Friday, February 27, 2015

How to pray when the odds are stacked against us?

Commenting on yesterday's post, Nick writes,

" I personally would be interested in some discussion on how we might usefully pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Nigeria. I find this quite a challenge."

So would I!

Yesterday we learned that c. 200 Assyrian Christians have been captured by ISIS. At best they might be used as some kind of bargaining chips; at worst ... well, it does not bear thinking about, especially the women and children.

Whatever the world makes of ISIS or Boko Haram, we Christians have a special concern for the violence being perpetrated by these murderous groups against fellow believers. In some cases the church is effectively being eradicated from regions, despite a previous history going back to the days of the apostles or their immediate successors.

How then should we pray?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

My last post?

There is not much point to being an Anglican if Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, since being Anglican is simply a way of being Christian.

But whatever we make of Jesus rising from the dead, there is not much point to being excited by it if the Jesus who rose from the dead was not the one in whom God was reconciling the world to himself.

All the excitement of being Anglican dissipates if there is no God.* Well, no God except Richard Dawkins. If Richard Dawkins is right about the non-existence of God then this blog may as well cease, save for the odd hymn of praise to Richard.

"You, O Great Evolutionist, were right after all" and that sort of psalm could be penned :)

It seems that Richard Dawkins is getting a kind of spiritual renewal in excitement by the prospect of there being no God because, as the headline says, "New theory could prove how life began and disprove God." (To save time I append the key paragraphs below)

On the other hand, perhaps this is not going to be my last post here on the presupposition that God exists. There is a slight problem with the headline!

Theories by themselves do not 'prove' anything. A theory that unicorns exist is only proved when we find a unicorn. It is not disproved when we do not find a unicorn because there is the possibility that we have not looked hard enough for the mysterious creature.

A theory that life began because a series of inanimate objects under the right conditions exposed to enough sunlight necessarily become animate begs the question how the 'right conditions' came about.

If we accept that a (rather large) unicorn could have assisted Earth to be in the 'right' kind of orbit around the sun (compared to, say, Venus and Mars which, notoriously, yield little evidence to date of the magical effects of the sun on their inanimate rocks), then possibly a God of the creating kind could turn out to be the assisting force rather than a unicorn.

If the best the theory can do is prove that God does not need to be invoked to explain the miracle of life, is that novel? I thought the 'God of the gaps' approach to proving the existence of God was already passe.

There is also the question of where the rocks and the sun came from. Their existence does not necessitate God's existence (that would be back to the God of the gaps approach) but does beg the question whether through science alone we can explain the mystery that there is something rather than nothing, that being exists rather than non-being.

I think I'll keep on posting. Any psalms published here will be praising God and not eminent biologists.

Cited from the article linked to above:

"The problem for scientists attempting to understand how life began is understanding how living beings – which tend to be far better at taking energy from the environment and dissipating it as heat – could come about from non-living ones.
But a new theory, proposed by a researcher at MIT and first reported in Quanta Magazine, proposes that when a group of atoms is exposed for a long time to a source of energy, it will restructure itself to dissipate more energy. The emergence of life might not be the luck of atoms arranging themselves in the right way, it says, but an inevitable event if the conditions are correct.
“You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant,” England said.
Paul Rosenberg, writing this week on Richard Dawkins’ site, said that the theory could make things “a whole lot worse for creationists”.
As Rosenberg notes, the idea that life could have evolved from non-living things is one that has been held for some time, and was described by the pre-Socratic philosophers. But England’s theory marks the first time that has been convincingly proposed since Darwin, and is backed by mathematical research and a proposal that can be put to the test."

*A few weeks ago while visiting a nameless city in our fair land, the local newspaper published an article on a notable local person who proudly declared herself to be a church warden of one of our parishes while not being a believer. Yes, I accept, one can be an Anglican and not a Christian!!!!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Motion 30: resources which may assist your parish

On Sunday, responding to a request from a local parish, I gave a presentation on Motion 30 - the motion which sets in train a working group to bring to our church recommendations which (it is hoped) will both give expression to change to our status quo regarding the blessing of same sex partnerships while offering a way forward for our church to remain together.

As a possible assistance to you as an individual reader, or to your parish, I offer the three documents which we worked with on the day.

The obvious shortcoming with offering the documents alone is that I was able to speak to the slides on the Powerpoint presentation and amplify sections of the Word document regarding biblical texts. Along the way we were able to discuss specific questions and engage together through a lunch break.

It is important to understand that a specific brief from the parish concerned was that I offer some insight as to why those seeking change to the status quo understand the (most discussed) biblical texts in the way they do. The Word document below seemed to do that. It is deliberately concise where a tome of 'one the one hand, on the other' could be offered if the brief was, say, tell us every exegetical and hermeneutical detail of these verses.

The text of Motion 30 is here.

These were the Powerpoint slides:

The following document, re six biblical texts relates to slide six:

Monday, February 23, 2015

Interesting distinction between legally right and morally wrong, with 21st century shame thrown in

Nothing changes!

In the age old debate between what is right and what is wrong, the point is often made that something can be legally right but morally wrong. A good example is coming up.

Then sometimes the question is asked, who decides what is morally wrong and morally right? In other words the spectre of 'moral authority' rises over stories in which legality and morality are distinguished. However in the example coming up you won't find any questions being asked about who or what is the moral authority behind people's outrage.

Of course we live in the modern age, the 21st century, so we in the West have moved a long way from publicly shaming people as a punishment. Why, we scarcely believe in punishment any more. Also, in the modern age, the 21st century, freedom of choice is everyone's right. Individuals have the power to do their own thing so long as other people are not hurt. But wait, in the example coming up shame plays a huge role. So much shaming applies that an apology is given. An apology for doing something which is legal, popular with many and a matter of exercising free choice as an individual. But, no individualism is not quite as significant as we may have lulled ourselves into thinking.

Here is the example, courtesy SMH.

Hero does something legally right and few people discuss much as a possible moral wrong.
Years later there is an accidental alert to the action.
Social media places hero in the metaphorical stocks and Twitter supplies the rotten eggs and tomatoes.
Hero bows to the pressure from self-appointed moral crusaders (who never name by what authority they act).
Suddenly a past time giving pleasure to many - hunting - is ruled out of possibilities for individual choice to be exercised.

Never underestimate the power of the collective!

Sacred and Spiritual Links - Monday 23 February 2015

From a UK colleague ...

1. When only the deepest reality will do - Os Guinness - St Ebbe's Audio [Exodus 33:7-23]

2. Oxford's Questions on Science and Faith - Alister McGrath - St Ebbe's Audio

3. Beautiful Feet - Bishop Ken Clark - St Philip's Charleston Audio [Isaiah 52:7 and Romans 10:15]

4. The Sunday Readings - Rev Stephen Trott

5. Preaching Ideas and Commentary - Rev Peter Carrell

6. Continue Read the New Testament in a year with Rev Andrew Goddard

7. The bells of St. Paul's Cathedral - BBC Radio 4

8. Choral Evensong from St John's College, Cambridge - BBC Radio 3

9. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

10. Choral services from the chapels of King's College Cambridge
and St John's College, Cambridge
and Trinity College, Cambridge
and New College, Oxford

Please pray for the Church of England, for Christians and all facing persecution and crime in Syria and Iraq including refugees facing winter and hunger; for the persecuted church and in particular in Nigeria and neighboring countries, Egypt, Sudan, Iran and China; for peace in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza; and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

11. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Prayers for the Church of England from Lent and Beyond
Iraq: Report from Diocese of Egypt and Prayer Request
Egypt: Statement on the Murder of 21 Egyptian Christians and Prayer Request - Archbishop Mouneer Anis
Shooting of witness threatens trial of Coptic Christians' murderers - WWM
Sudan: Fears growing for two South Sudan pastors held by Sudan intelligence - WWM
Iran: Authorities raid homes of three Christians, pastor Irani refused conditional release - CSW
China: Hong Kong Christians demand information about imprisoned bishop - CSW
South Carolina: Prayers from Lent and Beyond

12. Sunday Programme - with Edward Stourton - BBC Radio 4

Food for thought
13. Not Your Typical Ash Wednesday - Josh Patrick
A vital resource that can help all new Christians in their faith - CEN

14. Greater Love - John Ireland - Somerville Choir [adjust quality with cogwheel lower right]

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I disagree with the Archbishop but I respect his right to exercise free speech

In a Taonga article Archbishop Philip Richardson recommends we have a national debate about freedom of expression and its limits, triggered by a controversial t-shirt on display in Canterbury Museum.

The article gives you the links - if you choose - to explore just how utterly distasteful the t-shirt is, and offensive to Jesus. It fails both the "Would your mother like you in this t-shirt?" test as well as the "Would you like your mother or father to be the figures depicted in this T-shirt?" test.

But here's the thing, we do not need a debate about freedom of expression. We are free to express ourselves, we are a democracy and it would be just about impossible to conclude such a debate with an effective law defining where freedom of expression ended and respect for people and their faiths begin.

I propose a different test on freedom of expression.

Is the Canterbury Museum prepared to display the Charlie Hebdo cartoons that have been offensive to Muslims?

If it is, fair enough, it is a fair and equal opportunity offender of religions.

If it is not, then it has failed the justice test on freedom of expression. If an institution or individual is unwilling to offend one religion then none should be offended. If an institution or individual is willing to offend one religion then let all be offended without exception. That is basic justice within a secular democracy.

End of debate.

Over to you Canterbury Museum ...

PS For clerical commenters from other dioceses: do your licences permit you to publicly disagree with your bishop? If they do not (and I hear that at least one diocese has a clause prohibiting such disagreement) then what does that mean for freedom of speech IN OUR OWN CHURCH?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

This will SPLIT TEC from the Communion, finally

I am really pushed for time this week so this post is mostly a series of links (H/T to various correspondents or blogs I follow).

In the last couple of weeks material has been published ahead of the forthcoming General Convention charting proposed changes to the canon on marriage. The first link is the official church based set of material. The next two links are responses to this material.

If TEC makes its marriage canon gender-free (or gender-neutral) then it will be the final nail in the coffin of its relationship with the wider Communion. I can only see Canada possibly following TEC in such a direction. I cannot think of any other member church going that far anytime this century. Can you?

The fourth and fifth links take you to some CofE material about shared conversations on sexuality. Responses?

The sixth link takes you to a review of an interesting book. Thoughts?

Finally, below, I cite information in a Latimer Fellowship (NZ) newsletter re a legal challenge being mounted against a clause in Motion 30.

As time permits in the next few pressured weeks I may come back to any or all of the matters below. I welcome your comments. I remind you to publish at least your first name. I may not have time to respond to your comment no matter how inviting you make it to take discussion further ...

TEC files re proposed changes to canon on marriage

Anglican Communion Institute (Ephraim Radner)

The Living Church

Church of England Resources for Shared Conversations

Grace and Disagreement resource booklet links

Scripture and the plausibility of teaching on sexuality

Here in ACANZP, news of the legal challenge being mounted against clause 4 of Motion 30:

(From Latimer Online newsletter)

"Dear all,

Since the last General Synod a group of people have been working quietly on a legal challenge to the constitutionality of Clause 4 of Motion 30 which allowed for the recognition of formalised same sex relationships. The applicants to the Judicial Committee are aware of the high level of distress Motion 30 clause 4 caused and the likely level of interest in this case.

Information Regarding a Submission to the Judicial Committee Regarding the Constitutionality of Clause 4 of Motion 30.
At the 62nd assembly of General Synod Motion 30 was passed establishing a working group. Its' purpose is to bring to the next General Synod recommendations about process and structure whereby those who hold contrasting views on the voice of scripture, doctrine and the church formularies on the validity of the blessing of same gender relationships may be able to maintain their position with integrity within the church. It did not propose or set in train any change in the Constitution or the parameters in which General Synod is required to work. The motion in its preamble states clearly that the church upholds the traditional understanding of marriage and further notes the potential of the working group’s task to impact on the Church’s theology of marriage and ordination thereby acknowledging that the status quo does not allow for the blessing of same gender relationships nor the ordination of those in such relationships.

The motion, however, also included a  fourth clause which allowed for clerical discretion in the recognition in public worship of a same-gender civil union or state marriage of members of their faith community but only with the permission of their licensing Bishop and vestry.

The passing of motion 30 and in particular clause 4 has caused widespread distress across the Province including two priests leaving the church. While many would acknowledge there is value in discussing processes and structures whereby people can maintain their integrity there is deep concern that this fourth clause is not only unconstitutional but it also pre-empts the work of the working group and potentially signals the direction the working group may head in. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary to recognise something is to “accept that something is true or important” and that it has “legal or official authority.” The New Oxford Dictionary of English has the following meanings  :  “acknowledge the existence, validity or legality of..”, “officially regard as valid or proper” or “show official appreciation of, reward formally.”          

Given the meaning of “recognise” and that same gender marriages and civil unions are not recognised by our formularies as they stand any recognition of such unions in any manner is unconstitutional and no Bishop, Priest or vestry having signed an allegiance to General Synod may sanction such a recognition, (CONSTITUTION OF THE ANGLICAN CHURCH IN AOTEAROA, NEW ZEALAND AND POLYNESIA Part C, Clause 14. “No doctrines which are repugnant to the Doctrines and Sacraments of Christ as held and maintained by this Church shall be advocated or inculcated by any person acknowledging the authority of General Synod / te Hinota Whanui...”)

Given the above line of reasoning an application has been made to the Provincial Judicial Committee submitting that General Synod was also in error in passing clause 4 as it proposes unconstitutional action. On that basis the applicants are asking the Judicial Committee to rule accordingly on clause 4, noting also that the clause is secondary to the main task of motion 30 anyway.

The applicants are the Ven. Tim Mora, Rev. Chris Tims and Chris Barfoot, with legal assistance from Don Mathieson and others, and the Submission will be presented to the Judicial Committee on the 2nd of March for consideration.

The applicants acknowledging the importance of this matter for the future of the church sincerely request your prayer support.
If you wish to read the submission being made to the committee you can email Don Mathieson at and request a copy."

Monday, February 16, 2015

Spiritual and Sacred Links - Monday 16 February 2015

Supplied by a colleague in the UK:

I hope all is well and prayers for you during the coming week.

#1 Vaughan Roberts on St Stephen. #2 Bishop Tom Wright's timely reminder of God's plan for restoration of creation and human relationships; #3 Professor Alister McGrath on John Stott's 'Double Method' of listening to contemporary culture and then expounding the Gospel faithfully in terms that it will understand. Please pray for the Church of England and the church under pressure.

1. Stephen at the Sanhedrin - Vaughan Roberts - St Ebbe's Oxford Audio [Acts 6:8-8:1]

2. God's Plan for Human Relationship - Bishop Tom Wright at Humanum 2014

3. Double Listening: The John Stott London Lecture 2014  - Alister McGrath

4. The Sunday Readings - Rev Stephen Trott

5. Preaching Ideas and Commentary - Rev Peter Carrell

6. Continue Read the New Testament in a year with Rev Andrew Goddard

7. The bells of St Mary's, Dunsford in Devon - BBC Radio 4

8. Choral Evensong from St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle - BBC Radio 3

9. Sunday Holy Communion livestreamed from St Helena's Church, Beaufort, South Carolina at 10:15 am Eastern Time, 3:15 pm London Time

10. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

11. Choral services from the chapels of King's College Cambridge
and St John's College, Cambridge
and Trinity College, Cambridge
and New College, Oxford

Please pray for the Church of England, for Christians and all facing persecution and crime in Syria and Iraq including refugees facing winter and hunger; for the persecuted church and in particular in Nigeria and neighboring countries; for peace in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza; and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

12. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Prayers for the Church of England from Lent and Beyond
Call to Action - Religious Liberty Commission [pdf]
Over 70 MPs attend Open Doors report launch - Open Doors
Nigeria: February update - CSW video
Boko Haram’s attacks spread into Niger sparking mass exodus - WWM
South Carolina: What it Means: Understanding Judge Goodstein's Ruling
Prayers from Lent and Beyond

13. Sunday Programme - with Edward Stourton - BBC Radio 4

Food for thought
14. Church Buildings and other News - BRIN
Barna: How Pastors use Internet Ministry- Christianity Today
Gang-Infested Portland School Revitalized by Church Program - CP
When Worship is Our Lifeline - Dave Zuleger
The Dark Side of the Moon - NASA

15. Generation Y: What can we do to engage well with Generation Y? - LICC

16. 100 Gatherings Message - Tim Hughes

17. Born on a new day - The King's Singers

God bless you

Thursday, February 12, 2015

I have seen the future of Religion Down Under and it is spelt


Last night I had the opportunity to experience my first full Taize service. As part of a round the continents promotion trip to promote an event in August 2015 focused on new solidarity, three brothers led a workshop in the Transitional Cathedral followed by a service of prayer and song.

The cathedral was full. The atmosphere was superb, with judiciously placed icons, colour filtered lighting and a just right amount of candles.

(Not a great picture from my cellphone. The colouring was red rather than pink.)

What was brilliant was the mix of the congregation: loadsa young people, lotsa older folk like me, too.

Something I very much appreciate about Taize songs - familiar from other occasions, even if this was only my first service - is their heavy Scriptural content. To worship God or to pray to God in these songs is also to read and hear the Word of God.

If all our services had the Taize mix of singable music, Scriptural song, symbolism, gentle spirituality, and symbolism that connects, might the future of Religion Down Under be brighter?

Note that I am not saying that if every service was a Taize service then all would be well. But there is something to learn from Taize services and apply to every service. Commenters might like to discuss this further below.

One particular moment in the service moved me greatly.

The icon of the cross was laid in the centre of the front area (where young people were seated on cushions) and people invited to come an kneel at the cross in prayer.

I went forward and as I prayed I was impressed by the folly of the cross. In a world of violence and terror, of manipulated power serving some and oppressing many, what do Christians have to fight against this? We only have Jesus on the cross. In the end, Christians offer the evil powers in our world our suffering and death.

What is the future of Religion Down Under? It is not to find power and strength in the way of the world but to refind Jesus on the cross and to kneel at his feet.

There the message of Taize to the world finds it footing. That message, expressed last night, is that the peoples of the world might be reconciled in peace. There is no way to reconciliation through violence or manipulation of power. It only comes through suffering and forgiveness.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What is the future of religion Down Under?

The only thing certain about the future of religion Down Under is that neither Tony "Captain's Call" Abbott nor John "I'm relaxed about that" Key are likely to be made into gods and venerated anytime soon.

But what about the future of religion in Britain and will the prognostications about it have a bearing on our understanding of the future of religion Down Under?

With H/T to Simon Sarmiento (@simonsarmiento) I draw your attention to this Theos Think Tank post on the question "What is the future for religion in Britain?"

The post notes that a seminal book by Grace Davie, Religion in Britain since 1945: Believing without Belonging is about to be republished/updated with a new title Religion in Britain: A Persistent Paradox.

It then promises what looks to be a highly interesting series of 1000 word responses to the book, beginning next Monday, published dayly for about a fortnight after that.

I'll be keeping an eye on this. It might give a steer as to the future of religion Down Here. After all, Believing without Belonging is well known as a phenomenon in NZ. In Oz too?

Monday, February 9, 2015

N.T. Wright dismissed as "little more than a book-a-year apologist"

You cannot make this stuff up. Dr Paul Holloway, New Testament (NT) Prof at Sewanee has written a letter to his own university apoplectic that it is awarding an honorary degree to Prof N.T. Wright also known as Bishop Tom Wright. (H/T Creedal Christian). 

I will let you read the letter yourself for the main objection he has to Wright's award (hint: it's socio-political-cultural). Though he protests that it is not his main objection ("But that is not my complaint here") it is an objection which, in my view, has more substance than what he then claims is his main objection. The substance, that is, of being an award by an institution committed to different values to Wright's so it never should have been made.

What is intriguing and/or amusing, is one professional NT scholar-whom-I-have-never-heard-of's assessment of N.T.Wright, a giant of 20th century and early 21st century NT scholarship.

"Wright’s receiving an honorary degree during my tenure is a professional embarrassment"

"My complaint is that Sewanee has recognized Wright as a scholar in my discipline, when in fact he is little more than a book-a-year apologist."

"Wright comes to the evidence not with honest questions but with ideologically generated answers that he seeks to defend."

"I know of no critical scholar in the field who trusts his work."

"He contradicts what I stand for professionally as well as the kind of hard-won intellectual integrity I hope to instill in my students. I feel like the professor of biology who has had to sit by and watch a Biblical creationist receive an honorary degree in science."

Then a sideswipe at St Andrew's University and Holloway's fellow Americans:

"Wright has since retired as bishop and found a job at an under-funded Scottish university anxious to attract young full-fee-paying American Evangelical men questing for old-world cultural capital."

The academically most objectionable statement here, and also the silliest, is "I know of no critical scholar in the field who trusts his work." Let me count the ways to object to this statement:

1. There are in fact plenty of scholars who 'trust' Wright in the sense that they follow him as one of the leading exponents of the New Perspective on Paul. Holloway surely is not saying that he will deem them to be scholars but not 'critical' scholars?

2. The very point of 'critical scholarship' in the sense of examining every proposition for weakness and frailty if not fallibility is that no critical scholars trusts any scholar because a critical scholar critiques every view he or she comes across. What sounds like a damning criticism of one scholar applies (or should apply) to every scholar. Perhaps Sewanee should award no honorary degrees to anyone, if these are the grounds for assessing scholarly merit?

3. The phrase 'trusts his work' implies some body of sound research which one may trust without further examination. But that kind of research is not Wright's mode of scholarship. That kind of research is (say) about here are some ancient papyri and here is my translation of them, or here are the results of my archaeological dig in the middle of the desert and from the kinds of pottery shards and coins present I propose the following conclusions. What Wright (mostly) does is take an overview of the scholarship of the NT, as well as digging deeply as an exegete into the detail of the text, and make proposals about some feature or another. Neither a papyrist nor a shardist is he. Thus his books argue for this about the resurrection and that about justification. He does not ask anyone to trust his work but to examine (critically!) his arguments. Actually, plenty of critics do examine his arguments. Some find them wanting, some find them mostly persuasive, few (in my experience) completely agree with him which is, er, what happens in, er, critical scholarship. The previous sentence applies to other giants of biblical scholarship such as Bultmann, Brueggeman, Childs and Dunn.

4. It is very surprising that Holloway misses the point of Wright's role in NT scholarship which is to generate fresh discussion of familiar texts. Wright's singular achievement is to make us think again - critically! - about what we read in the NT. Looking at Holloway's professional career I don't think that is going to be said about him! His output is of a different kind, and that is fine. But fifty year's from now students will still be examining Wright's writings for their doctoral theses and Holloway's works - like most NT scholars that ever lived - will be in a dusty corner of the library.

5. One should be a careful kettle when calling the pot black. Holloway is the author of "Coping with Prejudice: 1 Peter in Social Psychological Perspective (Tübingen, 2009)." Now without reading the book, the title scarcely strikes me as a book that critical scholars are going to 'trust' as some kind of last word on social psychological perspective on 1 Peter. Social psychological work on NT letters is a new-ish field: surely critical scholars will read this book with the critical part of their mental faculties switched on rather than the trust part.

In the meantime, I expect the Sewanee authorities are rather pleased with this letter as it demonstrates a number of reasons why budding NT scholars will want to choose Sewanee over faux underfunded universities such as St Andrew's.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Embarrassment for Anglicans Down Under [UPDATED]

You can count on the fingers of one finger the number of times in my memory I can recall our Archbishop or Archbishops publicly apologising in respect of remarks made by a fellow bishop but today NZers will be reading this story. Frankly, it is embarrassing that 'stirring' has been mixed up with inaccurate distortions of complex realities. The prophetic role of ministers to be 'stirrers' requires careful rather than careless talk and this article is a reminder to all of us who 'stir', including bloggers, to speak truthfully.

The formal apology is contained within Anglican Taonga's article here.

UPDATE: Monday 16 February 2015

Over the weekend it has emerged that Bishop John Gray has been stood down as Vicar-General and Bishop Kito Pikaahu has been appointed Vicar-General in his place.

UPDATED AGAIN: Wednesday 25 February 2015

Bishop John Gray has now been suspended from his role.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Who needs a Faculty Committee?

We have ways of getting things past the FC ...

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Breaking Anglican News: Diocese of South Carolina has complete dissociation rights

I think most if not all dioceses in ACANZP would understand that they belong to ACANZP by common compact and thus could dissociate by local synodical decision (albeit with consequences re breaking fellowship with other bishops). This right to dissociate - as I understand it - is even clearer in Australia where dioceses do not have to abide by decisions of the General Synod.

In other jurisdictions such possibilities are not quite so clear. I imagine it is impossible for a diocese to even contemplate dissociation in the C of E. But in TEC (USA) there have been dissociations (de facto), court cases which suggest dissociation is not possible (de jure) unless the General Convention should so approve and a dogged belief by the Diocese of South Carolina that it, at least, can dissociate because of some peculiarities in South Carolina state law.

Well, put simply, that dogged belief has complete victory today according to this Stand Firm post.

LATER: The definitive word on the legal niceties in this victory and the nuances which might influence other cases belong - unexpectedly - to Anglican Curmudgeon.

ACANZP missing self-examination and repentance as it celebrates?

Wellington theologian Peter Stuart's ever gentle provocation has been drawn to my attention.

Writing in Taonga Peter observes a missing element in our celebrations of the bi-centenary of the gospel here in Aotearoa New Zealand:

"to what extent have we proud Anglicans been the soft underbelly of the Christian Church in this country?  
We are stewards of the Gospel, and like all stewards, we are accountable.
In our Anglican commemorations of 200 years of Christian presence in New Zealand, I have missed any call to collective self-examination and repentance.
We rightly seek to speak unwelcome truths to those in secular power Yet as we enter the third century of Christian mission in this country, do we not need to face, on our knees before God, unwelcome truths about our own collective failures?
So yes, thanksgiving for all we discern of grace-filled witness since 1814 – but surely also a discreet Anglican modicum of repentance – the General Confession as well as the General Thanksgiving. For only then can we be renewed for authentic mission, and face the next century of Christian presence here with hope that is truly Gospel-based.
Lent starts soon. Its first reading, Joel 2:12-18, would be a good place to begin the journey afresh."

His point is well made. It is an unexceptional truth that ACANZP is now a long way from its evangelical beginnings.

Will we collectively listen to what the Spirit is saying through this prophet?

PS The chances are we will spend more time in self-examination if we are sent a rates bill!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Do we have the luxury to be Anglican?

To be honest, not much by way of profound insight has come my way this summer. I have been enjoying the heat of the sun more than its light!

But one series of occasional flickers of brain activity connected with the blog has been about the key word in the blog title, 'Anglican.'

What, in the end, does it mean to be 'Anglican'? Obviously it is a distinctive form of being Christian, so let's assume basic Christianity and lordship of Christ in what follows.

Is 'Anglican' - picking up on some observable traits around the Christmas season - something driven and shaped by choral music?

Noting a Twitter exchange I had with one of our bishops yesterday, to say nothing of the brouhaha in England over which hands are being laid on which gender of prospective bishop, is 'Anglican' all about having bishops?

A colleague the other day rightly challenged me over a remark about obsession with robes, saying that if we start arguing about robes then we have really lost our way. True. But is the converse also true, that if we do not soon have an argument over robes (who should wear them, how many should be worn) then 'Anglican' means a church defined by its costumes?

But through all such musings I remain very concerned, at least in Kiwiland (but anecdotally, for all Western countries) about the state of church life which is marked generally by lack of young people, by scarcity of people aged under 60 years.

Do you ever wonder, as I wonder, whether the wave of secularization of the Western world is becoming a tidal wave?

The challenge, in this perspective, is to re-find the gospel as God's universal message to all people in all generations.

Understanding what 'Anglican' means is a nice-to-have luxury. A far more urgent question needs asking.

What does the gospel mean for today?

If the answer is that we need to worry less about Anglican distinctives and be more anxious for gospel living, will we Anglicans rise to overcome our obsessions?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Is God capricious ... and mean minded?

Doing the internet rounds (I see) is this response of Stephen Fry to a question about his relationship with God:

In a media world keen for a mix of controversy, comedy and doing without God, Fry's punchy, witty dismissal of God is just what the secularization doctor ordered.

It is hardly original to say that it reminds us of C.S. Lewis' great observation (and title of a book of his articles) that whereas previous to the modern era humanity's relationship to God was that of the accused in the dock, desperately hoping to find mercy from the Judge, now it is God in the Dock. If God has an acceptable answer for the problems Stephen Fry says imply God is capricious then, according to Lewis, we might be merciful to God and let him off his charges!

Tim Stanley offers a response here.

Even better is this by Madeleine Davies.

(Added) Even better is this by Krish Kandiah.

What do you think?

On any approach to reading the Bible, whatever else judgement day means, it will not involve us questioning God!

Spiritual and Sacred Links - Monday 2 February 2015


A lovely, stimulating and thoughtful interview of Rosaria Butterfield is on YouTube here. Why should you watch this? Well, tune in for the first few minutes and see whether you want to watch the rest!

From a UK colleague:

#1 If you click any link at all this week watch this one, a new film from Moving Works about the ministry of Pastor LaPel to Comrade Duch who was the only Khmer Rouge leader to be convicted from his own admission after converting to Christianity, but be warned, the testimony is graphic, but the story important and heartening. #2 Vaughan Roberts on witness under persecution; 3-5 Os Guinness, Justin Terry and Bishop Nazir-Ali were all preaching in South Carolina after the Mere Anglicanism Conference last week. #6-8 commentary on the lectionary readings from Stephen Trott and Peter Carrell, and Andrew Goddard's New Testament in a year moves on to Peter's first Letter; #10 Sunday worship from Lisburn Cathedral and 11-12 two Epiphany carol services; #16 much to pray about, particularly for Christians under persecution; #18 persecution, the holocaust and ministry to think about with reflections from Johnny Patterson, David Virtue, Bishop Graham Kings and soon to be bishop Philip North and some remarkable stories and pictures from Reuters from Auschwitz survivors; #19 three organisations have put up websites encouraging Christians in the UK to engage with politics and the upcoming 2015 general election.

1. The Foremost - A film about Pastor Christopher LaPel and Khmer Rouge leader Comrade Duch coming to Christ - MovingWorks [Warning: graphic images and testimony from the killing fields, but well worth watching if you can]

2. Peter at the Sanheddrin - Vaughan Roberts - St Ebbe's Oxford Audio [Acts 4:8-12]

3. Serving God's Purpose in our Generation - Os Guinness - St Michael's Charleston Audio

4. Living with Your Back to the Audience - Dean Justin Terry - St Paul's Sommerville Audio

5. In the Beginning - Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali - St Helena's Beaufort Audio

Commentary for Sunday 1st February
6. The Sunday Readings - Rev Stephen Trott

7. Preaching Ideas and Commentary - Rev Peter Carrell

8. Reading 1 Peter 1-5 - Read the New Testament in a year with Rev Andrew Goddard
[and follow the links on the drop down menu Reading NT for other resources]

9. The bells of St Mary Magdalene, Chewton Mendip in Somerset - BBC Radio 4

10. Sunday Worship from Lisburn Cathedral, Antrim, NI - BBC Radio 4

11. Epiphany Carol Service from St John's College, Cambridge

12. An Archive Recording of a Service for Epiphany, first broadcast in January 2009 from All Hallows' Church, Gospel Oak, London with the Choir of King's College, London - BBC Radio 3

13. Sunday Holy Communion livestreamed from St Helena's Church, Beaufort, South Carolina at 10:15 am Eastern Time, 3:15 pm London Time

14. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

15. Choral services from the chapels of King's College Cambridge
and St John's College, Cambridge
and Trinity College, Cambridge
and New College, Oxford

Please pray for the Ebola Crisis and for those working for a cure; for Christians and all facing persecution and crime in Syria and Iraq including refugees facing winter and hunger; for the persecuted church and in particular in Nigeria, Iran, Malaysia, Egypt and Burma; for peace in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza; and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

16. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Nigeria: Nigeria elections put Christians in danger of more Muslim attacks - Washington Times
Iran: One believer released, another re-imprisoned - Middle East Concern
Saeed Abedini to Obama: 'You have my prayers from inside these walls' - Christian Today
Obama to Imprisoned Pastor's Wife: Saving Saeed Abedini in Iran Is 'a Top Priority' - Christianity Today
Malaysia: Anglican Archbishop: ‘Allah’ ruling has far-reaching effects - Borneo Post
Egypt: Bureaucratic delays put Egyptian convert's appeal at risk - WWM
Libya: Libyan militants hold 20 Egyptian Christians hostage - WWM
Burma: Chin State government orders removal of cross, elder prosecuted - CSW
Burma's religious conversion bill is "major setback for religious freedom and human rights" - CSW
South Carolina: Prayers from Lent and Beyond

17. Sunday Programme - with Edward Stourton - BBC Radio 4

Food for thought
18. The Challenge of Religious Persecution - Johnny Patterson
I Remember Auschwitz - David Virtue
Auschwitz Survivors Stories 70 Years On - Reuters
I'll defend LRA killer, says Anglican bishop - Christian Today
English Monk Who Encouraged the Ministry of Women - Bishop Graham Kings
Do Not Be Afraid - Philip North
The Government is using British Values to Destroy British Values - David Robertson
Methodists find £172 million down the back of the sofa - Christian Today
YWAM Missionaries Won’t Be Deported over Visa Issue - Christianity Today
The Interesting Life of T. S. Eliot - Interesting Literature

Christians and Politics
19. 2015 Election: How Christians can get involved - Christian Today
Does religion count at the ballot box? - EA
Evangelical Alliance launches election website - EA
Election 2015 - Evangelical Alliance website
Engage15 - CARE website
Show Up - Christians in Politics website

20. What does the Bible say about work? - LICC

21. Nunc Dimittis in B minor - T. Tertius Noble - Somerville Choir

22. No Longer Slaves - Jonathan David & Melissa Helser

God bless you