Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Samson Trump?

I love it when political commentators bring the Bible into their analysis.

Victor Davis Hanson does a pretty good job of explaining Trump's popular appeal and ends with a superb biblical metaphor to illustrate what might happen as this year in American politics unfolds.

Obviously the secret lies in not cutting the hair :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Christchurch Carmelites Since 1933

On the corner of Lincoln Road and Curletts Road here in Christchurch you can see a sign on an imposing concrete block wall which signals behind the wall is a Carmelite Monastery, with the date of their founding, 1933. That is an intriguing date for me since in the same year my Dad was born in a house about a kilometre further down Lincoln Road.

On Sunday night I watched an excerpt of the Sunday programme on the Carmelites of Christchurch. (Unfortunately you need to register and then log in to watch this "on demand" video: it's about 15 mins into the show, after a watchable and moving first item).

The Carmelites do it tough, on my reckoning, since even family members visiting only get to speak to their sister or daughter nun through a grill. No hugs!

You can read more about the Carmelites here at their site, and you can see an older documentary here.

It happens that this past weekend I was involved with a diocesan discernment weekend based at our own Anglican Community of the Sacred Name, a community of nuns serving in Tonga, Fiji, Christchurch and Ashburton. (A feature about their life and work, focusing on Ashburton, is here).

Theirs is not a contemplative order in the same way as the Carmelites. But they witness to the power of a life consecrated to Christ in the special way that follows their religious vows. As many people in ACANZP know, each sister is an inspiring presence wherever they are ministering.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Demonic Otherness: Trump's Terrifying Rise Recalls Hitler's Trumping of Divided Germany

In a week in which the British Labour Party is struggling to dissociate itself from the disease on its own body politic of anti-semitism, the Labour friendly New Statesman publishes a scintillating review article by ++Rowan Williams.

Titled "A Nervous Breakdown in the Body Politic," Williams' essay asks the question, "Are we too complacent in thinking that the toxic brew of paranoia and populism that brought Hitler to power will never be repeated?"

It is a question worth asking as shrewd pundit Conrad Black argues for "The Inevitable Mr Trump" while a former staff member Stephanie Ciegelski agrees with Black's recognition of the angry populism propelling Trump forward but bluntly says Trump is all ego in an open letter to his supporters.

Williams writes about "demonic otherness" and notes that Hitler's rise was possible not because he won a few votes and manipulated the minority power that gave him but because a partisan quasi civil war in Bavaria in the 1920s made a mockery of the monopoly of state power in post-WW1 Germany. Without that monopoly nations provide the opportunities for monstrous egomaniacs who know how to use violence strategically to gain power polite people naively presume is impossible.

So Williams, reviewing Hitler: a Biography – Volume I: Ascent by Volker Ullrich, published by Bodley Head, worries, rightly in these disturbing times of toxicity, partisanship and civil wars affecting the whole world, about a complacency today which could let another Hitler rise to demonic domination.

Naturally those worries gnaw away at the phenomenon of Trumpism, though perhaps he should also worry while focusing on Hitler, about another political cartoon-like character, Ken Livingstone.

Thus he writes,

"The extraordinary mixture of farce and menace in Donald Trump’s campaign is a potent distillation of all this: a political theatre, divorced from realism, patience and human solidarity, bringing to the surface the buried poisons of a whole system and threatening its entire viability and rationality. But it is an extreme version of the way in which modern technology-and-image-driven communication intensifies the risks that beset the ideals of legitimate democracy. 
And – think of Trump once again – one of the most seductively available tricks of such a theatre is the rhetoric of what could be called triumphant victimhood: we are menaced by such and such a group (Jews, mig­rants, Muslims, Freemasons, international business, Zionism, Marxism . . .), which has exerted its vast but covert influence to destroy us; but our native strength has brought us through and, given clear leadership, will soon, once and for all, guarantee our safety from these nightmare aliens.
...
 Granted that there is no shortage of other candidates for demonic otherness in Europe and the United States (witness Trump’s language about Muslims and Mexicans), the specific and abiding lesson of Nazi anti-Semitism is the twofold recognition of the ease with which actually disadvantaged communities can be cast in the role of all-powerful subverters, and the way in which the path to violent exclusion of one kind or another can be prepared by cultures of casual bigotry and collective anxiety or self-pity, dramatised by high-temperature styles of media communication."

Read it all. We live in worrying times.

POSTSCRIPT: Interesting essay from Andrew Sullivan here. Wasn't he one of the contributors to the zeal for equality in America recently? LATER: Rejoinder both affirming and critical from Ross Douthat here.

Friday, April 29, 2016

ACANZP on verge of deconstructing itself in one GS hit?

I have woken up in the night to this absurdity of our GS papers (motions, bills).

Suppose everything in the papers is approved "as presented."

Then: we would have (by 2018 confirming votes)

ABOLISHED CONFIRMATION

CHANGED DOCTRINE OF MARRIAGE

RADICALLY REVISED DOCTRINE OF ORDINATION

That is three sacramental actions of our church (sacraments to the catholic-minded among us) altered in a direction which can only be described as a progressive departure from our catholic heritage and a liberal embrace of new ways of thinking about rites which are core to our identity as a not wholly Protestant or Catholic church.

There are no prizes for being the most liberal, progressive Anglican church in the Communion.

Actually, I suggest we would be more than the most liberal, progressive Anglican church in the Communion. I suggest that we would be the least Anglican church in the Communion.

We could significantly begin to deconstruct ourselves as an Anglican church if we decide to change what we believe about all three sacramental actions in one hit. (Some might say we would simply be accelerating a deconstruction already begun).

Instead of being the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia we would be the Evolving Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

Through 2020 and 2022 synods we could work on the remaining sacramental actions and even have a go at the Dominical Sacraments of Baptism and Communion. After all, we are running out of water in NZ as we allow it to be bottled up and sold overseas ... but there is plenty of spare milk ... #justsaying.

On the other hand, at a pre General Synod meeting last night a good observation was made by one of Christchurch's GS reps (re the abolition of confirmation): constitutionally, can we actually make such a change? Confirmation is, after all, firmly embedded within our Fundamental Provisions.

Calling chancellors ... dialing now sir ... yes, they will take your call ... as soon as some other legal messes in our  amalgam of canons and formularies are solved :)

Seriously: what kind of (Anglican) church do we want to be? 

I do understand that each of the proposals for change of marriage, confirmation and ordination (via recognition of Methodist orders) has its own background of concern and desire to make progress on perceived and experienced difficulties or shortfalls in our life together, and that each has its own logic as a response to those difficulties and shortfalls. But I think it right to stand back from these individual proposals and ask the naive question what the accumulation of all three changes would mean for what kind of church we want to be.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A puzzling General Synod motion: is it a change of doctrine?

From the General Synod motions (here)

Motion # 21

Anglican-Methodist Interchangeability of Ordained Ministries

Mover: The Right Rev’d R Bay                    Seconder:

THAT this General Synod te Hīnota Whānui 2016:
(a)    formally affirms, accepts, and recognizes the validity of Methodist presidency and presbyteral ministries as effectively equivalent to Anglican episcopal and priestly ministries, such that interchange is possible without the requirement of re-ordination; and
(b)   in negotiation with the Methodist Church, and having attended to necessary enabling legislation, effects an act of reconciliation of episcopal ministries so enabling a full interchangeability of ordained ministries, in accord with the Irish Model, and
(c)    agrees that the reconciliation of episcopal ministry and the interchangeability of priestly ministry could take place in the first instance by a parallel or shared liturgical act (Act of Inauguration) wherein the Methodist Connexion and the General Synod assert and affirm the mutual recognition and acceptance of each other’s episcopal ministry; and similarly with respect to the mutuality of ordained priestly ministry.
(d)   Asks the Council for Ecumenism, in conjunction with the Anglican-Methodist Dialogue Group, to attend to the preparation of the necessary legislation.


Notes (PLEASE ALSO REFER TO THE Anglican-Methodist Dialogue Group report):

1.       Enabling Legislation
Appropriate legislative measures will need to be enacted in order to establish the interchange of ministries following which an act of reconciliation can occur. Such legislation would be brought to the 2018 General Synod te Hīnota Whānui. 
2.       Recognition and reconciliation of episcopal ministries
For Anglicans, the proposal means that we recognise, effect and affirm that, in the ordained presbyter in the Presidential team, there exists a valid episcopal ministry; an authentic episcopate, capable of interchange should that ever be desired.

3.       Establish the interchangeability of ordained (priestly/presbyteral) ministry.
Once enabling legislation is in place and the reconciliation of episcopal ministries attained, the interchange of priestly/presbyteral ministry may proceed.

4.       The Diaconate
This proposal applies only to the mutuality of episcopal ministry and the interchangeability of presbyteral and priestly ministries. There remain differences in respect to the structure and nature of the probationary period that occurs (usually) between completion of a ministry formation process and the priestly/presbyteral ordination.


There is further opportunity for our two churches to work together on a common understanding of the model and mission of the diaconate and so the future possibility of interchangeability.

PETER CARRELL COMMENT:

The Protestant in me is keen to see this kind of mutual recognition of ministry, not least because of strong and long Anglican and Methodist relationships, including many years of shared training together at Meadowbank. In a varying "churchscape" in which we have co-operating ventures and in which it is sometimes useful if a Methodist presbyter could preside at an Anglican eucharist, some kind of "interchangeability" of presidential/presbyteral ministry is logical to the Protestant in me.

The Catholic in me (yeah, yeah, some think it is so microscopic it cannot be seen) says, "What!?" Where is the episcopal laying on of hands via an episcope who is an episcope in an order separate to priests/presbyters, not by interpretation of "the  ordained presbyter in the Presidential team" as being "episcopal"? 

The Ecumenicist in me asks, 
- What effect would this approach to interchangeability of ministry have on our relationships with Catholics and the Orthodox? 
- Why, being consistent, would we not also work on something similar with the Presbyterians, who consider their "presbytery" to have an episcopal role, including in ordination of a presbyter?

The Once Was A General Synod Member in me asks,
- Should not such a motion begin with the "Anglican-Methodist Dialogue Group report" (found here) since this sets out the history building up to this motion and the arguments assumed into it?
- Why are the fuller and more helpful notes to the motion drafted in the report not the notes to the motion actually presented in the GS papers? (Those briefer notes offer technical terms and phrases which are either undefined or not clearly defined. The fuller notes in the report help us to see what changes the Methodists would also make in an "episcopal" direction.)

The Fundamental Provisionist in me asks, 
- Is this (however unintentionally) a change in our doctrine of ordination? 
- If it is, should this motion speaks as though it sets that change in place? 
- And, where this motion does speak in terms of future "enabling legislation", what kind of legislation should we have in order to change our doctrine of ordination? (Change of constitution? A formulary for recognising interchanged ministries? Let us not forget that the ordinals are part of our "Fundamental Provisions": ordination goes to the heart of who we are as Anglicans and what we believe.)

The Tui: Yeah, Right! guy in me desperately wants to ask 
- Whether we can equate our diaconate ("ordained a deacon") with the probationary period a prospective Methodist presbyter goes through following training and prior to ordination as a Methodist presbyter (no ordination as a probationer)? We can't even contemplate that can we? Deacons, we need your voice on this. The train is leaving the station!
- Also, once the enabling legislation is passed could we ordain a future Bishop of Somewhere who has been a Methodist presbyter (i.e. not previously ordained a deacon, and not previously ordained-by-a-bishop-in-the-order-of-bishops)? That would indeed be "per saltum" ordination, would it not?

Ecumenical relationships are vital, Jesus prayed that we may be one, this blog longs for Christian unity which goes beyond the "organic" or "spiritual" to real changes in our lack of inter-communion, recognition of ministries and so forth. 

Consequently I applaud the intention in this motion and acknowledge it comes from ecumenical work here in Aotearoa NZ which builds on associated work in other parts of the Anglican-Methodist world. I hope we can make progress through an amended motion which clarifies issues and responds to questions the motion-with-notes in its current form raises. 

I have no problem with the goal of "interchangeability" of ministries between Methodists and Anglicans providing we are clear about what we are interchanging and faithful to our own doctrine of ordination in respect of our understanding of "ordered" ministry. 

I think we should remember that, much as many of us long for closer relations with Rome, Constantinople and Utrecht (i.e. Old Catholics), we are closer to Methodist/Anglican mutual recognition of ministries than we are to Rome and Constantinople recognising our ministries ("null and void", lest we forget).

What do you think?

UPDATE: Bosco Peters, along with other GS matters, also tackles this motion here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Anglican Bits and Catholic Bites

Three items of note this morning:

ACNA sails very, very close to a moral and theological crisis here. Preludium offers a reflection here.

The Primate of the West Island reflects on ACC-16 here. (PS Have you seen that the West Island government is paying the French $50 billion to build submarines. Surely they are not expecting an attack from the seaborne power to their east?)

Catholics and Anglicans have been talking - again!! - about recognition of ministry, here. Having been at a joint Catholic-Anglican Ash Wednesday service this year, in the Catholic Pro-Cathedral here in Christchurch, at which Bishop Victoria Matthews preached,  I and many readers here want to say, "Let theology catch up with reality." Really, it is just about finding an aggiornamento which walks backwards into the void Leo's "null and void" Bull!

It is not as though things cannot change in the Vatican ... or can they? Our Prelatical friend from the West Island will need more smarts than an Ozzie Union leader caught with unexplained cash in his briefcase to get this audit completed!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Can we construct a better Way Forward?

Update A much simpler scheme is proposed by Bosco Peters here (among other GS matters).

Recap

My sense is that I and a few other bloggers are not alone in being dissatisfied with AWF. In fact, beating drums tell me that a number of people across many of our episcopal units are not satisfied that AWF is "the" way forward. My own summary of what we are most dissatisfied about is that, when all is said and done about the strengths and weaknesses of AWF, it does not propose a robust scheme for two integrities. Diocese by diocese choice and individual priests being able to refuse to do a blessing does not "cut it" when it comes to signing up via licensing procedures to what this church believes according to its formularies.

But I think we should pause and note that there is no particular reason to make that a great negative re the work the working group did. Let me explain: I am a great believer in arriving at the truth via failed efforts (!!), in line with Karl Popper's approach to finding by approximations what the truth is, such approximations getting ever closer on the basis of the latest approximation being falsified. If we collectively judge that AWF doesn't get us to where we think we want to be (let alone to where God wants us to be), that should be a spur to work from what has been falsified to a better position, always grateful for what AWF has illuminated for us along the way.

I think we can construct a better way forward than AWF does, and I think Trevor Morrison is correct to argue that we should. I also think he is correct to press for greater signs of mutual understanding of respective but different positions on blessings as well as to remind us that there was a vision in Motion 30 for "two integrities" which is not well developed in AWF.

At the end of the previous post I  suggested that the formation of FCANZ could be significant in finding that way forward. I said that because if we are to have a "two integrities" approach then we need FCANZ to engage with the development of the concept and to sign off on any new proposal in that direction. Ditto, observing some remarks made in the paper by Peter Lineham and Mark Hendrickson linked to here last week, a group inclusive of publicly self-identifying gay and lesbian people should also engage with and sign off on such development. That is, in a new proposal, we could see ourselves heading to towards a future GS with a settled feeling that we had negotiated a peaceful outcome. Remember we go to this GS with the AWF report declaring it is not an agreed report by the whole group!

Two Integrities?

Note that the simplest, clearest form of two integrities on the matter of blessing of same-sex relationships is for there to be a formal division of our church into two separately governed churches. A schism, in other words. But or BUT no one says they want schism, no one says they want ACANZP to divide. That, surely, provides a starting point for thinking about how we might have an undivided church with two integrities within it. That starting point being that we share a commitment to not dividing our church.

Can we find another point of common interest? Yes, we can, and that point is that we commonly recognise that there are three sides in this church on this matter of blessing, none of which looks like changing its collective mind any time soon.

One side: we want blessings to happen

Another side: we do not want blessings to happen

Yet another side: we are not yet sure on the matter and we don't want to be railroaded into one or other of the other two sides. This side, incidentally, has most to lose if our church divides.

In other words, we could have a common commitment to finding a way forward which neither divides the church nor requires one side or another to give up what they believe.

Incidentally, but not insignificantly, the three sides I describe above are present simultaneously in many of our parishes and, as far as I can tell, are present in all of our episcopal units!

Naturally some readers here will wonder why I am talking about two integrities and three sides, so why not three integrities? I see the two integrities in concept as a formal way of acknowledging the right of some in our church to explicitly believe one thing and the right of some in our church to explicitly believe the opposite. The "third" side I am talking about should have their right to keep options open simply by being part of our church without pressure to choose one integrity or another.

Key step?

It then strikes me that a key step towards two integrities within one church is securing agreement on what each integrity might permit the other integrity to believe and to perform.

A few weeks ago. Bosco Peters introduced the very helpful word "may" to the inter-blog discussion.

"May" is a great Anglican word because it implies a permissive (i.e. broad, liberal as in "open-minded") approach to matters of choice and of conscience.

My sense is that our church may hold together if

A. it can continue to permit require belief that marriage is between a man and a woman and

B. permits belief that a marriage-like relationship between two people of the same gender may be blessed providing the latter belief rests on a case* that conservatives can respect even if they do not agree with it. (A weakness of the AWF report is that it does not offer that case).

What kind of formulary?

Clearly two integrities within one church has the challenge of securing a way forward so that a blessing service is

(a) authorised for use by those who wish to use it
(b) expressive of what this church permits its members to believe concerning such a service.

That is the two integrities (however they are defined) need to act as cohorts within one church (through General Synod) in respect of (a) and (b).

My understanding of (a) and (b) is that this would need to be a formulary (i.e. a service agreed both by GS and by a majority of the diocesan synods and hui amorangi).

I am no expert so I may be out of (constitutional and canonical) line in proposing that Bosco Peters' "may" be part of any such formulary so that it is clear that the doctrine being expressed in the formulary is a matter of permitted belief and not of required belief. I invite constitutional and canonical experts to come out of their hermitages and comment!

Of course, if one reply is that "Peter, it would be unprecedented to have that kind of formulary" the easy response is "Well, Dr Expert, we are in an unprecedented situation so, just as we did with the Three Tikanga Structure in 1992, we need to invent a new way forward."

What kind of "two integrities"?

If a new way forward followed the line being taken here, two integrities would be much less about responding to a formulary for blessing a same-gender relationship and much more about how our church handles questions of ordination and appointment corresponding to two differing understandings of "rightly ordered" ordinands and clergy.

In one integrity the understanding of "rightly ordered" would remain what it currently is, in the other integrity the understanding of "rightly ordered" would be enlarged to include "ordered" same-sex partnerships.

(By "ordered" I mean, "according to some objective measure." The AWF recommends that measure be "a blessed civil marriage" but there has been criticism of that proposal and it may be that in a new proposal there is also a new proposal about what the measure should be (e.g. "a civil marriage, whether blessed or not") but here I am not going to offer further discussion on this particular issue.)

Now this is where things do get tricky and as we  try to work out a better way than AWF's "diocese by diocese" approach we can see that while it is easy to criticise this particular "way forward" it is a challenge to find a better way forward. (And I am by no means confident that what I outline here is that better way forward but I think it may offer a better sense of safeguarding of convictions for individuals and for parishes than AWF's "diocese by diocese" basis).

A first level of "two integrities"

Individual office-holders, deacons, priests and bishops may wish to indicate that they identify with one integrity or the other. This likely would impact on appointment in respect of the second level.

A second level of "two integrities"

Individual parishes and other ministry units may wish to indicate that they identify with one integrity or the other. This likely would impact on aspects of working together within the same diocese where a ministry unit's identification is different to the diocese to which it belongs.

A third level of "two integrities"

Individual episcopal units may wish to indicate that they identify with one integrity or the other. This may impact on candidates offering for ordained ministry and on applicants applying for licensed positions.

A fourth level of "two integrities"

I am going to put this level in terms of a question to be resolved rather than offer my resolution(s).

How would we work through the situation when a deacon or priest and/or  (a) (their) parish identify with one integrity and the licensing/overseeing bishop identifies with the other integrity?

It would take a lot more thought on my part and yours to work out whether these "two integrities" needed some kind of formality like a "warden" or a "council" to guide and facilitate each integrity. As I write I am inclined to think that the two integrities could be about making a formal note of some kind (individuals on a CV, parishes in a self-description on a website, etc). We already have these notes informally: Fred is an evangelical, St Swithin's will never have a woman as vicar, St Jeremiah's will only have a liberal theological priest who will wear a chasuble. Might we have them formally?

I have done my dash for this week. Your comments welcomed, especially any improvements.

Summary

If we were to start again while building on learnings from AWF and the process that has led to that report and its recommendations then we could consider:

- work on common ground between various sides, seeking before a GS (2018? 2020?) some agreement as to what the sides could be committed to, all premised on the promise of Motion 30 to find a way for two integrities to operate in this church;

- we take particular care that any resulting formulary expresses what people may believe and not what they must believe when signing licences and adherence to General Synod;

- we formulate an approach to "two integrities" which permits individuals, ministry units as well as dioceses to belong - if they choose - to one or other integrity or to neither;

- we attempt the very difficult if not impossible and answer the question I pose above re "Level 4";

*Appendix:

Briefly, my own suggestion for a respectable case in conservative eyes is one which (a) acknowledges different assessments of what the Bible says and does not say about homosexuality, (b) in particular acknowledges that while the Bible is clear in its prohibitions re sex between two people of the same gender, it can reasonably (but not necessarily) be interpreted as silent on the specific question of a marriage-like relationship between two people of the same gender committed to lifelong loving partnership, (c) assesses a permanent relationship between two people of the same gender as pragmatically better than either a series of impermanent relationships or an unbearable life of celibacy, (d) acknowledges that the church itself has opened a pathway to remarriage of divorcees which takes a generous, non-literal understanding of Jesus' and Paul's own teaching on remarriage after divorce and thus as a consequence acknowledges that some couple relationships do not fit neatly into what otherwise appears the clear teaching of Scripture, and thus (e) opens the possibility that in good conscience a marriage-like relationship between two people of the same gender might be both prayed for and given thanks for by bishops/priests subscribe to this kind of case.