Monday, February 19, 2018

Mark Mark's words

I was struck, preparing for yesterday's sermon on Mark 1:9-15, by how pithily Mark signals a lot of theology in a few words, when writing about the temptation of Jesus.

"12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him."

Wilderness conjures up Israel in the wilderness as well as Elijah in the wilderness: a place of testing. But "forty" takes us specifically to Israel in the wilderness. The next word, "tempted" recalls Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, and "tempted by Satan" reminds us of the tempting of Job, especially the first chapters of Job when Satan seeks God's permission to tempt Job.

In these few words (I suggested in my sermon) Mark, whose gospel is a gospel of restoration (healings, deliverances, feedings), tells us that Jesus comes to put things right for broken down humanity.

Jesus in his own person is reliving the history of us by reliving the story of Adam and Eve being tempted, but this time not falling for the temptation. And, Jesus relives Israel's story of of being tested in the wilderness and passes the test. That is, Jesus in his own person begins the restoration of humanity by showing that the story of human life can be different. The new Adam obeys God and resists Satan. The new Israel demonstrates understanding of the identity and mission God gives to Israel, to bear witness to the one true and life-giving God.

Jesus is also like Job: he has utter faith in God, that God will see him through life, no matter what suffering comes his way.

A further sign of restoration of humanity being the critical theme of these verses is the mention of the "wild beasts". Wild beasts normally eat humans and that did not happen here. That phrase, "wild beasts" thus recalls for us prophetic visions of restoration, when the lion lays down with the lamb.

Thus, when in the next verses we find Jesus proclaiming that the time has come and the kingdom is near, the message is effectively that humanity is about to be restored. The challenge of the passage is for us to also be in the business, within family, community and wider world, of contributing to the restoration of humanity to what God intended us to be.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

First Female Bishop in GAFCON Africa?

On Sunday +Kay Goldsworthy was installed as the Archbishop of Perth. I notice some comment, description about her being the first female Archbishop in Australia, but is she not also the first female archbishop in the world? (NB ++Katharine Jefferts Schori was the first Anglican primate but her TEC title was "Presiding Bishop.")

Today, on Thinking Anglicans, I read that there is a new female bishop in South Sudan. Is Elizabeth Awut Ngor the first female bishop in GAFCON Africa? It would seem so. There have already been two female bishop in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (which is not aligned with GAFCON). (Details re all Anglican female episcopal developments here.)

An intriguing element to this story is that Thinking Anglicans is posting about it now, through citation of an Anglican Ink article but the consecration happened at the end of 2016. The TA article also carries a citation of GAFCON's reaction to this news, which is a tremor in the unity of GAFCON.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

What leads young people to Christ?

Good story with something to ponder about what draws young people to Christ.

Weighing responses to the Final Report

I have been thinking. Dangerous, I know! Thinking, that is, about the persistent lines of responses being made here (and, blogwise, near here) and why, to a degree, I remain relatively unperturbed about continuing to support the Motion 29 WG Final Report proposal [same sex blessings] ("the proposal"), at least in general terms.

First, the persistent lines, which I paraphrase here in my own words. If they are not exactly the views espoused by those named below, my words represent what has made an impact on my own thinking as I have read your comments and blog posts.

Theological Anthropology: we cannot and should not set forth on a matter of human flourishing (such as deciding what human actions and relationships we might bless) without starting that journey in a theologically informed anthropology, such anthropology being resolutely coherent with the story of creation, fall and redemption, with particular attention to creation of humanity being creation of man and woman, man for woman and woman for man. Our church has not done this and it will regret its absence if it proceeds with the proposal. This impact on my mind is especially associated with Bryden Black in comments here, and in published writings elsewhere.

Pastoral Care: God is love, God calls his people to love one another, such love recognises that where there is love, there is God, and such love covers a multitude of sins. As a church we are called to love the GLBTQi members among us and we should bless marriages and marriage-like relationships between people of the same gender, whether on the grounds that such blessing recognises that where love is, there is God; or, even if we think a sin is being committed, such blessing might be permitted under the rubric that love covers a multitude of sins. This impact on my mind is especially associated in my mind with Ron Smith in comments here and on his blog Anglo-Catholic Liberality.

Healing and Wholeness: We are stuck on arguing over the wrong questions, let alone unhelpful answers being proposed to the questions. Our most important question is what is helpful in the long run (i.e. into eternal life) for the healing and wholeness of individual members of the church, as well as what contributes to the health of the body of Christ as a Christian community; and the answer to this question, for individuals and for the community of faithful individuals must be drawn from Scripture, with a particular alertness to guard against reading Scripture in cultural frameworks which are not themselves Scripturally informed. In sum, we need to reconstruct our understanding of marriage, of the church's role in marriage, of the blessed life and what God does and does not bless, and do so in a radical manner, so far rarely attested to in current Communion and individual Anglican provincial debates; and if we do this we might find that both conservative and progressive responses to date are misconstrued. This impact on my mind is especially associated with Bowman Walton in comments here.

Justice: Canon and Liturgy: The church is called to fairness, to equitable outcomes for its members, as it both governs and manages its life as community of believers. Given the pathway ACANZP has taken to secure a canonical and liturgical response to remarriage of divorcees, even to the point of setting aside the teaching of Jesus and concomitantly to a workaround past its own constitution, it is a simple matter of justice that the same church secures a canonical and liturgical response to same sex couples, with the same willingness to be exegetically and theologically dexterous. This impact on my mind is especially associated with Bosco Peters in comments here and on his blog Liturgy (noting three responses to date to the proposal, One, Two, Three). Recently a mutual colleague here in the Diocese of Christchurch, Chris Spark has written and the Latimer Fellowship has published a paper which precisely tackles the possibility of "Double Standards?"

Unchangeable revelation: God has spoken about human sexuality and God has not changed his mind. Whether we espouse this through an Eastern Orthodox lens (many of Andrei's comments) or a Roman lens (many of Nick's comments) or an Anglican lens (many of Glen's comments, with special reference to the unchangeability of ACANZP's constitution in respect of its Fundamentals), the result is pretty much the same: no to SSB, a resounding NO to SSM.

Family and Freedom: my persistence


Almost needless to say, as the most moderate centrist writing here (!!), I find something agreeable in all of the above!

I find, for instance, that theological anthropology helps support me to maintain distinction on the question of whether gender matters for understanding marriage. It does matter: marriage is a one flesh relationship between a man and a woman. Whatever the situation, the grace, the qualities of two men or two women in a relationship, I do not see a way for theology to enable a change to the definition of marriage in Christian understanding of marriage. (Thus I remain concerned that our church will not settle for SSB but see it as a step on the way to SSM incorporated into the doctrine of our church.)

To that extent, as far as we can make out the mind of God through Scripture, we have an unchangeable revelation re marriage. I am not so sure, however, that we have an unchangeable revelation about how we might respond and support people in the circumstances of their lives. Whatever we make of discussion about divorce and remarriage, the church has struggled with this matter, a struggle which has led to some theological dexterity, both in the Roman church ("annulment"), the Orthodox church (differing marriage ceremonies), and the Protestant churches (where today much is at the discretion of the minister presiding over the wedding)

Consideration of pastoral care combined with the question of Justice:Canon and Liturgy means there is a case for our church (for any church: as has been pointed out here recently, some Roman episcopal/cardinal leaders are opening discussions on SSB) to consider ways and means by which we (to quote German Bishop Franz-Josef Bode from the just linked article)

"ask ourselves how we’re encountering those who form such relationships and are also involved in the Church, how we’re accompanying them pastorally and liturgically.

The question of Justice is the question of whether our (canonical, liturgical) ability as a church to accompany divorced persons seeking remarriage might be matched by a similar ability to accompany committed same sex couples. For those concerned that (in God's eyes) we are blessing illicit sex, we might ask whether we may pray at least for the love shown by a couple for each other - a couple willing to defy the promiscuous norms of the world in a committed-for-life relationship.

But the answer to that kind of question should take into account the concern of Healing and Wholeness. What is the church's role in accompanying people towards eternal life, indeed as we begin to experience eternal life here and now? Is it a role which necessarily involves rites? Is there a danger that we are either inventing a new rite or transforming a traditional rite of marriage on the presumption that we properly understand rites? Is there not a prior question of what it means to be a disciple? Then questions arise about the life of the church: what are we doing that enlarges our life as a community of faith? What leads to convert-led growth? (Noting that if we do not ask that question we may be simply rearranging the ritual deck chairs on the Titanic with the proposal. It is not as though the parishes with the largest youth groups are the ones pressing hardest for the most change here). If any Kiwi Anglican thinks that the proposal will somehow turn our church's decline around in a secular society, then this viewpoint has news for you.

Obviously I am posing these matters in a way which introduces a circle of interrelated difficult questions and probing issues, with all the danger that it is a vicious circle yet also with all the hope that fronting up to these matters means we would find ourselves in a virtuous circle.

In the meantime we have a proposal on the table and a decision or three to make. And my very strong conviction is that GS wants to make a decision, even if some of the difficult questions and probing issues remain for future decision-making

Family and Freedom: a consideration to consider

Something which does not much figure in comments here on ADU is consideration of two aspects which, as I ruminate on what matters to me about the present situation, are very important. One aspect is "family" and the other is "freedom" and they are interrelated.


Many different experiences of being Anglican exist in our church and I understand that not all Anglicans feel, as I do, that our church is a large, extended family (whanau). But my experience of church as family - see, by the way, Ephesians 3:14-21 - with fathers and mothers in the faith, with brothers and sisters in Christ, means that I ask why we cannot be a family in our working out of the differences we have. A family that is determined both to remain intact as a family and to work out how we live with our differences. In short, like most families do!

Sometimes when I speak about the importance of church unity, apart from the argument that "truth is more important than unity", I receive back remarks along the lines of, "But, Peter, you are valuing institutional unity whereas the important unity in Christ is organic, the unity we have when we agree on essentials, a unity we Anglicans might have with, say, Presbyterians."

My response (apart from rejoicing, of course, in ecumenical unity of all institutional and organic kinds) is to say that if we understand church as family (rather than institution) then we won't pit "truth" versus "unity." Rather we will ask how we can eat together (as families do) with conversation which engages our differences (as families should do) rather than with conversation which avoids our differences (as, unfortunately, families often do, "to preserve the peace").

From this "family" perspective I see the proposal as generally - one or two things could be tidied up - enabling us to be a family which eats together and continues to talk about our differences.


The Anglican church has a remarkable history of tolerating diversity of viewpoint, even dissent from authority. There are very few strictures on preachers and we are reminded of this every time a preacher is headlined in the media as "not believing in God" or "denying the resurrection". Such occasions are not really the Anglican church's finest hour but they are a measure of considerable freedom.

We can also think, in terms of freedom, of being free to do things differently. Think, for instance, of the possibility that a Martian worshipping over successive parishes across a set of neighbouring parishes would encounter everything from heavily robed clergy to a nondescript vicar in jeans and open necked shirt; from a bare building with little or no Christian symbolism to a space dominated by statues and icons; from music with more trills than Mozart through to choruses played on a guitar; from speaking the Elizabethan cadences of the BCP through to speaking in tongues. All validly Anglican; all Anglicans and non-Anglicans welcome; no one turned away.

This is not the whole story of Anglican "freedom." We are not free to refuse to perform baptisms of infants of believers (cue various dissenting and Dissenting departures through our history since the Reformation). We (who hold a bishop's licence) are not free to disobey our bishops when they give us "lawful instruction". Indeed, we are not free to minister anywhere and everywhere without a bishop's licence - I cannot go to Auckland city next week and offer a eucharistic service in Cornwall Park ... unless I ask for and receive permission to do so from the Bishop of Auckland (and he would ask me to also seek permission from the local vicar). And laypersons not holding a bishop's licence and laypersons holding a bishop's licence (e.g. to preach, to lead a service of "extended communion") are not free to preside at the eucharist, not even in an emergency.

So, Anglican freedom is freedom with restrictions, and the freedom is a freedom to explore a wide theology and to experience a broad set of liturgical possibilities. This exploration and experience is with special regard for what enables us to be the "Church of England", that is, a church for all the people.

In that spirit of our church being a "large space" I support the proposal before General Synod because it offers the opportunity for those whose theological convictions are different to mine and to yours, who are motivated by intention to be part of a church for all the people, to exercise a ministry of prayer and support for those couples who determine before Christ that their love for each other is a godly, covenanted love.

And the proposal does so while also guarding the freedom of Anglicans such as myself who do not share a theological conviction that God blesses sexual relationships which are not marriage between a man and a woman.

Families only work for the well being of each member if there is some freedom to be different from other members of the family. If, as I argue here, ACANZP is a family then we may also ask what freedom exists in this family for differences in conviction and in practice.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Anglo-Methodism meet Anglo-Catholicism: will they or won't they marry?

The C of E General Synod in recent days has debated and welcomed a report on greater cooperation and communion between English Anglicans and Methodists. Welcoming reports is a synodical thing. Nothing actually changes. But, potentially, a welcomed report could lead to change and thus the welcome step could be part of a historical journey. Or the end of the matter.

Here in ACANZP a few years back we announced to a great flourish of trumpets that we had a new covenant with NZ Methodists. Of course, in terms of actual change, such as the Holy Grail of Mutual Recognition of Orders, there was and still is, precisely, none.

Ian Paul has a couple of insightful posts about the possibility of Methodist orders of ministry being recognised by Anglicans, here and here. Reports on the GS debate on the report are here and here. A guest post on Cranmer is here. Quite a lot of discussion has been generated and quite a few theological issues are involved.

Here I do not have time to delve into these matters save for the few remarks I now make; but your comments would be welcomed.

(1) Anglicans generally seem keen on greater communion with other churches.

(2) Great energy has been expended on the possibility of greater communion with the Roman Catholic church. There is a natural fit in that direction because both churches are committed to the historic episcopate and thus both churches have similar commitments to (putting it bluntly) bishops' hands being laid on heads to make deacons and priests; and to bishops and priests presiding over the eucharist. There is the little (but so far "yuge") matter of whether we accept each other's historic episcopate and accept each other's eucharistic prayers. Despite the immense energy and time put into Anglican-Roman Catholic relationships not one bit of actual change re orders and communion has changed. Nevertheless there has been significant change in the past 50 years or so in respect of general relationships between the churches, and this week, in many parts of Aotearoa New Zealand there will be joint (non-eucharistic) services for the Imposition of Ashes.

(3) Considerable energy has been expended on the possibility of greater communion with the Methodist church, driven, it seems, by a kind of guilt that (putting it bluntly) the Church of England in the late 18th century failed its own members who left to form the Methodist church. Rehearsing the story of the beginnings of Methodism we ask whether it was necessary for Methodism to begin separated from the mother Anglican church and thus it is inherently plausible that we could be reunited as one family of English Protestants. But this Anglo-Methodist longing for re-communion in the 20th and 21st centuries meets the Anglo-Catholic part of the Anglican church (in England, and here) and that has not been a happy meeting. Anglo-Catholic resistance to a marriage with Methodism is twofold (as I understand it).

First, Anglo-Catholicism emphasises and explains episcopal ministry in such a manner that the Methodist account of its own episcopal ministry falls short of being a proper episcopal ministry. Secondly, Anglo-Catholicism is very interested in communion with Rome and thus is very hesitant about varying Anglican understanding of orders of ministry (e.g. if we were to accept Methodist presbyters as full presbyters of our church without their being ordained (again) by an Anglican bishop). Such a variation would be an impediment to union with Rome.

(4) I do not want to pit relationships with Rome versus relationships with Methodism - I am keen on communion with both. But I ask why, if I were to go to a Methodist church and share in their communion as a genuine communion with Christ within the body of Christ I would then devalue the orderliness of the Methodist church, an orderliness due to their understanding of episcopal and presbyteral ministry, by refusing to receive Methodist presbyters into this church as full presbyters in the church of God?

[A few caveats:
A. I am aware that not all Methodist communion services would be experienced by me as "genuine communion with Christ" communion services because there is freedom for Methodist presbyters (at least in NZ) to write their own communion services and the content of the eucharistic prayer of such a service might or might not be agreeable to me. I once had experience of such a prayer which completely omitted any aspect of remembering our Lord's death ...
B. In the last paragraph I deliberately omitted admittance of "Methodist bishops" (again, at least here in NZ, there are variations re episcopacy across world Methodism) because, as I understand things, Methodist episcopacy is expressed through a person holding non-permanent office, i.e. the office of Methodist President.]

Friday, February 9, 2018

What did Jesus look like?

One of the interesting things about life is that it throws you into groups as you grow up (classes, clubs, teams, etc) and in most groups I have been part of we have been "just a bunch of guys and gals". Occasionally someone in the group has stood out, though even then one might not predict exactly how great that person would become. I think for example of some peers at school who were clearly very, very good at sport, but none of us realised they would become All Blacks or represent NZ at other sports. By contrast, at primary school I had a great friend who has been and now (in our new government) is one of NZ's leading government ministers. I never saw that coming when we were aged 8!

To the point ... when I studied theology at the University of Otago it was with a bunch of mainly aspirant Presbyterian ministers (our classes were at Knox Theological Hall!). We were very studious (of course!!) and got on with our studies, without (in my memory) any obvious signs of academic ambition among us. But at least one of the group, Joan Taylor, has gone onto greater academic honours, and is now a prof at Kings College, London, with a fine publishing record.

And I see in an overnight email from T & T Clark a new book by her with an intriguing title,

Spoiler Alert: no actual photographs have been discovered from c. 30 AD.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Double Standards?

Chris Spark, a colleague here in the Diocese of Christchurch, has written a paper which the Latimer Fellowship has published, with the following title:


The title tells the story of what the paper seeks to do and offers the context into which the theological work Chris does is directed. In short, the paper addresses a significant question in our current debates, one much mentioned here on this site. The paper is here.

I am prepared to take comments on the paper here, but somewhat selectively, that is, I will judge whether I think your comment is helpful to the Fellowship as publisher of the paper, helpful to current debate, and generally constructive in respect of the questions Chris addresses. There are other posts here where other points can be made.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Podcasts Kiwistyle

Recently I learned that my friend and colleague, Spanky Moore (Christchurch Dio), and his friend and colleague, Scottie Reeves (Wellington Dio) are developing a series of podcasts.

Number one in the series can be found via this webpage.

Number two is about to hit the editing suite ...

I saw a really good joke about podcasting on Twitter the other day:

Friday, February 2, 2018

Important argument in favour of primacy!

Fascinating and well argued paper here on the importance of primacy.

The target is the Orthodox churches which both do not have a primacy (in the sense of one patriarch to rule them all) and do not see the need for one. The author sees the need for one ...

Excellent line at the end of the paper ...

For Anglicans this paper may draw our swimming togs out of our wardrobes and see us diving into the Tiber ... or cherishing the value of the Archbishop of Canterbury!

Actually, given that we are seeing certain questions about the primacy being exercised by Francis (e.g. re divorce) and by Justin (e.g. re Bishop Bell) - "What do we do when we think the Primate is wrong?" - the eccentric primacy of ACANZP may be worth looking at.

We have three primates exercising a joint primacy (one for each of our Three Tikanga). This means primatial statements are statements on which all three agree. Thus much less room for oddities, even heresies with the ACANZP approach.

Now three Persons needing to agree on something ... where have I heard about that model before?

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The importance and signficance of the General Synod vote in May [revised]

Our Diocese is in the midst of a series of pre Synod meetings, prior to our 3 March Synod to discuss (among other matters) the Final Report of the Working Group (see posts below). Then, in May, General Synod meets in New Plymouth to receive the report and to address its recommendations.

In the to-ing and fro-ing from one commission to another and from one General Synod to another, various proposals have been mooted and that has generated notions that whatever General Synod decides in 2018 there will then be a further round of diocesan synods and hui amorangi to discuss and vote on things, then GS 2020 considers further and then a year of appeal before anything ACTUALLY HAPPENS.

Not so.

Between a statement yesterday in a circular email to the Diocese and a Pre Synod Meeting tonight, we seem to be clear (unless you, Dear Commenter, say otherwise!) that in my own words:

(a) the recommendations of the Final Report, concerning new declarations by office-holders, bishops and clergy, require the "twice round" GS and local synod approval process (because related to the Constitution);

(b) the remaining recommendations to either amend existing canons or introduce new canons require a simple, single decision of the General Synod.

While there is some timing contradiction between my part (a) above and part (b) above, it is possible that by later this year same sex blessings could be offered in our church. 

Two observations may be important to digest for those for whom this clarity may be a surprise. (The second is thanks to a correspondent.)

(1) That we do not have anything as strong as a Formulary (requiring the "twice round" procedure) is (IMHO) the outcome of the WG listening to conservative voices (both at the last GS and subsequently). That is, the WG has taken on board conservative concerns and refrained from proposing a change (or added innovation) to our Formularies which would be a formal change to our doctrine. So, while conservatives may have desired a longer process of decision-making, the shorter process is due to the conservatism of what is being proposed.

(2) (Hypothesising that GS accepts the recommendations in toto) conservatives after May will have greater freedom to be conservative within our church than after a Formulary change. A Formulary change applies everywhere and to everyone (because Formularies are integral to the doctrine we say we believe when we accept (lay or clerical) office in the church). What is proposed requires bishops to make decisions which will be impactive on their episcopal units but not on others. A Diocese via its bishop, for example, could opt out of any SSBs being performed in that diocese. And, even where a Diocesan bishop does authorise SSBs, the formation of Christian Communities can ring fence a group of parishes off from SSBs taking place within those parishes, including ensuring succession of clerical leaders to continue such discipline.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The spectre of 1930 stalks the halls of moral theology

All is not well in the halls of moral theology (specifically, the Roman corridor). An Anglican genie, bottled up in 1930, has escaped and, via Amoris Laetitia, begun stalking the corridor. At least that is what this post seems to be saying :)

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

What a Beautiful Name - Down Under Song Wins Grammy

Brooke Ligertwood (nee Fraser) has written some great songs over the years. One of her latest, co-written with Ben Fielding, is What a Beautiful Name. Together they have won a Grammy. They belong to Hillsong Los Angeles.

Here it is:

Monday, January 29, 2018

Can the church restore divided humanity? #youhadonejobtodo

"“Humanity is one, organically one by its divine structure; it is the Church’s mission to reveal to men that pristine unity that they have lost, to restore and complete it.” --Henri de Lubac SJ"

Read this de Lubacian essay then.

I have been doing a bit of work on de Lubac this summer. He was a leading 20th century theologian who speaks relevantly into the 21st century. The sentence above highlights the biggest of big pictures of the point and purpose of the church.

Are we up for the mission of God, to restore humanity?

Do we understand that the gospel, when all is said and done, is a message of healing?

Friday, January 26, 2018

Motion 29 Working Group's Final Report: My Part 1 and Part 2 Response

Below, i.e. the two posts below this post, sequentially, Part 1 then Part 2, is my response to the Motion 29 Working Group's Final Report.

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Final Report: can we live with the accommodation it offers? (Part 1)

The Final Report of the Motion 29 Working Group is reported on here.
You can see the report for yourself by clicking the link there or directly downloading the PDF by clicking here.

The changes the WG has made to the Interim Report demonstrate that the WG has listened to the feedback it has received. In some cases agreeing with the feedback. In other cases, not so.

The essence of the accommodation proposed in the Interim Report remains: it recommends that we do not change our doctrine of marriage but do make possible, in certain circumstances, the blessing of same sex relationships.

The differences from the Interim Report (as I see) are the following (in no particular order of importance):

- civil marriage is not a prerequisite for an SSB to take place
- a clearer pathway for those “Christian Communities” who are like-minded in the coherency of their theology and wish to stick together (by "clearer" I mean that the proposal does not confusingly mix this in with otherwise already existing "religious orders")
- recognition that some matters are currently in the too hard basket and GS needs to offer further and future guidelines (notably on the question of ordination)
- careful consideration of the possibility of "alternative episcopal oversight" (AEO) (commended for certain situations) but reasoned refusal to recommend "extra provincial diocese" (EPDio) (a challenge to create because it is not solely a decision of our General Synod)
- also, on a matter often mentioned on this site, some careful discussion of the constitutional implications of the proposal.

In sum: I see needed, helpful improvements to the Interim Report and its recommendations. I also see careful consideration of challenging matters which are desired by some but may not be possible or may need General Synod to decide to commission further work on.

For the Interim Report I argued here, controversially as it turned out, that it was a "beautiful accommodation." 

I am not going to do that with the Final Report. Instead I ask, can we live with the accommodation it offers?

I will also ask, of those who say "I/we cannot," what alternative do you propose?

I ask both questions on the understanding that we are a church with such diversity of viewpoint (on many things, on GLBT things) that we are not a church of coherent theology and we are not a church of one mind on GLBT matters.

If we think of our church as somewhat incoherently schizophrenic in its theology, especially on sexuality, then it is fair to ask whether (a) the WG appropriately has represented that mess? (b) whether we could reasonably expect the WG to come up with a proposal other than what it has come up with? (!)

The one thing we should never have expected of either GS or the WG is that they would press the church they represented into a mould that the church was not going to be pressed into; indeed, given our varied state of mind, could not be pressed into.(Yes, I know, resonances with Romans 12:1-2!!).

The best we could expect is that the WG would interim-ly propose a way forward which accommodated the two or more views, then listen to the feedback, assess the feedback, and then finally propose a way forward which continued to accommodate. 

We do not find the WG pressing for the status quo to remain. Presumably that is because there was no strong feedback that we should try to be a church which outwardly professed to believe one view (status quo) while inwardly believing a variety of viewpoints (reality). Rather, the WG continues to discern that as a church some accommodating change is required.

My view remains that the accommodation offered here bends over backwards towards accommodating those who are conservative on the matter of SSB. I also understand - only too well! - that the accommodation offered may not be satisfactory to a number of my conservative colleagues and friends. 

Where to from here?

Episcopal units have opportunity to consider the report and its recommendations before their reps go to GS in May. (The Diocese of Christchurch meets for a synod on Saturday 3 March 2018).

Any member of the church, any ministry unit of our church may consider the report now it is in the public domain. Some ministry units will be having discussions about it or about the prospects for the church should it be agreed to. (I am engaged to participate in such a discussion in a few weeks time.)

You can discuss it here!

This is "Part 1" of my response. "Part 2" will focus on the matter of the Christian Communities and the strength or otherwise of this proposal in comparison to the soft support for AEO and the lack of support for an EPDio.

Other posts that I am aware of

Bosco Peters begins a series of responses here. His Part 2 is here.


The Final Report: can we live with the accommodation it offers? (Part 2)

Further on the Final Report of the Motion 29 Working Group - Part One is immediately above. A link to the report is at the beginning of that post.

I read an article when I was at Knox Theological Hall in the mid '80s and now have only a vague notion of its title etc but it went something like below (and I recall one or two other articles and books through the years which have proffered similar notions):-

In the first century there were several strategies in Palestine for either coping with or even keeping at bay the onslaught of Roman rule and Graeco-Roman culture. Handily (and this is why I remember the article) the writer found a series of "i" words to characterise the strategies, though I am not confident I have got the word for the Sadducees correct.

Zealots tried insurrection - military rebellion, violence - and failed miserably.

Pharisees tried insulation - hedging themselves in communities with various rules while also remaining in the wider society - a relative degree of success, indeed this was a strategy which many Jewish groups since have used effectively.

Essenes tried isolation - a step beyond the Pharisees (for the Essenes had some rules too) because the Essenes took themselves as far as practicable away from the Romans, residing in the desert - a limited degree of success, or even, they simply, in the end, failed and their community ceased to exist.

Sadducees tried integration - you cannot beat the Romans so why not join them by working hand in glove with them? Was integrating themselves (ingratiating themselves?) with the Romans easier because they rejected the idea of resurrection or because they came from that strata of society which rather liked to lead?

Christians tried incorporation - and succeeded rather well, because eventually the whole Empire became "Christendom." That is, while here and there, perforce of circumstances, Christian communities embraced aspects of insulation and isolation, they generally worked to a longer term and large vision for their strategy, one which was about "offence" rather than "defence."

Ever since reading that article I have appreciated that in any given situation in which a group interacts with another, different group, one or more of the above strategies is employed, consciously or unconsciously.

I suggest, below, that, when we consider possible responses to the Final Report (assuming, hypothetically, that GS passes in toto its recommendations) three of the strategies above are relevant as we consider possible structural (or quasi-structural) change.

The Final Report: against isolation, soft support for insulation, offering incorporation?

If any member of our church (or ministry unit or episcopal unit) wants to be Anglican in a different way because the report and its recommendations are implemented, there are three different ways on the table or dropped off the table, according to the Final Report's evaluation.

Extra Provincial Diocese (EPDio): as I understand this possibility, a group of parishes would be formed as a diocese which was not part of the "province" of the Anglican church of these islands but was part of the Anglican Communion. Some EPDios exist, though I am not aware of any within the Communion which are the result of leaving an existing province while remaining within the territory of that province. The Final Report rejects this option and gives cogent reasons for doing so (p. 14).

Forming an EPDio would be a strategy of isolation. The parishes so gathered together would be isolated from ACANZP in at least this sense: they could claim to be no longer part of a body which had agreed with the recommendations of the Final Report. There are advantages to this strategy (as there were for the Essenes), particular in respect of preserving (what I will call here) purity of doctrine.

Alternative Episcopal Oversight (AEO): for some Anglicans (in various provinces, in recent decades) having an alternative bishop to relate to, whether for pastoral oversight or for sacramental duty, has been a help in remaining a part of a church which has made a decision or decisions which are almost but not completely impossible to live with.

It appears some Anglicans in our church feel that they can live with the kind of decision a GS implementing the Final Report's recommendations would be making, providing they could insulate themselves from (some of) the effects of the decision. That is, by being able to relate juridically to a diocesan bishop who disagreed with the decision, if need be, by pastorally and sacramentally relating to a bishop other than their diocesan bishop. The stronger step represented by a EPDio would not be required, according to this thinking.

The report offers what I am describing as "soft support" for this possibility, on p. 11 and at the foot of p. 14:

"[B2] [p. 11] The WG recommends that the House of Bishops consider developing guidelines for the provision of alternative episcopal oversight in situations where relationships in dioceses or amorangi become impaired."

The WG thinks this will greatly assist in safeguarding those of differing convictions while ensuring that the role and rights of bishops are respected. "

"[H1] [p. 14] [having rejected EPDio] ... We note however, that should faithful Anglicans in this Church wish to consider other ecclesial arrangements, it would be appropriate for this Church to consider how best to embrace this challenge with the same grace and spirit as is reflected in Motion 29; seeking to find ‘breathing room’ for one another; to live out our commitment to each other in the light and life of the gospel."

This is "soft" rather than "strong" because it is not a recommendation to GS for legislation its members vote on but for the HoB to "consider" the development of guidelines.

Nevertheless, it is on the table for discussion.

Christian Communities: The Final Report, having moved on from a stumbling block in the Interim Report re Religious Orders and Religious Communities, is focused on and supportive of the idea of Christian Communities (pp. 13-14). In fact it

"recommends recognition of Christian Communities in this Church ... bound by common bonds of affection and theological conviction; being able to remain involved in the life of a parish, the diocese and this Church."

Note that this language means Christian Communities could be formed by conservatives or progressives on the matter at hand, but also for other reasons (e.g.) proponents of the exclusive use of the Book of Common Prayer, parishes which believe the purest form of eucharistic worship is a carbon copy of the Roman Mass, etc. I am thinking of forming a Christian Community for those who commit to only using the NZPB for services :)

Psychologically this option could be helpful to those feeling isolated by proposed changes or who wish to insulate themselves from the rest of the church but structurally this option is utterly mainstream within the continuing structure of ACANZP:

"... members of the Christian Community continue to be part of this Church." 

That is, while adhering to the specific constitution of the Community, members would continue to be subject to the discipline both of the wider church through canons and the Constitution and of the local diocesan bishop. There is not necessarily a connection between Christian Communities and AEO.

A strength of this proposal is that it gives those who believe their view of things (see examples above) the opportunity as a united and recognised group to advance that view across the wider church - an opportunity for a strategy of incorporation, that is, of remaining inside the church in order through time to win over the church to a particular understanding of a holy, blessed life.

On GLBT matters, if conservatives are ultimately correct, let's see that view incorporate the rest of the church through the next decades. If progressives are ultimately correct, let's see ... you get my drift!

A further strength of the proposal is that it should prevent SSB being thin end of the wedgist. That is, for conservatives like myself who are open to SSB being permitted but unable to see how changing our doctrine of marriage is consistent with our constitution, the formation of a Christian Community around this view would be an ongoing signal to General Synod that resistance to changing the doctrine of marriage itself is a characteristic of our church's life.

Readers will have various views on this analysis and differing preferences for the future structure of our church to which they (and their ministry units, episcopal units) wish to belong.

What do you think?

Has the Final Report got the options re structure (a) right, and (b) well reasoned?

If you prefer EPDio, do you think the rest of the Communion would agree to it?

If you lean towards AEO, is that a personal preference or also a preference of your ministry unit?

Are you interested (might your ministry unit be interested) in forming a Christian Community?

An alt.Gregory Dix on the Eucharist?

Many readers will be aware of Gregory Dix's famous passage in his seminal The Shape of the Liturgy when he offers a moving paean of praise for the endurance of the eucharist:

"Was ever another command so obeyed? For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and country and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable human circumstance, for every conceivable human need from infancy and before it to extreme old age and after it, from the pinnacle of earthly greatness to the refuge of fugitives in the caves and dens of the earth. Men have found no better thing than this to do for kings at their crowning and for criminals going to the scaffold; for armies in triumph or for a bride and bridegroom in a little country church; for the proclamation of a dogma or for a good crop of wheat; for the wisdom of the Parliament of a mighty nation or for a sick old woman afraid to die; for a schoolboy sitting an examination or for Columbus setting out to discover America; for the famine of whole provinces or for the soul of a dead lover; in thankfulness because my father did not die of pneumonia; for a village headman much tempted to return to fetich because the yams had failed; because the Turk was at the gates of Vienna; for the repentance of Margaret; for the settlement of a strike; for a son for a barren woman; for Captain so-and-so wounded and prisoner of war; while the lions roared in the nearby amphitheatre; on the beach at Dunkirk; while the hiss of scythes in the thick June grass came faintly through the windows of the church; tremulously, by an old monk on the fiftieth anniversary of his vows; furtively, by an exiled bishop who had hewn timber all day in a prison camp near Murmansk; gorgeously, for the canonisation of S. Joan of Arc—one could fill many pages with the reasons why men have done this, and not tell a hundredth part of them. And best of all, week by week and month by month, on a hundred thousand successive Sundays, faithfully, unfailingly, across all the parishes of Christendom, the pastors have done this just to make the plebs sancta Dei—the holy common people of God."*

One of my holiday reading books has been Sara Miles Take this bread: a radical conversion (New York: Ballantine, 2007) - Sara was a speaker hosted by Theology House in 2016.

In the course of talking about her conversion - memorably through being irresistibly drawn into a eucharist at St Gregory of Nyssa, San Francisco - she develops her testimony of being fed by God and feeding the people of God. In the midst of a discussion about what the church has done with Jesus' Last Supper, there is this purple prose passage on the eucharist which I think stands in the 21st century with Dix's 20th century paean:

"The entire contradictory package of Christianity was present in the Eucharist. A sign of unconditional acceptance and forgiveness, it was doled out and rationed to insiders; a sign of unity, it divided people; a sign of the most common and ordinary human reality, it was rarefied and theorized nearly to death. And yet that meal remained, through all the centuries, more powerful than any attempts to manage it. It reconciled, if only for a minute, all of God's creation, revealing that, without exception, we were members of one body, God's body, in endless diversity. The feast showed us how to re-member what had been dis-membered by human attempts to separate and divide, judge and cast out, select or punish. At that Table, sharing food, we were brought into the ongoing work of making creation whole." [pp. 76-77]

Miles' is not quite Dixian as a paean of praise, but it is utterly realistic about the capacity of the eucharist to fracture the church even as it never loses its capacity as a sign of God's renewal and reconciliation of creation

What do you think?

*from from Dom Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy. London: Dacre Press, Adam and Charles Black. (1964 printing), pages 744-5. copied from Texanglican.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Russell Brand meets Jesus!

Some readers may never have heard of Russell Brand. Those who have will have mentally marked him down in the "not the guy I want one of my daughters to marry" category." But the article aboves reveals someone in whom God is at work #nooneisbeyondredemption

And he makes a point, one which might be a bit of a theme this year on ADU: Jesus has a message of healing for a broken world ...

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

David Bentley Hart's New Testament translation: Wright or wrong?

I am working my way through David Bentley Hart's translation of the New Testament, partly with an eye on reviewing it here on ADU.

But I do not think I am going to do better than Tom Wright's review here.

Tom has certainly spotted strange English renderings which I have not but he also highlights two concerns I already have, even though I am only up to Matthew 11, along with having read the introduction and the epilogue.

(1) The use of "a Holy Spirit" in (e.g.) Matthew 1:18 is very, very odd. If one wants to be strictly literal then the Greek should be rendered "a holy spirit". That is, without looking ahead to the Trinitarian consciousness of the Nicene church, we read that Matthew says that Mary became pregnant through the action of a spirit, qualified as a holy spirit. The use of CAPS in Hart's actual rendering supposes that Trinitarian consciousness but in that consciousness there is not "a" Holy Spirit, only "the Holy Spirit" (as all other English translations I am aware of).

(2) Tom also spots that Hart says he is avoiding dogma when he, in fact, does not. On the not unimportant subject of salvation Hart presses positively along an Eastern Orthodox line and negatively implies in the NT text itself (and associated footnotes) as well as explicitly in his introduction and epilogue that the Western tradition is simply wrong. Bias is hard to escape and no English translation I am aware of is completely free of it. Hart's translation would be the better for fronting up to the fact that his sits neatly within his own Eastern Orthodox theological frame of mind.

Also worth a look are these thoughts - not a full review - by Michael Bird.

POSTSCRIPT After writing the above I came across Doug Chaplin's post about Wright's review and Hart's response to it. Doug makes a great point about the wisdom and efficacy of NOT having one individual translate the Bible!

Hart's response is here.

To the extent that Hart himself responds to Tom Wright's own translation of the New Testament I have no comment to make: I am not familiar with Wright's translation. I also have no comment to make re the intricacies of Hart's critique of Wright's deficiencies on ancient Judaism. I note some rejoinders by Hart to points I make above but I remain less than convinced by them. I also side with Wright on criticising Hart's use of "alee," "tilth" and "chaplet"!

PS PS Careful consideration of the tension between Wright and Hart's approaches here.
Note also links in comments below.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Hello 2018. Would you mind starting again?

So, here we are, just on halfway through the first month of 2018 and I and perhaps you as well are asking for 2018 to begin again.

In no particular order of importance:

(1) Down Under Summer: too much rain! Too cold! (Or, if in Oz, too hot!) Perhaps we could have a decent run of sunny, holiday mood suitable days and weeks of weather?

(2) President Trump: could we forget and wipe out certain things you have said and start afresh, speaking about and to the world in a kinder, gentler, respectful way?

(3) Visiting cricket teams to both Oz and NZ: a better standard of competition, please!

(4) I am starting back at work today and I am glad for all the practical things I have gotten done about the house and about my study ... but, really, there is still quite a bit to do and I wouldn't mind some more holidays in which to accomplish them :)

On a serious note, my holiday musings (including some contributory comments by readers and responses by me to the post immediately below), holiday reading, and holiday experiences at different places of worship, have gotten me thinking and thus re-keened up to blog in 2018.

Something I wonder if I might do is try to offer a bit more theological solidity e.g. by offering reviews/responses to serious theological reading. (However that is very hard to "live into" so "I wonder" and not "I promise"!).

Out of a wide ranging set of reading, thoughts, conversation, experiences, for the purpose of this blog, a very simple question comes to mind, What is the church?

"What is the church?" touches on associated questions, "What or who is the church for?" "What should our experience of church be?" "What did Jesus want the church to be?" "What would Paul and the other apostles make of the church in 2018?" "What makes the church? Preaching? Eucharist? Both? Something else?" "Where is the Holy Spirit in the life of the church today?"

Something I keep observing to myself is that different styles of church will mostly seem right and proper "church" to those enabling them either by preparing and performing or by choosing to faithfully participate in them. Yet pretty much every different style today - in my humble or not so humble opinion - can be severely critiqued from the perspective of Jesus and the gospels (e.g. see one book I have read on holiday, Sara Miles Take this bread), if not from the perspective of Paul and his charismatic, house churches.

Yet I also find, for myself, much that is good in each of the styles I experience and much to agree on in what I read. Obviously the perfect, if not ideal church is an amalgam ... :)

Praise the Lord: God in Christ is Lord of the church! And I love a comment in a Christmas letter sent to me. I paraphrase it here to avoid unfortunate and/or unnecessary identifications being made:

"For us the [Anglican church of the nation to which we belong] continues to amaze, astound, depress (delete as applicable – [where we live and go to church] IS the Diocese of Aregion!).  We are consoled in recalling that the [Anglican church etc] is NOT the Church as defined by [our] brother Paul."

So, I shall continue blogging in 2018 in a continuing attempt to contribute something, however tiny, towards the church becoming what God intends it to be ... thank you for reading, keep up the commenting :)