Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bullying and Religion

The GetReligion site is one I've only recently hooked up with; they analyse news reports that have a religious content, and see whether the reporters are really doing their job when it comes to the religious aspect. Their goal is to improve the state of religious reporting, whether it be from secular or religious sources.

Recently there was an article about bullying in schools (American schools, but I suspect some of the issues may be relevant to New Zealand). The analysis is interesting not only in its attempt to get at the facts, but also in terms of just how vast a problem bullying now is, along with it being one of the reasons why a number of students commit suicide.

We've looked at bullying and suicides on a number of occasions in this blog because they impinge on the areas of concern we have as bloggists. The blog post Bobby Ross Jr on the GetReligion site has posted is entitled 'Bullying Gays in God's Name', so it extends the concerns still wider.

At the end of the piece, Ross echoes a question another reporter asks: How do parents and schools protect vulnerable kids without turning schools into a battleground for the culture wars? It's a question we need to keep asking here in New Zealand.

Daring to a minister of God

Paul Fromont has an interesting post (29.10.10) in which he quotes at reasonable length from a reflection by the Anglican writer, Monica Furlong (1930-2003). In this reflection she responds to the statement:“I want priests who dare to be…” Some of what she says will strike a chord, some may upset, some may concern ministers deeply. Here's the start of the reflection....

“[Priest’s, ministers, pastors] are in for a growing loneliness, of being misunderstood. I suggest that this will only be endurable if they expect this, understand the reasons for it, and do not cast too many envious glances over their shoulders at the circumstances of their predecessors.

I am clear about what I want from the clergy. I want them to be people who can, by their own happiness and contentment challenge my ideas about status, success and money and so teach me how to live more independently of such drugs.

I want them to be people who can dare, as I do not dare, and as few of my contemporaries dare to refuse to work flat out and to refuse to work more strenuously than me.

Read more here...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rural health

The Mental Health Foundation announced the online release of ‘‘Down on the farm: Depression and mental health in the rural south’’ earlier this month.

The 16-page supplement was produced by 2009 New Zealand Mental Health Media Grant recipient Yvonne O’Hara. Originally published on 29 September and 6 October in the Southern Rural Life and Courier Country respectively to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, the resource has now been made available for download via the Mental Health Foundation’s website.

‘‘Down on the farm: Depression and mental health in the rural south’’ features articles on stress management, financial planning, depression and grief as well as providing information on support services available.

The aim of the publication is to reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues and to encourage the traditionally stoical and staunch farming community to talk about their problems, and to seek help if necessary.

Feedback so far has been extremely positive with one reader writing, “As a farmer's wife in my mid thirties, for the first time in years I feel compelled to give feedback on something received in the post. I have just read the Down on the Farm supplement from cover and cover and really wanted to drop you this line to commend all those involved with it. The approach taken is spot on. The medium, as a supplement in a well known farming mag, has made it hugely accessible. The supplement itself was filled with great information, real and practical advice, with great sharing of stories from real and respected people in the rural sector. The cross section and range of articles was thorough and well thought out, from youth to long term farmers, along with aspects like the article for widows. Importantly it has a great readability factor to it. Overall it provides an excellent resource not only for people experiencing or having experienced depression, but for their friends and family who want to know what they can do to help. Through the countless bits of newsprint that passes through our mail box these days, this supplement is definitely a keeper and one I will be sure to share with friends and family.

Despite being specifically aimed at the communities around Southland, Otago and Canterbury, ‘‘Down on the farm: Depression and mental health in the rural south’’ offers valuable advice to anyone within the farming community.

(Incidentally, the cover picture is superb. This portrait, entitled Killing Time, is by Cromwell artist Deidre Copeland, with permission from the subject’s family. More of her artwork can be viewed on her website.)

Supervision Scrapbook

I've just received a copy of the book, Supervision Scrapbook. It's aimed at youth workers in particular - hence the subtitle: kinda mainly for people who work with young people.

The authors are Rod Baxter (National Youth Workers Network Aotearoa) and Trissel Mayor (from NZ Aotearoa Adolescent Health and Development).

The book has been produced in a limited edition of 500 copies (we have number 50) and was published, as far as I can make out, in 2008. However, it appears that it's only been advertised more generally this year. Presbyterian Youth Ministries have got behind it strongly, encouraging all their youth workers to get a copy, and NZAAHD is also promoting it. Price is $10, from PYM, including postage.

As to the book itself, it's very readable, laid out in a typical youth-focused fashion, short (about 44 pages), with worksheets and a very solid bibliography. I've just skimmed through it, and it has material in it that every supervisor and supervisee would find worth checking out, or being reminded of. It also keeps the cultural aspects of Maori (and occasionally other ethnicities) in focus. (In fact, the NZAAHD site is advertising it as a taonga, ie, a treasure.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Next Christians

The Next Christians: the Good News about the end of Christian America, by Gabe Lyons (author of Un-Christian)

From a review by Scott Wenig:
Lyons sincerely believes that the church is on the cusp of a remarkable transformation, not unlike the era of the Reformation. But to seize the day he offers a word to the wise: the next Christians must emphasize the whole Gospel and stay committed to keeping it first. Our ongoing temptation is to get sidetracked by secondary issues such as theories of cultural engagement, methodologies of outreach, models of doing church and even environmental stewardship. These are not unimportant but they must be subsumed under the larger and more potent agenda of living out the Gospel by the power of the Spirit. As Lyons so astutely notes, ‘where Christians restore, people get saved.’ (p. 193).

From a review by Charles Erlandson:
[Lyons] presents a lot of good tools for understanding different kinds of Christians...Another excellent analysis he presents is the 7 channels of cultural influence employed by the gay movement very successfully. These 7 channels are: Media, Education, Arts and Entertainment, Business, Government, Social Sector, and Church. Unfortunately, Christians have not acted very much like light in these 7 spheres. Because Christians who want to "restore" the world, instead of blending with it or retreating from it, will often be tempted to become like it. Lyons wisely lists 5 practices that will discipline "Next Christians" in their quest to engage and restore the world:

1. Immersed in Scripture (Instead of Entertainment)
2. Observing the Sabbath (Instead of Being Productive)
3. Fasting for Simplicity (Instead of Consuming)
4. Choosing Embodiment (Instead of Being Divided)
5. Postured by Prayer (Instead of Power)

NZ's Population Grows in all regions

Some stats about population out today from Statistics NZ.

Auckland's population grew faster in the June 2010 year than any of the other 15 regions in the country. It has has now been New Zealand's fastest-growing region for the last nine June years. In the June 2010 year, Auckland's population grew by 23,300 (1.6 percent) and it was the only region with a growth rate above the 1.2 percent national average.

Natural increase (excess of births over deaths) made the main contribution to the Auckland region's population growth, accounting for 69 percent of growth in the June 2010 year.

"Auckland region's population has a relatively young age structure, with high proportions in the child-bearing ages," acting Population Statistics manager Kimberly Cullen said. "This results in a high number of births and gives the region built-in momentum for future growth."

New Zealand's 15 other regions all recorded population increases in the June 2010 year. Population growth rates ranged from 0.4 percent (West Coast) to 1.2 percent (Waikato and Canterbury).

"New Zealand experienced a rise in net migration in the June 2010 year because of fewer people leaving the country on a permanent or long-term basis," Ms Cullen said. "The rise in net migration, together with a high level of natural increase, has bolstered population growth in most of New Zealand's regions."

Most territorial authority areas (cities and districts) experienced population growth in the June 2010 year. Of New Zealand's 73 territorial authority areas, 68 had population increases, compared with 64 in 2009 and 59 in 2008.

Of the territorial authority areas, the Selwyn and Queenstown-Lakes districts had the highest growth rates in the June 2010 year (both up 2.5 percent). Other territorial authority areas with high growth rates included Manukau city and Rodney district (both up 1.9 percent), and Waitakere city (up 1.8 percent).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Alan Roxburgh

I seem to have been remiss in not advertising Alan Roxburgh's visit to New Zealand.

He'll be in Dunedin from the 29th November to the 2nd December. For more details on this, check out the Leith Valley Presbyterian website or the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership news page.

Alan will also be in Auckland on the 26th and 27th November. He is presenting an Open Lecture: 'Where are we as church in contemporary Western Culture and what needs to happen?' on the 26th at 7 pm at Somervell Presbyterian Church, and is presenting a Missional Transitioning Consultation for Northern and Kaimai Presbyteries on the Saturday.

Incidentally, the spelling of his name above is correct; the spelling on the Knox website and on the advertising is not and may have been confused with John Roxborogh, formerly a lecturer at Knox College. John's name is spelt in the same way as the township of Roxburgh, in Otago, New Zealand.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Alan Roxburgh talks

Alan Roxburgh will be in New Zealand soon, but for those who may not be able to get to his talks, here's a way to catch up with what this missional speaker has to say. The Montreal Diocesan Theological College has put half a dozen or so of Alan's talks (from Sept this year) online. They can be downloaded as mp3s or listened to online.

Either way these are worth checking out. Paul Fromont says, Al is one of the Western churches foremost missiologist/theologians. He brings real intellectual grunt, breadth, experience, a network of diverse conversations, and great communication skills to the table. All are in evidence in the audio recordings of the talks.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Good and beautiful

The Apprentice Series is a collection written by James Bryan Smith and published by InterVarsity Press.

There are three titles in the series: The Good and Beautiful God, The Good and Beautiful Life, and The Good and Beautiful Community. This last title has just been released. According to IVP, “The series is designed to guide readers in an apprenticeship with Jesus recognizing that we follow Jesus to become like Jesus.”

“The Apprentice Series is based on a simple structure for producing change.. The first “element” is actually the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that enlivens all our efforts to follow Christ—including the other three components of transformation.

“The second area where change can happen is in transforming our narratives. Narratives are the stories we live by that give our life purpose and explanation. Often our narratives are at work in our lives without our knowing it. We have narratives about God, our self, others and so forth. Many of us have narratives about God that do not match the narratives that Jesus revealed. We cannot change our behavior until we change the narratives that guide us.

“One way to change our narratives is to engage in soul-training exercises, which makes up the third component of transformation. Each chapter includes a practice that helps the reader open to the Holy Spirit and begin replacing false narratives with the true narratives of Jesus. The exercises are often simple and usually counter-cultural. For example, the first exercise of The Good and Beautiful God is sleep, because when we sleep we are relinquishing our perceived control of life and inviting God to be God.

“The fourth and final component of transformation is community. We cannot change on our own, we need other people on the journey with us to encourage and challenge us.”

And of course, this fourth area is the focus of the third and final book.

There’s a good review of the most recent book here, as well as an overview of what’s in the second book.

The Insatiable Moon finally seen

The Insatiable Moon is a film that needs to be seen twice. First time around you're trying to take in the way things work in this particular world, and how the story all fits together. A second viewing gives you more time to reflect.

Arthur (played by Rawiri Paratene) believes he's the 'second son of God.' He lives in a boarding house with a bunch of other people with mental health issues, and is by far the most outgoing and positive of them all. The story explores whether his ability to discern other people's inner turmoils, his belief that God is benevolent to his children, his prophetic words and other insights, are truly charismatic gifts, or merely part of his brain dysfunctions. It challenges us to believe in miracles, in the need for a true belief in God and not just a religious one, and of course, most of all, it challenges us to see people with mental health issues as people loved by God.

The 'villains' of the piece might be a bit too black and white, but they're mostly minor characters: the really interesting people in this movie are those who have a sense of the spiritual and are willing to follow it even if it causes them pain, or requires them to change long-held attitudes.

The scene towards the end, when the suburb of Ponsonby rallies for and against having a boarding house for people with mental health problems in its midst, is the climax, but the more important scene comes earlier, at the funeral of one of the boarding house residents. This is where Arthur comes into his own as a prophetic voice, a man who speaks the words of (first) Son of God.

The other interesting character is the man - Bob - who runs the boarding house: foul-mouthed and short-fused, he nevertheless cares deeply for the men he feeds and cleans up for (seemingly single-handed). This is a vocation for him, rather than a job, although it's unlikely he regards himself as a spiritual man. The 'spiritual' man in the story, the Anglican priest, is at odds with himself and his spiritual life, and seems rather wet by comparison with Bob. It's not that he's meant to represent institutional religion; that would be too simplistic. Rather he's a man in the wrong job, and wisely, by the end of the movie, he's realised it.

Mike Riddell, the author of the original book and the scriptwriter for the movie, doesn't give us all the answers - although he teases us with possible answers at times. His seven years of effort (along with a host of other supporters, including his wife, who directed the movie after the original director had to pull out) in getting this movie off the ground have borne good fruit.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lausanne Congress

The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Cape Town, South Africa starts next week.
There'll be nearly 5,000 delegates representing over 200 countries. Cape Town 2010 will be the most diverse gathering of church leaders focused on mission in history.

The Lausanne Movement was launched by Billy Graham and John Stott in the late 1960s. The first congress occurred in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974. Time magazine called the meeting “a formidable forum, possibly the widest-ranging meeting of Christians ever held.” Out of that first congress came the Lausanne Covenant--a widely affirmed and celebrated document of Christian conviction and mission.

A second Lausanne congress was held in Manila in 1989. This gathering is where the "10/40 window" idea was widely introduced to the global church. It led many denominations and missions agencies to focus their efforts for the next two decades on the unreached nations in the

Many church leaders felt that a third congress was necessary to address the enormous changes that have occurred and the new challenges facing the church's mission. In Cape Town six key issues will be the focus of the conference:

1. The Challenge of the New Atheism.
2. The Impact of Hedonism.
3. The Reality of Islam.
4. The Globalized World.
5. The Brokenness of Our World.
6. Seismic Shifts in Global Christianity.

Within these six issues groups will gather to discuss and work on matters of global poverty, justice, evangelization, church planting, Bible translation, and many other topics. As well as the above, theologians from around the world, led by Christopher Wright, will be working on new papers to give the church a firm doctrinal foundation for missions in the 21st century. And a significant number of younger global church leaders will convene to develop new partnerships.

Thanks to the Out of Ur site for this summary.

The Missional Channel

Nope, this isn't an addition to Sky; sorry to raise your hopes.

Instead it's a site on Vimeo, where there are about ten videos from mission-focused speakers, including some whom we've often named in this blog for various reasons: David Fitch, Alan Hirsch, Ed Stetzer, Graham Cray (the Fresh Expressions man), Andrew Jones, Alan Roxburgh.

The videos vary considerably in length, the longest being around half an hour and the shortest just under two minutes (the length shows up down the bottom left of the screen before you start running the video). The titles aren't terribly helpful ('Missional Conversation', 'an interview with..', 'cultivate gathering' and so on) so it's a matter of opening up one of the videos and seeing what it has to say.

Recommended for those short patches when you just need to stop and listen for a while....


“In running a church I solve problems. Wherever two or three are gathered together, problems develop… It is satisfying to my ego to help make rough places smooth.

“The difficulty is that problems arrive in such constant flow that problem solving becomes full-time work. Because it is useful and the pastor ordinarily does it well, we fail to see that the pastoral vocation has been subverted. Gabriel Marcel wrote that, “life is not so much a problem to be solved as a mystery to be explored.” That is certainly the biblical stance: life is not something we manage to hammer together and keep in repair by our wits; it is an unfathomable gift. We are immersed in mysteries: incredible love, confounding evil, the creation, the cross, grace, God.”

From The Contemplative Pastor - Eugene Peterson, pg 65. Quoted by Len Hjalmarson in this post on spirituality.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Christians and culture

Marshall Shelley, writing from the most recent Catalyst Conference, sends these notes:

Three forms of interaction with culture:
--Separate from that world. “Fight the enemy.” (Theologically, Christians who take this position focus on Fall and Redemption)
--Become like the culture. “Cultural Christians” blend in, becoming indistinguishable from their surrounding culture. (Theologically, their focus is Creation and doing good deeds.)
--Restoration. Pursue being holy and pure in a fallen world, AND restoring culture. (Theologically, this means Fall, Redemption, AND the Restoration of all things--“all things are become new,” the ministry of reconciliation.) These people are not just critics but creators of a new culture. See a role in the bringing of the kingdom of God to earth.

It would be easy to criticise the first two as being insufficiently Christian. That may not necessarily be the case.

Worship as a possible circus

In many church circles the only gifts that are valued for worship are musical ones (and even then of a small range of music) or the ability to speak well (preferably in a good English accent). This attitude needs shattering, and opening up so that poets, photographers, ideas people, geeks, theologians, liturgists, designers, writers, cooks, politicians, architects, movie-makers, storytellers, parents, campaigners, children, bloggers, DJs, VJs, craft-makers, or just anybody who comes and is willing to bounce ideas around, can get involved.

Jonny Baker, from his recent book, Curating Worship

Some more about the book here.

Monday, October 04, 2010

STAANZ Conference 2010

The Annual conference of STAANZ (Systematic Theology Association of Aotearoa New Zealand) will be held at the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, Knox College, Arden Street, Dunedin on November 11-12, 2010.

Registration Details:

Conference Registration Fee: $25.00

Student Fee: $15.00

Optional Conference Dinner (Nanking Palace): $30.00

Accommodation is available within walking distance at motels around the north end of George Street, Great King Street and Cumberland Street. You will find a link to accommodation options on the Registration Page.

Limited accommodation will be available at Salmond College, a University of Otago student residence. Bed and Breakfast will be charged at $52.00 per night. Those wishing to book at Salmond College, please contact, and advise that you are attending the STAANZ Conference at Knox College.

For any further enquiries please contact Murray Rae at:

You can see the full details of the programme (has a distinctly ecclesiological bent) on the Otago University's Theology Dept page.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Australian spirituality stats

I flew to Auckland for a day the week before last in order to attend a conference run by the Church Life Survey people. It was valuable both in terms of meeting people and in hearing the plans for the next survey coming up in 2011.

I spend a good deal of my average week working with stats, both church and government (and any other kind I can lay my hands on), so I have some idea of the state of Christianity in New Zealand. The Church Life Survey is one source of such information. It has some connections with a similar group in Australia, and I've just been reading an article by Rowland Croucher which shows that the church/spiritual/Christian stats in Australia are pretty similar to those here in NZ.

Rowland's complete article is here, but those figures are culled from Shaping Australia's Spirituality: a Review of Christian Ministry in the Australian Context, by Philip Hughes and others (2010). This is a 150 page book (with some proof-reading errors, according to Rowland - the result of a publication date not leaving enough room for thoroughness) and, as Rowland says: won’t find more interesting summary-data on modern Australia and its religions, especially Christianity, anywhere else in one small readable volume.

The book was produced by the Christian Research Association in Australia - we used to have a similar body here. You can buy a copy from CRA themselves, or from some Australian bookshops (not Koorong, as far as I could see).

It's all about Mana

Family Planning NZ has picked up an overseas idea and made it their own (think this is called ‘contextualization’ – one word I’ve learned while working at National Mission! LOL).
They’re calling the programme It’s about Mana, and it’s intended for young men – those in the later stages of schooling and beyond – with the hope that they’ll question traditional male values: the idea that real men are always in control (but have uncontrollable sex drives); deserve entitlement or respect, and that women are objects, amongst other things. Holding these ideas up to the light is intended to work against relationship violence. “If young men are involved in discussions that show that most men don’t use or condone violence towards women, this will make it harder for violent individuals to justify it as normal behaviour.”
Read more on the Family Planning site or join the Facebook page.

And more on the same topic. There’s a very interesting report from the International Planned Parenting Federation called Men are Changing. While personally I’ve had some qualms in regard to the work of the IPPF over the years, this report is essentially positive and shows that a great deal of important work is being done in regard to the way men see themselves and their relationships to women - and other men. The interesting thing about this report is the case studies for once don’t come from European or North American contexts (there is a Canadian one) but from African, South American and Asian countries.
You can download the pdf here.