Monday, November 20, 2017

The Blessed Isles Declaration

A recent comment on ADU challenged me re what a Blessed Isles (NZ) version of the Jerusalem Declaration would look like, noting that I commented then that I do not think any licensed clergyperson of our church has implicitly signed up to it because the meaning and intent of our constitution including our fundamentals are equivalent to the JD.

I have not time to rewrite the thing in toto so here is an annotated critique of the original JD. There is much that is agreeable in the JD. In summary my critique is not that it is a poor document but that it is imprecise.

Compared to some valuable Anglican documents such as the 39A (revised downwards from 42A) and the BCP (the result of several revisions, from memory, at least 1549, 1552, 1559, 1662), the JD is a somewhat hasty document!

NOTE: there is no need to comment about the connection between the JD and That Topic, or on clause 8 below. The post before this has had ample debate on That Topic. Comment further there if you must. 

I will only accept comments here which comment on the viability or otherwise of the JD as a general statement of faith and practice for Anglicans in the 21st century; or related comments on (e.g.) the continuing validity of the 39A or the BCP. Comments on my annotations are welcome - of course! - but note that I have not annotated clause 8 below.

"The Jerusalem Declaration
In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit:
We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, have met in the land of Jesus’ birth. We express our loyalty as disciples to the King of kings, the Lord Jesus. We joyfully embrace his command to proclaim the reality of his kingdom which he first announced in this land. The gospel of the kingdom is the good news of salvation, liberation and transformation for all. In light of the above, we agree to chart a way forward together that promotes and protects the biblical gospel and mission to the world, solemnly declaring the following tenets of orthodoxy which underpin our Anglican identity.
  1. We rejoice in the gospel of God through which we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because God first loved us, we love him and as believers bring forth fruits of love, ongoing repentance, lively hope and thanksgiving to God in all things.
  2. We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual readingThere is no agreed or "consensual" "plain and canonical" sense of Scripture in the Anglican world, and certainly not in the world of Anglican conservatism where (e.g.) veneration of Mary can be supported in Anglo-Catholic churches and ignored if not dismissed in Reformed churches, or women can and cannot be ordained as presbyters and bishops, or speaking in tongues can or cannot be welcomed according to varied theological understandings. Most alarmingly, neither here nor elsewhere in the JD is there any attempt to set out how the Bible is to be interpreted correctly. What body of teachers (synod? house of bishops? doctrinal commission?) assists the church when the "plain and canonical sense" is breached? Who or what determines that this reading rather than that is "a" or even "the" consensual reading of Scripture?
  3. We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. Personally I am reasonably happy with this statement but it is a statement about how Anglicans understand "one holy catholic and apostolic church." The Orthodox, for instance, stand by Seven Ecumenical councils and the Roman Catholics understand the authoritative councils behind "the rule of faith" differently. Where this statement runs aground is on the Filioque clause in the Nicene Creed: is it part of the "historic Creeds" or not"? The Declaration does not say. If it is part of the historic creeds then that is in contradiction to the four Ecumencical Councils referred to here!
  4. We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today. I think this begs more than a few questions. Are each and every one of the Thirty-Nine Articles authoritative for Anglicans today? I note, for instance, two versions of the Thirty-Nine Articles, one for the USA which has no monarch and one for the Anglican churches still under the monarchy (see Article 37). I also see statements in the 39A about Rome and the papacy which not all Anglicans might like subscribing to in today's world where we have less antagonism towards Rome and seek rapprochement across our (continuing) disagreements - to say nothing of whether certain Articles are authoritative for Anglo-Catholics (noting Articles 19, 22, 31). I personally am largely happy with the theology of the 39A as they set out thinking on (e.g.) the sacraments, salvation and the church. But I am not perfectly happy with Article 19 which focuses ecclesiology on "congregation" and omits (as all other articles do) any helpful guidance on what it means to be an episcopal church with diocesan bishops. Further, I note that the 39A give absolutely no guidance as to the authoritative character of the "four Ecumenical Councils". What the 39A do talk about re councils is that they "may err" (Article 21). How do we know the "four Ecumenical Councils" have not erred? I also note that strictly speaking, according to Article 21 "General Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of Princes." It is my personal hope, perhaps yours too, that we might yet have another General Council (e.g. to sort out, once and for all, the Filioque clause) and I do not envisage "Princes" having any role in sending out the invitations! I would be a bit surprised if GAFCON envisaged that and thus I call them out on whether they really do mean "authoritative" in this part of the declaration. Better by far, in fact, is ACANZP's constitution which includes the 39A among formularies in which the Doctrine of Christ and his Sacraments are "explained."
  5. We gladly proclaim and submit to the unique and universal Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humanity’s only Saviour from sin, judgement and hell, who lived the life we could not live and died the death that we deserve. By his atoning death and glorious resurrection, he secured the redemption of all who come to him in repentance and faith.
  6. We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each cultureHere's the thing, there is a lot of liturgical stuff happening, even in conservative Anglican churches, which does not abide by this rubric. Three examples: (i) when we follow modern revised eucharistic services (e.g. A New Zealand Prayer Book) we are generally following a revision of the BCP's Communion service which goes beyond "local adaptation." Without worrying about whether the doctrine of communion has been revised or not, the modern revisions are significant revisions of the structure of the BCP Communion service, a structure that Cranmer pursued to make certain points in the midst of the English Reformation, but which now is discarded in order to bring Anglican eucharists more in line with the great liturgical tradition of Christianity; (ii) in my experience, conservative Anglican parishes in the Reformed (rather than Anglo-Catholic) tradition are pretty happy with services that have prayers, sermon and songs and have no particular adherence to the template of Mattins or Evensong: again, this form of service goes beyond "local adaptation" of the BCP; (ii) I also hear of Dedication services for infants being conducted in some Anglican ministry units Down Under. Such services, whatever their pastoral merits (e.g. to accommodate members of the congregation who are Believers' Baptist in outlook), go against the BCP and the 39A. In other words, this clause is not - as best I can tell - actually implemented in all ministry units sympathetic to GAFCON.
  7. We recognise that God has called and gifted bishops, priests and deacons in historic succession to equip all the people of God for their ministry in the world. We uphold the classic Anglican Ordinal as an authoritative standard of clerical orders.
  8. We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married.
  9. We gladly accept the Great Commission of the risen Lord to make disciples of all nations, to seek those who do not know Christ and to baptise, teach and bring new believers to maturity.
  10. We are mindful of our responsibility to be good stewards of God’s creation, to uphold and advocate justice in society, and to seek relief and empowerment of the poor and needy.
  11. We are committed to the unity of all those who know and love Christ and to building authentic ecumenical relationships. We recognise the orders and jurisdiction of those Anglicans who uphold orthodox faith and practice, and we encourage them to join us in this declaration. Obviously this clause enables recognition of Anglicans who remove themselves from jurisdiction of an Anglican province but wish to continue being Anglican and the joining in making "this declaration" is potentially a way forward for determining who is truly Anglican and who is not. Indeed potentially this clause could result in (say) GAFCON provinces declaring other provinces, unwilling to sign to the JD, to be not truly Anglican. But there are many churches - notably in North America - claiming to be (a) Anglican (b) orthodox in faith and practice. Are they all to be recognised as Anglican? If I set myself up in my living room as a church and lay hands on myself, self-declare to be the Archbishop of My Suburb and sign the JD, will GAFCON recognise my orders and jurisdiction? I would hope not! But this clause does not set out any means for GAFCON Primates to distinguish between (say) ACNA and my little (and, by the way, perfect) church!
  12. We celebrate the God-given diversity among us which enriches our global fellowship, and we acknowledge freedom in secondary matters. We pledge to work together to seek the mind of Christ on issues that divide us. Again, this clause is imprecise. What are "secondary" matters? Who determines them in distinction with "primary" matters? How much freedom is there on secondary matters, I ask, noting brewing controversy in ACNA over the ordination of women?
  13. We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord. Also "again", this is imprecise. Who or what determines that someone in authority as a bishop or seminary theologian has "denied" the orthodox faith in word and deed? Is there a court or tribunal to look into these matters? Or is it simply to be the "court of public opinion" in which various pundits and bloggers nail Bishop X for saying something ambiguous about the resurrection?
  14. We rejoice at the prospect of Jesus’ coming again in glory, and while we await this final event of history, we praise him for the way he builds up his church through his Spirit by miraculously changing lives."

Thursday, November 16, 2017

About that submission ...

I have decided not to make a further submission to the Motion 29 Working Group (by end of tomorrow 17 November 2017), being happy and privileged to now be part of General Synod/te Hinota Whanui itself.

Bosco Peters' has made a submission and posted it here.

The summary of it is this:

"This submission suggests:
• If discussion since the publication of IRWG deems it sufficiently helpful, amend the declarations of adherence and submission to the authority of GSTHW.
• Have an explicit, clear and positive recognition and acknowledgement that we are living together with disagreement – differences in belief and practice on committed same-sex couples.
• Provide immunity from complaint for bishops and clergy for exercising their discretion on whether or not to authorise or conduct blessings of committed same-sex couples. Clergy and couples can choose from available resources and/or work together to produce a service of blessing. 
• Provide immunity from complaint for bishops for exercising their discretion on whether or not to ordain or licence anyone in a committed same-sex relationship."

If you want to comment directly on it, please do so at Liturgy itself. I am reproducing the summary here because it offers thoughts I generally agree with. And they are similar to what I proposed here on 26 September 2017 - resulting in some robust comments! That was:

"My thought re an improvement to the proposal is to pare it back and slim it to a minimum set of changes:
(1) our declarations are changed in line with the proposal
(2) clergy and ministry unit office holders may determine without fear of discipline whether or not blessings of same sex relationships will be conducted within the ministry unit
(3) bishops have discretion to accept a person in a same sex marriage or civil union as a candidate for ordination or appointee to licensed ministry position."
If I were to make a submission (i.e. combining Bosco's submission and my 26 September points) I would now add a bullet or numbered point, supporting the principle of the recommendation in the interim report of the working group that there be provision for "Christian communities" of individuals and ministry units who share common values on one side or another of the disagreement. 

In practice that recommendation involved a proposal for legislation which also references Religious communities, with some severe commentary against that inclusion. 

If we could excise that reference and focus on what it might mean for individuals and ministry units to make compacts together - the underlying model of voluntary societies is not new to Anglicanism - then my understanding is that many (but not all) conservatives on this matter would be comfortable supporting the proposal.

A few other thoughts

Since this will be my last post on these matters until the Final Report is out (unless some major development warrants comment) I want to put down a few further thoughts, some arising from discussions in the last few days with colleagues.

(1) I remain of the view that the core of the proposal on the table (no change to formularies, permission to bless same-sex relationships) is not reason to split off a new church from ACANZP. My primary reason is that I can only see any new church formed having at the core of its new identity a view about homosexuality (whatever formal, rhetorical protestations are made that this would not be the case). There are no grounds in the New Testament for forming church on the basis of a view on homosexuality. (Not even 1 Corinthians 5 offers those grounds - the opening to that chapter speaks of church discipline not church formation). 

(2) When Bosco Peters writes, "Have an explicit, clear and positive recognition and acknowledgement that we are living together with disagreement – differences in belief and practice on committed same-sex couples." I wholeheartedly concur. We need a written something in the canon/resolution we final decide which explicitly names the church we are on this matter: in disagreement and therefore (if we so choose) remaining together as that church and not as another church. Living with disagreement is possible - personally I do it on a daily basis as an Anglican!!

(3) I am interested (please comment to support me or disagree with me) in the possibility that GSTHW might also decide on a moratorium on discussing this matter for (say) ten years.* In his post Bosco Peters laments the amount of energy we have spent as a church on this matter. One way to dissolve the energy level, at least for a period, would be to have such a moratorium. To be clear: this would mean those who wish to make further "progress" on the matter desisting from pushing for further change and this from provoking further resistance by those who value tradition and orthodoxy in matters of faith and practice.

*Some readers here will recall that a moratorium along similar lines has been a recent feature of the NZ Presbyterian church.

Monday, November 13, 2017

My report on the IDC meeting on Saturday

Interpretation: it was a process which is part of a process towards Tikanga Pakeha contributing feedback to the Working Group, thus, hopefully, shaping the Final Report and Recommendations so that the breadth of our Tikanga can receive and, at General Synod in May 2018, approve without too much further discussion that something which we can live with and move forward together on. (Ditto, for the other Tikanga, who also have their own processes going on).

In our process on Saturday we had opportunity to share what processing, thinking and concerns are part of our Dioceses responses to the Interim Report. That was illuminating about where we are each heading and yielded a variety of statements which will be collated and forwarded to the Working Group. It would not be fair to the process for me to put in writing what I thought were "emerging themes" or "common concerns" because that would not just be my personal take on what I heard and experienced but also weighted towards the voices in the small group I was in, which was but one of six such groups.

Am I confident we are going to secure agreement eventually? Will we hold together? I think we can only answer such questions when we have the Final Report, in February 2018. Thus, unless some significant development here or in the Communion is reported and worth commenting on, I am going to try very hard not to post further on these matters after the 17th November, until the Final Report is published. The 17th is the deadline for submissions to the Working Group and I think it best to let them get on with their work after that!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Red blooded Anglicans will want to comment on at least one of these items!

Prayer in parliament. Change is coming, may even have been prematurely determined by our new Speaker. What do you think?

Filioque clause: keep it or drop it? Would the latter change Anglicanism at its very Reformation foundations, asks Doug Chaplin? Does the former inhibit important ecumenical movement towards greater unity in Christ? (Incidentally, marvellous theological writing in the document Doug Chaplin refers to). Liturgy also picks up the recent Anglican-Oriental Orthodox dialogue and, in the process, reminds Kiwi Anglican readers of some important "eastern" characteristics to our liturgies. (Comments specific to Doug Chaplin's and Bosco Peters' respective posts should be made there; but here you might focus on my somewhat rudimentary question: keep it or drop it?)

Should a prospective bishop of a diocese in a province which is not officially aligned with GAFCON be forced to sign the Jerusalem Declaration in order to be considered as a bishop of that diocese?

Friday, November 10, 2017

NZ Bishop leaves for Leeds

Up a bit earlier this morning and what should be the first Tweet I find staring back at my sleepy eyes but news that Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Waikato and Taranaki Diocese, is returning to England to be the Bishop of Ripon in the Diocese of Leeds. Announcement is here.

It was a pleasure some years back to meet Helen-Ann when she was doing research at SJC in Auckland and then not long after that to be part of an appointment panel which recommended her appointment as Dean of Pakeha students there.

I wish Bishop Helen-Ann every blessing in her new role.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Do we need to talk about an Extra Provincial Diocese?

The Anglican Communion is reasonably flexible when it comes to episcopal arrangements.

It has not ejected my church for casting tradition aside in the early nineties when we established our Three Tikanga Church (breaching the tradition of one episcopal rule per territory), nor more recently when we established that the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki would have two "co-equal" bishops (and two cathedrals).

The Communion is also able to episcopally relate to churches with weird names such as the Lusitanian Catholic Apostolic Evangelical Church but not because it appreciates weird names. That church is an "Extra Provincial Diocese" which typically refers to a small church which is under the metropolitan oversight of the ABC. But only "typically" because one of these churches, Ceylon/Sri Lanka, has two dioceses and one, Cuba, is under the oversight of a metropolitan council.

Of course the Communion does not welcome all dry and sundry dioceses to its midst. Readers here will know that ACNA (a whole province of dioceses) is kept at arms length and the Diocese of South Carolina, while separate from TEC and not joined (as it now is) to ACNA, was not welcomed into the fold.

But that refusal to welcome has stiffened the resolve of GAFCON (representing the numerical majority of Anglicans in the world) to recognise ACNA. So ACNA is not without reason to continue to retain "Anglican" in its title.

Here in the Blessed Isles, as we work our way through our dilemma over same-sex blessings, we may have to consider the possibility of having an Extra Provincial Diocese created. Before we get to that, a few observations about what I am hearing these days

(1) Concern that the attempt of our church to steer away from doing the solid theological work which should undergird a momentous decision is a mistake. That theological work needs to be done and should be done, if we are to have a semblance of a chance of holding together what otherwise continue to be irreconcilable convictions.

(2) There are seemingly unbridgeable differences which the current interim proposal does not seem to offer a bridge over (despite some, er, at least me, thinking it is a beautiful proposal!); and thus we find this sentence describing our situation:

"... there are two irreconcilable convictions present in the national church; those who see the blessedness of same-sex marriages, and those who believe such relationships should be repented of." (see larger citation below for source).
(3) Related to (2) is the concern that it is impossible to teach in a responsible manner what one believes if that is directly contradicted by the neighbouring parish.

Whether you share these concerns or not, whether you think they have weight or not, they do weigh on the minds of people I am hearing from who are doing careful reflection on the situation we are in. They will, I believe, be part of the discussion which Pakeha reps from the seven NZ Dioceses to next year's General Synod will take to a meeting on Saturday in Wellington. A kind of pre-General Synod round up of views and where we are ats.

Why raise the question of talking about an extra provincial diocese? It is because last Thursday, 2 November, Dave Clancey, one of my clerical colleagues here in Christchurch, wrote an article for the GAFCON website, entitled, "Remaining faithful to the gospel in New Zealand - a response to Motion 29."

I understand this article to update global Anglicans on the final views from FCANZ on the Motion 29 Working Group's Interim Report. FCA NZ's initial response, a couple of months back, was published here.

In that initial response there was a response to the Interim Report as it offered a way forward for those dissatisfied with the proposal which was "additional episcopal oversight": FCANZ then wanted "alternative episcopal oversight."

In Dave Clancey's article that request has shifted, as seen in the following excerpt (my bold):
"While the proposals by the Working Group state that the Constitution and the Formularies of the Church are not changing, the change to the Canon allowing services which are inconsistent with the Constitution and Formularies is simply circumventing them. The provision of protection for conservatives through Religious Orders or Communities may be a good start, but FCANZ has said that at a minimum the provision of alternative episcopal oversight (rather than the additional oversight that an Order/Community would provide) would be required. Even then, many feel that this will not be enough.  
Ultimately FCANZ sees that the best way forward for the Province of New Zealand is the formation of an Extra-Provincial Diocese. This was FCANZ’s suggestion to the Working Group prior to the release of their Interim Report. Extra-Provincial Dioceses exist in a number of places in the world, and the creation of one in New Zealand would allow faithful Anglicans to remain faithfully Anglican, while at the same time being distinct from the Provincial church. It would also honestly acknowledge that there are two irreconcilable convictions present in the national church; those who see the blessedness of same-sex marriages, and those who believe such relationships should be repented of. An Extra-Provincial Diocese would be the best way for the Provincial church to give expression to this reality.  
Should the Provincial church choose not to pursue this proposal, and continue on its stated course of blessing same-sex marriages, many associated with FCANZ will be left with no alternative than to seek new ways of being Anglican."
No pressure then, for our meeting in Wellington, for the Motion 29 Working Group as it works soon on its Final Report, and ultimately for General Synod in May 2018!
- we need to find a way forward
- if possible, a way forward through "irreconcilable convictions"
- could that way incorporate Alternative Episcopal Oversight?
- if not possible, and even if it is possible, could we see our way to an Extra Provincial Diocese?
- and if that is not possible ...

I urge Kiwi and other Anglicans here not to reject anything out of hand. See my opening sentences: creativity in modern Anglicanism, especially Down Under, has few constraints.

I ask Kiwi Anglicans to ask ourselves whether we are seeing these matters too much in "black and white" or binary terms. Yes, there are irreconcilable convictions, but there are those who cannot live in a church with irreconcilable convictions, and there are those that can. I think that is at least three groups, not two groups of Anglicans!

Is it whistling in the wind to point out to faithful Anglicans that we already live with contradictions? Just because we do not talk about them much does not change the fact that we live with them. 

Right inside Scripture, there are contradictions between the histories we know as 1 Samuel - 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles. Not just contradictions of narrated facts (compare the respective stories of Manasseh; or ask why the story of Bathsheba figures heavily in one of the histories and not at all in the other) but also contradictions in theologies (Mosaic covenant perspective v. Davidic covenant perspective). These two histories God has seen fit to include in our one Holy Scripture, even though they were composed by different groups of Jews with "irreconcilable convictions."

On what basis do we live with contradictions inside Scripture but not within our church?

Warning: I will not post comments which speculate on or otherwise discuss specific individuals or groups of people in ACANZP in respect of departure. Do not mix such speculation with comment on the concept of (say) AEO or EPD because your comment will not be published. Focus, please, on concepts and ideas and leave views of people out. This post is also not an opportunity to further canvas the much canvassed issues and questions which typically arise when discussing human sexuality. If you want to comment on the situation our church is in, please focus comment on that. There is no need to drift over into comment on human sexuality issues. Constructively speaking, I am looking for comment about whether we can or cannot live with irreconcilable convictions and what a way forward might be as a consequence.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Preaching the gospel for 21st century cut through: tradition

Ruminating after a week spent north of here, a few posts down, I raised the question - again! - of what the gospel means in the 21st century. What is good news for a society in which many people cheerfully ignore God because, it seems, there is much to be cheerful about? And God is not needed to provide the "much" in our Blessed Isles -  good income, good wine, good food, good company, good health: the good life. (Yes, yes, I know some people are struggling ... but we do have a low unemployment rate, the vast proportion of people are housed satisfactorily, few if any people are actually starving to death.)

Andrei, in some comments responding, helpfully reminded me and us - in my words - of sticking to our liturgical, ritual, traditional knitting.

That raises for me this question about getting cut through for the gospel - sort of a "pre question."

What is the (Anglican) church to which we long to see new converts join us in membership of Christ's body?

There are various versions of being Anglican churches in these islands! Some even work :)

When we seek conversion through proclaiming the gospel we are not simply engaged in saving souls from hell. We seek people to be transformed from reckless sinners rebelling against God into participatory members of the body of Christ. Various modes of expression of that body exist and when it comes to evangelism there seems to be temptation to adjust the mode to enhance evangelism.

Being Anglican as a church is sufficiently flexible to adjust our mode. We can, for instance, lessen emphasis on the ministry of the Sacrament in order to stronger emphasis the ministry of the Word or vice versa. When we lessen emphasis on the Sacrament we can look more like a Baptist church than a Pentecostal one, or vice versa. When we place more emphasis on the Sacrament we can look like a Roman Catholic church or like Taize. (And all these modes have been proven, in certain times and places to "work.")

Also, some ministry units are able to sustain a varied programme of services: standard p. 404 eucharist, informal family service, youth flavoured evening service, Messy Church. In such a case there is something of the best of all Anglican liturgical worlds!

In my experience, for a number of Anglican ministry units, there is a question about what kind of church new converts would be joining.

For instance, musically, would the convert be joining a church which feels like it is 1977 or 2017?

Liturgically speaking, would the convert be joining a church which feels like it loves the liturgy it uses and understands how liturgy works to glorify God and to edify the congregation? Or, joining a church which keeps implying some things are only done "because we are Anglican"?

There are other questions ...!

For clarity: I am not arguing here that if we get Sundays right we will draw new people off the streets into our midst. That may or may not happen. I am raising the question what kind of church new people would come into if we invited them to participate as we encourage their new faith in Christ.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Karl Marx "a timid conservative" acc. to John Chrysostom

Spoiler Alert: do not read this article by David Bentley Hart about the New Testament if you are a capitalist!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Back up the liturgical truck

With H/T to Bosco Peters I draw your attention to a masterful article by Bishop Charles Drennan (Palmerston North) on recent changed requirements from Rome regarding how the Missal in English is to be translated.

There is a degree of backing up the liturgical truck with these changes, towards the spirit of Vatican 2 and the ICEL and thus towards possibilities for greater commonalities between eucharistic liturgies in the English speaking world.

I seem to recall Jesus himself praying about this, using my favourite Latin phrase, ut unim unum sint.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

95 Vital Theses for Today's Church

Continuing in Reformation celebration vein, the most vital 95 theses you will read about the state of the church today :)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Celebrating the Reformation (2/2)

This morning I am going to the Transitional Cathedral for the funeral of Les Brighton, a friend for some 30 years and a recent, valued colleague for a couple of years when his last position before retirement was Theology House Administrator. Some readers here will have known Les and agree with a sentence a mutual friend wrote at the weekend, "Who can forget Les’s charm, whimsy, and acuity!"

Les was foremost a Bible teacher, a servant of the Word, who loved to delve deep into Scripture in order to prepare a sermon and, in recent years, to write a book on Romans. He was passionate about Scripture, thankful for God's grace and the joy of the Lord was his strength, especially through the last eight years or so as he fought cancer, beat it back, but, sadly, has finally succumbed to it.

Anyway, yesterday I promised a one line description of the Reformation on this 500th anniversary of Luther's Exocet exegetical missile fired against the ecclesiastical iniquities of his day. It comes via Les Brighton who pointed out to me a couple of years ago the splendour of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall brought to the TV screen through an adaptation starring Mark Rylance. In particular, as evidence of the brilliance of the insightful script writing, he described a scene which - unfortunately - I cannot pinpoint for you re the episode though I later saw it myself. In this scene Mark Rylance's character, Thomas Cromwell hands his wife a copy of Tyndale's New Testament, urging her to read it, and says, from memory, this line:

"You'll be surprised what you do not find in there."

That is my one line summary of the Reformation to ponder on this Anniversary!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Celebrating the Reformation (1/2) UPDATED

Heaps across the internet about the 500th anniversary of the Reformation so not much need for me to offer more words so a self-restriction to two posts, one today and one tomorrow.

Today's one is courtesy of a lovely article by Archbishop Justin Welby, here.

Tomorrow - to tease your interest - will be the best one line description of the Reformation you will ever see/hear on mainstream television ...

H/T to Andrei who has sent a link in comments below to this rationale from Stanley Hauerwas for why he is a Protestant.

TBF (to be frank) I think I have more reasons for being Protestant than the great man does,* though I agree with him that the Roman Catholic church presides over a past and present rich theological heritage, which all should continue to mine deeply into.

I am not so sanguine as Hauerwas that the work of the Protestant-led Reformation is done within Roman Catholicism. Indulgences, for instance, still exist (even if they are no longer able to be purchased with coin). There remains, in my and others' view, a continuing lack of complete confidence in the mercy and grace of God, demonstrated, for instance, in prayers at a funeral which continue to seek mercy for the departed. And there is, of course, the matter, sometimes discussed here, of whether Vatican II will continue to be embraced by the upper echelons of Catholic leadership. Hauerwas sees Vatican II as part of the Protestant Reformation's influence on the aggiornamento of the church.

However, I wish to learn from the history of the last 500 hundred years and make the point of such criticisms not that the RCC should be better - no church is perfect - but that Protestantism need not be ashamed or feel (in a Catholic phrase I have heard re the Anglican church) like "the younger brother". The Reformation opened our eyes to the grace and mercy of God mediated through the one Mediator, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. We must not close them.

AND Bosco Peters' has a fulsome post with key texts here.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Extroverted or introverted church?

I am working on my series about the gospel in the 21st century but meantime, relevant to that topic, the following long article by Andrew Brown is an excellent read: here.

It is about the tribulations of Pope Francis and the church he leads but it is not rocket science to draw analogies with our own churches as we face the challenges of the 21st century.

The critical big picture question is whether we are going to be an extroverted or introverted church!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Reforming the New Testament?

The other day I read Kelvin Wright's review of the newly published David Bentley Hart translation of the New Testament.

In the strength of that review I ordered my own copy from Amazon.

I might not have done so if I had read Wesley Hill's review first! (H/T Michael Bird on Twitter). Side note: in the next 100 years I do not imagine we will see a state broadcaster in NZ which carries wonderful religion material like the ABC (of Oz, not USA) does.

This morning Bryden Black in a comment alerts us to this First Things review.

Guess I had better read my copy when it comes :)

Something Hart seems to be doing, according to the reviews, in this 500th year of the Reformation, is to reform - at least a little bit - our understanding of the New Testament.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Don't leave town till you have seen the country

So said a great slogan many years ago, aiming to boost internal tourism.

I am not exactly the world's greatest globetrotter but I have lived overseas twice, travelled a little bit at other times to Australia, South Pacific, Asia, Britain and Europe. But only this year have I visited two of the most beautiful parts of the Blessed Isles for the first time ever.

In January it was the Bay of Islands. This past Labour weekend Teresa and I visited Coromandel for my first time ever. Just lovely - bush, green dairy pastures, sandy beaches, Hot Water Beach, Cathedral Cove, Pauanui, Hahei, Tairua, Cook's Beach, and, wonderfully because of a splendid market, Thames. We live in an amazingly diverse country, blessed with beauty and cows. Lots of them!

This brilliant weekend followed a fascinating four days in Auckland - two at a meeting of the Tikanga Pakeha Ministry Council (TPMC - a policy making body re education and training) and two at a St. John's College Colloquium celebrating 25 years of being a Three Tikanga church.

Being Anglican in the Blessed Isles is a curious thing. On the one hand, factually, we are a church in steady numerical decline. On the other hand, experientially, we are a church working on change, seeking leaders with adaptability, flexibility and creativity. (TPMC's themes were along these lines)

The latter means we are recognising the challenge before us, recognising that we cannot do everything as it once was done and recognising that in a changing world the shape of the future church is not yet known. I sense, for instance, that the biggest change coming - perhaps a decade from now - is the end of parishes as we know them. If so, that will be because we recognise that in a world of connection possible through cars and computers, our gatherings will be determined by factors other than geography.

But our changing world is also a changing world driven by patterns of migration and of upheaval in respect of cultural hegemonies.

The Colloquium was a sharp reminder - not least to me as one of the presenters, of whom some sharp questions were asked - that in a Three Tikanga church, that is,  a church determined to end Pakeha domination, it is very difficult for one or other culture not to be dominant!

But woven through the Colloquium was a reminder that the situation of our church is different to 1992: a figure of some 213 different cultures in Aotearoa NZ was mentioned, 198 of which fall under the term "Pakeha". (Apparently 14 cultures make up Pasefika and Maori is the one Tikanga with a single (though diverse) culture.) What recent migratory patterns is confronting us with is that to be Pakeha is no longer a question of what old settler families and new migrants from Britain think it means. Tikanga Pakeha is old and new European, African, and Asian: exciting and challenging!

In other words, relating the two events of last week, the future shape of our church includes the future shape of a multi-cultural church.

And yet ... a raw reality of Pakeha life is that we have a large number of congregations in which - my estimate - 98% of the faces are white and 85% of those faces belong to faithful Anglicans who will not be alive when we celebrate the bicentenary of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The sands of time are running out on us ...

Through our pleasant weekend in Coromandel, filled as it was with happy holiday makers, I reflected on what the gospel might mean in a land filled with milk and honey - the good life here is so good few seem bothered to connect with God as source of the goodness. What is our "good news" in a land already filled with goodness?

I will try to offer some semblance of an answer in a future post later this - yes, another busy - week. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Everything to play for

We are going to have a very new government in NZ.

Jacinda Ardern will be our new PM, leading a coalition government consisting of Labour and New Zealand  First with the Green Party offering confidence and supply and having some ministers out of cabinet.

Bill English has led National to its best ever defeat. I guess that will be of no consolation to him. I would urge him not to resign. I can't see his successor in sight.

There will be changes to our economic policies. As a mortgage holder I am a little nervous. They say interest rates always rise when Winston Peters is in government!

As a Christian I am concerned that our economy may be imperilled by having a two and a half headed government, which will make it much harder for the government to help our poor and vulnerable. That is what matters most to me about politics: that we have an economy which sustains a fair programme for the advancement of society.

Jacinda Ardern is a brilliant politician and will have the opportunity to be one of our most revered Prime Ministers. I hope Winston Peters doesn't stuff it up for her.

Everyone has everything to play for!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Resourcing discussion on SSB, submissions for 17 November

A correspondent here - thank you - has submitted the following links to internet resources and notes re print resources which will inform discussion about Same Sex Blessings in ACANZP - noting that the days are counting down to 17 November for final submissions to the Motion 29 Working Group as it works on its final report for GS 2018.

You are welcome to comment but there is no particular expectation that this is a post for discussion here - discussion in your local church using these resources may be more fruitful ...

Explanation re terms used in list of resources below: 

"Side A" refers to the view that sexual activity is for faithful monogamous relationships irrespective of gender...

"Side B" referring to the view that sexual activity is for faithful monogamous relationships between a man and a woman...

Thus avoiding labels such as "traditional" and "revisionist"...
No pretense is made of this list offering any sort of balance, but one might describe it as somewhat diverse.

From  the Youtube video, "Through my eyes..." is a set of testimonies  which I think are of equal helpfulness irrespective of whether one is "Side A" or "Side B". It has a 30pp booklet with three sections, (1) for "Side B" churches; (2) for undecided churches and those who don't discuss this at all, and (3) for "Side A" churches. These are linked at

From (Mark Yarhouse) are six video links, three on homosexuality, three on gender dysphoria. Mark comes from what I would describe as a compassionate, scholarly Side B perspective.  Side A folk won't agree with all of his views but some Side B folk might not either. I found the clip titled "Sexual Identity and the Question of Viocation" particularly helpful.  Mark has also written a paper attached below as "Yarhouse.pdf". Mark has written a book Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture which I found helpful because it looked at this issue through three different perspectives; I suspect that transgendered people would find much here to agree and disagree on. His 2013 book, Understanding Sexual Identity, is geared towards supporting young people but applicable for any whose cultural context is either Gay-affirming or shame-based (for the latter, read some conservative Christian contexts).

Two vimeo links on the page linked below contain (a) discussion on the manner in which "the discussion" on diverse views of sexuality in the church can happen constructively, and (b) an actual discussion from two very different viewpoints discussed in a constructive manner. Useful irrespective of whether Side A or Side B.
Sprirtualfriendship is worth reading if one is Side B and other-than-heterosexual or if one is simply compassionately interested. (Most of the) comments that folk have posted in response to the articles are worth reading too. 

Tim Keller has a very helpful short interview clip on You Tube clip at  . Side A folk will find plenty to disagree with. It might challange some Side B folk too. 

In terms of books, The Gospel and Sexual Orientation is the best Side B exposition I've read and has the advantage of being succinct.

Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis  uses these three case examples in the outline of his (William J Webb's) views. Side B.

Gregory Coles' Single, Gay, Christian : A Personal Journey of Faith andSexual Identity Published this year; and was particularly encouraging. (Side B). 

Wesley Hill's Washed and Waiting: Christian Reflections on Faithfulness and Homosexuality is both testimony and reflection (Side B).

Rosaria Butterfield's Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert is testimony and reflection from a woman who became a Queer Studies lecturer, adopted a lesbian lifestyle, became a Christian, then (after some time) adopted a heterosexual lifestyle. If one accepts Yarhouse's perspective of multiple homosexualities it isn't so hard to understand that while her experience isn't the norm, it is real. I found the most helpful part was her account of how she became a Christian. Side B.

Books currently on order are Changing Our Mind : Definitive 3rd Edition of the Landmark Call for Inclusion of Lgbtq Christians with Response to Critics by David Gushee which seems to promise one of the better arguments for a Side A perspective from the point of view of a reader who is Side B;  and William Loader's Making Sense of Sex : Attitudes Towards Sexuality in Early Jewish and Christian Literature (probably Side A). 

The website "Living Out" ( describes itself in these words: "We experience same-sex attraction and yet are committed to what the Bible clearly says, and what the church has always taught, about marriage and sex. We do not identify as gay Christians, preferring to use the term "same-sex attracted" (find out why)." They don't support reparative therapies. It has a range of testimonies and articles, one of the best being a review of current academic literature on the causes of same sex attraction which is attached  as serve_pdf_free.pdf below. Sam Alberry, one of the key folk of this website, has a You Tube video at

Also, courtesy of You Tube: The Journey of a Gay Christian: A Short Documentary by Kyle Williamson; at (Unsure whether Side A or Side B or both); Matthew Vines: "God and the Gay Christian" | Talks at Google is a Side A proponent being interviewed by a Roman Catholic priest, at  and Faithfully Gay: A Documentary at

And, from a secular perspective,  has some useful online fact-sheets; has some useful material incl a video clip; on bisexuality at  . 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Divine Authority of Present Day Translations

Doug Chaplin, reflecting on a forthcoming new English translation of Scripture, makes this point which I don't think I have ever considered before (being somewhat keen on knowledge of the "original language" Scriptures):

"Indeed, it could be argued that the careful translation of a group of scholars working together (the more common way to produce translations) is more of an authoritative text than the Greek being read by a single scholar who is always more likely to read it in ways congenial to their personal viewpoint, community tradition, or academic theory."

His whole post is here.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Again, the Benedict Option

Rod Dreher, author and proponent of The Benedict Option, writes about the hope and encouragement he received during a recent visit to Catholics in the capital of the Enlightenment, Paris.

Whatever we think about The Benedict Option (and it was canvassed a bit here and here on ADU recently), Dreher makes some great observations about the future of Christianity in a heavily secularised, post Christian world.

He concludes his blogpost:

"I’ll close with this. Last Sunday, Frederic, Yrieix and I sat at a cafĂ© outside St. Sulpice and talked about how important it is to establish networks of Ben Op-minded Christian in different countries and across continents. We need to be in touch with each other. We need to share friendship and ideas for how to be creative minorities in a post-Christian world. We need to have conferences, workshops, and even summer schools. Now is the time to do this, while there is still time. My friends in France are going to start working on this from their end. I need to start doing something on this end. We need Christian philanthropists with resources and vision to be part of the conversation … and part of the resistance.
Leaving my friends at the airport this morning, I had a light heart. It was hard to say goodbye, because in just one intense week, I had come to love them. But I went home with so much hope and confidence in the future. This I found in France, where Christian hope is supposed to have died. But there it was, among a band of brothers and sisters keeping the faith in the world capital of the Enlightenment. Hey, you never know…"

"creative minorities in a post-Christian world" Is that the future of the once was Christendom church? In a post-Christian world must Christians necessarily be a minority? What does "creative" mean in a Benedictine mindset which (as I understand it) involves maintaining tradition and orthodoxy?

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Church as Guardian and Guide for Scriptural Interpretation

A few days ago, starting with a "the Church" v. "private interpretation" article, I mused towards this conclusion:

"Thinking in terms of two such authorities, church as hermeneutical guardian and church as hermeneutical guide, could help our respect for one another and foster ecumenical relationship building."

This morning, using a small daily office book, I came across this prayer:

"Through your Holy Spirit, the disciples remembered all that Jesus taught them: - pour out your Spirit on the Church that she may be faithful to that teaching."

On that prayer, cannot all Christians unite?

What we understand to be fundamental to being a Christian - our beliefs, our doctrines, our teaching - has been and remains in the power and authority of the Holy Spirit: "Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church"!

The first work of the Holy Spirit in this regard was "the disciples remembered all that Jesus taught them." Hence the gospels. (Noting that there were four, they varied, and only when held together as one compendium of Jesus' teaching can we then be faithful to that teaching.)

Incidentally someone once said something like this, The church is a continuing argument over what the gospel means.

The second work was the pouring out of the Spirit on the Church that she might be faithful to that teaching. Hence Acts (as the poured out Spirit drove the church forward to be faithful through action to the Lord's teaching) and the epistles as the "remembering of all that Jesus taught them" was disputed in new contexts or required development in the face of new challenges (e.g. place of the Gentiles, 1 Corinthians 7 as a marriage question needed addressing by Paul since the remembered teaching of Jesus on marriage did not address it).

The third work of the poured out Spirit is the continuing "today" of the post-apostolic church as we seek to be "faithful to that teaching."

Is it possible that the mistake we make today is to strive to be faithful to Jesus' teaching without a clear, consistent, coherent, comprehensive understanding of how the Spirit leads the church "into all truth"? The more we strive the more we seem to argue. We cannot all be right. The Spirit is undivided so contradictory claims about what the Spirit is saying to the church tell us (or should tell us) something about ourselves and not about the Spirit! What we are being told, surely, is that we should be more interested in discerning how the Spirit works in our midst than in settling among ourselves that which we do not agree on.

We are not without clues as to the work of the Spirit and how we discern the Spirit.

(1) Magisteria: through the history of the church we see that we need some kind of authoritative council to refer matters to, to seek guidance from and to expect some advanced knowledge and understanding of the tradition of the church as it has been led by the Spirit through time. The Roman Catholic church has a formal magisterium. Protestants have informal magisteria (as an Anglican evangelical growing up in 60s and 70s it was Stott, Green and Packer!) and magisterial figures (Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Barth). But the concept goes back to the New Testament when the apostles, notably Paul, were sought out for their authoritative judgments.

(2) Conciliarity: magisteria and magisterial figures do not rule the hermeneutical waves. Calvin(ism) and Lutheran(ism) disagree. Aquinas (Thomism) moves in and out of favour within the Roman magisterium. People vote with their feet (i.e. act according to conviction which may not accord with the magisterium or magisterial figure). The surest bet for the church seeking the mind of the Spirit is to bring as many minds of the church together in a council. It worked in Acts 15 and worked to produce the Nicene Creed (in its original form). While the chances of an eighth (truly) ecumenical council are very remote, conciliarity works in other ways. For centuries the church muddled about slavery but over the past 150 or so years an informal conciliarity has determined that slavery is wrong. No major church teaches in a muddled way about slavery. All are agreed it is wrong.

(3) Adiaphora: on many matters we come to a position (often through informal conciliarity) that some matters thought to need the Spirit's determination because critical to faithful remembering of the teaching of Jesus are not so. They are indifferent and the Spirit's guidance is not needed. Remember the days when every woman wore a hat to church ...

What then of the church as guardian and guide for Scriptural interpretation?

Let me repeat the prayer from above:

"Through your Holy Spirit, the disciples remembered all that Jesus taught them: - pour out your Spirit on the Church that she may be faithful to that teaching."

The Spirit works within the church foremost to enable remembering of all that Jesus taught the disciples. That work is the work of guarding the gospel, of guarding the interpretations of the gospel which the church has come to through the work of the Spirit.

But there are matters on which we are genuinely unsure what the teaching of Jesus requires of us. The first such matter was the inclusion of the Gentiles in the Jesus' movement: as Gentiles or as Gentiles made Jews? The church must guide the way forward but in such a manner that it is faithful to the teaching of Jesus. Thus we pray that the Spirit may be poured out on the church so that our guidance is faithful to Jesus and following the light on our paths which the Spirit brings.

On such occasions we require the authorities or magisteria to speak in a way which is received universally (i.e. through conciliarity) in order to be sure that the Spirit is speaking to us.

On one or two matters we do not seem to have the clarity we seek.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Are you a secret bishop?

You can tell me. I'll keep your secret!

Here's the thing. People are slightly in awe of bishops. Some even in fear and trembling. And there are some things we would prefer our bishops not to know.

Clergy in particular will tell fellow clergy things they never want their bishop to hear. Ever.

Helpfully most bishops like to look like bishops and accordingly dress like a bishop. Purple shirts are a dead episcopal giveaway. "Do not tell that purple shirt things you do not want a bishop to know."

It has been all very safe for people who do not want their bishop to know things. Until now.

Now we have to reckon with ... SECRET BISHOPS.

That priest you are chatting away to at the annual diocesan garden party, pouring out your moans and groans about the Diocese, the Bishop, the lack of real increase to the stipend. MIGHT BE A BISHOP!

Yes, we now have to reckon with the possibility that a priest is not what he or she seems to be. A BISHOP IN PRIEST'S CLOTHING.


But it happens, as you can read here.

Friday, October 6, 2017

GAFCON: not its finest hour? [UPDATED]

As a French diplomat once said, allegedly, urban mythically, "It shall have to be another occasion when I praise your country and its deeds." And, indeed, this applies to GAFCON this week, responding to matters at the Primates Meeting in Canterbury, England. [For various links to which, see Thinking Anglicans.] [The official communique from the event is here].

Not able to praise GAFCON occasion #1: ALTERNATIVELY: Not ACNS' finest hour?

Near beginning of the Primates Meeting this week in Canterbury, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was asked to lead prayers responding to the tragedy in Las Vegas. But that upset GAFCON according to a communique issued.

"This afternoon (Tuesday), the Revd Canon Andrew Gross, Canon for Communications and Media Relations for the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), speaking on behalf of Gafcon, said that the decision to invite Michael Curry to lead the congregation in prayer at the Evensong service “put the Gafcon primates in a difficult spot.” Speaking at a press conference in a hotel near Canterbury Cathedral, he said that they were “forced to look like they are walking together when they are not walking together.”"
UPDATE: a bit confusing now as to who said what, when, and in what context of communication. See now Archbishop Cranmer disputing the above.

Not able to praise GAFCON occasion #2:

At the end of the meeting GAFCON issued this communique:

"The persistent assertions that the Primates of the Anglican Communion are 'walking together', do not reflect the reality.
Three of the leading Primates of the Communion are absent from the meeting in Canterbury on firmly stated principle. 
Archbishop Okoh, Primate of Nigeria, and Gafcon Chairman, has said, 'I have concluded that attendance at Canterbury would be to give credibility to a pattern of behaviour which is allowing great damage to be done to global Anglican witness and unity'. 
Archbishop Ntagali, the Primate of Uganda and Vice-Chairman of Gafcon has said, 'if we are not walking in the same direction, how can we walk together?'
In no way can these leaders, with the Archbishop of Rwanda, be said to be 'walking together.'  They have chosen to witness to the truth by their absence. 
The presence of the Primates from Canada and the United States and the absence of Archbishop Foley Beach whose Church is recognised by Anglicans around the world, is a further testimony to a Communion in which the leaders are not walking together.
Several of the other primates who are attending the meeting are equally concerned about the divisions over the authority of scripture within the Communion, but intend to remain in defence of the Gospel. The Primates are not walking together. At best, they say, “they are walking at a distance.” At worst, they are walking in different directions.
Surely public statements need to reflect reality rather than mere wishfulness."

Now, this statement responds to some statements stating that the Primates of the Communion are walking together. The facts are pretty straightforward: some primates did not attend, some primates wish a primate of a network of Anglican churches which is not a member province of the Communion could have been at the meeting, some primates were there under a kind of sufferance. Quite arguably the primates are not walking together. Except ...

Clearly the primates are on the same page on some matters (as communicated this week).

Clearly the primates at the Primates Meeting prayed together (even if they did not commune together).

Clearly most of the primates of the Communion did not stay away from the meeting in protest.

So, two questions from me to GAFCON:

(1) Why focus on the negative (not walking together) and not strike a note of celebration that on many matters the primates agreed and that the primates were able to pray together?

(2) What is the world to understand GAFCON is witnessing to when a statement is made that the primates are not walking together and yet most of them are meeting together? What distinction is the world going to make between walking and meeting together?

[now omitted]

[now omitted]

[now omitted]

Not GAFCON's finest hour #3: Andy Lines has a statement here which I find confusing (while noting that it has nothing much good to find in what was a meeting full of much goodness, see below). My confusion is this: how can this statement accept that the Anglican Communion is divided on matters to do with That Topic and then berate the same for not speaking out against "false teaching"?

Here is something very worthwhile at the Primates Meeting and I hope we can all celebrate it:

"A discussion about evangelism and discipleship strategies amongst the leaders of the Anglican Communion’s 39 independent provinces was so lively, it continued through the lunch break, the Archbishop of South East Asia said this evening (Wednesday). Archbishop Moon Hing, the bishop of West Malaysia, led a Bible study at the start of this morning’s session of the 2017 Primates’ Meeting before a general discussion on witness and evangelism. The Archbishop chairs the international Anglican Witness group of mission leaders and practitioners, said that he was “very happy and very glad” about the discussions, saying: “I am really uplifted because we come back to the core issue and core subject of our existence: that is to make disciples for Jesus.”
In an interview for ACNS, Archbishop Moon Hing said that his Bible study was about “Jesus, the bread of life, who provides all our needs.” He said that people who knew what it was to be a disciple “must be intentional to do it ourselves and to make it available and help others to walk with him. Even though we have this intention we need to have some ways to do it,” he said.
In what he described as “the best response” so far during this year’s Primates’ Meeting, “everybody contributed and shared how different facets of evangelism and discipleship can be done.” There was not just one method of evangelism, he said, “there are many ways, directly [and] indirectly to bring the message of Christ, that he is the bread of life, and that he is the answer,” to the world.
“There was a very lively atmosphere and everybody enjoyed it,” he said. “Even during lunchtime everybody talked about it. One of the primates said: ‘We should not be issue driven, we should be discipleship driven.’”"
I had the privilege of meeting Archbishop Moon Hing in 2015 (just before he became Primate of his church). He is a lovely man with a wonderful testimony.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

On whose authority do we interpret the Bible?

My Twitter feed leads me to this article recently, "Protestantism's biggest problem: on who authority do we interpret the Scriptures?"

The article has an ecumenical context for the question which it poses:

"On Saturday I joined a group of Anglican and Methodists in our village to walk around its familiar landmarks offering prayers. We started at the (pre-Reformation) Anglican church, moved on to the war memorial, then to the village school, thence to our popular local pub. A Methodist lady whom I know well told me sotto voce that she wasn’t going to join in praying for the pub to flourish. I remembered that Methodists forswear alcohol. Sotto voce I responded, “But what about Jesus’s first miracle at the marriage feast of Cana?” She replied, half-resigned, half-humorous: “Why do people always bring up Cana!”
Why indeed? It was not only Jesus’s first recorded miracle and a heavenly blessing on matrimony; it was also a sign of God’s lavish generosity and of the complete trust Our Lady had in her Son’s divine powers. The deeper question is: on whose authority do we interpret the Scriptures; John Wesley’s or the Church? To be fair to Wesley and as the Methodist lady and myself agreed, he was condemning the “demon drink” of his day rather than inventing a dogma. Yet at some stage in the spiritual life of a thoughtful Christian the question must arise: “Is private interpretation enough?”"

The question is important. We live in a world with more than one issue (believe it or not, Anglicans!). Lives are at stake as we consider questions of euthanasia, abortion (with its 21st century tendency towards infanticide), war, climate change. Quality of life in the church is at stake when we consider questions of gender in relation to ordered ministry or questions of the nature of godly leadership. Or, even, if anyone dares, questions of what might actually shift us from denominational difference to catholic unity.

Two recent personal conversations with fellow (non Anglican) Christians revealed significant questions about  two different (Protestant) church contexts which, all said and done, are questions of the authority by which Scripture is interpreted.

The paragraphs above, of course, elide an issue or three about interpretation!

When "the Church" is invoked as the interpretative authority, which "[Roman] church" are we talking about? The present day church which largely welcomes biblical criticism? What if we were seeking authoritative interpretation during the period of the Modernist controversy (roughly WW1 to WW2) when biblical criticism was severely frowned upon? Was that church a reliable guide to interpretation? A century from now, will "the Church" of 2017 be viewed as reliable as its 2117 successor?

Conversely, when we reflect on (say) John Wesley's role as hermeneutical guide and mentor for Methodists and link that to "private interpretation", is that fair to the role a John Wesley plays in the life of Methodist churches (ditto Luther/Lutheran, Calvin/Reformed, Cranmer/Hooker/Anglican ...)?

What Wesley (and co) have contributed to the life of God's church has been a publicly available, widely disseminated interpretation of Scripture which has generated wide adherence and steadfast application through many centuries. I suggest another description than "private interpretation" could more accurately describe such hermeneutical phenomenon.

Before we get to what that better description might be, let's acknowledge that Wesley was not an infallible interpreter of Scripture. As the years have gone by the Methodist church here and there has moved on from some initial Wesleyan positions (so I understand). In that sense the church founded on Wesley's interpretation has reinterpreted Wesley's Scripture. It might even yet prove that in a reunification of Anglican and Methodist churches that such reinterpretation is involved that we would consign Wesley (and Cranmer/Hooker) to the history section of hermeneutics.

Conversely, we might usefully also acknowledge that Wesley and co did not set out to interpret Scripture as private individuals de nouveau. They were church members who sought the betterment of the church through good teaching. What they may have emphasised differently to other teachers was much less to do with "private interpretation" and much more to do with revising or reforming church interpretation.

Also before we get to that better description, two further observations on Roman Catholic interpretation.

Observation 1: the strength of Roman emphasis on "the Church" as interpretative authority is that it arrives at decisions very slowly, very coherent with previous decisions ("tradition"!) and with very solid theological foundations (e.g. relating any decision to systematic theologies of Augustine and Aquinas). Roman hermeneutics generally stands the test of time. Protestant hermeneutics may or may not stand that test!

Observation 2: (and obviously from a Protestant perspective) what is one to do when one is convinced "the Church" is wrong in its interpretation? Whether we are an unconvinced but otherwise model Catholic Martin Luther opposed to indulgences in the 16th century or a 21st century ecumenically minded Christian (i.e. sympathetic to Rome's many virtues) who is unconvinced by Marian dogma, what do we do with disagreement? Especially when we find that on some matters at least (and indulgences and Marian dogma would be such matters) we are united with a great host of Protestant Christians for whom 500 years of Protest have stood the test of time! No new Scriptural evidence supporting indulgences or Marian dogma has emerged in that time. That is, "private interpretation" does not do justice to a serious, plausible, sustained disagreement over what Scripture means.

So, what is, arguably, more helpful to describe two significant modes of interpretation than "the Church" and "private interpretation"?

How about this? We replace "the Church" with the authority of the church which guards the interpretation of Scripture (i.e. conserves and maintains what has always been taught and only in a very guarded way ever changes what has always been taught).

And we replace "private interpretation" (in respect of churches interpreting Scripture) with the authority of the church which guides interpretation of Scripture (i.e. churches work on guiding interpretation of Scripture free from anxiety to guard it; individuals (preachers, scholars, Bible Study group leaders, etc) look to the church to guide them in understanding the Bible.

Thinking in terms of two such authorities, church as hermeneutical guardian and church as hermeneutical guide, could help our respect for one another and foster ecumenical relationship building.

I am sketching out some broad terms here, mindful of the fact that the notion of "guarding the gospel" is an important motif in Protestant biblical hermeneutics.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Primates or Percy: you choose!

Scanning Anglicanland we find today that the big news is the meeting of Primates (known as the Primates Meeting) and Thinking Anglicans has all the details, including a link to biographies of every primate attending.

I was asking myself why only two of our three primates are going to the meeting then I realised that the the name of the third one - the new Maori Archbishop - has not yet been announced, even though, as far as I can tell, that name has been pretty widely circulating in our church, a sort of open secret ...

Anyhoo, the Primates Meeting will be dominated by You Know What with special reference to a putative disciplinary call against the Scottish Episcopal Church. Any which way, it will be an interesting meeting, because not all primates, apparently, are going to show up. Once again we Anglicans must ask the question whether we are a Communion when not all of us are in communion. For not the first or, I suppose, the last time, on this blog, I make the point that our honest (=accurate) name would be Anglican Federation.

Meanwhile invitations to the GAFCON Conference in Jerusalem next year are being issued. How do I know that? Well, it is not because I am on the invitation list. I blame too many public thoughts on this blog :)

However, if the Primates Meeting matters little to you, there is a little something else to consider with Anglican analytical thinking hats on. Martyn Percy, recent visitor to these islands, has written a consideration of the Mawer report into the fiasco when Philip North was selected and (effectively) deselected as Bishop of Sheffield recently.

It is a fascinating sociology meet theology, what is English catholicism really all about in an age of gender fluidity tour de force guided by a delineation between "ambiguity" and "nuance". But, as a tour de force, is it a forced argument? I am not sure what to make, for instance, of the following:

"Sacralised ambiguity becomes the inevitable victim in this. I say this, fully conscious of an underlying theological and spiritual reality. That in the Eucharistic mimesis of Anglo-catholic worship, the priest is almost bound to become, in some sense, the misunderstood victim."

But I am glad to have read Percy's thoughts. Last Friday night I attended Michaelmas at St Michael's and All Angels. An exemplary Anglo-Catholic experience. But, I ask myself, what is the future of Anglo-Catholicism in the 21st century? Might (to take up Percy's language) its ambiguities be nuanced in different directions? Do its combinations of ambiguities and nuances offer the sense of (attractive) mystery which (many tell us) is the key to the future of Christianity in the West?

I don't imagine the Primates Meeting will offer us many clues about how we move forward as an expression of the catholic church.

Friday, September 29, 2017


Bishop Muru Walters is retiring from his role as Bishop of Te Upoko o Te Ika (southern North Island).

He has given a very fine address at the recent Runanganui in Whakatu (Nelson).

It is here and I commend it to you for its insights into Christianity in Maori perspective.

Ontology of Scripture

Did you know Scripture has ontology? A lovely piece here on the theology of the late John Webster.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Towards revising a draft submission for 17 November

OK so comments back and forth have been vigorous re my (very draft) draft submission for the GS Motion 29 Working group (due 17 November). The guts of which were:

"I ask that the idea below is considered against the background of the "broad place" Anglicanism noted above, along with the fact that in the past few decades, despite same sex partnered clergy being part of the life of most dioceses, no bishop has been taken to a disciplinary tribunal for licensing these clergy.

My thought re an improvement to the proposal is to pare it back and slim it to a minimum set of changes:

(1) our declarations are changed in line with the proposal

(2) clergy and ministry unit office holders may determine without fear of discipline whether or not blessings of same sex relationships will be conducted within the ministry unit

(3) bishops have discretion to accept a person in a same sex marriage or civil union as a candidate for ordination or appointee to licensed ministry position.


I think (2) and (3) are the minimum we would need for space to be given for SSB (or, indeed, House Blessings) to be conducted in our church and for bishops to lift the moratorium on accepting candidates for ordination etc.

I suggest (2) would remove bishops from disputes with clergy who do not think they should be giving permission for such to happen or approving forms of service for SSBs. It would also enable the possibility of SSBs to occur in a ministry unit in a Diocese which otherwise generally held the view that SSBs ought not to happen.

Obviously (3) could lead to disputes with bishops, but would it lead to differences of view between bishops and their clergy which are not already in existence?
Incidentally I cannot recall one comment on the specifics of this particular proposal which I naively thought might get us around certain difficulties with the current proposal being discussed by our diocesan synods and hui amorangi.

But here is the thing: there is definitely, within our church, a school of thought which, frankly, wants no SSB happening anywhere, anytime, under any conditions which imply official or formal approval of our church.

There is also a(n overlapping) school of thought which seeks theological work to be done which has not be done - despite some work being done, the proposition here is that more work needs to be done. We should be principled in our pragmatism rather than pragmatic in our pragmatism - if, indeed, our principles permit us to be pragmatic. (On which we might usefully read this blogpost about our already constructed pragmatism).

Of course there is a school of thought which wants the status quo to change, and yesterday!

What is to be done?

Here is one of the simplest things we could do, on the face of it: to carefully and graciously separate our church into two churches, one which has nothing to do with SSB and one which has something to do with SSB. But this possible way forward is not as simple as it sounds because our church does not neatly divide into two groups on SSB (remember, on any issue in our church there are always at least three groups: conservative, moderates and progressives).

Here is another of the simplest things we could do, on the face of it: to commit to patient unity. If we are called by Christ to unity (and we are) and if we are in such disunity on an issue that we might split apart (anathema), then ecclesio-logic commends that we make no decision to change the status quo. On this approach we could certainly, at the least, commit ourselves to theological work together.

Then there is the recommendation of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans NZ, that we institute alternative episcopal oversight so that we make the best unity out of our disunity: various groups within our church are in unity with one or more, but not all bishops. I won't here canvas the pros and cons of this proposal (there are many), nor set out a judgment on the possibility, suffice to say that this is as much worth considering as the two possibilities set out above it.

At this point I am not setting out a revision to the first few paragraphs above - specific comments to any or all those suggestions welcomed.

I also welcome comments on three suggestions above for "What is to be done?"

APROPOS of a Comment or two below about braided rivers: