Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Not back to church?

Though I said I wouldn't be posting regularly on here from now on, I can't resist adding this:

It was brought to my attention by Bosco Peters in Christchurch. His comments are worth reading.

Friday, June 24, 2011

No more posts for the time being

Too all those who are regular readers of this blog.

My apologies, but I'm going to have to stop posting to the this blog, at least for the time being. I'm working on writing a musical, as some of you will know, and while you'd think that would mean once the script was written, and the music mostly written, I'd be starting to relax. Of course, what it actually means is that the job is only beginning. While I have some supportive people also working on aspects of the task, it's beginning to feel like we're only starting to climb the mountain. So regrettably I'm going to have to put some things aside, such as this blog, at least for the present.

Yes, I'd think that with being retired, I'd have more time. Nope, the same time, just differently arranged...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

God is in charge...

Peter Carrell, an Anglican priest resident in Christchurch writes today:

For Christchurch, in the midst of death, destruction, and (increasingly these days) despair, it is good news that God is in charge, Jesus is Lord. A tad difficult to believe, but an important gospel fact nevertheless. The earthquakes are not in charge of us and our future: God in Jesus Christ is boss.

Last night was a challenge to faith in this God, incidentally: a hefty 5.3 at 10.34 pm, just prior to going to bed, and then a whole series through the night, including a 4.4 at 3.28 am which woke us up. A cheeky friend texted me at 11.03 pm asking if I still had an office. I shall check soon. Not to worry if I don't. Neither did the Son of Man who has graciously called me to follow him without pack, blanket or jacket.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Not decline

Yesterday I headed up a post 'Decline'. Today Skye Jethani, on the Out of Ur blog, writes about the Southern Baptists in the States suffering ongoing decline.

He notes how he asked Willard Dallas about the situation some time ago, and was surprised by his answer:

“I am not discouraged,” he replied, “because I believe that Christ is in charge of his church, with all of its warts, and moles, and hairs. He knows what he is doing and he is marching on.”

Jethani goes on to note: ...the truth is some churches are dying [and perhaps even some denominations] and others reached room temperature years ago. But that doesn’t mean the Church is dying.

He goes on to say that his experience at the Lausanne Conference confirms this. The evidence, both scientific and anecdotal, show the global church is more than’s thriving! Some of the growth may be attributed to strategic planning on the part of Western churches and missions agencies in the early 20th century. But what we heard again and again were the unexpected and even miraculous ways in which the church has been planted, germinated, fed, and nurtured.

Empty shells?

I came across this extract from (Anglican Bishop) Kelvin Wright's blog today:

"These empty worship shells scattered around the countryside are the signs of the death of a particular religious infrastructure. ... A particular way of meeting the spiritual needs of our society is disappearing because it no longer meets the needs of our society, ...

The role of the church is to introduce people to the Living God and open them to the transforming power of the presence of God. Gradually we have forgotten to do this. We have forgotten how to do this. We have forgotten, even, that we are supposed to do this. And quite naturally, and quite rightly, the infrastructure we have created precisely to help us to do this crumbles and dies.

The old churches tell me one thing and they tell it to me clearly and loudly: The church must facilitate personal transformation or it must cease to exist. It is time to forget the infrastructure except to the extent that it facilitates the one essential task of the Church. As my Lord tells me, "seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all the rest will be added to you as well."

Sunday, June 19, 2011


The church in the UK is not in decline because people no longer believe in God, rather people in the UK no longer believe in God because the church is in decline.

Kim Fabricius writing another bunch of doodlings on the Faith and Theology blog.

(Incidentally, when I worked for the Presbyterians there were several words that got used a good deal and which I began to baulk at being used so readily: paradigm, contextual...and most especially, decline. It's an excuse word, as I think Fabricius may be indicating.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Walk Humbly with the Lord

Viggo Mortensen is probably best-known as an actor and all-round artist. But as a theologian? Too intriguing for words. Yet his name appears as one of the editors (and also one of the contributors) of a newish book called Walk Humbly with the Lord: Church and Mission Engaging Plurality.

However, it turns out that the Viggo the actor isn't Viggo the theologian. The latter is a thelogian at the University of Aarhus in Denmark. He's published several books on theology.

The book has other familiar names amongst the contributors, including Stanley Hauerwas, John Drane, Andrew Walls, and Darrell Guder.

The essays cover the 1910 World Missionary Conference (an attempt to sift the history from the myth); Hauerwas on the Church is Mission; community, the fluidity of mission, the church in a multireligious Europe, the Canadian Church in the third millennium, being a Christian minority in a Muslim land, Andrew Walls on missiology as vocation, and much more. You can see a full list of the contents and contributors here.

The book is also available on Google books (in part, at least). Bruce Hamill has written a post about Hauerwas' essay, and there is more about that essay on the Prodigal Kiwis site.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Update from Christchurch

An update from Martin Stewart on some of the ongoing mission work in ChCh, post-earthquake...

It is a real pain all this shaking – I really feel for those poor people out east with any hope they might have had of something being closer to normal being erased this week. While the quakes themselves weren’t as bad insofar as the devastating trampoline effect in February (esp the lives lost) in other ways they are more demoralising, especially with winter upon us. There is widespread anger now – wanting some resolution over what will happen with their land and property, but anger at the sense that there may not be any end to this in the medium term. It is scary, hard on the nerves, massively inconvenient, and hugely disheartening.

I do a bit of chaplaincy at a university hostel (well I try – it is hard to get there these days) – I was talking to some students last night who are quite fed up. They have missed crucial parts of their semester but also they are in exam mode with exams postponed and squeezed into a very tight timeframe but also their ability to concentrate in any extended way is very difficult. Some are seriously contemplating transferring elsewhere for next year. I cannot blame them, but it will have devastating consequences for ChCh and the University of Canterbury who are quite worried about their ability to attract new students for 2012 as it is.

The Presbyterians have had fewer problems in this week’s round of shocks – a disused church to be demolished is now demolished (quite convenient as it had historic places issues), another two congregations that were uncertain about whether their buildings could be repaired are clearer now about having to move on from them, and one minister is probably going to have to move from his damaged house.

My little project of having people from St Stephen’s, St Giles, and St Mark’s delivering $200 supermarket vouchers to the homes of people in the Avonside/Dallington area is chugging along nicely. My target of raising $50,000 is now up to $33,000 thanks to two large donations from a Wellington trust and an Auckland parish, along with quite a few $1000 donations from supportive folk. Once I get the $50,000 I will be approaching several supermarkets on this side of the city to buy the vouchers and invite them to match us dollar for dollar.

St Stephen’s is handling this project for the three parishes – we even have a dedicated account:
contact Martin for details of this account:

Mission Workshops

Mission Workshops
Saturday June 25th, 2011
Leith Valley Presbyterian Church,
267 Mavlern St,
Glenleith, Dunedin

Workshops include: Beyond the big OE, Why mission?
Reaching cross culturally in NZ, The changing face of
mission today, Realities in Southern Sudan
For more infor: contact

A pneumatological approach...

J R Woodward presents a useful review of the book, Beyond the Impasse: toward a pneumotological theology of religions, by Amos Young, on his blog (Dream Awakener)

He writes: “In Beyond the Impasse, in light of our globalized context, Amos Yong presents a pneumatological (Holy Spirit) approach to the theology of religions as the preferable way for Christians to meaningful engage in genuine dialogue with other religions with the ability to discern the Spirit’s presence, activity or absence. He develops his approach by tracing some of the biblical, philosophical and theological approaches to date, recognizing contributions that have been made, as well as identifying present deficiencies.

He then addresses the “potential Achilles heal” of this pneumatological approach – the need to develop a theology of discernment which is adept at discerning both the phenomenological and inner workings of all religions, “in ways that enable the religions to be take seriously on their own terms in order to facilitate the emergence of adequate comparative (and therefore discerning) categories” (pg 185).

The review is a good overview not only of the book, but of the theology of other religions.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Caring for the carer

I'm not entirely sure why I found the short piece, The perfect husband I am not, by Tom Becker, resonating with me. Perhaps it's his sheer honesty about how difficult it is to be continually sympathetic to someone who has a chronic illness. His piece is a good reminder that carers need care too...

Here's how it starts.

My wife’s depression pours light on my own sins. I’m stoic, unsympathetic and critical of her in every way. I’m quick to declare fix-its for her occasional panic episodes. Ever since she was diagnosed with anxiety-induced depression 14 years into our marriage, I’ve waged my own war against the demon of selfishness and, in moments of failure, self-worthlessness.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Skye Jethani has written a blog post this week on the way in which we as 'church' regard those in our midst who are disturbances of some sort or other. He's discussing a situation in a church named 'Elevation' in which a boy with cerebral palsy was 'escorted out' (according to the mother) or moved to another part of the auditorium (according to church officials). He was a 'distraction' and the church's goal is "to offer a distraction free environment for all our guests."

As you might imagine, Jethani is disturbed by this attitude. Whatever the best intentions of the church are/were, his view is that church is a place where distraction is one of those things you put up with....because all the people in attendance are part of the family. Certainly it can be difficult for a minister doing his best to preach well to have someone in the congregation making a lot of noise (not that this boy was, apparently). Unwarranted noise can be an interruption to a well-prepared skit/drama/whatever sort of presentation.

But as Jethani notes: when I come freely to worship the Living God and gather with his people whom he describes as the foolish, weak, and despised in the world (1 Cor 1:26-28)--I do not expect a distraction free environment.

Church is not a cinema, a rock shop, a theatre, a performing arts centre. You might perhaps expect a distraction-free environment in any one of those places (although what you might expect and what you get aren't necessarily the same thing). Church is family, and in a family you put up with the noisy, sloppy baby, the irritating toddler, the old person heading towards dementia.

If we lose that, we're heading away from what church is about. Aren't we?

Friday, June 03, 2011

New commandments

Just in case you thought those Old Testament Ten Commandments were a bit too chunky to memorise....try these for size.

Courtesy of Anglican priest, Don Tamihere.