Friday, March 27, 2015

Anglican Future Conference Down Under

460 conferees, including 40 Kiwis are meeting together in Melbourne, Wednesday to Friday this week to hear about and to discuss the future of Anglicanism, with special reference to Anglican churches Down Under.

David Ould posts here. With an interview of keynote speaker Ashley Null here and interview of Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya here.

Sydney Anglicans posts a report here.

During the conference the Australian branch of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans was launched, at an event generously sponsored by the Anglican Church League.

As an observation from a distance - and I am regretful that I could not be at the conference myself - I am intrigued at the emphasis on the Anglican church being reformed, protestant and evangelical in the ACL report on the launch of the FCA (Australia), Gavin Poole says,

'We promote ministry that is reformed, protestant and evangelical.
By reformed we mean ministry that has its genesis in the sixteenth century reformers who recaptured the Biblical faith that we are saved through faith in Christ alone and that God is sovereign in life and salvation.
By protestant, we protest Biblical aberrations, name and warn against false teaching. Our unity is in the gospel, not structure and institution.
By evangelical, we fully trust in the powerful gospel of Jesus Christ which provides the only solution to human rebellion. The gospel is not just one of many messages but our only one.'

On the one hand, this is a simple truth about Anglicanism: we are not (say) Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox because we took a specific pathway in the 16th century which led us to be a reformed yet episcopal, protestant yet established, and evangelical yet inclusive of other streams church.

On the other hand, I wonder about the emphasis on the genesis of Anglicanism in the genius of the 16th century. Was not the reformation a cry of 'ad fontes'? A determination to re-find the genesis and genius of the church in the first century writings of the apostles as they witnessed to Jesus Christ as Son of God?

I cherish our heritage in the 16th century and there remain theological tendencies and errors which the Reformers help us to combat, but as an evangelical I would love to see the first two emphases above in a new evangelical Anglican movement for the 21st century being:

- evangelism: a Spirit empowered apostolic witness to Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord;
- renewal of the Anglican church: our love for our church as Anglicans fuels our desire to see us being the best church we can be for God, a desire which on occasions will lead to protest but which will also lead to faithful service within our 'structure and institution'.

To be quite blunt: I do not see how Anglicans with an Anglican ecclesiology can divide 'gospel' from 'structure and institution'. If we are not united in gospel, structure and institution, we are not united as Anglicans. Anglicanism is a package deal: gospel proclaimed in the context of 'structure and institution'.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

New Woman Bishop with a Twist [Updated]

Scanning the headlines on Twitter this morning I noticed that the new Bishop of Hull is to be the CofE's second woman bishop, Alison White.

Delving further I notice that her husband Frank is already a bishop.

So this must be the world's first husband and wife set of bishops!

UPDATE

And then there were (will be) three as a new Bishop for Gloucester is announced, the first woman to be a diocesan bishop in the C of E.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A note about 1 Timothy

Introduction
'
In comments recently here I have asked the question whether those who use 1 Timothy 2 as an argument against women being ordained as presbyters or bishops, or against women teaching mixed gender congregations also implement the instructions on widows in 1 Timothy 5.

My point in raising the question has been 'defensive' because commenters raised questions about my consistency on certain issues. But I realise it is likely to be read as aggressive (e.g. in the sense that raising the question could be interpreted as 'I dismiss your claims about 1 Timothy 2 if you do not consistently follow through on 1 Timothy 5').

So let me walk through the important point about looking at 1 Timothy 5 in comparison with 1 Timothy 2, a point which I hope is beyond any need I feel to be defensive. I hope also, especially in respect of the Epilogue below, that I demonstrating an awareness of and appreciation of arguments for male leadership and thus that this post is eirenic in both intention and delivery.

Note on 1 Timothy

One of the questions I have long had about the prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:12 is whether it is sufficient to bear the weight of applying to the life of the church through every generation in every culture and in every context.

Is it a universal law of the church or a command for a particular occasion, an occasional law? The occasion in 1 Timothy would then - in my view - be the occasion when the church is under threat of false teaching damaging or even destroying it

When a well supported understanding of the word authentein is 'to usurp authority' (interestingly, the translation of the KJV), the question arises whether women are being prohibited from being appointed to positions of authority in the church - appointed that is by proper authority in a church (such as a council or synod).

In terms of the question of whether a universal or occasional law of the church is being laid down in 1 Timothy 2:12, the word authentein meaning 'to usurp authority' implies the verse is setting out an occasional law, a law for the occasion when a woman usurps authority with a view to teaching error.

That is, 1 Timothy 2:12, on this logic, is not laying down a universal law which forbids any woman from ever having authority in the church in any and every generation, culture, context. Also, on this logic 1 Timothy 2:12 is not a law forbidding an authorised council or synod of the church making an appointment of a woman otherwise bound by the terms of her appointment to teach true doctrine.

This approach, thinking of 1 Timothy 2:12 as an occasional law and not a universal law is strengthened when we consider what is said about widows in 1 Timothy 5.

In this chapter Paul continues from earlier chapters to set out his views on how Timothy should order the church in Ephesus. Mostly what he sets out about widows can readily be ascribed to universally (e.g. in terms of respect for widows (5:3), family obligations to care for family members being fulfilled (5:8)) but some aspects warrant closer inspection in respect of what might be occasional.

In 5:4, for instance, those Christians privileged to live in a welfare state are likely to ask if they continue to have an obligation to monetarily provide for their widowed mother or grandmother when the state may take care of that obligation.

In 5:9 Paul speaks of a 'list' on which widows' names are to be put 'if she is not less than sixty years old and has been married only once' (with further conditions in verses 10-11, and see also 16). Anecdotally (and confidently) I would say that no church in New Zealand keeps such a list. I would further suggest that if we did start keeping such lists we likely would argue among ourselves about '60' and about 'married only once'! In other words, I suggest that what Paul instructs in verses such as 5:4 and 5:9 is an occasional law regarding widows in the church and not a universal law.

Things get even trickier when we move down to 5:14. Recognising some difficulties re younger widows living, shall we say, a gadding about and gossipy lifestyle, Paul says (with an "I" familiar from 2:12), "So I would have the younger widows marry, bear children, and manage their households ..."

Again, this on closer inspection is difficult if we take it as a universal law of the church: it speaks to younger widows of child bearing years who have opportunity to marry but it fails to speak to younger widows of child bearing age who do not have opportunity to marry; it also, in conjunction with 5:9, fails to set out what a middle aged widow younger than sixty, either beyond child-bearing age, or old enough to prefer not to bear a child is to do. It seems reasonable to understand this instruction re younger widows marrying as an occasional law of the church, when given the opportunity to marry, they should. But this is not a universal insistence that all younger widows must remarry nor that the church should ensure this happens.

I would go further and also suggest that when churches are not troubled by gadding about and gossipy younger widows, then the occasion for Paul's instruction here might not arise

Obviously much here can be discussed and debated, both about 1 Timothy 5 and about 1 Timothy 2, to say nothing of other laws laid down by Paul in other parts of each of these chapters and in other chapters.

What I hope I might have raised here with some plausibility as well, I hope, with grace, is the question of how we read, understand, and apply the laws of the church laid down in 1 Timothy given the changing nature of church life in variable societies.

An important question I am advancing here is whether Paul is laying down in 1 Timothy universal or occasional laws for the church in respect of various matters of order in the life of the church.

Epilogue

I want to acknowledge that various arguments can be advanced in favour of an exclusively male leadership or headship of the church which are not underpinned by 1 Timothy 2:12.

A Roman Catholic (and now only rarely Anglo-Catholic) argument for a male priesthood concerns the representational character of leadership in the church: Christ was a male so his presbyters/priests also ought to be male.

Closely associated is an argument from a presumed pattern of leadership authorised by Jesus himself: leaders such as bishops and priests/presbyters in the church today are successors to the apostles who were exclusively male. That Jesus had women disciples, that Mary Magdalene had an apostolic role to the apostles and that 'apostle' as a general term could attach to a woman such as Junia (Romans 16), on this argument, only heightens the fact that Jesus chose twelve men to be 'the apostles' who would found, lead and guide the church. If women were intended to lead the church today, so the argument goes, Jesus would have signalled his approval by choosing at least one woman among the twelve.

A headship argument drawing on 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 and Ephesians 5:22-33 proposes that men should lead the church because (a) the church as the body of Christ should be led on earth by men who fall into an ordering God/Christ/men/women, and (b) the church is a household of faith and men are to be heads of households.

Another 'pattern of leadership' argument draws on the creation story in Genesis 2: Eve is formed from Adam to be Adam's 'helper.' Understanding that 'helper' is a significant role since God himself is 'helper' of Israel and not in any way shape or form a demeaning role, the creation mandated role for women in relation to men is for women to 'help' or support men in their roles and thus not for women to lead men.

I am happy to be corrected if I have misrepresented these arguments.

Sacred and Spiritual Links - Monday 23 March 2015

From a UK colleague:

I hope some of this may be of interest, including some late Lent links.

#1 Vaughan Roberts puts on his spectacles; #2 Kendall Harmon looking for God; #3 Mark Russell in the firing line; 4 Bishop Tom Wright puts up his dukes; #9 great evensong from York Minster; #12-15 a selection of Lent links, delayed due to earlier illness. #16 Please pray for Christians being massacred in Nigeria and Pakistan and persecuted in Iran, China and Burma and for the Diocese of South Carolina. #20 Allegri's Misere Mei Deus newly released by the choir of King's College, Cambridge.

I hope all is well and prayers for you during the coming week.

SERMONS AND TALKS
1. Where is your focus? - Vaughan Roberts - St Ebbes Audio

2. My God, My God why has Thou Forsaken me - Dr Kendall Harmon

3. Facing the Canon: Mark Russell, Chief Executive of Church Army - J John

4. Good God - A Conversation with Professor NT Wright at Duke - Veritas Forum Video

Commentary
5. The Sunday Readings - Rev Stephen Trott

6. Preaching Ideas and Commentary - Rev Peter Carrell

7. Continue reading the New Testament in a year with Rev Andrew Goddard

WORSHIP
8. The bells of St Mary's, Wambrook in Somerset.- BBC Radio 4

9. Choral Evensong from York Minster - BBC Radio 3

10. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

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

LENT ROUNDUP
12. Daily Readings
Trinity School for Ministry
Archbishop of York
Essential Journey to the Cross - daily reading from Scripture Union USA

13. Lent Courses and Teaching
The Art of Examen - 24-7 Prayer
or on Youtube
40 Days with George Herbert – Church Society
Diocese of Winchester Lent Course with a Benedictine Theme
Lent series from Bishop Julian Dobbs on Vimeo

14. Lent Books
Gratitude and Grace: Through Lent with John by Peter Carrell and the late Lynda Patterson - still available from Theology House
The God of Life - Bishop John Harrower
John Piper has two books available to purchase or which can be downloaded as free pdfs:
A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer
pdf
Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die
pdf

15. More Links
Lent and Beyond
Evangelical Alliance
Diocese of Durham

PRAYER
Please pray for the victims and families of bombings in Lahore, Pakistan of Christ Church reportedly part of the Anglican Church of Pakistan and St John's Roman Catholic Church; those affected by cyclone devastation in the islands of Vanuatu in the Pacific, formerly known as the New Hebrides; for the Church of England, for Christians and all facing persecution and crime in Syria and Iraq including The Christians being held hostage and for refugees facing winter and hunger; for the persecuted church and in particular in India and Iran; for peace in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza; and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

16. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Prayers for the Church of England from Lent and Beyond
Nigeria: Gunmen kill 100 Christian villagers in central Nigeria - WWM
Boko Haram headlines hide persecution of Christians in mid-Nigeria, too - WWM
Report referred to
Iraq/Syria: The Christians who are defying ISIS - Christian Today
Forgiving ISIS: Christian ‘Resistance’ Videos Go Viral in Arab World - Christianity Today
Pakistan: Suicide Bombers Attack Sunday Services in Pakistan's Largest Christian Neighborhood - Christianity Today
Volunteers died to save others - Open Doors
Paris Mayor awards Asia [Bibi] Honorary Citizenship - Change.org
Iran: Iranian Christian prisoner who refused to hand over Bible “insulted” prison imam - Barnabas
China: Bishop says China has ordered an end to church demolitions - UCA News
Burma: Defamation laws suggest decline in freedoms - CSW
South Carolina: Prayers from Lent and Beyond

CURRENT AFFAIRS
17. Sunday Programme - with Edward Stourton - BBC Radio 4

Food for thought
18. Technology and the Christian Life - Dr CJ Williams
Budget 2015: fixing the (church) roof while the sun shines - Frank Cranmer
Religious Voting Intentions and Other News - Clive Field - BRIN
Church of England defends sale of assets for recruitment plan - Ruth Gledhill - Christian Today
From Evidence to Action - CofE thinging about what is needed to grow churches [Is anything missing?]
Balancing Acts: Tim Keller and Andy Stanley explain what it takes to get ministry right - Christianity Today
Magna Carta - British Library

FINALLY
19. Is there a Future for Confessional Anglicanism? — conference audio [Talks from AB Glenn Davies and Dr Mark Thompson]

20. Misere Mei Deus - Allegri - Choir of King's College, Cambridge [Psalm 51 - railse quality with cogwheel lower right]

21. Kingdom Come - Beth Croft - Premier

22. Solar Eclipse 2015 - BBC

God bless you


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Synthetic Children, Traditional Families and the Leading of the Spirit

This past week has seen a storm of words over Dolce and Gabbana's claim about traditional families constitute the only families:

"“The family is not a fad,” Gabbana told the interviewer. “In it there is a supernatural sense of belonging.” 
Procreation “must be an act of love.” Children born through artificial insemination or egg donors are “children of chemistry, synthetic children. Uteruses for rent, semen chosen from a catalog,” Dolce said.
“The only family is the traditional one. No chemical offsprings and rented uterus: life has a natural flow; there are things that should not be changed.”"

You probably read about Elton John's reaction (he and David Furnish have two sons) but here is another which is worth noting, if only for signs of political unity in the GLBT community unravelling as the politics of capitalist society exerts itself.

Picking up on my post of a couple of days ago about the Spirit at work among us, I wish to raise the question of the leading of the Spirit about family life.

I suspect we can all agree that there is a degree of plausibility to the claim that the Spirit is leading the church to support gay couples. (Note this is not the same as saying we all agree with the claim itself). The plausibility lies in recognition that social life is important, that the community of two is less likely to be lonely than the community of one, and that God blesses and supports friendship. We can see that if the Spirit is leading the church at this time in a new direction then it is in the direction of the better (e.g. safer, more secure, mutually supportive) life which comes from partnership.

Dolce and Gabbana's comments about the traditional family in respect of children and about the way in children should be intentionally brought into the world in the context of the traditional family lead me to ask:

Is it plausible to think that the Spirit of God is leading the church beyond the embrace of same sex partnerships to bless the intentionality of (say) two men bringing children into the world via a surrogate mother, knowing that the children will from the beginning have no mother?

Answers on a postcard to Box ... no, seriously: could answers to this question not only offer a Yes or a No but also some reasons for saying Yes or No. That is, reasons which explain how we would know as a church that this is, or is not the leading of the Spirit.

My argument here is that claims to know the leading of the Spirit in respect of new ethical situations are easily made and initially may even have a popular hearing. But very quickly we get to situations where the claim to know that the Spirit is leading in such and such a direction is less likely to have a popular hearing. Not - dear Elton John - because of bigotry but because of uncertainty as to how on earth we might establish the claim. If you have ideas on how the church might establish such a claim, send them in via comments.

Now for those who vigorously want the church to oppose Dolce and Gabbana's vision of the family and affirmation of the importance of children born to a mum and a dad, there is another route forward: a straight ethical argument which does not invoke the Spirit of God.

My argument here is that pressing the church forward on the basis of what some see as the leading of the Spirit is a fraught pathway which quickly runs into shoals and reefs.






Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A note to North American Readers

Bryden Black, a regular commenter here, observes:

"Wow! Have you in the NE of US copped a bad winter or what! So glad to hear Spring is springing - see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-31909353"

There is no doubt that the world's climate is going through change. Down Under in recent days we have had a devastating storm destroy most buildings in Vanuatu. Let us pray for one another through these and other trials troubling our world.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sacred and Spiritual Links - Tuesday 17th March

From a UK correspondent:

Somewhat late due to family commitments including my parents' 63rd wedding anniversary which we celebrated today along with Mothering Sunday.   

#1 Vaughan Roberts has a remarkable overview of the Bible.  Please pray for Vanuatu wrecked by cyclone damage and for Pakistan where Anglican and Catholic churches have been bombed today.

I hope all is well and prayers for you during the coming week.

SERMONS AND TALKS
1. God's Big Picture: an overview of the Bible, showing how the different parts of the Bible fit together under the theme of the kingdom of God - Vaughan Roberts - St Andrew's Oxford Audio

2. What does the Bible really teach? - Hugh Palmer - All Souls Langham Place Audio

3. Values for money: morality and financial markets after the crisis - Donald Hay - St Andrew's Oxford Audio

Commentary
4. The Sunday Readings - Rev Stephen Trott

5. Preaching Ideas and Commentary - Rev Peter Carrell

6. Continue reading the New Testament in a year with Rev Andrew Goddard

WORSHIP
7. The bells of St. Petrock, South Brent in Devon - BBC Radio 4

8. Choral Evensong from Salisbury Cathdral- BBC Radio 3

9. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

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

PRAYER
Please pray for the victims and families of bombings in Lahore, Pakistan of Christ Church reportedly part of the Anglican Church of Pakistan and St John's Roman Catholic Church; those affected by cyclone devastation in the islands of Vanuatu in the Pacific, formerly known as the New Hebrides; for the Church of England, for Christians and all facing persecution and crime in Syria and Iraq including The Christians being held hostage and for refugees facing winter and hunger; for the persecuted church and in particular in India and Iran; for peace in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza; and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

11. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Prayers for the Church of England from Lent and Beyond
Deadly blasts hit Pakistan churches in Lahore
and Reuters report
India: Indian police beat Christian evangelists - WWM
Vanuatu cyclone: First aid reaches islands ravaged by Pam - BBC News
Live Updates from TVNZ
Iran: Iranian President’s broken promises to minorities - WWM
UK Christians in Parliament Report referred to [pdf]:http://tinyurl.com/n7gxj4h
South Carolina: Bishop Lawrence Mark Lawrence's Report
Prayers from Lent and Beyond

CURRENT AFFAIRS
12. Sunday Programme - with Edward Stourton - BBC Radio 4

Food for thought
13. Did Jesus Rise From the Dead? [Infographic] - Josh Byers
Resources for engagement with Scripture - Biblegateway
50 Shades of Boundaries - J John - CEN
Portraits and Stories of African-American ex-Slaves: 1936-1938
Is there room for forgiveness in the Middle East? - Jeremy Moody - CEN
'Jerusalem 3D' zooms in on power of ancient city with Imax intensity - LA Times
John Rutter on The Lord Bless You and Keep You - Classic FM

FINALLY
14. Do You Know What You Believe? - JI Packer - Crossway Video

15. O Salutaris Hostia - Ēriks Ešenvalds - Trinity College Choir, Cambridge

16. Your Love Remains - Worship Central NZ

17. A Behind-The-Scenes Look at the Making of JERUSALEM 3D


God bless you