Monday, February 29, 2016

A Way Forward: Sections 1 and 2: Critical Review (1)

To read the A Way Forward report in full, go here. To read it in sections, go here.

For this post we are concerned with the Introduction and the Executive Summary.

Incidentally, on the front page of the report, is the name of our church correct? I thought it is "the Anglican Church IN Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia" but the title page has "the Anglican Church OF Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia."

Why a Critical Review?

The unexamined life is not worth living and the unexamined report is not worth having. Given that this report and its recommendations have some capacity - depending on what, precisely, General Synod in May 2016 agrees to - to (at best) divide the church into two integrities and to (at worst) divide the church into two schismatic tendencies, it is worth subjecting the report to careful, critical scrutiny. To an important degree that has already happened here at ADU with brilliant comments made to my initial posts about the report last week. But the series I am proposing through this and subsequent Mondays (+/- a day), between now and General Synod, will enable some systematic consideration to be given to the report, section by section.

I will just say once in this series: our church owes a great deal to the group who produced the report. They worked hard, and spent countless hours on the task. They deserve our thanks and praise for producing something worth discussing and, it perhaps will prove, in the end worth passing into legislation.

So, to the Introduction and Executive Summary

I don't have much to say about the Introduction and the Executive Summary, sections 1 and 2. They are what they are, and useful for that. But the Introduction does remind us who was on the group that produced the report: thirteen members of our church, drawn from our three Tikanga. In the Introduction we are told of something I suggest all readers of the report keep in mind at all times:

"While working group members agree that they have met the brief given, they were not and are not of one mind on many issues."

And later, in respect of the key to any such report, its substantive theological base, as well as connecting that theological set of explanations to our constitution and Church of England Empowering Act (1928):

"The explanations are not necessarily the views of every individual member."

So, General Synod, good luck with making a decision, from your working group that could not find a common mind on a set of compromises!

The Executive Summary is what it is, but a couple of statements within it could be highlighted here.


First, in respect of an issue for a number of clerical colleagues, that changes to what we believe as a whole church might imperil any priest refusing to conduct the blessing of a same sex relationship if that couple chose to sue the priest on grounds of discrimination:

"The canons of this Church already make provision for any priest or bishop to decline to perform a rite of marriage. It is not anticipated by the group that any such minister could be held to be non-compliant with any relevant parliamentary legislation through electing not to perform a rite of blessing for a couple married under civil legislation."

I think I see the legal reasoning here: a civilly married couple are not being refused marriage by a priest who will not bless their relationship. But would that, in itself, prevent a case being taken by a lawyer who generally sought to convince a judge that said priest acted in a discriminatory manner by refusing to bless the couple?

Two Integrities

Secondly, in respect of the matter of two integrities in our church (should the report's recommendations become, in due course, legislated into the canons and formularies of this Church):

"The working group believes that the proposed rites and canonical changes contained in this report, if adopted, will enable every priest and bishop in the Anglican church in this province to retain their integrity within the Church: those who believe the blessing of same-sex persons is congruent with scripture, tikanga and doctrine, and those who believe that such a blessing is contrary to these."

At precisely this point I would like to know if this is, in fact, the unanimous view of the working group or whether this is a matter on which the working group was not of one mind. If the former I would feel more confident that these two integrities have a chance of being birthed. If the latter then I would be interested to learn more about what other possibilities exist in the minds of the working group members.

This matter of "two integrities" is of the highest importance if we are to remain one church. There will be more to say in subsequent weeks as I work through the next sections of the report.

Next week, the "dynamic nature of Doctrine." And, no, "Doctrine" is not one of the names of the new teams in the expanded Super Rugby competition.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Connectible promotion

Dear Readers,
I am very happy to draw to your attention a Kiwi site I have learned about this week.
It is called Connectible and is found here.
Produced and maintained by the Diocese of Dunedin, it offers resources for (lectionary based) Sunday worship with a special flavour towards connecting with children and families in worship.
Have a look!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Planning A Way Forward

I've been away a few days and as a result missed the first two of three meetings scheduled this week for the A Way Forward report to be presented (post below). What a good few days they were, buried deep in the heart of the countryside (Te Waiora, for those who know it).

Now back into the Anglican fray, a friend has sent me a link to Uganda threatening - well, actually, Uganda is pretty good at doing what is says it will do, so change that to - promising to boycott the ACC meeting in Lusaka.

It seems that Archbishop Ngatali has common accord with no less an Islamic figure than the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Mosque in respect of critical assessment of TEC's approach to the Scriptures.

Meanwhile, closer to home, in the western island to the west of the Most Beautiful Country on Earth, an Australian bishop has suggested that a nearby diocese is divisive. But David Oulds' article is worth a careful read. Who is being divisive in the Australian Anglican church? Is it the Diocese of Sydney or is it those who disregard common agreements made across the dioceses?

Meantime, back in NZ, I still haven't read the whole of A Way Forward in a diligent manner.What is a busy man to do? Here is my working plan: each Monday (or thereabouts) I will publish an analysis of of a section of the report. We have ten Mondays between now and General Synod. There are twelve sections in the report, so some Mondays we will cover more than one section.

Conversely, I hope to discipline myself to not publish endlessly on AWF, so any posts between Mondays will be on other topics.

Natch I will be plagiarising the many wonderful, astute, perspicuous comments made in the post below. Thank you commenters :)

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Way Forward to General Synod 2016

Well, after much talk and prayer, the report with recommendation, "A Way Forward" is made public, here. (And follow various links on that site).

I am coincidentally busy this week in such a way that at best I will be able to post comments and not make comment myself.

Let alone offer "considered" views on what is written in the report (but, let me assure you, that considered views are forming!).

But I have a few thoughts to offer in the most general sense of appreciation and admiration.

1. In a context of difference and disagreement in our church, the Way Forward group has written as good a report - broadly speaking - in terms of compromise, of attempting to carve a way through "the centre," to hold two integrities together as I could possibly imagine. When we think of the divisions in our church, and note that the WF group are not even agreed on the "compromise" presented in their report, this is, I suggest, as good as it gets at this time and in this church, ACANZP.

2. What the report seeks to do is both simple and complex. Simple: it seeks to hold our church together as a family with disagreements. Complex: what it proposes to hold our church together is a fascinating mixture of theology and pragmatism. Will it work to hold us in one family? Now, that is the question you and I will find taxes our minds over the weeks running up to GS in May 2016.

3. I would like to remind readers that General Synod is under no compunction to do anything with this report. Whatever we think of it, the members of General Synod will determine whether to archive it, formally commend it to us for study, follow its recommendations or ...

4. Finally, some recent words of Pope Francis, aimed at Donald Trump, may also be apt for us as we digest the report and its recommendations. The Pope said,

"“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,”"

Now, I am NOT, repeat NOT, citing this comment in order to cast aspersions on those who respond to the report in one way rather than another. But I am happy to cite these words as a challenge to myself and to you, a challenge to respond in such a manner to the report that we build bridges between each other rather than walls. Yes, we won't agree on what constitutes "bridges" and what constitutes "walls" in this situation, but might we agree that there are ways to discuss issues in the life of the church which keep conversation alive and ways which kill conversation dead? May we find the former pathway.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Absence makes the i-heart grow fonder

You may be wondering why no posts for a few days.

Indeed ... busy ... travel ... unexpectedly busy over new matter that has come up ...

But, here's the thing, a post is coming.

It will be pretty important, though perhaps not as strikingly important as the Pope talking about Trump as "not a Christian," and possibly only debatably as important as James Tengatenga saying TEC will vote at ACC.

See you next week ... sometime :)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The right kind of reliability of the Bible?

Continuing from the post below ...

I have huge confidence in the (right kind of) reliability of the Bible. Despite all the variations between manuscripts of New Testament gospels and epistles (most of which amount to tiny differences, with no impact on doctrine), and the wide variations between manuscripts of the Old Testament (especially between Hebrew and Greek manuscripts in places), my confidence is high. But we need to talk about the right kind of reliability.

The difficulty - having written the above paragraph yesterday - is that I am short of time to write an extensive explanation for the above assertion! However I am glad that Bowman Walton put in an extensive comment to yesterday's post which merits reading and reflection. (Thanks, Bowman!)

Perhaps I could briefly explain why talking about the reliability of the Bible, even the right kind of reliability, cannot be done concisely.

First, there are two quite different parts of the Bible to explain, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The composition of each testament took quite different pathways, the first being more dynamic around multiple writers, confluence of sources, successive editors, greater freedom to change things as copying and/or translating went along, the second also having multiple authors but fewer confluent sources and less freedom to change things in the copying process.

Secondly, there is a bit to say about "reliability" because it is a term which can lead to a wrong deductive conclusion. Thus "reliability of the Bible" could be taken to imply "we can know that we have a reliable record of what Jesus said (and what Moses and Isaiah said, etc)" but, in actuality, since there were no tape recorders and the like in those days, a quest for that kind of reliability is impossible to achieve. The reliability we are talking about is reliability of transmission of ancient manuscripts, including the question of the reliability of transmission from the original manuscripts, where there is much to be discussed about what "original" means in respect of books as diverse as Isaiah (likely composed over several centuries), John (was there a school of writers,working their way through successive drafts?) and Paul (perhaps the best candidate, in at least some letters, for there to have been one and only one "original" from which all other copies derive).

Must stop there. Work to be done "off blog."

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

It is very difficult to get to the truth of some matters. One such matter is "the reliability of the Bible."
My eye chanced on a blogpost signalled on a blogroll here. Peter Head at Evangelical Textual Criticism takes on a "silly" article by Greg Gilbert at The Gospel Coalition (itself an adapted excerpt from a book written by Gilbert called Why Trust the Bible?). Some of the comments to Peter Head's article are in themselves illuminating as to ways in which evangelicalism can be, well, a bit precious.

Peter Head's underlying point, as one evangelical to a community of evangelicals is that evangelicals do no service to their advancement of the significance of the Bible as the authoritative written Word of God by underpinning arguments with sloppy logic and slippery use of available evidence.

I am with Peter Head. When we read the Old and New Testaments in their original languages we are reading documents with a complex and often difficult history. "Complex" because matching differences between manuscripts offers in many cases no simple argument which will clinch agreement on what the text of the "original" manuscript was (say, Paul as he or an amanuensis wrote the epistle which would then be circulated, or, then copied and those copies circulated to the  churches. "Difficult" because there are often decades of uncertainty between the widely agreed date of composition of the original document and the manuscript copy of that document agreed (widely, or otherwise) to be the oldest available to us. And, even then, it is quite possible that that document is a poor copy compared with the putative original, and a later manuscript is actually more reliable as a representation of the original.

These are complex and difficult matters when considering the New Testament alone. They are much more complex and difficult when considering the Old Testament (for which we have manuscripts in Hebrew and Aramaic, but much uncertainty as to how reliable our manuscripts are, noting variations when compared to the Greek Old Testament manuscripts and to evidence from manuscripts in other ancient translations of the Old Testament).

Evangelicals should not oversimplify the issues or underestimate the difficulties we have when we try to deduce from the myriad evidence available to us, exactly what the original form of the Bible was. We would all like a reliable Bible in which we were confident that we had manuscripts in the relevant ancient languages which were "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth." But it ain't possible (short of some really, really remarkable archaeological or antiquarian discoveries of manuscripts much older than those we currently have). Yes, I am aware that we have the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are truly ancient and terrifically helpful in the quest for a reliable Bible, but they are not a "whole Bible" treasure trove of manuscripts.

Nevertheless we should not despair of the quest for the reliability of the Bible, providing we look for the right kind of reliability. I hope to come back to this quest soon.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Let me lend you some Lent resources!

(I may add to this post as time goes by).

A couple of posts re Ash Wednesday and Lent have caught my eye. In case you miss them, consider checking out:

Bosco Peters' round up of Ash Wednesday and Lent resources.

Psephizo's post on "Lent disciplines for evangelical leaders." Of particular challenge for those busy in church ministry is his reflection on "Sabbath."

Incidentally, Theology House still has copies for sale of its Lenten studies book for 2016, Stewardship: Through Lent with Mark. We've sold c. 3000 copies which, I am reliably informed, makes it a bestseller in Kiwi terms :)

And, hot off the press, some prayers written for this Sunday, Lent 1 (by my father):

Prayers of the People, 1st Sunday in Lent

As we enter this season of Lent, we pray for the Church and for the world, giving thanks for God’s goodness. The response to be sung after each petition is O Lord hear our prayer….
Creator and Redeemer God, you call us to walk in the steps of Jesus. As he faced testing and temptations, so also do we today. As he put aside his personal needs to draw closer to you, help us to be freed from the distractions of attending daily to our own desires, to find our rest in you. We pray for the commitment to holiness of your whole Church on earth. Grant that all who follow Jesus today may be set free from any bondage to material possessions, and find their deepest joy and security in you. We praise and thank you for those many Christians who inspire and encourage us in the simplicity of the way they live, demonstrating that ‘man does not live by bread alone’.
O Lord, hear our prayer …
We pray for leaders of the world, for bishops and clergy, for government ministers and aspiring politicians, for heads of business and heroes of sport. We pray for integrity in their personal lives and honesty in their public duties. We thank you for those who show little regard for fame or fortune, and who are humble in success. As Jesus rejected the easy path to gaining the plaudits of the world, help us also to live as those who set little store by the ‘glory of the kingdoms of this world and their authority’.
 O Lord, hear our prayer …
We pray for Christians the world over who are sorely tempted to blame God for their troubles, and to trade their trust in God for spectacular answers to prayer. In other parts of the world we pray for refugees and asylum seekers, for displaced Christians and distraught Muslims. Here at home we pray for any known to us who desperately seek God to act through a miracle to meet their pressing needs. We pray for all who suffer from unkind bereavement, or incurable illness, or unrelieved despair. We pray that the Jesus who faced temptations in the wilderness will this day walk close with them, and that they will not ‘put the Lord their God to the test’.
O Lord, hear our prayer …
Finally, we pray that this Lent may be for the Church of God and the people of God a time when all find a new commitment to following Jesus, a new strength to face and resist the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil, and a new depth of faith touching all we do and all we are, that the glory of God may come afresh to our city and our nation. So we pray ‘your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever’.

O Lord, hear our prayer …

ADDED: (from suggestions in the comments ...

24/7 Podcast here.

John Ortberg here.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Bright future?

I have been pleasantly distracted since the last post, taken advantage of a holiday weekend to ensure our hardworking student-home-for-the-summer had at least a brief holiday before returning to university. (For overseas readers, the weekend celebrated the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, between Maori chiefs and the (British) Crown).

Unexpectedly the few days took on a water theme as I had a chance at kayaking, paddle-boarding (first time ever) and biscuiting, all in waters warm enough for it to be pleasant when my lack of balance (yes, I know readers here will be surprised by that :) ) or insufficient tenacity in gripping the sea biscuit threw me into the depths. One casualty was loss of treasured sunglasses (and no end of ribbing from my family for wearing them at sea!)

But while away I did go to church, and last night I was at the joint cathedrals Ash Wednesday service here in Christchurch. I nearly always (over-)analyse what I think is going on when I am at church, not only in terms of local dynamics but also implications for the bigger picture of themes and trends in the NZ Pakeha churches if not the Western church. This week has been no different.

We have present challenges but I think our future is bright. But, turn your face away Donald Trump, that future is down to immigration. What my eyes tell me as I worship in different churches is that the future of NZ Christianity is going to be dominated by people whose parents immigrated here in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, as well, of course, by even more recent immigrants than that. (What the daily news tells us is that more and more Christians are migrating from troubled parts of the world to less troubled parts, and that will include NZ).

There will be a religious studies/sociology/theology Ph.D or three in around 2040 on why, two hundred years after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed with missionaries integral to the proceedings, a resistance to the gospel built up through succeeding generations of Pakeha and Maori descended from their Treaty signing ancestors and the settlers who arrived in the decades immediately afterwards.

Actually, I have one explanation for that resistance, and it relates to the marvellous weekend I experienced. In NZ we have a great life: mild climate, scenery to die for, beaches and bush offering accessible and inexpensive recreation, outstanding health services and abounding opportunities for material advancement. As a wise bishop once observed to me, people don't need God when already living in paradise.

Yet elsewhere in the world there is immense suffering and tribulation that is fuelling people movements which, ironically, will keep bringing people to our churches. Our NZ church future is bright, but there is a dark story behind that claim.

And there is a challenge for all Kiwis who love fellow Kiwis: how to overcome paradisal resistance to the gospel?

Friday, February 5, 2016

NZ Bishops Divided Over Biblical Command But No Schism Imminent


Q1: It is important to obey the commands in the Bible? Correct Answer: Yes.
Q2: One of the most important commandments is Do Not Kill, is it not? Correct Answer: Yes.
Q3: But there are some exceptional circumstances in which even this commandment might be set aside? Correct Answer: Christians debate this matter, so some see killing in a justified war as justified, but others believe it is never, ever right to kill another person.
Q4: So, to go back to Q1, It is important to obey the commands in the Bible but sometimes a command might be set aside? Correct Answer: Yes.
Q5: So, to go back to Q3 and "exceptional circumstances," who decides what those circumstances are? Correct answer: the church has the authority to do that.
Q6: In an episcopal church, presumably the bishops play a role in making such authoritative decisions? Correct Answer: Indeed!
Q7: But what happens when the bishops cannot agree on the correct answer? Correct Answer: "Houston, we have a problem!"
Q8: Surely on the matter of the interpretation of the Bible re which commands might be set aside, and under what circumstances, we could expect bishops to be united, of one heart and mind? Correct Answer: We could.
Q9: Potentially, then, when the bishops are divided, the church itself might divide? Correct Answer: True.
Q10: So, if perchance, the bishops of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia cannot agree on the exceptional circumstances under which one human might kill another human, do we have a potential schism on our hands? Correct Answer: Almost certainly not!!

According to this Taonga article, we have nine signed up bishops saying "No" and one saying "Yes" in a submission to Parliament re euthanasia. But I do not think we have an imminent schism on our hands because of this public disagreement.

Even the non-rocket scientists among readers here will recognise potent analogies here with our parallel debate on same sex blessings and same sex marriage. (There are also some non-analogies, but I am not going to go into all the details of the analogies and non-analogies).

My questions for today are:

A. Why are we so het up as a church re our divisions over one commandment and scarcely raising our collective heart rate over our divisions over another commandment?

B. One answer to the above question A is that on euthanasia we have no fixed canonical/liturgical policy, nor would we see teaching on euthanasia as a matter on which the constitution prescribes or proscribes what may or may not be taught, publicly debated etc. So,
- would we be better off as a church if our GS in May 2016 made the barest minimalist of changes to something* in order to permit ourselves the luxury of continuing to (a) be a church able to hold diverse views, and (b) be a church able to continue to explore difficult questions of biblical interpretation over which we remain and will remain divided?

*For instance: what if the only change GS made was to remove either engagement in a same sex partnership or conducting the blessing of a same sex partnership as a possible offence under Title D? LATER ATTEMPT TO CLARIFY LAST SENTENCE: Title D does not refer specifically to same sex relationships or blessings of them, but it does refer to "chaste" relational behaviour, without clearly defining what that is. There is a view abroad in our church (as I understand things) that unless or until otherwise clarified, the implication of "chaste" is that sexual intercourse for licenced ministers of our church should be inside marriage and not outside it. Thus potentially any infraction of the same could incur a complaint under Title D, whether it was a complaint against a couple living in a relationship not marriage, or a complaint against a bishop who ordained a person in such a relationship or publicly and formally permitted the blessing of such relationship. Thus my argument/proposal is that the "least" change we could make to our current canons and liturgies, a change which kept open conversation between differing groups in our church about the possibility of including a liturgy of blessing in our church as a formulary of the church, would be to clarify what "chaste" means in respect of same sex relationships, but to make no further changes at this time to other canons or to liturgies. Yes, a fishhook or three is immediately apparent ... But would that be liveable with when, it appears, the current status quo is not liveable with, but certain changes could immediately divide our church in two or three pieces?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Rome will absorb Anglicans ... because there will be no other alternative!(?)

The other day, in a comment on my Perspectives post below, Bowman Walton offers the following observation:

"There is, BTW, a view widely accepted up here [North America], that the C22 Church will be Catholic, Orthodox, and Pentecostal, with Anglicans reabsorbed by Rome. It supposes that the Anglican Communion will never reach a consensus on doctrinal authority, so that the consequential debates over the urgent issues of the C21 all happen in Rome where, eventually, some clear decision does get made. Just as Anglicans often invoke Roman social teaching as if that were their own teaching, so they may also begin to invoke Roman teaching on sex, political theology, etc. Over time, pastors who need more than a communique or a Lambeth resolution to ground their practise could find themselves relying on better articulated papal decisions. At some point, practical reliance on the Roman magisterium becomes actual reunion.
In the case of SSM, the basic issue is: how should churches who understand marriage in the traditional way respond to civil legislation that defines it differently? Rome's implemented answer to that question will set social limits on the ways in which other churches can or even want to answer it. And in failing to invoke a more than procedural basis for their rejection of the TEC innovation, the Primates failed to settle Anglicanism's authority problem. Every time Anglicans claim an impractically low degree of authority for their decisions, or set them on too narrow a basis, they take a small step toward the reunion scenario."
I am intrigued, first, by this prophecy of the Christian future, circa 2200 - should the Lord tarry that long and global warming be merciful - because it chimes in with something Christopher Wells puts his finger on in an article linked to in the Perspectives post:

"We remain unable to articulate and defend the basis of our faith and order beyond what Archbishop Williams called the consensus of the moment. That being so, the next natural question is: How long will the consensus hold? But the deeper and more difficult, essential question is: Why should this, or any, consensus be maintained? On what grounds?
Insofar as the communiqué and its addenda approach these last questions, they announce the majority position in the manner of a placeholder:
The traditional doctrine of the church, in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching. (Addendum A, para. 4)
This is an announcement because no argument is offered, and it is a placeholder because no means of prosecuting the argument are proposed. Would-be apostolic doctrine seeks sources for which the would-be catholic order of the following paragraph could provide structure."

Christopher goes on to suggest a way forward towards a catholic future for apostolic teaching in the Anglican Communion (as opposed to placeholding announcements by the majority):

"Now is the moment — in the run-up to the Anglican Consultative Council’s meeting in April, in preparation for next year’s Primates’ Meeting, setting the stage for the 2020 Lambeth Conference — for the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order and comrades in arms to work carefully and collaboratively to cast a compelling vision and curriculum for our structural and doctrinal future. The objective: to grow, as Lambeth 1920 said, into “the unity of a universal Church” and so articulate “ideals” that are “less Anglican and more Catholic” (Lambeth Conference 1920, “Report of the Whole Committee on some important results of the extension and development of the Anglican Communion” in Ecumenism of the Possible: Witness, Theology and the Future of the Church, ed. William A. Norgren [Forward Movement, 1994], p. 99).

What catholic ideals? Those that express apostolic doctrine. The method unlocks a great storehouse of common and precious property. In his 2004 letter to Rowan Williams following the publication of The Windsor Report, Cardinal Walter Kasper praised the report’s commitment to catholicity but urged redoubled attention to apostolicity, “witnessed in the Scriptures, the early councils, and the patristic tradition.” Christians, Kasper said, have both “synchronic” and “diachronic” obligations, that is, obligations both to today’s “communion of churches” and to the historical “consensus” of the whole Church — beyond the inherent instability of merely contemporary agreement. The particular and universal together, across time, make possible the health of the one Body."

But Wells' invocation of Kasper in support of his (cheerfully optimistic) proposal makes Bowman Walton's observation stand out: Christopher cites a Roman Catholic cardinal as the one who offers Anglicans guidance on how to be catholic and apostolic! Walton's prophecy says that more and more a significant number of Anglicans will look theologically to Rome for guidance because they will not find it in "majority" primatial pronouncements, let alone in "lowest common denominator" type agreements which attempt to articulate common ground between TECian innovation and African adherence to Christian tradition. Christian consensus in the 22nd century - against the ravages of secularism and Islamism - will not only need to include Rome, the prophecy implies, it must include Rome. But will Anglicanism - shorn no doubt of liberal provinces reduced to negligible statistics (including ACANZP unless some dramatic turnaround occurs) - be strong enough to be a distinctive voice in that consensus? Or will we both meekly and cheerfully accept the Pope as "the" Christian spokesperson? (As, on a number of matters these days, we already do so).

Walton's comment also intrigues me, secondly, because it highlights the need for some very cool, considered, compassionate, constructive, civil. contextual theological discourse about the Western reality on the ground: couples who are married in the sight of one of God's agents (the state) but not (or not yet or sort-of-but-some/many-of-us-have-questions) in the eyes of another of God's agents (the church).

This is quite a big topic which I may well come back to in a separate post, suffice to say that I am personally not hearing many Kiwi conservative Anglican voices articulating how we respond to same-sex couples who come to church cheerfully acclaiming their married status.

It is such a trap to start making noises which suggest they have come to a church which thinks of two classes of marriage and it is as alarming a theological trap to think that mere embrace of all marriages as "equal" solves all theological conundrums of the day about marriage. Cue the relevance of the slow, creaking but incrementally developmental adjustments of Roman social theology from which many Anglicans have in the past learnt and will continue to do so.

But do Anglicans necessarily need to wait for Rome to speak before getting ahead of such questions of our day?

I'll post now, incomplete though this post is ...