Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Ecumenical Support for Bishop Victoria Matthews

The Press reports on a letter published in the Press letters' page today, signed by eight church leaders of ministries here in Christchurch/Canterbury.

"Presbyterian moderator David Coster wrote the letter as he felt the media and politicians unfairly criticised Matthews. .

"The bishop is being blamed in a way that all the Christian denominations felt was unfair. We have remained silent until now," he said.
Coster said the letter was written independently.
"The bishop has had nothing to do with this whatsoever," he said.
"We wanted to say publicly to the bishop and the community we serve that we are concerned about how she has been treated."

The letter states church buildings are primarily places of worship.
"The costs – spiritually, emotionally and financially – of all our buildings are borne by those for whom these places of worship are their spiritual home," the letter states.
"First and foremost the Cathedral in the Square, like all Christian church buildings, is a place of worship to the God we know in Jesus Christ and a reminder to the wider community of God's presence. The reason why all churches exist is to make Jesus Christ known and to enable people to gather in community and worship. The church is not primarily a landlord tasked with caring for stone or wooden edifices."
It was signed by Coster, Methodist district superintendent Kathryn Walters, Catholic diocese administrator Rick Loughnan, Grace Vineyard Church senior pastor David MacGregor, Elim Church lead pastor Nu Telea, Salvation Army divisional commander Ivan Bezzant, King's Church senior pastor Ken Shelley and Baptist regional mission leader Maurice Atkinson."

My bold

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Islamism found to be surprisingly contextual and challenging [UPDATED]

Brilliant, careful, challenging (but long) reflective article on Islamism here, by Colin Chapman.

Colin is a Christian scholar of Islam with first-hand experience of living in the ME.

UPDATE: my friend Steve Bell weighs in on the question whether Islam is "the problem"?

Monday, May 29, 2017

Islamism found to be surprisingly religious

Understandably and properly politicians take great care not to fuel anti-Muslim bigotry when faced with yet another terrorist event. The vast majority of Muslims are as aghast and horrified by the recent Manchester bombing as non-Muslims are.

But politicians have been criticised for underplaying the role of Islam as a religion in terrorist events. The gist of what many have said is terrorists are not driven by their religion but by their ideological convictions. The form is Islam, the latter is Islamism and the relationship between the two is tenuous at best.

The truth we need to face, however, is that Islamism that drives Manchester-type terrorism (technically most accurately described as Salafism) is deeply Islamic. Here is the chilling, terrifying ISIS media release re Manchester:



Here the West is "the Crusaders" or militant Christians, down to every last teenage fan of Ariana Grande. All soldiers in this centuries old religious war. The bombing is "revenge for Allah's religion." The concert arena is "shameless" meaning it transgresses Islamic values of purity and holiness. The next event will be worse, "more severe on the worshipers of the Cross and their allies." Everything happens within an Islamic religious worldview, "by Allah's permission."

The Islamism of terrorism is not an ideology it is a religion. A terrifying, rogue strand of Islam. And, seemingly, ultimately well funded by Saudi Arabian money (to which you and I have contributed with "donations" at petrol pumps). Saudi Arabia, not to forget, being the country in which Mecca is found.

This religion has one particular religious enemy: Christians. So, in the past couple of days, we learn again of another atrocity against Coptic Christians in Egypt. Ruthlessly gunned down for their imperialist foreign policy.

Let's be clear about two matters these events highlight.

(1) We cannot in the West feign innocence about our contributions to Islamic terrorism. Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are correct to identify that Western actions have exacerbated the threat to Western countries from Islamic terrorism. However well intentioned we have been about military actions in places such as Libya and Iraq, the resulting chaos has been fertile for terrorist recruitment. Not one Western country (and certainly not NZ) has ever taken a decisive stand against Saudi Arabia and its shadowy role in these matters. Trump's fawning visit to Saudi Arabia recently underlines the importance we Westerners place on this country. The West is not responsible for Islamic terrorism but it has contributed to the conditions in which it has been conceived, birthed and nurtured.

(2) Even if we overcome our feigned innocence, put matters to right in Libya and Iraq and deal to Saudi Arabia, Islamism will still be at war with Christians. Coptic Christians have no foreign policy to fault. They were not European Crusaders sweeping down on the Middle East. They are a minority people in a majority Muslim nation. But they worship the Cross. That is enough to warrant death. For Islamism there is only one way. Until we submit to that way, or are killed, Islamism will never give up. Allah requires the submission of every last person on the planet.

Islam, dear politicians, is surprisingly religious in its convictions.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

More, a cathedral way forward? UPDATED

Cathedral pros, cons and inbetweens continue unabated. Here are some links:

- a Q and A in the Press which may help catch some up with the issues and questions in the matter

- a TV One News item (though it mixes recent written text with a much older interview with Gerry Brownlie)

- a sympathetic response to the church's dilemma, prompted by an execrable Martin Van Beynen column in yesterday's Press (and other Fairfax papers), written by Michael Reddell at Croaking Cassandra

UPDATE: Winston Peter's gets that old time religion!

MONDAY UPDATE: Bishop Victoria herself being interviewed by John Campbell on Checkpoint.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A way forward?

No, not back to "the" way forward our church at large seeks on Another Issue but is there a way forward for our cathedral in the Square?

On the one hand, Bishop Victoria has written an op-ed for the Christchurch Press, online here (and, presumably, to be published tomorrow in the print edition). She has also been interviewed tonight on Seven Sharp (here).

On the other hand, tonight a cross-party political group of local MPs has announced it is united and determined to "break the deadlock over the Christ Church Cathedral."

That doesn't sound like a group of democratically elected MPs intent on respecting the parliamentary democracy of the church!

UPDATE THURSDAY A.M.

In the Press this morning:

This frontpage article

This assessment of power and influence (which inaccurately describes her power within Synod as "She has a third of the vote at the synod." A bishop of a diocese does not have a third of the vote but has the power to veto a decision sought by the other two houses - the same power which each of those houses has. In practice, at least on matters not doctrinal, bishops rarely if ever use such a veto. The critical vote at Synod will be the majority not the vote of anyone individual.)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Cathedral decision to be made by Synod [UPDATED]

Last Wednesday evening at our clergy conference at Pudding Hill we had a full and frank discussion of the matter of the cathedral in Christchurch Square. One outcome of that discussion was a unanimous recommendation by those gathered that the matter of the cathedral be referred to our Diocesan synod, whose next scheduled meeting is in early September.

Bishop Victoria clearly took that recommendation on board because late Saturday afternoon just past a pastoral letter was sent to all parishes with request that it be read out the following Sunday morning. The substantive action proposed in the letter was that the decision about the future of the cathedral would be made at our September Synod.

Below I give (i) the Diocesan Media Release about this; (ii) some links to media reports; (iii) a citation of the express power in the Church Property Trustees (2003) Act for Bishop Victoria to make this referral.

Press Release:

"Media Release
Diocese of Christchurch
21 May 2017


Decision on ChristChurch Cathedral will be made in September 2017

Members of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch’s Synod will make the decision on the future of ChristChurch Cathedral at its meeting in early September 2017.

Synod is the governing body of the Christchurch Diocese and is made up of more than 225 members representing the entire Anglican Diocese of Christchurch.  
Making the announcement today (Sunday May 21) Bishop Victoria Mathews said, “We are very aware that the city and beyond is very frustrated with the amount of time it has taken to reach a decision on the future of our beloved Cathedral. Church Property Trustees (CPT) and the entire Diocese share that frustration.
“After much thought and prayer I have decided to reserve the question on the future of the Cathedral in the Square to September 2017 for our diocesan Synod’s decision.  This means that the members of the Synod will decide on the future of the Cathedral, rather than the Church Property Trustees.
’As the ChristChurch Cathedral is a church building above all else, and a place of worship, the decision on its future should be made by the membership of the Synod comprising the gathered clergy and laity of the Diocese who will be using the Cathedral forever.
“One of the factors that influenced my decision was the strong recommendation of the diocesan clergy at our recent clergy conference to take the matter to our Synod.  I acknowledge and thank the clergy who were present for their prayer, support and advice.
“To date the view of the Church has been that we should proceed with a contemporary Cathedral. In 2013 our Synod voted for an inspirational Cathedral. Recently the Standing Committee expressed its view that a new Cathedral, costing no more than the insurance proceeds received for the Cathedral building in the Square, is its preferred option.”
Members of Synod will make a decision on whether to accept an offer to assist with reinstatement from the New Zealand Government or construct an inspirational contemporary cathedral to a design that is, as yet, undecided but the cost of which will be within the $42 million insurance fund.
“For the past six and a half years Church Property Trustees and its staff have done extraordinary due diligence on different options regarding the future of the Cathedral.  This includes engineering investigations, quantity surveying and research into fundraising options.  Along the way there has been active and passionate debate on what should be done.

“We recently undertook a scientific survey of public preferences among residents from Greater Christchurch on the future of the ChristChurch Cathedral. The results of the research were clear. People’s preferences change when they are fully informed, but there is still no overwhelming preference. People are still divided over whether to reinstate the Cathedral building in the Square or to commit to building a contemporary Cathedral that is inspirational and fit for purpose. We will soon release the survey results.  

“Church Property Trustees have carefully sought expert advice on all aspects of a possible reinstatement and considered the Government’s offer towards potential reinstatement,” says Bishop Victoria. “A majority of the Church Property Trustees are inclined to support the contemporary option however these preferences are still not decisive.  This is a vitally important question for our Diocese, the Canterbury community and impacts the regeneration of Christchurch which is why I have now made the decision to take the vote to Synod.”


Background
·         The Anglican (Diocese of Christchurch) Church Property Trust Act 2003 allows the Chairperson of the Church Property Trustees to reserve matters before the Church Property Trustees to Synod for its decision

·         Membership of CPT comprises Chairperson Bishop Victoria Matthews and eight trustees, who are members of the Church elected by the Synod. CPT Trustees are elected by Synod. 


Timeline
·         The Church Property Trustee’s decision to build a contemporary inspirational cathedral in the Square was challenged in the courts by the Greater Christchurch Building Trust (GCBT) in 2012 and led to two years of CPT defending its decision.

·         In June 2014, the High Court lifted the stay it issued in November 2012 on deconstruction of the Cathedral. This meant CPT could continue with its plan to progress the idea of building a contemporary cathedral in the Square.

·         Although there would be significant consenting issues, a beautiful and highly functional inspirational and contemporary cathedral, incorporating features and materials from the old cathedral, could be built within the $42 million of cathedral insurance funds then available.

·         This earlier key decision made a commitment to building a contemporary cathedral in the Square. The decision had been based on numerous engineering, costing, risk and other professional evaluations for which CPT sought advice for different options. All key reports were made public.

·         In May 2015 CPT's decision to build a contemporary cathedral was paused following a request from the GCBT to further discuss engineering and costs of a rebuild. At that meeting, GCBT's experts agreed with CPT's advice that the approximate cost of a rebuild would be approximately $100m (not $67m as GCBT had been publicly claiming), that base isolation is preferable, and the rebuild project would take approximately seven years.

·         CPT approached the government and suggested it might like to become involved. The Crown decided to appoint Miriam Dean QC to assess the situation.

·          In a previous conversation with Minister Brownlee, the Bishop and the Trustees present explained very clearly that they believed CPT might do well to move towards a compromise – a build of old and new materials despite the Diocese and CPT stating it had a preference for a contemporary build. 

·         The Trustees were open to reinstatement as long as when completed the project did not leave the Diocese or CPT in debt. In particular, it was highlighted that CPT could only commit $30m as it needed significant endowments to pay for the maintenance of such an expensive building and also to cover the cost of full replacement insurance, which is estimated at up to $360k a year.

·         In January 2016, CPT's decision to build a contemporary cathedral was again paused, following an approach from the Government to review the feasibility of reinstatement. CPT committed to good faith engagement and rescinded its standing resolution to deconstruct the Cathedral. 

·         The Government's Cathedral Working Group's report confirmed CPT's advice that the cost of reinstatement (rebuild) was approximately $104m (plus $4m fundraising costs), base isolation is preferable, and reinstatement would take approximately seven years.

·         CPT then agreed to a Government request to negotiate a funding and delivery model to reinstate the Cathedral. In late December 2016, CPT believed that an agreement was in place and were ready to sign.  However in November we had the Kaikoura 7.8 earthquake and the following month the Prime Minister resigned. 

·         By December 21, 2016, the offer on the table which CPT was prepared to sign  was changed to an entirely different document – a Statement of Principles. 

·         In March 2017 the Government clarified the terms of its new offer - $10 million grant and a $15 million loan and legislative assistance for reinstatement.

·         On 21 May 2017 Bishop Victoria Mathews announced that the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch’s Synod will make the decision on the future of ChristChurch Cathedral at its meeting in early September 2017.


Note: Individual Church Property Trustees are not available for any further comment.

Media inquiries
Communications Advisor
Jayson Rhodes
021 661319"

Media Responses:

NZ Herald

Stuff

The Press (which does not quite square up with the final sentence of the Media Release above!)

Radio NZ

ADDED TUESDAY:

Two Press articles: here and here.

Press Editorial here. (a bit odd, in my view, calling for a decision to be made yet not acknowledging that when a decision was made, it was challenged!)

Authority to Make Referral (from here):

"
6. Chairperson may reserve matters for consideration of Synod
  • (1)The chairperson of the Church Property Trustees may reserve for the decision of the Synod any matter raised for consideration by the Church Property Trustees.
    (2)The Synod must not decide under subclause (1) to rescind or cancel any contract or agreement or any sale, mortgage, lease, or other disposition of any part of the property.
"

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Tremendous Gospel Reading Today - The Best Gospel Reading

I am heading off to a lovely church at Mt Somers (Mid Canterbury) this morning to preach on the lectionary readings and to preside at the eucharist (blessed to be able to do so to enable the local priest and deacon to have a lovely holiday (they are married to each other).

The RCL gospel today is tremendous, the best gospel reading (now, who talks like that???):

John 14:15-21

"”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”"

The resurrected Jesus is alive and well and inside you. "The resurrection" is not an historical event if by that we mean that the resurrection only concerns the raising of a dead body on such and such a date from a tomb in the vicinity of Jerusalem. It is both that event of transformation of Jesus of Nazareth and the event of the transformation of our own lives as believers in whom Jesus Christ dwells by the Spirit, "another Advocate."

Christ is alive, Alleluia and he is living in me, you and us the church. Slight awkward implication, however! That means the most direct evidence for the resurrection of Jesus for the disbelieving world around us is, er, um, me, and you. and the church. The church as "the body of Christ" is not an ideal notion of the chummy unity of Christians: it is, literally, the living Christ in the world.

Does the world see the living Christ when it sees the church?

Yes, well, awkward question when we think of the scandals, the shortcomings and the silliness of the church (yes, not one of those funny hats we wear, constitutes evidence for the life of Christ).

But then the point of reading the gospel, to say nothing of preaching the gospel is that we hear and learn again what we are meant to be. Our confession and penitence is our opportunity to say to Jesus, "Here I am Lord. Sorry! Renew your life in me that my life may be your life in the world." Actually, also our confession is corporate: "Sorry, Lord! But here we are, renew a right spirit in us, that we may be the body of Christ, real and not ideal, attractive and not a turn off."

Our eucharistic participation is our feeding on the life of Christ that we may become what we eat and drink: Christ!

And this gospel reading tells us the amazing news that Jesus - the same Jesus who walked the dusty roads of Palestine - wants to live in us and us to live in him.

And, the reading gently challenges and encourages us about what this means: it is not a question of whether we feel Jesus is in us. It is a question of keeping Jesus' commandments.

Am I keeping Jesus' commandments? Are you? Yes? Then the life of Jesus is being lived out within us.

Very cool. The best gospel reading :)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Cathedral views

The Press carries a major article today about the possibility of a new cathedral in Christchurch, depending where the settlement of cathedral issues settles. Some bloggers familiar to readers here are cited from blogposts in 2013.

Not unrelated to me there has also been this view in the Press this week!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Best Ever?

For obvious reasons I don't like to place a headline on this blog "Out of Town, Out of (straightforward) Internet, Out of Action" so I didn't broadcast on Monday that I was heading to Pudding Hill (foothills of the Alps, 1.25 hrs from Christchurch) for three days of our annual Clergy Conference.

There I was able to post comments (there was internet) and even initially respond to a few. But then work on a presentation for our "Respectful Conversations" involved some transfer of videoed material to my One Drive (i.e. cloud synchronizing file system) and I realised that if I used my phone as a "hotspot" for laptop internet connection I would blow my monthly limit higher than nearby Mt Hutt. I was out of straightforward internet dealings with this blog and only last night at home responded to comments. (I also note this morning a message from One Drive saying it is nearly full!)

Anyway, as someone intimately involved with the running of the conference (led by Bishop Victoria, and with several others heavily involved in the work before and during the conference), it was very gratifying by the conference end to have some "best ever" comments. Not least because I thought the past two conferences were also "best evers" and it is pleasing to improve on already high standards.

Best ever conferences involve two important factors, I suggest. One is the content of the conference and the other is its mood. Content (culture, money, social justice, discipleship, respectful conversations) was outstanding with excellent input from mostly local "homegrown" speakers and the one out of Diocese contributor, Sue Burns, superbly led a "dry run" of our Respectful Conversations. Mood. Well, you cannot choose the mood of the conference in the way you can choose a slate of speakers, but the mood was great: a happy, convivial, congenial family of colleagues. Whether we were focused on difficult issues of our day or engaging in casual conversations during breaks we did so cheerfully.

Now back into the ordinary work and plenty to do. Not least on pressing forward with our "Respectful Conversations" across the Diocese in June. These conversations are about same gender relationships in the life of the church, as requested by our Synod last September. In order to be respectful they need to be structured, in order for the structure to work we need trained facilitators (which we now have) and in order for the whole diocese to be covered we need a programme of dates, which we are currently organising. No, do not comment on this paragraph. The moratorium is still in place. Once we get to c. 1 July the moratorium will lift. Patience ...

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Ecclesiology: Everyone does what is right in their own eyes?

The "embarrassing evangelicals" at Jesmond Parish Church (JPC), Newcastle, England - ordaining a bishop without requisite orders to do so - have stirred up a hornet's nest of posts and counter-posts, radio interviews (perhaps TV also), and have even made the news in Christchurch's Press. A good round-up of posts is at Thinking Anglicans. TA also reports on moves towards a new structure here.

Back to my post below: I finished it thus:

"I think in this situation there are also significant episcopathological questions about what we Anglican evangelicals understand ecclesiology is. I will leave that for another post, save for this teaser:

Is it not strangely "Catholic" rather than "Anglican" when we go outside our national church boundaries to secure the ordaining hands of another bishop in order to have a bishop "of our own"?"

Needless to say some others have been getting there before me:

(1) On the matter of what the ordainers and their supporters think about what they have done ecclesiologically, see this paper, Credible Bishops. Its fine and non-controversial point is that faithful leadership needs faithful uber-leadership. But what it misses, I suggest, is this idea: faithful uber-leadership to support faithful leadership does not require a bishop. A senior and respected priest will do the job. A General-Secretary (lay or ordained) or a relevant organisation for reform and renewal will assist greatly. Anglican history is replete with examples of faithful uber-leadership who were not bishops: Newton, Simeon, Stott, Watson, Green, Philip Jensen and here in NZ, Canon Orange.

(2) Andrew Goddard, the voice of centrist evangelical reason in the CofE today, exposes the irregularities of the ordination here. And, SPOILER ALERT, makes the point that the ordination is not only not in accord with CofE canon law, it is not in accord with the canons of REACH SA itself.

(3) We voices from Down Under are plural, with Mark Thompson, Principal of Moore College, Sydney, chiming in with fervent support for the ordination and the reasons for it taking place, but recognising that nevertheless the ordination is "irregular" which strikes me as precisely the point Andrew Goddard makes (though Mark Thompson does not understand how the ordination even breaks REACH SA's own rules).

(4) We had better balance the Goddards out by including the liberal one (if I may so speak) and Giles G makes a point here which is not far away from the point I would like to make re the ecclesiology of this specific episcopathology (the study of the conditions under which episcopacy may be a flourishing form of life, including whether that flourishing is like the multiplying of bacteria or the multiplying of fruit ripe for harvest).

(5) [Added later]: JPC itself has published its thoughts in a Q and A document about "new style bishops."

Here goes, and quite briefly because it is The Week of Clergy Conference and There Is A Lot To Be Done Before Heading to the Wilds of Mid Canterbury (and slightly less than flourishing internet):

(1) bishops oversee the church in large chunks (dioceses, provinces, national churches, Communions) and thus need to be drawn from the chunks by a process the chunk is agreeable to;

(2) bishops offer a focus of unity and work for unity of the chunks of the church they are appointed to oversee and thus their appointment (and ordination before appointment, if not already ordained a bishop) should be according to the agreed processes (orders, canons, liturgies) of the chunk concerned so that this focus of and work for unity begins with unity;

(3) bishops are definitional of churches which have bishops: (among other definitions and distinctions) Anglicans are not Presbyterians because we believe in individual bishops rather than the corporate episcopacy of the Presbytery; but we Anglicans are not Roman Catholics because we believe that (a) bishops may be married; (b) need not be submissive to the authority of a single bishop for the whole world, though should be submissive to some authority whether a more local/national archbishop/primatial bishop or to a local/national General Synod (Convention).

Wise owls among us will add further points, but three is a fine number, standard for sermons and bless by the Trinity. On the first two counts the ordination in Newcastle is jolly well irregular (at best) because it involves zero process of involvement according to agreed protocols of the wider church (whether that is the CofE, REACH SA or the network of churches Bishop Pryke will be bishop of).

That is, bishops, even evangelical ones, must have a catholic (agreeable to the whole church) character to them and in the case at issue, this character is missing. There is a strong sense in this case where a few have chosen a man to be ordained bishop and the ordination has taken place in a secret location, unknown to the many, that "everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes."

On the third point, I suggest that we do not beat about the bush or South African veldt working out whether the Overseas Bishops Measure or Canon X,Y or Z applies. When canons are disregarded in order to have a new bishop, we have a new church in process of being defined. (Cf. Giles Goddard's article). Let's not bewail the irregularity of Bishop Pryke's ordination. Let's beseech those who seek a better way for the orthodox in the CofE to leave now, following the new bishop. It is the honest thing to do.

However all the orthodox who want to stay in the CofE, who want to work within the rules of the church, who wish to both influence if possible and then abide by the resolutions of the General Synod, let them stay. Let them give their bishops a good old hurry up if they should stray from the way of Christ. But let them not go down the path of irregular ordinations ... unless, see the paragraph immediately above.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Embarrassing Evangelicals?

Warning: I am well aware that beneath the issue(s) I draw attention to here is "the issue" of the day for the Anglican Communion. Do not discuss that issue here: the moratorium remains in place. Do not mention it in passing. If you do, your comment will be deleted. Please comment on matters ecclesiological, episcopathological, vagrantes and flagrantes bishops, the imminent triumph or failure of evangelical Anglicans, Anglican evangelicals, Anglican churches here, there or here-and-look-now-also-over-there.

In the last few days Anglican news has taken an unexpected twist and turn. About a week ago the GAFCON Primates announced that they were thinking of ordaining a bishop for the British Isles. Cue wondering who that might be, which country they might come from, where their support would be and whether or not they would in some way be recognised by the powers that be.

But a couple of days ago it was announced that a senior priest/presbyter in the Jesmond Parish (Diocese of Newcastle, England), Jonathan Pryke, has been ordained a bishop by bishops of the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa [REACH SA] (formerly known as the Church of England in South Africa [CESA]). This church, for the record, has orders recognised by the CofE.

At this point, because you will be bursting with episcopathological fervour to know more (sometimes also known as epistemology), I need to point you to some articles and press releases and what have you, because "why" Jonathan has been ordained a bishop, "where" his territory (or even simply his focus) will be, "what" his relationship with his licensing bishop (as a priest/presbyter) will be, and "to whom" he will be accountable as a bishop, to say nothing of "whether" he will be disciplined and "by whom" is quite beyond this bear of small brain.

Try here, here, here and here. Also, fascinatingly, here for the relationship of REACH SA, CPSA and the CofE. Note also this report which suggests that despite ad hoc action(s) taking now or proposed now, a larger plan is being worked out. Also Andrew Brown on the case here.

Update: Ian Paul kindly includes this post as an introduction to his own thoughts on the matter at Psephizo. And Cranmer also comments here.

But here is what I do get about this situation, as an evangelical Anglican I am embarrassed that:

- other evangelical Anglicans have taken unilateral action ordaining a bishop without transparently informing proper authorities (the Bishop of Newcastle, the Archbishop of York) of intention to do so. Does not basic courtesy and commitment to living in the light require that?

- when GAFCON and its English partner, AMiE, had another plan, this action is unilaterally taken against that plan. What is it about fraternity and coherency that these English and other evangelicals do not get?

- also, in terms of walking in the light, how could Jonathan Pryke, on the executive of AMiE, not inform his fellow executive members of what was going to happen? Are they not on the same side? Why hide things? In what way does such manner of doing things enhance the reputation of evangelical Anglicans?

It is not unknown for evangelicals to operate factionally rather than coherently, it is a bug in the feature of the Reformational DNA which spawned evangelicalism!

I think in this situation there are also significant episcopathological questions about what we Anglican evangelicals understand ecclesiology is. I will leave that for another post, save for this teaser:

Is it not strangely "Catholic" rather than "Anglican" when we go outside our national church boundaries to secure the ordaining hands of another bishop in order to have a bishop "of our own"?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Will NZ blasphemy laws be Fryed?

Following up the post below, NZ anti-blasphemy law ("who knew we had one?") may change.

I am with Archbishop Philip.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Which one will Fry after judgment?

I leave it to the Irish juridical authorities to determine whether their blasphemy laws have been broken or not by Stephen Fry. On the face of it, he is unlikely to be found guilty, as any case against him would need to consider the full extent of what he said when he accused God of being a "maniac". 

And that full extent is pretty standard fare when we see that what he said, albeit colourfully, is simply that he would like God to explain why there is suffering in the world. Even theologians discuss that problem!

"Asked what he would say if he was confronted by God, Fry replied: "How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault? It's not right."It's utterly, utterly evil.
"Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?"Questioned on how he would react if he was locked outside the pearly gates, he responded: "I would say, 'Bone cancer in children? What's that about?'"Because the God who created this universe, if it was created by God, is quite clearly a maniac, utter maniac."Totally selfish. We have to spend our life on our knees thanking him? What kind of God would do that?""
 Fry's point in terms of "blasphemy" is that either God does not exist (so blasphemy cannot be an offence) or God exists and the suffering in the world is what is offensive. Dear God, please explain.

All, by the by, nicely illustrating C.S. Lewis's point about the modern age: we are no longer in the dock, being judged, but God is in the dock and if he should come up with a plausible explanation for suffering then he might get off. But we would need to be persuaded in the face of mounting evidence for the prosecution.

The question in my mind, and I suspect in yours also, is not whether Fry has been blasphemous but whether we can answer the charges he brings against God.

(Very, very briefly, on a subject on which much has been written) one thought that strikes me is that within the household of faith we often meet this kind of challenge by talking in terms of "mystery."

Why God permits suffering while being the God who is love is a mystery (i.e. we do not understand). How God through the incarnate Christ dying on the cross identifies with us in our suffering (or, more generally, in the suffering of the world) is a mystery. And, noting a further Fry charge, God is not selfish or self-centred: the command to worship and to give thanks is precisely something we joyfully respond to as that which rightly belongs to God because God is God (and not an ego). God is neither a maniac nor selfish but God is mysterious.

Clearly this kind of talk does not wash with Stephen Fry. His logic means there is no mystery about human suffering. God being God should and could do something about it, especially the remorseless evil of bone cancer killing children. The only mystery is that some crazy Christians won't admit to the obvious truth: if there is a God then God is a maniac. Maniacs meet the Maniac.

Fry, in other words, is challenging the household of faith about its witness to the world. Whatever it may mean within the household to talk about the mystery of suffering in the face of the God of love, the household has a credibility chasm talking about it to those outside. I suspect Fry actually speaks for millions of atheists and agnostics who refuse to commit to the God Who Will Not Adequately Explain Why Children Suffer.

Thoughts about our "external" language to the world around us?

Also you may like to go to this link.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Paul, Paul, who are you, what did you really mean and what do we do now?

If one scholar in the 20th century turned New Testament scholarship on its head, then a good argument supports that scholar being E.P. Sanders.

Michael Bird, an Ozzie cobber from across the Ditch, gives us choice insights into E. P. Sanders' latest book on Paul.

Plenty to think about.

If you do comment, do not comment on the You Know What section of what Sanders' says. I will not publish such comments. As previously stated in a post below, there is a ban until July-ish ...

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Contra Trump, breaking down the walls that divide

Anglicans involved in beatification?

Catholics sharing the platform?

Lovely story here!

Walls can be broken, Donald! Actually, didn't Ronald Reagan say something about tearing down a certain wall?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Is Brexit the key to understanding the English Reformation?

Or is it the other way round?

Either way there is a brilliantly written review by Giles Fraser of Eamon Duffy's latest attempt to argue that the English Reformation was a very bad, and quite unnecessary thing.

Read here.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Edging closer to my dream of a common date for Easter

I may be a nobody in the greater scheme of things re bringing Christians together, for example, by agreeing to a common date for Easter, but a couple of slightly somebodies in the great scheme have just edged us closer to a common date :)

In a Twitter exchange last night about this my "Twitter memory" reminded me that I have previously argued for a fixed date for Easter, so yes, my grand ecumenical plan is:

1. securing a common date for Easter (West/East/Middle East)
2. Fixing the date for Easter (second Sunday in April please).

Monday, May 1, 2017

Gender Justice - Down Under Bishops

Seven female Trans-Tasman bishops have met on Raymond Island off the coast of the West Island of New Zealand. A report of their meeting is here on Taonga and their communique is here.

This was an historic "first" such meeting and ACANZP was represented by Bishop Victoria Matthews and Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley.

One question they raise is when there might next be a female Primate in the Anglican Communion. In theory that could be any time soon, in practice it probably won't be straightaway. Will it be within the next five years?