Thursday, April 17, 2014

War or peace? Wrath or example?

War or peace?

We have been having some debates here on war versus pacifism. Soon on TV screens we will see the moving story of conscientious objectors in the First World War including Archibald Baxter, father of our most famous poet, James K Baxter. Called Field Punishment No 1, it screens this Tuesday at 8.30 pm on TV One.

In this year of the centenary of the beginning of the First World War, with Ukraine being torn apart by Russian manipulation of nationalist sentiment (or is Russia rescuing Russians under threat of Ukrainian nationalism?) we continue to make the War to End All Wars among the biggest of all lies humanity has told itself.

Locally here in Anglican NZ, in the heart of our own residential theological college, the spirit of military service is alive and well, as you can read here.

For Anglicans in NZ, where, as the article reminds us, we have very strong links to the military, especially via chaplaincies, questions about Christian duty to Queen and country have the potential to divide us.

We could debate whether if this were 1914 we would go to war in foreign fields for the sake of control of Europe. An interesting and safe academic debate.

What if we asked ourselves whether Russians under Ukrainian yokes or Ukrainian interests affected by Russian expansionism is worth fighting for? Or the plight of Syrian rebels?

Wrath or example?

We have also had some debates over the years about God's wrath. It struck me reading Exodus 12 this morning that if the roots of the action of God in Christ on the cross go back to the first Passover (and beyond, to the Fall, in case anyone thinks I have a short-term view of history) then God's wrathful judgment is intrinsic to understanding the cross.

The first Passover is the story of God's wrath being visited on Egypt. The unjust treatment of Israel as Egypt's slave incurred God's just response: let my people go. When polite request for justice failed, God's wrath was invoked. Even a series of severe plagues was insufficient to make Pharaoh repent. Finally, God's judgment would come though the angel of death. For Israel the way through this ultimate plague was to kill a lamb, smear doorpost and lintel with blood, thus signifying that that angel of death was to pass over that house and family. Israel escaped the wrath through the Passover being celebrated for the first time.

At his Last Supper, our Lord celebrated Passover with a transformative action which changed that meal forever for his followers. Breaking bread and blessing wine, equating them with his body to be broken and his blood to be poured out, Jesus became the new Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7, John 1:29, 36). Through his blood his followers would be saved from the wrathful judgment of God: 'Whoever eats of this bread will live forever' (John 6:58). The implication of rejecting Jesus the bread of God (as some did immediately after Jesus finished his teaching in John 6) is judgment: 'The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge' (John 12:48).

There are other understandings to bring to the cross, including demonstration of God's love for us in Christ Jesus and offering an example of patient endurance through suffering (Romans 5:8; 1 Peter 2:21). But for those uncomfortable with the wrath of God being part and parcel of the event of the cross, some reckoning needs to be made with the interpretation of our Lord himself, that on the cross a new Passover took place.

The good news, of course, is that once again, blood serves to save people from the judgment of God, from God's justice being enacted on those of us who have acted unjustly. Through the blood of the Lamb we receive mercy undeserved.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Consequences of being Justin Welby

Recently Archbishop Justin Welby fronted up to the public via media by way of an hour of talkback radio in England. Questions came in from the public.He responded. One response in particular has generated enormous follow up discussion, debate, perhaps even scorn. One line into the controversy is via a linked blog, Psephizo and a post entitled, What did Justin Welby say about gays and violence in Africa? The controversy, you see, turning on the extent to which ++Justin made some violence against Christians in Africa consequential on decisions in England about same sex marriage.

+Gene Robinson weighs in on the matter via The Daily Beast. It is a thoughtful piece which expresses thoughts I have read elsewhere, including concerns that the ++Welby approach kinda gives into murderers.

Is the matter, nevertheless, one that raises questions about what it means to be 'Anglican'? I have also been reading (but cannot now recall where) that if we go too far in the direction of (so to speak) local concerns trumping global consequences, do we not undermine understanding of episcopacy, with (as it happens) specific reference to the episcopacy of +Gene Robinson himself?

Anglicanism as a global phenomenon is a tension between the local and the global. The Anglican Communion is a communion of churches and not (it is often noted) itself a church. Thus the churches which make up this Communion are autonomous (they can make decisions via General Synods/Conventions without reference to higher authority) while the Communion when it meets cannot make decisions which the churches must implement. So far so good. And thus far we can certainly note that if autonomy means autonomy then local churches should be able to make local decisions about, say, gay marriage or blessing same sex partnerships, or, uncomfortably for many observers, about supporting draconian anti-gay legislation without acknowledgement of any consequences for other churches in the Communion.

But does autonomy mean autonomy?

I suggest that, in the peculiarity of the Anglican Communion, we do not have a straightforward understanding of autonomy, that, in fact, we have a sneaky version which amounts to 'when it suits, autonomous means autonomous, but when it doesn't suit, it doesn't.'

Bear with me.

When TEC ordained Gene Robinson to be bishop in 2003 it exercised its autonomy to ordain whom it saw fit to ordain. In that particular context in time and Anglican debate, the autonomous American church said, 'Global concerns about this mean zilch.' But when we fast forward to 2008 we found that +Gene Robinson was not invited to the Lambeth Conference that year. A snub on any reckoning. Effectively the Conference via its president, the then ABC, ++Rowan Williams, said 'You are not recognised as a bishop admissible to this global meeting of Anglican bishops.' A conclusion we may draw from that event is that sometimes autonomous Anglican churches acting on local concerns will effectively perform sacramental actions, such as ordination, with local but not global recognition of the action or actions.

If autonomy means autonomy then no snub would be perceived: TEC had the right to ordain +Gene Robinson; ++Rowan Williams had the right to not invite him to be a bishop beyond his diocese of New Hampshire.

But there was a perceived snub. Anglicans around the world were pained by the refusal to invite. Autonomy does not quite mean autonomy when we do not want it to mean that. A bishop, we say, ordained locally is available for ministry globally.

What makes this so? What makes for this less than straightforward state of autonomy? It is the fact that the reality of how we understand the Communion is that it is not actually a communion of autonomous churches but a communion of churches with a degree of autonomy and a degree of interdependency with other churches. That interdependency concerns entering into a series of common interests. Communion meetings of bishops, of primates, and of bishops/clergy/laity foster those common interests and do so in a form of theological speech which is laced with distinctive themes and memes derived from distinctively Anglican speech set down in documents such as the Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Lambeth Quadrilateral, to say nothing of the writings of popular Anglican theologians.

Bishops chosen locally should share in the common interests of the global Communion. Meeting together at Lambeth is a way to deepen understanding of those interests and perhaps to develop new commonalities. When the commonalities are not shared there may be problems over meeting together (as there were in 2008, noting not only the snub, but many bishops who chose not to take up their invitation).

Perhaps ++Justin misjudged the 'consequences' of local actions on other parts of the world, and perhaps he misjudged the consequences of his own words, as +Gene Robinson notes. My own judgment is that he made an important note to all of us about connections across a global communion and the note works in various ways re a variety of actions at this time (cf. my comment on the Psephizo post linked above). Nevertheless there has been wide debate following++Justin's brush with radio and clearly a number of commentators are angry with ++Justin.

What ++Justin got absolutely right, however, is his underlying presupposition: the Communion is not a communion of completely and utterly autonomous churches. It is a Communion of semi-autonomous churches which should take care not to claim autonomy only when it suits. Further, this group of churches is a communion, a group with common interests fostered by interdependency which need affirming not disputing. For as long as we dispute common characteristics we run significant risks of destroying the Communion as the disputes highlight autonomy and undo unity. The key to our future is to find out what interdependence means, the balance between autonomy and dependence on one another. We set that back when we rejected the Covenant.

++Justin does not wish to be the ABC who finds himself without a Communion. He is working hard at renewing interdependence. He has his work cut out. His critics are zeroed in on his every word. Should he prove fallible he will be mercilessly criticised.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The most Christian PM since ...


David Cameron is on an evangelistic roll as he speaks publicly once again about his faith, the work of the Church of England and the importance of faith for morality. Thanks Church Times!


David Cameron seems an enigmatic kind of chap. At best, is he an 'all things to all men' kind of leader, trying to please this constituency and that? This, it seems, is to the despair of many a Tory. At worst, is his Prime Ministership a charm offensive which hides an agenda for maintaining the classy British society of which he happens to be at the top as a rich, Old Etonian? This, according to many a left-winger, is the real Cameronian inside oil. Either way, some have wondered about the Christian commitment of David Cameron. But on that score we now have this to consider: with H/T to ++Cranmer, we hear David Cameron saying some good things, including this at a recent 'Easter reception' at 10 Downing Street:

" I’m proud to hold a reception for Christians here in Downing Street and proud to be a Christian myself and to have my children at a church school, which – I often get my moment of greatest peace – not every week, I’m ashamed to say, but perhaps every other week I pop in to the Thursday morning sung Eucharist beautiful service in St Mary Abbots, and I find a little bit of peace and hopefully a little bit of guidance."

He goes on to make an observation I included in my sermon yesterday (there was an AGM to follow the service):

"This third thing I wanted to say, which I suppose is a little bit more controversial, but I was reflecting on this meeting tonight and what to share with you and I have a thought – which is not a new thought, but I think it is a true thought –which is when I think of the challenges which our churches face in our country and when I think about the challenges political institutions face in our countries – in our country, I see a lot of similarities. We both sometimes can get wrapped up in bureaucracy; we both sometimes can talk endlessly about policies and programmes and plans without explaining what that really means for people’s lives. We can sometimes get obsessed by statistics and figures and how to measure things. 
Whereas actually, what we both need more of is evangelism. More belief that we can get out there and actually change people’s lives and make a difference and improve both the spiritual, physical and moral state of our country, and we should be unashamed and clear about wanting to do that. And I’m sure there are people here of all political persuasions and no political persuasions, and I’m certainly not asking you to agree with everything the government does, but I hope you can see – hopefully more than moments, but real moments of evangelism, enthusiasm and wanting to make our world a better place."

There is more at the link, including heartfelt concern for persecution of Christians. But perhaps the nicest comment he makes concerns the pastoral ministry of parish priests, referring directly to the priest of the parish whose school his children go to and his own local priest in his constituency:

"So it’s lovely to have here tonight the vicar from St Mary Abbots school, Gillean Craig, and also the vicar who looks after me spiritually in the constituency, Mark Abrey in Chadlington, who, when I often – anyone asks me about the pastoral care that many vicars carry out across the country, I remember 5 years ago when we had to mourn the loss and bury my son Ivan, I can’t think of anyone who was more loving or thoughtful or kind than Mark. And of course, Ivan would have been 12 yesterday, which has had me pause to think about that."
Britain's most Christian PM since Margaret Thatcher?

But then Giles Fraser pours a bit of (needed) cold water on the idea of DC's Christianity being the meat and bones kind that gets you crucified ... here.

That critique fires bullets all around. Is what I believe and stand for as a Christian likely to get me crucified?

Monday, April 14, 2014

The politics of Jesus (Monday 14 April 2014)

I really like what I see of our NZ Prime Minister John and his wife Bronagh Key. They seem extraordinarily pleasant, open, transparent people with the best interests of New Zealanders at heart. If you have time watch this lovely interview by John Campbell as he meets and eats with the Keys as part of a series on our political leaders at home.

Just before readers who do not like John Key and/or detest his policies switch off, I will be trying to bring you further instalments of John Campbell's series,**** so some fairness to all leaders is experienced here. Further, I don't think I am particularly biased towards National Party PMs: from the past (within my lifetime) I have admired Norman Kirk and Bill Rowling, detested Rob Muldoon and his style of politics, and looked in awe at the talents of David Lange. Though not when they were PM, I have met and much liked Mike Moore and Geoffrey Palmer. I was once enthralled to have a two minute conversation with Helen Clark when she was Leader of the Opposition: she is one of our greatest Kiwis. I was at primary school with David Parker (current Deputy Leader of the Labour Party) and have had a couple of occasions of meeting him during his career in politics: as nice a bloke now as he was a school friend then.

Possibly only Norman Kirk of those named above came from as hard a family upbringing as John Key had. My admiration for John Key partly stems from the fact that (unbeknown to me) he was growing up about 800m from where I lived in Bryndwr. My street was as middle class as any street in NZ. John lived in a tough state housing street that I steered clear of. He was brought up by a single mother. By all accounts there was not a lot of money. His life story, of moving from a poor upbringing to becoming one of NZ's richest men (prior to politics) and now to being our Prime Minister, is a genuine story illustrating the possibilities of betterment in a capitalist democracy (both here and in other countries where he made his fortune such as the UK and the USA).

But as we contemplate such things today we find ourselves matching present day economic conditions with the politics of Jesus which includes valuing of economic equality as an expression of equality of persons entering the kingdom of God as equal bearers of the divine image (Genesis 1), equal as sinners needing salvation ('all have sinned'), and equal as recipients of God's merciful love ('God so loved the world). What does the politics of Jesus mean for Christians working out which economic future to vote for?

Cutting to the chase, within the capitalist sphere of the world, Christians along with others consider the possibility of Communism as a system and (in my understanding) quickly reject it as proven not to work (Cf. failure of Soviet Russia and Communist China, both now (state-guided) capitalist economies) and also as destructive of basic human freedoms as it was imposed (mass starvations, ethnic cleansing, labour camps). That appears to leave some form of capitalism as the only option for the method of economic activity in the world and (again, cutting to the chase) presents as with the agony of supporting a system that poses equality of economic opportunity versus equality of outcomes: the former can be implemented consistent with human freedom, the latter cannot be done without dictatorship.

The story of John Key rising from poverty in Bryndwr to wealth in Parnell (especially via the key 'opportunity' means of education) is the perfect illustration of equality of economic opportunity on this scenario. When he was at Burnside High School (then NZ's largest secondary school), 2000 pupils from a mixture of socio-economic backgrounds, according to the narrative of modern capitalism, all had equal opportunity, if chosen and pursued, to become "John Key." Less trumpeted, of course, is the simple mathematical fact that if 2000 pupils are at one secondary school being educated for success, no economy can support all 2000 becoming extraordinarily wealthy: someone has to make their wealth at the expense of others. If one, say, rises to own and manage a supermarket, others are needed to stock the shelves and run the checkouts, one can realise  capital advancement out of the business, the rest settle for wages.

Are these the only alternatives, opportunity versus outcome? Does equality for people within capitalism (which can only sustain equality of opportunity) boil down to inequality of outcomes? These days there is a twist to the question: are we also doomed to have a system which offers increasing inequality rather than some kind of inequality in a settled state? Are we doomed to a situation in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and nothing can be done about the ever-widening gap?

As I best understand the following article, 'Capitalism simply isn't working' about economist Thomas Piketty's book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, there is another way forward, a way which has been followed previously in the twentieth century, in which governments through taxation (we might even say 'actual, effective taxation') attempt to ameliorate the gap between rich and poor. (The cynic might say, 'At least revive the prospects of the squeezed middle-class'). This is undoubtedly attractive as taxation as an imposed redistribution of wealth is a very long way from the totalitarian methods of Soviet Russia and Communist China. Yet the point remains in the article that the globalization of economic conditions means that country A changing its taxation system does not present the advantages to that country which prevailed in, say, the 1930s or 1950s so long as countries B to Z refuse to change their tax rates.

Our election in NZ is not an election of a 'one world government'. It is just for the government of an incredibly tiny percentage of the world's population. What are we to do for the equal benefit of all NZers in a world where our economy depends as much on wage/tax rates in China as it does on (say) America's attempts to assist income for its farmers via subsidies?

**** I now note that David Cunliffe is going to be a no show for this particular series of interviews:

-  - -  -  -
As a bit of a postscript and so I do not lose sight of the link, I note John Pilger's plaintive cry of the heart about twenty years of economic life in post-apartheid South Africa. His article illustrates the dilemma we seem to face re choices. On the one hand his characterization of the control of the post-apartheid economy by the same forces that controlled it beforehand is troubling. In theological terms, Mammon's rule over the kingdom has been both unchanged and unchallenged. On the other hand his own recipe for an alternative, essentially widespread nationalization of industries and massive control via state intervention in economic activity is a recipe for failure. South Africans might be more equal today in their share of wealth as a result but their non-participation in the usual trading conditions of the world (e.g they would have been battered by the banking system on Pilger's approach) but that wealth would be much diminished. But particularly poor (in my view) is Pilger's failure to acknowledge the likelihood that a government controlled economy creates enormous opportunity for cronyism: the operators approved by such government, from Cabinet ministers downwards becomes the new rich. To truly change the system one needs to change the individuals ...

Friday, April 11, 2014

Anglicans should stop driving cars and flying to meetings, NOW!

It is a little difficult to take Archbishop Desmond Tutu seriously these days. However I would not like to stand in the way of those who wish to take him seriously. In this case, on divesting one's lifestyle away from reliance on fossil fuels.

Accordingly I look forward to reports from those who do take him seriously that they are selling their cars, forswearing off flying to meetings (Who are Anglicans? "We meet") and refusing to use electric heaters until the cessation of all coal, natural gas and diesel fired power stations contributing to their national power grids. It goes without saying that no fires will be lit by Anglicans taking Tutu seriously.

Let's be clear: oil companies are not to blame for oil usage, nor coal companies for burning coal. Nor are investors in these companies. The blame lies solely with consumers. With you and me and our use of cars, purchases from supermarkets of products delivered to them by trucks, turning on heaters in the middle of winter, and buying tools, BBQs and other steel or iron products from hardware stores.

In one way Tutu is right: we could solve the contribution of fossil fuels to climate change at a stroke if our consumption habits change. But he blames the wrong people for the problem and thus asks the wrong people to change.

This, by Tutu in his Guardian article, is just nuts, very difficult to take seriously as a contribution to effective action on the matter:

"People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change."

The real truth is far from pleasant and way too personal. It is this:

People of conscience need to break their ties with consumption habits with contribute to the injustice of climate change.

I look forward to your reports via comments of your changed consumption habits ...

Incidentally, Tutu's contribution seems to miss the point that a very simple way to change the climate would be for the human population to radically reduce itself. We are in the state we are in as much as anything because we have grown the global population to a point almost unimaginable (say) 100 years ago. We could reduce our numbers by having less children, knowing the consequence will soon be billions of elderly people without sufficient work force generating the income to support them as they age towards death. Anyone up for that?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

That's just odd- can anyone explain it?

With H/T to Anglican Curmudgeon we fly this morning to Norway - neutral marriage law since 2008- where the national church has agreed at its latest General Synod to its stance on marriage:

According to this report, the GS votes mean the Norwegian church is:

NOT in favour of same sex couples marrying in a religious ceremony

NOT keen on, in fact rejected "A proposal for a prayer recognizing two equal theological views on same sex marriage and giving the church’s blessing to same sex couples after they married in a civil ceremony".

NOT keen on, in fact shut down also "A plan to introduce a prayer, without acknowledging two equal views"

so, obviously, this church is committed to the status quo that marriage is between one man and one woman ... don't be silly because the General Synod is also

NOT in favour of the status quo that marriage is between one man and one woman.

"It meant there was no clear statement from the Kirkem√łtet on Tuesday on the church’s gay marriage stance."

Explanation's of this curious set of votes welcomed in the comments ... it is beyond your blogger with his very small brain :)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Ma Whea? Commission: A nightmare or a mare's nest?

I am going to jot down responses to the Ma Whea? Commission's offering of ten options to General Synod, the report of the Doctrine Commission, with a day by day addition to this post for a week or so.

Key Links re what is being presented

Anglican Taonga Report

Ma Whea? Commission's full report in PDF

The Ten Options

Precis of Doctrine Commission's report

Doctrine Commission's full report in PDF

A blogpost or two worth looking at re response

Making Tracts (Bishop Jim White)

Monday 7 April

Reading around the traps (i.e. posts and comments to the posts) I suggest that one way to reflect on the situation before our church is that of two broad groupings talking past each other because the situation is seen in a completely different perspective by each broad grouping. (Thus the one bit of the reports presented on Taonga which connects with this reality is the news that the Doctrine Commission could not agree on a number of matters).

For one group the issue before us is small (and the group cannot understand why so much energy is expended about it), involving a modest extension of rights within our church, an additional rite for our church and, possibly, a tiny change to our doctrine of marriage by removal of gender differentiation as a sine qua non of marriage. In terms of the ten Options, C, D and I could come to the forefront of consideration with little or no ramifications, according to this line of thinking (as I detect it, reading around the traps ... I might be misreading).

For another group the issue before us is big (and thus a lot of energy is being expended because the future shape and even life itself of our church is at stake). On one point this group would agree with the other group, greater clarity re 'rights' within our church is important. Thus we read in the report on the Doctrine Commission,

'The Commission states clearly that the Church should stand for the inclusion of those who are marginalized, even while the shape of that inclusion is debated.'. 

But for the remainder of matters, this group's thinking runs along these lines: there is nothing 'modest' about a change which decides we can bless in God's name what God has prohibited, nor about removing gender differentiation as core to our understanding of marriage. For that matter even adding a rite to our church's set of rites is not a neutral action for it would raise the question of whether clergy would be disciplined for refusing to offer the rite, to say nothing of the question of people being refused ordination or appointment to licensed positions because of such refusal. I note that under Option I there is a chilling remark to the effect that it is a serious option to refuse to permit clergy to not offer the rite:

'“An exception could be considered to permit clergy to elect not to perform blessings of persons in same sex relationships.”

Only, 'could be considered'??

Within this group I detect an alertness to the possibility of naievity. The course of secular debate in Western societies has quickly moved from 'de-criminalization' of homosexual acts, to 'civil unions', to 'gay marriage.' Wouldn't it be foolish to presume that agreement now to Options C, D, or I would settle the matter once and for all? Surely the real agenda of those pushing for change is to secure Option E? Why not 'get it over and be done with it?'

For this group, seeing large rather than small changes before us, of the ten options, J seems the least we could agree to at this time - A would be satisfactory, B plausible but demanding. In ascending order of urgent priority for consideration F, G, and H must be reckoned with if change is going to happen.

But F, G and H are arguably 'nightmare' options. But the reality, whichever way we might go as we reflect on the options is that we have a 'mare's nest' because we have two quite different views at work as to how big or small the issues are.

The mare's nest also involves Option K which the Commission has not presented, and maybe not thought about ... more later.

Tuesday 8 April

Very interesting discussion on the Making Tracts post linked above - please read.

Reading there and elsewhere, and thinking further ... these scenarios/questions strike me:

X: We retain the status quo because we cannot agree on a way forward ... but perhaps also because we recognise that whatever we do, change or don't change, our church will suffer loss, and we cannot work out which is the greater loss if we pursue one option rather than another.

Y: We change (or signal 'change in principle, two years study, change in 2016 in practice') but will we be able to sustain Two Integrities? Will those pressing for change admit safeguards? Will they be permanent or for the time-being? What kind of Two Integrities would we have? Referring back to discussion on Making Tracts (link above) would the Two Integrities be akin to trying to promote both Baptism of Infants of Believers and Baptism of Adult Believers Only (something Anglicans have not done previously) or to living with Military Chaplains and Pacifists in our midst?

Z: We bite the bullet and press for Dismemberment: choose you this day whom you will bless. (At least we might allow ourselves a process through two years for orderly Dismemberment). But would the rump 'gay church' survive? If we pressed for Change Now, Dismemberment Now some very strong parishes (i.e. with many younger generation families) could depart. Almost certainly on such a draconian cleaving of the ways, the Diocese of Nelson (with a theological college in its midst) would walk apart. Perhaps one other NZ Diocese too, along with the Diocese of Polynesia. Many parishes remaining would consist of elderly parishioners incapable of embracing adaptation to the 21st century, unable to put forward candidates for ordained ministry in sufficient numbers to maintain ordained leadership going forward. Within ten years the rump church would be in severe crisis mode re person power in the ministry (though likely not financially as existing trust funds would spread better over fewer ministries). Hmm. Not an exciting scenario. Perhaps General Synod won't go there!

In some ways our church is considering a 'zero sum' game: if we chose one scenario we keep so many and lose so many; if we choose another scenario we lose that much and keep that many. Put another way, our dilemma (arguably, when all is said and done) is whether we wish to include conservatives and marginalise gay couples and their supporters or marginalise conservatives and canonically include gay couples and bring peace to their supporters. We would like to (so to speak) keep both groups happy. We worry that we cannot do so. If there were a simple answer to the dilemma we would not be a church with ten options to consider!

There is also an eleventh Option K to consider which I will think about further while on the road today ... comments may not be posted till late tonight.

Wednesday 9 April

Reading the ten options I do not find any particular sense of reflection on the future of our church in terms of growth and development, in terms of, we might say, riffing off from Option H, 'Planned Memberment.'

The focus, understandably, through the ten options is, 'What will we decide?' and 'How will making a decision, one way or another, affect current membership of the church?'

But we live in a desperate situation for our church, one of widespread ageing and decline of congregations BUT NOT a situation beyond change, transformation and a new day dawning. A new day dawning, however, is about recruiting new members into the life of our church.

None of the ten options addresses the question of what kind of church in the future will new people want to join (whether as Christians transferring from other churches or as new Christians responding to the gospel preached from our ministry unit bases).

In the present context some, of course, are likely to say 'Well, no one will want to join a church out of touch with the times' and others might say, 'Not so. Who would join a church which looks so in touch with the times that all distinctiveness of message and lifestyle is lost?' Personally I would prefer to ask this question:

'What messages being preached in word and deed today are drawing new members into the life of the Anglican church in these islands?'

My Option K is then this: 'We should decide re marriage and the possibility of blessing relationships which are not marriage to make changes (or no changes) which support and foster the messages being preached in word and deed today which draw new members into our churches'.

Would doing anything else foster the continuing decline of our church?

Friday 11 April

Our dilemma as a church is neatly captured by a comment made on Making Tracts - link above - from which I cite a small portion:

"In the NZ society, unlike Australia, there is no official discrimination except in the church. Even the visiting future king attended a playgroup yesterday with a same sex couple and their child. It was harldy big news.Even in my age group of 60 plus I do not experience any discrimination day to day. Most of my friends however do not go near a church.I do not support church missionary activity because I would not recommend any young gay person become involved with the church. That way lies misery."

I suggest that no one on the conservative side of the argument wishes the church to be a place where it is viewed as the only community within society where there is 'official discrimination' against gay members; nor does anyone wish the church to be a place where gay members are 'miserable'.

Yet no one on the conservative side of the argument wishes the church to be a place where our understanding of the will of God is determined by sweeping social change or parliamentary law. Social change expressed in law may be God's will (or at least in accordance with God's will) but shouldn't the church discern whether that is the case or not? And shouldn't our discernment be undertaken in terms of our understanding of Scripture and tradition?

Solomon: what is your cellphone number?

Sunday 14 April

I like this comment by Gail Young on Anglican Taonga's report re the commission (but it needs to be read in tandem with the comment below by Rosemary Neave):


Gail Young

The Catholic and Apostolic Church that was founded by Christ, Matt.16:18, and served by the Apostles and early church fathers as recorded in the Book of Acts calls mankind to define themselves by their relationship to their saviour Christ. Perhaps it is now time for all the modern liberalists who wish to define themselves outside of this doctrine should be like the rest of the modern world and move on too.
Contrary to Rosemary's comments, the church has no desire to throw the "gays" out but like the rest us, their inclusion is contingent upon keeping His commandments John 14:15.
Those attending the General Synod at Waitangi in May would do well to remember that the church and doctrine belong to Christ and not to man and that it is our duty to live in His church for Him and through Him.

rosemary Neave

Sigh - is any of this news? As one friend said we could have come up with this list on the back of an envelope over a drink.

I feel a little sorry for the Commission, the Church handed them a hot potato, because they could not come up with a solution themselves. And now it is back in the Church's hands.

For God's sake make a decision! We are so over this, much of the world has moved on, and can not believe we are still debating this.

If the Church decides to kick gays out, then do it, put us out of our misery. Show your true colours.
Justice delayed is justice denied."

Then ...

Mollie Hemingway, in the context of the USA has a stirring column re marriage and debates (or suppression of debate) in her country. Here is the heart of her pro-marriage as it always has been argument:

"Well, I know that we’ve had years of criminally one-sided media coverage, cowardly political leaders and elite cultural views that have conveyed to you that the only reason anyone might think sexual complementarity is key to marriage is bigotry. ... There’s no question marriage has been treated dramatically differently than other relationships by governments and society. Why? Is it that it features a more vibrant or emotional connection? Or is there some feature that is a difference in kind – that marks it out as something that ought to be socially structured? We usually don’t want government in our other relationships, right? So why is marriage singled out throughout all time and human history as a different type of recognized relationship?
Well, what singled it out was that sex was involved. Sex. ... And why does that matter? Well, there’s precisely one bodily system for which each of us only has half of the system. It’s the one that involves sex between one man and one woman. It’s with respect to that system that the unit is the mated pair. In that system, it’s not just a relationship that is the union of minds, wills or important friendships. It’s the literal union of bodies. In sexual congress, in intercourse between a man and a woman, you are literally coordinated to a single bodily end.In every other respect we as humans act as individual organisms except when it comes to intercourse between men and women — then we work together as one flesh. Coordination toward that end — even when procreation is not achieved — makes the unity here. This is what marriage law was about. Not two friends building a house together. Or two people doing other sexual activities together. It was about the sexual union of men and women and a refusal to lie about what that union and that union alone produces: the propagation of humanity. This is the only way to make sense of marriage laws throughout all time and human history. Believing in this truth is not something that is wrong, and should be a firing offense. It’s not something that’s wrong, but should be protected speech. It’s actually something that’s right. It’s right regardless of how many people say otherwise. If you doubt the truth of this reality, consider your own existence, which we know is due to one man and one woman getting together. Consider the significance of what this means for all of humanity, that we all share this."

Tuesday 15 April

 With H/T to a colleague for two of the three links below, I note the following:

A new crisis for the C of E re gay marriage, precisely because a clergyman has married his male partner and thus appears to have flouted C of E rules.

Andrew Brown comments on the delicacies of the situation, including that the clergyman is secularly employed as a chaplain while holding a bishop's licence as a canon. I am not sure that Andrew Brown has a particularly dramatic headline - creaking compromises are what the C of E is made up of!

Then a link to an interpretation of Leviticus. What do you think, brilliant or incorrect?