Thursday, November 16, 2017

About that submission ...

I have decided not to make a further submission to the Motion 29 Working Group (by end of tomorrow 17 November 2017), being happy and privileged to now be part of General Synod/te Hinota Whanui itself.

Bosco Peters' has made a submission and posted it here.

The summary of it is this:

"This submission suggests:
• If discussion since the publication of IRWG deems it sufficiently helpful, amend the declarations of adherence and submission to the authority of GSTHW.
• Have an explicit, clear and positive recognition and acknowledgement that we are living together with disagreement – differences in belief and practice on committed same-sex couples.
• Provide immunity from complaint for bishops and clergy for exercising their discretion on whether or not to authorise or conduct blessings of committed same-sex couples. Clergy and couples can choose from available resources and/or work together to produce a service of blessing. 
• Provide immunity from complaint for bishops for exercising their discretion on whether or not to ordain or licence anyone in a committed same-sex relationship."

If you want to comment directly on it, please do so at Liturgy itself. I am reproducing the summary here because it offers thoughts I generally agree with. And they are similar to what I proposed here on 26 September 2017 - resulting in some robust comments! That was:

"My thought re an improvement to the proposal is to pare it back and slim it to a minimum set of changes:
(1) our declarations are changed in line with the proposal
(2) clergy and ministry unit office holders may determine without fear of discipline whether or not blessings of same sex relationships will be conducted within the ministry unit
(3) bishops have discretion to accept a person in a same sex marriage or civil union as a candidate for ordination or appointee to licensed ministry position."
If I were to make a submission (i.e. combining Bosco's submission and my 26 September points) I would now add a bullet or numbered point, supporting the principle of the recommendation in the interim report of the working group that there be provision for "Christian communities" of individuals and ministry units who share common values on one side or another of the disagreement. 

In practice that recommendation involved a proposal for legislation which also references Religious communities, with some severe commentary against that inclusion. 

If we could excise that reference and focus on what it might mean for individuals and ministry units to make compacts together - the underlying model of voluntary societies is not new to Anglicanism - then my understanding is that many (but not all) conservatives on this matter would be comfortable supporting the proposal.

A few other thoughts

Since this will be my last post on these matters until the Final Report is out (unless some major development warrants comment) I want to put down a few further thoughts, some arising from discussions in the last few days with colleagues.

(1) I remain of the view that the core of the proposal on the table (no change to formularies, permission to bless same-sex relationships) is not reason to split off a new church from ACANZP. My primary reason is that I can only see any new church formed having at the core of its new identity a view about homosexuality (whatever formal, rhetorical protestations are made that this would not be the case). There are no grounds in the New Testament for forming church on the basis of a view on homosexuality. (Not even 1 Corinthians 5 offers those grounds - the opening to that chapter speaks of church discipline not church formation). 

(2) When Bosco Peters writes, "Have an explicit, clear and positive recognition and acknowledgement that we are living together with disagreement – differences in belief and practice on committed same-sex couples." I wholeheartedly concur. We need a written something in the canon/resolution we final decide which explicitly names the church we are on this matter: in disagreement and therefore (if we so choose) remaining together as that church and not as another church. Living with disagreement is possible - personally I do it on a daily basis as an Anglican!!

(3) I am interested (please comment to support me or disagree with me) in the possibility that GSTHW might also decide on a moratorium on discussing this matter for (say) ten years.* In his post Bosco Peters laments the amount of energy we have spent as a church on this matter. One way to dissolve the energy level, at least for a period, would be to have such a moratorium. To be clear: this would mean those who wish to make further "progress" on the matter desisting from pushing for further change and this from provoking further resistance by those who value tradition and orthodoxy in matters of faith and practice.

*Some readers here will recall that a moratorium along similar lines has been a recent feature of the NZ Presbyterian church.

Monday, November 13, 2017

My report on the IDC meeting on Saturday

Interpretation: it was a process which is part of a process towards Tikanga Pakeha contributing feedback to the Working Group, thus, hopefully, shaping the Final Report and Recommendations so that the breadth of our Tikanga can receive and, at General Synod in May 2018, approve without too much further discussion that something which we can live with and move forward together on. (Ditto, for the other Tikanga, who also have their own processes going on).

In our process on Saturday we had opportunity to share what processing, thinking and concerns are part of our Dioceses responses to the Interim Report. That was illuminating about where we are each heading and yielded a variety of statements which will be collated and forwarded to the Working Group. It would not be fair to the process for me to put in writing what I thought were "emerging themes" or "common concerns" because that would not just be my personal take on what I heard and experienced but also weighted towards the voices in the small group I was in, which was but one of six such groups.

Am I confident we are going to secure agreement eventually? Will we hold together? I think we can only answer such questions when we have the Final Report, in February 2018. Thus, unless some significant development here or in the Communion is reported and worth commenting on, I am going to try very hard not to post further on these matters after the 17th November, until the Final Report is published. The 17th is the deadline for submissions to the Working Group and I think it best to let them get on with their work after that!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Red blooded Anglicans will want to comment on at least one of these items!

Prayer in parliament. Change is coming, may even have been prematurely determined by our new Speaker. What do you think?

Filioque clause: keep it or drop it? Would the latter change Anglicanism at its very Reformation foundations, asks Doug Chaplin? Does the former inhibit important ecumenical movement towards greater unity in Christ? (Incidentally, marvellous theological writing in the document Doug Chaplin refers to). Liturgy also picks up the recent Anglican-Oriental Orthodox dialogue and, in the process, reminds Kiwi Anglican readers of some important "eastern" characteristics to our liturgies. (Comments specific to Doug Chaplin's and Bosco Peters' respective posts should be made there; but here you might focus on my somewhat rudimentary question: keep it or drop it?)

Should a prospective bishop of a diocese in a province which is not officially aligned with GAFCON be forced to sign the Jerusalem Declaration in order to be considered as a bishop of that diocese?

Friday, November 10, 2017

NZ Bishop leaves for Leeds

Up a bit earlier this morning and what should be the first Tweet I find staring back at my sleepy eyes but news that Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Waikato and Taranaki Diocese, is returning to England to be the Bishop of Ripon in the Diocese of Leeds. Announcement is here.

It was a pleasure some years back to meet Helen-Ann when she was doing research at SJC in Auckland and then not long after that to be part of an appointment panel which recommended her appointment as Dean of Pakeha students there.

I wish Bishop Helen-Ann every blessing in her new role.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Do we need to talk about an Extra Provincial Diocese?

The Anglican Communion is reasonably flexible when it comes to episcopal arrangements.

It has not ejected my church for casting tradition aside in the early nineties when we established our Three Tikanga Church (breaching the tradition of one episcopal rule per territory), nor more recently when we established that the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki would have two "co-equal" bishops (and two cathedrals).

The Communion is also able to episcopally relate to churches with weird names such as the Lusitanian Catholic Apostolic Evangelical Church but not because it appreciates weird names. That church is an "Extra Provincial Diocese" which typically refers to a small church which is under the metropolitan oversight of the ABC. But only "typically" because one of these churches, Ceylon/Sri Lanka, has two dioceses and one, Cuba, is under the oversight of a metropolitan council.

Of course the Communion does not welcome all dry and sundry dioceses to its midst. Readers here will know that ACNA (a whole province of dioceses) is kept at arms length and the Diocese of South Carolina, while separate from TEC and not joined (as it now is) to ACNA, was not welcomed into the fold.

But that refusal to welcome has stiffened the resolve of GAFCON (representing the numerical majority of Anglicans in the world) to recognise ACNA. So ACNA is not without reason to continue to retain "Anglican" in its title.

Here in the Blessed Isles, as we work our way through our dilemma over same-sex blessings, we may have to consider the possibility of having an Extra Provincial Diocese created. Before we get to that, a few observations about what I am hearing these days

(1) Concern that the attempt of our church to steer away from doing the solid theological work which should undergird a momentous decision is a mistake. That theological work needs to be done and should be done, if we are to have a semblance of a chance of holding together what otherwise continue to be irreconcilable convictions.

(2) There are seemingly unbridgeable differences which the current interim proposal does not seem to offer a bridge over (despite some, er, at least me, thinking it is a beautiful proposal!); and thus we find this sentence describing our situation:

"... there are two irreconcilable convictions present in the national church; those who see the blessedness of same-sex marriages, and those who believe such relationships should be repented of." (see larger citation below for source).
(3) Related to (2) is the concern that it is impossible to teach in a responsible manner what one believes if that is directly contradicted by the neighbouring parish.

Whether you share these concerns or not, whether you think they have weight or not, they do weigh on the minds of people I am hearing from who are doing careful reflection on the situation we are in. They will, I believe, be part of the discussion which Pakeha reps from the seven NZ Dioceses to next year's General Synod will take to a meeting on Saturday in Wellington. A kind of pre-General Synod round up of views and where we are ats.

Why raise the question of talking about an extra provincial diocese? It is because last Thursday, 2 November, Dave Clancey, one of my clerical colleagues here in Christchurch, wrote an article for the GAFCON website, entitled, "Remaining faithful to the gospel in New Zealand - a response to Motion 29."

I understand this article to update global Anglicans on the final views from FCANZ on the Motion 29 Working Group's Interim Report. FCA NZ's initial response, a couple of months back, was published here.

In that initial response there was a response to the Interim Report as it offered a way forward for those dissatisfied with the proposal which was "additional episcopal oversight": FCANZ then wanted "alternative episcopal oversight."

In Dave Clancey's article that request has shifted, as seen in the following excerpt (my bold):
"While the proposals by the Working Group state that the Constitution and the Formularies of the Church are not changing, the change to the Canon allowing services which are inconsistent with the Constitution and Formularies is simply circumventing them. The provision of protection for conservatives through Religious Orders or Communities may be a good start, but FCANZ has said that at a minimum the provision of alternative episcopal oversight (rather than the additional oversight that an Order/Community would provide) would be required. Even then, many feel that this will not be enough.  
Ultimately FCANZ sees that the best way forward for the Province of New Zealand is the formation of an Extra-Provincial Diocese. This was FCANZ’s suggestion to the Working Group prior to the release of their Interim Report. Extra-Provincial Dioceses exist in a number of places in the world, and the creation of one in New Zealand would allow faithful Anglicans to remain faithfully Anglican, while at the same time being distinct from the Provincial church. It would also honestly acknowledge that there are two irreconcilable convictions present in the national church; those who see the blessedness of same-sex marriages, and those who believe such relationships should be repented of. An Extra-Provincial Diocese would be the best way for the Provincial church to give expression to this reality.  
Should the Provincial church choose not to pursue this proposal, and continue on its stated course of blessing same-sex marriages, many associated with FCANZ will be left with no alternative than to seek new ways of being Anglican."
No pressure then, for our meeting in Wellington, for the Motion 29 Working Group as it works soon on its Final Report, and ultimately for General Synod in May 2018!
- we need to find a way forward
- if possible, a way forward through "irreconcilable convictions"
- could that way incorporate Alternative Episcopal Oversight?
- if not possible, and even if it is possible, could we see our way to an Extra Provincial Diocese?
- and if that is not possible ...

I urge Kiwi and other Anglicans here not to reject anything out of hand. See my opening sentences: creativity in modern Anglicanism, especially Down Under, has few constraints.

I ask Kiwi Anglicans to ask ourselves whether we are seeing these matters too much in "black and white" or binary terms. Yes, there are irreconcilable convictions, but there are those who cannot live in a church with irreconcilable convictions, and there are those that can. I think that is at least three groups, not two groups of Anglicans!

Is it whistling in the wind to point out to faithful Anglicans that we already live with contradictions? Just because we do not talk about them much does not change the fact that we live with them. 

Right inside Scripture, there are contradictions between the histories we know as 1 Samuel - 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles. Not just contradictions of narrated facts (compare the respective stories of Manasseh; or ask why the story of Bathsheba figures heavily in one of the histories and not at all in the other) but also contradictions in theologies (Mosaic covenant perspective v. Davidic covenant perspective). These two histories God has seen fit to include in our one Holy Scripture, even though they were composed by different groups of Jews with "irreconcilable convictions."

On what basis do we live with contradictions inside Scripture but not within our church?

Warning: I will not post comments which speculate on or otherwise discuss specific individuals or groups of people in ACANZP in respect of departure. Do not mix such speculation with comment on the concept of (say) AEO or EPD because your comment will not be published. Focus, please, on concepts and ideas and leave views of people out. This post is also not an opportunity to further canvas the much canvassed issues and questions which typically arise when discussing human sexuality. If you want to comment on the situation our church is in, please focus comment on that. There is no need to drift over into comment on human sexuality issues. Constructively speaking, I am looking for comment about whether we can or cannot live with irreconcilable convictions and what a way forward might be as a consequence.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Preaching the gospel for 21st century cut through: tradition

Ruminating after a week spent north of here, a few posts down, I raised the question - again! - of what the gospel means in the 21st century. What is good news for a society in which many people cheerfully ignore God because, it seems, there is much to be cheerful about? And God is not needed to provide the "much" in our Blessed Isles -  good income, good wine, good food, good company, good health: the good life. (Yes, yes, I know some people are struggling ... but we do have a low unemployment rate, the vast proportion of people are housed satisfactorily, few if any people are actually starving to death.)

Andrei, in some comments responding, helpfully reminded me and us - in my words - of sticking to our liturgical, ritual, traditional knitting.

That raises for me this question about getting cut through for the gospel - sort of a "pre question."

What is the (Anglican) church to which we long to see new converts join us in membership of Christ's body?

There are various versions of being Anglican churches in these islands! Some even work :)

When we seek conversion through proclaiming the gospel we are not simply engaged in saving souls from hell. We seek people to be transformed from reckless sinners rebelling against God into participatory members of the body of Christ. Various modes of expression of that body exist and when it comes to evangelism there seems to be temptation to adjust the mode to enhance evangelism.

Being Anglican as a church is sufficiently flexible to adjust our mode. We can, for instance, lessen emphasis on the ministry of the Sacrament in order to stronger emphasis the ministry of the Word or vice versa. When we lessen emphasis on the Sacrament we can look more like a Baptist church than a Pentecostal one, or vice versa. When we place more emphasis on the Sacrament we can look like a Roman Catholic church or like Taize. (And all these modes have been proven, in certain times and places to "work.")

Also, some ministry units are able to sustain a varied programme of services: standard p. 404 eucharist, informal family service, youth flavoured evening service, Messy Church. In such a case there is something of the best of all Anglican liturgical worlds!

In my experience, for a number of Anglican ministry units, there is a question about what kind of church new converts would be joining.

For instance, musically, would the convert be joining a church which feels like it is 1977 or 2017?

Liturgically speaking, would the convert be joining a church which feels like it loves the liturgy it uses and understands how liturgy works to glorify God and to edify the congregation? Or, joining a church which keeps implying some things are only done "because we are Anglican"?

There are other questions ...!

For clarity: I am not arguing here that if we get Sundays right we will draw new people off the streets into our midst. That may or may not happen. I am raising the question what kind of church new people would come into if we invited them to participate as we encourage their new faith in Christ.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Karl Marx "a timid conservative" acc. to John Chrysostom

Spoiler Alert: do not read this article by David Bentley Hart about the New Testament if you are a capitalist!