Thursday, October 30, 2014

Meeting ++Peter Jensen (UPDATED with link to ET of Roman Synod's final statement)

LINK TO ROMAN SYNOD The English translation of the recent Roman Synod's final document is now here.

UPDATE TO BELOW A lovely day at Pudding Hill yesterday. James de Costabadie gave a brilliant Bible Study on Romans 6 and ++Peter Jensen gave a superb session on Conversion (I say 'session' because it was a mixture of talk, engaging us in discussion and response, and generally working through what 'conversion' means biblically and theologically. Before being archbishop Peter was an educator!)

ORIGINAL I am off today to join the annual Latimer Fellowship retreat at Pudding Hill,for which the guest contributor is Archbishop Peter Jensen. It will be good to talk with ++Peter again - I very much enjoyed meeting him in Sydney a few, well, now, eight years ago. Tempus fugit!

Before extending yesterday's post with a second part, here are a few items to potentially stimulate the cells of your grey matter dedicated to things Anglican:

Cranmer's Curate has posted a fine sermon on the Apotle's Creed and Christian identity.

Notwithstanding a diagnosis of Anglican Communion ills re lack of unity, the Living Church reports to us on some progress in "intra Anglican" dialogue here.

Bosco Peters has a lovely post at Liturgy on the waka huia at St Michael's and All Angels here in Christchurch (for overseas readers, our most famous, most uniformly dedicated through the decades Anglo-Catholic church in Kiwiland). Readers here know that I am not one to promote the Blessed Sacrament (e.g. see below) and even less so its adoration, but in the freedom of Christ other Christians think differently and that is fine. His post includes details about the history of tabernacling at St Michael's that I was not aware of ... oh to be a bishop in the days when bishops had nigh on autocratic powers ... you will have to read the post to see what I mean :)

Yesterday I was privileged to be an invited preacher at the weekly 'College eucharist' at St John's College in Auckland as well as an 'Anglican Voice' at an afternoon session with the students and staff. It was good to be at the College, not least catching up - quite briefly, unfortunately, with our diocesan students there.

I preached on Ephesians 6:1-9 and Luke 13:22-30. I pointed out that the former passage is not a good one to preach on to Anglicans as its radical egalitarianism strikes at the heart of love of hierarchy in our church. Focusing on Luke I noted the ways in which Luke in that passage is both clever and too clever by half, or maybe even muddled, yet faithful to Jesus own words. Maybe a post for the future.

In the afternoon session I chided ourselves for having small ecumenical ambitions. That too might be a post for the future.

While en route to and fro Auckland I had some marking to do and my reading alerted me to a passage in Raymond Brown's commentary on John's Gospel - speaking of the Blessed Sacrament - which warmed my Cranmerian heart:

"[John 6] Verses 53-56 promise the gift of life to the man who feeds on Jesus' flesh and drinks his blood, but this eucharistic promise follows the main body of the Bread of Life Discourse in 35-50 which insisted on the necessity of belief in Jesus. The juxtaposition of the two forms of the discourse teaches that the gift of life comes through a believing reception of the sacrament (cf. 54 and 47)." (from Brown, John I-XII, 292. Italics are Brown's).

I do understand that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament comes from faith in Jesus and centres faith on Jesus!

Whatever form our worship takes, we will want to be in touch with the lectionary if we want to keep our Anglican membership cards ... in the 21st century that simply has to mean a touch of electricity. Ian Paul leads us to Oremus and the e-age of lectionaries ...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Will Anglican conservatives be left behind? Are Roman conservatives the new Pharisees? (1)

Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of the recent synod in Rome - see various preceding posts - is that Pope Francis permitted an openness to the synod which lifted the lid on the diversity of considerations being canvassed as Rome engages with sex, marriage and family in the 21st century.

What we have seen, including statements about votes for each section of the final document, is a church which acts like other churches synodically (to a degree, I acknowledge it was bishops voting, not other clergy let alone laity). In the statement of the voting, and in some reported comments about the course of debate, we see a church as prone to division into 'conservative' and 'liberal' camps as many other churches.

After the synod, who would swim the Tiber for the sake of joining a church which had every issue on human sexuality sewn up, neatly packaged and guaranteed to provide stable, 'conservative' answers for the remainder of this century?

Of course, if one yearns for a very slow gradual development of doctrine and its application to real life, then Rome is your church. It would be a mistake to read too much into the synod's openness to change last week. In one sense at least, in respect of doctrine, of who may formally be welcomed at the eucharist, nothing changed. But was there anything in the synod to discourage bishops and priests who tacitly welcome the remarried or those in an openly same sex partnership to communion?

Within our own Kiwi ranks, Archbishop John Dew has nailed his liberal (i.e. open-to-change) colours to the mast here.

On Roman conservatism I have been alerted to an extraordinary pairing of columns, one from Ross Douthat representing tough, no nonsense conservatism and a reply by Andrew Sullivan representing a robust, liberal appreciation for Francis and his perceived aims.

Douthat has this extraordinary paragraph, though ordinary enough for quite a few conservatives as it expresses sentiments I have been seeing on the internet these past few weeks:

"But it [i.e. a reversal of approach by the church] would leave many of the church’s bishops and theologians in an untenable position, and it would sow confusion among the church’s orthodox adherents — encouraging doubt and defections, apocalypticism and paranoia (remember there is another pope still living!) and eventually even a real schism.

Those adherents are, yes, a minority — sometimes a small minority — among self-identified Catholics in the West. But they are the people who have done the most to keep the church vital in an age of institutional decline: who have given their energy and time and money in an era when the church is stained by scandal, who have struggled to raise families and live up to demanding teachings, who have joined the priesthood and religious life in an age when those vocations are not honored as they once were. They have kept the faith amid moral betrayals by their leaders; they do not deserve a theological betrayal."

This kind of claim, of superior orthodoxy through morally worthy behaviour in holding the church together in the face of countervailing tendencies towards diminished orthodoxy or disintegration of the church, is palpable nonsense. If worthiness favoured the worthy (in their own eyes) Jesus would never have taken the Pharisees on! The challenge to be merciful - thanks be to God for Francis making this challenge - is not to be dismissed by the vague possibility that to show mercy will undermine those who need no mercy because they are righteous.

Peter Steinfels takes Douthat on in Commonweal. One part of his critique is the simple observation that all is not simple when it comes to human relationships which fail to live to the ideal. The history of the church shows that, actually, it has not held, universally, to one and only one line:

"Is it possible that the problem posed by the dynastic marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, a Spanish princess and the aunt of the Emperor Charles V, whose imperial forces had just sacked Rome and imprisoned the pope, is not altogether determinative of contemporary cases of failed marriages and lasting remarriages?

Might he recognize that the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition, whose sacraments and clergy Rome accepts as valid, is no less aware of Jesus’ words about adultery but has reached different conclusions regarding remarriage and admission to communion? Is he aware of the early church’s complicated history surrounding the question of admission and readmission to communion?
Questions about divorce, remarriage, and reception of communion are not easily resolved, least of all by me. But Douthat’s assertions that the matter is simply “not debatable” is unfounded. Likewise his claim that anything besides categorically judging a second marriage adulterous would necessarily reverse rather than develop church teaching. "

If a question arises from the Douthat (and others') approach to the moral rights of conservatives to impose their will on the whole church as to a new Pharisaism arising, there is another question to ponder, closer to our Anglican home. As Rome engages with reality, are Anglican conservatives in danger of being left behind in a changing churchscape?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Can it be true? Is this for real?

Badiou is coming to Auckland.

The name Alan Badiou may not mean much to readers here, but if it is known then it may mean a lot because he is a French atheist, leading philosopher in the one country likely to think philosopher = rock star who once wrote a seminal New Testament book.

That book is St Paul: The Foundation of Universalism (2003). In it Badiou expounds the thesis that Paul is the first philosopher to speak universal truth for the world (as opposed to his tribe or culture or nation). Badiou's interest lies in this starting point for later universalist philosophers including Marx.

Our Christian and Pauline interest in Badiou might be that a non-believer recognises the significance of Paul as the apostle to both Jews and Gentiles, that is, to everyone, with a message for all. Part of Badiou's point is that the universal 'all' of Paul is not only Jews and Gentiles, but all Jews and Gentiles: women as well as men, slaves as well as masters.

Alan Badiou is giving a public lecture at the University of Auckland, 6 pm, Tuesday 25 November 2014. The event is announced here on Facebook. I am going!

His lecture is being arranged by "the Auckland Critical Theory Collective, the School of Social Sciences and the Europe Institute" but notice has been circulated by Robert Myles for the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Biblical Studies.

The topic intrigues, and may have little to do with the New Testament given the provenance of the organisers:

"À la recherche du réel perdu / In search of the lost Real"

Of course the witty ones on the Facebook page, in the light of the topic are raising the question whether this is really going to happen :)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Spiritual and Sacred Links - Monday 27th October 2014

(Supplied by a UK colleague)

I hope some of this will be of assistance. Prayers for you this coming week.

1. Let Jesus heal the way we see - Bishop Rennis Ponniah - St Andrews Singapore Audio [Luke 10:25-37]

2. The Lord of eternity - Vaughan Roberts - St Ebbes Audio [Revelation 1:1-8]

3. Wrestling with the problem of Prejudice - Canon Kendall Harmon - Christ St Paul's Audio [James 2]

4. Religious Freedom for Middle East Christians - Mark Movsesian - Lanier Theological Library Vimeo

Commentary for Sunday 26th October
5. The Sunday Readings - Rev Stephen Trott

6. Preaching Ideas and Commentary - Rev Peter Carrell

7. The bells of St. Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield in London - BBC Radio 4

8. Sunday Worship from Merton College, Oxford with Professor Alister McGrath on Tolkein - BBC Radio 4

9. Choral Evensong from Chelmsford Cathedral - BBC Radio 3

10. Sunday Holy Communion livestreamed from St Helena's Church, Beaufort, South Carolina at 10:15 am Eastern Time, 2:15 pm London GMT

11. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

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

Please pray for the Ebola Crisis and for those working for a cure; for Christians and all facing persecution and crime in Iraq; for the persecuted church and in particular in Nigeria, Tanzania, Iran, Pakistan and in particular for Asia Bibi for whom a petition has passed 200,000 signatures, for the Central African Republic; for peace in Ukraine, Egypt, Israel and Gaza; and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

13. Iraq Region:
Bishop: 90% of Orthodox Christians in Iraq diplaced - Al Monitor
Surviving an ISIS Massacre - NYT Vimeo [warning graphic violence shown]
more Media Reports from FRRME

14. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Ebola death toll tops 4,900 out of more than 10,000 cases: WHO - Christian Today
Statement – WHO
Nigeria: 2 pastors killed in attack by Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria - Christian Today
Tanzania: Tanzanian teacher murdered in church, pastor and wife on Zanzibar attacked by extremists – WWM
Iran: Three Christians face six year sentences in remote prisons – CSW
Pakistan: Petition to overturn Asia Bibi's death penalty surpasses 200,000 signatures - Christian Today
CAR: Priest kidnapped, dozens killed amidst renewed violence in C. African Rep – WWM
South Carolina: Prayers from Lent and Beyond

15. Sunday Programme - current affairs with Edward Stourton - BBC Radio 4

16. Food for thought
Conflict or Mutual Enrichment? Why Science and Theology Need to Talk to Each Other - Alister McGrath – ABC
Understand concept of ‘infidel’ to understand risks of Islamic radicalization - Jacob Zenn – WWM
How to save a diocese - Ian Paul
How to prevent the extinction of the Church of England - Gillan Scott
7 Reasons Some Churches Experience Revitalization - Thom Rainer

17. Why Baptism?

18. Teaching English in South East Asia - TSM Video

19. Kyrie - Duruflé - Somerville Choir

God bless you

Saturday, October 25, 2014

How to save your diocese and perhaps all of your church?

Thoughtful post on renewing and reviving the church here, by Ian Paul.

Obviously if you are not a C of E member then you need to make appropriate translation to your own situation.

Then there are the comments, matching Ian for thoughtfulness and repaying our attention.

There is a comment about Wesleyan revival.

I think it is saying there is nothing in our day intrinsically preventing such revival.

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Shootout between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees?

Whether we are embroiled as Anglicans in debates 'conservative' v 'liberal' or Roman bishops v the Pope at their recent synod, we live out, like Groundhog Day, again and again, the theological shootout between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees. Only, sometimes we think we are Jesus when we are scribal, and sometimes the Pharisees understand Jesus better ...

As the dust settles on what is a kind of interim position reprised from a previously provisional mid-conference report anticipating a more final conclusion following next year's significant conciliar gathering in Rome, there are some things Anglicans might reflect on about the upheaval in Rome.

Some - reading across the internet - have described the synod, especially at its mid-point as an 'earthquake' and others as 'not, in the end, an earthquake.'

I think there has been an earthquake and its nuts to suggest otherwise.

The earthquake is this: a remarkable openness has been displayed which has revealed what many Christians 'on the ground' know about Roman Catholicism but which you would not know from reading official pronouncements from Rome.

That knowledge is that ordinary churchgoers and many priests are very open to the things that Rome is officially closed to: ordination of married men as priests, ordination of women as priests, communion for the divorced and remarried.

It might be going too far to say there is widespread support for same sex marriage but the notion that homosexuality is about intrinsically disordered acts does not sit well in today's world. Oh, and we could also mention the widespread ignoring by married couples of constraint on use of artificial means of contraception.

Now, following the synod, we know that many bishops openly acknowledge these things. We see a pope (elected by the cardinals, normally themselves drawn from the ranks of bishops) who wants these things openly discussed. Notably, last week, Pope Francis commanded that the clauses in the final statement which did not secure a two-thirds majority should nevertheless be published. (The final document, at this stage only in Italian, with voting, is here.) The voting shows that Rome itself, expressed through its bishops, is quite contemporary Anglican: liberals, conservatives and finding the middle way between them!

One of the things I am noticing in my reading is a kind of shootout between conservatives (wanting the letter of Roman Magisterial doctrine to be observed, maintained and promulgated) and liberals (open to finding ways, nevertheless, to welcome more fully into the life of the church those currently excluded from (e.g.) full participation in the Mass.

A significant signal of these kinds of differences lies in the change between the mid-term document and the final document re gay Christians, the former speaking of 'welcoming homosexual persons' the latter omitting that and talking about offering 'pastoral care.'

But where else do we see this kind of subtle debate going on between the letter and the spirit of the law? In the gospels, of course. The gospels intrigue me on the matter of the scribes and the Pharisees because it seems to me that, whatever the historical accuracy of the portrayal of the scribes and the Pharisees, the gospels capture an enduring issue in religion in which scriptures figure, including our own Christian faith. What do the writings say? Does what is said continue to apply? Who may authoritatively interpret what is said and adjudicate its application? Here is a group, seeking to be faithful to those writings, who tend to go with a close if not literal following of the words. There is a group, seeking to be faithful to those writings, who tend to go with an open, liberal understanding of the words, perhaps appealing to a principle which lies within the words in question, or within the scriptures as a whole.

Our challenge as Christians, whether oriented towards Rome, Canterbury, Geneva or Constantinople, is to avoid being scribes and Pharisees and to side with Jesus. Yet that is easier said than done. After all, on some scriptural matters Jesus was more close, literal in his reading than the scribes and Pharisees (notably on marriage and divorce). On other matters Jesus exposed the folly of such reading, perhaps because of the hypocrisy involved, or maybe because adherence to one set of words involved denial of another set ... see this Sunday's Matthean lectionary reading!

More in the next post ...


In working on the above post I noticed this fascinating item in which the ESV (English Standard Version, sometimes called 'Evangelical Standard Version') has nearly replaced the Jerusalem Bible as the Roman English 'lectionary' translation. The reasons given for negotiations not reaching a point where change will happen are technical etc but I am amazed that it got considered at all: the ESV is not a wonderful version for public reading of Scripture in worship! Even evangelicals (in my experience) recognise that ...

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sacred and Spiritual Links - Monday 20 October 2014

From the Roman Synod:

The Pope's final address.

The Bishops' final address.

The final document itself, in Italian, with voting numbers at foot.

Archbishop Nichols comment.

The Tablet's report.

Damian Thompson's take.

Cranmerian wisdom.

The Pope's "liberalism" is not keeping up with progressive change in Western Catholicism.

A post for those who think the Pope is being particularly cunning or especially naive.

An optimistic view that it's just a bit of a setback for Francis.

I hope to blog about the significance of the Synod later this week.

(The following comes from a UK colleague) 

I hope some of this will be of assistance and use. #2 Truro Cathedral evensong podcast from 14th October; #8 J John on what it means to be a Christian; #9 Evangelist and writer of the monumental King's English reflections interviewed by Richard Bewes in the Summer; #10 and #11 Commentary on today's readings from Stephen Trott and Peter Carrell; #13 the reality of Ebola in Liberian in a NTY video; and Asia Bibi's death sentence in Pakistan upheld by judges who know they are under promise of death if they free her; #16 remembering Henry Martyn commemorated today; #17 interesting and helpful reading from The Screwtape Letters; #18 Message to ISIS from Christians refugees.

Prayers for you this coming week.

1. The bells of St Mary, Bishopstoke in Hampshire - BBC Radio 4

2. Choral Evensong from Truro Cathedral

3. Choral Evensong from Royal Holloway - BBC Radio 3

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

5. Sunday Worship from Cannon Street Memorial Baptist Church in Birmingham - BBC Radio 4

6. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

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

8. What it means to be a Christian - J John - HTB Video [John 3:16]

9. Glen Scrivener interviewed by Richard Bewes – Video
The King's English

Commentary for Sunday 12th October
10. The Sunday Readings - Rev Stephen Trott

11. Preaching Ideas and Commentary - Rev Peter Carrell

Please pray for the Ebola Crisis this week; for Christians and all facing persecution and crime in Iraq; for the persecuted church and in particular in the Middle East, Nigeria, Pakistan and in particular for Asia Bibi whose death sentence has been upheld, Laos and the Democratic Republic of the Congo with rising brutality there; for peace in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza; and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

12. Iraq Region:
Iraqi Christian refugees lament lives destroyed by IS - BBC News
All Knayeh hostages free – WWM
Iran appears to fight Islamic State, but are their ultimate goals too similar for comfort? – WWM
more Media Reports from FRRME

13. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Fighting the Ebola Outbreak, Street by Street - New York Times Vimeo
The decades-old treatment that may save a young Dallas nurse infected with Ebola - Washington Post
Ebola: Prayers from Lent and Beyond
Nigeria: Claim of truce raises hope that kidnapped Nigerian girls will be released – WWM
How Boko Haram's Murders and Kidnappings Are Changing Nigeria's Churches – CT
Pakistan: Pakistan court upholds death penalty for Asia Bibi despite serious legal loophole in trial – WWM
Laos: Six Christians released, pastor still detained following arrest at religious meeting – CSW
DR Congo: Second massacre in days leaves 20 dead in east DR Congo
South Carolina: Prayers from Lent and Beyond

14. Sunday Programme - current affairs with Edward Stourton - BBC Radio 4

15. Food for thought
Be yourself in prayer - Stephen Miller
When a Pastor Resigns Abruptly - John Ortberg – CT
We Have Never Been Secular: Rethinking Religion and Secularity in Britain Today - John Millbank – ABC
All for a Good Cause? Islamic State and the Delusions of 'Salvational Cause Amorality' - Khaled Abou El Fadl – ABC
Recording Fauré's Requiem in 90 seconds - King's College Choir

16. Henry Martyn: Missionary Scholar for our Age? - Bishop Graham Kings from 2012
Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide - formerly the Henry Martyn Centre

17. The Screwtape Letters - C.S. Lewis Doodle

18. Noon Song - Iraqi Christian Refugees - Sat 7

19. My Lighthouse - Rend Collective