Married Priests in the Catholic Church?

Synod of bishops to discuss ordaining married men

Jun 19, 2019by Thomas ReeseReligion News ServiceOpinionVatican

Pope Francis greets indigenous representatives in Puerto Maldonado, Peru, on Jan. 19, 2018. Standing with thousands of indigenous Peruvians, Francis declared the Amazon the “heart of the church” and called for a threefold defense of its life, land and cultures. (AP/Rodrigo Abd)

The synod of bishops on the Amazon, which will meet in Rome this October, will discuss the possibility of ordaining married men in the Catholic Church, according to the working paper released June 17 by the Vatican.

The synod, called by Pope Francis to deal with issues facing the church in the Amazon area, will focus on protection of the environment and the church’s ministry to indigenous people, which necessarily includes talking about the shortage of clergy in this vast region.

The proposal to be discussed in October would be the possibility of ordaining “viri probati,” or mature married men, in exceptional situations. Many of these would probably be married deacons who already have some training.

This is the first time in centuries that the Catholic Church has put the topic of married clergy on the agenda of an international meeting of bishops.

For about half its history, the church did permit married priests. According to tradition, all the Apostles were married except St. John.

The rule of celibacy was gradually imposed, although even today there are exceptions. Married Protestant ministers who become Catholic can be ordained. In addition, Catholic clergy from Eastern churches, like the Ukrainian Catholic Church, have always been permitted to be married before ordination.

Celibacy is not dogma; it is a legal requirement that can be changed.

It has been an open secret that bishops in the Amazon area have raised the issue of married priests with the pope because they have huge dioceses with few priests. Although Francis places a very high value on celibacy, he is also a pragmatist who recognizes that indigenous communities are being denied the Eucharist and the sacraments because they don’t have priests.

After all, which is more important, a celibate priesthood or the Eucharist? At the Last Supper, Jesus said, “Do this in memory of me” not “have a celibate priesthood.”

Even so, conservative Catholics oppose the change as against tradition. For conservatives, this is just another example of Francis giving in to contemporary culture.

Limiting ordination to “mature men” is a classic Catholic compromise aimed at limiting the fears of conservatives. The change will be portrayed as limited and exceptional.

But both traditionalists and progressives believe that once ordination is permitted in exceptional cases, it will spread to more and more situations. After all, there are other places in the world that don’t have enough priests to serve Catholics desiring the Eucharist and the sacraments.

Eventually, as in other churches, married clergy will be the norm rather than the exception.

Those who believe that ordaining married men will solve all of the church’s problems have not been paying attention to our sister churches. Protestant and Orthodox churches have many of the same problems as the Catholic Church, including clericalism and sex abuse.

In addition, how is the priestly education of married men going to be conducted and paid for? A married man with kids cannot abandon his family to spend four years in a diocesan seminary. And once he is working in a parish, will he receive a just salary that supports his family? Too many Protestant clergy have incomes so low they qualify for food stamps.

Finally, what about those who are already ordained?

The Catholic Church is following the Orthodox model, which means that the man must be married before ordination. This is currently the rule for Catholic deacons. If a deacon’s wife dies, he is not allowed to remarry. If the same rule applies to priests, we will end up with some priests raising their children as single parents.

Also, there are currently too many priests in relationships with women that should be legitimized out of justice to the women involved, let alone their children. And then there are the thousands of priests who left to get married. How about letting them back into ministry?

All of these issues must be faced, but that does not mean the church should maintain mandatory celibacy. The Catholic Church has a shortage of priests that is not being resolved under the current rule of celibacy. But we need to recognize that along with the opportunities come challenges. Even if the synod votes in favor of ordaining “viri probati,” it will be only the beginning of a process, not the conclusion.

[Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a columnist for Religion News Service and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church.]


‘Unity in Diversity’ has long been a claim of the Anglican Church around the world – relating to its breadth of opinions on matters of liturgical and social issues that occur within the different national and international congregations, families and constitutions of its provincial life.

Other parts of the Body of Christ – amongst our Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Free Church sisters and brothers in Christ – once thought to be singularly isolated in their separate faith enclosures; are increasingly realising the diversity that exists within their own communities.

For some time now, in the Roman Catholic Church – with the disinclination of young men to dedicate themselves to life-long celibacy as ministers of the sacramental life of the Church – there has been pressure from the laity to promote the idea of a new outlook in the Church towards the ordination of married clergy, in addition to the traditional cadre of celibate priests whose numbers have suffered a decline.

Now the Vatican is looking towards the possibility of allowing for the ordination of men who are already married, in situations where the paucity of celibate vocations to the priesthood has brought about a severe shortage of sacramental ministry in places where the Catholic community is strongest.

In many countries of the global South there is a cultural pressure for men to be married, in order to provide for the ideal of family life that is an expectation of the indigenous people. Celibacy, in such communities, has long been thought to be a denial of the God-given faculty for reproduction. The words: “Be fruitful and multiply” – a biblical injunction – seems to have been overlooked by the Church in order to sustain its need for a ritual purity on the part of its clergy.

For instance, bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in countries of South America – where Pope Francis was once a Cardinal-Archbishop – have long been pressing for a change in the rules requiring celibacy as a primary virtue of Catholic priesthood. It is this new movement in the Church in the Amazon Basin that has occasioned the openness on the part of Pope Francis and the Vatican to discussion on this subject.

Of course, as we Anglicans are aware, there are married priest already ministering in Roman Catholic parishes around the world – where former Anglican Clergy who are married have been re-ordained into the Roman Catholic Church in order to administer the Sacraments in parishes where the shortage of celibate clergy is most acute. Their suitability for ordination in the R.C. Church was based on their isolated opposition to the ordination of women in their own Church. However, for whatever reason they were ordained; the Roman rule of celibate clergy in no longer absolute – prefiguring, perhaps, the willingness of Rome to extend the Sacrament of Holy Orders to married men in their own Church in places of sacramental need.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Anglican Church of Canada – Indigenous Self-determination?

The meaning of self-determination: Indigenous Anglican leaders envision future church

BY MATT GARDNER -June 19, 20190198

Sacred Circle as it met in 2018. Photo by Matt Gardner

When members of General Synod gather in Vancouver this July, they will vote on an amendment that could give life to a self-determining Indigenous church within the Anglican Church of Canada. 

The proposed amendment to Canon XXII would allow the National Indigenous Ministry to make changes to matters specified by the canon without consulting General Synod; bestow the title of archbishop upon the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop (NIAB); make the NIAB a voting member of Council of General Synod; and change Canon III to specify that “the Primate is always an invited guest at the Sacred Circle, and has voice but no vote.” 

These are the institutional means that would lay the foundation for a self-determining Indigenous church. But what would self-determination mean for Indigenous Anglicans and the church as a whole? And how might it help the church to move forward in its journey to reconciliation?

“People often misinterpret what we’re doing as an attempt at independence, away from the church,” National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald says. “We really wish to become an Indigenous expression of the church, and we are only asking for the freedom and dignity that other Anglicans already enjoy.” 

As a result of colonization, he suggests, Indigenous people have been denied the ability to receive and live the Word of God, due to the imposition of foreign ways for dealing with the incarnation of the Word. 

Self-determination, MacDonald says, is “not a move away from the church, but a move to become more deeply involved in the church from an Indigenous perspective.” 

The basic tenets for a self-determining Indigenous church are laid out in the document “An Indigenous Spiritual Movement: Becoming What God Intends us to be,” presented at Sacred Circle 2018. The document presents a vision of a church led by Indigenous people and grounded in gospel-based discipleship, translating the essence of the Christian faith into Indigenous languages and cultural practices. 

Sacred Circle, the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples, and the Office of the NIAB represent the beginnings of the structure for a self-determining Indigenous church. While Sacred Circle would have its own constitution and policies, the self-determining church would give priority to the local level, allowing each congregation and community to operate in their own way and in their own time. 

“Right now, we’re trying to develop a ministry basically from the ground up,” Bishop Larry Beardy says. 

“We need clergy on the ground, and we need clergy that are stipendiary clergy. We need to organize at the local level where our people will take over [our] own local ministries. The ministry will address a healing process for our people, from the effects of things like residential schools and abuses within the church.” 

In moving towards self-determination, Indigenous Anglicans in Canada will draw on precedents both internal and external. MacDonald compares the self-determining Indigenous church to the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh (ISMM), albeit “in a broader scope”, including the ISMM while expanding its work to other places. 

As leader of the ISMM, Bishop Lydia Mamakwa views the establishment of the first Indigenous diocese in 2014 as one of the earliest expressions of Indigenous self-determination within the Anglican Church of Canada. 

“As a bishop, the creation of ISMM was a fulfillment of the elders’ vision, and that was a joy to see that,” she says. “Congregations and communities can speak their own language in conversing with the diocesan office. Having one of their own as bishop on the ground is very sacred for them. This is not to say that they do not welcome their non-Indigenous brothers and sisters in Christ to their midst.” 

Mamakwa says she sees a self-determining Indigenous church as “part of the Communion, but with its own identity as ‘Indigenous’ using its own traditions, structures and governance as handed down by our elders.” 

“Having a self-determining Indigenous church is important for our church to move forward in its journey towards reconciliation because in any reconciliatory work, changes need to take place,” she adds. “What hurt before needs to be removed and not repeated.” 

One precedent outside of the Canadian church for Indigenous self-determination is the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia (ACANZP).

Since 1992, the ACANZP has established a parallel leadership model based on three tikanga or cultural streams—Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia, each with its own primate. The three primates share authority for the ACANZP. The church constitution guarantees “the right of every person to choose any particular cultural expression of their faith.” 

Bishop Kito Pikaahu, general secretary of the Anglican Indigenous Network, says that the revised constitution “gave priority to hearing the voices of all partners equally. That led to the empowerment and advancement of the whole Body of Christ, especially the weak and marginalized, in a spirit of generosity, hospitality, mutuality and reciprocity.” 

The three-tikanga system, Pikaahu says, benefits the area of mission and evangelism. The revised constitution “provided for the election and consecration of Māori to Māori bishoprics with their own episcopal authority, independence and jurisdiction within clearly defined boundaries. This enabled the bishops and their synods to determine their own strategic mission and ministry imperatives.” 

Since the ACANZP established the three tikanga-system, the church has periodically reviewed its constitution. In 2001 and 2010, it reported on progress that had been achieved and areas of concern that still needed to be addressed.

Comparing the ACANZP experience to Indigenous self-determination in the Anglican Church of Canada, Pikaahu believes that Canada has “a far better model for an Indigenous church,” noting that while New Zealand has overlapping diocesan boundaries of Pākehā (European-descended settlers in New Zealand) and Māori, Canada largely does not. 

Having attended Sacred Circle in 2018, the bishop recalls respectful listening and conversations that suggested an encouraging level of support for the Indigenous church. The ongoing consecration of Indigenous bishops and the active involvement and participation of non-Indigenous bishops suggest that “the Indigenous bishops and the Indigenous church as a whole earnestly intend to include the whole of the Anglican Church of Canada in this reformation or reforming of the church.” 

MacDonald echoes the assessment of Pikaahu. Describing the ACANZP as “inspiration to us in many, many ways,” he stresses that while the church in Aotearoa-New Zealand-Polynesia has a parallel structure, “our hope is wanting us to be more a part of the national church.” 

As an example of what this partnership will look like, Beardy says that as Indigenous suffragan bishop for northern Manitoba, he currently assists both the bishop of the diocese of Brandon and the bishop of Missinipi in Northern Saskatchewan. 

For Beardy, the establishment of a self-determining Indigenous church would mark a watershed moment for Indigenous people and the Anglican Church of Canada. 

“I think once that happens, there’s going to be a lot of joy from the people,” the bishop says. “It’s like … coming into the Promised Land to focus on self-determination.” 

“We’re coming off colonization with missionaries coming in our area, and we have to deal with abandonment and we’re starting to be self-determining,” he adds. 

“It’ll be a process. It might take some time. But I think as a people, as a family, we can walk together and others—not only the Indigenous people, but others in the church also—can become self-determining themselves and a people that serve God, in faith and in love.”


It should not be too surprising that the Indigenous people who are members of the Anglican Church in Canada are moving towards the establishment of their own unique sodality – independent of but also part of the local Anglican Church in their own country.

A parallel with the 3-Tikanga Church of ACANZP (New Zealand and the Pacific) has been established with the presence of the New Zealand Maori Tikanga Bishop, Kito Pikaahu (general secretary of the Anglican Indigenous Network) who was invited to explain how the New Zealand Anglican Church has altered its Constitution to form the 3 separate strands of the provincial Church in New and the Pacific Islands to accommodate the spiritual and cultural differences of each tikanga – Maori, Pakeha and Pacific Islander : –

Since 1992, the ACANZP has established a parallel leadership model based on three tikanga or cultural streams—Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia, each with its own primate. The three primates share authority for the ACANZP. The church constitution guarantees “the right of every person to choose any particular cultural expression of their faith.”

It is important to understand that there was some opposition, at first, to bringing in the 3-tikanga system in ACANZP – in the belief that such a measure would divide the Body of Christ into separate sections competing with one another for identity as fellow Anglicans. However, since the introduction of the measure within our Church (ACANZP), there has been a growing realisation that cultural differences can be a matter for celebration based on mutual respect – rather than a barrier to fellowship within the one Body of Christ.

A celebration of different cultures is necessary, in order to rejoice in the many and varied ways in which our Creator God has seen fit to populate the earth with many different cultures, races and nations; whose multiplicity was intentional from the beginning of the human race of which we are all a part.

The Christian Church – which has just celebrated the Tri-Unity of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit – needs to be ready to rejoice in and celebrate its unity in the Universal Church – the Body of Christ – that we all are baptized into and are part of.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

HOOKER, The Bible and REASON

Richard Hooker and Puritans: Of sundry things, in the light of reason

14 JUNE 201940

Richard Hooker’s engagement with the Puritans has much to teach those who debate scripture today, says John Barton


A 1641 woodcut in a tract which shows the godliness of the Puritan, left, holding his Bible, contrasting with the superstitions preached by Laud and his fellow bishops

RICHARD HOOKER (1554-1600) is known as the great defender of the Elizabethan Settlement of theChurch of England. His work Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity offers a detailed apologia for Elizabeth’s ordering of the Church. Few readers, whether they like or dislike this apologia, have seen Hooker as important for biblical interpretation. Yet he has much to teach us.

Hooker tackled the arguments of opponents from what would come to be called the Puritan Party. Despite its clear Protestantism, the Elizabethan Church continued to have bishops and a hierarchical order. Puritans wanted to replace this with a Presbyterian system, such as prevailed in Scotland. Notable representatives of the Puritan tendency were Thomas Cartwright (1535-1603), and Hooker’s own sometime assistant (Reader) at the Temple Church, Walter Travers (1548-1635).

They maintained that a Presbyterian system of church government was mandated by scripture. Hooker, therefore, had not only to argue from philosophical principles, but also to take a position on how to read the Bible.

Hooker’s arguments, and those of his opponents, were not symmetrical. The Puritans maintained that a Presbyterian order was directly commanded in scripture; Hooker argued that episcopacy was not scripturally mandated, but was acceptable, good, and appropriate. He did not criticise other Churches for having a Presbyterian organisation; he simply denied that it was the only system consonant with the New Testament.

IN ACCORDANCE with the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion (1563), Hooker maintained — in complete agreement with the Puritans — that “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought necessary or requisite to salvation”. This is an obviously Protestant principle: nothing may be held to be essential to Christianity, except on scriptural warrant.Advertisement

Sometimes, however, two further but unjustified corollaries were drawn from this scripture principle.

First, the belief that only what is commanded in scripture is mandatory can easily lead believers to think that nothing may be done in the Church unless scripture commands it — a subtly different and much “harder” position.

This desire to derive everything from the Bible leads to a distortion of the Bible. Not every human custom, even in the Church, Hooker argued, needs an explicit scriptural warrant:

“That which they took for an oracle, being sifted, was repelled. True it is concerning the Word of God, whether it be by misconstruction of the sense, or by falsification of the words, wittingly to endeavour that any thing may seem divine which is not, or any thing not seem which is, were plainly to abuse and even to falsify divine evidence; which injury offered but unto men, is most worthily counted heinous.

“Which point I wish they did well observe, with whom nothing is more familiar than to plead in these causes [that is, establishing customs in the Church], the Law of God, the Word of the Lord; who notwithstanding, when they come to allege what Word and what Law they mean, their common ordinary practice is, to quote by-speeches in some historical narration or other, and to urge them as if they were written in most exact form of Law.

“What is to add to the Law of God, if this be not? When that which the Word of God doth but deliver historically, we construe without any warrant, as if it were legally meant, and so urge it further than we can prove it was intended; do we not add to the Laws of God, and make them in number seem more than they are? (Laws III.5).”

“By-speeches in some historical narration or other” sounds quite a shocking way to describe a section of the Bible, and will surely have offended Hooker’s more Puritan-leaning readers. It establishes, however, the central importance in interpreting the Bible of not reading against the grain of the text’s intention. Laws cannot be derived from the occasional speeches of characters in the biblical story.

How should the Church organise its ministry — episcopally, or in accordance with a Presbyterian model? It is fairly obvious, once one looks only for explicit rulings, that the Bible provides no answer. Attempts to extract an obligatory polity from St Paul’s occasional references to types of ministry in the Church cannot succeed. Either system can perfectly well be defended, but neither is compulsory.OTHER STORIESWhere was God in the Tudor era?WHEN I was at school, I was taught that the English Reformation came about because of the corruption of the medieval Roman Catholic Church

The question of church order is an adiaphoron: a “matter indifferent”. “Indifferent” does not mean trivial or unimportant, but underdetermined: a matter on which there can be legitimate differences of opinion, because scripture provides no certain ruling.

Yet, it is also a matter on which some definite decision is needed (one cannot both have bishops and not have them), and the powers that be have the authority to make such a decision. What they should not do is to treat their human decision as having the authority of the Bible behind it. They should regard it as a fallible human judgement, made in good faith:

“Sundry things may lawfully be done in the Church, so as they be not done against the Scripture, although no Scripture do command them; but the Church only following the light of reason judge them to be in discretion meet. (Laws III.2).”

A SECOND important point is this: the fact that the Bible contains all things “necessary for salvation” does not logically imply that all things contained in the Bible are necessary for salvation. This tended to be overlooked by Puritans. There can be things in the Bible that do not bear on questions of our eternal destiny, and which ought not to be twisted to force them to do so.

The Bible must be read in accordance with reason — and, indeed, common sense. If we exaggerate the perfection of scripture, we actually do it an injustice. In a central passage, which I have used as a kind of motto for my own book, Hooker teaches that the Bible is honoured more when its limitations are allowed for than when it is elevated above what it can bear:

“Whatsoever is spoken of God, or things appertaining to God, otherwise than as the truth is, though it seem an honour, it is an injury. And as incredible praises given unto men do often abate and impair the credit of their deserved commendation, so we must likewise take great heed, lest, in attributing unto Scripture more than it can have, the incredibility of that do cause even those things which indeed it hath most abundantly, to be less reverently esteemed (Laws, II.8).”

Christians must be content with an adequate book, containing everything they need, and not hanker after absolute perfection. This was a hard message for many Christians to hear in Hooker’s day, and remains so now. Christians have a natural, and laudable, desire to praise the Bible in superlative terms. To be told that it is merely “sufficient” is not easy. Indeed, for Hooker its sufficiency had nothing “mere” about it. He had no desire to undervalue the Bible, but simply wished to insist that it should be properly valued, not unrealistically overrated; interpreted fairly, not over-interpreted.Advertisement

IN ALL this there are features that Hooker shares with what is nowadays known as biblical criticism. Modern biblical study in a critical mode is, in many ways, a child of the Enlightenment, yet the early-modern Hooker strangely anticipated some of its concerns.

First, Hooker’s reading was intentionalist. He deduced that, sometimes, the intention was that of the human author; sometimes of God; sometimes, mysteriously, of the text itself.

Second, Hooker’s reading was rational. He rejected claims that the true meaning of the text had been miraculously revealed to them by the Holy Spirit. Sound reason must be appealed to when undertaking biblical interpretation. Sometimes, he argued, scripture was plain in its meaning, sometimes “more dark and doubtful”, and questions of church order belonged to the dark and doubtful realm.

The meaning could be apprehended only “according to the nature of that evidence which Scripture yieldeth”, and, consequently, “it is not the fervent earnestness of their persuasion, but the soundness of those reasons, whereupon the same is built, which must declare their opinions in these things to have been wrought by the Holy Ghost.”

Third, Hooker, argued, biblical texts must be read in accordance with their genre. Law does not follow from speeches in narrative; psalms do not teach doctrine. The relation of the Bible to faith is an oblique one: many parts of the Bible depend on, or suggest, lines of theological thought, but are not direct sources for the doctrine or practice of Christianity. Attention to genre is arguably the foundation of biblical criticism. It deters the reader from finding simply any kind of meaning in the scriptural text, and encourages attention to what types of information a given text is capable of providing

Hooker is diminished if we read him merely as a polemicist, defending the political and religious settlement of Elizabeth I. He was a significant theologian; but he was also an expert in biblical interpretation.


Canon John Barton is Emeritus Oriel and Laing Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture, University of Oxford, and Senior Research Fellow, Campion Hall, Oxford. A History of the Bible: The book and its faiths by John Barton is published by Allen Lane at £25 (Church Times Bookshop £22.50) (Books, 5 AprilFeatures, 26 April).


The 2 paragraphs that I have hughlighted in the above article, published in last week’s ‘CHURCH TIMES”, have much to say about the intentions of the famous Elizabethan theologian, Charles Hooker, towards what he saw as a defective attitude of Bibliolatry amongst the Puritan Divines of his day.

Described by thedistinguished author of the article, Canon John Barton, as an early advocate of the discipline of ‘biblical criticism’; Hooker would probably have militated against the ‘Sola Scriptura’ protagonists in today’s world – whose view of the Bible of ‘what the Bible says’ on such matters as its treatment of gender and sexuality seems to exclude any consideration of the effects of sociological and scientific research into these important aspects of human life and relationships in today’s world.

For Hooker, the God-given gift of reason was to be applied to every aspect of daily living – whether moral or spiritual – especially in the light of biblical interpretation, where individual judgement needs to be tempered by both context and tradition. To automatically translate a biblical injunction from a vastly different context into an instruction for moral behaviour in today’s world – Hooker suggests – is to bypass both the individual conscience and the purpose for which the teaching role of the Bible can be respected and offered to citizens of today’s world environment.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Proverbs 8: 1-4, 22-31                   Romans 5: 105 John 16: 12-15

Thank you, Father Chris, for the privilege of presiding at this Mass and preaching on this Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. I begin by acknowledging my debt to God for the first 90 years of my Baptism into the Christ we celebrate – by using a prayer from ‘New Daylight’ –

“Father, I am sometimes so conscious of my human weakness. Thank you that your surpassing power in the Holy Spirit is at work in me today, Through Christ my Lord”.  

After the excitement of Easter, the Ascension of Jesus and the Feast of Pentecost, we come today to the mysterious and mystical Feast of the Holy Trinity – that Three-Personhood of God that has had theologians scratching their heads to explain what seems, to many people, an amazing contradiction. “How can God, The Creator of All that is, be both One – and three very different persons at the same time?”

The fact is, that from the earliest times of the existence of thinking human beings, there has always been a need to name the source of creation. So that, depending on where human beings existed, there have been local names for the gods they presumed were responsible for their known universe. It was not until the beginning of traditional Judaism that the One True God of the Israelites – who was revealed to Abraham as Jehovah or Yahweh – was recognised.

After Jesus’ Baptism in the River Jordan by John, when the Holy Spirit hovered over the scene, the voice of God was heard to say “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased – listen to Him”. This was the very first reference in the Gospels to the relationship between God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the human Jesus, the voice of the Father, and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.

What was later in the Church understood to be the doctrine of the Holy Trinity – the Three Personhood of the One True God – was not hinted at in the Scriptures until the end of Matthew’s Gospel revealed these words of Jesus to his disciples, on his last appearance to them before his Ascension: “All authority in earth and heaven has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations. Baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time”.

I have said that the idea of a triune God was an unknown factor in the earliest development of what would turn out to be the Judaeo-Christian religion. However, when we look back to the origins of the Creation in Genesis, we read of the time when God spoke the word that brought creation into being. We later read about God breathing the word, so that the word (Jesus)  was spoken by the breath of God – which later was referred to as the Holy Spirit. And there we have all three discrete elements or Persons of God present at the dawn of Creation. As John was later to describe in his Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus); the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning . Through him all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through him”. At the beginning of Creation, then, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

From the very beginning, God was a family – a mystical trio of expressions of the One True God. I find it helpful to remember that there are other instances in the created order that reveal three different properties of the one single entity. E.g. at different temperatures, the single element of water can be rendered into ice or steam – all proceeding from a single source. And if God is the creator of water, which can become ice or steam then why should we question the possibility of God being both three and one at the same time.

However, God has an economy of existence, and there is a reason for this Trinity of Persons – a reason that is only revealed to us a we progress along the way of understanding of who God actually is – for us as individuals, and then as the Body of Christ in the world.We know from the Scriptures that the Father, at a time that He decided, sent his Son into the world to become part of the created order – although his Incarnation was effected – not by the usual means of procreation but directly through the work of the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. As John tells us in the Gospel, it was by this means that ‘The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, the glory of the Only-Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. And here we have the great paradox of Jesus – that he was both the Incarnate Son of God and – because his flesh was derived from that of his Mother Mary – he also became fully human.

The amazing fact of Jesus’ incarnation meant that, as God became a part of our humanity, so our humanity was raised in dignity to become part of God’s divinity.

As we human beings became part of Jesus Christ in our baptism, so we have already died with him and been brought to life again through his resurrection from the dead. When Jesus took our humanity with him at his ascension into heaven so we have been guaranteed a place with him when we leave this world.

Jesus knew that, because of the trials and temptations we are heir to in this world, we would need his help to make our journey from the cradle to the grave. And as we need food and drink to keep our bodies alive, so we would need the spiritual food that only he could give to sustain us on our spiritual pilgrimage. And this is where the Sacraments of the Church are given to us to partake of – as the catechism tells us – so that we may attain to life eternal that can be found in God.

And this is where the work of the Third Person of the Trinity, is brought into practical use. Jesus told his disciples that he had to return to the Father, and that when this took place, they would send the Holy Spirit, God’s Comforter, to strengthen and sustain us on our earthly journey – an event that was described so vividly in the New Testament readings last Sunday on the Feast of Pentecost. All the disciples were gathered together in one place when tongues of fire appeared on their heads, and they were empowered to preach the Good News of God’s deliverance to everyone in the crowd that had gathered in Jerusalem – each hearing in their own language the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

We, through our Baptism and Holy Communion, have been given the ongoing task of not just preaching about but becoming the good news of God’s  great love to all humanity, and one of the signs of that in our own community here in Christchurch is that, in the wake of the hateful actions that took place in the Muslim places of worship, there has grown up a new spirit of Unity in Diversity, that Fr. Bosco spoke about last week. An amazing raising up – out of a catastrophic act of inhumanity towards a minority group – of an outworking of love and compassion that could only have been wrought by the Holy Spirit of the God who created us in the divine Image and Likeness of Jesus who died for us all – Christians Muslims, Jews, and every other human being that God has created and will create into the future.

Now to God The Father who created us; to Jesus Christ who has redeemed us; and to the Holy Spirit who strengthens us; be all glory majesty and dominion given as is most justly due, now and through all eternity. AMEN.  

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fr. Michael Lapsley to Meet Pope Francis

South African Anglican priest to discuss the healing of memories with Pope Francis

Posted on: June 14, 2019 2:16 PM

South African Anglican priest and social justice activist, Michael Lapsley, will have a private meeting with Pope Francis tomorrow (Saturday).Photo Credit: Healing of MemoriesRelated Categories: Ecumenicalpeace & justicepope francisRoman CatholicSouthern Africa

[ACNS, by Rachel Farmer] South African Anglican priest and social justice activist Michael Lapsley will have a private meeting with Pope Francis tomorrow (Saturday 15 June), when he hopes to receive support for his international work in healing of memories. Father Michael Lapsley, who lost both his hands and one of his eyes after receiving a letter bomb while living in exile from South Africa, has spent his life pursuing peace and justice issues.

He described the forthcoming visit as “a dream come true”, saying: “it is an enormous privilege to have essentially a ‘one on one’ with His Holiness the Pope.”

Michael believes the meeting will be particularly important to take forward the Healing of Memories ministry that he leads. He said: “I think healing of memories is something whose time has come in the human family. The openness of Pope Francis to meet with someone to talk about healing of memories, especially as he is a giant of compassion and morality in the world and keeps empathising the importance of mercy and compassion, is particularly significant.

“He is someone who is responsive to pain in the human family and I think it is singularly appropriate to have this conversation with him.”

Father Michael will be giving the Pope a copy of his memoirs, Redeeming the Past: My Journey from Freedom Fighter to Healer, in both Spanish and English, that tells his story and the story of the work of Healing of Memories across the world.

“I will be sharing some of the work we do across the world,” he said. “I want to thank Pope Francis for the way he has called for humane responses – especially to refugees, at a time when there are more refugees than at any time in world history – calling our governments for a more humane general response.”

Michael said he hoped to raise the issues of childhood trauma and gender-based violence, which he said are two particularly dominant narratives within their work.

He said: “Pope Francis has challenged the human family and also been able to inspire and encourage. I want to appreciate that he’s brought into the Catholic catechism an opposition to the death penalty, that is encouraging.”

Michael was a student in Durban, South Africa in 1973. During the height of apartheid repression, he became chaplain to students at both black and white universities in Durban and began to speak out on behalf of schoolchildren who were being shot, detained and tortured. In 1976 he was exiled by the South African Government for his anti-apartheid activities. He joined the African National Congress (ANC) while living in Lesotho and became one of their chaplains. Whilst living in Zimbabwe he discovered he was on the South African Government hit list. Three months after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 he received a letter bomb in the post, hidden inside the pages of two religious magazines and was badly injured.

He said: “What enabled me to make a redemptive response was the prayer love and support of people across the world. My journey has been a journey from being a survivor to being a victor. In a way I would say I was accompanied by people across the world on my journey of healing and in the work I’m doing now I’m returning the compliment of creating safe and sacred places where people can deal with what has happened to them.”

Michael founded the Institute for the Healing of Memories, a social healing NGO in South Africa and the United States. The ministry includes workshops where people can deal with how the past has affected them individually, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. It welcomes people from across the world and is also active in a number of countries including Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Burundi and Rwanda.


It has been a long time since Michael Lapsley, an eager young boy from Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, became attached to our congregation at the Anglican Church of Saint Paul’s, Symonds Steet in Auckland. Michael’s spiritual formation at Saint Paul’s led him, eventually, to become a young postulant of the Anglican Society of the Sacred Mission in Australia, under whose auspices he later found himself at the heart of the Apartheid struggle as a priest of the Anglican Church in South Africa.

Fr. Michael’s championship of detainees in South African led to his deportation from that country. While acting as an ANC Chaplain in Zimbabwe, he was the recipient of a letter-bomb shortly after the release from prison of Nelson Mandela, whose friend and confidant Michael later became. It was this friendship that brought him – despite his severe injuries – into the important area of the ministry of reconciliation which was opened up by former prisoner Nelson Mandela when he became South Africa’s Leader.

New Zealand is proud of this illustious exile, whose Ministry of Reconciliation has been recognised and extended to other countries of the world – and now, brought to the attention of Pope Francis, Head of the Roman Catholic Church. May God bless this meeting of minds and mission.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

TEC Presiding Bishop honours LGBTQ Community

Presiding Bishop’s Pride Month statement honors LGBTQ EpiscopaliansEpiscopal Church Office of Public AffairsPosted 4 hours agoBack to Press Releases 

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry today offered the following statement:

Jesus said: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

In my years of ministry, I have personally seen and been blessed by countless LGBTQ sisters, brothers and siblings. Dear friends, the church has in like manner been blessed by you. Together with many others you are faithful followers of Jesus of Nazareth and his way of love. You have helped the church to be truly catholic, universal, a house of prayer for all people. You have helped the church to truly be a reflection of the beloved community of God. You have helped the church to authentically be a branch of the Jesus movement in our time.

Your ministries to and with this church are innumerable. I could speak of how you often lead our vestries, and other leadership bodies in the church. I could speak of how many of you organize our liturgies of worship, lift our voices in song, manage church funds, teach and form our children as followers of Jesus, lead congregations, ministries and dioceses. But through it all and above it all, you faithfully follow Jesus and his way of love. And in so doing you help the church, not to build a bigger church for church’s sake, but to build a better world for God’s sake.

During June, Americans and people around the world observe Pride. Today, as we mourn the 49 people who were murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando three years ago, I am mindful that Pride is both a celebration and a testament to sorrow and struggle that has not yet ended. Especially this month, I offer special thanks to God for the strength of the LGBTQ community and for all that you share with your spouses, partners and children, with your faith communities, and indeed with our entire nation.


This is the first open statement by a national leader of the anglican Communion to acknowledge the legitimate place of the LGBTQ community in the Church under his jurisdiction.

TEC has been at the leading edge of welcoming the intrinsically ‘different’ people whose innate gender/sexual identity does not conform to the majority heterosexual pattern, thus giving us/them the opportunity to rejoice in our fellowship with other Christians of minority status in the Church.

Thank God for TEC’s Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who has set the pace for our Church’s freedom from institutional sexism and homophobia.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pentecostal Apology to LGBT for Homophobia

A group of Pentecostal Christians showed up at Pride to apologize for their homophobia

They held signs that read “I used to be a Bible-banging homophobe. Sorry!” and gave out hugs to anyone who would accept their apology. ❤️🏳️‍🌈🥰By Alex Bollinger Monday, June 10, 2019    

Photo: Twitter/Jamila

Christians showed up at a Pride festival with signs that apologized for past injustices.

Jamilah Salvador, 19, posted pictures to Twitter of the signs that she saw at Pride in Marikina City, Philippines.

“I literally cried when I saw this [a little while ago],” she wrote. “Imagine living in a society with nothing but love and respect for each other.”

View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter

Jamilah Salvador@JAMBIyutiful


I literally cried when I saw this kanina. Imagine living in a society with nothing but love and respect for each other. #RiseUpTogether141K1:34 AM – Jul 1, 201846.4K people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

The biggest banner, held by two people, said “I’m sorry” in giant letters.

“We’re here to apologize for the ways that we as Christians have harmed the LGBT community,” the banner said.

They carried other signs that said things like “God loves you, so do we” and “I used to be a Bible-banging homophobe. Sorry!”

Buzzfeed News reports that the marchers were from the Church of Freedom in Christ Ministries, a Pentecostal church in Makati.

“We are apologizing for the way Christians have hurt the LGBT community, especially by using the Bible in condemning and judging them,” said Pastor Val Paminiano.

“I used to believe that God condemns homosexuals, but when I studied the scriptures, especially the ones that we call ‘clobber scriptures’ that are being cherry-picked from the Bible to condemn LGBT people, I realized that there’s a lot to discover, including the truth that God is not against anyone.”

“God does not discriminate against people based on gender.”

They even had T-shirts that said, “I’m sorry!” on them.

Salvador told CBS News that “people absolutely loved” the signs.

“Some hugged and talked to these Christians,” she said. “Some took photos, like I did, and others just stood there in awe.”

Paminiano said that Christians should speak out against anti-LGBTQ attitudes.

“We pray that more and more Christians will act, speak, and love the LGBT people like Jesus would.”


Not all Pentecostal Christians embrace the conservative understanding of LGBTQI people as being contra-Scripture. This article from the Phillippines, posted from a local ‘Pride’ Festival, shows members of a Pentecostal congregation apologising for having demonised homosexuals in the past – showing their support for the ‘Pride’ participants, by joining them instead of protesting against them as they once did.

In the wake of a new understanding of Muslims in our Christchurch community here in New Zealand, after the wholesale slaughter – by a white supremacist – of their community at prayer in their mosques; one can be thankful that a new era of acceptance of the differences that exist in our modern-day society is being brought about – with the resultant willingness to overcome traditional prejudices about religious and other human realities that have hitherto divided us.

This is a demonstration of the fact that love is stronger than death.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment