Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Kiwi response to the Scots showing the English the way forward (Prelude)

A few posts ago, some sharp questions came in responsive comments. I identify these questions as particularly sharp (in my view):

(1) "“Oh, you might say, but we need to press for the 'truth' to win. I agree but I find there are two different versions of what is 'true' about same sex marriage and they are pushing together like two scrums with no signs of one buckling and the referee is getting impatient for the ball to come out. And the different scrums are composed of friends of mine. I would like to not ditch one set of friends for another.”

Hmm, two different truths .. 2+2 makes 4, AND 2+2 makes 5 .. both true? Both acceptable? Requiring those in the math class to learn a new set of ‘truths?’ Peter, if you have friends in both scrums, as indeed I hope we all do, then what sort of friends are they that they don’t deserve to hear your particular version of the two truths? I suppose I must ask again, where exactly is the line you draw .. or is there not one at all?"

(2) "How would opting out line up with the religious exemption in the Human Rights Act? You could hardly argue that something is core to your belief if half of your fellow believers thought it was not."

(3) "I agree that living with difference is a model that can work for "disputable matters".
But why not apply this same logic to priests living in a de facto relationship? That is a widely accepted practice in today's society but it violates God's commandments to us in the same way as active homosexual relationships do.
Once you start down the road of "co-existence" or "living with difference" you need very clear guidelines about what is disputable and what is not. 
To follow your analogy, are we still really a team if we're wearing the same jumper but every player plays according to their own set of rules?"

(4) "Obviously, choices in this life involve many possibilities, and some possibilities may clearly lack other and crucial qualities. The suggested "solution" in your post values expediency and a form of "peace" over principle and a struggle for revealed truth. I'll let you decide whether, in view of the following quotes, a possibility heavily-based on expediency is something you commend to any Christian denomination. My views is that any denomination that places a high value on expediency is due for reaping a deserved low respectability rating from the general populace together with a concomitant, nominal status the denomination will occupy in the life of that population.

"Enter by the narrow gate. Wide is the gate and broad the road that leads to destruction, and many enter that way; narrow is the gate and constricted the road that leads to life, and those who find them are few." Mt. 7:13 (REB). "'Make every effort to enter through the narrow door; for I tell you that many will try to enter but will not succeed.'" Lk. 13:24 (REB)"

(5) "Once the pass that "marriage is for life" was surrendered, the insistance on "one man, one woman" becomes clearly about attitudes to homosexuals more than about "retaining marriage as it was". The on-this-site oft-repeated "two wrongs don't make a right" sounds extremely hollow after many years now of nothing being done about the first "wrong". The plain reading of the Bible is much clearer about the first wrong than the second, and, casuistry notwithstanding, the issue is much deeper than agreeing, as is easily done, on a God-sourced anthropology. The integrity of Christianity is at stake when those who in NT-Jesus terms bless adultery and fornication of sequentially-monogamous heterosexuals, but vociferously condemn homosexuals seeking to express God's lifelong covenant in their relationship."

(6) "[After 2 points made] 3. Lastly, and vitally, given for the moment that the two stances as outlined in Motion 30, 1 (a) and (b), do have their respective “integrities”, and given a way forward can be found institutionally whereby these two might live ‘under one roof’ [both massive assumptions, I realise], nonetheless what integrity might this new entity itself possess?

Well; there we all have it ... And the outcome of such careful archaeological/genealogical work will, I suggest, only show how illogical and impossible it will be to keep these ‘good folk’ within one and the same house ... And thereafter history, especially eschatological history, will be the judge."

(7) "Peter, Mike has a point. This really is not for me to say, but do evangelicals need to repent of allowing an almost sacramental divorce. From a sola scriptura point of view, gay marriage is trivial if you allow heterosexual divorce."

I hope over coming days to offer some thoughts on each of these seven. I note that in the comments to the original post some replies are already given by others.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Spiritual and Sacred Links - Monday 25 May 2015

Supplied by a UK colleague ...

Here are some things which may be of interest: #1 Mike Pilavachi, Soul Survivor preacher on the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church; #2 Bishop Rennis Ponniah on the call to Christian service; #3 Stewart Ruch explains the charismatic understanding of prophesy; #4 Professor John Lennox on the compatability of Christianity and Science, but not Atheism; #8 and 9 Bellringing for Pentecost in Hull; #10 Ascension choral evensong from Lichfield; #13 I thought of apologising for or cutting some of the many links to persecution of Christians, but the reality is that it is accelerating, particularly in from Muslim and atheistic forces, so please pray for the many Christians under pressure across the world; #15 Thoughts on Pentecost, science and the fall out from the UK election.

Prayers for you for the coming week

SERMONS AND TALKS
1. Holy Spirit for the Local Church - Mike Pilavachi - St Albans Fulham Audio [Acts 2]
http://tinyurl.com/oktln6j

2. The Nature of Christian Service - Bishop Rennis Ponniah
http://tinyurl.com/qhcj6m8

3. Pentecost Sermon - Rev Steward Ruch - St Andrew's Cathedral Singapore Audio [1 Corinthians 13:13 and 14:1]
http://tinyurl.com/nwnnbq4

4. Cosmic Chemistry: Do Science and God Mix? John Lennox - Veritas Forum at U of Florida
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Km0FGgbx42I

Commentary
5. Preaching Ideas and Commentary - Rev Peter Carrell
http://preachingdownunder.blogspot.co.nz/

6. The Sunday Readings - Rev Stephen Trott
https://laworgospel.wordpress.com/

7. The New Testament in a year with Rev Andrew Goddard
http://www.sjtl.org/category/reading-nt/

WORSHIP
8. The bells of Holy Trinity, Hull - BBC Radio 4
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05vssqb

9. Sunday Worship from Holy Trinity, Hull - BBC Radio 4
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05vssqn

10. Choral Evensong from Lichfield Cathedral - BBC Radio 3
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05vh9ps

11. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05vxlj5

12. Choral services from the chapels of King's College Cambridge
http://www.kings.cam.ac.uk/choir/webcasts.html
and St John's College, Cambridge
http://www.sjcchoir.co.uk/webcasts
and Trinity College, Cambridge
http://trinitycollegechoir.com//webcasts/listen-again/
and New College, Oxford
http://www.newcollegechoir.com/webcasts.html

PRAYER
Please pray for the Church of England, Christians and all facing persecution and crime in Syria and Iraq, Nigeria, Kenya, Sudan, Iran, Pakistan and China; for those affected by the earthquakes in Nepal; for peace in Burundi, Ukraine, Israel and Gaza; and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

13. Topical Prayers - Church of England
http://tinyurl.com/6wnk2pk
Prayers for the Church of England from Lent and Beyond
http://tinyurl.com/mvux2u3
Nigeria: Christians killed as villages raided - Release International
http://tinyurl.com/ouzdebx
Four priests beaten to stupor as Enugu government battles Anglican Church - Daily Post Nigeria
http://tinyurl.com/orl29ha
Kenya: Al Shabaab attacks village in Kenya's Garissa - CT
http://tinyurl.com/qdcox7s
Sudan: Trial begins for Sudanese Clergymen - CSW
http://tinyurl.com/ocfu3k6
Iran :Eighteen Iranian Christian Converts Sentenced to a Total of 23 Years in Prison - ICNA
http://tinyurl.com/pzawf64
Pakistan:Pakistan charges 106 over deaths of Christian couple burnt in brick kiln - CT
http://tinyurl.com/nbd22m5
China:Chinese President warns religious groups against foreign influence - CT
http://tinyurl.com/plonmbg
South Carolina: Visit of Primate of South America
http://tinyurl.com/q6f5erh
Prayers from Lent and Beyond
http://tinyurl.com/kssn33y

CURRENT AFFAIRS
14. Sunday Programme - with Edward Stourton - BBC Radio 4
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05vssqj

Food for thought
15. What is Pentecost? - Mark Woods
http://tinyurl.com/o33esx6
Why doesn't the Holy Spirit do anything to me? - Martin Saunders - CT
http://tinyurl.com/ntmxmsz
Seven Spirits of God: A Pentecost Exhortation - Peter J Leithart - First Things
http://tinyurl.com/nszpcqa
3 Reasons for Christians to Engage in Science - Ed Stetzer - Christianity Today
http://tinyurl.com/pgfosp9
The time bomb in the church's midst... and how to defuse it - Martin Saunders - CT
http://tinyurl.com/qek5twg
The 2015 General Election: Religious Affiliation and Party Vote Share Across Constituencies - BRIN
http://tinyurl.com/pxfymrk
CofE celebrates key Christian appointments in Parliament - Ruth Gledhill - CT
http://tinyurl.com/or2k9fd

FINALLY
16. Alpha International Lookback 2015
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQ3uxlJJGsw

17. O thou who camest from above - Stopford - Ecclesium
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAdWe67BajU

18. Spirit Fall - New Wine Worship
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdioQL3HWLM

19. Praise the Lord with Drums and Cymbals - St. Olaf Handbell Choir [Psalm 150]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwrshiYDn0M

Friday, May 22, 2015

During interlude let's pop over to the States (updated: and to Ireland)

Sorry but my schedule is terrifically intense and dangerously deadlined re a major funding application. So my reply to questions to the post below is postponed until ... I have some spare time. After the deadline?

In the meantime life and Anglican debates go on, so why not pop over to the States, or stay there if you are already there?

The Living Church has a useful lead in article with links to unfolding discussion and debate as TEC's General Convention looms into view and thus the imminence of proposed change to TEC marriage canons is well, imminent. Tobias Haller's blog features among the links.

UPDATE: Tim Stanley, reflecting on the just announced (as I write) news that Ireland has overwhelmingly voted in a referendum for same sex marriage to be legalised, offers this:

"Why were the forces behind Yes so overwhelming? 
Well, it could just be that the case for gay marriage is so strong – that the siren call of equality was irresistible. 
It could also be that the No side’s arguments were out of touch with how the West now views not only gay rights but the institution of marriage itself. 
No campaigners kept on talking about the importance of parenthood – as though marriage was still a legal contract entered into with the express purpose or hope of raising children. But this traditional understanding of marriage has long since passed away. It’s about love, children are not necessarily a priority, and religion is window dressing. 
Given this tectonic shift in attitudes towards marriage, it’s going to be harder and harder to insist that it be limited to just a man and a woman – or even just to two people."

Stanley, incidentally, in my experience of his writings is a deeply sympathetic Catholic, so his words above are not his personal criticism of the traditional understanding of the institution of marriage. Rather he is attempting to capture the Zeitgeist of Ireland.

I reckon he captures the Zeitgeist sweeping the whole Western world!

The [Anglican] Church of Ireland has posted a response to the referendum here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Are the Scots showing the English the 'way forward'?

The clock is running down for Western churches. It is certainly running down for ACANZP. Less than one year to go now till our next General Synod.

What are we going to do about same sex partnerships, including same sex marriages now made possible by civic authorities in some countries?

I suggest the solution showing signs of emerging is one in which we agree to live with our (severe) disagreement and diversity on the matter. When no side is budging there is an option which is not schism. That option is living with difference.

It is not rocket science to see that the CofE is heading that way (analogous to how it is holding itself together over women bishops).

Now the Church of Scotland has charted this way forward with a 309 to 183 vote:

"A spokesman for the Church of Scotland said that the current stance meant that the Church had adopted a position which "maintains a traditional view of marriage between a man and woman, but allows individual congregations to 'opt out' if they wish to appoint a minister or a deacon in a same sex civil partnership."

The Telegraph reports that the Scottish think this might be a way forward for the English,

"The Very Rev David Arnott, who coordinates the General Assembly’s business, said that although the Presbyterian structure of the Church of Scotland is different from that of Anglican churches, he hoped the plan could offer a “template” for the Church of England to consider.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme: “We are not going to change people’s minds, we have to come to a way of living together with our differences and living with our diversity and I hope that we’re able to do that."

Could ACANZP do something like that?

Oh, you might say, but we need to press for the 'truth' to win. I agree but I find there are two different versions of what is 'true' about same sex marriage and they are pushing together like two scrums with no signs of one buckling and the referee is getting impatient for the ball to come out.

And the different scrums are composed of friends of mine. I would like to not ditch one set of friends for another.

Reading about the current moment in the CofE approach, concerning facilitated conversations, I note these two reports, by Jeremy Pemberton and Richard Coles

I don't imagine that a similar conversation in our church would yield a different set of reports from two blokes committed to changing the status quo. They are not going to buckle. The conservatives who took part in the conversation are not buckling. We can be sure the conservatives who did not turn up are not buckling either.

But here is the thing: everyone wants to remain in the Anglican church.

Both scrums want to remain on the same field playing rugby union. No one wants to opt for rugby league!

I do not see how we are going to remain in the one church unless we can find a way forward something like the Scottish proposal for the Presbyterians.

It wouldn't take that much humility for Anglicans to learn something from Presbyterians. Would it?



Monday, May 18, 2015

Sacred and Spiritual Links - Monday 18 May 2015

Supplied by a UK colleague ...

Here are some things which may be of interest: #1 David Wright on why Jesus chose the Vine as his last I am saying. #2 and #3 Christian ethicist Joshua Hordern and Vaughan Roberts on Christianity and politics; 4 John Lennox on evil and suffering; #5 talks from HTB's leadership conference with Anglican, Catholic and other speakers. #14 a clever new website for bible study from Tyndale House, how Christians voted and changes in hymn singing.

Prayers for you for the coming week:

SERMONS AND TALKS
1. The True Vine - David Wright [Acts 8:26-40 & John 15:1-8] - St Andrew's Oxford Audio
http://tinyurl.com/nt6ensj

2. God, Politics and the Gospel [1 Timothy 2] - Dr Joshua Hordern - St Marks Battersea Rise Audio
http://tinyurl.com/ncvkop7

3. What should the Government do? - Vaughan Roberts - St Ebbes Audio [Romans 13: 1-7]
http://tinyurl.com/q7pk4yr

4. The Loud Absence - John Lennox and Jane Beal - Veritas Forum Video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjASQOlFn-E

5. Talks from the HTB Leadership Conference
https://lc17.alpha.org/2015-talks

Commentary
6. The Sunday Readings - Rev Stephen Trott
https://laworgospel.wordpress.com/

7. Preaching Ideas and Commentary - Rev Peter Carrell
http://preachingdownunder.blogspot.co.nz/

8. The New Testament in a year with Rev Andrew Goddard
http://www.sjtl.org/category/reading-nt/

WORSHIP
9. The bells of St Edith's, Monks Kirby in Warwickshire - BBC Radio 4
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05v6ghr

10. Choral Evensong from St Pancras Church during the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music - BBC Radio 3
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05tq45n

11. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05vbsty

12. Choral services from the chapels of King's College Cambridge
http://www.kings.cam.ac.uk/choir/webcasts.html
and St John's College, Cambridge
http://www.sjcchoir.co.uk/webcasts
and Trinity College, Cambridge
http://trinitycollegechoir.com//webcasts/listen-again/

PRAYER
Please pray for the Church of England, Christians and all facing persecution and crime in Syria and Iraq; for all refugeees and the persecuted church; for relief for those affected by the earthquakes in Nepal; for peace in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza; and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

13. Topical Prayers - Church of England
http://tinyurl.com/6wnk2pk
Prayers for the Church of England from Lent and Beyond
http://tinyurl.com/mvux2u3
Nepal: Prayer for those caught up in tragedy and disaster - CofE
http://tinyurl.com/ndfsnua
South Carolina: Prayers from Lent and Beyond
http://tinyurl.com/kssn33y

CURRENT AFFAIRS
14. Sunday Programme - with Edward Stourton - BBC Radio 4
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05v6gjg

Food for thought
15. This new Bible tool could revolutionise scripture reading across the world - Christian Today
http://tinyurl.com/pfwoaaq
Introduction from Tyndale House
http://tinyurl.com/qc5v9de
Step Bible - Try it out
https://www.stepbible.org/
Changing trends in hymn singing? - Heather Bamber - CEN
http://tinyurl.com/oe7rzwk
General Election Voting and Other News - BRIN
http://tinyurl.com/nw4jm9y
Worship Central Acadamy - church planting in Malaysia
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ykc4-SRbUQk

FINALLY
16. How Christians Grow - Charlie Skrine
http://tinyurl.com/om4m4gz

17. How Deep the Father's Love For Us - St Michael's Singers
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g424NcM5Of4

18. Tebe Poem - Rachmaninoff - Fitzwilliam College Choir
To thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.   My God, I trust in thee - from the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3zaKRrsYVE

Friday, May 15, 2015

Memo to NZ churches: Stop trying to be relevant!?

I have been away for a few days at a very successful Diocese of Christchurch Clergy Conference. It was a very busy time, so not even an attempt at blogging while away. Now back in the land of catching up on what I missed while away (FOMO anyone?) I see this and that which I could comment on, but for today, let's suffice with an article I noticed on my smartphone while away.

The NZ Herald has published a major article on religion in NZ, complete with interactive map.

The stats are mostly the expected 'not very encouraging' kind re growth (but Auckland, take a bow). They are also a salutary reminder that wealth can make one immune to desire for God.

But what are we to make of the situation? Should we change/stay the same/give up? The article offers some thoughts from leading NZ thinkers on religion. Nick Thompson is particularly interesting, hence the title of this post.

What do you think?

Overseas commenters are welcome to make suggestions too :)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Loving and caring relationships recognised and cherished in a culture of difference?

Who said this?

"A pluralist society can be creative in finding ways in which people of same-sex orientation have their rights and their loving and caring relationships recognised and cherished in a culture of difference, while respecting the uniqueness of the male-female relationship."

Was it one of our Kiwi bishops? One of the more trendy CofE bishops? An African bishop speaking anonymously? Some avant-garde Anglican blogger?

No! It was the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. With H/T to Ron Smith's KiwiAnglo blog, you can read the Tablet report here of the Archbishop's address here. (Delivered in the context of Ireland holding a referendum on same sex marriage).

There are at least two things to ponder in response, I suggest.

First, is the Archbishop thinking responsibly as a theological leader of a church which cherishes both truth and compassion?

Secondly, if a leading Catholic episcopal leader can be appreciative of same sex 'loving and caring relationships' while maintaining the distinctiveness of male-female marriage, what does that say about how conservative Anglicans might engage with shifting tectonic plates in global theological discourse about social issues such as same sex relationships?