Monday, September 29, 2014

I'll keep going on the politics of Jesus - Monday 29 September 2014

Post election political life is a little less exciting. Yet there is much too ponder for the follower of Jesus intent on working out the politics of Jesus here on earth in 2014. My particular zealous interest this past week has been on what it means to be 'left', 'Labour', 'socialist'. Sparked by numerous recriminations and reflections following the gazumping of both the left of NZ politics and the Labour Party, I have also been following the British Labour Party conference in which similar recriminatory thoughts seemed to be at work over which Labour Party will win the next election.

I quite agree with those pundits who have made the point that some policies promoted by the left should not be thought of as leftist but simple fairnesses at the centre of society (e.g. removing child poverty which, funnily enough, our PM has made significant noises about this week). Nevertheless perhaps the left has stronger motivation and passion to address such matters?

I can also agree with those arguing a principled approach to politics which says, "We are working for the implementation of our principles, no matter whether they are popular or not." Stick to that, avoid gaining votes from middle NZ (or Britain) by compromising, by all means. However I would prefer that no further talk comes from your mouths about what you will do in government! In a nutshell this is where the so called 'hard left' or 'socialist wing' of the Labour Party (plural if we include Britain) are or should be at. That's fine, but life has moved on from dear old Karl making his daily pilgrimage to the British Museum to write his prognostications on the proletariat in the midst of the industrial revolution.

But what if the respective Labour Parties wish to regain the government benches. Surely there must be a reckoning with what it will take to be elected? Even more surely, this must take such parties towards the middle of society, asking what will appeal to the middle. An appeal which appeals, to be sure, to the social conscience and sense of fair play of the middle, yet an appeal which does not trash the hopes and aspirations of the middle classes. The middle masses today are not quasi-socialists, one election of a 'real' Labour government away from dropping the 'quasi-'.

The middle masses today are capitalists. They like growing personal capital (especially owning their own homes and small businesses, with opportunity to share in larger businesses via the sharemarket). They want top dollar when they sell a car and to pay bottom dollar when they buy - they think markets are a good thing (albeit keen to retain state-funded education and health services).

If there is one significant error eating away at the voting share of both the NZ Labour Party and British Labour Party it is the not so hidden presumption that these parties do not really embrace capitalism. I think the voters see and hear that, and are nervous. Blair's Labour Party and Lange/Douglas then Clarke/Cullen's Labour Party did embrace capitalism and the voters trusted them enough to re-elect them several times.

But the current amazing embarrassment at the success of Labour governments under those paradigms serves the present parties poorly. In reacting to what is interpreted as a period of socialist heresy (i.e. a reign of neo-liberal 'terror'(!)), these two Labour Parties are returning to principles but have not let go of aspirations to govern again.

No one can serve two masters. As best I can understand the two situations, both the NZ and British Labour Parties are torn between wanting to be faithful socialists and wanting to be in government. To be the latter they need voters who do not agree with the former principles. That is a bit of calculus which does not yield a positive sum!

Are they doomed to never return to power?

Probably not. One day electoral sanity will return.

But, in the meantime, how many people will suffer because governments in NZ and the UK will not be constrained by leftist motivations to build fair capitalist societies and to eradicate poverty?


I have noticed here in NZ some talk about our electoral cycle in which the norm is swapping between National and Labour led governments of two to three terms each. Well, I have news for you: there is another electoral pattern, produced through 1949-1975 in which twenty six years of government produced just 2 x three year periods for Labour. Who is to say that we have not returned to that pattern? Wake up, Labour!!

Spiritual and Sacred Links - Monday 29 September 2014

(Supplied by an English colleague)

I hope some of this will be encouraging and that you are richly blessed and rewarded by a deepening relationship with God this coming week.


1. The bells of All Saints, Harpole, in Northamptonshire - BBC Radio 4

2. Sunday Service from Emmanuel Church, Didsbury - BBC Radio 4

3. Choral Evensong from Derby Cathedral - BBC Radio 3

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

5. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

6. Archived choral services from the chapels of King's College Cambridge
and St John's College, Cambridge

7. Andy Hawthorne, founder of the Message Trust - BBC Radio 5 Live - MP3
or online [26 September]

8. Evangelism - Chris Russell - Fulcrum Pivot Point Audio [starts 8mins 30 secs in]
9. Putting God First: Christian Wholeness - Bishop Graham Kings - St Paul's Sherborne Audio [Romans 12:1-21]

10. The Ethics of Sex, Marriage, and the Family - Professor Christopher Seitz - North American Lutheran Church Conference, Charleston Video
Text – ACI

Please pray for the Ebola Crisis this week; for Christians and all facing persecution and crime in Iraq; for the persecuted church and in particular in the Middle East, Nigeria, Egypt, China and Hong Kong; for peace in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza; and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

11. Iraq Region:
What's the threat of Islamic State to the Church worldwide? – WWM
more Media Reports from FRRME

12. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Ebola: Sept 29 – Oct 5: A week of prayer for the Ebola Crisis - Lent and Beyond
Nigeria and Senegal: stable – for the moment – WHO
Egypt: Newsletter from Bishop Mouneer Anis
China: Children arrested during raid on Chinese church – ICC
Hong Kong: Tear gas and clashes at democracy protest - BBC News
South Carolina: Prayers from Lent and Beyond

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

14. Food for thought
Muslims need Truth and Love - Mark Durie - Bible Society Australia
Praying for ISIS - J John
Way of Truth and Justice: Understanding Islamic Law Khaled Abou El Fadl - ABC Religion
Luther: The monk who wasn't good enough - Nathan Buzenitz
I am the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep - Glen Scrivener - The King's English
Sharing the Gospel simply - Leon Brown

15. How do Christians approach the workplace? - St Helen's Vimeo

16. Beautiful Scotland - JohnDuncan Vimeo

Friday, September 26, 2014

Can I be bothered?

There was a time here on ADU when I got quite bothered by what ++Katharine Jefferts Schori was up to or whom or which diocese she was down on. Now that she is likely not seeking re-election as PB of TEC (noting Preludium's astute point about the fine subtlety of her precise words) I find myself not much bothered.

I am wondering why!

Possibly it is because my previous bothering was linked to the future of the Communion, a future which ++KJS (and other like-minded leaders) seemed intent on driving towards a specific, and to my mind uncongenial character. (Anglican Curmudgeon has a post on the 'unraveling' of the Communion which is worth a glance at this time.)

Now, I wonder whether the Communion is so fractured, its nets torn and frayed, its warm bonds of affection cooled to the point of freeze that the future of global Anglicanism lies elsewhere than in a TEC-shaped Communion.

Where the else is, I am not sure. Quite possibly with the Global South movement.

Perhaps also my lack of bother is due to the pressing concerns of our own church in the South Seas. We face our own fractures unless we - better the Spirit of God - can persuade ourselves that we can find new paths for remaining together in the face of considerable diversity. (Behind that sentence lies a longish paper which one day may see the light of day here).

One of the contributory causes of our pressing concerns is the example of TEC. Under ++Katharine's presidency it has failed - in my view - to show the rest of the Communion how to live with diversity of approach to controversial issues. Consequently, down here, Down Under, I worry that fellow Kiwi Anglicans assume there is only one way to incorporate the blessing of same sex partnerships: at the expense of those who disagree. Hovering over our church at this time of Motion 30 seems to be the spectre of TEC: 'as they have gone, so must we' lurks in the background of some conversations.

I reckon we can find another way. There is a win-win way forward. All may stay, none need go. Where TEC has gone, we do not need to go.

I can be bothered fighting for the future of ACANZP!

PS Here is the most adulatory commendation of the PB you could imagine yourself writing.

PPS Can any American readers enlighten us on trouble at the General Theological Seminary? The staff are on strike!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Chloe's Pink Slippers Are Very Fluffy (2 of 3)

In 1998 I voted at General Synod for flexibility in the use of our church's authorised services of worship, to include the possibility of services prepared with minimal reference to written authorised prayers of our church (providing nevertheless that conformity to our doctrine was maintained).

In doing so I and others did not realise that we were going to end up with Chloe's pink fluffy slippers, as adroitly described by +John Bluck

But I think we knew that we were looking for canonical blessing of considerable liturgical diversity because that already existed, both within evangelical havens such as the Diocese of Nelson and in other circles, including experiences of worship at General Synod or the Inter Diocesan Conference itself!

Would I do the same today?

To give an answer to that question which is as simple and as clear as I can make it, I need first to take you (briefly) on a corporate and personal history.

The corporate history is outlined by various posts @ Liturgy (most recently here). In sum, after 1998 GS embarked on further loosening of the canons governing liturgy with one slight sign of regret when it passed a resolution about the so called Template designed to tell free-for-all liturgists that they didn't mean for the Template to be as unbounded as it looked. (With that resolution (IMHO) GS effectively gutted the Template of its substance as a vehicle for wide-ranging flexibility in worshop. The Template now authorised flexibility that could not go beyond what was already in the prayer book!) In short, through these decisions we are now in rather a messy situation. So messy that the attempt of GS 2014 to try to tidy up a small aspect of the mess is being resisted!

From being the Vicar of the Parish of Blenheim South, my personal history was that I went in 2001 to become ministry educator for the Diocese of Nelson and then in 2010 to a similar role here in the Diocese of Christchurch. Through some of that period I have simultaneously been part time Priest in Charge of parishes. That's nearly fourteen years of training lay and ordained people in leadership of worship, of visiting many parishes in the central and upper two-thirds of the South Island and generally engaging in formal and informal conversations about Anglican worship as well as in occasional and regular bursts of leading worship.

I have learned a thing or two these last fourteen years! In particular from Bosco Peters, both through reading Liturgy, engaging with comments here and there and through personal conversation. In particular I have learned the importance of common prayer, the prayer we pray together because we have agreed that this (i.e. the Book of Common Prayer and A New Zealand Prayer Book) will be our prayer - an agreement reached through our synodical processes and renewed each time lay and clerical ministers accept a licence from their bishop.

But I also learned that our Prayer Book (1989), without any further subsequent decisions by General Synod, has for the adept and skilful liturgist, considerable flexibility. The clue lies in the rubrical word 'may'. Every 'may' means you can omit that bit, thus freeing the service to incorporate other freely chosen aspects of worship (e.g. drama, additional music, testimony).

If that was all to consider, my answer would be ...

No, I would not agree again to changing the rubrics on p. 511 of NZPB. If I could go back to 1998 I would vote against the change I agreed to, supposing the above liturgical considerations were all that mattered.

Further, I would vote for the Template to be removed from our books, I would not agree to the use of eucharistic prayers from other churches of the Anglican Communion (no doubt fine, but why did we spend 25 years+ composing our own?) and I would generally embark on revision of the various prayers we have agreed to, in order to pare us back to greater commonality in our prayer together. (I would not, however, agree to there being one single communion service. A little diversity is good.)

But that is not all to consider, so my answer is ... 

My own liturgical journey, however, has simultaneously been a journey with a church encountering changing contexts. Our great Western and our local Kiwi culture has not stood still these last twenty-five years since the publication of NZPB in 1989. A number of important features of congregational life are now different. Changes in culture and in language mean that the missional and generational challenges for the conducting of liturgy are different. The decisions by GS over these years to offer more diversity of approved prayers and greater flexibility have been an attempt to engage with the changing world in which the church lives.

But significant questions buzz round my mind concerning the present and future of our Anglican church in 21st century Aotearoa NZ.

My third post in the series will continue towards my answer to the question I have posed.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Only remember the poor - the politics of Jesus - Monday 22 September 2014

For the first time ever under our MMP system, one party (on the count as I write) has achieved the hitherto thought impossible dream of governing alone. That the National Party has done so at the end of two terms, and in the face of the 'kitchen sink' of dirt being thrown at its leadership will go down in NZ history.

At the helm of this triumph is not a Prime Minister but a phenomenon, John Key. He is the rock star of NZ politics. Love him or hate him (and, believe me, any overseas readers reading here, some hate him with an intensity a decent family blog such as this cannot convey), John Key is not just a rock star. He is the rock face which any wannabe alternative has to climb.

Yesterday's result showed the rock face had no ropes. few toeholds, and just the odd crack to jam a finger into.

Let's leave John Key to present political scientists and future historians to analyse. We'll also by-pass the jeremiads which are now enveloping David Cunliffe's leadership of the Labour Party (suffice to say that, IMHO, he should stay. He can and will get better). A momentary linger at the fate of the Internet Mana movement is called for: I so wanted them to not win a seat but I didn't realise most of NZ shared my wish. Top quality sledge against IM from the winner of Te Tai Tokerau, Kelvin Davis, "all steam and no hangi."

No, what we need to quickly get to is the poor in our country. Their situation has not changed overnight. My general sense is that their situation has not become worse (because National will continue to preside over a strong economy which underpins current welfare arrangements and which continues to distribute money from the wealthy to the poor). But what could make it better?

If God has - as many theologians argue (including me) - a bias towards the poor, then what steps - politically - are the next steps in the light of yesterday's result?

1. National could do things differently. But the result places them under no pressure to do so.
2. Some new political movement could arise which would challenge the popularity of the National Party. See above re the rock face! See also the results and how leftwing parties fared badly. At best they achieved approximately 37% of the vote. There is no foreseeable traction ahead for a new leftwing movement.
3. Some attempt could be made to improve the electoral fortunes of the party of fairness, Labour.

I suggest (3) is worth working on. More knowledgeable people than me are already proposing remedies. Josie Pagani is worth a read, both here (written today) and there (written previously). Clayton Cosgrove, a local Labour MP has this to say:

""I visited a meat works recently and asked members on the line, actually what the boys and girls on the chain thought of us, and the key message reflected in the verdict of the people was that they don't have a lot in common with us," Cosgrove said.

"The message was: 'You guys just deal with minutiae and fringe issues, you should be articulating the needs and concerns that we have'. Those people who say the silly left, right thing, the truth is that thousands of Labour voters elected Mr Key and we need to reflect on that.
"The plumber, the freezing worker, the little guy who's now [got his] own carpenter shop, the SME (small business), these were all once Labour voters and if you don't progress with people as they evolve and change, people feel completely disengaged."

Rather than wax on about some of my own ideas for change in Labour, let's just say that Labour needs to rediscover its 'fairness' mojo.

Ditching the leader will not do that.

As Pagani notes, its about a deep change, very deep.

Cosgrove's point is that the change needs to know which direction it is going in: back towards the working person. Back towards understanding that jobs matter more than letting trees rot on the forest floor. Back towards understanding that tradies are more concerned about a vibrant economy wanting their skills than whether Labour is against using animals for testing. Back towards understanding that working people who are not rich 1 percenters aspire to own a rental property as an investment they can put sweat equity into and may not be enamoured about a Capital Gains Tax (i.e. introducing a CGT needs to be argued on the basis of fair taxes, not on the basis of envy).

A bit of blood on the floor through a hasty leadership change may see the blood dribbling across the floor in the wrong direction.

Only if the Labour can make that change will it re-find the political centre - the voters who, extraordinarily, especially in Auckland, voted in droves for Labour MPs to represent them and gave their party votes to National.

For those disappointed on behalf of the poor of NZ that a National government has not only been re-elected but given a huge vote of confidence, the next step is to reform the Labour Party.

Students of NZ political history might note that 'reform' is an ironic word in this context. One of the predecessors of the National Party was the Reform Party!

Middle NZ is where elections are won or lost. I do not think middle NZ is averse to Labour working as government for a fair society. But this election seems to be saying to Labour that middle NZ is averse to possibilities that  Labour might be part of an unstable government, that Labour might make life harder for small businesses (e.g. by abolishing the 90 day probation period for new employees), that Labour might be talking unachievable talk (e.g. building 10000 houses a year) and that Labour might be talking down the reality of life (in this election they talked down the obviously 'up' economy).

Middle NZ is smart, astute and discerning. Voters from that large bloc have clearly said on Saturday night that they do not believe or trust what Labour had on offer. Even less so the Greens.

The biggest mistake each party could make is to dismiss middle NZ as dupes who have (once again) voted for the 'smile and wave' style of John Key. If Labour wishes to lead a government again it must treat middle NZ with respect, understand its heartbeat and connect to its hopes and aspirations.

From a Christian perspective, our concern for the poor means we pray for and work with the appointed government for the betterment of society and we pray for and work with the opposition to both keep the government honest and to develop a better vision going forward into the 21st century.

Sacred and Spiritual links - Monday 22 September 2014

1. The bells of St. John the Baptist, Burford in Oxfordshire - BBC Radio 4

2. Opening Prayer - Canon Andrew White - C-Span Video

3. Choral Vespers from Neresheim Abbey with the Royal Academy of Music Chamber Choir - BBC Radio 3

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

5. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

6. Archived choral services from the chapels of King's College Cambridge
and St John's College, Cambridge

7. What Counts with God? - Bishop Rennis Ponniah - St Andrew's Singapore Audio

8. Christ's View of Scripture - Bishop John Tan - St Andrew's Singapore Audio

9. Talks by William Taylor on Going Global: The Message which can't be ignored - St Helen's Media

Please pray for Christians and all facing persecution and crime in Iraq; for the persecuted church and in particular in the Middle East, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabian and China; for peace in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza; for wisdom in dealing with the Ebola outbreak in Africa and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

10. Iraq Region: Iraqi Christians pray close to front line of Islamic State attacks - Christian Today
Iraqi Erbil priest: "We aim to treat our refugees as guests" – WWM
Greetings from the USA - Canon Andrew White
more Media Reports from FRRME

11. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Prayers against Ebola - Lent and Beyond
Nigeria: Nigeria: Terror attacks in three states – CSW
Nigerian Christians: 'We are on the run' – WWM
CAR: Two pastors among 100s killed as UN takes over peacekeeping in CAR – WWM
Pakistan: One year after the Peshawar church bombing, we interview Bishop Humphrey Peters – CSW
Saudi Arabia: Christian prayer group arrested in Saudi Arabia - Christian Today
China: China: Two more Nanle church detainees sentenced in Henan – CSW
South Carolina: Prayers from Lent and Beyond

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

13. Food for thought
Scottish Independence and other news – BRIN
Loving the Lost: Churches Without the Broken are Broken Churches - Ed Stetzer
The nature of forgiveness and non-judgement - Sam Norton
Scottish independence: 'The wounds of this campaign will take years to heal' - Gillan Scott
Church of England Beat the Vatican in Cricket Match – TalkTalkVideo

14. The Word of God - St Helen's Vimeo

15. Old Man River - Roderick Williams - BBC Proms 2014

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Democracy is awesome!

Scotland, Fiji and now Aotearoa New Zealand. The people have spoken. Decisively, unexpectedly (on some prior polls and prognostications) and, especially in NZ's recent outbreak of lunacies, sensibly.

It is wonderful that each country is testimony to the capacity of the ballot box to convey the voice of the people, each one counting equally, with peace and in peace. No bullets, no beheadings.

I feel a great joy within me at the power of democracy.

Incidentally, without explanation and with no offence to the people of Scotland or New Zealand, the greatest result of this week is the outcome of the Fijian election.