Friday, February 28, 2014

One hundred years after the war to end wars, a harrowing image

Some pictures convey more than others. The following picture, published around the world (locally, here) conveys the plight of many Syrians caught up in a war, seemingly without end in sight, which threatens death everywhere. If not from a bullet or shell, then from starvation and disease. The scene could be from somewhere in Europe during the forced famines of Stalin's USSR, or the movement of refugees somewhere in Europe in WW2. But here it is, in the one hundredth year after the beginning of the war people thought would end all wars.

May God have mercy on us all and hear the cries of the poor.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Is Gnosticism an eradicated virus?


Dear Commenters, I do not have time to reply to all comments made yesterday (27 Feb) but I will make the general comment that I think some of you have not read me carefully. E.g. I am not making a comment about the general embeddedness of the churches in Germany in German culture and state; I am offering my interpretation of the German Christian movement in relation to Nazism and the mythology it promoted. Finally, I am particularly interested in any current examples of Gnosticism bedevilling Christianity. So, even if you think my example is poor, even wrong, how about citing another? Incidentally, the eradication of the virus of heresy has no implications per se re the eradication of heretics.
Regards, Peter


Always worth a pause is consideration of whether one greater enemy of Christianity, Gnosticism is an eradicated virus or a recurring outbreak of disease in our body. While it is difficult to arrive at a settled definition of Gnosticism, it can be thought of as an influenza which takes various forms. Michael Bird, drawing attention to a comment of Larry Hurtado, suggests this broad definition of ancient Gnosticism:

"Gnostics were trying, each in their own way, to indigenize Christianity in the Greco-Roman world by marrying it to platonic cosmology and cutting the chord from its Jewish roots. But it does come off as a bit like the “Scientology” of the second century."

On that basis, a relatively recent outbreak of Gnosticism was the 'German Christian' movement in 1930s Germany which sought to indigenise Christianity in the Hitlerite Germanic world by marrying it to German culture (think Wagner, Aryanism) and cutting the chord from its Jewish roots.

Are there other forms of Gnosticism in our world today which intersect with the church?


PS With H/T to Liturgy I have added the newly arrived blog of Bishop Jim White (Assistant Bishop of Auckland) to my Anglican Tracks blogroll (with a nice parallel with the chosen title of his blog ...). Once upon a time Jim and I were both young Anglicans studying at Knox [Presbyterian] Theological Hall in Dunedin. I don't think either of us have shifted much in our theological tracks/tracts since then. But we are united in not being persuaded to become Presbyterians despite the excellence of our education there :)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Should we stay together for the sake of the children?

With GAFCON, Global South and the Anglican Communion officialdom all trying to call the shots on Anglican futures, an ongoing question which drives this blog from year to year - the question of Anglican unity - is worth a review.

It is quite clear to me, probably to you too, dear readers, that the bonds of affection remain tautly strained. As the 21st century moves forward added tensions from (say) 2003, are moves in opposite directions re local contexts: so gay marriage is more and more legally approved in the West, while in two key Anglican provinces, Nigeria and Uganda, legislation is moving in the opposite direction. Churches in each sphere (understandably) are wary of moving out of step with the state.

In the sphere I know a little bit about, the West, there is the continuing twist, wound ever more tightly, of Anglican churches living in a state of desperation as the forces of secularization push the church around like a juggernaut, measured statistically by (overall) declining numbers. If the gospel is good news for 'all the people' does that mean bending and flexing in the direction of the people re the new status quo re love, sex and marriage? Or does the gospel mean that as much as ever we have seen before in the history of Christianity, God's gospel people must live out and stand for distinctively different (i.e. holy) styles of living? Let's face our history honestly- it is not a good guide as to what to do now. The church in its mission has sometimes made great progress by shunning the paganism around it and insisting on disciplined holiness; other times it has made progress by embracing the culture of the people to whom it proclaims the gospel.

Undergirding all Christian unity is truth. Some kind of common understanding lies beneath all claims to unity. Anglicans (it seems to me) have been quite good at maintaining some kind of unity on the merest sliver of common understanding! Think ++Desmond Tutu's profound, mischievous (and ultimately inadequate), "We meet." Part of the strain on the bonds of affection at this time is the recognition that unity in the pluralist, post-modern 21st century (i.e. don't tell me what to do) requires more than a sliver of commonality. Thus the question of Anglicans reading the Bible together (a recent Communion project, full of description, devoid of prescription) has become urgent. But urgency has not yielded much re unity (e.g. see above as both GAFCON and Global South take initiative, even though closely aligned theologically).

I wonder if one day we will look back on the past fifty or so years as the messy beginnings of a 'new hermeneutic' for Anglican churches as we read the Bible. Much has challenged our reading of the Bible through these years, especially in respect of developments in human society. Whether we engage questions around roles and status of women, the purpose of marriage in an age of proficient contraception, the value of life in a world of medical advances (e.g. a scan could give plausible reason for abortion, to give or withhold certain drugs towards the end of life is to have a previously unknown power over death), complicated calculations re war (aside from the Second World War, stand up all 'just war' theorists who are supremely confident that any other war of the last one hundred years has been a justified war) or simply attempt to determine who is poor, who is not, and what economic justice looks like in global economic terms, we have huge challenges trying to apply the Bible to these matters according to a consistent hermeneutic.

I say 'huge challenges' rather than 'impossible' because I acknowledge that some think there is a consistent hermeneutic available. But I wonder, really wonder whether there is such a consistent hermeneutic at this time. Even if that hermeneutic is at hand, who or what will articulate it, how will it be recognised and received, when will it be widely applied in fruitful ways?

Perhaps these musings chart a reason for staying together, even in great tension: we do not yet know what future common ground we will find ourselves agreeing to. Thus separating now for reason of the differences immediately in front of us would be wrong because it is a prejudiced understanding of the future. For the sake of the children, the Anglicans of tomorrow, we should stay together.

Nevertheless, we have problems, real problems which trouble us today. Perhaps we ought to give room for GAFCON, Global South and the Anglican Communion office(rs) to take initiatives. From one or more of these may come the road ahead.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Actionable Anglicans

Anglicans can action things; sometimes Anglicans take action against one another. While I contemplate some lessons in Anglican history to apply to current difficulties, here is a Saturday round up of a few things ...

Novel, creative, inspiring ecumenical action at Lambeth Palace.

Taking action against false teachers begins with refuting the notion that love means inaction about heresy.

Global South is not taking current Anglican matters lying down. A call to action is being made here. Let's face it, there are three initiative takers in the Anglican Communion these days: GAFCON, Global South, the officialdom of the Anglican Communion. Like spicy takeaways, Communion life comes in three intensities these days: hot, medium, mild! Just as the days of three Popes eventually worked its way through to one papacy again, so, eventually, we will have one recognised initiative taker. But which one?

A new bishop for Waikato will be ordained today in Hamilton, Helen-Ann Hartley. She will be the third woman bishop in our church, and this will be the first time that we have had two women bishops on our bench of bishops.

(ADDED: talking of bishops, it is great that Pope Francis recognises at least one Anglican bishop as a 'brother bishop'! Damian Thompson wonders if he is hearing a rule book being torn up. We might wonder about the other rule book, viz. the Anglican one which is a little unlikely to recognise a bishop belonging to this crowd. This church, I simply have to say, can't be really Anglican because they break the most fundamental Anglican rule of recognition of them all: I have never heard of them before!)

Finally, good news out of England (despite the other headlined woes of the C of E): lots of new vicars aged under 30!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Do Christians Understand What It Means To Be Christian?

Perhaps there is no finer expression of the 'deep' issue at stake in the You Know What macro/meta debate going on in global and local Anglicanism, and other churches at this time than the following two comments made here yesterday:

"If you will allow a quotation from 'Anglican Taonga', Peter, in which your own writing features, I would like to post here a comment by the Kiwi writer, Imogen de la Bere, a Lay Anglican living in England, who also has an article in the same edition. Here she comments on the Church v Society, today:

"I sometimes think Christianity has been too successful for the good of the church. The universal acceptance of human rights is effectively a global and secular working out of the Christian agenda, and consequently, what we have to offer is less startling.

Secular society has so completely embraced the Christian ethic that we have less to set us apart. It is commonly accepted that each individual is valuable and his or her person-hood is sacrosanct.

Ironically the church now lags behind liberal society. It’s as if we laid down the path, showed it to the world, and they have sprinted ahead of us." 

I think this statement, succinct as it is, might fairly sum up a valid view of how the Church today is not coping with the advance of civil society, on matters of justice and freedom consonant with the Good News of the Gospel."

Thus Ron Smith (and Imogen de la Bere) give expression to a fine argument with a potentially overwhelming conclusion for the You Know What debate, that history (at least in the Western, post-Christendom world) has moved into a state of mature Christian fullness (while the church has lost its way and become, relative to that state, a little less than Christian). Let's say this argument is valid. Then Christians have no considerable amount of repenting to do: we have lost touch with the will of God, acted in ways to quench the Spirit of God, and tried to stop our own fervent prayer, "Your kingdom come" from being answered.

I don't think Ron or Imogen would mind if I wondered aloud (as someone not expert on the history of ideas) whether this is not a version of Hegelianism?

To which comment above, Bryden Black responds,

"Imogen de la Bere is indeed putting her finger upon a most important thing Ron. Yet both you and she also fail to notice an equally important aspect of this entire development of an idea and its effective practice.

As an initial aside firstly - which nonetheless is absolutely basic. The “Christian agenda” has as its premise the understanding of God and so of Reality, and notably human reality in the “image” of that God, to be Triune. As Walter Kasper sums it up: “The need was to reflect upon the data of Scripture and tradition and to break away from the one-sidedly essentialist thinking of Greek philosophy and into a personalist thinking ... laying the foundation of a new type of thought.”

It is this notion of personhood which has become part and parcel of our general understanding of the human. There is however another, absolutely crucial factor to consider, one which again has its roots in theology - or in this case, an a-theology. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll root it in the 17th C, and the sowing of the seeds of what became the Enlightenment in the following century. In a word: autonomy.

When the notion of human personhood is allied to the notion of human autonomy, then we have frankly a bastard child of the Christian faith and the Christian agenda. Failure to appreciate this (mostly, by western Christians who are quite simply immersed in this cultural pond water, ‘naturally and obviously’) is by and large the cause of much confusion in the Church today. And it behoves us to adhere to Rom 12:1-2 in as profound a manner as possible. Otherwise the Church will be captured by the father of lies, and know only slavery again."

What is Bryden putting his theological finger on? It is the question of what it means to be a human person, with special reference to what authority or governing idea(s) shape that understanding. (About which, see here). His underlying argument is that this is a prior question to the question of human rights. Human rights, after all, apply to humans and there is sound logic in asking first who or what 'humans' are to which 'rights' apply.

An implication of what Bryden is arguing is that there is no brave new post-Christendom world which turns out to be the fulfilment of the Christian vision. Hegel's Spirit controlling history is the spirit of humanity rather than the Spirit of God, and a fallen humanity at that, which has crucially taken a wrong turning in its self-understanding. A wrong turning, precisely, because we have sought 'self-understanding' of ourselves rather than God's understanding of ourselves.

One interesting (and, OK, provocative) aside here is to note that Ron and Bryden cannot both be correct. Paradoxically they are united on this point: the implication of each one's argument is that there are Christians around the world who do not understand what it means to be Christian.


You be the judge!

Here is history being made in the 21st century. It involves men and women, the powerful and the powerless. Does it epitomise the Hegelian divine spirit at work in the world as the divine will for humanity is worked out through history (more rapidly, note, than the church itself has been able to keep up with)? Or bog standard sinners, in this case instruments in the service of imperial oppression, familiar subjects in terms of the Bible's account of the state of the world?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Time for another quo vadis post?

With one eye on what is happening in England about You Know What (see yesterday's post for links), we might cast our other, speculative eye across our church in these islands of cricket records. Quo vadis? Which way are we heading. Already I hear talk of the possibility of a "Pilling Report" solution for our church. Or perhaps that is the wishful thinking of those who could live with that kind of solution for our church? (To declare a bias, I think such a solution could be something I could live with, so I count myself among the wishful thinkers).

Yet the dear old C of E has found that trying to follow the Pilling approach has led to this and that being said, including the most recent statement of the House of Bishops there - or is it just the two Archbishops? I find it hard to keep up on a limited time budget - which is widely being panned if not pilloried. Even, some say, their statement is a dog's breakfast. Not exactly a declaration that the bread of life is available on the menu. So, quo vadis for our church? Or not?

A few observations might be worth making about our particular situation.

1. I detect no widespread support for changing our doctrine of marriage (e.g. to line it up with our state's 'doctrine' of marriage). A few may push that at General Synod in May, but they will get nowhere. For a variety of reasons I will not detail here, suffice to say, one reason is it would involve more work than our already hard-pressed bishops and chancellors would want to commit to.

2. Logically that leaves the push for change in our church focused on 'blessing.' One significant question is,

Might we permit our bishops at their discretion to authorise priests to bless same sex partnerships (i.e. conduct a service of prayers for their relationship and praise God for the love and commitment the couple share together)?

But I also detect another question, theologically driven out of our ecclesiology,

Should we not wait until we are a church (of common mind and heart) which authorises all its priests to bless same sex partnerships?

(I won't waste my writing time or your reading time by also exploring some nuances to these questions. I simply acknowledge that other questions re 'blessing' are in the mix of formal and informal conversations at this time).

3. I am not sure how much the following matter is understood at large in our church, but it is an important question - perhaps even the most important question at this time. This is the question of authority, viz.,

By what authority would any change re blessing (or marriage) be allowed?

We do things in the church either because we believe them to be commanded by God or allowed (i.e not prohibited) by God.

Our eucharistic ministry, for instance, is founded on the command of Christ, 'Do this ...'

Our orders of ministry, for an example of 'allowed' action, are founded on the models of ministry in the New Testament and the practice of the church since and the understanding that God has not forbidden such ordering of ministry. A similar observation could be made about baptising the infants of believing parents: there is no specific, clear command to do so, but, observing the practice of 'household baptisms' in the New Testament, the continuing practice of the church since, and the lack of prohibition of infant baptisms, we believe we are authorised to conduct infant baptisms.

Thus (casting a cross glance within ACANZP to Chris Huawai making a stirring point that 'Our LGBTQ Family Aren't Worth Dirt' and to Ron Smith, posting about the current 'tied in knots' situation in the C of E) I see a missing note which concerns the question of authority re change. The authority to bless dirt, or heterosexual marriage, in Anglican understanding, comes from God. We need the same authority to bless same sex partnerships. At this time neither the C of E, nor ACANZP is agreed that we have that authority.

Whether we claim that authority comes from the Spirit of God, from parliament appointed by God, from Scripture, from tradition or from common sense (reason), the normative working of the church is that the church accepts that claim as a matter of common mindedness. To be frank, it is not always clear to me, serving in ACANZP, that we are a church which understands this (fairly basic) point about ecclesiastical authority. Please feel free to tell me (if you are a member of ACANZP) that I am weirdly shortsighted about this ... that really and truly everyone else gets this point!!

[Editorial note: please discuss the contents of Chris' and Ron's posts at their sites. Only comments discussing 'authority' to bless (as I am discussing here) will be accepted].

This question takes us over well trodden ground, namely, what does the Bible say to us as God's Word on the matter? (Noting, by the way, that there is precious little other ground to dig over, as the one thing which cannot be said about blessing same sex partnerships is that this has been the practice of the church through the ages).

Cutting to the chase and keeping this post to reasonable length,

(4) There is a lot of merit in the position of my own Diocese of Christchurch as we head to the General Synod in May: [the following is a revision of what was previously here, to more accurately reflect the way synodical processes work] that position is stated in clause 4 of resolution 3 of our September session of Synod 2013:

"Notes the cautions expressed in our Bishop’s charge about the care we should take
in changing a long-held doctrine of the Anglican Church; believes more time is
needed to give in-depth consideration to the theological foundations of the doctrine
of marriage and therefore requests General Synod in 2014 to postpone any decision
concerning changing the doctrine of marriage to at least the 2018 General Synod."

My question to the church at large is then, Will we pause to reflect on the matter of authority?

The most diplomatic thing we can say about ACANZP (and the C of E) at this time is that we are churches operating at two speeds re the authority to authorise blessings of same sex partnerships.

The C of E has tied itself in knots trying to be a ship operating at those two speeds. The ACANZP has not begun to do anything quite so ropey!

Monday, February 17, 2014

You are the wolves of the park, the (good) pests of the world

It struck me, watching the video below of one small change effecting a whole ecosystem, that the wolves of Yellowstone National Park are a parable of discipleship, a version of 'you are the salt of the earth' and 'you are the light of the world.'

That is something to remember as Anglican gas flares up again over You Know What. Peter Ould catches one or two of the flares here. With another perspective on the recent C of E moves at Titus One Nine. Can the C of E hold together? Will fudge do the trick or should some other glue be found? You might, or might not have an idea of answers to the questions after reading Thinking Anglicans' round up of responses here. (Another comment worth reading is at Liturgy - but please discuss its contents there and not here).

Such thoughts, movements and machinations are not a million miles from my church in these islands Down Under. Daily we get closer to our General Synod in May. Meetings are happening here and there. Bishop Richard of Nelson writes in his latest Ad Clerum,

Next week [beginning Monday 17 February] I have to attend two meetings around this topic – one is with a small working group which the Archbishop has asked that I attend to ensure the orthodox voice is heard. That is followed, two days later by a meeting with all the Bishops.
Again please pray. ...."

[Editorial note: I am not going to accept comments which attempt to discuss this indicative note per se. +Richard is writing a circular letter not a blogpost! I am citing simply to observe that bit by bit conversation in our church is happening at various levels of 'office', though officially few of us are aware of this fact].

In my next post I would like to take a bit of an overview of where things might head ...

Meanwhile, believe it or not, these distracting discussions do not remit us of our obligation as disciples to be the wolves of the park and the good pests of the world.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Did Valentine know about infinite kenosis?

There is some truly great communication on the internet. And I am not just talking about keeping up with Mitchell Johnson as he pulverises the South Africans (his figures are 5/51 as I write). Take this brilliant Tweet:

Augustine of Hiphop! That's brilliant wordplay for starters :)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

My patience is wearing thin

A few points for commenters here to note:

1. If you do not like my moderation, it is not compulsory to read this blog.

2. I welcome comments from all perspectives and I welcome robust comments.

3. If you wish your comment to be published, be positive, comment on the substance of a post or other comment, refrain from commenting on the style of others' writing, and do not comment on other commenters.

4. Do not speculate. If Fred says X by all means disagree with X but do not speculate that Fred also believes Y.

5. Try to keep on topic.

6. I am considering a cessation of all comments here if the general situation does not soon improve.

7. You are welcome to blame me for the general situation but that will not change 6.

Reconciliation Puzzle Game: Join the Dots to Schore Winning Points

In Anglican news this week there is appalling tragedy on South Sudan which reminds us the for some Anglicans going about their mission, violence and death are close at hand. Cheerful news is also at hand as we read about a grand opening to the year for St John's College, Auckland and the pilgrim's progress around her new diocese of soon to be ordained bishop, Helen-Ann Hartley. A little further away from these islands is a story of reconciliation between past and present, concerning 19th century martyr +John Coleridge Patteson and the present Archbishop of Melanesia, George Takeli.

Reconciliation is emerging as the great theme of Archbishop Justin Welby's tenure as ABC. He is making waves as he goes about this. A recent wave has been the appointment of an ACNA clergyman, Tory Baucum as one of six 'Canterbury Preachers.' One ripple on the beach is this exchange at the CofE GS this week. But if that perturbed 'Communion watchers' who view any positivity towards ACNA as a surf patroller views a shark's fin moving towards swimmers at the beach, note the alarm with which other watchers are reacting towards a Welby wave this week. That wave is a press release celebrating Oxford University awarding an honorary DD to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. 'What was Justin Welby Thinking?' is one of the kinder responses. I am grateful that ++Justin celebrates things about her leadership which can be celebrated. At least he didn't say she was a notable theologian ...

What about the dots to be joined up? Astute observers have noted that across the Atlantic, as TEC's Executive Council does some work on budgets, some new money to fund Communion conversations is being proposed, with a specific signal from ++KJS that this is 'in recognition of greatly improved relations with the Communion.'

So, there we have the big picture of ++Justin's reconciliation vision for the Communion as the dots are drawn up. In one word, 'inclusion.' ACNA gets a crumb from the table. TEC remains seated at the table. Absent members (whether choosing to stay away for the time being, or kept away by local trauma as in South Sudan) will be visited (recall the flying trip to GAFCON).

Incidentally, ++Justin's presidential address to his GS is worth the read, whether in a word cloud there or full transcript here.

To cite one thing only, but connected with reconciliation, here is ++Welby taking on his critics:

"The Church of England is not tidy, nor efficiently hierarchical. There are no popes, but there is a College of Bishops and there are Synods and collections and lobbies and groups and pressure and struggle.   When it works well it works because love overcomes fear.  When it works badly it is because fear overcomes love. The resources for more fear lie within us and the resources for more love lie within God and are readily available to all those who in repentance and humility stretch out and seek them. With Jesus every imperative rests on an indicative, every command springs from a promise. Do not fear.

Already I can hear the arguments being pushed back at me, about compromise, about the wishy-washiness of reconciliation, to quote something I read recently.  But this sort of love, and the reconciliation between differing groups that it demands and implies, is not comfortable and soft and wishy-washy.  Facilitated conversations may be a clumsy phrase, but it has at its heart a search for good disagreement. It is exceptionally hard edged, extraordinarily demanding and likely to lead in parts of the world around us to profound unpopularity or dismissal. 
This sort of gracious reconciliation means that we have to create safe space within ourselves to disagree, as we began to do last summer at the Synod in York, and as we need to do over the issues arising out of our discussions on sexuality, not because the outcome is predetermined to be a wishy-washy one, but because the very process is a proclamation of the Gospel of unconditionally loving God who gives Himself for our sin and failure.  It is incarnational in the best sense and leads to the need to bear our cross in the way we are commanded. "

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pekoe Pips: A Legacy

My approach to Christian faith is shaped by my upbringing, both in household, local parish and involvement in the Christian Unions of the Universities of Canterbury and Otago. The shape of this evangelical approach was influenced by a number of clergy, beginning with my father (the writer of the article below) and including our vicar in the Parish of Bryndwr when we arrived there in 1971, Dick Carson (one Orange Pip). But my father was a Bible Class member in the Parish of Spreydon when Roger Thompson (another Orange Pip) was its Vicar. Though senior in life, both Roger Thompson and Harry Thomson (an Orange Pip) were memorable models in my own youth, along with other Pips mentioned below. One of them, Maurice Goodall, as then Bishop of Christchurch took a punt when he encouraged me to offer for ordination. In various ways then, Canon William Orange (whom I do not personally remember - he died when I was six) has influenced people who have influenced me. In two sentences below (italicised by me) the whole of my biblical hermeneutics is summed up. The article has recently been published in our local diocesan magazine, Anglican Life. (Not yet online).

Fruitful Orange Pips

One of the most influential parish ministries in the 150 year history of the Christchurch Diocese was that of a man who never held high office or was renowned for his charismatic personality. The man was Canon William Orange (or ‘Pekoe’ – after the English tea).

Canon Orange

Of slight stature, conservative and precise in dress and style akin to Hercule Poirot, softly spoken, and in many ways quite unworldly, William Orange was Vicar of Sumner 1930-45, then later Precentor at Christ Church Cathedral. But over this time his preaching and teaching, complemented by his personal mentoring, led to dozens offering themselves for ordination, and many others for missionary service overseas..

At Sumner he built up a Sunday afternoon young men’s Bible Class of more than 40, some drawn locally from his parish, but most cycling out week by week from the City. The fare they came for was invariably plain and undecorated – an hour of Bible teaching, the systematic working through of one book of the Old or New Testament before moving on to another. This was followed by a prayer meeting and light meal before concluding with Evening Prayer where the sermon was also consistently bible exposition. In time, those who regularly attended his Bible Class were referred to jocularly as ‘Orange Pips’. Many of these same Orange Pips were in turn to emulate their mentor’s style of ministry and produce similarly fruitful ministries.

There were few peculiarities in Pekoe’s style. He allowed the Scriptures to speak for themselves, but in such a way that held people in rapt attention absorbing his teaching. There were no histrionics, no ear-tingling oratory – just the opening up of the Scriptures with clarity to reveal the depth of their significance, then relating this in practical terms to the world of that day. The experience of those present was like that shared by the two disciples on their way to Emmaus:
Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the Scriptures to us?

His students welcomed his insights into the way Christ and his salvation was foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament. Pekoe often reminded his students, ‘The New is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New revealed.’ There were many ‘Orangeisms’ which those who sat at his feet still recall with appreciation. ‘Interpret any single passage of Scripture in the light of the teaching of Scripture as a whole. Therefore always read widely as well as closely.’ Pekoe also had delight in quoting the astute comment of Mark Twain: ‘It is not the things I cannot understand in the Bible which trouble me, but the things I can understand.’ One of the strengths of his appeal was his subtle sense of humour, selectively introduced to lighten his teaching and enliven his students.

The Orange Pips

Among the Sumner first generation Orange Pips were a number who in later decades would make their own mark in the Diocese or in the Church overseas. Max Wiggins would become a Bishop in Tanganyika, Roger Thompson would have a fruitful ministry at St Martins (Spreydon), Harry Thomson would become the first full-time General Secretary of NZ CMS after a notable ministry at Woolston, Dick Carson would serve many years in Pakistan before returning to parish ministry in Christchurch, and David Aiken likewise would distinguish himself as a missionary in Pakistan before a role as a Bible College teacher in Auckland. Peter Tovey would also serve his best days as a CMS missionary in the Sind, Harvey Teulon and Graham Lamont would become Vicars of parishes in the diocese, Maurice Betteridge would teach at College House before parish ministry in Christchurch and Dunedin Dioceses and later becoming Principal of Ridley College, Melbourne.

Maurice Goodall was to have an outstanding ministry as Vicar of Shirley before roles as City Missioner, Dean and Bishop. Lester Pfankuch and Robert Glen would also be ordained. Others in that Sumner Bible Class would take secular paths, none-the-less making an impact in their various vocations, such as Edwin Judge who would become Professor of Ancient History at Macquarrie University in Australia. 

Roger Thompson

As Vicar of Spreydon (1946-60) Roger Thompson was the immediate successor to Canon Orange, following his mentor’s style and substance closely. His ministry also focussed on a Sunday afternoon 4 pm Bible Class for young men and now (note) women, once again followed by a light tea, prayer meeting and Evening Prayer.  But an extra factor was built in – an after-service gathering at the Vicarage for a fellowship hour. 

Numbers steadily built up to a point where the old 75-seater church was regularly full at 4 pm each Sunday. The same sense of eager anticipation of each week’s study was as much a feature of this second generation bible teaching ministry as it had been the mark of Canon Orange’s seed-sowing pattern at Sumner. And the fruit of this ministry was to be similar also.

Those fifteen years of ministry at Spreydon produced 38 members of the Sunday Bible Class, men and women, who went on to be ordained (three of whom later became bishops), and 35 who responded to the missionary call. At a reunion of former St Martin’s Bible Class members in 1992, 120 came from around New Zealand and overseas to recall the formative role of this Bible Class in their lives.

Harry Thomson

In Woolston across the other side of the city through this same post-war period another Orange Pip was having a similarly fruitful ministry, following the same principles learned from Canon Orange, but with some different emphases and outcomes.

Harry Thomson’s passion was overseas missions, particularly CMS. It is not surprising therefore that his efforts in the end led not so much to vocations to ordained ministry in this country as to missionary service beyond our shores. For some years he combined a part-time CMS organising role with his responsibilities as Vicar of Woolston. Nor is it surprising that many of the missionaries sent or supported overseas during this decade were fellow Orange Pips (eg Max Wiggins, David Aiken, Lester Pfankuch, Peter Tovey, Dick Carson, Robert Glen). By 1961 it was evident that the CMS task needed full commitment and Harry Thomson left his parish role to become the first General Secretary.

Also from that time the fruits of the Orange Pip ministries of Harry Thomson, Roger Thompson and others now in parish ministry began revealing themselves in a growing number of second and even third generation Orange Pips discerning a call to missionary service. Most of these had also been significantly nurtured in faith and a vocation to some form of Christian service through their involvement in a youth branch of CMS, the League of Youth - encouraged by Harry Thomson and supported ardently by other Orange Pips. A vibrant programme of monthly meetings, periodic weekend house parties and annual Easter Camps often featured first or second generation Orange Pips as speakers or bible study leaders. 

An Appreciation of Canon Orange

William Orange had been brought to conscious faith as a lad of 10 during a parish mission in Kaikoura. Some years later, in another parish mission, he experienced a turning point in life where he committed himself to the service of Christ. In his 1911 diary he wrote:
My great ambition is that love for Jesus may become the one absorbing passion of my life.
Ordained in 1919, he served a curacy at Sydenham followed by a locum at Fendalton before becoming Vicar of Waikari (1924-30). After his years at Sumner he was briefly based at Tyndale House, Cashmere, before becoming Precentor at the Cathedral as his last appointment. He died in 1966 and is buried in the Avonside Churchyard.

Dean Martin Sullivan in his book Watch How You Go, reviewing Orange’s ministry, made the claim that his ‘ability to inspire others to enter the ordained ministry was unparalleled in any other New Zealand churchman’.  This did not always please the Anglican hierarchy! In 1934 Canon Parr, the Principal of College House, complained to Bishop West-Watson that four of the six new ordinands were “men put up by Orange”.

Pekoe himself was averse to labelling fellow clergy through a perception of their theological views. In his own words, ‘labels too easily become libels’.

                                                          - Brian Carrell


Further reading:  For an excellent and recently published detailed survey of this period see Stuart M Lange, A Rising Tide, Evangelical Christianity in New Zealand, 1930-65, Otago University Press, 2013.

I am grateful to my father for supplying the text. I am currently in the process of reading the book mentioned just above for review for Stimulus. 

One note struck above concerns humour. In my own evangelical upbringing there was always laughter as many jokes were told and many riffs on the quirks of life and faith were shared. In contrast to some aspects of evangelicalism today (at least as I read around the world) which seem dourly serious and seriously dour, I look back fondly on my upbringing in the life of the church. We had fun. I suppose, theologically speaking I should describe that as 'joy.' 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

In praise of creationism

I am on short rations timewise this week, so a bit of reliance on the writings of others ...

Is there any virtue in expounding a literal seven day creation? Possibly. An appreciative but critical perspective heads towards this conclusion:

"So I do not think that Ken Ham–style creationists should get to rewrite biology textbooks according to their very peculiar reading of Scripture. But I admire their bullheadedness. They have gotten lost in the woods while trying to protect the big truths of Christianity: that God created the world, that we are dependent on him, that we owe him everything, and that he loves us even though we are sinful. In the world most of us inhabit, day to day, the world of lovers, wriggling kids, disease, war, and death, the sureness of God's love is relevant in a way that the details of early hominid fossils never will be, glorious as they are. Have some perspective, people."

The whole article is here at The Week.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Abuse of language

How would you feel if I killed your family, perhaps most of your townfolk too, in the name of my politics and then said to you and a few of the other survivors languishing in some hellhole of a prison that you should just think of it as "one of modern history's pivotal experiments."

Not much :(

In fact I think you would rightly want to punch my face in.

Yet this phrase, "The revolution that birthed one of modern history’s pivotal experiments" has been used in NBC's opening montage to its coverage of the Winter Olympics to deftly cover the whole history of Russia from 1917 to 1990. (H/T MCJ)

The slide of Western civilization into historical oblivion continues unabated. When we stop telling the truth, darkness waits pouncing at the door.

As Christopher Johnson rightly observes, thank goodness Germany is not due to host an Olympics anytime soon.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Yet more light to be revealed from God's Word?

Some recent argumentation here concerns the ever recycling question of 'authority' and 'interpretation' of Scripture, as well as the role of the Spirit in inspiring Scripture and illuminating its meaning for each generation. Hint: when engaging in such discussion it is helpful to be really clear about what aspect of the matter is being worked on. (It saves tiresome debate when a riposte tackles something one didn't think one was trying to say).

Anyway, all that means I think it worth drawing attention to this Down Under post by Jason Goroncy which (at the end) includes this phrase,

"God has yet more light to break out of his holy word."

Also at the end is a bit of a clever comment about N.T. Wright. Last year I had the privilege of travelling in the same train as Tom Wright. I can report that we made it to our planned destination.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Tickle Down Theory of Ecclesiology?

Stand back from the details of debates here there and everywhere in 21st century Christianity. Get a perspective which is appropriately post-Christendom on a pluralist, secular Western world, while seeing the rest of the world through a different lens as sometimes strident, often times alarmingly extremist growth spurts are made by Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. What do we see?

One answer, bubbling away for a few years now, but not recently addressed here, is that we are in the midst of massive religious change. 2015 is 1515. Just as the Reformation in Europe was to the then world - massive seismic shift, change in paradigm, revolution in consciousness - so is the Something which is going on now. Whether we are worried about decline in our local parish as members age with no replacement generation in sight, or press carefully in reflective research into how people are 'spiritual' but not 'religious', or just hammer away at the question of why otherwise sane Christians today seem intent on (say) ignoring biblical truth, chucking away liturgical heritage, reversing nostalgically into some past (e.g. reviving Mass in Latin, reworking BCP 1662), the deep issue may be something else.

In specific Anglican terms, whether we rejoice or despair in the lead which Nigeria/Uganda/TEC/Sydney/Holy Trinity Brompton is trying to give the Communion, the actual question of Anglican future in the midst of this Something might have an answer no one is currently proffering. That is, Christians generally and Anglicans reading blogs such as this (tends to mean you are concerned about the Anglican future!) need to get hold of the Something which we are in the midst of, which hasn't yet received a name like 'Reformation' (or, for that matter, 'Renaissance'), smell the roses and realise that what is dying is a now useless version of Christianity (and Anglicanness).

Just as there is a point in a body which is dying where attempts to revive and resuscitate should give way to preparation for death, so (this answer) would say that a lot of huff and puff amongst Christians today is pointless. But or BUT, in preparing for the death of what has been, we should act and think Christianly, that is, we should also prepare for resurrection. Out of this Something will arise a new and vigorous Christian movement, with as much or more dynamism than Protestant Christianity once had (and, indeed, post Counter Reformation Roman Catholicism had). So, a thesis goes.

With all that as background musing, check out this interview of Phyllis Tickle about her new book, co-authored with Jon Sweeney The Age of the Spirit: How the Ghost of An Ancient Controversy is Shaping the Church.

What do you think?

Even if, on the basis of the interview, you demur from the detail of Tickle's argument for 'Spirit Christianity' to be the new 'Great Emergence' of our faith, do you think we are in the midst of change as significant as the Reformation (or the Great Schism or ...)?

If so, is the Holy Spirit kind of the 'key player' of the Trinity in this new phase?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Living wage or minimum wage?

One of the privileges of my current work is sharing a building with our Diocesan Social Justice Unit, spearheaded by Jolyon White, Kate Day (pictured front/centre) and Lyndon Rogers. The details of our many stimulating discussions need not be rehearsed here but occasionally their work makes the pages of the newspaper, if not the front page.

On page 3 of this morning's Press is an excellent report of their presentation to the City Council arguing that it ought to pay all its employees at least the 'Living Wage' (worked out here to be NZ$18.40 per hour, compared to our law-required Minimum Wage of NZ$13.75 per hour). The paper carries a beautiful picture of many supporters seated behind Jolyon and Kate as they present. Unfortunately the Stuff report is just text now includes the picture. Here is an excerpt:

"Advocating on behalf of the Living Wage movement, Jolyon White, from Anglican Life [Ed.: an alternate name for the Diocese of Christchurch], acknowledged the council was in a difficult financial position but told councillors that it was in hard times that good decisions really mattered.
He challenged the completeness of the report presented to the committee, saying it failed to draw on the experience of hundreds of overseas cities which had instituted a Living Wage.
Their experience showed the cost of introducing the Living Wage was often far less than initially envisaged.
"It is a far too important thing, affecting far too many lives, to be made on incomplete information," White said as he urged the council to commission a full feasibility study rather than accept the report's recommendation.
"We are foolish if we think there are not ongoing costs of paying low wages in Christchurch," she said."Kate Day, also from Anglican Life, said experience in cities that had introduced a Living Wage showed it boosted morale and productivity."
I am all for people being paid fairly but I am wondering whether the argument for the Living Wage being paid to workers not currently on or above that level is not also an argument for the Minimum Wage being set at the Living Wage level?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Can the Bible tell me when I am wrong?

Rightly drawing attention to the strongly biblical case mounted and maintained for apartheid in South Africa by Bible believing Reformed Christians, David Runcorn asks the question, "And how do I know when I am wrong? Evangelical Faith and the Bible." We have already had some discussion on David Runcorn's views on homosexuality and the Bible when the Pilling Report was reported on here (he wrote an appendix to the report). I have no wish to rerun that discussion (which issue figures prominently in the article I link to above). Rather, given some past discussion here on Sola Scriptura, I am keen to take up the general question posed in the title, How do I (who believes in the authority of Scripture) know when I am wrong? And making that question have an edge with particular reference to apartheid for which the support of the Bible was once claimed and now it is difficult to find biblical Christians who still support such social policy.

In one way I think the Bible can tell me I have drawn the wrong conclusion from the Bible: I keep reading the Bible, with more depth and more width than previously, and reconsider. I probably (thinking of apartheid's grip on South Africa in the past) need to read the Bible in such a way that my reading opens a cycle of critical assessment of previously reached conclusions (rather than reading the Bible to confirm previously reached conclusions). Of course, if, try as I might, I cannot dislodge the previously reached conclusion then maybe that conclusion stands. In particular, if I read the Bible with others, so "I" becomes "we" then some grounds for thinking the conclusion is correct exist. This was the case with the church in the days of arguments to and fro about orthodox Christology.

Within South Africa those grounds of "we" readers were once thought to exist by the many readers who shared a similar conclusion about biblical support for apartheid. That then raises the question of the width of the community reading the Bible: in those days the rest of the Bible reading world was not supportive of apartheid. Generally the church has recognised that for a conclusion from reading the Bible as God's authoritative Word to be authoritative for the church, the whole worldwide (i.e. catholic) church needs to share that conclusion. (It is not clear to me that David Runcorn recognises that).

Something Protestants likely under-appreciative about authority in the Roman Catholic church is that the Pope's 'Infallibility' relates to one individual giving voice to the reading of Scripture (and Tradition) of the whole church (rather than one individual giving voice to that individual's reading of Scripture).

Protestants may also under-appreciate the difficulties of organising an agreed worldwide conclusion when reading the Bible if we have cast aside the papacy and resisted the possibility of worldwide councils/synods having power over local churches.

Nevertheless a strength of Protestantism (under-appreciated by Romans?) is that over time some conclusions do become agreed around the world (one example of which is, in the present context, that apartheid is wrong). The convoluted process to get there has the virtue of not being affected by the deaths of particular individuals, nor by corruption of officeholders in the church nor by the winds of fashion and favour.

It also has the virtue that it is going to be a biblical conclusion, anchored in the one source of God's revelation that all Christians are agreed is God's revelation to us.

Can the Bible tell me when I am wrong (even about the Bible)? Yes. Likely, however, I will need to listen to what all readers of the Bible are saying rather than what my reading (or even my tribe/clan/wing of the church reading) is saying to me.

Monday, February 3, 2014

For the right person, this job is yours

Mission Educator, St John’s Theological College.

The Anglican College of St John the Evangelist is wishing to appoint a full-time Mission Educator.  

The role will be broad in scope and application. It will include an holistic approach to local and global mission education, based around the ACC 5 Mission Statement, incorporated in the constitution of our three Tikanga Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
The Mission Educator reports directly to the Principal/Manukura of the College, but would liaise with Provincial organisations such as the Anglican Missions’ Board, the Church Missionary Society and the Anglican Church Army, however, in essence the role is to provide teaching, training and mentoring, as a member of the faculty of the College, in ways that will assist the Anglican Church to effectively minister in a multi-cultural, multi-religious, post-Christendom era.

In brief: to assist in developing an ‘outward-focussed’, mission-engaged culture within the College; with ripple effects into the Province.

Person specifications beyond a need for tertiary level teaching qualifications and mission experience (in the broadest sense of that term), the appointee will need superior creative communications skills to be able to link at all levels of the Church and across Tikanga, excellent planning and reporting experience along with a willingness to undertake some travel within the Province.  The appointee will be fully engaged in College community life, along with fellow faculty members, to ensure that the seminary nature of the college is developed and enriched.  The successful applicant would hopefully begin during May of 2014.   

Applications close on Friday 14 February. 

Further details can be obtained from the Principal/Manukura, Rev Canon Tony Gerritsen;  09 521 2725

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Do not read this while drinking your coffee

I cannot be responsible for the result of reading this excellent post, reproduced at Liturgy from the Orthodoxy and Heresy site.

Whether your laughter causes you to splutter coffee over your keyboard, or the coffee you are drinking suddenly induces a feeling of guilt because you are drinking heresy, you are responsible for choosing to click on the link and then for choosing to read.

However, if you do not click and read, you will miss one of the most important doctrinal lessons of your life, taught in memorable form!