The Place of The Holy Spirit in Today’s Church

Spirit atheism
Mar 20, 2019
by Daniel P. Horan OpinionTheology


The renowned Vatican II peritus and leading Catholic theologian of the 20th century, Jesuit Fr. Karl Rahner, wrote at the outset of his important 1967 theological treatise The Trinity that the doctrine of the Trinity has been so neglected over the course of Christian history that most “Christians are, in their practical life, almost mere ‘monotheists.’ ” He goes on to state that, accordingly, “We must be willing to admit that, should the doctrine of the Trinity have to be dropped as false, the major part of religious literature could well remain virtually unchanged.”

Rahner’s point is not to suggest that the doctrine of the Trinity is unimportant. On the contrary, he recognized its extreme importance to Christian orthodoxy. Instead, he was observing that for the most Christians — including Christian leaders and even many professional theologians — little heed is paid to one of the most distinctive and important aspects of our confession of faith. And what was true 50 years ago remains true today: apart from marking ourselves with the sign of our faith and praying the doxology, which both affirm the triune God, little recognizable thought or attention is typically given to the Trinity.

One of the unrecognized yet significant consequences of this widespread phenomenon is what I have become accustomed to calling “Holy Spirit atheism.” By this I do not mean that most Christians outright reject the divinity of the spirit. Rather, I have a sense that many Christians think and act as if the Holy Spirit did not exist and therefore this phenomenon is largely implicit.

For example, it is easy for most people to pray to “God the Creator” or “God the Father,” and it is likewise inescapable to reflect on and pray to the incarnate word in Jesus Christ, but where does the Holy Spirit factor into our prayer lives? Each Sunday we proclaim the spirit is “the Lord, the giver of life” whom we “adore and glorify,” but do we really believe in the Holy Spirit?

Over the years I have come to think that like the general atrophying of our regard for the Trinity, we have suffered both theological and pragmatic consequences of persistent neglect of pneumatology — that important, necessary and sustained consideration and study of the Holy Spirit. And this has consequences that are extremely far reaching in both prayer and praxis.

If, as we profess, the church was birthed at Pentecost with the sending of the Spirit, then the ongoing presence and action of the Holy Spirit should be the founding principle of how we think of the church. But the actions of many church leaders and ordinary Christians alike suggests instead an attitude of “it’s all up to me.” We see this in the rhetoric about the perceived need to police who participates in the Sacraments or personally adjudicate who is or isn’t “worthy.” This reflects a mistaken sense of self-importance and implies that God is not at the helm or operative within the Body of Christ.

More egregiously, the choices made by some church leaders to cover up abuse for the sake of maintaining the church’s public reputation belies a presumptuous attitude that stands in conflict with the Christian belief that God is active in the church and world. In retrospect, I find myself wanting to ask these leaders: Is it really only up to you? Are you sure that if you were to be honest and transparent about the simultaneous sinfulness and holiness of the church (which is a tenet of orthodox Catholic faith) then … what? The institution would crumble and disappear?

While perhaps not explicitly thought or expressed in this way, the actions of many church leaders speak loud enough. If one actually believed in the ongoing divine work of the Holy Spirit, by which all the faithful are united in baptism, then the humility of their positions as ministers and not mini-monarchs or corporate CEOs would place trust in the spirit and they might have done the right thing. Instead, too much of the harm, sin and crime that has been uncovered reveals a reliance not on God but on one’s self.

Another way I see this implicit “Holy Spirit atheism” manifested is around the suppression of the sensus fidelium, which is the technical term used to describe the manner in which all the baptized faithful participate in the magisterial teaching of the church in terms of reception and contribution. Through baptism all the faithful have received the sensus fidei, an ability to recognize, perceive or “sense” divine revelation and the faith. It is a universal characteristic of the members of Christ’s body. When we talk about the sensus fidelium we are talking about what the people of God actually believe, which is made possible by each of member of the church having the sensus fidei. Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) addressed this, stating: “The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief.” (12)

However, both the laity and the ordained too often neglect or even outright suppress this matter of faith when it comes to consultation of those outside hierarchical leadership. Far from some modern “liberal agenda,” the importance of this teaching was something Blessed John Henry Newman drew attention to in his 1859 book On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine. And yet, as with the defensive responses of some in Newman’s time, there are some today who maintain a propositional, unidirectional, top-down understanding of the development of doctrine and church discipline that can only be decided by those who are ordained and be passively received by the lay faithful. Avoiding or rejecting the role of the sensus fideliumis, it appears to me, another rejection of the Holy Spirit’s work in the church when transmission of orthodox faith is understood as the prerogative of and dependent on the ordained alone.

Finally, on a related note to the sensus fidelium, the contemporary fear over frank conversations about doctrine and church discipline hints at an underdeveloped or nonexistent faith in the Holy Spirit. Such seems to be the case with those who scream schism or invoke “heresy” at the prospect of discussions about the discipline of presbyteral celibacy or the role of women in the Roman Church, such as the German bishops have recently suggested. It seems to me that this sort of call reflects a deep trust in the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, which unites together all the baptized and continues to be giver of the church’s life. Those afraid of it appear to forget about the spirit’s existence or role.

We would do well to remember that it is not simply up to us and should instead adore and glorify the Holy Spirit by recognizing God’s continued presence and action in the world, even if that action is not exactly what you may personally want or desire. Let us begin again to believe in the Holy Spirit, who has indeed spoken through the prophets and continues to do so today.

[Daniel P. Horan is a Franciscan friar and assistant professor of systematic theology and spirituality at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Follow him on twitter: @DanHoranOFM]


This Article by Franciscan theologian Fr. Daniel Horan, alerts us to the realisation that our understanding of the place of God in Creation – and in our world today – is totally dependent on the work of the Third Person of the Trinity, in whom we express our belief, in the words of the Christian Creeds.

The place of the Holy Spirit at the dawn of Creation – when God “Spoke The Word that brought Creation into being” (as it were on the breath of the Spirit) – is the first direct indication in the Scriptures of the coinherence of the Three Persons of the Trinity. 

In the Creed we also speak of the Son of God, Jesus, as “The Incarnate Word” – born ‘Of the Holy Spirit’ in the womb of Mary his mother. It was The Spirit of God who appeared in the form of a dove at Jesus’ Baptism by John in the River Jordan, when God the Father addressed Jesus as “My Son, The Beloved”. By the same Spirit, Jesus was ‘driven into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil”. And by the power of the Spirit, Jesus was able to resist those temptations and begin his ministry.

When the pregnant Mary first visited her cousin Elizabeth after the Annunication by the Angel Gabriel, we are told that Elizabeth was “moved by the Holy Spirit”, so that the child in her womb (John The Baptist) “Leapt for joy at meeting with the mother of ‘her Lord’ “. This spiritual communication between the two women was the work of the same Holy Spirit, who was to, later, empower Jesus’ ministry and to raise him “from the dead” after his crucifixion and death.

Jesus indicated to his closest disciples that when he returned to the Father, he would send the Holy Spirit to them, who would teach them all they needed to know in order to be empowered to take up their share of the work of the Gospel – the Good News of God’s care and concern for the world and the people God had created. This came about on the Day of Pentecost, when the ‘Body of Christ’ was commissioned (through the first disciples) to help in the task of redeeming the world to God.

I remember, during one of the early 3-day ‘Life in The Spirit’ gatherings at Massey University in the Waikato, where we were addressed by an ecumenical team of theologians like Father Francis McNutt (an American Dominican), how many of us present were affected by the atmosphere of worship, prayer and ministry that enveloped this large gathering on campus – to the point where we were able to really believe that God had a place for each one of us in the propagation of the Gospel. The love that was expressed there was sufficient guarantee – at least for me – of the authenticity of the movement of the Holy Spirit in the assembly. My life ever since has been deeply affected by this realisation of the Holy Spirit’s promptings – to the point where, eventually, I offered myself as a postulant for the Anglican Franciscans (SSF), through which experience I found my true vocation as a secular priest in the New Zealanmd Anglican Church.

The celebration of The Eucharist became a central part of my life and ministry – a place where I now was able to understand the Spirit’s work at the epiclesis, which still enables the ineffable presence of Jesus to appear among us in the forms of bread and wine. I have never lost my devotion to Christ in this form of worship which he, himself, was pleased to leave as his abiding presence among his human sisters and brothers in the world for whom Jesus gave his life.

“Come Holy Spirit, renew in us the fire of your love, through Christ our Lord. Amen”

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Phobias United: Trump and Brazilian President

Trump smirks as Brazil’s far right president says they are united against LGBTQ people

By Alex Bollinger · Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump


President Jair Bolsonaro said that the U.S. and Brazil are united in their efforts to undermine and erase LGBTQ people while Donald Trump stood beside him.

Bolsonaro and Trump delivered joint statements at the White House yesterday to kick off the Brazilian president’s visit to the U.S.

At the end of his statement, Bolsonaro said, “In conclusion, may I say that Brazil and the United States stand side by side in their efforts to ensure liberties and respect to the traditional family lifestyles and respect to God, our creator, against the gender ideology and the politically correct attitudes and against fake news.”

“May I voice my admiration and recognition to president Donald Trump on this beautiful day where we seal the promising alliance between the two most promising and largest democracies in the Western hemisphere,” he added.

Related: Here’s why some gay Brazilians support their country’s rabidly anti-LGBTQ president

Trump did not respond to those comments, but he smirked when Bolsonaro mentioned “fake news.” The two went on to take questions on unrelated matters from the press.

Bolsonaro is staunchly opposed to LGBTQ equality. He has said that he would never love his son if he came out as gay.

On television in 2017, he said that he would never have a gay son because his family has “a good education.”

He also promised to ban any references to LGBTQ people at school, saying that it’s a threat to the country’s Christian values.

Bolsonaro tweeted a video two weeks ago of a man peeing on another man, saying that the video “exposes the truth” about gay people.


In these days of the exposure of phobic hatred – in Christchurch towards the Islamic Community by an Australian ‘White Supremacist’ and his N.Z. supporters – we now have the Presidents of Brazil and the U.S.A. together demonstrating their hatred for the LGBTI+ community.

One of the intriguing aspects of President Bolsonaro’s statement at the White House meeting (with President Trump smiling at his side) was his assertion that no son of his would ever be gay “because his family had ‘a good education'”. This understanding that one’s intrinsic sexual orientation is affected by one’s education or social standing is one of the myths that seem to be prevalent in the minds of those whose sexuality is securely oriented in the binary, heterosexual model, and who cannot imagine that any other possibility is within the normal range of human gender/sexuality.

From his speech, Bolsonaro has only gained his anti-gay perspective from the sort of porn videos that the sex industry is keen to promote for profit. However, if his friend, President Trump is to be measured by the evidence of his own sexual propriety, then heterosexuals like him have nothing to crow about when it comes to sexual ‘purity’.

However, the most insidious effect of this homophobic rant from the White House is that it will have the effect of demonising the many young people in both countries whose sexuality is as yet still indeterminate. And as research has shown,. this is the problem for many teenagers who already have problems with their emerging sexual identity, and who are in danger of self-harm or even suicide.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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A US Christian-Right Group’s view on Muslim Massacre

Christian group tells followers NZ shooter had to ‘take things into his own hands’ to stop Muslims

By Bil Browning · Monday, March 18, 2019

American Family Association radio host Bryan Fischer

American Family Association radio host Bryan Fischer Screenshot

The American Family Association is a particularly vicious anti-LGBTQ hate group that masquerades as a Christian charity. And Bryan Fischer, the former spokesman for the org and current voice of the group’s radio program, is the worst of the worst.

Fischer, who regularly makes outlandish claims and twists facts to fit his “Christian” worldview, is now making excuses for the shooter who invaded two mosques and killed 49 people in New Zealand. The man targeted the victims because they were Muslim.

The shooter has identified American President Donald Trump and the far right hate groups he supports as an inspiration for the attacks. He live-streamed the carnage on social media.

Related: Bryan Fischer thinks gays ‘are bringing slavery back’

Fischer started his segment by declaring “I hate Islam.”

“One of the things that happens to guys like this is, if they’ve got some loose wiring to begin with and they see that their government is not doing what is necessary to protect them — whether it is from illegal aliens, whether it is from jihadis, whether it’s from vengeful Muslims — if they see that their government is not doing their jobs to promote justice, to carry out justice, to protect national security, then they’re going to start thinking, ‘Well, I can’t count on the government to do it, so I’m going to have to take things into my own hands.’,” Fischer said on air.

“That’s where you get vigilante justice and, unfortunately, I think we saw a case of that today in New Zealand.”

Fischer was fired as the group’s spokesman in 2015 after suggesting the Nazi Party was started by gay people, that Adolf Hitler recruited gays into his Army for their savagery, and that gay activists are modern-day Nazi Stormtroopers. The “firing” was only window dressing since he was allowed to keep his radio program and his dangerous rhetoric is regularly touted by the organization.

Fischer was fired as the group’s spokesman in 2015 after suggesting the Nazi Party was started by gay people, that Adolf Hitler recruited gays into his Army for their savagery, and that gay activists are modern-day Nazi Stormtroopers. The “firing” was only window dressing since he was allowed to keep his radio program and his dangerous rhetoric is regularly touted by the organization.


This article, from the North American ‘LGBT Nation’ organisation, demonstrates quite clearly the level of ‘White Supremacist’ bias existing in the U.S. Government under the presidency of Donald Trump. The Right-wing Christian commentator – pictured above – American Family Association radio host Bryan Fischer – believes that: “The shooter has identified American President Donald Trump and the far right hate groups he supports as an inspiration for the attacks”.

For the “American Family Association” (a noted Right-wing ‘Christian’ organisation) to permit its Radio Host to perpetuate such scandalous ‘White-Supremacist’ theory does little to dispel the notion that President Trump and his right-wing followers in the USA are undemocratically biased against the local Muslim population. Also, for the AFA to promote such hate propaganda against a minority of the citizens of the USA; one can only suppose that this is the current status of conservative Christian opinion, which is at odds with the broader Christian understanding of Jesus as the bringer of Peace and Justice into the world that God created.

Islamophobia like all other ideological phobias (including homophobia and blatant sexism) has no place in our modern world. Where it is practised and promoted in today’s society, there will always be violence and militant opposition to the very people whom Christ came to redeem – from prejudice and institutional injustice.

If, indeed, the President of the United States is not in league with such reactionary forces in American society, then now would be a very good time to State that fact.

The real problem with this, for authentic followers of Jesus in the Gospels, is that people like Fischer – who aligns himself with the government of Donald Trump – is that people of the secular world who abhor the prospect of racism and homophobia will begin to think that his stand (and that of AFA by implication) represents the overall Christian attitude towards foreigners, non-Christians, and LGBT+ people

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A Catholic Response to Mosque Tragedy in Christchurch

  1. CathNews NZ and Asia Pacific


John Murphy together

Monday, March 18th, 2019

Brenton Tarrant’s manifesto is unbelievably offensive.

It talks about the supremacy of the European people and deporting all non-Europeans. He says he decided to take a stand to ensure a future for ‘my’ people.

‘The White Genocide’ is how he refers to his actions; he labels himself as a part-time kebab removalist.

Tarrant says he carried out the attack, to most of all show the invaders that our lands will never be their lands, and to directly reduce immigration rates to European lands by intimidating and physically removing the invaders themselves and to incite violence, retaliation and further divide between the European people and the invaders currently occupying European soil.

He says he’s taking revenge in New Zealand for events that happened elsewhere in the world.

The manifesto ends with: “Europa arises.”


As a Church, over the years we’ve had our issues with differences in creeds.

Catholics were told there was no salvation outside the Catholic Church and interpreted this as there were only Catholics in heaven.

We make light of it now; I’m sure we’ve all heard or read Irish comedian Dave Allen about St Peter showing a person around heaven and saying to be quiet around the Catholics because they think they’re the only ones there.

For most of her life my mother was an Anglican.

As an Anglican, she was the one who heard our Catechism questions and knew more of the Catechism than either my sister or me.

My mother was also an excellent cake decorator and not long after Vatican II, the ecumenical Council, the Brigidine Sisters at St Benedict’s school in Wellington asked her to decorate our first Holy Communion cake.

A non-Catholic decorating a first Holy Communion cake! It raised some parish eyebrows.

I consider having a non-Catholic mother as one of the greatest blessings in my life. She and my father taught me religious difference could work.

  • Difference often makes us look twice.
  • Difference makes us think.
  • Difference may even confront.
  • Difference was in part the reason for Jesus’ crucifixion.

And, just when you thought the examples were over; “that was then and this is now”, our church’s dealing with difference is perhaps not so historic. For example, relatively recently we changed the words of consecration, so now Jesus’ blood is not shed for ‘all’ but just for ‘many,’ the few.

Thumbs up to Egg Boy

Whatever the liturgical semantics, being different does not give anyone the right to senselessly slaughter another. Nor does it give Australian senator, Fraser Anning the right to blame Friday’s mass murder on Muslim migration. Please Mr Anning. There is no excuse.

Australia, you can keep Tarrant and Anning. Whereas, there is an open invitation to, “Egg Boy”, the 17 year old William Connolly, to come to New Zealand any time.

The people who died in Christchurch on Friday were in what they thought was a safe place, with their God. Tarrant’s actions crossed religious lines.

Tarrant crossed ethnic lines. He also crossed the line of what it means to be human.

The impact of Tarrant’s actions was also felt beyond the Christchurch boundary line, and friends of mine, immigrants, here long enough to be New Zealand citizens, but who on Saturday were so scared they were holed-up in their Wellington home.

They didn’t come to New Zealand for this, nor did they come to see other people on social media “liking” Tarrant’s live video stream and witness others giving a “thumbs up” to his manifesto.

What can we learn from Friday?

Is there is something we can learn from what happened?

In time, there are bound to be many “learnings”, but as a start, as fellow human beings, let’s use this Christchurch horror as a reminder to be less judgmental, to understand a way of life that may seem foreign to us and in a society dominated by fences and boundaries, let’s try to appropriately reach out.

Christians familiar with the letter of St James, will remember that faith without actions, is dead.

Also, when we read the Scriptures, God’s voice is sometimes heard, as it was on Sunday. The account of the Transfiguration ends: “This is my Son, the chosen one. Listen to him.”

At no point does Jesus condone murder, racism, or hate.

We are all different from each other but in this together.

Let our actions speak volumes.

  • John Murphy is a Marist priest working in communications and new media.


Father John Murphy, Roman Catholic priest, son of an Anglican mother, is well-placed to speak of diversity in religion. His view, however, is broader than the Christian divide. He is able to remind us that ALL humanity is created by the One God, and Muslims are our neigbours not only in faith but in our local communities. No-one should be targetted for their difference from anyone else, and it is this fear of difference – the fear of ‘The Other’ – that is the source of misplaced suspicion and violence, such as has occurred in Christchurch, recently.

As people of Faith, we have a duty to recognise and uphold that which, in other people, is upbuilding of community and togetherness. Sadly, the Church is not always the best advocate of the Love of the God-in-Christ we profess to worship and follow. To follow Christ is to undertake the path of action which he himself brought into focus in his own lifetime – an overturning of the world’s valuation of humanity that depends on their prosperity and intrinsic worth in terms of what ‘they’ can do for us; by raising up the poor and the afflicted; the marginalised and the ‘Other’; who is in any way different from ourselves

I was reminded of the Christian tendency to regard oneself as the primary focus of God’s Love, care and attention. Contrarily, the intention of Jesus was to redeem all who knew themselves to be needy of the Father’s Love. I guess, when we analyse it, deep down, this is the desire of each one of us;, equally valued and loved by God. We need to respect and value this possibility for other people as well as ourselves.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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The ‘INDEPENDENT’ (U.K.) re Lambeth 2020

Justin Welby accused of bowing to homophobia after banning gay bishop’s husband from church summit

Conservative hardliners from Africa, South America and Asia are dictating to Archbishop of Canterbury, Kevin Robertson says

A gay bishop whose husband has been barred from attending a once-in-a-decade Anglican summit has accused the Archbishop of Canterbury of bowing to homophobia.

Kevin Robertson, a bishop in Toronto, was told by Archbishop Justin Welby that his husband, Mohan Sharma, could not attend next year’s Lambeth Conference because of ferocious opposition from ultra-conservative church leaders from Africa, South America and Asia.

All other bishops and their spouses from the 40 Anglican churches across the globe have been invited to the conference, which is the most significant gathering of Anglican leaders and takes place just once every 10 years.  TOP ARTICLES3/5READ MORENew Zealand attacks: Death toll of Christchurchmassacre rises to 50

But Archbishop Welby told Bishop Robertson he could not bring his husband with him because it would upset those from traditionalist churches in Africa, South America and Asia, who strongly oppose any accommodation with LGBT+ Christians.

Bishop Robertson told The Independent Archbishop Welby had effectively caved in to bigotry.

When asked if the opposition of conservative bishops was driven by homophobia, not theological differences, he said: “I do, because it appears there is an inconsistency.”

The supposed Anglican position on marriage – that it is a lifelong union between one man and woman – was contradicted by many bishops who had divorced and remarried, yet only gay bishops were being singled out, he noted.

“I know there are bishops who have been divorced and remarried, in some cases more than once, who are being invited and their spouses are also being invited.

“So to hold [this] up as the reason for Mohan not to be invited seems a little thin.”

Bishop Robertson was in London for a separate meeting in January when he was summoned to Archbishop Welby’s office to be told his husband was barred. The head of the Church of Englandtold him: “If I invite your spouse to the Lambeth Conference there won’t be a Lambeth Conference,” Bishop Robertson reported.

Hardliners have threatened to boycott the gathering altogether even though no gay partners will be present.

The head of the conservative Gafcon movement of Anglican Churches, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh from the Church of Nigeria, said last week he and his fellow believers had felt “the pain of betrayal” because gay bishops, such as Bishop Robertson, were not also being excluded along with their partners. If same-sex spouses were being barred so too should gay bishops, who have also committed to a “sexual relationship [which is] incompatible with scripture”, he wrote in a blog post.

Although gay marriage is permitted in some Anglican churches, including the United States, Scotland and soon Canada, it is currently forbidden in the Church of England and most other churches across the world.

Archbishop Welby attempted to comfort Bishop Robertson during their meeting by pointing out at the last Lambeth Conference in 2008 gay bishops as well as their partners were banned.

But Bishop Robertson said this did not feel like much progress to him. “My hope would be that he would have said there is no consistency in not inviting the spouses of those in same-sex marriages. It would have been a brave step and he would have faced [a] backlash, but frankly he’s going to face some of that anyway

As well as speaking of his own disappointment at Mr Sharma’s exclusion, the bishop also bemoaned the statement the Anglican Church was making by turning their backs on LGBT+ relationships.

“What message does this send to more progressive Anglicans, not only in the UK and North America but to gay and lesbian Anglicans in places in the communion where it’s very difficult to come out?”

There has been growing anger at the ban on gay spouses ever since it was announced last month.

The Bishop of Liverpool Paul Bayes, a prominent pro-LGBT+ advocate in the Church of England, has said he will not bring his own wife to the Lambeth Conference in protest at the decision.

The other gay bishop affected by the policy, Mary Glasspool from the diocese of New York, has said she will travel to London with her wife next year. In a letter posted online, Bishop Glasspool said her wife Becki Sander would remain outside the summit and would be joined by the wives of the two other bishops from New York, in solidarity.

“So much of our dismay over the archbishop’s decision is that we are so blessed by the inclusion of members of the LGBTQ community in the full sacramental life of this diocese,” the New York bishops wrote.

“[They] have asked only to receive from their church the dignity and love which they have received from their god.”

Bishop Robertson said he agreed: “If [LGBT+ people] are not present, not seen, not known, how do we advance the conversation and build bridges through the disagreement? Keeping people away and excluding people is not the answer.”

A spokesperson for Archbishop Welby declined to comment, and the Anglican communion’s spokesperson would only point to a blog by the organisation’s head explaining the policy.


Lent is a time for reflecting on how the Church (and we as part and parcel of it) is/are actually facing up to the realities of injustice and prejudice within our own basic communities.

While decrying the prejudice of the ‘White-Supremacy’ assailant in the so-recent massacre of Muslims at prayer in our City of Christchurch here in N.Z., we also need to eradicate the prejudice and injustice existing in both our Churches and the local communities against LGBTI+ people in our midst.

One problem, of course, is when the Church, while publicly decrying the problems of historic prejudice of both sexism and homophobia, still does little to flesh out that good intention by neglecting to follow through by its own actions in a situation where the world needs to recognise and follow the Church’s lead in managing diversity.

However, in the case of the calling together of Bishops of the Anglican Communion to the next Lambeth Conference in the U.K., the Archbishop of Canterbury – as has been clearly stated by one of the bishops who is involved – has failed in his ‘duty of care’ to include the spouses of Same-Sex legally-married Bishops in the more general invitation for the spouses of heterosexually married Bishops.

If this, indeed, were an attempt to appease the homophobia of the GAFCON Bishops (who have already distanced themselves from Provinces containing Same-Sex Clergy); then surely the ABC would not have invited the S/S-partnered Bishops themselves to the Lambeth Conference. However, by including them, but not their spouses, the ABC has caused irritation in both pro and anti factions in the Church. We all know that it is not possible to please everyone when a division such as this appears. But to make a decision that pleases no-one is really not good enough!

The House of Bishops in TEC (who will have 2 Bishops and their partners to deal with on this issue) have already expressed their dissatisfaction at the arbitrariness of the announcement from the Head Office of the Anglican Communion. It remains to be seen whether everyone who is actually invited will actually turn up at Lambeth. It would be a pity if – in an act of seeming appeasement of the GAFCON Bishops – the Meeting at Lambeth 2020 was not a basis for the Anglican Communion to be able to proclaim its Unity in Diversity – a charisma that has hitherto held us together.

The Bishop charged with chairing the preparatory Design Group for the Lambeth Conference; South African Archbishop Thabo MakGoba, gives perhaps the most exciting view of the encouraging possibilities of Lambeth 2020 in this video:

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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TEC Bishops Respond to New Zealand Tragedy

Also at the meeting

Diocese of San Joaquin Bishop David Rice speaks to the house on March 15 hours after the terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Rice once served as a vicar in the Diocese of Christchurch. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The bishops responded in a number of ways to the attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which 49 died. The morning Eucharist included prayers for “the victims of the shootings in New Zealand, rest to their souls and peace to their families.”

Diocese of San Joaquin Bishop David Rice, speaking at the opening of the morning session, called the attacks “an unprecedented act of terrorism.”

Rice was the bishop of the Diocese of Waiapu in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia when he was called to San Joaquin. Born and raised in North Carolina, Rice was a Methodist pastor for eight years prior to his ordination in the Anglican Church.

He began his Anglican priesthood in the Diocese of Christchurch. It is where his daughter and son went to kindergarten and primary school, he told the house. He and his wife Tracy have a home there to which they will retire, Rice said.

“I find myself as I stand here before you – and I should have thought of this because I was up all night contacting family and friends to see if they’re okay – to have something to say, but I find I have no words.”

He said he suggested to Diocese of Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas that Bishops Against Gun Violence reach out to Christchurch Bishop Peter Carrell and Richard Wallace who leads Te Wai Pounamu, the Maori diocese, “as an act of solidarity to send our love.”

Rice evoked the statement from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who said of the victims of the attacks, “They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand.”

Rice said, “Say that with me. They are us.” The house responded loudly, and Rice stopped to compose himself.

“Our immigrant and refugee sisters and brothers, say it with me, they are us.”

The house responded, “They are us.”

“Our Palestinian sisters and brothers, say it with me, they are us.”

The house responded, “They are us.

“Those who even lose their way and do harm, say it with me, they are us.

The house responded, “They are us.”

“Amen,” Rice said, returning to his table.

The bishops prayed in silence and then were led in prayer by the Very Rev. Miguelina Howell, a chaplain to the house and dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford, Connecticut.

Later in the day, the members of Bishops Against Gun Violence who were at the meeting gathered for the group’s weekly Facebook Live prayer service, held this Friday in the chapel at Kanuga Conference and Retreat Center. The vigil included remarks by Curry.

The House passed a resolution committing itself to upholding General Convention 


This is an extract from the Meeting of TEC Bishops in the U.S.A., which, amongst other matters, paused to consider the latest news from Aotearoa/New Zealand on the ‘Friday Prayers’ Massacre of 49 Muslim worshippers in 2 Christchurch mosques.

In the leading picture, Bishop David Rice, Bishop of San Joaquin in the USA (former priest in Christchurch and one-time Bishop of the Dunedin Diocese of ACANZP) is seen addressing the Convention. His first-hand knowledge of the New Zealand scene equipped him to inform the TEC bishops of the situation

The conversation then segued into a discussion of the American gun laws, which challenged the proliferation of possession of arms amongst the American people. The New Zealand situation certainly has alerted the world to the necessity of gun laws which limit the possibility of further outbreaks of lawlessness based on the indiscriminate use of guns and other weapons of destruction. This will be an ongoing issue in the United States – and other countries – where the personal possession of arms is considered a matter of personal protection, rather than a problem for community safety.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Anglican Church of Canada on ‘Same-Sex Marriage’

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A Word to the Church: Considering the proposed amendment of Marriage Canon XXI


This Word to the Church was passed by consensus by the Council of General Synod on March 16, 2019.


Historically, the full inclusion of gay and lesbian persons in the life of the Anglican Church of Canada – in its parishes, congregations and communities from coast to coast to coast – has been actively under consideration for many years. It has been a major topic in a number of meetings of General Synod. In some of those meetings, the General Synod passed resolutions that expressed the mind of the General Synod and contributed to the teaching and policy of the Anglican Church of Canada.

In the midst of all these proceedings, there has been the desire to hear all voices, and to remain integrally a church which respects the dignity of each person and remains faithful to our calling to love one another.

In preparing for the second reading of the proposed amendment to the Marriage Canon, the Council of General Synod (CoGS) itself has consistently undertaken a respectful listening process. The Council has exercised its responsibility to encourage consideration of A051-R2 throughout the church between first and second reading by diocese and provinces. We have received and listened to the considerable feedback submitted by dioceses and provinces, the House of Bishops and the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples. The Council is returning the resolution to General Synod for second reading with some possible amendments.

CoGS asks General Synod 2019 and the whole church to take note of the following discussion and make the affirmations that follow.


Since the 1980s, the General Synod has held discussions and considered resolutions pertaining to same sex relationships, and the blessing of same sex unions and marriages in the Church. For example:

a. 1992: General Synod held an open forum on sexuality and requested that the House of Bishops and the National Executive Council (now the Council of General Synod) commission a study of homosexuality and same-sex relationships.

b. 1994: Hearing Diverse Voices, Seeking Common Ground: A program of study on homosexuality and homosexual relationships was published by the Anglican Book Centre as a resource for parishes and groups.

c. 1995: General Synod affirmed the presence and contribution of gays and lesbians in the church.

d. 2001:  General Synod adopted A Call to Human Dignity: A Statement of Principles for the Anglican Church of Canada on Dignity, Inclusion, and Fair Treatment.

e. 2004: General Synod deferred the decision to affirm the authority and jurisdiction of any diocesan synod, with the concurrence of its bishop, to authorize the blessing of committed same sex relationships. It also passed the resolution “affirming the integrity and sanctity of committed, adult same-sex relationships”. The General Synod asked the Primate to refer the issue to the Primate’s Theological Commission.

f. 2005: The Primate’s Theological Commission published the St. Michael Report, stating that the blessing of same-sex unions is a matter of doctrine “but not core doctrine”.

g. 2007: General Synod defeated a motion (that was deferred in 2004) to affirm the authority and jurisdiction of any diocesan synod, with the concurrence of its bishop, to authorize the blessing of committed same sex unions.

The General Synod also passed the following resolution (Act 33):

“That this General Synod accept the conclusion of the Primate’s Theological Commission’s St. Michael Report that the blessing of same-sex unions is a matter of doctrine, but is not core doctrine in the sense of being creedal and should not be a communion-breaking issue.”

h. 2010: General Synod adopted a statement (Act 70) with respect to the blessing of same-sex relationships that said, in part:

“We acknowledge diverse pastoral practices as dioceses respond to their own missional contexts. We accept the continuing commitment to develop generous pastoral practices. We recognize that these different approaches raise difficulties and challenges.”

The statement also said:

“We are deeply aware of the cost to people whose lives are implicated in the consequences of an ongoing discernment process.  This is not just an ‘issue’ but is about people’s lives and deeply held faith commitments.”


“Above, in and through all of this, and despite all our differences we are passionately committed to walking together, protecting our common life.”

The General Synod also unanimously adopted a resolution opposing criminalization of homosexuality, and calling on our partners in jurisdictions with such legislation to do the same (Act 75).

i. 2013: General Synod adopted a motion (C003) that directed the Council of General Synod to prepare a motion for the consideration of General Synod 2016 that would: “change Canon XXI on Marriage to allow the marriage of same sex couples” (Act 38). In response to resolution C003, the Council of General Synod (CoGS) formed the Commission on the Marriage Canon to undertake the work requested in the resolution and report back to CoGS.

j. 2015: The Commission presented its final report, This Holy Estate, to the Council of General Synod on September 22, 2015.

k. 2016: A resolution to amend the Marriage Canon came to General Synod in 2016. The resolution was amended to permit the solemnization of same sex marriages that were authorized by the diocesan bishop. The existing conscience clause for clergy would not be changed. General Synod 2016 gave first reading to the amended resolution (A051-R2) and by a two-thirds majority of those voting in each of the orders of laity, clergy, and bishops.

The resolution was referred to provincial and diocesan synods for consideration as required by the Declaration of Principles.

l. 2019: A051-R2 returns to General Synod 2019 for second reading, as required by the Declaration of Principles for change to a canon pertaining to doctrine.

If A051-R2 receives the necessary majorities in each of the orders of bishops, clergy, and laity at General Synod 2019, it will become an Act of Synod; if it does not, it will be defeated.


The Anglican Church of Canada was one of the first Provinces of the Anglican Communion around the world to consider the propriety of including LGBTI people as part of the Church’s mission and ministry.

The St.Michael’s Commission, which delivered a favourable view of the inclusion of such people within the family of the Church, was Chaired by none other than the Canadian Bishop who later became the Bishop of Christchurch here in Aotearoa /New Zealand. Bishops Victoria Matthews was later to give a lecture on the doctrine of Christian Marriage to our Church in New Zealand ACANZP, which challenged us to reconsider our understanding of the marriage contract – and its implications for committed same-sex relationships.

The most recent movement in our Church (ACANZP) has been to authorise the Blessing of a Civil Marriage of Same-Sex Couples which has received the consent of the local diocesan bishop and the clergy and congregation of the church in which they are to receive this Blessing.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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