Monday, August 21, 2017

Confession and repentance, critical to eucharist

Excellent post here on the importance of confession and repentance before participating in communion. Starring a couple of leading folk who are not actually Anglican ... but could be, by virtue of what they say!

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Politics of Jesus: which party supports you?

The other day I heard about a site called "I side with" (NZ election version here).

It helps people like me who get too concerned about personalities (English, Ardern, Flavell, Fox, yay; Winston Peters, nay) to focus on policy. By answering the questions, the site (having predigested policy statements) lets you know which party fits your views best.

Now, the other day when I first took the quiz, it came up with one set of answers. On Saturday I revised my answers in a few cases and also found a whole lot of new questions (participants can suggest new questions). This was what was returned:

So, on the one hand, this is not terrifically helpful to me, because of the closeness of scores for the first five parties. Intriguingly I have the Greens and ACT scoring pretty closely, even though they are generally poles apart on policy!

On the other hand, given that my answers are unlikely to be significantly different from most Christians (a bit morally conservative, fiscally responsible, environmentally friendly, refugee and immigrant welcoming, etc) it is illuminating how many choices a Christian has in this election about which party is broadly supportive of Christian values in respect of politics.

I will keep thinking, evaluating, discerning. I am sure you will too. And I will take the I side with quiz again before 23 September 2017!

Monday, August 14, 2017

New Option for Synod re Christchurch Cathedral

Our Synod will be considering a third option. Stuff carries a report here. Taonga reports here.

Option A = reinstatement
Option B = new build
Option C = give the cathedral to the government (i.e. to the people of New Zealand).

I have pulled out of proposing the motion to the Synod because I do not support Option C and could not speak in favour of it. (I am quite happy with reinstatement or a new cathedral so could speak in favour of both as the motion originally proposed.)

This week we have three Area meetings in order to discuss this new development (along with some other late Synod business).

I may or may not post my reasons for opposing Option C subsequent to those meetings.

You may or may not wish to comment here on Options A or B or C (or propose D ...)

Dean of Christ Church in Christchurch

These past few days Dean Martyn Percy of Christ Church, Oxford (college, cathedral) has been visiting Christchurch, NZ, with his wife Emma Percy.

I was lucky to hear Martyn speak four times - two lectures, Evensong sermon last evening and a seminar following. Across these talks, Martyn displayed scholarship, theological acumen, insight into cultural change, and a general flair for putting things in such a way that made us - certainly me - think.

We do not often have theologians of such calibre in our neck of the woods, so it has been a treat.

Martyn is a Tweeter and a story of his visit, via photographs and brief comments on Twitter can be found here.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

More Down Under Views on Marriage, and more notes from England

From Auckland, and from what could be called the progressive wing of our church, Helen Jacobi, Vicar of St Matthews-in-the-City, offers her view on the working group proposal. SPOILER ALERT: Helen's view is polar opposite to "beautiful accommodation"! Please discuss her response on her site so she can directly engage with your comments. I will not accept comments here which directly engage with what she has written.

Belatedly, I have discovered that, from Christchurch, Bryden Black, regular commenter here, has posted a response to the proposal on the AFFIRM website, here. As it requires a Log In to make comments there, and because Bryden is a regular reader here, I am prepared to take comments which directly engage with his post. SPOILER ALERT: Bryden is uncertain whether it is a "beautiful accommodation" or not!

Then from England:

Thinking Anglicans notices what is going on here.

From the TA site I draw your attention to a Church Times article about what is being proposed.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Two Down Under Views on Marriage, note from England

So, over in the West Island, things are reaching boiling point re whether there will or will not be a postal referendum, referendum, parliamentary bill, agreed to by senate or not, on, you know, that thing we in NZ actually managed to decide in a comparatively peaceful and orderly manner, same-sex marriage. But this is not time to boast. [That can wait till next Saturday night :).] Frankly, I am a bit confused. I think I understand one point: proponents of same-sex marriage are against a referendum on the matter, but not because a referendum (postal or otherwise) will go against change to the status quo, but because the accompanying debate will be full of homophobia.

Anyway, any Ozzie light shed on the matter of the politics of same-sex marriage, is welcome here, but what I do see in the public domain are two presentations on marriage, the existence of both views highlighting that Australian Christians are not agreed on what constitutes marriage.

One is by Jason Goroncy, a Baptist/Presbyterian theologian: A Christian theology of marriage.

The other is by Michael Jensen: I oppose same-sex marriage (and no, I am not a bigot).

I am citing these articles here, partly for possible future reference, partly because they represent for me some fine, careful Christian thinking about marriage. Yet, in my view, neither is completely satisfactory! Briefly, Goroncy omits discussion of Genesis 1-2; Jensen does not recognise the possibility that there is a distinction between 'contractual' marriage and 'conjugal' marriage, which in turn means it is possible for parliaments to change the terms of the former (as it often does re any law concerning contracts) while leaving untouched the permanent terms of the latter. (See, e.g. this book).

Finally, a note from the Church of England, from the Church of England Evangelical Council in particular, via Thinking Anglicans, here. Clearly some positioning is going on with respect to how the future might work out, following the recent General Synod of the CofE, which somewhat meekly bent itself in a progressive direction without, seemingly, much resistance from conservatives.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Politics of Jesus: martyred by the media?

This election is becoming truly messy. Less than ten days ago we had key opposition leaders, Andrew and deputy Jacinda (Labour), and Metiria as one of the Greens' co-leaders. Now Jacinda and deputy Kelvin have replaced Andrew and Jacinda for Labour. Metiria is gone this afternoon from her Greens co-leadership role. Just this morning I listened to her give a very good interview on Morning Report, calmly telling the world she was going nowhere.

Now, no one is sorry for Andrew Little. Performing badly in the polls, he had to go. And Jacinda taking over is absolutely the right and correct thing because in the first poll since those bad polls, she has added some 10% to Labour's figures, putting them into the mid 30s for the first time, well, it seems for ever, and some 20% to her own personal figure as preferred PM, coming in a msidgeon under Bill English's figure.

But Metiria? Despite TV3 trumpeting otherwise tonight, that their poll drove her out, Radio NZ claims the credit, citing a disgruntled family member, aghast at Metiria's "fake news" about her personal situation some 25 years ago. Either way, a theme in Twitter tonight is that she is a martyr for the cause of poor beneficiaries in NZ, and the media have cruelly hounded her from parliament. Others are not at all sad. Seemingly ignoring the other lying, dissembling politicians around NZ and the world (Hi, Donald!), to say nothing of all those white, male, business fraudsters who seem to stay out of jail for amounts of other people's money far in excess of what Metiria would have defrauded the taxpayer, they see Metiria as getting what she deserves. Or will do when she is charged by the authorities for her self-admitted fraud.

It is easy to be aggressively against Metiria - her story has become complicated compared to its initial simplicity and heartstrings' appeal. And it seems to have involved less than full honesty in the present, whatever confession of dishonesty in the past it may have involved: was the 1990s situation for the Turei family actually one of desperation about feeding a child, or simply desperation for financial stability? But is that temptation to cast stones of condemnation and criticism something a Christian should resist? We are called to not judge, to not cast stones, to forgive. We are called to side with the poor, to work for justice and to challenge the rich lest they make their wealth a millstone around their necks.

I agree with Finlay Macdonald that some political foolishness on Metiria and her party bosses' part has occurred, but I admire Metiria for her courage in drawing attention to the hard time poor people have, both beneficiaries and those on low wages.

Temptations to cheat "the system" must be extraordinary when you are anxious about feeding your children. Temptations to take a loan from loan sharks to help one's children - perhaps with sports fees or new shoes or a treat on a birthday - must be difficult to resist. It is all very well saying that if the beneficiaries are not poor relative to workers then there will be no incentive to work, but does "the system" have to ask so many intrusive questions of people who, in many cases, have not made a career choice to become a beneficiary.

Mind you, a national conversation about whether we treat the poor in NZ well should also ask whether, just possibly, a rogue few beneficiaries rorting that system have contributed to ever increasing rules, regulations and restrictions on all beneficiaries?

But, my sense, prompted by Metiria Turei's brave but ultimately tragic step into the limelight, is that we taxpayers might ask whether we could more generously support our government loosening the purse strings and loosening the ropes of regulations in order to be a fairer society. Is there any particular reason why Christians should not be pushing that conversation along?

An irony of the messy situation our election season is experiencing, in my view, is that Metiria Turei asked questions which are the natural provenance of the Labour Party and they, in tonight's poll, are (bad pun) the beneficiaries of her work.

I wonder, conversely, whether the Greens will question themselves over what has become a debacle for them. Their natural provenance is care for the environment. The Lord of creation knows we need a huge kick up the behind on that score. (Anyone in Canterbury travelled up to Hanmer recently, and observed the preparations for dairying on Ngai Tahu land just north of the Hurunui River? Where are all those nitrates going to run to? Hint: it will be downhill towards the river and not uphill towards the mountains).

The Greens are our conscience on that matter, and very good at it too. And, in my view, they should be available to be that environmental conscience for any left or right government. Their combination of Marxism and ecology has kept them in opposition every year they have had members in parliament. Time for a divorce? Marx won't mind remarrying Labour. Developing businesses in a clean environment is a tough, complex problem ($15 cabbages, anyone?). It would be good for NZ if the Greens focused solely on that.

Finally, in really great news, New Zealand First dropped in the poll tonight.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Confession is good for the soul [UPDATED]

An internet joy is finding posts which illuminate the human condition or shed light on what it means to be a Christian, a follower of Christ.

Two read by me recently are by Ron Hay (superb Kiwi writer) and ++Rowan Williams (not a Kiwi, but we won't hold that against him). Both are somewhat confessional pieces.

A Special Spiritual Memoir

A marriage of war and peace

The first, by Ron Hay, but drawing on Lewis Smedes, challenges any simple adherence to the beautifully coherent but quite wrong theology of Calvin. Smedes offers a beautiful confession of his faith.

The second, by ++Rowan Williams, reviewing a volume of published letters by Lev and Sonya Tolstoy, challenges any simple adherence to an otherwise greatly gifted human being, no matter what spiritual illumination they offer. Williams offers a confession that saintly figures in the church are not actually saintly (if by that we mean closer to perfection than we are).

Why not also mention this lovely story of our latest female bishop, Ellie Sanderson's conversion!

This lovely interview and obituary by Peter Fitzsimons, my favourite atheist sports journalist and general opinionist. Yeah, I know he is an Aussie! But here he writes about one of the great Aussie sportswomen.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Which Peter is muddled in his moderate thinking?

What do you think?

Archbishop Peter Jensen has written a stirring, well argued, impeccably logical article entitled "The Mythical Middle."

It is completely obvious that he has another Peter in his sights. :)

Especially with his concluding sentence:

"Be careful of the Mythical Middle – it is in fact a Misleading Muddle!"

But I am wondering if ++Peter is as muddled as that other Peter.

I say that because ++Peter seems to think that a church cannot entertain lots of moderates in a middling if not muddling position. It is bound to end in disaster, seems to be the implication of what he writes.

But when he writes these words below, I feel he is an accurate, sympathetic historian of a certain church I know well, which has lasted with its over population of muddled moderates for centuries!

"In this way, you can avoid being ‘an extremist’. Of course, ‘extremist’ is such an ugly word that no one wishes to accept the label.  We much prefer to have the good judgement that enables us to be in the middle of any dispute, seeing the good on both sides but not turning the argument into a matter of mutually exclusive choice between two options.
Notice how the strategy of creating a false middle occurs. It appeals to the natural human desire to be supposedly rational in thought, calm, and fair. There is a belief that the truth in any matter is not at either ‘extreme’, but inevitably in the middle and if we occupy the middle ground we cannot go too far wrong.People with a product to sell often play off this instinct.  They don’t offer us two sizes of coffee cup – they offer three, knowing that most of us will choose the middle and pride ourselves on being moderate. What they do not tell us is that the middle choice suits them commercially as this is where the best profit margin will be.But it is not just in buying and selling. How many times are we told even in Christian communications that we have a choice between the over-emphasis of one side and the over-emphasis of another and that if we stick to the convenient middle, all will be well? Think. What if the truth is actually on the boundary and not in the middle?  What if there is no middle, but the choice is binary, and the middle is a mythical middle?For example, imagine a denomination in which some ministers teach that Jesus was a merely good man and others teach that he is both true God and true man. Where is the moderate, middle view here? Would it be to say that Jesus is divine but not fully God? We can hear all the arguments in favour of this moderate position – but we know that it is actually heretical.By using the word ‘extremist’ for those who hold a strong point of view, who make a stand, we excuse ourselves from the need to think, to make a decision, to act. Or we give ourselves permission to bless what God calls sin because it is not the most extreme form of such an activity. Or we acquiesce without protest in the activities of others doing this, in our name."
Incidentally, after I drafted the above, I came across notice of this extraordinary John McArthur recipe for responding to a gay child. Is this the logical extension of ++Peter's non-muddled approach to sexuality?

ADDED LATER: The implication of ++Peter's GAFCON piece is that churches of like pure mindedness should stick together. But, here's the thing, no Anglican church is perfectly pure. Here is a disturbing report of a GAFCON province, the Anglican Church of Kenya, being found to have sacked priests without evidence for the canonical crime for which they were assumed guilty.

Friday, August 4, 2017

You have been warned

Understanding the state of things where people are involved is a very tricky business. That is an eternal truth and a global truth!

For Christians there is the added challenge of understanding who we are as Christian people, who we are in the midst of the society in which God has planted us, and what, if any, is the role we might play in the transformation of that society, or, indeed, ourselves as God's people.(An alternative being that we apathetically leave all change in the hands of God, or, only engage with the possibility of change via a strict life of active prayer and non-engagement with any other activism).

Into such musing we might read Ross Douthat (H/T Bowman Walton) who is a remarkable NYT columnist, never not worth reading!

This column focuses on American Catholicism and the Vatican's understanding of it. But it is not rocket science to make a translation into the Australian and New Zealand Down Under contexts. Especially in this week of the remarkable phenomenon of religion creeping into our Kiwi politics ... I refer to the various scapegoats roundabouts and to the extraordinary exercise in hagiography which our media embarked on when the Labour Party elected a new leader on Tuesday!

Thus Ross Douthat warns us to sharpen our thinking, to accurately discern the signs of the times and to do our research so that we can speak truthfully about the state of things where people are involved.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Update on Beautiful Anglican Accommodation Post

1. I discovered this morning some comments that had not been published (to various recent posts, including the "beautiful" Anglican accommodation post, 11 July 2017) ... now published.

2. That accommodation post is now "below the fold" and it may help you to get there by posting the link here.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Politics of Jesus: what a difference a day makes! [UPDATED]

Wow. That old saying, A Week Is A Long Time In Politics, re-truthed this week as a couple of bad polls confirm that our Labour Party has been polling badly, and Andrew Little - bless him, decent man that he is - fell on his sword, stepped down as leader and nominated the obvious successor, Jacinda Ardern, to succeed him. Bang. Labour has a relatively inexperienced leader but a photogenic one (don't minimise the importance of that in our televisual age) and, much more importantly, a brilliant performer in the media. Jacinda is an eloquent, thinking quickly on her feet star and it is right and proper that she now leads the only serious alternative party of governance in our land. If Labour do not lead the government on 24 September 2017, they will do after the election in 2020. You can pretty much bet your house on that.

But what does all this mean for Christians contemplating who to vote for in this year's election? I suggest it means very little(bad pun!). While it matters that we have competent leadership, what matters more is what ideology drives the government of the day and thus what we theologically make of that ideology. Policy substance is more important for Christians electing a government than personality.

Sure, Jacinda may now make a play for some policy change that she wants to emphasise and to sell with her own cheerful ("relentlessly positive"), pleasing manner. But we should determine whether we will vote for the Labour Party on its policy first and on its leadership secondly. Ditto other parties.

I have my own views on what Labour Party policy would mean for our country if elected. Ditto other parties. My choice and yours is not much different today than yesterday. But it might be a little bit different in this way: if we reckon each party's policies are a mix of good, bad and indifferent, and if we reckon they are all (pluses and minuses added up) equally good or bad or simply indifferent, then it would be right and proper to think about the style of leadership of our future government. The "Jacinda-effect" might then kick in. So might, and especially for Christians, the Bill English effect (that he is a committed Christian and public with it).

On one matter of leadership I am prepared to be very public in my views about leadership: there are no circumstances in which I think Winston Peters would be a good Prime Minister for Aotearoa New Zealand (as some are calculating might happen). Of all the things a country might appreciate in its human leader, maverick tendencies are not one. Need I point you in a certain north-eastern direction to remind what a disaster having a maverick for a leader is?

UPDATE: I find my blogging colleague, Michael Reddell, at Croaking Cassandra makes a lot of sense here as he gives Jacinda Ardern and her party advice which could help elect them AND more importantly, help a huge number of Kiwis!