Friday, August 28, 2015

Vote No?

Next week our Diocese goes to Synod. Other dioceses around this time will do likewise. On the books are some General Synod statutes for consideration. If passed in the Diocesan synods they will go back to GS in May 2016 for final ratification.

But at least one statute should not pass. Statute 711. And this post urges all voting synodpersons to carefully consider reasons for voting it down. Never to rise again!

Bosco Peters sets out the issues in a recent post.

It is quite fair and proper for our church from time to time to ask itself what 'authorised services' mean. It seems that for some time we have misunderstood what they mean and that, in part, is a confusion brought about by confusing current legislation.

An obvious remedy for confusing legislation is to revise or repeal the legislation. But Statute 711 goes further and revises our constitution itself.

Bosco Peters rightly warns that we should take the greatest of care when touching the constitution.

What is at stake?

(1) Whether we understand what we have already done as a church.

Already in the liturgical life of our church, we have all the flexibility we need with already authorised flexible formularies, to cope with all possible services which "would be consistent with Doctrine but not become a source of Doctrine themselves, non-controversial in nature, and follow the existing authorised liturgical Forms" (see below).

In other words, argument number one for voting down Statute 711: It is not needed.

We could go further and say that to vote for Statute 711 would be to continue to misunderstand what we have already agreed to as a church about the character of our authorised worship services.

(2) Whether we understand the relationship between authorised liturgies and common life.

The point of authorised liturgies is that they are agreed liturgies, liturgies that we have considered together in our common life (first in the Common Life Liturgical Commission, then in General Synod). In that common life we are guarded from hot-headed decisions, both by the constitution (and the 1928 Empowering Act) and by the twice round process of consideration (General Synod, local synods, General Synod again). We also talk to each other about the core of our life as a church, our worship services. In this way we build unity in the church. Ut unum sint.

Now, generally speaking, we have a long history of services occurring which are "consistent with Doctrine but not become a source of Doctrine themselves, non-controversial in nature, and follow the existing authorised liturgical Forms." We could think of Harvest Thanksgiving services, Blessing of Animals services, Christmas Pageant services, and so forth. No one has objected to those occasional services and no one - till now - have been greatly bothered to formalise them in respect of doctrine, let alone the constitution!

The difficulty is that once we start to formalise such possibilities, we open ourselves to potential doctrinal unevenness, undergirded by constitutional change.

Already - noting an addendum to Bosco Peters' post - a change to the constitution via 711 is understood as permitting Tikanga Maori going ahead with culturally appropriate rites and providing Te Reo forms of services in NZPB not yet authorised in Te Reo.

But this involves services such as Baptism and Ordinations which - in fact - would be, and should be sources of doctrine. Together we should - joyfully - approve these through our common life.

Putting it bluntly, do we want to be a church that says its Baptism service in English is a source of doctrine but its Baptism service in Maori is merely consistent with doctrine?

Is this not fostering division in our diverse church rather than holding unity and diversity in tension as one church?

In other words, argument number two for voting down Statute 711: It is a risk to our common life as one church.

But, as always, what do you think?
Sharpen my thinking ... seven days to go before the Christchurch synod.

To connect with my responses above to Statute 711, see these key (IMHO) paragraphs from two explanations given for changing the constitution via 711:

(from one) "This Constitutional provision would then provide the proper basis, which is at present lacking, for Title G Canon XIV and SLR3.
Title G Canon XIV could then be repealed and replaced with a new Canon which effectively authorises the kinds of activities referred to in the current Canon and SLR3.  Services could be authorised by Bishops or whole Tikanga, but would have to be:
(a) Based on ‘A Form for Ordering a Service of the Word’ and/or ‘An Alternative Form for Ordering The Eucharist’ [being our existing framework for liturgical development]
(b)  Not inconsistent with the teachings of the Formularies 
(c)  Are not themselves Formularies, unless expressly made so on using the 1928 Act procedure, and therefore do not form part of the Doctrine of the Church  
(d)  Will generally be suitable for occasional and non-controversial services in the life of the Church [the point is that this process is a liturgical process re the form of expression not a process for theological innovation as to content of that expression]  
Aspects of these requirements are already found in Title G Canon XIV and SLR3. The 1928 Act has no relevance to such services (unless a formal proposal is adopted to make them a Formulary, which is a separate process). 
Title G Canon XIV could then empower Bishops and whole Tikanga to authorise such liturgies, on that appropriately limited basis.  They would then be Authorised Services for the purposes of Title D, but without confusion as to the Formularies, Doctrine and the 1928 Act."

(from two) "If Statute 711 is passed (which involves the 'twice round' process), then a Canon could be enacted by General Synod to allow other liturgies to be authorised. The expectation, recorded in the notes to Statute 711, is that these would be consistent with Doctrine but not become a source of Doctrine themselves, non-controversial in nature, and follow the existing authorised liturgical Forms."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Easter Trading Hours and what to do about them? PS Offside re Flag

Let's start with the Postscript: apparently I am offside with the whole of the Maori Anglican church on changing our flag! For my professed commitment to changing the flag, see here.

Easter Trading Hours in NZ: the debate about these has been resurrected.

(For o'seas readings: currently, with the exception of a couple of tourist areas, retail shops may not open on Good Friday or Easter Sunday. This includes garden nurseries and hardware stores, allegedly spoiling the holiday weekend for those wishing to garden or to build things in the garden. Regularly some of these stores flout the law, headlines, TV interviews spliced in with shots of people in church.)

What is a Kiwi Christian to do about these hours?

Obviously many if not all Kiwi Christians would prefer that there be no change to these hours.

First, that guarantees that many workers - not all, of course, because nurses still nurse and caregivers still care - have complete freedom to participate in services on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. This is especially important on Good Friday when some like to worship at 10 am, some at 12 noon and some at 3 pm.

Secondly, we have a keen sense that there are very few sacrosanct days for retail workers. I think I am right in saying that if these two days go, then we are left with ANZAC Day up till 1 pm and Christmas Day as the only days when shops are both guaranteed to shut and shops actually do shut rather than flout the trading laws. Is it too much for the business community to not trade on three and a half days of the year?

Yet we have to be realistic and see that the pressure to change the laws rises bit by bit and one day will not be resisted. Should we give way now? Should we - my preferred option - compromise now so there is something of a win-win?

My suggestion is that, analogously to ANZAC Day, we propose to the gummint that Good Friday and Easter Day are sacrosanct holidays until 1 pm. [UPDATED: A commenter below observes to me what I have missed, that change to Good Friday is not being considered at this time.]

I know that leaves those retail workers preferring to worship at 12 noon and/or 3 pm a bit on a limb (though rights for them to not work, without penalty, could be included in the change). But it does offer those who must buy a plant or a tin of paint a window of opportunity on both days.

What do you think?

I am asking about trading hours, not about your views on me and my infinitely flexible pragmatism :)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Spiritual and Sacred Links - Monday 24 August 2015

Supplied by a UK colleague:

#1 Moving sermon; #2 and 3 the psalms as prayer; #4 Vintage American [rather Baptist] preaching; #11 reports that the two South Sudanese pastors are home, but the Christians of Syria and its hinterland are in need of prayer.

Prayers too for you for the coming week.

1. Finding Grace on Highway 174 - Alfred TK Zadig Jr - St Michael's Charleston Audio (Ephesians 4:25-5:2 and John 6:35, 41-51)

2. The City of God [Psalm 87] - Andrew Wingfield Digby - St Andrew's Oxford

3. Praying the Psalms, 5 talks - Cathedral Church of St Luke and St Paul Audio

4. Remember Jesus Christ - John Vernon McGee from 1970

5. Preaching Ideas and Commentary - Rev Peter Carrell

6. The Sunday Readings - Rev Stephen Trott

7. The bells of Wells Cathedral - BBC Radio 4

8. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

9. Archived Choral services over the Summer from the chapels of King's College Cambridge
and St John's College, Cambridge
and Trinity College, Cambridge
and New College, Oxford

Please pray for the persecuted church particularly in Syria, Iraq, and Sudan as well as for all displaced persons and refugees; and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

10. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Syria/Iraq: 1,500-year-old Mar Elian monastery bulldozed by Islamic State in Qaryatain
more from Release International
Sudan: Freed Pastors Arrive Home from Sudan after Ordeal of False Charges, Travel Ban - Morning Star News
South Carolina: Prayers from Lent and Beyond

11. Sunday Programme with Edward Stourton - BBC Radio 4

12. The Quest - John Rutter - Choir of Jesus College Cambridge

13. Patagonia - Martin Hech Vimeo

God bless you

Friday, August 21, 2015

The most remarkable man of the 20th century?

Bosco Peters has a lovely, thoughtful post on Brother Roger of Taize.

There are many things to ponder in this post (e.g. changing forms of service to connect with those bothering to turn up).

But the ut unum sint in me is particularly taken by these two comments:

"Brother Roger was deeply committed to the task of reconciliation – of having people of different viewpoints listen to one another respectfully and pray and work together without necessarily coming to agree with each other." 
"This community of monks [at Taize] is made up of Roman Catholics, Protestants, Anglicans, and Eastern Orthodox – forming a parable of reconciliation."
 Here is a thought. For Christians 'person of the year' competitions and such like must be judged on likeness to Christ, not on (e.g.) power, wealth or good looks. If we were to ask who was the most Christ-like person of the 20th century, we would have more than a few competitors.

But what is Christ-likeness if it is not being like Christ in reconciling conflicted humanity, in making peace between divided people and in breaking down barriers between separated men and women?

And was not, and is not still today, the great hallmark of Taize that it lives, breathes and prays ut unim sint, the precious prayer of Christ himself?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

#ThingsJesusNeverSaid ... and something Jesus did say

There is a funny ha-ha (and funny=interesting, sorta) hashtag on Twitter: #ThingsJesusNeverSaid.

There are an infinite number of things Jesus 'never' said. Like, 'No, I am not telling you who will win the Rugby World Cup in 2015' and 'Change the NZ flag? How about changing your life first?'

So it is is easy to have fun with the hashtag and easy to make wham, bam, shame points like:

But theologically there are some things to ponder in a slower way than Tweets provide for.

Jesus never said anything, for instance, about interpreting his words and producing four different authoritative accounts of his teaching and activities. That means that what we have received as 'What Jesus said' has been already subject to a process of 'What did Jesus mean when he said?' and 'So, how will we express that meaning, not least in Greek, a language in which (arguably) he said nothing?'

But we should not run too far in that direction without acknowledging that whatever Jesus did say and whatever he 'never' said, those authoritative accounts give us plenty which we find hard to live by without worrying about #ThingsJesusNeverSaid.

Incidentally, yesterday one of the lectionary readings was Mark 5:35-43. In that reading, when we read the words 'Talitha cum' (41), I suggest we have an instance where the gospels record the actual words Jesus said and in the language he said them in. #ThingsJesusActuallySaid #AndYouCanBetYourHouseOnThat :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The statistics do not lie, some Anglican churches will join the Dodo [Updated]

I am adding links at the end as further reflections come to hand ...

Sobering statistical projections here by Church Growth Modelling. (H/T a North American colleague).

I do not think that if we - by a miracle* - could gather together the relevant ACANZP stats we would be better than the CofE and likely we would lie between them and the Anglican churches in Wales, Scotland and the States. (*We have no annual stats for church attendance).

Of course stats such as those graphed in the article cannot tell us whether (say) there might be a levelling out to a self-sustaining lower-than-current attendance flatline graph. And they do not allow for revival.

But such stats raise significant and urgent questions.

Questions, for instance, about what it is that we are doing (and not doing) that contribute to decline and what it is that we are doing that contribute (in the midst of decline) to growth and thus to possible new strategies whole Anglican churches could embrace moving forward.

On the one hand I am optimistic about ways in which we can do better. For instance, striving relentlessly to preach the gospel in ways relevant to ever changing contexts. It can be done and there are churches that are doing this. Some of them are Anglican :)

On the other hand, I am worried. In Western society (at least) there is a materialism, a sense of optimism and a general good health which provides a comfortable and long-lasting equivalent to the kingdom of God. If salvation is about the whole person being well, then human life has never been better than it is in the West where a raft of human ailments have been overcome and an array of pleasant opportunities for a good life are accessible by a huge majority. Proclamation of the gospel to a satisfied society is hard, hard work.

But Church Growth Modelling goes on to analyse these Anglican situations in a subsequent post.

You can of course read that post for yourself and digest what it says. Spoiler: evangelical strength is important!

For me, here are two key sentences, as CGM suggests the CofE is in a better state than TEC, SEC, or the Welsh Anglicans:

"When congregations ask for my advice on why they decline I first ask them what they believe, not what they do. Actions follow from beliefs. Perhaps the Church of England has, on average, stronger beliefs than the other three; beliefs that encourage growth."

For a much fuller analysis of the two posts, from a perspective honed by working within the CofE (but with interesting thoughts re other churches, including TEC), see Ian Paul's thoughts here.

Ian Paul adds further thoughts here.

Catholicity and covenant weighs in here.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Spiritual and Sacred Links for Monday 17th August 2015

Supplied by a UK colleague:

#1 Bishop Rennis Ponniah on why Christians should get involved with national life; #2 Anthony Billington on whether we should be ambitious; #3 Moore College on rediscovering our reformed roots in grace, faith, scripture, Christ etc; #7 Terry Waite preaches marking VJ day at Lichfield Cathedral; #8 Choral evensong from Cheltenham College Chapel; #11 please pray for the Sudanese pastors partly freed, but not to travel; #13 Aiding persecutors and it is becoming apparent that survivors of Ebola are not at the end of their troubles; #16 but some are taking things into their own hands.

Prayers for you for the coming week.

1. Our national life matters to God - Bishop Rennis Ponniah - St Andrew's Singapore Audio [Isaiah 6:1-8]

2. Ambition and the Kingdom of God - Anthony Billington - LICC Video

3. Recovering the Reformation: Grace, Faith, Scripture, Christ and the Glory of God Alone - Professor Kevin Vanhoozer - 38th Annual Moore College Lecture series Audio
and video

4. Preaching Ideas and Commentary - Rev Peter Carrell

5. The Sunday Readings - Rev Stephen Trott

6. The bells of Westminster Abbey - BBC Radio 4

7. Sunday Worship from Lichfield Cathedral marking the 70th anniversary of VJ day, the preacher is Terry Waite - BBC Radio 4

8. Choral Evensong from Cheltenham College Chapel  with the Eton Choral Course choir  - BBC Radio 3

9. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

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

Please pray for Rev Yat Michael and Rev Peter Reith still being prevented from travelling; for the persecuted church in Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Indonesia; and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

11. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Sudan: Appeal against Sudanese pastors travel ban fails - CSW
Three Christian women fined for indecent dress - CSW
Egypt: Egypt court reconsiders Christian's blasphemy conviction - WWM
Indonesia: Indonesia: Religious riot in Papua prompts church attacks elsewhere - WWM
South Carolina: Upcoming hearing
Prayers from Lent and Beyond


12. Sunday Programme with Edward Stourton - BBC Radio 4

Food for thought
13. UK's £2.7bn in aid to countries where Christians are persecuted - John Bingham
Sierra Leone Ebola village quarantine lifted - BBC
Ebola survivors clinic opens in Monrovia - WHO
Lamentations: A Bottle for the Tears of the World - Christianity Today
Joy in suffering? Seriously? Yes, seriously - St Helen's
Trustworthiness of Clergy and Other News - BRIN
Summer Sun: A little taste of heaven - St Helen's

14. Ave maris stella - James MacMillan - Truro Cathedral Choir

15. Simplicity - Rend Collective

16. Erison and the Ebola Soccer Survivors - NYT vimeo