Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Incurvatus in se: who or what are we saved from and/or for?

Saved by grace? Yes, but who or what are we saved from/for?

With H/T to Bryden Black, read this fascinating and provocative post on salvation.

It is about the book, The God Who Saves: A Dogmatic Sketch by David W. Congdon.

I sometimes think that the notion of "being saved" in today's world is increasingly difficult to explain (since many people have no sense of fear of God, of judgment or of damnation, nor is there a sense of being a slave to sin). So I like the idea of being saved from oneself. The idea that we are our own worst enemies is not lost in a world of personal failures and shortcomings.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Politics of Jesus: who would Jesus vote for this election?

Crunch time. Votes to be cast by end of this Saturday 23rd September 2017. Who to vote for? Jacinda? Bill? Winston? James? Marama? Gareth? I'll concentrate here on the "party vote" but there is also the question of which local person to vote to become your local MP.*

If the criterion of your vote is voting for the winning side, well, good luck predicting that!

If the criterion of your vote is voting for a government which will keep NZ running well, planes flying, etc, then good luck with that!

If the criterion of your vote is voting for a government which has already informed you what their taxation policy is, then very good luck with that.

Perhaps you fancy gaining some insight from the partners of the prospective Prime Ministers? Then this article might help. But, then again, it might not, as each partner thinks their stumping partner is perfick!

If you do not fancy, as I do not, having Winston Peters being the queen or king maker, then, almost certainly, no predictions required, you and I will be disappointed!

But enough of secular political punditry (on which I fancy myself having some expertise :),) what would Jesus do?

Who would Jesus vote for this Saturday? (Well, okay, he was an observant Jew, so probably would cast an early vote so as not to do that sort of work on the Sabbath.)

It is tempting, incidentally, and I think some Christians will do this, to vote for Bill English (because a Christian, a married man and a family man) and not for Jacinda Ardern (because she is not married to her partner, not even engaged, and because she is not a committed Christian - she has distanced herself from her upbringing as a Mormon). Alongside that "moral approach" to voting decision-making, I would bring to bear this question: how honest is Bill English the politician? There are significant questions about his honesty in respect of the imbroglio over Todd Barclay and, more recently, a question about his continuing support for Murray McCully's shambolic if not dishonest performance explaining away an apparent bribe to a a Saudi sheikh.

What I think Jesus would do is to do what Jesus always did, which was to talk and act with a preference for the last, the least and the lost.

This election we are well aware that even if the country is working pretty well for many of us (who have jobs, who live in houses we can afford to rent or pay the mortgage for, who can pay our bills and buy good food for our families), it is not working well for all.

We have the last, the least and the lost among us - homeless, jobless, hungry, poor, waiting on hospital lists for treatment - to say nothing of those who feel hopeless and, perhaps, are turning to drugs as a result. Not all such situations can be fixed by government legislation and government department intervention. Some such situations could be helped significantly by the government governing better (e.g. using current tax revenue better) and by the government having more resources at its disposal (i.e. by raising more tax revenue).

But, just before we jump to the conclusion that Jesus would necessarily vote for one of our left-wing parties, it is worth remembering that Jesus was intelligent and wise. I think we could also assume that Jesus would not be so stupid as to vote for a solution to the problems of the last, the least and the lost which foreseeably would take us into a socialist world liable to become bankrupt (cf. Venezuela) or totalitarian (cf. anti-Christian Soviet Union, China).

In other words, Jesus would be a centrist like me!

OK, maybe not. But thinking like Jesus would think should bring into our minds both compassion and wisdom, both concern for people in need (think Parable of the Good Samaritan) and concern for society flourishing over the long-term in respect of freedom, sound economy, solid institutions (think Proverbs).

It might also be worth thinking about how Green Jesus would be, if voting in this election. As supreme Agent of Creation, I find it hard to think of Jesus as being unconcerned about how polluted our rivers, lakes and underground water supplies are becoming (think Genesis 1-2).

Trying to think Christianly in this way may or may not help us to finally determine which party we will vote for, because this way of thinking, leaves a number of options open to us. But it might also make us think a bit harder about which party we would vote for - it might make us pray more for good discernment.

I know which party I am voting for but won't say here. I am happy to say whom I am voting for in my intriguing local electorate, Ilam, where the incumbent National MP, Gerry Brownlee, is apparently being chased hard by a popular city councillor, Raf Manji, standing as an independent. My vote, however, is going to Tony Rimell, the Labour candidate and a Baptist minister here in Christchurch. In his favour is the fact that he is the only candidate I know personally!

*For overseas readers, NZ has a Mixed Member Proportional voting system in which each voter has two votes. One vote is for the local electorate MP, the other vote is for the preferred  party to govern. The latter vote determines, proportionally, the make-up of parliament with MPs being drawn in from party lists to make up the proportionality required after the electorate MPs are taken into account. Theoretically a party could score >50% of the votes and govern alone but in practice no government has been formed under MMP without either a formal coalition with one or more other parties and/or a confidence-and-supply agreement with one or more other parties.

A further point of history to bear in mind: not since 1969 has NZ elected a government for a fourth term. The present National-led government has governed for three terms. The arc of history bends against a return of a National-led government, but the arc of history is a quaint notion and not a law of the Medes and Persians.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Ecumenical Response to Synod's Cathedral Decision

Thanks to a commenter on Bosco Peter's post on our Synod decision re reinstatement of the cathedral, I have now noticed an ecumenical church leaders' response to the decision. It is worth copying in full here:

"MEDIA RELEASE FROM THE HEADS OF DENOMINATIONS OF CANTERBURY CHURCHES
Sunday 10 September 2017
The Anglican Cathedral has been at the centre of perhaps one of the most public and fraught stories coming out of the devastation caused by Christchurch earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. It has been a long and difficult saga. Every Cantabrian has to be aware of the angst and debate regarding the future of this iconic building in the centre of our city. Every New Zealander probably, and many people in various parts of the world, also know about this broken building and the conflict over its future.
While it is primarily an Anglican conversation, along with other interested parties, many Christians have felt a stake in this matter, even if for most, it is from the side-lines. So, in the lead up to the Anglican Synod and their decision regarding the future of the Cathedral, many have prayerfully supported their Anglican brothers and sisters, their leaders, and Bishop Victoria.
Now that they have carefully considered the many conflicting interests, weighed their options and thoughtfully arrived at a decision, leaders of most groups of churches in our city and region are glad to express unequivocal support for the Anglican community. The rebuild will be a demanding project, a whole new challenge. We look forward to seeing a successful conclusion, a building ready to be filled with people and praise again.
At a recent Heads of Christian Denominations meeting, serious concern was expressed about the conduct of some aspects of the debate around the cathedral. Church leaders recognised the contentious nature of the issue and the complexities involved, however there is great concern about the occasionally vicious nature of some of the debate. Vitriol and personal attack add nothing of value to a decision-making process, and in fact demean all of us in the city.
Now Christian leaders plead with everyone interested in this divisive debate to accept the decision that has been carefully and legitimately made. Let us put division and bitterness behind us and work together for the good of our whole community.
The vision Christian leaders share for our Christchurch is of a great city, bursting with life, its people thriving and prospering in every sense. Every day Christians work in a multitude of ways for the good of the people of this city and we are committed to continuing this work, in compassion and care, in the arts and business, in education and community building. We want a city where everyone is welcomed and respected, whether people of a faith and creed or not. We desire a city where there is opportunity for everyone to positively participate and contribute, where goodwill and generosity of spirit build strong vibrant communities across the city and region. We dream of a city where our modern nation’s founding document, The Treaty of Waitangi, is honoured, not simply settled.
There is much yet to be done; in housing, mental health, education, employment, racial reconciliation and more besides; and it will take us all working together for the common good.
The task for all Christian believers is to shine the same light of God’s love and grace in our city here today, and in the days ahead.
Christians are fallible humans, we do not always reach the heights we aspire to, and so we acknowledge our shortcomings. However, as followers in the footsteps of Jesus we are glad to be called by God to bless the city with hope, joy, creativity, beauty and love.
This is our commitment to the city and region we love.
We invite all people of hope and vision to join with us in this dream, as we join with you; we all need each other.
Paul Askin, Senior Pastor Kaiapoi Baptist Church
Maurice Atkinson, Regional Mission Leader for Canterbury Westland Baptist Association
Steve Burgess, Senior Pastor South City C3
David Coster, Moderator Alpine Presbytery,Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand
Alan Jamieson, Senior Pastor South West Baptist Church
Margie Lamborn, Regional Overseer of Central South Island Assemblies of God
Fr Rick Loughnan, Administrator for the Catholic Diocese of Christchurch
David MacGregor, Senior Pastor Grace Vineyard Church
Donald Scott, Senior Pastor North City Church
Ken Shelley, Senior Pastor King’s Church
Mike Stopforth, Director Catholic Bishop’s Pastoral Office
Nu Telea, Senior Pastor Elim Church Christchurch City
Kathryn Walters, District Superintendent Central South Island Synod Methodist Church of New Zealand"

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Debates within a debate, differences about difference

One of the fascinating aspects of our debate over the cathedral at synod was what I will call here "debates within the debate."

I mention these not to relitigate the arguments made on the floor of synod but to make a point about the wide array of differences in our church. Not confined to You Know What!

Subsidiary Debate 1: church and state relationships. Should the church respect the state and its role in the life of the church (Romans 13, respect for God's appointed authorities)? Or, should the church be wary of the state since the latter can be an authority which seeks to suppress the authority of God (cf. Acts 4)?

Subsidiary Debate 2: church and community relationships. To what extent is the church for itself (as a worshipping community, as a group of people gathering regularly with shared commitments to ministry of Word and Sacrament) and for the community around it? May the latter shape the former? What role do buildings play in the life of the church and its reaching out to the community? Might the importance of a building for the wider community shape the building for the church within its walls? How does the active, believing, worshipping congregation connect with the vague spirituality of the unbaptised, little or no-belief community? These questions were touched on as we considered the past ministry and mission of the cathedral before the quakes, as we considered the possible future ministry and mission but did that prognosticating on the future state of church life, of spirituality in the community. They also arose in connection with the intangible notion of our relationship with the city and province, as well as with experiences of seeking to advance the gospel in our city with a broken cathedral.

Subsidiary Debate 3: appropriate Christian use of money. When is money spent on one desirable project "too much" money? As a diocese we have restored churches for smaller outlays of money than the cathedral will cost. The outlay on the cathedral is definitely "too much" for some members of Synod. We never actually asked the question, but what would be the point when "too much" was reached? Is spending money on aesthetics of church life (burial ointment for Jesus, stained glass windows, beautiful church buildings) compared to spending money on the poor (in our Chch city case, on mental health and on social housing) an either/or, or a both/and? The question "what would Jesus do?" was raised. An important question and one with some nuances to it ... since presumably Jesus wanted the cathedral in the 19th century!

Readers here who were at Synod might have other subsidiary debates to note in comments ...

But, nevertheless, a word about the You Know What discussion

We had an hour's discussion of the Motion 29 Working Group Interim report (same sex blessings). Afterwards I realise that the contributions to the discussion represented three levels of "difference" in our Diocese.

First, and most obviously, differences of views on the rightness of blessing.

Secondly, and fairly obviously, differences in starting point for those views - different underlying theologies and ways of doing theology. (Note yesterday's post here on ADU).

Thirdly, and not so obviously to me until a conversation sparked the thought, the difference between those who feel they can live with difference on this matter and those who feel they cannot. A difference about difference!

That is, when the proposal makes a way for us to be a church living with difference on the matter of blessing, one explanation of rejection of the proposal seems to be that it is not imaginable that such living with difference can take place.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Leaching nitrates into theological wells?

OK so the focus is on how a certain philosopher/theologian poisoned German theology, Protestant and Catholic - guess who before reading on!? - but I think this article illuminates a lot of debate hereabouts, Down Under at large, and on ADU in particular.

In this season of electioneering, in which quite rightly we are thinking about the effects of leaching nitrates into water bores, streams and rivers, we need to remain ever vigilant about the quality of our Christian thinking, susceptible as it is to the increasing depths to which the nitrates of heresy and heterodoxy can leach. I include myself in that concern. I know some of you ARE concerned!

Here are the money paragraphs:

"Citing a Lutheran hymn, “God Himself is Dead”, Hegel argues that God unites death to his nature. And so when we encounter suffering and death, we taste the particularities of the eternal divine “history”. As he puts it, suffering “is a moment in the nature of God himself; it has taken place in God himself.” For Hegel, suffering is an aspect of God’s eternal nature. Our sin and suffering is necessary for God to be God.

This heretical view has had widespread influence in modern Catholic and Protestant accounts of God’s nature. It’s often given a pastoral veneer of the God who weeps with us. Yet, tragically unaware of his error, the Hegelian homilist preaches a God who cannot save: a God who is so eternally bound to our tears he cannot truly wipe them away.
Many 20th-century German theologians followed in Hegel’s footsteps. A basic principle was Hegel’s dialectic process itself as revelatory, which is to say they smuggled into their ideas on “doctrinal development” the notion that God was continuing to reveal himself in history, as though there was always something “becoming” in God, and thus, in the Church. Hegel’s spiritual forerunner Joachim de Fiore had predicted a “third age of the Holy Spirit” which would sing a new Church into being, and it’s striking how many German theologians have been entranced by the idea of a future Church very different to the holy and apostolic one of the past.
This is not to say Hegel is the answer to Bismarck’s hypothetical question. There is a great difference between the Left Hegelian Ludwig Feuerbach’s idea of religion as projection of inner spirit and the theologies of Karl Rahner or Walter Kasper. But there is nevertheless something deeply Hegelian about making the unfolding of human experience in history a standard for theological development — to which God or the Church, always in mercy, must conform. Unfortunately, this is a terrible standard for change which leads not only to false reform, but to apostasy and desolation."

Monday, September 11, 2017

Restoring thin places

Yesterday Teresa and I had the immense privilege of being present at the reopening of Holy Innocents church, Mt Peel, South Canterbury.

Also in the news this morning I see this item about the restoration of St Mary's Cathedral, New Plymouth, Taranaki.

In both cases these churches have iconic status, represent history (in the sense of connections to significant events, development of farming in NZ and the Land Wars, respectively) as well as heritage - its decades since I have visited St Mary's so won't comment on its heritage, but Holy Innocents has as an extraordinary collection of stained glass windows in a small church as you could find anywhere in NZ. (The photo below does not do justice to the beauty of the new window in the new east wall and only gives a hint of the amazing windows in the side walls.)



In the particular case of Holy Innocents, Bishop Victoria in her sermon talked about "thin places" - those places on earth in which heaven is juxtaposed with the flimsiest of walls between them. Holy Innocents, indeed, seems one of those places.

In conversation afterwards, I found myself reminded of the capacity and power of such thin places (including, our cathedral). Self-described irregular churchgoers connect with thin places! Regular church goers do too.

It is hard to put a $ value on restoring our churches, let alone the ones we feel are thin places.

So I won't. But what I did note in the service yesterday was John Acland's remarkable stories of significant donations for the restoration of Holy Innocents turning up in completely unexpected ways.

So I give - we can give - thanks for the mysterious ways in which we are finding thin places are being restored.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Christ Church Cathedral: the way forward!

Most readers here know that our Diocese has been sorely troubled by questions and issues about our cathedral - Christ Church Cathedral, located in Cathedral Square, the beating heart of our city. Badly damaged in the 22 February 2011 earthquake and subsequent quakes, we (particularly our Bishop, successive Deans, Church Property Trustees, CPT staff, and, lately, Synod members) have contemplated deconstruction, been tied up in court sorting out insurance funds usage, staying deconstruction, been on a trip around the northern hemisphere looking at cathedral designs, participated in two working parties, spent countless hours in meetings, sending and responding to emails, and so forth.

These last two days, as also many readers are aware, we have been doing our final talking and debating the merits of three Options A, B, C in an attempt to make a final decision about the way forward. A = reinstatement, B = new build, C = give the cathedral to the people of NZ.

Today we voted in a 55% vote for Option A.

Media articles are here and here (the latter, on Taonga, will be followed up soon by an "after the decision" article).

We had an amazing debate. Solid speeches, careful questions, impassioned entreaties, all with no sense of rush. It is a long time, if ever, that I have been part of such a long diocesan synodical debate. What really surprised me is that after this morning - when speeches favouring A were running about 16 to 3 for B and 1 for C - we had a vote as close as it was. I thought A might have achieved over 2/3rds majority. It did not.

To be clear to readers, I spoke for A and voted for it. My key reasons are in the Taonga article.

A few hours later I do not regret my choice.

One of the oddities of our situation as a Diocese - not commented on in any speech that I recall - is that we have supported the restoration of heritage churches. Tomorrow I travel to Mt Peel for the reopening of Holy Innocents church. Recently I was in a service in the reinstated St Bartholomew's church in Kaiapoi.

A question I wouldn't mind discussing at some future point, in some kind of diocesan forum, is what our theology of restoration of churches is. In part our tension over the cathedral seems one of dimensions. In appearance the difference looks like: if a church is smallish, and its restoration bill is smallish, we're fine with restoration. But if it is a large building and the bill involves many noughts, then we are not so fine.

Or, is it more subtle than that: if a parish chooses to restore, that is their business, but a cathedral is a building with many owners and several visions for its future, and thus we have differed.

Further, it appears that when (say) a restoration is a $1m or $2, we think not of helping the poor of our city. But the cathedral at c. $100m has provoked many concerns about best and highest use of money relative to real, widespread needs in our city and country.

Either way, to what extent do we have a theology of restoration? And of what nature is that theology relative to our theology of money and of social assistance to those in need?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Saving the church from its statistically inevitable death?

Recent news out of the CofE is that its inexorable decline in adherence continues, arguably at an alarming rate. Not much is different in Australia and New Zealand. Also Down Under, like in Britain, Catholic and other churches are holding their own (more or less) and the overall belief in God box ticked numbers are going downhill.

Thus I read this thread on Twitter this morning with interest:


This starts with this Tweet




I think Ryan Cook is largely right in his next Tweet that on Twitter and elsewhere on social media (including, we might observe, this blog!!) there is a quickfire reaction to church decline which (a) blames and (b) globalises the problem with antithetical - they both cannot be right - conclusions.

Not progressive enough? Yeah, right (as we Kiwis say). All those cool dude atheists with strong social progressive agendas and antiTrump stickers on their car bumpers are just waiting for the moment when the church approves SSM and drops its opposition to abortion and euthanasia.

Not conservative enough? Yeah, right. All those keyboard warriors with their white is might, government is always wrong, world is going to hell on a skateboard named Gramsci (cultural Marxism) are just waiting for Francis and Welby to stop their ambiguities on social policies and their neoMarxisms on economic policies and then they will turn the computer off in order to activise in the church instead.

If you search diligently on the Twitter thread above you will find my own tuppence worth. Here I summarise as this:

Whatever number of Christians left in the world, we must be faithful to the gospel. We must believe that Jesus Christ is good news for the world though the kind of good news that many will reject. But we must not subvert the good news by mistaking it for this (progressive) or that (conservative) agenda. The good news of Jesus is very good news but it is very good distinctive good news.

Our challenge is to find that distinctiveness in today's world (a challenge because some blurring has occurred through the centuries of Christendom) and to communicate it in terms which relate to the context in which we live.

Vital here, IMHO, is that the gospel is not one and only one set of words. At the very beginnings of our life as a Christian community there were at least five different versions of the gospel: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul. Those first Christians translated the good news of Jesus in at least five different ways.

A translation of course which did not create five different gospels - a Martian looking upon the global church today could be forgiven for thinking that today's church has lost sight of that simple historical fact!

Actually, buried in global statistics of decline are narratives of growing churches. Churches, that is, which are translating the gospel in a manner which is understandable of the people. Here in NZ I too see that happening, though perhaps not as frequently as desirable.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Anglicans Down Under need your prayers!

There are many prayer needs around the world today, including the need for peaceful resolution of the crisis over North Korea, an end to violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, and help for those traumatised by flooding in Asia and in the USA. The needs below are not quite as urgent as such needs for basic human safety and security.

Christchurch Cathedral Decision

This weekend our Diocesan Synod meets to make a decision about the future of our cathedral in the Square. People are already praying, as Bishop Victoria movingly writes this week to her Diocese:

"I am deeply moved that the administrator of the Roman Catholic Diocese, Fr Rick,  asked all the parishes to pray for our Synod last Sunday.  When I was at Laidlaw College addressing a class this week, the class ended its session in prayer for our Synod.  South West Baptist and other churches and denominations have also spent time in prayer on our behalf.  This is such a blessing.  Again I remind you that you are invited to come and  pray in the chapel at St Christopher’s during the business sessions of Synod. "

If you could also pray for us: for wisdom to know what to decide and for courage to make a decision, we would be most grateful.

We debate the cathedral matter through Friday 8 September and vote on it at midday Saturday 9 September. We meet at St Christopher's Avonhead. Synod papers are online here.

Also appreciated would be prayer for our discussion of the Motion 29 Working Group Interim Report (4.30 pm Friday afternoon 8 September).

A prayer to pray for us is here.

Meanwhile ... up the road in Nelson ...

Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa Election of new Archbishop

This same weekend representatives from all five Tikanga Maori hui amorangi meet in Whakatu/Nelson for their runanganui (whole Tikanga synod) where they will elect a new archbishop. Taonga sets the scene here. Please pray for God's choice to be elected.

And, then, as I write this, across the Ditch

The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia meet this week

They're slumming it on the Gold Coast, so we should pray for this Synod. Air conditioning to work, that sort of thing :)

Seriously: there are, I gather, a few issues, around and abouts.

Session info is here and you can follow on Twitter at #GS17

Which brings us back to our Synod here in Christchurch and the most important decision of all:

What hashtag to use?????

Monday, September 4, 2017

Oh, well. That's that then. One reinstatement coming up.

Our beloved Press this morning has ever so gently nudged our Synod towards reinstatement of the Cathedral by publishing an article titled:

"Synod members may be leaning towards reinstatement, sources say"

Actually, the Press quotes only one source.

However I am not going to dispute that the way the pre Synod conversations and information sharing is going, the case for reinstatement as an affordable option is building.

Bishop Victoria Matthews herself wrote to the Diocese last Wednesday these words, cited in the Press article:

"I do not have any sense of how Synod will vote about the Cathedral nor am I worried. Every option has certain things to recommend it and I would be able to support any of the three options. Some of you will know this is due largely to the increased gift from the Government and CCC which eliminates the need for fundraising by the Diocese."

However I think Synod will be hearing from its members arguments for each of the three options before us: reinstatement, new build, giving the building and land away.

(We will also consider whether to admit as a late motion or not a proposal from one of our clerical members which would be a fourth option, a mix of reinstatement and new build for the east end.)

I think we are all wary of making a prediction about what the outcome will be. Not least because synods have the power to take a submitted motion and amend it etc. Amendments can be painful but incredibly useful in allowing Synod to edge its way towards a united decision.

Incidentally, the Press article is wrong on one matter. It talks about how synods vote:

"The synod is chaired by the bishop and members normally vote in three houses with a yea or nay verbal vote. The bishop has one vote, the clergy have one vote and lay members have one vote. A decision is passed if it has the support of two or more of the three votes."

This is not so. Only when a voice or show of hands vote is taken does a simple majority prevail. When we vote by houses each house has to vote for a motion for it to pass. It does not pass if only 2/3 houses vote for it.

The Press is correct when it goes on to say that Synod will consider a different way of voting, at least in respect of a preliminary vote for one preferred option. However this proposal has to be agreed by the Synod and I am expecting a debate on whether we should or should not vote in this particular way.

I will attempt to keep you posted through this week, until Friday morning. Likely I will not post about the debate (Friday) until the vote (Saturday) has been taken.

Right, I need to get on to some powerpoints to show when I introduce the discussion at Synod about same-sex blessings ...

Friday, September 1, 2017

A Beautiful Recommendation by FCANZ? [Amended]

[Amendment: the original post here drew attention to a confusion in the wording of the FCANZ post discussed below. My post has now been amended to reflect the new wording.]

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans of NZ (FCANZ) has published a response to the Motion 29 Working Group Interim Report (M29WGR).

The response can be found here. Below it is their original submission to the Working Group, in late 2016.

I like the way this response is introduced, with much appreciation and thankfulness for the approach taken by the Working Group. I also like the fairness of the response because some issues it sees with the proposal made in M29WGR are recognised as issues for those who support SSB.

Among various challenges to M29WGR made in the response, none of which are trivial, I think the most significant challenge concerns its request for alternative episcopal oversight as sine qua non to our church finding a way forward.

Interpreting a few tiny "smoke signals" in the weeks before before reading this response, I suspect that considerable conservative evangelical discussion within some sectors of our church is taking place about alternative episcopal oversight.

I suggest the FCANZ response should be read carefully on this matter, for two reasons.

First, making this request is itself a shift on the part of FCA (as one part of the NZ Anglican conservative evangelicals). Note at the link the submission made last year. It requested an extra-provincial diocese as a way forward. Alternative episcopal oversight against that request represents a commitment to a solution within the life of ACANZP itself.

Secondly, what is said about alternative episcopal oversight is grounded in an aspect of the M29WGR, the Christian communities which it envisages as means of safeguarding convictions.

Substantively, the FCANZ response in respect of alternative episcopal oversight raises an important theological principle: communion in an episcopal church necessarily involves communion with one's bishop. How is this to be so when communion with one's bishop is impaired? The response says this (emboldening is original to the FCANZ post):

"If Bishops allow the blessing of same-sex marriages within their hui amorangi/dioceses there will be some who believe this is unconstitutional and against the gospel of the Lord Jesus.  Their relationship with their Bishop will be impaired. Therefore, simply having an additional structure (such as a Christian Community) which exists alongside existing diocesan structures is insufficient.  Ministry units of a conviction different to their diocesan Bishop must be able to have alternative, rather than simply additional, episcopal oversight.   If such alternative episcopal oversight were to occur from a Christian Community, then the Bishop of that Community would need to have the same privileges and responsibilities as any other diocesan Bishop, and the Community have the same status as a Diocese.  
 
We appreciate that this is a significant development of the suggestions provided in the report, but one which we feel is a minimum necessity to truly safeguard the convictions of those who wish to uphold a traditional position. "

This is a considerable argument because it works from integrity of belief that if a bishop acts unconstitutionally and against the gospel of Christ then impairment of relationship with clergy and laity follows. In turn that raises the question how one might have episcopal oversight from a bishop with whom one is in an unimpaired relationship. The proposal in the cited paragraphs is that the M29WGR proposal for "additional" episcopal oversight (via a bishop who is visitor of one of the envisaged Christian communities) is strengthened and transformed to "alternative" episcopal oversight.

Incidentally, this works two ways in our context: those wishing to conduct SSBs could have alternative episcopal oversight via a Christian Community in order to ensure that from one diocesan bishop to another, permission to conduct SSBs continued.

What do you think?

In conclusion, a note re my original post on M29WGR:

(Slightly defensively!) What does this response do to my "beautiful Anglican accommodation" assessment of M29WGR?

First, yes, it highlights some aspects of M29WGR which could be (so to speak) more beautiful. Some significant criticisms are made, and they are (according to some conversations I have had, internet comment I have seen) shared beyond the part of the theological spectrum inhabited by FCANZ.

Secondly, it recognises that M29WGR is a compromise. Thus a question for our church is whether this compromise could be better (so the response) or whether it is, in fact, the best compromise (because, actually, the criticisms made by the FCANZ response are about matters considered by the Working Group and not acted on).

In particular, as far as I know, alternative episcopal oversight was considered by the Working Group but not acted on.

Nevertheless, FCANZ in this response is pressing the point - note the words "minimum necessity" in the citation above - that alternative episcopal oversight really, really ought to be considered if we are not to have schism.

If schism could be averted by this recommendation, we could still have a (very) beautiful Anglican accommodation!

For clarity: I am neither arguing for nor against "aeo" here. I may or may not one day reflect upon the (de)merits of "aeo" for our church. But what I am urging is that all readers here note that those wishing to avert schism appear to now have the issue of "aeo" to engage with.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Does #NashvilleStatement help cohesion of Christian faith, stem moral tide ...? [UPDATED][x3]

SECOND UPDATE

Ian Paul weighs in here while picking up some judicious comment along the way.

THIRD UPDATE

Preston Sprinkle weighs in here.

ORIGINAL
Some stern reading here (Rabbi Sacks) and here (Dreher). We ignore these warnings at our peril.

Yet do either of those readings mean we should sign up to the Nashville Statement?

Dreher says Yes; Merritt says Meh.

My own view is that I won't sign. 

Not because I disagree broadly with the statement which is in line with a conservative, traditional understanding of Scripture on sexual morality. 

No, I won't sign because such a statement is not just about what we believe to be true, it is also about groups of minorities in our societies. 

Producing these kinds of statements, circulating them around the world, seeking signatures from church leaders strikes me as a form of bullying. Is it what Jesus would do?

Why, I ask plaintively, and not for the first or the last time, does such an approach singularly fail to also "target" those who remarry after divorce? 

Why can such statement producers not offer as great a clarity on remarriage after divorce as on homosexuality and gender transitions and indistinctions?

Dear Rod Dreher, a true prophet of today should ask, where is just, non-discriminatory treatment of all sexual sinners?

LATER: A very thoughtful, appreciative, but, nevertheless, I will not sign, response from Matthew Lee Anderson here.

One point he makes really skewers the statement:

"Even if the statement draws the boundary in the right place, then, it inherently and intentionally obscures the fact that whether evangelicals embrace the “spirit of our age” is not a decision before us: It is a decision that has been already made. A “secular spirit” manifests every time an evangelical pastor remarries someone who was divorced without cause. It comes to the surface every time an evangelical couple pursues in vitro fertilization, and so undoes the “God-ordained link” between the reproductive organs and the union of the couple’s love. Every time an evangelical couple “feels the Lord calling” them to surrogacy, there the “spirit of our age” appears. And yes, it happens every time an evangelical utters the damnable phrase, “Well, I’m an evangelical, which means I’m okay with contraception”—as though that were somehow a mark of evangelical identity. (I’ve run out of fingers trying to count the number of times I’ve heard that, from pastors and from laypeople.)"

UPDATE: And now this, from a celibate, gay Christian.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

"Beautiful Anglican Accommodation" comments' thread: continue here

Amazingly comments continue on my major post (last month) on the interim report of our GS working group on SSB.

That post is here.

If you want to keep commenting, please do so here and not there as it is becoming non-easy to connect with the latest comments there.

The most recent comments at the time of posting this are copied below. Before we get to them, a little reflection of my own:

And they say an Anglican house divided will not stand!

Readers from beyond Down Under may not understand how a mere 1200 miles of ocean (or Ditch) places no particular distance between NZ and Australia in terms of close interest in the doings of our neighbour (at least for Kiwis - no doubt many Australians think of us as the boring little brother or sister!). Cultural distance is another matter ...

So, over in Oz, there is a major and I mean major brouhaha about SSM. Even how a nation with a parliament and a postal system can decide what it collectively thinks and wants re SSM has been a brouhaha. That Kiwis sorted this years ago now with the minimum of fuss may reflect that cultural distance which is clearly wider than 1200 miles ...

Natch, Christians are at odds with each other on this matter, even as they are working out how beleagaured the Christian community at large is within a rapidly secularising Australia.

Fascinatingly, for this Anglican observer at least, even Catholics are at odds with each other, as this article indicates. And in quasi-Anglican terms: the gospel of love versus the law of God!

Here's the thing. Are we Christians/Anglicans/Catholics divided on a matter which is genuinely intractable, which involves deeply held convictions about deep matters of God (law/love)? If so, should we (A) be kind to each other, and (B) work out how we live with these differences rather than how we divide because of them? Let's face it, no matter how much we divide the denominational cake on this one, the whole Christian communities in Oz and NZ will remain Christian communities in which there is major difference over SSB/SSM!


MOST RECENT COMMENTS FROM ORIGINAL POST on Beautiful Anglican Accommodation

"Brendan McNeill said...

Dear Bowman and Bryden

An interesting insight into character formation, and the scripting we bring with us into life, and into our lived experience as Christians.

I wonder in the light of those thoughts, what you make of Romans 12:1-2:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

I’m particularly interested in the aspect of ‘being transformed by the renewing of your mind’ – how do you suggest that takes place? While I have my own views, I’d be interested in yours.

Secondly, Paul implies that renewal of ones mind is not an automatic process that follows salvation, that it appears to involve some agency or choice on the part of the believer. Thoughts?

Third, when someone undertakes the renewing of their mind and therefore begins to approve of God’s good and perfect will, should we think it strange if their teaching and example did not begin to eventually comply at least somewhat more closely to the example of Jesus, and the testimony of Scripture?

To me this passage of Scripture appears to have considerable bearing upon the matter in question, not in regard to how God views same sex anything, but rather how we view it.
Father Ron Smith said...
Thankyou, Bowman, for your reminder of 'inherited prejudice', which may - or may not - be pastorally considered as a hindrance to the formation of a valid conscience. One excellent example of this was Saint Paul's need of 'conversion', from his formation under the Jewish Tradition - into the grace-filled understanding of Christianity.

One suspects that some of the failings he was able to confess in his newly-acquired conscience - but which he accepted were subsumed into the redemption of Jesus - were mystically dealt with as part of his journey into the Kingdom of God. Thus: "Thanks be to God for the victory in Christ Jesus"
Bryden Black said...
Well Brendan (1/2); you have picked, what for me, is an absolutely seminal pair of verses. Only the likes of Jn 1:14 and 3:16 might compare in density and significance.

First off, I see you have chosen the NIV translation, which has “in view of God’s mercy”. A nice rendering, given these two verses constitute the fulcrum [what’s the “therefore” there for?!] of the entire letter, coming after the fulsome presentation of “Paul’s Gospel” (16:25), which forms chs 1-11. The conclusion of these chapters may be viewed as 11:32.

“I urge” [compare other EVV translations]: Paul often presents his more theological material first, followed by his “hortatory” section, given the second is, in his view, the natural consequence arising out of the first. The ground/basis (of his appeal) comes first; then the appeal itself second.

His “appeal”/“exhortation” is addressed to those whom he knows to be his family in the Lord Jesus, the Household of God - “brothers and sisters” - who share in common the Holy Spirit. We are all in this together; but only so on account of God’s gift and doing, his Grace/Mercy.

“Offer”/“present”: classic Jewish sacrificial language. And what is so offered up is first off most concrete - as befits an Incarnational belief, and the God of Creation. Yet this entire first verse also leads back directly to ch.1 and vv.18ff. There the matter was “false worship”, worship of the creature(s) rather than the Creator (v.25); and the result of such “folly” (v.22) furthermore involves both “hearts” and “bodies”, which will be taken up directly in 12:1-2. Note too “desire” (1:24): Augustine will make much of this human trait, since in his schema the entire point is to desire the God who made us and yet we stupidly seek after instead false objects of worship. I.e. he beautifully paraphrases Paul.

In the OT, “sacrifices” were slaughtered naturally, and so dead (or were vegetable); now, since we Christians are both dead and resurrected in Christ Jesus (Rom 6), we’re able truly to offer our very lives - that supreme gift of God, the Living God, Who Is, is returned to its Source.
Yet here too Augustine (in a sermon) plays delightfully: “the trouble with being a living sacrifice is that it has a habit of crawling off the altar!”

“Holy”: anything given over unto God, as we Christians should now be, was considered holy in the OT.

The “aroma/odour” of any burnt sacrifice in the OT was often described as smelling pleasant or pleasing to God. Cf. 2 Cor 2:14-17.

All of which response ‘accords well’ with what we should be doing: creatures are meant to worship their Creator (Rev 4 & 5). This response is the most “logical/rational”, consistent reaction to what chs 1-11 have displayed: the phrase “true and proper” is thus one translation; another is “spiritual”. And “worship” is one of a pair often used: leitourgia = bringing of offerings or performing ceremonial services; latreia, as here = worship/service of God.
Bryden Black said...
2/3. The neat thing about v.2 is that it echoes delightfully and in passing the NT Catechism. See Eph 4:(17-) 20-24, with v.23 directly paralleling Rom 12:2. [See now my God’s Address—Living with the Triune God: A Scripture Workbook in the Style of Manuduction to Accompany The Lion, the Dove, & the Lamb (Wipf & Stock, 2017).] I.e. v.2 compresses an inordinate amount into its full and real meaning - if we but knew it and heard the full echo that Paul is wanting us to invoke.

“Conformed to this age/world”: adding the word “pattern” in your translation brings out the Greek verb nicely. All that is opposed to God comprises an entire “scheme” - in both senses of that word. And here there’s often a real difficulty. Many folk are simply blind to the fact that there IS such a ‘world’ which is against God (back to 1:21-22 again). This “period” of history in which we currently live as humans consists of two opposing ‘worlds’, or ‘schemata’, one which is under God’s Kingdom and another which opposes his Rule. Cf. Col 1:12-14. The NT simply makes no sense apart from this Apocalyptic dualism. Now; of course it’s pretty fashionable to discount such a scheme of things in the modern, secular West. The world is the world is the world; and that’s all there is to it. And furthermore, it’s but a natural evolutionary process ... This is one enormous temptation for Western Christians. Nor do I sense many of us have managed to quite reconcile either the natural sciences or the social sciences with our Christian Faith very well. The history of theology these past 200 years is instructive. Indeed; I fancy much of what passes for discussion on That Topic has its roots right here.

Next. I write this in God’s Address re Eph 4:20-24. “This archetypal pairing of putting off the old and putting on the new (see too Col 3:1–14), “in the power of the Spirit” (Rom 8:13), via the “renewing of the spirit of the mind”, may be likened to a pair of scissors. Such an instrument is made up of three things: a pair of opposing blades, and a rivet holding them together. This crucial pivot, with a similar contrast of old and new, is exactly what Paul presents again at the turning point of his magisterial Romans, 12:1–2.”

“Mind”: technically, this word nous had uses in popular mysticism and philosophy, as a specific faculty that engaged such things. Paul may or may not be thinking of this here. Overall, the point is clear enough: our ‘human control centre’ is to engage with the significance of what has happened on account of the Gospel, both externally, objectively in history itself, and to each and every Christian by way of their conversion and incorporation into Christ Jesus, Who in Himself, is the New Age. Once more, this ensures our response is “consistent with” the Gospel (as in the last part of v.1). Yet this “transformation” is no instant thing; it is continuous in this current ‘world’. Cf. 2 Cor 3:18. Our “walk in the Spirit”, who does this transformation work within us, is an ongoing business (Gal 5:25, Rom 8:9-13). My most fulsome experience of the sort of thing envisaged here has been my exposure to the work and ministry of Leanne Payne. Her Pastoral Care Ministries and now, after her retirement and death, the Ministry of Pastoral Care Schools were/are quite extraordinary. They are a special and almost unique expression of what this “transformation” is all about, I warrant. And they surely address the very sorts of things Bowman is raising by way of “invincible ignorance”, etc. Actually, firstly, in the power of the Risen Jesus, such things prove to be NOT invincible, although seemingly, previously they might have appeared so; they are also brought to light/into the Light, and so become “known” - as they were always in God’s Sight anyway. And I’m also referring to intergenerational stuff as well ...
Bryden Black said...
3/3

“Then”: so that, the purpose and goal of all this. “Test and approve” unpacks the double sense of the Greek: both prove and approve; approve, having first tested; both discerning that will and then of course following it faithfully, obediently.

And of course such a divine will is three things in this context. For God himself is always “good” and just; and such goodness (of God and God’s purposes) pleases him, brings God pleasure and joy; “perfect” is also “mature/complete” (as in Matt 5:48), and so naturally rounds everything off. There is always a point to all that God does and is!

This running commentary, Brendan, has already begun to address your subsequent questions. These verses are absolutely seminal, as I say, regarding the Christian life in general, and so should be able to bring MUCH LIGHT TO BEAR upon our present Anglican dilemmas. They also govern both confessors and their supplicants, in my experience. To summarize therefore. Christians are sanctified by the patient ministry of word-and-sacrament; by private and corporate prayer; by consistent and persistent “acts of mercy” in their ministry and mission in and to and for the world. Via all these things the Holy Spirit conforms us to the Image of Christ Jesus. I wrote God’s Address as an explicit answer both to making things Trinitarian operational, and to guide folk into reading Scripture via a Trinitarian lens - in a Trinitarian vein, as I say. That very ‘reading’ leads most naturally to an entire set of other things (as the workbook also lays out). For the Triune God works in those Ways he has clearly laid out for us in his written Word. It’s only a case of learning (as a disciple!!) ‘How’ to ‘Read’, and so how to “Perform” such a ‘reading’. The trick is ever becoming a practised, virtuoso performer, following the score of the text of the Word (written and Personal) in the power of the Spirit, unto the Father’s Glory.
Brendan McNeill said...
Hi Bryden

Thank you for taking the time to make a such a comprehensive response to my question. I agree that they are pivotal verses in helping us understand the process of transformation God seeks to undertake in the mind and the life of the believer.

I agree with the ‘two kingdoms’ understanding of the environment we inhabit, and the battle that is ever present for the hearts and minds of the believer, and ultimately Christ’s Bride, the Church.

Yes, to submitting our bodies as a living sacrifice, and our minds to the transforming power of God’s Word and his Holy Spirit. I am unaware of the life and ministry of Leanne Payne, however she has clearly had a significant impact upon you. The teaching and ministry of Derek Prince had a similar impact on my life as a new believer (and beyond). He came to Christchurch at least once, and had a powerful ministry in the spirit as well as the Word. Many were healed and delivered from demons in his meetings as I recall.

I appreciate that you have also added the sacraments to the Word and the Spirit. This is an emphasis I have begun to appreciate more since my involvement in the Anglican church. Ron, if you are reading this, then I’m sure that will please you!

Over the years, I have had the privilege of seeing many people’s lives transform through the process you have outlined, albeit maybe not as well understood as you have expressed. As Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 4:20 “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” (NIV). Surely, this is the transforming power at work in Romans 12:1-2.

Blessings…
Anonymous said...
Warm thanks to you, Brendan, for another fascinating comment. Your questions at 5:52 are so close to my heart that I have for years considered blogging somewhere about them alone. I will answer tomorrow, as it takes time to write a concise reply. If the result is not also brief, I will post it to a more current thread where Blogger is less likely to inconvenience Peter by misplacing it.

Bowman Walton
August 30, 2017 at 3:36 AM "

Monday, August 28, 2017

Australian Anglican Wisdom

Look, its really only in how to play winning rugby and how to retain prime ministers that Oz lacks wisdom. Within the Anglican Church of Australia, there is wisdom, and here is ++Philip Freier expressing it in relationship to You Know What.

Seriously, taking the Bible literally is harder than taking it allegorically. Figuratively speaking!

Excellent post here by Ian Paul at Psephizo, responding to a recently published ancient Bible commentary and some remarks made thereunto.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Robed Anglican Mission? (2)

Do robes help or hinder Anglican mission? Previously I argued that robes are not required by Christ's mission in which we share. They are beneficial rather than necessary for the mission of God.

A basic point about robing is that it is a form of uniform, with the uniform being influenced by robing through the previous centuries rather than, say, by negotiating with a uniform making factory and offering a cheap, hardwearing form of overalls with appropriate logos on the back.

What I think we are seeing, at least in Western cultures, is that Anglicans are finding two ways to be in mission in respect of people encounters where the question to robe or not arise.

One way is through providing familiar forms of worship which fit with expectations within our cultures about how the church should be and about where God might be encountered. Hence robed clergy, choirs, etc, leading traditional forms of liturgy (by which I mean, using words agreed by common synodical decision). Even in a post-Christian world, there are plenty of images of the church provided by TV and movies, most of which involve some pastiche of traditional Christianity in which the Vicar (English scenes) or the priest (American scenes) are robed up in order to lead a wedding (of hero and heroine) or a funeral (of some Mobster crook!). I say "pastiche" because the words used seem to be a mix of Catholic, Anglican and scriptwriters made up wording!

Another way is through providing forms of worship less familiar from TV screens and more familiar for those brought up in churches geared to informal worship. There may be some use of agreed liturgical wording, but the general approach is for the leader to lead spontaneously, using, for instances, rapport rather than responses to make connection between front of house and audience in pews or, more likely, individual seats. In this form of worship, which is quite widespread across the Western Anglican world, wearing robes is out of sorts with this informal genre.

I like to wear a suit and will happily wear one to certain kinds of meals (a formal dinner etc). But I am a fish out of water if I wear a suit to a friend's barbecue. Such an informal meal is best suited (bad pun, I know) to jeans and t-shirt.

But, if you agree with me, that both styles of worship have their place in an Anglican church which has a missional outlook - which seeks to be accessible for people searching for God via attendance at a worship service - we have a small rubrical problem, at least here in NZ.

For nowhere in our prayer books do we find any words which effectively say "Dress for the occasion." We just talk about what robes to wear.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

What Would Jesus Do? A Guide For Troubled Conservatives!

My eye was struck by article in the Press this morning. I can't find that precise article on the internet but here is a close relative. About that jokey but now EXTREMELY SERIOUS question, for some Catholics at least, Is the Pope a Catholic?

I notice a certain cunning in the way some public comment is circulating in conservative Catholic circles: really, there hasn't been a "proper" Pope since Pius XII in the 1950s. Clever deflection from making it all about Francis or looking like wistfulness for Benedict. But I don't recall this angst running through the college of cardinals during the reigns of Pius' successors. Only the SSPX rose to that particular improper pope anxiety. Otherwise it was mutterings about Vatican 2.

Of course the specific issue today is Francis' intransigent ambiguity on eucharist for the remarried divorcees. On the one hand I get it that there is a logic to Roman teaching on marriage and eucharist, with the "get out of jail" card called Annulment, which proscribes reception of the host by one who, according to that logic is a continuing adulterer. On the other hand, I do not see many Kiwi Catholics particularly discomforted by Francis' pastoral approach to the matter. Nor, of course, is there a lot of evidence these days of assiduous adherence to Humanae Vitae.

In short, Francis may be canonically wrong but pastorally attuned to the life situation of the laity.

I continue to think about these things, including preparing for a recent opportunity to teach on 1 Corinthians 5-7.

My simple question concerns what Jesus himself would do in this situation. That, surely, is worth examining while reiterating the canons and reviewing whether the Pope is Catholic.

Briefly, I cannot get from Jesus in, say, Luke 7:36-50, or John 8:1-11, to the rigor of discipline that offers no repentance for the divorced and remarried person (save for strict celibacy within marriage) and no share in the eucharist. And I still cannot find Annulment as a way round Jesus or Paul's teaching on divorce.

In those few sentences I am not pretending to have advanced a case to overturn the full weight of canonical, catechetical teaching (as if ...) but I wonder if those sentences might take us to the heartbeat of Francis?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Confession and repentance, critical to eucharist

Excellent post here on the importance of confession and repentance before participating in communion. Starring a couple of leading folk who are not actually Anglican ... but could be, by virtue of what they say!

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Politics of Jesus: which party supports you?

The other day I heard about a site called "I side with" (NZ election version here).

It helps people like me who get too concerned about personalities (English, Ardern, Flavell, Fox, yay; Winston Peters, nay) to focus on policy. By answering the questions, the site (having predigested policy statements) lets you know which party fits your views best.

Now, the other day when I first took the quiz, it came up with one set of answers. On Saturday I revised my answers in a few cases and also found a whole lot of new questions (participants can suggest new questions). This was what was returned:



So, on the one hand, this is not terrifically helpful to me, because of the closeness of scores for the first five parties. Intriguingly I have the Greens and ACT scoring pretty closely, even though they are generally poles apart on policy!

On the other hand, given that my answers are unlikely to be significantly different from most Christians (a bit morally conservative, fiscally responsible, environmentally friendly, refugee and immigrant welcoming, etc) it is illuminating how many choices a Christian has in this election about which party is broadly supportive of Christian values in respect of politics.

I will keep thinking, evaluating, discerning. I am sure you will too. And I will take the I side with quiz again before 23 September 2017!

Monday, August 14, 2017

New Option for Synod re Christchurch Cathedral

Our Synod will be considering a third option. Stuff carries a report here. Taonga reports here.

Option A = reinstatement
Option B = new build
Option C = give the cathedral to the government (i.e. to the people of New Zealand).

I have pulled out of proposing the motion to the Synod because I do not support Option C and could not speak in favour of it. (I am quite happy with reinstatement or a new cathedral so could speak in favour of both as the motion originally proposed.)

This week we have three Area meetings in order to discuss this new development (along with some other late Synod business).

I may or may not post my reasons for opposing Option C subsequent to those meetings.

You may or may not wish to comment here on Options A or B or C (or propose D ...)

Dean of Christ Church in Christchurch

These past few days Dean Martyn Percy of Christ Church, Oxford (college, cathedral) has been visiting Christchurch, NZ, with his wife Emma Percy.

I was lucky to hear Martyn speak four times - two lectures, Evensong sermon last evening and a seminar following. Across these talks, Martyn displayed scholarship, theological acumen, insight into cultural change, and a general flair for putting things in such a way that made us - certainly me - think.

We do not often have theologians of such calibre in our neck of the woods, so it has been a treat.

Martyn is a Tweeter and a story of his visit, via photographs and brief comments on Twitter can be found here.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

More Down Under Views on Marriage, and more notes from England

From Auckland, and from what could be called the progressive wing of our church, Helen Jacobi, Vicar of St Matthews-in-the-City, offers her view on the working group proposal. SPOILER ALERT: Helen's view is polar opposite to "beautiful accommodation"! Please discuss her response on her site so she can directly engage with your comments. I will not accept comments here which directly engage with what she has written.

Belatedly, I have discovered that, from Christchurch, Bryden Black, regular commenter here, has posted a response to the proposal on the AFFIRM website, here. As it requires a Log In to make comments there, and because Bryden is a regular reader here, I am prepared to take comments which directly engage with his post. SPOILER ALERT: Bryden is uncertain whether it is a "beautiful accommodation" or not!

Then from England:

Thinking Anglicans notices what is going on here.

From the TA site I draw your attention to a Church Times article about what is being proposed.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Two Down Under Views on Marriage, note from England

So, over in the West Island, things are reaching boiling point re whether there will or will not be a postal referendum, referendum, parliamentary bill, agreed to by senate or not, on, you know, that thing we in NZ actually managed to decide in a comparatively peaceful and orderly manner, same-sex marriage. But this is not time to boast. [That can wait till next Saturday night :).] Frankly, I am a bit confused. I think I understand one point: proponents of same-sex marriage are against a referendum on the matter, but not because a referendum (postal or otherwise) will go against change to the status quo, but because the accompanying debate will be full of homophobia.

Anyway, any Ozzie light shed on the matter of the politics of same-sex marriage, is welcome here, but what I do see in the public domain are two presentations on marriage, the existence of both views highlighting that Australian Christians are not agreed on what constitutes marriage.

One is by Jason Goroncy, a Baptist/Presbyterian theologian: A Christian theology of marriage.

The other is by Michael Jensen: I oppose same-sex marriage (and no, I am not a bigot).

I am citing these articles here, partly for possible future reference, partly because they represent for me some fine, careful Christian thinking about marriage. Yet, in my view, neither is completely satisfactory! Briefly, Goroncy omits discussion of Genesis 1-2; Jensen does not recognise the possibility that there is a distinction between 'contractual' marriage and 'conjugal' marriage, which in turn means it is possible for parliaments to change the terms of the former (as it often does re any law concerning contracts) while leaving untouched the permanent terms of the latter. (See, e.g. this book).

Finally, a note from the Church of England, from the Church of England Evangelical Council in particular, via Thinking Anglicans, here. Clearly some positioning is going on with respect to how the future might work out, following the recent General Synod of the CofE, which somewhat meekly bent itself in a progressive direction without, seemingly, much resistance from conservatives.