“Being the people God is calling us to be”

Congregational development: ‘Being the people God calls us to be’

The Rev. Christopher Page, parish priest at St. Philip Anglican Church in Victoria, B.C., speaks to children during an Easter service. Submitted photo
By Matt Gardner

The following is part of an ongoing monthly series on congregational development, which features reflections from Anglicans on how they are responding to the challenges facing churches today.

For Anglicans concerned about how to develop and grow their congregations, the Rev. Christopher Page has a simple suggestion on where to begin.

“I think the first thing they might do is stop worrying about developing and growing!” chuckles Page, currently parish priest at St. Philip Anglican Church in Victoria, B.C., and who previously worked in two Manitoba parishes.

The anxiety and stress engendered by a concern for numerical growth, he argues, can actually serve as a detriment to the well-being of the church.

For Page, congregational development starts with developing people’s spiritual lives, nurturing their awareness of Christ’s work in their lives, and encouraging them to co-operate with that work.

“I think we develop by concentrating on being the people God calls us to be,” he says. “And that is first of all a worshipping people, a praying people, a people of compassion and love and care.”

While never consciously seeking to be a “parish development person,” Page’s experience of more than 35 years of ordained ministry has given him plenty of food for thought on the subject.

In that time, he has witnessed tremendous changes in the context of ministry, such as the rise of the Internet and social media. One of the challenges for congregations and clergy today, he says, is the expectation to grow and sustain “what was” while also putting enormous energy into new approaches to ministry.

“All of the activities of what church used to be—home visiting, nursing home ministry, bazaars, rummage sales, tea parties … all that has to be maintained as it was in the ’50s,” he says. “And yet at the same time, clergy are being asked to go out there and launch bold new initiatives. It’s just not sustainable energy-wise.”

Whether the focus is on maintaining existing structures and activities or developing new approaches to mission, Page suggests that congregations must maintain a strong commitment to their chosen form of ministry, given the available resources.

Unlike other parts of the country, his own experience at St. Philip is not of a primarily aging congregation. He estimates the average age of Sunday morning worshippers as around 40 years old, with dozens of children and teenagers.

With younger families often very busy and other activities competing for their attention, Sunday worship remains the centrepiece of spiritual life for many. But attracting families with young children can mean embracing the concept of “messy” church, even on Sunday mornings.

At St. Philip, children at the Sunday service are able to play with Lego at a table set up near the back of the church. They can also play a special role in the service, coming up to the front as a group or listening to members of the congregation read a children’s story.

“I think we have to be really determined, if we want younger families, that we intend to welcome them, and that means welcoming them on their terms, and in the way that works for them, with children and with the commitments that they’re capable of,” Page says.

Where the focus of congregational development is more on mission than on maintenance, he notes, congregations and clergy must be clear on two major points.

“If in fact we believe mission is vital and more important than maintenance, then we have to acknowledge there’s a price to pay to giving up maintenance.”

However, if congregations wish to go out into the community and carry out mission “authentically,” they must be clear that they are not doing so merely to bring more people into Sunday worship.

Page offers the example of his congregation’s sponsorship of two Syrian refugee families in Victoria, where the first move was to put out a note to the community inviting them to join in sponsoring the families.

Following a large community meeting, a committee now exists of 20 people, which includes eight from the parish and 12 who do not belong to any church at all.

“They’re getting involved, they’re working, they’re communicating with people in the church, they’re getting to know me,” Page says of the latter. “But I honestly don’t believe any of those 12 people will come to church on the Sunday morning, and I have to be OK with that, if I’m genuine about saying I’m doing mission.”

“Mission is not ‘come to church on Sunday,’” he adds. “Mission is [that] we can find common ground in compassion and care and love, and we can find where God is at work, and we can join together in enhancing that and furthering that.”

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The Anglican Church of Canada – during its General Synod recently – has been faced with the task of Mission, as it is carried out in the cities and the outback communities of its jurisdiction. Here is featured a wonderful example of what is happening in the S.C.C

Being, myself, a superannuated part of the ministry team of of an inner-city earthquake-prone area in New Zealand, I am aware of the dearth of young families living within the catchment areas of our parish – St. Michael’s, Christchurch.

However. we have a Parish School, which has been badly affected by the aftermath of the devastating quakes of a few years ago – with people still suffering post-traumatic problems from the continuing after-shocks; to the extent that our total school population is halved, and unlikely to increase in the near future.

How, in those circumstances, do we maintain our distinctive Anglo-Catholic witness to our City, one might reasonably ask? My only answer, is to maintain our daily schedule of Eucharist, prayer and worship at the heart of our City, trying to keep the Church open for as many hours as possible during the weekdays, and keeping up the task of witnessing to the children in our school, and to the many visitors who come through our doors.

Only in this way can we hope to maintain a living presence, as the Children of God in the City centre. Our Mission – certainly at this critical time, in Christchurch – is to celebrate our survival, with an openness to ALL who cross our doorstep every day of the week, offering prayer and comfort by our liturgical  celebration of the Sacraments of Christ on a daily basis; hoping that this will, eventually draw more souls into the context of God’s great love and mercy to all God’s children. What better mission is there?

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

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U.S. Southern Baptists & The Bible

WHY CONSERVATIVE EVANGELICALS WON’T LET US PEE IN PEACE

Whenever you think about the principled Southern Baptist leaders opposing the ascension of America’s Problem Child to the GOP presidential nomination, think of this paragraph from an NPR report on Evangelicals and the shifting social scene:

For Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., the key question is “whether or not there is a binding morality to which everyone is accountable.”

And then think of this more accurate translation of Mohler’s remarks:

For Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., the key question is “whether or not people will do what we tell them to do.”

Harsh? Yeah, probably. Unfair? No, I don’t think so. There’s a theological argument to be made that Christian ethics—living in community while sorting through competing values—is more important than morality—absolute standards of right and wrong. Jesus himself taught that loving others was more important than obeying laws set down by religious authorities, especially those who would (ahem) declare their own self-serving positions to be the law. This should be obvious to anyone who’s bothered to pick up the Gospel of Luke or Acts of the Apostles.

But Mohler and other SBC leaders offer up the ethics of the white cis-het patriarchy and want the world to receive it as a universal moral code. They would be just as happy if you didn’t notice that they can only provide one particular interpretation of the gospel, rather than an objective and unchanging truth. To boot, it’s an interpretation that isn’t even fully shared by other conservative religious groups, nor is it without controversy even within the Southern Baptist Convention.

Take, for example, the question of women’s ordination, just one of the strands of opposition to contemporary mores mentioned in the NPR report:

Living as the moral exception was the prospect facing the Together for the Gospel attendees. Most were young men training to be pastors in Southern Baptist churches. The Southern Baptists are one of the Protestant denominations that do not ordain women, even as church deacons.

Now, Pope Francis isn’t about to make women priests, but he recently signaled it wasworth considering their ordination as deacons, a position for which there is both historical and scriptural support. And maybe the proposed commission goes somewhere, maybe it doesn’t. But that Catholics are willing to even consider it shows how badly out of step the SBC leadership is. I mean, forget the evidence that women served as deacons in the early church. Forget Phoebe, the only person in the New Testament accorded the title of a church leader. The Orthodox Church in Greeceordains women as deacons. If you’re less progressive than them, you have to know you’re out on a limb.

But set even that aside. The conservative SBC leaders would also really rather you didn’t notice the evidence from their own church. Women have been ordained by Southern Baptist congregations. The policy against women in ministry has evolved over time. There are some SBC churches served by female pastors (or at least there were until they started kicking them out). And some Southern Baptist congregations don’t think it’s the convention’s role to tell them who they can ordain.

None of this is to say that there is no legitimacy to SBC traditionalism. If that’s what they want to teach, fine. It’s a free country, and there’s no reason to begrudge anyone their beliefs. But it’s simply horseshit to pretend that there wasn’t a historical process by which conservatives captured the reins of the denomination and have slowly but surely been purging even the mildest dissenting voices for the past 30 years.

So let’s be clear: the conservative SBC ethics is only one among many options. Mohler and the rest can claim it’s the mandate of “biblical morality” all they want, but that view hasn’t been shared even within their own communion. The SBC used to be marked by diversity in belief and practice, but now it marches ever closer to a rigid, centralized orthodoxy that would have been anathema to its founders. Mohler was and is part of the movement that created that situation.

So likewise, this business of Southern Baptist conservatives being a threatened minority just trying to maintain its way of life is baloney. They’ve supported every push to limit the reproductive rights of women and freedom for sexual minorities since before the Reagan era. Which is why this bit from the NPR piece is so odious:

In [Mohler’s] view, Christians must adapt to the changed cultural circumstance by finding a way “to live faithfully in a world in which we’re going to be a moral exception.” (It is this goal, Mohler says, that explains the passage of “religious liberty” laws to protect people who want to express their opposition to same-sex marriage or “transgenderism.”)

What the hell is transgenderism, even? The radical ideology of peeing in peace? The extremist belief that you shouldn’t get beat up or murdered because your sexual identity doesn’t match what’s listed on your birth certificate?

No, pretty clearly, the point of “religious liberty” laws is to carve out exemptions for people who aren’t ready to give up discrimination and also smuggle in some corporate-friendly language on the side. Conservative Evangelical leaders have fought these battles and fought them, and now they can’t accept that the nation has chosen to move in another direction that doesn’t privilege their perspective.

You can call this being a “moral exception” if you like. I call it being a sore loser who doesn’t have the courage of his or her convictions. Mohler says Evangelicals are called to put “the ‘protest’ back in Protestantism.” That’s about as authentic as the Brooks Brothers Riot.

But remember: this is one of the leading principled evangelical opponents of Donald Trump. It’s like Mohler is playing a good-cop-bad-cop routine with Russell Moore. Moore opposes Trump so the SBC can concentrate on racial reconciliation and ministry. Mohler opposes him so the SBC can focus on telling you who you can marry, who you can fall in love with, who you can fuck, and where you can go to the bathroom. There are a lot of good reasons to oppose America’s Problem Child. Those aren’t them

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This article, from the US blog ‘Religion Dispatches’, points out the continuing culture of certain groups of conservative evangelical Christians, especially, here, the Southern Baptists in the U.S. – straining after a superhuman perfection based on selected passages of the Bible – irrespective of their textual applicability to modern day hermeneutical exploration of the deeper meanings of the whole body of Scripture – demonstrates the lengths to which many conservative ‘Sola-Scriptura’ Christians are willing to go in order to bolster their own idea of how God might be working in the lives of human beings today.

For instance, when even the Head of the Roman Catholic Church – Pope Francis – is willing to open dialogue on the question of the admissibility of female deacons in the Catholic Church (after centuries of obdurate opposition to the ministerial ordination of women); here we have one of the Southern Baptist Leaders in the U.S., Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky  -an Institution that denies women the opportunity of ordination in the Baptist Church – posing what is for him the key question of “whether or not there is a binding morality (or, in this case, of patriarchal preference based on gender capability) to which everyone is accountable.”. By this, of course, Pastor Mohler obviously means the Southern Baptist View of what constitutes ‘morality’ for everyone – not just the Southern Baptists. While one might concede that there exists a basic Christian view on what constitutes ‘morality’, there are different understandings of the application, both at the time of writing the Scriptures, and in today’s world, of the cultural and social context in which the various Books of the Bible were written.

Paramount for ALL Christians is the message of Jesus Christ in the Gospels, where God’s Love has replaced the exigencies of The Law by the revelation of the incarnate  life, death, resurrection and ascension of God’s only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who is the Redeemer of ALL who look to him for salvation. The ‘New Commandment’ of Love (of God and one’s neighbour) has replaced the Commandment of The Law, which has been fulfilled by the grace of God himself in Christ 

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

 

 

 

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The Mutual Benefits of ARCIC – Bp.David Moxon

Reaping the benefits of Anglican – Roman Catholic talks

Posted on: May 16, 2016 9:31 AM

Praying together on Ash Wednesday eventually led to New Zealand Roman Catholics and Anglicans collaborating in a number of different ways – including a joint mission that serves 7,000 people, says Archbishop David Moxon, director of the Anglican Centre in Rome and Anglican co-chair of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC).
Photo Credit: Tali Folkins / Anglican Journal

[Anglican Journal, by Tali Folkins] About 23 years ago, says Archbishop David Moxon, formerly of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia and currently the director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, he and the local Roman Catholic bishop made an agreement that still makes him feel hopeful. The two church heads decided to share the rite of imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday – a tradition that continues in New Zealand today.

Outstanding doctrinal differences prevent the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches from being able to actually take communion together. But Moxon, who is also the Anglican co-chair of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) – the two faith groups’ international ecumenical body – is encouraged about the prospect of ongoing dialogue. The relationships made between New Zealand Anglicans and Roman Catholics through sharing the Ash Wednesday rite, he says, led the two churches to spearhead a joint mission that involves nine Christian charities and serves about 7,000 people in the city of Hamilton, New Zealand.

“That idea of praying together, especially on Ash Wednesday,” Moxon said in Toronto Wednesday, 11 May, “provides the context for saying, ‘How can we rebuild from here?’“

Moxon and other members of ARCIC are in Toronto this week until 19 May for a joint meeting with its Canadian counterpart, the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue of Canada (ARC-Canada). The event marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the international Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue – and it’s also the first time the third round of that dialogue, known as ARCIC III, has met with one of its national counterparts.

Co-chairs of both ARCIC and ARC-Canada gave a public presentation in Toronto Wednesday, in which they spoke of the challenges of dialogue and the progress that has been made.

Bishop Linda Nicholls, coadjutor bishop of Huron and Anglican co-chair of ARC-Canada, acknowledged that one challenge of ecumenical dialogue is that its benefits aren’t always apparent to people.

“It does seem sometimes to be a work that remains hidden, as an esoteric side-line to the work of the church that is often unknown at the grassroots level,” she said. “When I say to people I’m going off to Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue, people look at me in puzzlement: ‘Why?’ or, ‛Is that still going on?’“ Her words elicited a ripple of laughter from the audience.

Nevertheless, she said, the benefits of the dialogue are real. It can help dispel prejudices and misconceptions members of each church have about the other. It can also lead to on-the-ground collaboration like the New Zealand mission described by Moxon, she said.

Another challenge of dialogue – making it sometimes seem as though it takes a step back for every two steps forward – is that the doctrine of a church’s ecumenical partner is not necessarily fixed, but can change from time to time, said Roman Catholic ARCIC co-chair Archbishop Bernard Longley, of the diocese of Birmingham, England.

The Anglican move to ordain women as priests, along with Pope Benedict’s 2009 creation of “ordinariates” for Anglican groups that expressed a desire to become Roman Catholic, are among the developments that have posed challenges to the dialogue, Nicholls said.

However, the Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue possesses unique virtues that have allowed it to keep moving forward, said ARC-Canada Roman Catholic co-chair Bishop Donald Bolen, of the diocese of Saskatoon – including the willingness of both sides to “stay at the table when things get difficult.

“When the dialogue partner does something that we feel is deeply problematic, there is a temptation to pull the plug, to walk away,” Bolen said. “We do well to remember what St Paul says – ‘The eye can’t say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’ – when one part of the body suffers, all suffer.”

Dialogue co-chairs also praised the method of “receptive ecumenism” used by ARCIC and ARC-Canada, whereby each group reveals its weaknesses to the other.

Receptive ecumenism, Moxon said, means having each partner say to the other, “You tell me your worst nightmare in mission and I’ll tell you mine. In other words, show me your wounds.”

This mutual vulnerability in ecumenical dialogue, he said, “leads to a mutual courage, a mutual partnership to assist each other in overcoming, and healing, and redeeming together.”

The particular question that the current round of ARCIC, which began in 2009, is now grappling with is how moral discernment in the two churches is related to their ecclesiology – how their decisions on issues such as same-sex marriage, for example, might depend on their church structure, says Canon John Gibaut, director of Unity, Faith and Order of the Anglican Communion.

For about three years now, he says, ARCIC III has been working on a paper on one part of this question – how authority is vested in the structure of the two churches. The hope is that this paper will be essentially finished by the end of the current meeting in Toronto.

“That will be something really important to offer to the churches – it will be the basis on which the commission will next look at a variety of ethical questions,” he says.

Progress in ecumenism, Gibaut says, may be slow, but it has a real impact on the lives of believers. In Canada, improved relationships over the past few decades have benefited Anglicans and Roman Catholics in many ways, he says.

“I remember, as a child, the relationships were just awful,” he says. “And I think of the number of Canadian Anglicans who are in, say, inter-church marriages with Roman Catholics, or their children are attending Roman Catholic schools.

“I taught for 14 years at St Paul University, a Roman Catholic University. These things would have been unimagined. . . I think of the social justice coalitions in this country which are so heavily supported by Anglicans and Roman Catholics.”

Moreover, he says, relationships forged in ecumenical dialogue have helped the churches come together much faster and more effectively on other issues, such as modern slavery and human trafficking.

“Ecumenical progress is measured in decades, not in days,” he says. “And yet it does move, and it does change things, and we live in a very different world because of it.”

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” Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue possesses unique virtues that have allowed it to keep moving forward, said ARC-Canada Roman Catholic co-chair Bishop Donald Bolen, of the diocese of Saskatoon – including the willingness of both sides to “stay at the table when things get difficult.”

Would that this same willingness to continue in dialogue – but with the hope of a somewhat speedier resolution of issues concerning our own ACANZP’s ‘Way Forward’ legislation – be found acceptable to ALL members of our Church in Aotearoa/New Zealand & the Pacific Islands!

However, while a breakthrough was offered by both Maori and Pacific Islands Tikanga (strands) of our Church – on the issue of finding a way forward to accommodate the blessing of monogamous Same-Sex Civil Marriages; it took a minority of the Pakeha (European) Tikanga to throw a spanner in the works.

However, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel for our continuation of fruitful dialogue on this particular issue. The Archbishops of each Tikanga will appoint of ne ‘Working Party’ to find the best way of affording a kind of  Opt Out Clause for dioceses and parishes that do not wish to offer Same-Sex Blessings – because of their conscientious objection  to any measure that would conflict with their understanding of a biblical objection to the recognition of homosexuals as being equal to heterosexuals in the Church.

Apropos the seminal subject of this post by ACNS, may I say that, having encountered the young David Moxon on his return from Oxford University in the U.K., to study Maoritanga at St. John’s Theological College in Auckland. As I was then an Anglican Franciscan Brother (SSF) studying at SJC, David made himself known to me as a fellow Anglo-Catholic, whose future ministry in our Church would be dedicated to the fostering of Maori/Pakeha relationship. As the eventual New Zealand Pakeha Archbishop, David amply fulfilled his role a mediator between the 3 Tikanga of our Church. His eventual appointment to the Anglican Centre in Rome by the Archbishop of Canterbury, brought a distinctively catholic Anglican voice into the heart of Roman Catholic influence.

Archbishop David’s voice in the continuing ARCIC conversations is a credit to our ACANZP way of coping with ‘Difference’ with a capital ‘D”

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

 

 

 

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‘In Christ,’ absolutely; but…

I have been following with interest the recent on-line conversations on the subject of ‘love the sinner, hate the sin.’ Although it is not a phrase I use I do in many ways sympathize wi…

Source: ‘In Christ,’ absolutely; but…

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This article, from the weblog ‘Theoreo’ gives a wonderful explanation of that it means to “Love God and my neighbour ‘as myself’ ” one of the critical bases of being ‘in Christ’.

The story of his daughter’s disability being a part of our common human frame gives a wondferful example of how – for instance – the members of the Church need to view the difference involved in being intrinsically homosexual – a condition that is not chosen but, rather, a ‘given’ that such persons have to learn to live with

If only we were all able – or, maybe, disposed – to accept one another’s ‘difference’  in this primitive area of our basic humanity, this could surely be accounted as honouring one another’s common identity, and being, together, ‘en Christo’ – In Christ!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Women Deacons in the Roman Catholic Church?

Women Deacons?

Pope Francis has said he’ll create a commission to study the possibility of females serving as deacons the Church. What does this mean for Catholics?
Pope Francis hugs Sister Carmen Sammut after a meeting of superior generals, or the leaders of women religious orders, at the Vatican on Thursday.AP

EMMA GREEN MAY 12, 2016 GLOBAL
This week, the leaders of female Catholic religious orders from around the world came to the Vatican for a meeting with the pope. During a question-and-answer session Thursday, they asked him why the Church bans women from serving as deacons—a kind of Catholic clergy. Why not at least study the question? they asked.

Francis said yes.

RELATED STORY

Pope Francis: Real Families Are Not Theological Abstractions

It is big news that the pope will create a commission to study the possibility of female deacons. For centuries, at least in the West, women have not served in this kind of leadership role in the Catholic Church. The Church has ruled definitively that they cannot be admitted to the priesthood; in 1994, Pope John Paul II reaffirmed this ban in his apostolic exhortation Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, in which he wrote that the Church has “no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women.” Although women around the world, and particularly in the United States, have pushed for their ordination as priests, it is unlikely that this will change.

The diaconate, though, is different. “The Church has every right and possibility of restoring women to the ministry of deacon to our churches,” said Phyllis Zagano, an adjunct professor at Hofstra University who has written extensively on this question. Historically, women have been part of the diaconate—they served the Church in this way until at least the 12th century in the West, she said, and can currently be part of in some Eastern churches, such as the Orthodox Church of Greece. In the West, “over the years, the ministry of women as deacons outside the monastery fell away,” she said. But “the Church has never overruled the need for women deacons.”
Currently, women who want to take vows in the church can become women religious—an umbrella term that includes nuns. They serve as everything from missionaries to teachers to hospital administrators, or sometimes they live a cloistered life of prayer.

If the Church were to allow them to serve as deacons, they would be able to have a more formal leadership role in Catholic parishes. Deacons are one of three kinds of ordained ministers in Catholicism—the position is one of the “major orders” in the Church. These people can preach and lead worship; conduct weddings and funerals; and baptize people. They can’t offer communion, hear confessions, or administer confirmation. Since the 1960s, “mature married men” have been allowed to serve as permanent deacons—people who wish to take a vow to serve the Church, but who do not wish to ascend to the priesthood.

Even though the pope’s announcement—like so many other things he does—seemed a bit off the cuff, a number of recent events have laid the groundwork for this kind of conversation in the Church. Only a few months into his papacy, he said in an interview that “it is necessary to broaden the opportunities for a stronger presence of women in the church.” And during his recent travels, Francis has taken pains to talk up the important roles women serve in the Church. Returning to Rome on the papal plane in the summer of 2013, he told reporters, “We need to develop a profound theology of womanhood. That is what I think.” During his historic visit to Cuba in September, he celebrated the role and life of Mary and praised the women who find their vocations in the church.

In April, Francis released Amoris Laetitia, a document about his views on family life known as an apostolic exhortation, that was the culmination of more than two years of study and discussion among Catholic bishops from around the world. During one of two synods, or gatherings of bishops, last October, Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Quebec pressed the Church to allow the possibility of female deacons. Ultimately, that idea didn’t catch on. The apostolic exhortation that came out of these two synods primarily focuses on the importance of family life, but the pope paid special attention to issues that affect women like domestic abuse and violent conflicts. “If certain forms of feminism have arisen which we must consider inadequate, we must nonetheless see in the women’s movement the working of the Spirit for a clearer recognition of the dignity and rights of women,” he wrote.

For those who would like to see women restored to the diaconate of the Catholic Church, there’s reason to look to the Bible. As Zagano pointed out, “In the gospels, the only person with the job title of deacon is Phoebe.”

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Pope Francis is proving to be God’s Gift – not only to the Roman Catholic Church, in which he is recognised as Supreme Pontiff, but also to the whole of Christendom, of which his Church is a major part.

Like Good Pope John XXIII, in whose footsteps he is travelling (rather than those of his immediate predecessors – especially Popes John Paul II and Benedictr XVI) Pope Francis is following the Gospel  Options for the Poor, as identified in Jesus and in his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi.

As Supreme Pontiff , Francis is keen to free his Church from past errors, and to bring `back into the eirenic era of the Second Vatican Council, presided over by Pope John XXII, whose efforts to modernise the Church have, sadly, been thwarted by successive battles in the Roman Curia to maintain the pre-Vatican II ‘status quo’.

Like a fresh breeze (a breath of the Holy Spirit?) Pope Francis has cast aside many of the trappings of monarchical papal dignity – beginning with his taking up residence in the St. Martha’s Guesthouse, rather than the papal apartments at the Vatican. He has disdained the papal red shoes – beloved of his immediate predecessor – and the use of the papal limousine, in favour of getting around by more humble forms of transport. One cannot imagine this Pope ever making use of the traditional ‘sedia gestatoria’ (the papal throne) and being carried around by liveried footmen. Nor will he wear the bejewelled papal tiara!

From this report, Pope Francis is now instituting a special commission into the possibility of ordaining Women as Deacons in the Church – a step of ecclesiastical ordination hitherto unknown in the current Roman Tradition – despite the fact that women deacons were mentioned in the New Testament accounts of life in the early Church.

Whether this will become a natural stepping stone to the further ordination of women as priests in the Roman Catholic Church remains a conundrum. However, the fact that previous Popes have pronounced this possibility to be null and void in the R.C. Church, this might take longer to become even a possibility.

Pope Francis has already proven that the Church cannot always be bound by past tradition, thereby preserving the possibility of Divine Intervention into the life of the Church through the fresh inspiration of the Holy Spirit. On this Eve of the Feast of Pentecost, one can only pray the the will of God may become known to all of us, in ways that surprise us!

“Come, Holy Spirit; fill the hearts of your people with the fire of your Love, through Jesus Christ our Risen and  Ascended Lord. AMEN!” – Pentecost, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Report on G.S. delay on S/S Blessings

New Zealand postpones decision on same-sex blessings

Posted on: May 12, 2016 8:30 AM – (N.Z. TAONGA)

Related Categories: New Zealand, sexuality, synod

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia has postponed a decision on whether or not to permit the blessing of same sex marriages until 2018. The proposal had been made by the Church’s “Way Forward” group which had been mandated by it’s the 2014 General Synod with coming forward with proposals; but after days of discussion at this year’s Synod, the decision has been delayed.

Instead, the Synod voted to postpone the decision until 2018 “with a firm expectation that a decision to move forward will be made” at that time. The motion that was passed by the Synod also “establishes and commits to pray for a working group to be appointed by the Primates [of the province] to consider possible structural arrangements . . . to safeguard both theological convictions concerning the blessing of same gender relationships.”

The three Primates of the Province, Archbishops Brown Turei, Philip Richardson and Winston Halapua, told Anglican Taonga: “We are aware of the considerable pain that this decision will cause to those most affected, but we are confident that our determination to work together across our differences will bring us to a place of dignity and justice for everyone.”

A number of General Synod members gave their reactions to Anglican Taonga.

New Zealand postpones decision on same-sex blessings

Posted on: May 12, 2016 8:30 AM

Related Categories: New Zealand, sexuality, synod

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia has postponed a decision on whether or not to permit the blessing of same sex marriages until 2018. The proposal had been made by the Church’s “Way Forward” group which had been mandated by it’s the 2014 General Synod with coming forward with proposals; but after days of discussion at this year’s Synod, the decision has been delayed.

Instead, the Synod voted to postpone the decision until 2018 “with a firm expectation that a decision to move forward will be made” at that time. The motion that was passed by the Synod also “establishes and commits to pray for a working group to be appointed by the Primates [of the province] to consider possible structural arrangements . . . to safeguard both theological convictions concerning the blessing of same gender relationships.”

The three Primates of the Province, Archbishops Brown Turei, Philip Richardson and Winston Halapua, told Anglican Taonga: “We are aware of the considerable pain that this decision will cause to those most affected, but we are confident that our determination to work together across our differences will bring us to a place of dignity and justice for everyone.”

A number of General Synod members gave their reactions to Anglican Taonga. The Assistant Bishop of Auckland, Jim White, was unhappy with the outcome: “I am deeply disappointed by further delay on making our church fully inclusive,” he said.

Another member unhappy with the decision was the Revd Richard Bonifant, from Auckland, who said: “We called this motion ‘A Way Forward,’ but I have come to think of it as something more like the ‘Land of Promise’. . . Once more, we find we cannot go into that land. This time in the wilderness comes at great cost to us.”

But the decision as welcomed by others. “For conservatives the ‘A Way Forward’ report left us feeling unprotected in our theological position,” the Archdeacon of Nelson, Tim Mora, said. “The new working group needs to constantly come back to the conservatives, to be sure that the recommendations are acceptable to them, before they bring it back to the next General Synod.”

He said that there was “a definite will from the conservatives to look for a way that will protect our integrity and allow us to stay together.”

  • Click here for more detailed reports on the debates by Anglican Taonga.

Another member unhappy with the decision was the Revd Richard Bonifant, from Auckland, who said: “We called this motion ‘A Way Forward,’ but I have come to think of it as something more like the ‘Land of Promise’. . . Once more, we find we cannot go into that land. This time in the wilderness comes at great cost to us.”

But the decision as welcomed by others. “For conservatives the ‘A Way Forward’ report left us feeling unprotected in our theological position,” the Archdeacon of Nelson, Tim Mora, said. “The new working group needs to constantly come back to the conservatives, to be sure that the recommendations are acceptable to them, before they bring it back to the next General Synod.”

He said that there was “a definite will from the conservatives to look for a way that will protect our integrity and allow us to stay together.”

  • Click here for more detailed reports on the debates by Anglican Taonga.

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I am one Chrischurch diocesan Anglican priest in ACANZP who can fully understand the acute disappointment of  Bishop Jim White (Auckland Assistant Bishop), whose reaction to the delaying tactic of the General Synod 2016 decision – to refer the prospect of providing a rite for the Blessing of a civilly contracted Same Sex Marriage, to the next Session of General Synod in 2018:

‘ The Assistant Bishop of Auckland, Jim White, was unhappy with the outcome: “I am deeply disappointed by further delay on making our church fully inclusive,” he said.’

Here is further evidence of the dismay experienced by another clergy-person in ACANZP:

“Another member unhappy with the decision was the Revd Richard Bonifant, from Auckland, who said: “We called this motion ‘A Way Forward,’ but I have come to think of it as something more like the ‘Land of Promise’. . . Once more, we find we cannot go into that land. This time in the wilderness comes at great cost to us.”

On the other hand, the conservatives in the Church, who have welcomed the delay, might be typified by the reaction of the Archdeacon  of Nelson, Tim Mora, representing one of two dioceses – the other was my own diocese of Christchurch – petitioning G.S. to delay any movement towards Same-Sex Blessings:

‘ “For conservatives the ‘A Way Forward’ report left us feeling unprotected in our theological position,” (that of opposition to Same-Sex Blessings) the Archdeacon of Nelson, Tim Mora, said. “The new working group needs to constantly come back to the conservatives, to be sure that the recommendations are acceptable to them, before they bring it back to the next General Synod.” He said that there was “a definite will from the conservatives to look for a way that will protect our integrity and allow us to stay together.”

One cannot miss the serious implications of the statement; that, if they do not get their own way on this issue, the conservatives in our Church – (best exemplified by the hastily enrolled membership of a newly introduced conservative entity from Australia, calling itself FoCA – the ‘Fellowship of Confessional Anglicans’ –  established in New Zealand just days before the General Synod Meeting) – will possibly/probably detach themselves from the Anglican Church in Aotearoa/New Zealand and the Pacific Islands!

One is left to wonder whether this was the implicit threat that led our General Synod to delay any further movement on this important issue for a further two years – a sad decision that has now disappointed many of us who had thought that the provision of a rite for the Blessings of a Same-Sex Civil Marriage would prove to the world that Anglicans are no longer content to encourage the sins of sexism and homophobia.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

 

 

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ACANZP – General Synod defers decision on S/S/ Blessings

BLESSINGS REPORT ON HOLD
‘A Way Forward’ on same-sex blessings has been tabled until the 2018 General Synod.

TAONGA NEWS | 12 MAY 2016 | 1 COMMENT

The Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia has decided to table its ‘A Way Forward’ report on blessings of same-sex couples until General Synod 2018, “with a firm expectation that a decision to move forward will be made” at that time.
Archbishop Brown Turei, Archbishop Philip Richardson and Archbishop Winston Halapua will appoint a working group to establish a structure that allows both those who can and cannot support the blessing of same-sex relationships to remain within the church with integrity.
The three archbishops made this statement today:
“We are aware of the considerable pain that this decision will cause to those most affected.
“But we are confident that our determination to work together across our differences will bring us to a place of dignity and justice for everyone.”

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I may not be the only priest in our Church in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Polynesia to feel let down by the decision, announced today at General Synod in Napier, to postpone the prospect of allowing for the Blessing of Same-Sex Couples in our churches. This could be put down to what has become known in ecclesiastical circles as ‘Anglican Fudge’

No doubt, the fact that the wording of the proposed legislation was cumbersome – if not clumsily framed (for instance: incorporating the Church Blessing of both heterosexual and homosexual civilly married couples in the same measure); but with time allowed at Synod for a better worded Motion (than Motion 30, the original), one could have hoped that there had been enough time for both opponents and supporters to address their differences and get on with the appropriate safeguards for both parties in Synod

However, it would seem that representatives from at least two dioceses – Christchurch and Nelson  (both conservative, by and large) – were insistent that there should not be any substantive provision made for the blessing of Same-Sex Unions in the meantime. The only ‘way forward’ for the conservatives in Synod seems to have been to delay any such measure till at least the next Meeting of the General Synod in 2018. (One could quote the old adage: “Justice delayed is justice denied”).

Considering the hopes that had been built up in the minds of those interested in going forward with the Measure proposed at the last General Synod in 2014 – to find a ‘Way Forward’ for the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions; this delaying process must be accounted as a grace disappointment with the processes of Church Government that seems, always to process change at the pace of its slowest (read conservative) members.

It could be that the majority of Church-goers, who have come to  accept the situation of legalized Same-Sex Marriage in the civil realm, are perhaps wondering why the Church is holding back from sharing the joy that this openness to a significant minority has given to the friends and families of such couples in our church. However, it would seem that the relics of a one-time culture of sexism and homophobia will take longer to be eradicated in our Church – at least to the degree to which the Primates of the Anglican Communion committed themselves in their recent meeting in Canterbury.

After all, our Church is not being asked to actually ‘marry’ the couples concerned – only to offer a Church Blessing to those in our own congregations who have been legally and civilly married out in the real world.

My question is: Is this how Christ would have treated them?

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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