lange, Bolger and now English got that memo?

This matter relates to discussion of my post below, about our cathedral in Christchurch, in which some have argued that the Diocese should eschew all government/council support, while I am arguing back that there is a case for thinking that the Diocese of Christchurch in the "world" of Christchurch (peculiar though it may be, given its peculiar Anglican history) may properly work with government/council on reinstating the cathedral (that is, it would not be theologically heretical for the Synod in September to make that decision, if it so chooses).

Back to Hauerwas and Trump. American Christians are in a huge dilemma. If a Christian supports Trump in all his Trumpiness (i.e. not just on the occasional occasion when he is actually correct), are they truly Christian? If  a Christian does not support Trump in all his Trumpiness, how do they support Trump as their duly elected President?. Romans 13 and all that

Back to our NZ election. Thankfully we have no Trumpian equivalent. Not even Winston Peters is in the same league as Trump in respect of his sheer maniacal goofiness (demonstrated at the recent G20 meeting). But we still have choices to make in terms of what our parties propose to shape the world in which we live.

Not all proposals in a country toying with euthanasia, beating a drum for marijuana law reform, hesitant about solving searing social problems and keen on intensifying cows per millilitre of river and spring water are equally Christian!

Good grief, in this morning's Press a reader may contemplate the possibility that "salvation" lies for regional economies in growing marijuana, a Green Party which calls NZ First racist yet is willing to be in government with this racist party, and courtesy of Jane Bowron's regular column, the latest moral dilemma in sexuality ... robotic sex dolls.

This pot pouri which makes up Western civilization in our Down Under corner of the world almost makes me consider what I ruled out in comments to last Monday's post ... not bothering to vote at all!!

Grounds for non-voting could be:
(a) It's just too hard to make a decision
(b) It won't make a difference to the largest issue facing the electorate: we are going to the dogs and no government is stopping our descent into corporate madness.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Game changer?

So, here's the thing. Until a couple of days ago the future of Christ Church Cathedral here in Christchurch seemed like an assessment of the merits of reinstatement with a large tens of millions (30-50m) fund shortfall to raise versus the merits of a new build cathedral, priced at under our $42m insurance proceeds (with a sum within the $42m allowed for future repairs, maintenance and insurance).

Then we had the announcement of a firmed up government offer ($10m plus $15m suspensory loan) plus a City Council offer ($10m, to be confirmed via public consultation), along with a clarified commitment from the GCBT fund-raisers ($13.7m). Fingers and thumbs, that is, $90.7m.

But is the total we need to reach $104m or $127m? The NZ Herald points us in the latter direction. Either way, the government would set up with CPT an independent fund-raising trust to get on with the job of raising funds. And the government would pass enabling legislation to fast track consenting requirements for the work to press ahead.

Incidentally, we could call the government offer a parliamentary offer because it has cross-party support: that is, no member of parliament is going to side with those who wish to see a new cathedral built. Our political masters, local and national, are batting for the one and the same side, singing from the same hymn sheet.

The question for our 7-9 September Synod, as we begin our pre-Synod meetings this week, is whether we now have a "game changer" influencing our deliberations.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Is this mid June 1914 for the Anglican Communion?

What to make of the this, that and the other of this Church Times report?

Is the Anglican Communion in the midst of the seemingly ad hoc, disconnected protests, skirmishes and sabre rattling which turn out to be the prelude to a "Great War"?

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Politics of Jesus: dilemmas

For some Christians I know, who happen to be Labour Party candidates in this year's election, I imagine the discernment of the "politics of Jesus" in relation to the politics of Aotearoa NZ is straightforward. To follow Jesus politically speaking is to vote Labour! Ditto for those Christians standing for National, the Maori Party, the Greens etc.

It does not seem so easy for me, a mere voter.

I find myself weighing up and worrying about (in no particular order of anxiety):
- National's obfuscatory handling of the Todd Barclay matter;
- National's reluctance to act decisively on house prices in our most populated city: is their membership over-subscribed with property speculators and landlords?
- Labour's inept handling of their overseas volunteers' call centre campaign (if they run the country like that ...);
- Labour's recently announced industrial relations policy which seems to me like a return to some very bad days for our economy;
- United Future as a party with way too much importance in decision-making relative to their virtually zero nationwide support;
- NZ First's bewildering array of positions on a variety of matters, most of which are clever clickbaits but not much else;
- every party's position on immigration (I appreciate this is a complex issue and every party is trying to get "the balance" on this matter right, but I find myself responding to the latest policy proposal with a "yeah, I think that misses a key point or two";
- several parties' critique of "neo-liberalism" (i.e. the general theoretical underpinning of our current economy) without offering an alternative which looks like it would actually work better than what it would replace.
- even worse, some of what I hear from some parties amounts to "loads more things in life should be free of charge" with an occasional follow up that the "rich should pay more tax." Spoiler alert: the better off among us already shoulder most of the tax burden.

What is a follower of Jesus to do in the voting booth on 23rd September?

I ask this question with particular reference to our "party vote." (With our local vote for an MP to represent our electorate there might be other considerations than those addressed in this post. We might, for instance, because we feel we know our local candidates better, wish to vote for a candidate because they are a Christian, or because they played rugby for our club, etc).

I would be interested in your views!

The following options strike me with respect to our party vote as theologically plausible (on the unquestioned-by-me presupposition that a Christian should vote):

Option A: choose one issue of great (theological) significance and vote for the party promising to do the right thing on that matter (and "hold your nose" re all other matters on which that party, if governing, might to the wrong thing). The Single Issue option.

Option B: survey many if not all issues of significance, perform a political calculation as to which party on balance is better than the others, and vote accordingly. The Pragmatic option.

Option C: pay little or no attention to what the issues are at this election but focus instead on each party's track record in terms of handling of matters, responding to issues of the day, etc. Then vote for the party that is likely to do the most good for the country/the poor/the worker/the sick/ business/environment. I assume, for example, that the Christians I know who are Labour Party candidates this year would not think each and every policy of the Labour Party was in accord with Christian values, but that they are committed to the Labour Party as the party which, on balance, will do the most good according to Christian values (fight for the underdog, tackle poverty, improve access to health, etc). I assume that Christians standing for National believe that in the long run everyone is better off if a strong economy is maintained and if people are encouraged to stand on their own two feet rather than depend on the state. The Arc of History option.

There is, as the intelligent and learned political scientists know, a fourth option, often favoured by Kiwis, at least at regular intervals ...

Option D: Give the Other Lot A Go.

Friday, June 30, 2017

What does it mean to be Anglican? A Translated Kiwi View

Being Anglican means ... at least what Sophia says here.

Some readers here will know Sophia from her time here in NZ, and her life in Christchurch in particular, and in one of our notable local parishes.

But she is now lost to the West Island!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Compromise: the Anglican Way Forward in All Things

We are but a few days out from our latest Way Forward report/recommendations (I am going to the TAB on a 4 July release). Compromise is in the air, obviously. But what kind? Does the devil lie in the details? Patience!

Meanwhile, as an appetizer and a reminder of the subtle art of Anglican compromise, we could consider a proposal coming out of the CofE which I am sure ACANZP will be interested in. This one concerns Methodist/Anglican recognition of mutually interchangeable ministries.

A bit like cold fusion, ecumaniacal AngMeth-ecclesiologists have been working on this for ages without success. Until now. Is this the moment?

I hope so. Our journey on earth to the kingdom of heaven becoming the kingdom on earth involves (among many things) finding Christian unity. As I now often say, there are not separate sections in heaven for different kinds of Christians, so why not begin now to live the unity we will live in for eternity!

Not that it is easy, this search for elusive unity, but then Jesus never promised the way forward would be without challenges.

Back to our challenging life in ACANZP where differences abound on a range of topics: blessings, (NZ) Methodists (with whom we have a covenant), and a certain cathedral.

My thoughts lately have been about the importance of recognising that as Christians we are always in a coalition - a group of people with striking differences yet making compromises to be in coalition rather than in opposition to one another. At its broadest our coalition is simply that we are Christians (and not atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, etc). Like it or lump it, we cannot within this coalition dismiss Christians we disagree with. We are Christians in disagreement and with differences in this coalition. And even if we are tempted to dismiss Christians we disagree with, we find that outside the coalition, the world (whether atheists or Islamists) does not side with "us" or "them": it simply sees us as Christians who do not get on very well with each other.

For a few centuries Anglicans and Methodists have coped with differences between them by being a coalition of Christians rather than (say) a coalition of (diverse) Anglicans or a coalition of (diverse) Methodists. Now, at least in England, the possibility is that Anglicans and Methodists are moving into a "coalition of Anglicans-and-Methodists".

What will the impact of the forthcoming Way Forward report and recommendations be on ACANZP as we receive, digest (our local synods) and approve or not (General Synod, May 2018)? Will we remain the coalition we currently find ourselves in, of Tikanga, of churchpersonships, of theological differences - a coalition under one Anglican name for these islands?

Or some other kind of coalition?

But, make no mistake, whatever the future holds, we will be a coalition of one kind or another.

Personally I am voting to remain in coalition under the one Anglican name.

As far as I can tell, that is what Bishop Richard Condie of Tasmania is working on re the Anglican Communion as a whole!

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Politics of Jesus (1917/2017)

In 1917 the Russian Revolution began and in 2017 a Russian Question rumbles through American politics while a Russian Presence permeates Middle Eastern politics centred on Syria.

Also in 1917 T.E. Lawrence helped to lead the Arab Rebellion against the Ottoman Empire (6 July is centenary of Battle of Aqaba) and in 2017 the results of that rebellion continue to play out in the turmoil of Middle Eastern politics in which Saudi Arabia stirs the pot in Qatar and other places. Turkey, of course, is a key player in what is going on these days, including, today, I notice, defending the interests of Qatar against the meddling of Saudi Arabia.

Here in NZ, 1917 might be best remembered for 850 soldiers killed at Passchendaele on 20 October, the greatest loss of life in a single day in NZ's military history. Back home, in 1917 there was a Reform Party government, led by William Massey. In 2017 we have a National Party government led by Bill English - National is a successor party to the Reform Party.

We might also, to keep comparisons going, compare 1917 and the British government being in a bit of a muddle about how to bring the war in Europe to an end with 2017 and the British government being in a significant muddle about how to extricate itself from its current "war" in/with Europe.

The above paragraphs represent one way of doing history, focusing attention on the big picture, key events, and named leaders. From that perspective it is fascinating, possibly depressing to think how much 2017 looks like a rerun of 1917.

Another way of doing history is to consider ordinary people and the way their lives are lived - social history. From that perspective a number of things are wonderfully changed and life today does not look at all like it did in 2017. (The following apply to the Western world, but also in much of the rest of the world) think healthcare, standard of housing (for most, but not all), ease of producing meals, laundering clothes, moving from one place to another, communication, entertainment, access to consumer goods. Even with wars still occurring, the chances of 850 Kiwi soldiers being killed in a single day this year is almost zero. (Only "almost" because there are rogue states with worrying policies around missiles, nuclear weaponry, etc).

But the point of politics is not to proudly remind people how wonderful life is compared to 100 years ago. The point of politics is to organise society today towards better outcomes tomorrow than were experienced yesterday. From that perspective, our lot could be better. Here in NZ we are concerned about improvements which many other countries also wish for: to housing, to health, to education, and to economic well-being (both lifting individuals out of poverty and improving general circumstances of whole countries).

Our General Election on Saturday 23 September 2017 focuses our minds on whether we should change the government to secure wished for improvements or retain the current government because it is promising to fulfil those wishes.

I hope to keep a Monday series of posts on the theme of "The Politics of Jesus" going until the election, exploring the question of what Jesus' politics mean for us as a democratic people with the ability to apply Jesus' politics to our situation and our wish to see improvements.

But today I note simply that where there are politics there are politicians. And, unfortunately, a desire to see improvements to politics involves, necessarily, improvements to politicians and their ability to deliver better outcomes for people.

On that score the last week has been salutary. We have seen our media hold our key politicians to account and they have been found somewhat wanting. I salute our media (they have done their duty) and I despair of our politicians (at best they have reminded us that politicians have a remarkable ability to tell lies and lots of them).

Should any politician being reading this column, I offer these verses from yesterday's Gospel reading, and ask that you recite them to yourself everyday you are a politician:

"26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs."

Tell the truth, dear leaders, it is the best way to avoid one lie leading to another lie.




Friday, June 23, 2017

Can we put to death the Euthanasia Bill?

Recently a private member's bill re euthanasia was drawn from the parliamentary ballot and so we are a nation facing the possibility that our parliament will do what it is has not done before and legalise the assisted taking of one's own life.

I am instinctively against such a bill because the "key" it offers, choice about the time of one's own death, opens the door to later social compulsion to die at the time of one's family's choosing. Even, when rationing of resources kicks in, at the time of one's government's choosing.

For details about the bill and the objections of the Inter Church BioEthics Council (ICBC) to it, read here.

I agree with the ICBC. This bill should be euthanased at this time so that the current select committee process runs its course.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Make Christians? Build church buildings!!

Fascinating article here about some surprisingly high UK stats re young people becoming Christian converts because they have visited a church building (esp. cathedrals). The underlying research is here (H/T Bosco Peters).

I leave it to you, dear reader, to make what you will of the stats but if there is something in them then we should revise our cliched formulae about "church is people, not buildings."

Just maybe, perhaps and possibly church buildings contribute to making church people.

For myself I am confident that buildings are not just bricks and mortar when they are churches. Church buildings point people to God, they symbolise the gospel, they witness to the existence of God, they offer spaces in which people experience special encounters ("sacred space") and they assert the presence of Christian people in the surrounding community.

Yes, the church is people in the sense that church does not stop because (say) church buildings are demolished (as we have experienced in Christchurch).

Yes, the church is people in the sense that if you are down to your last $100k and have to choose between paying the vicar and the youth worker or repairing the church building, then invest in people and not bricks and mortar.

No, the church is not only people because the people of the church are the church when they gather together. And gatherings in many climates need a roof, walls, windows, doors and seats. Rarely is the crunch church building or people. Normally it is both, with reasonable arguments about what size church building and what quality of building.

Of course that brings me to our Anglican cathedral here in Christchurch and our forthcoming debate in our Synod, 7-9 September.

I am committed to having a cathedral in the Square which is the heart of our city. Our forefathers envisioned a city built in ways reminiscent of Oxford. *That vision led to a predilection for stone buildings in the Neo-Gothic style. While not original to that vision, the early settlers settled on having a cathedral at the heart of the city. Doing so underlined the "Christ" and "church" in "Christchurch."* Whatever kind of cathedral (reinstated, brand new) it should be there and not somewhere else.

Imagine if we let go of the site and a mosque was built on it instead ...

Postscript: Brian Law, former director of the Cathedral Choir, argues cogently in this morning's Press about the deficiencies in the cathedral that was while pressing the claims of Miles' Warren's proposal that the cathedral be rebuilt according to the original George Gilbert Scott design.

Footnote:
*The original post read, between the asterisks, "Our forefathers envisioned a city built around a cathedral and it was a great vision." This is not accurate as the original vision was for an Oxbridge type college at the heart of the city (i.e. what is today Christ's College).

Friday, June 16, 2017

Benedict Option Wrong for Down Under?

In a week where days fly past and major issues in Kiwiland remain untouched herein, notably further developments re the Christchurch Cathedral and the imminent question of legalisation of euthanasia, the least I can do is point you to a superb and, for me, persuasive, argument from Michael Bird (Ridley College, Melbourne).

Against a background in Australia of increasing hostility towards Christianity, Michael Bird argues in a North American magazine, Christianity Today, that the Benedict Option being debated there - concerning engagement between Christianity and secular society - is not apt for the Down Under context.

NZ is not Australia. They are not as good as us at rugby (for instance!). So I am interested in readers' comments about the Benedict Option versus the Thessalonian Option for consideration in our Kiwi situation.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Bizzy

A few verses from Job 9 in the daily office this morning help explain infrequent blogging of late ...

"25“My days are swifter than a runner;
they fly away without a glimpse of joy.
26They skim past like boats of papyrus,
like eagles swooping down on their prey."

(Except the "without a glimpse of joy" bit ... I am a happy camper in the midst of terrific bizziness.)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Dunedin's Successful Global Search for New Bishop

He will come from London to be the next Bishop of Dunedin - but Steve Benford is no stranger to the city.

Archbishops Winston Halapua and Philip Richardson have announced the election of the Rev Dr Steven Benford as the next Bishop of Dunedin.

Bishop-elect Steven, who is 56, currently serves as vicar of St Joseph the Worker, Northolt, in the Diocese of London, where he is also a Bishops’ Advisor for Ministry, a new incumbents’ ministry mentor and spiritual director.

The archbishops today confirmed Steven Benford’s election, which has been ratified by General Synod, after he was nominated by the Diocese of Dunedin’s Electoral College held from May 26-27.

It is an appointment which signals a return to New Zealand for the qualified doctor who worked in Otago in the early 1990s. His wife Lorraine was born in Dunedin.

Making the announcement, Archbishop Philip Richardson welcomed Steven’s appointment.
“I look forward to welcoming Steven back to Aotearoa New Zealand.”

“His experience of living a vocation in the service of others will be invaluable as he leads the clergy and people of Southland and Otago to develop creative ways of serving their communities in the Spirit of Christ.”

Archbishop Philip recently met with Bishop-elect Steven in London. The new bishop describes himself as a ‘people person’.

“Steven is a very warm and engaging priest with a heart for mission,” said Archbishop Philip.

“He will be sadly missed in Northolt, whose people speak highly of his leadership, hard work and creativity.”

Steven Benford’s career has been shaped by a dual vocation to ministry and medicine.

For 29 years he served as a medical doctor, specialising in anaesthetics since 1990.
Steven’s medical career initially took him to Leicester, Leeds and Gibraltar. Then in the early 1990s, he and Lorraine – who grew up in Gore – brought their young family to live in southern New Zealand.

From 1991-95 Steven worked as a GP in Oamaru, where he also established a free clinic. Over those years, he kept his hand in hospital-based medicine, working one day a week at Dunedin Hospital. In the family’s last six months in New Zealand, Steven served in the emergency department at Tokoroa Hospital.


Despite his love of medicine, Steven felt God’s insistent call to the ordained ministry from a young age. In 1996, he entered the ministry discernment process in the Diocese of York and was ordained there in 2000. In his first four years as a priest he served as a curate in a three-church rural cluster, while remaining a full-time specialist at Friarage Hospital, Northallerton in Yorkshire.

(This is the Official Media Release, also at Taonga, where the suggested headline in the media release is followed, "Dunedin Elects New Bishop".)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Yeah, right, Oz Equip!

(In the light of a fair comment below, what follows is a revision of the original, unkind post.)

Each year in Sydney there is a conference for women called Equip.

The most recent one had a dose of restlessness, as you can read here.

About short hair.

And extending submissiveness to men in the workplace.

Intriguingly on the Equip website, I see women involved with the running of the conference with short hair!

The age old intra evangelical debate re relationships between men and women, in marriage and in the church, complementarianism / egalitarianism, continues around the globe.

But is this latest call, as reported above, a step further than warranted even by a complementarian reading of Scripture?

I have my own thoughts on the matter. What about yours?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Western civilization undermined by gospel memes!?

Excellent post here, well worth reading.

Why?

Krish Kandiah takes us through six hope-filled ways in which the recent post Manchester bombing charity concert led by Ariana Grande was permeated with Christian themes.

Now, let's get real. Ariana Grande and (e.g.) Miley Cyrus sing songs (I won't link to lyrics) which represent the nadir of our sex-obsessed, personality-driven, ego-maniacal post-Christian Western civilization. They are not quasi-saints. Nor some of the other characters on stage with them. But bless Krish, he has found the ways in which Christ's gospel cannot be driven out, either by secularization or by Islamification.

Incidentally, I realised with this beautiful Crowded House song below - go Kiwi music! - that Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus do have voices to die for ...

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Pentecost Conspiracy

Two lovely sermons yesterday, heard by me.

One introduced an idea I had not heard previously. That Pentecost is God's conspiracy with us. To conspire is to breath with, and in the Holy Spirit, God is breathing with us, our breathe one with God's breathe. This is good conspiracy. Of course most uses of the word "conspiracy" today have a negative connotation: people plotting to overthrow the established order of things.

Speaking of which, overnight we have another act of terrorism in the UK. Thoughtful words on this come from John Schindler who argues that what Britain is facing is not terrorism but "a protracted insurgency."

And we need thoughtfulness as Christians. When Pentecost marked the end of the "Thy Kingdom Come" period of intensive praying from Ascension to Pentecost, where is God when the advance of another kingdom is made visible in the rivers of blood flowing on the streets of London?

What is God saying to us in such times about the advance of the kingdom? Such advance is both a matter of praying as though everything depends on God and acting (love, justice, peace-making) as though everything depends on us. Are we being challenged to act differently than we have been?

What is the breathe of God breathing into us in our crazy world today?

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Saving an iconic church

No, this time I am not talking about Christchurch Cathedral. Travellers through NZ may have noticed (frequent travellers on SH1 between Blenheim and Kaikoura will have noticed) St. Oswalds, Wharanui.

A small, picturesque stone church - a memorial to a member of the Murray family who have farmed in the district for generations - on the side of the highway, offering, I have often felt when driving by, a witness to Christ to travellers.


But it was badly damaged in the November 2016 earthquakes. My friends Leicester and Laura Murray are spearheading a Murray family campaign to raise funds for its restoration.

A couple of news items are here and here.

Facebook page is here.

And, Givealittle page is here.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Ecumenical Support for Bishop Victoria Matthews

The Press reports on a letter published in the Press letters' page today, signed by eight church leaders of ministries here in Christchurch/Canterbury.

"Presbyterian moderator David Coster wrote the letter as he felt the media and politicians unfairly criticised Matthews. .

"The bishop is being blamed in a way that all the Christian denominations felt was unfair. We have remained silent until now," he said.
Coster said the letter was written independently.
"The bishop has had nothing to do with this whatsoever," he said.
"We wanted to say publicly to the bishop and the community we serve that we are concerned about how she has been treated."

The letter states church buildings are primarily places of worship.
"The costs – spiritually, emotionally and financially – of all our buildings are borne by those for whom these places of worship are their spiritual home," the letter states.
"First and foremost the Cathedral in the Square, like all Christian church buildings, is a place of worship to the God we know in Jesus Christ and a reminder to the wider community of God's presence. The reason why all churches exist is to make Jesus Christ known and to enable people to gather in community and worship. The church is not primarily a landlord tasked with caring for stone or wooden edifices."
It was signed by Coster, Methodist district superintendent Kathryn Walters, Catholic diocese administrator Rick Loughnan, Grace Vineyard Church senior pastor David MacGregor, Elim Church lead pastor Nu Telea, Salvation Army divisional commander Ivan Bezzant, King's Church senior pastor Ken Shelley and Baptist regional mission leader Maurice Atkinson."

My bold

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Islamism found to be surprisingly contextual and challenging [UPDATED]

Brilliant, careful, challenging (but long) reflective article on Islamism here, by Colin Chapman.

Colin is a Christian scholar of Islam with first-hand experience of living in the ME.

UPDATE: my friend Steve Bell weighs in on the question whether Islam is "the problem"?

Monday, May 29, 2017

Islamism found to be surprisingly religious

Understandably and properly politicians take great care not to fuel anti-Muslim bigotry when faced with yet another terrorist event. The vast majority of Muslims are as aghast and horrified by the recent Manchester bombing as non-Muslims are.

But politicians have been criticised for underplaying the role of Islam as a religion in terrorist events. The gist of what many have said is terrorists are not driven by their religion but by their ideological convictions. The form is Islam, the latter is Islamism and the relationship between the two is tenuous at best.

The truth we need to face, however, is that Islamism that drives Manchester-type terrorism (technically most accurately described as Salafism) is deeply Islamic. Here is the chilling, terrifying ISIS media release re Manchester:



Here the West is "the Crusaders" or militant Christians, down to every last teenage fan of Ariana Grande. All soldiers in this centuries old religious war. The bombing is "revenge for Allah's religion." The concert arena is "shameless" meaning it transgresses Islamic values of purity and holiness. The next event will be worse, "more severe on the worshipers of the Cross and their allies." Everything happens within an Islamic religious worldview, "by Allah's permission."

The Islamism of terrorism is not an ideology it is a religion. A terrifying, rogue strand of Islam. And, seemingly, ultimately well funded by Saudi Arabian money (to which you and I have contributed with "donations" at petrol pumps). Saudi Arabia, not to forget, being the country in which Mecca is found.

This religion has one particular religious enemy: Christians. So, in the past couple of days, we learn again of another atrocity against Coptic Christians in Egypt. Ruthlessly gunned down for their imperialist foreign policy.

Let's be clear about two matters these events highlight.

(1) We cannot in the West feign innocence about our contributions to Islamic terrorism. Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are correct to identify that Western actions have exacerbated the threat to Western countries from Islamic terrorism. However well intentioned we have been about military actions in places such as Libya and Iraq, the resulting chaos has been fertile for terrorist recruitment. Not one Western country (and certainly not NZ) has ever taken a decisive stand against Saudi Arabia and its shadowy role in these matters. Trump's fawning visit to Saudi Arabia recently underlines the importance we Westerners place on this country. The West is not responsible for Islamic terrorism but it has contributed to the conditions in which it has been conceived, birthed and nurtured.

(2) Even if we overcome our feigned innocence, put matters to right in Libya and Iraq and deal to Saudi Arabia, Islamism will still be at war with Christians. Coptic Christians have no foreign policy to fault. They were not European Crusaders sweeping down on the Middle East. They are a minority people in a majority Muslim nation. But they worship the Cross. That is enough to warrant death. For Islamism there is only one way. Until we submit to that way, or are killed, Islamism will never give up. Allah requires the submission of every last person on the planet.

Islam, dear politicians, is surprisingly religious in its convictions.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

More, a cathedral way forward? UPDATED

Cathedral pros, cons and inbetweens continue unabated. Here are some links:

- a Q and A in the Press which may help catch some up with the issues and questions in the matter

- a TV One News item (though it mixes recent written text with a much older interview with Gerry Brownlie)

- a sympathetic response to the church's dilemma, prompted by an execrable Martin Van Beynen column in yesterday's Press (and other Fairfax papers), written by Michael Reddell at Croaking Cassandra

UPDATE: Winston Peter's gets that old time religion!

MONDAY UPDATE: Bishop Victoria herself being interviewed by John Campbell on Checkpoint.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A way forward?

No, not back to "the" way forward our church at large seeks on Another Issue but is there a way forward for our cathedral in the Square?

On the one hand, Bishop Victoria has written an op-ed for the Christchurch Press, online here (and, presumably, to be published tomorrow in the print edition). She has also been interviewed tonight on Seven Sharp (here).

On the other hand, tonight a cross-party political group of local MPs has announced it is united and determined to "break the deadlock over the Christ Church Cathedral."

That doesn't sound like a group of democratically elected MPs intent on respecting the parliamentary democracy of the church!

UPDATE THURSDAY A.M.

In the Press this morning:

This frontpage article

This assessment of power and influence (which inaccurately describes her power within Synod as "She has a third of the vote at the synod." A bishop of a diocese does not have a third of the vote but has the power to veto a decision sought by the other two houses - the same power which each of those houses has. In practice, at least on matters not doctrinal, bishops rarely if ever use such a veto. The critical vote at Synod will be the majority not the vote of anyone individual.)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Cathedral decision to be made by Synod [UPDATED]

Last Wednesday evening at our clergy conference at Pudding Hill we had a full and frank discussion of the matter of the cathedral in Christchurch Square. One outcome of that discussion was a unanimous recommendation by those gathered that the matter of the cathedral be referred to our Diocesan synod, whose next scheduled meeting is in early September.

Bishop Victoria clearly took that recommendation on board because late Saturday afternoon just past a pastoral letter was sent to all parishes with request that it be read out the following Sunday morning. The substantive action proposed in the letter was that the decision about the future of the cathedral would be made at our September Synod.

Below I give (i) the Diocesan Media Release about this; (ii) some links to media reports; (iii) a citation of the express power in the Church Property Trustees (2003) Act for Bishop Victoria to make this referral.

Press Release:

"Media Release
Diocese of Christchurch
21 May 2017


Decision on ChristChurch Cathedral will be made in September 2017

Members of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch’s Synod will make the decision on the future of ChristChurch Cathedral at its meeting in early September 2017.

Synod is the governing body of the Christchurch Diocese and is made up of more than 225 members representing the entire Anglican Diocese of Christchurch.  
Making the announcement today (Sunday May 21) Bishop Victoria Mathews said, “We are very aware that the city and beyond is very frustrated with the amount of time it has taken to reach a decision on the future of our beloved Cathedral. Church Property Trustees (CPT) and the entire Diocese share that frustration.
“After much thought and prayer I have decided to reserve the question on the future of the Cathedral in the Square to September 2017 for our diocesan Synod’s decision.  This means that the members of the Synod will decide on the future of the Cathedral, rather than the Church Property Trustees.
’As the ChristChurch Cathedral is a church building above all else, and a place of worship, the decision on its future should be made by the membership of the Synod comprising the gathered clergy and laity of the Diocese who will be using the Cathedral forever.
“One of the factors that influenced my decision was the strong recommendation of the diocesan clergy at our recent clergy conference to take the matter to our Synod.  I acknowledge and thank the clergy who were present for their prayer, support and advice.
“To date the view of the Church has been that we should proceed with a contemporary Cathedral. In 2013 our Synod voted for an inspirational Cathedral. Recently the Standing Committee expressed its view that a new Cathedral, costing no more than the insurance proceeds received for the Cathedral building in the Square, is its preferred option.”
Members of Synod will make a decision on whether to accept an offer to assist with reinstatement from the New Zealand Government or construct an inspirational contemporary cathedral to a design that is, as yet, undecided but the cost of which will be within the $42 million insurance fund.
“For the past six and a half years Church Property Trustees and its staff have done extraordinary due diligence on different options regarding the future of the Cathedral.  This includes engineering investigations, quantity surveying and research into fundraising options.  Along the way there has been active and passionate debate on what should be done.

“We recently undertook a scientific survey of public preferences among residents from Greater Christchurch on the future of the ChristChurch Cathedral. The results of the research were clear. People’s preferences change when they are fully informed, but there is still no overwhelming preference. People are still divided over whether to reinstate the Cathedral building in the Square or to commit to building a contemporary Cathedral that is inspirational and fit for purpose. We will soon release the survey results.  

“Church Property Trustees have carefully sought expert advice on all aspects of a possible reinstatement and considered the Government’s offer towards potential reinstatement,” says Bishop Victoria. “A majority of the Church Property Trustees are inclined to support the contemporary option however these preferences are still not decisive.  This is a vitally important question for our Diocese, the Canterbury community and impacts the regeneration of Christchurch which is why I have now made the decision to take the vote to Synod.”


Background
·         The Anglican (Diocese of Christchurch) Church Property Trust Act 2003 allows the Chairperson of the Church Property Trustees to reserve matters before the Church Property Trustees to Synod for its decision

·         Membership of CPT comprises Chairperson Bishop Victoria Matthews and eight trustees, who are members of the Church elected by the Synod. CPT Trustees are elected by Synod. 


Timeline
·         The Church Property Trustee’s decision to build a contemporary inspirational cathedral in the Square was challenged in the courts by the Greater Christchurch Building Trust (GCBT) in 2012 and led to two years of CPT defending its decision.

·         In June 2014, the High Court lifted the stay it issued in November 2012 on deconstruction of the Cathedral. This meant CPT could continue with its plan to progress the idea of building a contemporary cathedral in the Square.

·         Although there would be significant consenting issues, a beautiful and highly functional inspirational and contemporary cathedral, incorporating features and materials from the old cathedral, could be built within the $42 million of cathedral insurance funds then available.

·         This earlier key decision made a commitment to building a contemporary cathedral in the Square. The decision had been based on numerous engineering, costing, risk and other professional evaluations for which CPT sought advice for different options. All key reports were made public.

·         In May 2015 CPT's decision to build a contemporary cathedral was paused following a request from the GCBT to further discuss engineering and costs of a rebuild. At that meeting, GCBT's experts agreed with CPT's advice that the approximate cost of a rebuild would be approximately $100m (not $67m as GCBT had been publicly claiming), that base isolation is preferable, and the rebuild project would take approximately seven years.

·         CPT approached the government and suggested it might like to become involved. The Crown decided to appoint Miriam Dean QC to assess the situation.

·          In a previous conversation with Minister Brownlee, the Bishop and the Trustees present explained very clearly that they believed CPT might do well to move towards a compromise – a build of old and new materials despite the Diocese and CPT stating it had a preference for a contemporary build. 

·         The Trustees were open to reinstatement as long as when completed the project did not leave the Diocese or CPT in debt. In particular, it was highlighted that CPT could only commit $30m as it needed significant endowments to pay for the maintenance of such an expensive building and also to cover the cost of full replacement insurance, which is estimated at up to $360k a year.

·         In January 2016, CPT's decision to build a contemporary cathedral was again paused, following an approach from the Government to review the feasibility of reinstatement. CPT committed to good faith engagement and rescinded its standing resolution to deconstruct the Cathedral. 

·         The Government's Cathedral Working Group's report confirmed CPT's advice that the cost of reinstatement (rebuild) was approximately $104m (plus $4m fundraising costs), base isolation is preferable, and reinstatement would take approximately seven years.

·         CPT then agreed to a Government request to negotiate a funding and delivery model to reinstate the Cathedral. In late December 2016, CPT believed that an agreement was in place and were ready to sign.  However in November we had the Kaikoura 7.8 earthquake and the following month the Prime Minister resigned. 

·         By December 21, 2016, the offer on the table which CPT was prepared to sign  was changed to an entirely different document – a Statement of Principles. 

·         In March 2017 the Government clarified the terms of its new offer - $10 million grant and a $15 million loan and legislative assistance for reinstatement.

·         On 21 May 2017 Bishop Victoria Mathews announced that the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch’s Synod will make the decision on the future of ChristChurch Cathedral at its meeting in early September 2017.


Note: Individual Church Property Trustees are not available for any further comment.

Media inquiries
Communications Advisor
Jayson Rhodes
021 661319"

Media Responses:

NZ Herald

Stuff

The Press (which does not quite square up with the final sentence of the Media Release above!)

Radio NZ

ADDED TUESDAY:

Two Press articles: here and here.

Press Editorial here. (a bit odd, in my view, calling for a decision to be made yet not acknowledging that when a decision was made, it was challenged!)

Authority to Make Referral (from here):

"
6. Chairperson may reserve matters for consideration of Synod
  • (1)The chairperson of the Church Property Trustees may reserve for the decision of the Synod any matter raised for consideration by the Church Property Trustees.
    (2)The Synod must not decide under subclause (1) to rescind or cancel any contract or agreement or any sale, mortgage, lease, or other disposition of any part of the property.
"

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Tremendous Gospel Reading Today - The Best Gospel Reading

I am heading off to a lovely church at Mt Somers (Mid Canterbury) this morning to preach on the lectionary readings and to preside at the eucharist (blessed to be able to do so to enable the local priest and deacon to have a lovely holiday (they are married to each other).

The RCL gospel today is tremendous, the best gospel reading (now, who talks like that???):

John 14:15-21

"”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”"

The resurrected Jesus is alive and well and inside you. "The resurrection" is not an historical event if by that we mean that the resurrection only concerns the raising of a dead body on such and such a date from a tomb in the vicinity of Jerusalem. It is both that event of transformation of Jesus of Nazareth and the event of the transformation of our own lives as believers in whom Jesus Christ dwells by the Spirit, "another Advocate."

Christ is alive, Alleluia and he is living in me, you and us the church. Slight awkward implication, however! That means the most direct evidence for the resurrection of Jesus for the disbelieving world around us is, er, um, me, and you. and the church. The church as "the body of Christ" is not an ideal notion of the chummy unity of Christians: it is, literally, the living Christ in the world.

Does the world see the living Christ when it sees the church?

Yes, well, awkward question when we think of the scandals, the shortcomings and the silliness of the church (yes, not one of those funny hats we wear, constitutes evidence for the life of Christ).

But then the point of reading the gospel, to say nothing of preaching the gospel is that we hear and learn again what we are meant to be. Our confession and penitence is our opportunity to say to Jesus, "Here I am Lord. Sorry! Renew your life in me that my life may be your life in the world." Actually, also our confession is corporate: "Sorry, Lord! But here we are, renew a right spirit in us, that we may be the body of Christ, real and not ideal, attractive and not a turn off."

Our eucharistic participation is our feeding on the life of Christ that we may become what we eat and drink: Christ!

And this gospel reading tells us the amazing news that Jesus - the same Jesus who walked the dusty roads of Palestine - wants to live in us and us to live in him.

And, the reading gently challenges and encourages us about what this means: it is not a question of whether we feel Jesus is in us. It is a question of keeping Jesus' commandments.

Am I keeping Jesus' commandments? Are you? Yes? Then the life of Jesus is being lived out within us.

Very cool. The best gospel reading :)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Cathedral views

The Press carries a major article today about the possibility of a new cathedral in Christchurch, depending where the settlement of cathedral issues settles. Some bloggers familiar to readers here are cited from blogposts in 2013.

Not unrelated to me there has also been this view in the Press this week!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Best Ever?

For obvious reasons I don't like to place a headline on this blog "Out of Town, Out of (straightforward) Internet, Out of Action" so I didn't broadcast on Monday that I was heading to Pudding Hill (foothills of the Alps, 1.25 hrs from Christchurch) for three days of our annual Clergy Conference.

There I was able to post comments (there was internet) and even initially respond to a few. But then work on a presentation for our "Respectful Conversations" involved some transfer of videoed material to my One Drive (i.e. cloud synchronizing file system) and I realised that if I used my phone as a "hotspot" for laptop internet connection I would blow my monthly limit higher than nearby Mt Hutt. I was out of straightforward internet dealings with this blog and only last night at home responded to comments. (I also note this morning a message from One Drive saying it is nearly full!)

Anyway, as someone intimately involved with the running of the conference (led by Bishop Victoria, and with several others heavily involved in the work before and during the conference), it was very gratifying by the conference end to have some "best ever" comments. Not least because I thought the past two conferences were also "best evers" and it is pleasing to improve on already high standards.

Best ever conferences involve two important factors, I suggest. One is the content of the conference and the other is its mood. Content (culture, money, social justice, discipleship, respectful conversations) was outstanding with excellent input from mostly local "homegrown" speakers and the one out of Diocese contributor, Sue Burns, superbly led a "dry run" of our Respectful Conversations. Mood. Well, you cannot choose the mood of the conference in the way you can choose a slate of speakers, but the mood was great: a happy, convivial, congenial family of colleagues. Whether we were focused on difficult issues of our day or engaging in casual conversations during breaks we did so cheerfully.

Now back into the ordinary work and plenty to do. Not least on pressing forward with our "Respectful Conversations" across the Diocese in June. These conversations are about same gender relationships in the life of the church, as requested by our Synod last September. In order to be respectful they need to be structured, in order for the structure to work we need trained facilitators (which we now have) and in order for the whole diocese to be covered we need a programme of dates, which we are currently organising. No, do not comment on this paragraph. The moratorium is still in place. Once we get to c. 1 July the moratorium will lift. Patience ...