Monday, October 16, 2017

Resourcing discussion on SSB, submissions for 17 November

A correspondent here - thank you - has submitted the following links to internet resources and notes re print resources which will inform discussion about Same Sex Blessings in ACANZP - noting that the days are counting down to 17 November for final submissions to the Motion 29 Working Group as it works on its final report for GS 2018.

You are welcome to comment but there is no particular expectation that this is a post for discussion here - discussion in your local church using these resources may be more fruitful ...

Explanation re terms used in list of resources below: 

"Side A" refers to the view that sexual activity is for faithful monogamous relationships irrespective of gender...

"Side B" referring to the view that sexual activity is for faithful monogamous relationships between a man and a woman...

Thus avoiding labels such as "traditional" and "revisionist"...
No pretense is made of this list offering any sort of balance, but one might describe it as somewhat diverse.

From  the Youtube video, "Through my eyes..." is a set of testimonies  which I think are of equal helpfulness irrespective of whether one is "Side A" or "Side B". It has a 30pp booklet with three sections, (1) for "Side B" churches; (2) for undecided churches and those who don't discuss this at all, and (3) for "Side A" churches. These are linked at

From (Mark Yarhouse) are six video links, three on homosexuality, three on gender dysphoria. Mark comes from what I would describe as a compassionate, scholarly Side B perspective.  Side A folk won't agree with all of his views but some Side B folk might not either. I found the clip titled "Sexual Identity and the Question of Viocation" particularly helpful.  Mark has also written a paper attached below as "Yarhouse.pdf". Mark has written a book Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture which I found helpful because it looked at this issue through three different perspectives; I suspect that transgendered people would find much here to agree and disagree on. His 2013 book, Understanding Sexual Identity, is geared towards supporting young people but applicable for any whose cultural context is either Gay-affirming or shame-based (for the latter, read some conservative Christian contexts).

Two vimeo links on the page linked below contain (a) discussion on the manner in which "the discussion" on diverse views of sexuality in the church can happen constructively, and (b) an actual discussion from two very different viewpoints discussed in a constructive manner. Useful irrespective of whether Side A or Side B.
Sprirtualfriendship is worth reading if one is Side B and other-than-heterosexual or if one is simply compassionately interested. (Most of the) comments that folk have posted in response to the articles are worth reading too. 

Tim Keller has a very helpful short interview clip on You Tube clip at  . Side A folk will find plenty to disagree with. It might challange some Side B folk too. 

In terms of books, The Gospel and Sexual Orientation is the best Side B exposition I've read and has the advantage of being succinct.

Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis  uses these three case examples in the outline of his (William J Webb's) views. Side B.

Gregory Coles' Single, Gay, Christian : A Personal Journey of Faith andSexual Identity Published this year; and was particularly encouraging. (Side B). 

Wesley Hill's Washed and Waiting: Christian Reflections on Faithfulness and Homosexuality is both testimony and reflection (Side B).

Rosaria Butterfield's Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert is testimony and reflection from a woman who became a Queer Studies lecturer, adopted a lesbian lifestyle, became a Christian, then (after some time) adopted a heterosexual lifestyle. If one accepts Yarhouse's perspective of multiple homosexualities it isn't so hard to understand that while her experience isn't the norm, it is real. I found the most helpful part was her account of how she became a Christian. Side B.

Books currently on order are Changing Our Mind : Definitive 3rd Edition of the Landmark Call for Inclusion of Lgbtq Christians with Response to Critics by David Gushee which seems to promise one of the better arguments for a Side A perspective from the point of view of a reader who is Side B;  and William Loader's Making Sense of Sex : Attitudes Towards Sexuality in Early Jewish and Christian Literature (probably Side A). 

The website "Living Out" ( describes itself in these words: "We experience same-sex attraction and yet are committed to what the Bible clearly says, and what the church has always taught, about marriage and sex. We do not identify as gay Christians, preferring to use the term "same-sex attracted" (find out why)." They don't support reparative therapies. It has a range of testimonies and articles, one of the best being a review of current academic literature on the causes of same sex attraction which is attached  as serve_pdf_free.pdf below. Sam Alberry, one of the key folk of this website, has a You Tube video at

Also, courtesy of You Tube: The Journey of a Gay Christian: A Short Documentary by Kyle Williamson; at (Unsure whether Side A or Side B or both); Matthew Vines: "God and the Gay Christian" | Talks at Google is a Side A proponent being interviewed by a Roman Catholic priest, at  and Faithfully Gay: A Documentary at

And, from a secular perspective,  has some useful online fact-sheets; has some useful material incl a video clip; on bisexuality at  . 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Divine Authority of Present Day Translations

Doug Chaplin, reflecting on a forthcoming new English translation of Scripture, makes this point which I don't think I have ever considered before (being somewhat keen on knowledge of the "original language" Scriptures):

"Indeed, it could be argued that the careful translation of a group of scholars working together (the more common way to produce translations) is more of an authoritative text than the Greek being read by a single scholar who is always more likely to read it in ways congenial to their personal viewpoint, community tradition, or academic theory."

His whole post is here.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Again, the Benedict Option

Rod Dreher, author and proponent of The Benedict Option, writes about the hope and encouragement he received during a recent visit to Catholics in the capital of the Enlightenment, Paris.

Whatever we think about The Benedict Option (and it was canvassed a bit here and here on ADU recently), Dreher makes some great observations about the future of Christianity in a heavily secularised, post Christian world.

He concludes his blogpost:

"I’ll close with this. Last Sunday, Frederic, Yrieix and I sat at a cafĂ© outside St. Sulpice and talked about how important it is to establish networks of Ben Op-minded Christian in different countries and across continents. We need to be in touch with each other. We need to share friendship and ideas for how to be creative minorities in a post-Christian world. We need to have conferences, workshops, and even summer schools. Now is the time to do this, while there is still time. My friends in France are going to start working on this from their end. I need to start doing something on this end. We need Christian philanthropists with resources and vision to be part of the conversation … and part of the resistance.
Leaving my friends at the airport this morning, I had a light heart. It was hard to say goodbye, because in just one intense week, I had come to love them. But I went home with so much hope and confidence in the future. This I found in France, where Christian hope is supposed to have died. But there it was, among a band of brothers and sisters keeping the faith in the world capital of the Enlightenment. Hey, you never know…"

"creative minorities in a post-Christian world" Is that the future of the once was Christendom church? In a post-Christian world must Christians necessarily be a minority? What does "creative" mean in a Benedictine mindset which (as I understand it) involves maintaining tradition and orthodoxy?

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Church as Guardian and Guide for Scriptural Interpretation

A few days ago, starting with a "the Church" v. "private interpretation" article, I mused towards this conclusion:

"Thinking in terms of two such authorities, church as hermeneutical guardian and church as hermeneutical guide, could help our respect for one another and foster ecumenical relationship building."

This morning, using a small daily office book, I came across this prayer:

"Through your Holy Spirit, the disciples remembered all that Jesus taught them: - pour out your Spirit on the Church that she may be faithful to that teaching."

On that prayer, cannot all Christians unite?

What we understand to be fundamental to being a Christian - our beliefs, our doctrines, our teaching - has been and remains in the power and authority of the Holy Spirit: "Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church"!

The first work of the Holy Spirit in this regard was "the disciples remembered all that Jesus taught them." Hence the gospels. (Noting that there were four, they varied, and only when held together as one compendium of Jesus' teaching can we then be faithful to that teaching.)

Incidentally someone once said something like this, The church is a continuing argument over what the gospel means.

The second work was the pouring out of the Spirit on the Church that she might be faithful to that teaching. Hence Acts (as the poured out Spirit drove the church forward to be faithful through action to the Lord's teaching) and the epistles as the "remembering of all that Jesus taught them" was disputed in new contexts or required development in the face of new challenges (e.g. place of the Gentiles, 1 Corinthians 7 as a marriage question needed addressing by Paul since the remembered teaching of Jesus on marriage did not address it).

The third work of the poured out Spirit is the continuing "today" of the post-apostolic church as we seek to be "faithful to that teaching."

Is it possible that the mistake we make today is to strive to be faithful to Jesus' teaching without a clear, consistent, coherent, comprehensive understanding of how the Spirit leads the church "into all truth"? The more we strive the more we seem to argue. We cannot all be right. The Spirit is undivided so contradictory claims about what the Spirit is saying to the church tell us (or should tell us) something about ourselves and not about the Spirit! What we are being told, surely, is that we should be more interested in discerning how the Spirit works in our midst than in settling among ourselves that which we do not agree on.

We are not without clues as to the work of the Spirit and how we discern the Spirit.

(1) Magisteria: through the history of the church we see that we need some kind of authoritative council to refer matters to, to seek guidance from and to expect some advanced knowledge and understanding of the tradition of the church as it has been led by the Spirit through time. The Roman Catholic church has a formal magisterium. Protestants have informal magisteria (as an Anglican evangelical growing up in 60s and 70s it was Stott, Green and Packer!) and magisterial figures (Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Barth). But the concept goes back to the New Testament when the apostles, notably Paul, were sought out for their authoritative judgments.

(2) Conciliarity: magisteria and magisterial figures do not rule the hermeneutical waves. Calvin(ism) and Lutheran(ism) disagree. Aquinas (Thomism) moves in and out of favour within the Roman magisterium. People vote with their feet (i.e. act according to conviction which may not accord with the magisterium or magisterial figure). The surest bet for the church seeking the mind of the Spirit is to bring as many minds of the church together in a council. It worked in Acts 15 and worked to produce the Nicene Creed (in its original form). While the chances of an eighth (truly) ecumenical council are very remote, conciliarity works in other ways. For centuries the church muddled about slavery but over the past 150 or so years an informal conciliarity has determined that slavery is wrong. No major church teaches in a muddled way about slavery. All are agreed it is wrong.

(3) Adiaphora: on many matters we come to a position (often through informal conciliarity) that some matters thought to need the Spirit's determination because critical to faithful remembering of the teaching of Jesus are not so. They are indifferent and the Spirit's guidance is not needed. Remember the days when every woman wore a hat to church ...

What then of the church as guardian and guide for Scriptural interpretation?

Let me repeat the prayer from above:

"Through your Holy Spirit, the disciples remembered all that Jesus taught them: - pour out your Spirit on the Church that she may be faithful to that teaching."

The Spirit works within the church foremost to enable remembering of all that Jesus taught the disciples. That work is the work of guarding the gospel, of guarding the interpretations of the gospel which the church has come to through the work of the Spirit.

But there are matters on which we are genuinely unsure what the teaching of Jesus requires of us. The first such matter was the inclusion of the Gentiles in the Jesus' movement: as Gentiles or as Gentiles made Jews? The church must guide the way forward but in such a manner that it is faithful to the teaching of Jesus. Thus we pray that the Spirit may be poured out on the church so that our guidance is faithful to Jesus and following the light on our paths which the Spirit brings.

On such occasions we require the authorities or magisteria to speak in a way which is received universally (i.e. through conciliarity) in order to be sure that the Spirit is speaking to us.

On one or two matters we do not seem to have the clarity we seek.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Are you a secret bishop?

You can tell me. I'll keep your secret!

Here's the thing. People are slightly in awe of bishops. Some even in fear and trembling. And there are some things we would prefer our bishops not to know.

Clergy in particular will tell fellow clergy things they never want their bishop to hear. Ever.

Helpfully most bishops like to look like bishops and accordingly dress like a bishop. Purple shirts are a dead episcopal giveaway. "Do not tell that purple shirt things you do not want a bishop to know."

It has been all very safe for people who do not want their bishop to know things. Until now.

Now we have to reckon with ... SECRET BISHOPS.

That priest you are chatting away to at the annual diocesan garden party, pouring out your moans and groans about the Diocese, the Bishop, the lack of real increase to the stipend. MIGHT BE A BISHOP!

Yes, we now have to reckon with the possibility that a priest is not what he or she seems to be. A BISHOP IN PRIEST'S CLOTHING.


But it happens, as you can read here.

Friday, October 6, 2017

GAFCON: not its finest hour? [UPDATED]

As a French diplomat once said, allegedly, urban mythically, "It shall have to be another occasion when I praise your country and its deeds." And, indeed, this applies to GAFCON this week, responding to matters at the Primates Meeting in Canterbury, England. [For various links to which, see Thinking Anglicans.] [The official communique from the event is here].

Not able to praise GAFCON occasion #1: ALTERNATIVELY: Not ACNS' finest hour?

Near beginning of the Primates Meeting this week in Canterbury, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was asked to lead prayers responding to the tragedy in Las Vegas. But that upset GAFCON according to a communique issued.

"This afternoon (Tuesday), the Revd Canon Andrew Gross, Canon for Communications and Media Relations for the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), speaking on behalf of Gafcon, said that the decision to invite Michael Curry to lead the congregation in prayer at the Evensong service “put the Gafcon primates in a difficult spot.” Speaking at a press conference in a hotel near Canterbury Cathedral, he said that they were “forced to look like they are walking together when they are not walking together.”"
UPDATE: a bit confusing now as to who said what, when, and in what context of communication. See now Archbishop Cranmer disputing the above.

Not able to praise GAFCON occasion #2:

At the end of the meeting GAFCON issued this communique:

"The persistent assertions that the Primates of the Anglican Communion are 'walking together', do not reflect the reality.
Three of the leading Primates of the Communion are absent from the meeting in Canterbury on firmly stated principle. 
Archbishop Okoh, Primate of Nigeria, and Gafcon Chairman, has said, 'I have concluded that attendance at Canterbury would be to give credibility to a pattern of behaviour which is allowing great damage to be done to global Anglican witness and unity'. 
Archbishop Ntagali, the Primate of Uganda and Vice-Chairman of Gafcon has said, 'if we are not walking in the same direction, how can we walk together?'
In no way can these leaders, with the Archbishop of Rwanda, be said to be 'walking together.'  They have chosen to witness to the truth by their absence. 
The presence of the Primates from Canada and the United States and the absence of Archbishop Foley Beach whose Church is recognised by Anglicans around the world, is a further testimony to a Communion in which the leaders are not walking together.
Several of the other primates who are attending the meeting are equally concerned about the divisions over the authority of scripture within the Communion, but intend to remain in defence of the Gospel. The Primates are not walking together. At best, they say, “they are walking at a distance.” At worst, they are walking in different directions.
Surely public statements need to reflect reality rather than mere wishfulness."

Now, this statement responds to some statements stating that the Primates of the Communion are walking together. The facts are pretty straightforward: some primates did not attend, some primates wish a primate of a network of Anglican churches which is not a member province of the Communion could have been at the meeting, some primates were there under a kind of sufferance. Quite arguably the primates are not walking together. Except ...

Clearly the primates are on the same page on some matters (as communicated this week).

Clearly the primates at the Primates Meeting prayed together (even if they did not commune together).

Clearly most of the primates of the Communion did not stay away from the meeting in protest.

So, two questions from me to GAFCON:

(1) Why focus on the negative (not walking together) and not strike a note of celebration that on many matters the primates agreed and that the primates were able to pray together?

(2) What is the world to understand GAFCON is witnessing to when a statement is made that the primates are not walking together and yet most of them are meeting together? What distinction is the world going to make between walking and meeting together?

[now omitted]

[now omitted]

[now omitted]

Not GAFCON's finest hour #3: Andy Lines has a statement here which I find confusing (while noting that it has nothing much good to find in what was a meeting full of much goodness, see below). My confusion is this: how can this statement accept that the Anglican Communion is divided on matters to do with That Topic and then berate the same for not speaking out against "false teaching"?

Here is something very worthwhile at the Primates Meeting and I hope we can all celebrate it:

"A discussion about evangelism and discipleship strategies amongst the leaders of the Anglican Communion’s 39 independent provinces was so lively, it continued through the lunch break, the Archbishop of South East Asia said this evening (Wednesday). Archbishop Moon Hing, the bishop of West Malaysia, led a Bible study at the start of this morning’s session of the 2017 Primates’ Meeting before a general discussion on witness and evangelism. The Archbishop chairs the international Anglican Witness group of mission leaders and practitioners, said that he was “very happy and very glad” about the discussions, saying: “I am really uplifted because we come back to the core issue and core subject of our existence: that is to make disciples for Jesus.”
In an interview for ACNS, Archbishop Moon Hing said that his Bible study was about “Jesus, the bread of life, who provides all our needs.” He said that people who knew what it was to be a disciple “must be intentional to do it ourselves and to make it available and help others to walk with him. Even though we have this intention we need to have some ways to do it,” he said.
In what he described as “the best response” so far during this year’s Primates’ Meeting, “everybody contributed and shared how different facets of evangelism and discipleship can be done.” There was not just one method of evangelism, he said, “there are many ways, directly [and] indirectly to bring the message of Christ, that he is the bread of life, and that he is the answer,” to the world.
“There was a very lively atmosphere and everybody enjoyed it,” he said. “Even during lunchtime everybody talked about it. One of the primates said: ‘We should not be issue driven, we should be discipleship driven.’”"
I had the privilege of meeting Archbishop Moon Hing in 2015 (just before he became Primate of his church). He is a lovely man with a wonderful testimony.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

On whose authority do we interpret the Bible?

My Twitter feed leads me to this article recently, "Protestantism's biggest problem: on who authority do we interpret the Scriptures?"

The article has an ecumenical context for the question which it poses:

"On Saturday I joined a group of Anglican and Methodists in our village to walk around its familiar landmarks offering prayers. We started at the (pre-Reformation) Anglican church, moved on to the war memorial, then to the village school, thence to our popular local pub. A Methodist lady whom I know well told me sotto voce that she wasn’t going to join in praying for the pub to flourish. I remembered that Methodists forswear alcohol. Sotto voce I responded, “But what about Jesus’s first miracle at the marriage feast of Cana?” She replied, half-resigned, half-humorous: “Why do people always bring up Cana!”
Why indeed? It was not only Jesus’s first recorded miracle and a heavenly blessing on matrimony; it was also a sign of God’s lavish generosity and of the complete trust Our Lady had in her Son’s divine powers. The deeper question is: on whose authority do we interpret the Scriptures; John Wesley’s or the Church? To be fair to Wesley and as the Methodist lady and myself agreed, he was condemning the “demon drink” of his day rather than inventing a dogma. Yet at some stage in the spiritual life of a thoughtful Christian the question must arise: “Is private interpretation enough?”"

The question is important. We live in a world with more than one issue (believe it or not, Anglicans!). Lives are at stake as we consider questions of euthanasia, abortion (with its 21st century tendency towards infanticide), war, climate change. Quality of life in the church is at stake when we consider questions of gender in relation to ordered ministry or questions of the nature of godly leadership. Or, even, if anyone dares, questions of what might actually shift us from denominational difference to catholic unity.

Two recent personal conversations with fellow (non Anglican) Christians revealed significant questions about  two different (Protestant) church contexts which, all said and done, are questions of the authority by which Scripture is interpreted.

The paragraphs above, of course, elide an issue or three about interpretation!

When "the Church" is invoked as the interpretative authority, which "[Roman] church" are we talking about? The present day church which largely welcomes biblical criticism? What if we were seeking authoritative interpretation during the period of the Modernist controversy (roughly WW1 to WW2) when biblical criticism was severely frowned upon? Was that church a reliable guide to interpretation? A century from now, will "the Church" of 2017 be viewed as reliable as its 2117 successor?

Conversely, when we reflect on (say) John Wesley's role as hermeneutical guide and mentor for Methodists and link that to "private interpretation", is that fair to the role a John Wesley plays in the life of Methodist churches (ditto Luther/Lutheran, Calvin/Reformed, Cranmer/Hooker/Anglican ...)?

What Wesley (and co) have contributed to the life of God's church has been a publicly available, widely disseminated interpretation of Scripture which has generated wide adherence and steadfast application through many centuries. I suggest another description than "private interpretation" could more accurately describe such hermeneutical phenomenon.

Before we get to what that better description might be, let's acknowledge that Wesley was not an infallible interpreter of Scripture. As the years have gone by the Methodist church here and there has moved on from some initial Wesleyan positions (so I understand). In that sense the church founded on Wesley's interpretation has reinterpreted Wesley's Scripture. It might even yet prove that in a reunification of Anglican and Methodist churches that such reinterpretation is involved that we would consign Wesley (and Cranmer/Hooker) to the history section of hermeneutics.

Conversely, we might usefully also acknowledge that Wesley and co did not set out to interpret Scripture as private individuals de nouveau. They were church members who sought the betterment of the church through good teaching. What they may have emphasised differently to other teachers was much less to do with "private interpretation" and much more to do with revising or reforming church interpretation.

Also before we get to that better description, two further observations on Roman Catholic interpretation.

Observation 1: the strength of Roman emphasis on "the Church" as interpretative authority is that it arrives at decisions very slowly, very coherent with previous decisions ("tradition"!) and with very solid theological foundations (e.g. relating any decision to systematic theologies of Augustine and Aquinas). Roman hermeneutics generally stands the test of time. Protestant hermeneutics may or may not stand that test!

Observation 2: (and obviously from a Protestant perspective) what is one to do when one is convinced "the Church" is wrong in its interpretation? Whether we are an unconvinced but otherwise model Catholic Martin Luther opposed to indulgences in the 16th century or a 21st century ecumenically minded Christian (i.e. sympathetic to Rome's many virtues) who is unconvinced by Marian dogma, what do we do with disagreement? Especially when we find that on some matters at least (and indulgences and Marian dogma would be such matters) we are united with a great host of Protestant Christians for whom 500 years of Protest have stood the test of time! No new Scriptural evidence supporting indulgences or Marian dogma has emerged in that time. That is, "private interpretation" does not do justice to a serious, plausible, sustained disagreement over what Scripture means.

So, what is, arguably, more helpful to describe two significant modes of interpretation than "the Church" and "private interpretation"?

How about this? We replace "the Church" with the authority of the church which guards the interpretation of Scripture (i.e. conserves and maintains what has always been taught and only in a very guarded way ever changes what has always been taught).

And we replace "private interpretation" (in respect of churches interpreting Scripture) with the authority of the church which guides interpretation of Scripture (i.e. churches work on guiding interpretation of Scripture free from anxiety to guard it; individuals (preachers, scholars, Bible Study group leaders, etc) look to the church to guide them in understanding the Bible.

Thinking in terms of two such authorities, church as hermeneutical guardian and church as hermeneutical guide, could help our respect for one another and foster ecumenical relationship building.

I am sketching out some broad terms here, mindful of the fact that the notion of "guarding the gospel" is an important motif in Protestant biblical hermeneutics.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Primates or Percy: you choose!

Scanning Anglicanland we find today that the big news is the meeting of Primates (known as the Primates Meeting) and Thinking Anglicans has all the details, including a link to biographies of every primate attending.

I was asking myself why only two of our three primates are going to the meeting then I realised that the the name of the third one - the new Maori Archbishop - has not yet been announced, even though, as far as I can tell, that name has been pretty widely circulating in our church, a sort of open secret ...

Anyhoo, the Primates Meeting will be dominated by You Know What with special reference to a putative disciplinary call against the Scottish Episcopal Church. Any which way, it will be an interesting meeting, because not all primates, apparently, are going to show up. Once again we Anglicans must ask the question whether we are a Communion when not all of us are in communion. For not the first or, I suppose, the last time, on this blog, I make the point that our honest (=accurate) name would be Anglican Federation.

Meanwhile invitations to the GAFCON Conference in Jerusalem next year are being issued. How do I know that? Well, it is not because I am on the invitation list. I blame too many public thoughts on this blog :)

However, if the Primates Meeting matters little to you, there is a little something else to consider with Anglican analytical thinking hats on. Martyn Percy, recent visitor to these islands, has written a consideration of the Mawer report into the fiasco when Philip North was selected and (effectively) deselected as Bishop of Sheffield recently.

It is a fascinating sociology meet theology, what is English catholicism really all about in an age of gender fluidity tour de force guided by a delineation between "ambiguity" and "nuance". But, as a tour de force, is it a forced argument? I am not sure what to make, for instance, of the following:

"Sacralised ambiguity becomes the inevitable victim in this. I say this, fully conscious of an underlying theological and spiritual reality. That in the Eucharistic mimesis of Anglo-catholic worship, the priest is almost bound to become, in some sense, the misunderstood victim."

But I am glad to have read Percy's thoughts. Last Friday night I attended Michaelmas at St Michael's and All Angels. An exemplary Anglo-Catholic experience. But, I ask myself, what is the future of Anglo-Catholicism in the 21st century? Might (to take up Percy's language) its ambiguities be nuanced in different directions? Do its combinations of ambiguities and nuances offer the sense of (attractive) mystery which (many tell us) is the key to the future of Christianity in the West?

I don't imagine the Primates Meeting will offer us many clues about how we move forward as an expression of the catholic church.

Friday, September 29, 2017


Bishop Muru Walters is retiring from his role as Bishop of Te Upoko o Te Ika (southern North Island).

He has given a very fine address at the recent Runanganui in Whakatu (Nelson).

It is here and I commend it to you for its insights into Christianity in Maori perspective.

Ontology of Scripture

Did you know Scripture has ontology? A lovely piece here on the theology of the late John Webster.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Towards revising a draft submission for 17 November

OK so comments back and forth have been vigorous re my (very draft) draft submission for the GS Motion 29 Working group (due 17 November). The guts of which were:

"I ask that the idea below is considered against the background of the "broad place" Anglicanism noted above, along with the fact that in the past few decades, despite same sex partnered clergy being part of the life of most dioceses, no bishop has been taken to a disciplinary tribunal for licensing these clergy.

My thought re an improvement to the proposal is to pare it back and slim it to a minimum set of changes:

(1) our declarations are changed in line with the proposal

(2) clergy and ministry unit office holders may determine without fear of discipline whether or not blessings of same sex relationships will be conducted within the ministry unit

(3) bishops have discretion to accept a person in a same sex marriage or civil union as a candidate for ordination or appointee to licensed ministry position.


I think (2) and (3) are the minimum we would need for space to be given for SSB (or, indeed, House Blessings) to be conducted in our church and for bishops to lift the moratorium on accepting candidates for ordination etc.

I suggest (2) would remove bishops from disputes with clergy who do not think they should be giving permission for such to happen or approving forms of service for SSBs. It would also enable the possibility of SSBs to occur in a ministry unit in a Diocese which otherwise generally held the view that SSBs ought not to happen.

Obviously (3) could lead to disputes with bishops, but would it lead to differences of view between bishops and their clergy which are not already in existence?
Incidentally I cannot recall one comment on the specifics of this particular proposal which I naively thought might get us around certain difficulties with the current proposal being discussed by our diocesan synods and hui amorangi.

But here is the thing: there is definitely, within our church, a school of thought which, frankly, wants no SSB happening anywhere, anytime, under any conditions which imply official or formal approval of our church.

There is also a(n overlapping) school of thought which seeks theological work to be done which has not be done - despite some work being done, the proposition here is that more work needs to be done. We should be principled in our pragmatism rather than pragmatic in our pragmatism - if, indeed, our principles permit us to be pragmatic. (On which we might usefully read this blogpost about our already constructed pragmatism).

Of course there is a school of thought which wants the status quo to change, and yesterday!

What is to be done?

Here is one of the simplest things we could do, on the face of it: to carefully and graciously separate our church into two churches, one which has nothing to do with SSB and one which has something to do with SSB. But this possible way forward is not as simple as it sounds because our church does not neatly divide into two groups on SSB (remember, on any issue in our church there are always at least three groups: conservative, moderates and progressives).

Here is another of the simplest things we could do, on the face of it: to commit to patient unity. If we are called by Christ to unity (and we are) and if we are in such disunity on an issue that we might split apart (anathema), then ecclesio-logic commends that we make no decision to change the status quo. On this approach we could certainly, at the least, commit ourselves to theological work together.

Then there is the recommendation of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans NZ, that we institute alternative episcopal oversight so that we make the best unity out of our disunity: various groups within our church are in unity with one or more, but not all bishops. I won't here canvas the pros and cons of this proposal (there are many), nor set out a judgment on the possibility, suffice to say that this is as much worth considering as the two possibilities set out above it.

At this point I am not setting out a revision to the first few paragraphs above - specific comments to any or all those suggestions welcomed.

I also welcome comments on three suggestions above for "What is to be done?"

APROPOS of a Comment or two below about braided rivers:

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Towards a Motion 29 Working Group 17 November Submission

So, I have been posting here that I think the recommendations in the Interim Report of the Motion 29 Working Group are a "beautiful accommodation" (here, here, here, here) while also noting that not all share that view (here, here, here, here).

Here is another beautiful accommodation:

This is a Tesla electric car. It is beautiful in design and it is an accommodation (electric motor requires generation of electricity by some means or another, batteries which add weight to the car, it saves the world re oil consumption but destroys the world re ingredients required to make batteries, it costs much more than "equivalent" petrol or diesel powered car, and, while it goes further than any other battery powered car, you still need to think where you will end up for the night in order to charge it). In short, because it is a beautiful accommodation that does not mean it will work as a car to save the world's environment - certainly not on my stipend!

In other words, having pushed hard (in blogging terms) for a reception of the working group's proposal as a "beautiful accommodation" it is reasonable to ask whether it will work.

So I am now turning my mind in a different direction, aided and abetted by comments here, posts elsewhere and our own Synod discussion a few weeks back. That different direction is towards questions such as:

- what are shortcomings of the proposal, and can they be overcome?
- what will actually work for our church?
- what if we took more time than "we must have a decision by end of GS 2018"?

And yet, some recent experience has left me wondering why we cannot be a church which is accommodating re SSB? Recently I met an Anglican woman and discovered we both had something in common: both of us have wives! I also discovered a bit about her parish church, which welcomes and celebrates the lives of gay and lesbian persons. It got me thinking about the (potential) capacity of Anglican churches to incorporate breadth of theology, liturgy and experience. Incorporation in Anglican life does not require validation or endorsement but it does mean there is tolerance, space and willingness to exist together in a large enough room for conversation to continue.

That notion of the Anglican church as a large room - "you have set my feet in a broad place" (Psalm 31:8 NRSV) - was first conveyed to me in a lecture by Bishop John A.T. Robinson, on a visit to Christchurch in the late 1970s.

And it was a large space which enabled John A.T. Robinson, author of both Honest to God and numerous less controversial volumes of biblical scholarship, to exist in the same church as (say) John Stott, Jim Packer, Michael Green, Michael Ramsay, Desmond Tutu, etc.

Here's a question,

Would permission for SSB in the life of our church represent a matter beyond the already "broad place" in which the Lord has set our Anglican feet?

Some thoughts about questions posed above

- what are shortcomings of the proposal, and can they be overcome?
- what will actually work for our church?
- what if we took more time than "we must have a decision by end of GS 2018"?

Let's take the last question. I wasn't at the last two General Synod, I will be at the next one. I have assumed that in 2018 we must make a decision to make some change to the status quo.

Perhaps we do not have to. Perhaps - following some comments here and elsewhere - we really need to do theological work which has not yet been done (on blessing, ordination, marriage). It is not as though no theological work has been done (there have been several Theological and Hermeneutical Hui a few years back) nor as though no theology is involved in the various working group reports (there is always at least an implied theology to everything the church does). But are we settling for less than adequate work?

Might such work open up dimensions not yet considered by us? In recent days, for instance, Bowman Walton in comments here has raised the possibility that we should be considering House Blessings rather than Same Sex Blessings.

On the matter of shortcomings, there does seem to be a groundswell for clarity around the state/status of ordinands, ordained persons and licensed persons in same sex relationships. There is also the matter of episcopal relationships: between a bishop and those who are in dispute with that bishop over giving permission for SSBs (or refusing it), ordaining persons living in an SSB (or refusing to do so). Summarising, the proposal provides for an "additional bishop" to support those who are in dispute but there seems to be a groundswell for that additional bishop to also be an "alternative bishop."

But, to come to the middle question above, what is workable?

Without attempting anything like an evaluation of alternative episcopacy where it exists in the Communion, is it workable (and, in particular, would it be workable here)?

Does it work to put off a decision while more theological work is done?

If we accept that the proposal is geared towards safeguarding conservatives on the matter of SSB being permitted in a Diocese, does the proposal actually provide a viable route for progressives wishing for SSB to be permitted in a Diocese which otherwise is against SSBs?

Then there is the question of whether everything about the proposal depends on the bishop of the day not changing his or her mind and the successor of that bishop being of both similar and unchanging mind to his or her predecessor ... unless the electing Diocese specified that it did want a changed mind ...

One thought not much thought through by me is this ... I will air it here for critical review ...

I ask that the idea below is considered against the background of the "broad place" Anglicanism noted above, along with the fact that in the past few decades, despite same sex partnered clergy being part of the life of most dioceses, no bishop has been taken to a disciplinary tribunal for licensing these clergy.

My thought re an improvement to the proposal is to pare it back and slim it to a minimum set of changes:

(1) our declarations are changed in line with the proposal

(2) clergy and ministry unit office holders may determine without fear of discipline whether or not blessings of same sex relationships will be conducted within the ministry unit

(3) bishops have discretion to accept a person in a same sex marriage or civil union as a candidate for ordination or appointee to licensed ministry position.


I think (2) and (3) are the minimum we would need for space to be given for SSB (or, indeed, House Blessings) to be conducted in our church and for bishops to lift the moratorium on accepting candidates for ordination etc.

I suggest (2) would remove bishops from disputes with clergy who do not think they should be giving permission for such to happen or approving forms of service for SSBs. It would also enable the possibility of SSBs to occur in a ministry unit in a Diocese which otherwise generally held the view that SSBs ought not to happen.

Obviously (3) could lead to disputes with bishops, but would it lead to differences of view between bishops and their clergy which are not already in existence?

 What do you think?

Monday, September 25, 2017

We will have a new government, we voted for change

After our election results on Saturday night (which may vary slightly as "special votes" are counted over next few weeks)  and no one party or immediate coalition of parties can form a new government:

Alternative 1 today: blah, blah ... what will Winston Peters do ... blah, blah ... options ... surely that one won't work ... blah, blah ... triumph for Bill ... didn't Jacinda do well ... sad about Maori Party ... ACT, huh, 0.5% party vote ... Greens, got eaten compared to last time ... TOP, silly Gareth Morgan, never show contempt for cats, or voters ... blah, blah ... anyone know where Winston is?

Incidentally, to all those out there who voted "for change" the result does mean, on any scenario of forming a government, that the government will be changed from the previous one.

Alternative 2 today:

"Jens’s political sensibilities remain a delightful surprise to me. Once, when discussing my efforts to put his theology in dialogue with Cone’s work, I asked what he thought of black liberation theology, and he said, “Not radical enough.” I laughed and told him that Cone might not agree. He laughed and said, “Well, in the end we’ll see who the real revolutionary is.”
If there is any revolutionary community, for Jens that community is the Church, which is the only community whose life is to anticipate the kingdom. Baptism into the Church is also initiation into the kingdom. I suspect that the centrality of the Church in Jens’s political and eschatological thinking was what motivated him to work toward ecumenical unity. Jens was unsurpassed in his faithful grief over the divisions of the Church. His dedicated work in cofounding and leading the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology is just one example of his commitment to doing theology for the one Church. I experienced this commitment as Jens gave me pastoral counsel as I prepared for ordination in the Episcopal Church."

The above citation is from a reflection on Robert Jenson's life and theological work found here. (H/T B. Black)

Alternative 2 might offer more lines of fruitful, productive thinking than 1!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Pray with Us - Transitional Cathedral Today and Tonight

If you are in Christchurch and have some spare minutes or hours, come to pray at the Transitional Cathedral, Hereford Street.

9 am Friday 22 September to 9 am Saturday 23 September we are leading a Pre Election Prayer Vigil.

Let's pray for a good government and a great representation of the people of Aotearoa New Zealand in our parliament!

Each hour will be introduced with some reflection, Scripture reading and formal prayer - in some cases by guest contributors from our social and community organisations.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

More effective than Russian agents influencing America?

Ross Douthat has a fascinating column about the changing character of the Roman Catholic church. While his focus is on the fate of conservatives and liberals in an ongoing series of Inquisitions via internet trials, he recognises at the end that something Anglican is going on!

"Can the church really become Anglican, with sharply different Christian theologies coexisting permanently under a latitudinarian umbrella?"

So my question is, have some sneaky, hidden behind Facebook postings, releases of hacked batches of emails, etc, Anglicans had more influence on the church of Francis than Russian agents have had on the America of Trump?

Naturally I shall take denials from the ABC and Anglican Communion offices as tacit admissions :)

Who would have thought, around, oh, about 2003, when certain things unfolded for Anglicans and conservative Anglicans looked longingly towards Rome as the beacon of unchangeable teaching and unswerving application of that teaching, that 2017 would see the Anglicanization of Rome all but complete!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Ecumenical Response to Synod's Cathedral Decision

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

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Debates within a debate, differences about difference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Leaching nitrates into theological wells?

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

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

Here are the money paragraphs:

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

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

Monday, September 11, 2017

Restoring thin places

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Christ Church Cathedral: the way forward!

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few hours later I do not regret my choice.

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

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

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

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

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