Thursday, March 2, 2017

A Lenten Fast and a Lenten Intention

Andrei suggested in a comment here yesterday that we might have a Lenten fast from commenting on You Know What. I like that idea. I will not post further on SSB/SSM/Etc until after Easter and I ask you not to comment on such matters when commenting on posts here on other matters.

But to match that particular fast I have decided to have a Lenten intention, to post everyday through Lent. Currently I am working on generally posting only two or three times a week. But for Lent I shall try to bring something to the blog each day. Most likely it will not be long.It may only be a verse from Scripture relevant to our journey to the cross. It may relate to matters and events occurring within this particular Lent (coming up for me, e.g., is a study course on ecclesiology and a seminar day on Euthanasia).

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Koinonia with the Anglicanphile Bishop of Rome

The recent visit of the Pope to the Anglican parish in Rome has been news for the past several days. Here is Archbishop David Moxon's personal reflection on the visit (from here):

The Holy Spirit is always quickening and surprising us, and always present anyway in our openness to faith hope and love. This was the case on Sunday evening at All Saints' Anglican Church in Rome, where Pope Francis made history by being the first Pope ever to visit the church.

There were many ground breaking moments, and I think that three stand out.

Firstly, having offered a question and answer dialogue to the parish, the Pope engaged in an unforgettable dialogue with local parishioners on ecumenism and shared mission. In particular Pope Francis fascinated us by describing the practise he had experienced in Argentina:
In the Northern part of Argentina, there are Anglican missions with the indigenous peoples and Catholic missions with the indigenous people, and the Anglican bishop and the Catholic Bishop from there work and teach together. And when people are not able to go to catholic celebrations on Sunday, they go to the anglican one, and the Anglicans go to the catholic ones, because they don’t want to spend Sunday without a celebration; and they work together. And here the congregation for the doctrine of the faith knows this. And they do charity together. And the two bishops are friends and the two communities are friends.

... They don’t negotiate the faith and their identity, that indigenous person from Northern Argentina says to you “I am Anglican”. But [when]there is no Bishop, there is no Pastor, there is no Reverend... “I wish to praise God on Sunday and go to the Catholic Cathedral”, and vice versa.*
This is a transfiguring story. By this he teaches us to be less anxious over our differences and unresolved doctrinal issues, while still working hard on them, but to commit ourselves more and more to sharing and partnership as we seek God and give ourselves to heal the worlds divisions, wounds and sins.
Secondly, the Pope mentioned a possible joint peace initiative by him and Archbishop Justin Welby in South Sudan, by local ecumenical invitation, to help the mediation process to end the civil war and the human tragedies of that country. If this happens, (and the Pope said it must), we will begin to minister to the world together in a totally new way.
Thirdly, this evening service with all its gifts and fruits was clearly a once in a lifetime, maybe even a once in a century, moment, and was a stunningly beautiful and powerful event to be part of. We learn from Pope Francis, as candles were lit around the shining icon he blessed and censed, that perfect love casts out fear, like light dispelling shadows. The Pope was clearly present as the chief pastor of Rome as a whole, because he was commemorating with the parish their 200th anniversary. This is the first ever visit of a Pope to any local Anglican parish - the papal visits to Westminster Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral were national events with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Pope Francis was there last night as the Bishop of Rome (alongside the Anglican Bishop of Europe, Robert Innes and his suffragan David Hamid who has responsibility for Italy).
Once again experienced the power of the truth we learn from the living word of God: “ God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love and of power and of self- control”. 2 Timothy 1 :7. These words may well have been written, just under two thousand years ago, underneath the site of the Anglican Centre in Rome, where Paul is thought to have been kept under house arrest, and where the kernel of the Timothy letters were conceived. What better foundation could we build on in this mission which we are so privileged to share in at this kairos time.
Fr Jonathan Boardman is to be congratulated along with the All Saints' community for their great vision and creative hospitality.

*The text in Italian reads as follows:
Nel nord dell’Argentina ci sono le missioni anglicane con gli aborigeni e le missioni cattoliche con gli aborigeni, e il Vescovo anglicano e il Vescovo cattolico di là lavorano insieme, e insegnano. E quando la gente non può andare la domenica alla celebrazione cattolica va a quella anglicana, e gli anglicani vanno alla cattolica, perché non vogliono passare la domenica senza una celebrazione; e lavorano insieme. E qui la Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede lo sa. E fanno la carità insieme. E i due i Vescovi sono amici e le due comunità sono amiche.

... Loro non negoziano la fede e l’identità. Quell’aborigeno ti dice nel nord Argentina: “Io sono anglicano”. Ma non c’è il vescovo, non c’è il pastore, non c’è il reverendo… “Io voglio lodare Dio la domenica e vado alla cattedrale cattolica”, e viceversa.
The full text of Pope Francis' homily and answers can be found by clicking here.

David Moxon, 27/02/2017

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Politics of Jesus - Monday 27 February 2018

There is plenty of time to reflect on the various parties and their offerings in the run up to this year's Kiwi election. But with a H/T to a friend, here is something different. An article about Jane Jacobs and her take on city planning.

If politics is about the polis, or city, then how we organise our cities is, well, politics. And that is a lively question in Christchurch where I live, and in other cities, such as Auckland with its housing crisis and Wellington with its post-quake recognition that it has many damaged buildings. Getting city planning right is not easy and one thought I have is whether we have in NZ a sufficiently robust process of critical feedback about such planning. All too often we do things and then, a few years later, rip them up because things haven't worked out as planned.

Postscript: to be quite clear about one possible implication of linking to the above article: nothing is implied, by making the link,  one way or t'other about what should happen to our Cathedral in the Square.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Sunday, February 19, 2017

At Oihi Bay: Mission in 21st century Aotearoa NZ

Teresa and I had a marvellous holiday in January. I think - for future reference - a vital ingredient was taking a full three weeks off. No more two and a half week holidays for me! But the "marvellous" involved a highlight or two, only one of which concerns this post.

We had never been to the Bay of Islands (about three hours drive north of Auckland) so we made a plan to move on from a wedding in Auckland to spend a few days in this unknown but famously beautiful region. Here is a beautiful Bay of Islands place to stay.

It will cost you $13000 per night. That is not fake news. I tracked this place down on the internet.

We stayed more modestly at Paihia which, for me, is one of those heaven on earth places where bushy hills meet the sea and the view over the sea is full of interest - boats, hills, islands, more boats. Oh, and golden sand on the beach, and it is a long beach.

The Bay of Islands was where much of our first missionary work was established and then developed. We took this history in as we noted plaques dotted along the main road through Paihia, strolled around Russell, explored the Pompallier Mission House (i.e. printery where thousands of devotional books were printed and bound) and visited the Stone Store and Kemp House at Kerikeri.

We could imagine the missionaries working hard while enjoying a climate considerably more pleasant than the one they left behind in Europe. As we visited the extraordinary Treaty grounds at Waitangi - a "must" for every Kiwi before they die, IMHO - my mind was taken back to Darwin visiting in 1835 and seeing cricket played there or thereabouts.

And, of course, there was Oihi Bay to visit, the site of the first sermon in these islands, Christmas Day 1814 and the first mission settlement. Getting there is slightly more challenging than wandering around Paihia and Russell. We needed our rental car to trek some 45 minutes from Kerikeri to a carpark at the top of a hill from whence a kilometre track descends to the bay. What a great walk down it was, with recently installed displays explaining all kinds of interesting details about the endeavours of the missionaries and the local Maori inhabitants.

But here is the thing about Oihi Bay that struck me that afternoon. It is surrounded by hills with only a narrow platform of flat land for the missionaries to build a settlement. The following photo gives a sense of this (but the platform extends to the left of the photo). There was room for half a dozen houses, a chapel and a school room and not much area for developing flocks and crops.

Moreover, Oihi Bay is on the edge of the Bay of Islands. It was not the best location for growing the mission. While away I read one historian who imputed that Marsden insisted the missionaries stay there, even when they wanted to move. Eventually they did, and Paihia and Russell were better locations, both in area for building homes and growing crops and in centrality to the Bay of Islands.

Of course Oihi Bay's great value was that it was the site to which Marsden and his fellow missioners were invited. They needed to make the most of what they were blessed with.

It is not missiological rocket science to see that two hundred years later the church is kind of back at Oihi Bay. We have been given a place in Aotearoa NZ society. We are welcome here. But the "land" we now occupy is poor, small and a long way from the centre where we once were and to which we often voice a wish to return.

There is no Marsden in Sydney writing letters to us telling us what to do. Nevertheless we feel constrained. And we may be in for quite a lean time. It was nearly two decades before Maori converted to Christianity in significant numbers.

We do not know how long our current marginal state will be for. If it is for twenty years that is more or less the rest of my life :) It could well be longer.

Will we be faithful? Will we lay ground work for the future? Among those first missionaries were those who learned the Maori language (Te Reo), who wrote it down, composed grammars and began translating the Scriptures.

If the 21st century has taught us any one lesson so far, it is that the world outside of Christianity is developing, changing, moving forward at a rapid pace and in the process is evolving a new language to adapt. Who is understanding that language? Who is learning its grammar? Who, most importantly, is translating the Scriptures into this new language?

Added for, I hope, clarity: I am talking to a small degree about the (comparatively) simple exercise of maintaining Bible translations in the language of the day (so we rightly as English speakers have seen a move from KJV to RSV to (e.g.) NRSV/NIV/GNB/NJB/NLT) but to a greater degree about our communicating the gospel in a variety of means (including preaching) which connect the gospel with the way people today think and engage current society in thought forms and with imagery that likely will move them to rationally and emotionally embrace Jesus Christ and his message, and follow him.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

On fire?

Christchurch (for those who do not know it) is a city mostly spread out on flat land but on one boundary are the Port Hills and on a quite a few of those hills houses are built. A few days a go a couple of fires started (as far as can be determined thus far, accidentally or spontaneously). Seemingly no big deal at the time. But there are various plantations of trees on the hills and lots of summer-dried grass. A mixture of time, wind and sunshine now mean the two fires have become one large fire.

Winds which keep changing have spread the fire and kept firefighters guessing as to where to be and what to do about containing it. Helicopters have been used but that has led to a tragedy with one crashing and killing its pilot. And helicopters cannot fight fires after dark so each evening the fires have burned without much constraint. I personally live a long way from the hills, on the other side of the city. No worries. But your prayers for our city and for the fires to be dealt with would be appreciated! (Current forecasts are for rain to not come any time soon). #porthillsfire. Report here.

The Church of England General Synod is meeting and debating You Know What. One way to keep up with the debate is via Thinking Anglicans or on Twitter #synod. A cursory glance at the Twitter feed suggests the Synod is "on fire" (though I suppose it is all very polite and English :).) [LATER: I see the Synod has voted somewhat narrowly to not take note of the Bishop's Report. Read here.]
[EVEN LATER: ++Welby responds and charts the way forward in a profoundly wise, helpful statement.]

Noticed also on Twitter this morning is this Catholic Herald article re doctrinal turmoil centred on the Vatican. Is Rome burning too? Although the main part of the article is devoted to the Roman version of You Know What (Communion for the incontinent divorced-and-remarried) intriguingly it notes at the beginning a significant voice making this beautifully expressed point for the ages:

"“There is unease,” Fr Pani wrote, “among those who fail to understand how the exclusion of woman from the Church’s ministry can coexist with the affirmation and appreciation of her equal dignity.”"

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Politics of Jesus in the Year of Bill

In many ways NZ had its Trump period a long time ago, and it just maybe that we shouldn't be looking around in 2017 wondering who our Trump might be. He has already been and gone and his name was Rob Muldoon.

I was quite politically conscious in my teenage years and vividly remember the sense of excitement of the Labour government (1972-75), the vigour of Norman Kirk's leadership and the shock of his death in 1974.

Bill Rowling became Prime Minister and he was a decent bloke but the Trump-like Muldoon was barnstorming the country in 1975 with ads of dancing cossacks provocatively asserting that the Labour Party was just Communism by stealth. There were also some massive fuel price rises to cope with and other alarms on the economic front, so in came Muldoon and nine subsequent years were as feisty as these past few Trump weeks have been. Moreover Muldoon spent big on NZ infrastructure and with another economic collapse threatening, he called a snap election in 1984, almost certainly drunk as he slurred the announcement out, and out he went. NZ has never been the same since the next Labour government turned the tide with market-oriented policies (which mostly, IMHO, has been a good thing).

It requires not the slightest bit of fancy to assume that had Twitter existed in 1975 Muldoon would have used that form of social media to direct the country. He was that kind of Trump guy. (Though he did know more about economics than Trump!)

Now we have Bill English for our Prime Minister and this year is going to be fascinating for at least one reason. If he can win the election he will have redeemed his previous parlous attempt to win an election. In 2002 he led National to its lowest ever percentage of the vote as it lost that election.

On New Year's Day this year it happened that I was in church with Bill and Mary English! They were holidaying in Nelson with their friend and local MP, Nick Smith, and went to the nearest Catholic church for Mass - in Stoke, where my parents-in-law worship.

Of course it is no surprise that they should have been at Mass somewhere in NZ that Sunday. It is widely know that Bill and Mary are both deeply and regularly involved in the Catholic church, and that Bill's Christian convictions influence the shaping of his political leadership (most clearly seen, I and others perceive, in his running of the economy as Minister of Finance, where his concern in various initiatives has been that our economy yield better outcomes for all, not just for the rich).

On that particular Sunday one of my own internal responses to recognising Bill and Mary English at worship was that it felt very good to know that our current Prime Minister is a committed Christian. I have had huge admiration for our previous two Prime Ministers, Helen Clark (1999-2008) and John Key (2008-2016), but each was openly not a Christian. (And good on them for their honesty on that score.)

This does not necessarily mean that I will vote for Bill or that you, dear Kiwi reader, should either. Yet it might be a factor if our decision narrows down (other things being equal) to what drives the leadership of the next government: a gospel or other motivation?

But long before we who are not dyed-in-the-wool Lab/Nat/Green/NZF/Etc voters get to choose whom we might vote for, it is always and everywhere worth considering what God wants and what God is doing in the world.

A recent post by Ian Paul at Psephizo is relevant on this point. He is reviewing one of the latest Grove Booklets, Mission and evangelism: a theological introduction by Tim Naish. All good stuff, but pertinent to this post is the following comment by Ian:

"What missio Dei [i.e. that mission is primarily God's activity] is emphasizing is that the church is a secondary goal in God’s longing. The primary goal is what Jesus in the first three gospels means by ‘the kingdom.’ And we might add that it also comes close to what the fourth gospel means by ‘life’ (or ‘life in all its fullness’). God has a purpose, which is the kingdom, or heaven, or life, or salvation, or (to use biblical phrases rather than single words), ‘the reconciliation of all things’ (cf Col 1.20), or ‘the creation itself being set free from its bondage to decay and obtaining the freedom of the glory of the children of God’ (cf Rom 8.21). The church is brought into being through Jesus the Christ as a step towards that goal."

The politics of Jesus is establishment, advancement and completion of the kingdom of God. This is the primary goal of God's work in the world. Not the church, but it is for another post to have another reminder to self and to readers that the church should not be all consuming! Here we might ponder that if the kingdom of God is God's first agenda item for the world then what our human politics is working towards is pretty important. Is it attuned to the kingdom of God?

Having a Christian Prime Minister/President is - of course - no guarantee that the politics of a given country is going to be any better attuned to the kingdom than under the previous government. But what could be guaranteed is that if Christian voters understand the primacy of the kingdom and the importance of working to align with that kingdom rather than against it, then we will vote more wisely than if we vote the way we have always done, or for the most popular person/policy, or for naked self-interest.