come holy spirit



I have just spent a week at our General Synod. It did not work out as I had hoped and prayed for. I have cut and pasted my Facebook post in the previous post. It was made just after we finished our work. The truth is our work is not finished with me and whatever it is we did and did not do has not settled in my own heart yet. I am deeply disturbed by the whole event. I could (and maybe should ) leave it there but I offer this as further discerning.

To be clear at the outset: I believe that at General Synod we failed the gospel and the God we seek to serve in not making the church more inclusive by providing for the blessing of same-sex relationships.

The measures we proposed were (to my mind) moderate but, as they stood – some (me included) unhappy with the failure to offer marriage equality, and others outraged by the radical nature of them – they were not accepted.

We were probably at our best and our worst at the Synod. Perhaps that is because General Synod is a reduction of our church – ‘reduction’ in both senses of the word: a concentration like a ‘jus’ in cooking, and a lessening. I know that personally I was sometimes less; I was so upset by the obdurate nature of some, and (what I perceived) as the lack of ‘good faith’ negotiating, that at times I was not at my best nor my most honourable. On the other hand, I saw in others (particularly Maori) the most amazing witness to the power of the Holy Spirit  – their witness to justice, love, and forgiveness on the floor of Synod made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. None of us is without fault. Few of us were overflowing with virtue. Together we were both more and less.

Our church’s processes are archaic. The legal framework and ethos is innately conserving of the tradition and the institution. Gone are the good old days of the 1980’s when good sense and God’s wisdom prevailed and we removed the service ‘A Commination’ from our Formularies, even though it is in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. The swashbuckling days of reform seem gone. We have become so legalistic and pharisaic that such a thing would be impossible now. (If this sounds too esoteric for many, well it kinda is and the dispute has become very fine-grained at so many levels.) We now live and age when we are not always well served by our archaic structures. Again, we were at our best at the 2014 and the 2016 General Synod when cultures other than our anglo-saxon Westminster process came to the fore.

In the midst of all this it would be all too tempting to cry out for God to come and change and  fix things – like the ‘parking-space god’ finds an empty carpark when it is most needed. In my limited experience God doesn’t work so much like that. On the eve of Pentecost though I am thinking, praying, and wondering on the way that God might have been at work and was at work in us at the Synod.

I imagine that tomorrow if I could be in many places in the Diocese I would hear many a one-dimensional sermon about the failings of General Synod. Depending on which church I visited I could predict that I would hear either it was too conservative or too radical. And while I know that there is (from the LGBTI perspective – the perspective/ voice we have supposedly been giving careful and purposeful attention to for the last period of time) the simple truth of justice delayed and delayed over and over, and there is the matter of justice and love undone, it is also more complicated than that. There is the ‘and’ of our life. We were both fantastic and flawed. I was aware, for instance, that while we talked of the LGBTI community as if ‘they’ were all ‘out there beyond the church’ there were also the obvious presence and witness of a number of the gay men in our synod. They were so godly and good. That presence and witness has to be seen in the mix too. That too is the Spirit at work amongst us. That too is part of the life of the church – sacrificial work to be sure. I have to honour that too. We are not one dimensional.

In baptism the Holy Spirit is draws us into the truth, love, and life of Christ, and that this is ‘already at work in us’ (however poorly evidenced by us). It is the Spirit that sanctifies our lives and the gifts we offer. The flawed and fractured lives that are ours are both already in Christ and being drawn yet more deeply into Christ.

Kathy Tanner (a favourite) writes: “Because we have been assumed into Christ’s life, the changes in our lives are continuously fed by the workings of Christ through us in the power of the Spirit.”

On the eve of Pentecost I am left wondering about how the Spirit is breathing in and through us and what changes are surely being wrought in the life of the church of which I am a part.


general synod

This was Facebook post I made right after Synod closed. Somehow the photos from Wei Wei’s exhibition seem right for it … swirling balloons of air around me … it also fits with the Pentecost post that I will put up immediately too.


I will be driving all day tomorrow…. i may post this on my blog when I get home … but, for now, here we go:

It has been a stressful week at General Synod/ Te Hinota Whanui as the church did church business. A great deal went on, some too hard to describe at this point – because I am still coming to terms with edges of it. I am tired.

The particular issue that occupied much of our time and effort was (again!) matters of sexuality. The fact is that a number in our church beleive with all their hearts that same-sex relationships are sinful. I don’t believe that. Not even a little bit can I believe that; but in this the church (that I am part of) we are divided on the matter. 

I feel that, along with others, I worked hard worked to see a suite of material introduced that would see us blessing same-sex realtionships in our church. That work and that material failed to get the assent it needed. I am deeply disappointed. I am disappointed and even hurt for myself. But, of course, I can’t know (and would not pretend to know) the hurt LGBTI friends are feeling – what it is like to find the church will not accept nor celebrate their God-given identity and the love of their life. 

It is a mighty blow.

It will fall flat to say that the church is committed to moving on this issue. Here in Napier I do believe that it does have that commitment – that is what the words and tears have said. But I have seen and heard it before, so I am suspicious. Much work lies ahead… “…run with perserverance the race that is set before us…” 

I am not done.

The thing that gives me greatest hope at this point is the tikanga Maori and Polynesian parts of our church have said to us Pakeha (white)* folk that this matter of justice will not wait. The metaphor/ image that was set before us by them was that ‘the bus will wait but for one more Synod.’ We were challenged that if some really have no intention of getting on the bus, then, they should say so – work may need to be done help them find a place to stand. 

The strength, though, of our cultural partners, their culture and the dual expression of challenge and love was phenomenal. I felt glad to be part of a church that has that dimension to its life. I have not seen that power from our partners ever before. I can’t say, as some are saying, that I am ashamed of my church because that cultural/ three-tikanga reality is part of my church and it was and is phenomenal. 

I am, however, deeply ashamed that a matter of justice and mercy remains undone. 

* I am aware some of my friends in FB-land will not understand our three-stranded, three-cultured church. Another day I will try and explain – or come visit.

ABC and all the rest

So, I have been somewhat hesitant about commenting on the meeting of Primates last week – not least because I don’t want to give it more oxygen or importance than it really has. It is also an age since i bothered posting anything here as I think I had done with blogging (but that is another story).

We are now at the point that folk are finding the “best” commentary on the meeting. I think the attached by Professor Ronald Caldwell is the best piece, or at least the piece that best expresses my own opinion and analysis. (Of course, I would not claim for a moment that I could have done as fine a job as Ronald has done.) I really think it is worth a careful read and I commend it to you:

I also held off writing anything because I wanted to see what our own Archbishops might want to say publicly about the meeting. If you have seen it already you will know that Archbishop Philip offers a heartfelt piece of writing. Read here:

However, what I find most interesting and tragic about ++Philip’s reflection is that he tells us exactly how many camera crews and journalists were outside, but there was no mention of the LGBTI protestors who were also outside. The big point here is about who gets to be ‘in’ and who gets to be ‘out’ (pun intended). ‘Out’ is where the meeting placed the GLBTI members of our church, even though the most substantive decision coming from the meeting (apart from the decision to have another meeting to two) was about “them.” (I should note that: 1. I am simply unaware of any of the Primates who identify as queer or any members of the queer community who were invited to join the meeting; 2.When Bishop Curry spoke from Canterbury he got to stand in the bitter cold too, which was a lovely congruent moment.) Make no mistake we are guilty of the same marginalising practice in Aotearoa/NZ, but it has to stop. So, it is great that the archbishops (nearly) all decided to ‘stay in communion,’ but we have to be mindful of all of those who got to be out in the cold while such a momentous decision gets made. It is very sad. Perhaps the meeting was always to end in tragedy?

Finally, here in NZ we are guilty of offering an apology for homophobic behaviours in our church and, at the same time, having no clear intention of changing our behaviour. But it was really ‘rich’ of the ABC to come out with his apology having censored TEC and having roundly affirmed the status quo. It leaves me feeling somewhat ill.

Writing history; righting history

imagesIt is that time of the year again. The New Zealand International Film Festival is over – at least in Auckland. I didn’t get to very many films this year. Work has kept me from gorging at the annual cinematic feast. I did bump into a friend in the lobby at one movie and she too had to cut down on her original fifty something movies in her first round of selection to just twenty eight. So, maybe it was one of those years when everyone had to make tough decisions.

I didn’t get to very many films at all so I can hardly write any kind of history of the Festival. I am no film reviewer anyway. One movie stood out though. It is one of the best movies I have seen for a very long time. Nobody likes it when a film review headline says, “ a must see.” It is feels so forced. (Not, I might say, unlike the applauding that goes on at the end of the films at the festival – since the director or actors are seldom present, I wonder if it is really just a strained effort by the avant garde to reassure/ congratulate themselves for being in the right place.)

Nonetheless I shall go out on a limb and say that the best film of the festival (well, best film for me) was The Look of Silence directed by Joshua Oppenheimer. This is the companion piece to his earlier work The Art of Killing. Both these efforts are cinematic triumphs for the cinematography, the direction, everything. But they are triumphs of what Oppenheimer has called “the moral gaze” as they ask viewers to immerse themselves in the human dimensions of one of last century’s genocides.

The films invite us to see the mass killings that occurred through the early 1960s in Indonesia. In The Art of Killing we see the events up close through the eyes of the Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkadry, two of leaders in the government sponsored death squads. This film is surreal and frightening in so many ways. (Not least is the fact that the U.S.A backed government of the 60s are still in power and the U.S.A itself refuses to acknowledge their part in the genocide!) One of the key issues we are confronted with is how such killers “write history” as Oppenheimer invites Adi and Anwar and their friends to make their own film of the killings with themselves staring as killers and the victims. We are invited to wonder how they make sense of what they have done and how they see themselves today. It is bizarre in the extreme and very haunting; so haunting that I had to go this year to The Look of Silence.

The protagonists in The Look of Silence are Adi and his brother Ramli. Adi never knew his brother who was one of the estimated one million people killed by the government-backed killers, but Ramli is the constant silent and invisible presence looking on. Adi is an optometrist, which is the perfect filmic coincidence/ contrivance because it provides both an artful lens through which we see the killers and a cover for Adi to disarmingly ask the killers about what they have done. It is beautiful confrontation between mass murderers, who are only too happy to talk to the optometrist about every detail of the method and manner and the number of people they killed (and drinking the blood of their victims to stop them going crazy!). Except ‘confrontation’ is not quite the word because this is not revenge film. Adi is looking for some kind of truth and reconciliation with the killers of his brother and so many of his neighbours and countrymen and women.

The film immerses the viewer into one of the hardest issues for the world and nations, namely, righting history. It is profound and not quite as gruelling as The Art of Killing (but it is still very tough stuff) because of the humanity of Adi and ultimately because of the humanity of Oppenheimer who holds us and does not simply consign the killers or the victims to a one dimensional stage. Dare I say, ‘this is a must see’ – at a cinema if you possibly can.

have a good one

a loving cup

a loving cup

“Have a good one,” has been my casual farewell to friends and family for a while. They don’t enjoy undue piety from me.

I have had another “good one” in my life, but not for much longer.

My favourite cafe is closing down. The place has been crowded in this the last week – I have been attempting to go every day. Like friends visiting the terminally ill we have all been turning up for a last laugh and recollection of good times. We are even allowed to write on the tables now; felts are there to sign our names or signal our everlasting love. It is like signing or painting the casket, which I have seen done a few times. I am not sure if I can bring myself to do it.

It is one of life’s great ironies that I should pretty much have got to the point that I only go to one hard to find cafe in Auckland and they serve Wellington Coffee (still once you get away from shakey town and the weather things Wellington are quite nice) – Supreme. I have said out loud this week, “I am giving up coffee when they have gone.” It isn’t just the coffee. It is the blend – brazilian, which is good for coffee with a little milk – double shot flat white. It is the fantastic “slayer”expresso machine. It is the baristas. The whole combo coming together like a little symphony. (For friends in the USA: the drink you call ‘coffee’ and serve in cups as big as rubbish bins bares no relation to the drink I am talking about here. When I was last in NY in Greenwich Village I found a tattooed youth making an approximation. If he wasn’t so sure he was cool he would realise he has a journey ahead.)

It was such a joyous morning ritual to slip in amongst the bearded ones with beanies and pretend to be cool. I will have to replace this with rejoining the blogosphere; a compensatory activity in my grief.

Goodbye Good One.

Tainted Love


I did not imagine that I my first blog post for 2015 would include reference to the 39 Articles. Nor did I ever imagine that I would write a blog that made reference to the 1981 Soft Cell hit “Tainted Love.” (If you don’t know the song, it is delight and I’ll leave Google to lead you to it).

The Anglican Church in England has just ordained a woman bishop. A first for them and this should be a joyful topic for a first blog. The church, which is sometimes described as a mighty tortoise in its progress, has made genuine progress. In the words of the Guardian commentator, Andrew Brown, “The service is a final decisive break with the tradition of an all male priesthood.” I guess one would have to qualify Brown’s statement as speaking for the Church of England, as, in the adapted words of the hymn, “God is still working her purpose out” in some parts and places.

So, Hallelujah! The Right Reverend Libby Lane is now a bishop! Congrats to her and to all who have worked hard and long for the day.

As is often the case at such moments in history, the side players are the most interesting and end up speaking volumes. For instance, within the service one priest yelled an objection at the point in the service when the congregation was invited to do so. The Archbishop of York, all decently and order, read a prepared statement and moved on. This moment has captured much media attention.

The other sideline issue that has grabbed plenty of attention is the upcoming ordination to the episcopate of the Reverend Phillip North as the soon to be Bishop of Burnley.

For those who have been following the story the details of all this are familiar. But for those who haven’t: In a surprise gesture the Archbishop of York and other bishops who have laid hands on Bishop Libby, are not going to lay hands on Father Phillip out of sensitivity to the fact that he is opposed to the ordination of women to the episcopate. The laying on of hands is significant to Anglicans who believe that, even though there have been splits in the church’s life down the centuries there is a single line of “apostolic succession” going back 2,000 years to Jesus’s disciples. ‘Traditionalists’ (I am being polite), who do not recognize female priests or bishops, believe that a male-only line of succession should be maintained.

The greatest present controversy surrounds the Archbishop of York because he, although the Archbishop, will not preside and will ‘stand back’ at the ordination of Father Phillip even though he will be present and it is in his Province. This is unheard of and has led to claims that the concern that the Archbishop is indulging is a belief about ‘tainted hands’ as if the notion at play is some kind ‘girl fever’ that can be caught and spread like an heretical virus. ‘Tainted love, Don’t touch me please…’ The Archbishop has tried to deny any ‘taint’ type theology being at play, but has probably failed in his attempts. It is a case of what we do speaks louder than our words.

The eminent kiwi blogger Bosco Peters has already picked up on a deep concern he has and I want to develop that somewhat. (You should read Bosco’s blog
found here ).

The place to start is with the Twenty-sixth article of the 39 Articles which reads (it is worth quoting if full because the language is so fabulous):
XXVI. Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments.
Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ’s, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of God, and in receiving the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ’s ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God’s gifts diminished from such as by faith, and rightly, do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ’s institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.
Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally, being found guilty, by just judgment be deposed.

What the twenty-sixth article addresses is the question: how can unworthy humans preside and administer holy things (sacraments) without blemishing them to make them unholy too? The answer is that this holy work is done not by virtue of the minister but “because of Christ’s institution and promise.” Thus, even if we were to concede something as obtuse as the premise that ordaining a woman is a sinful act, an archbishop having presided at such an evil ordination hinders not the effect of a subsequent ordination of a man by the same archbishop.

The deep point here is that sacramental action, ordination being one such kind of act, is the work of “Christ’s promise”, that is, the Holy Spirit. God makes holy, not humans – as if we can make something holy by our magic! It is not the Archbishop’s hands or his perfect virtue that ordains but God who ordains.

I think a failure to understand this deep point leads to some weird idea that a bishop ‘bestows’ gifts at ordination; that power, or grace, or gifts somehow flow out of the goodness of the ordaining one and are bestowed on the next duly chosen one. Thus, you can see that it isn’t so much ‘taint’ or infection that is passed from a sinful bishop to another bishop it is more that the sin somehow blocks the holy pores and power can’t flow through anything but pure hands! You can see, therefore, why the Archbishop of York protests against the idea of taint, because that fails to understand the weird idea that he apparently has operating in his mind – it not that he will “get” something bad, it would be that he would be unable to “give” anything good.

Let me illustrate how deep the idea of ‘bestowal’ is in our church by turning to the liturgy of ordinations: If you look at all the photos of the Archbishop of York at the important moment of the laying on of hands, you will see him with his mitre on. If you were also to look up on the internet “rules about mitres” you would find a variety of sets of rules. All agree (all that I have ever found) that one should not wear the mitre when one is praying (it is the same with other fancy liturgical hats, birettas etc). Indeed, the general rule with hats is “don’t pray with it and don’t play with it.” One doesn’t wear a mitre, for instance, in the Prayers of Intercession or the Eucharistic prayer. However, the rules are not of one mind when it comes to ordaining. Many suggest/ say that one should wear one’s mitre when ordaining. This is a mistake because it fails to convey – albeit to the church in a churchy gesture –  that what is happening is a prayer. The Ordaining Bishop is praying (on behalf of the church gathered) for the Holy Spirit to act and bestow gifts and grace. The ordaining bishop is NOT bestowing gifts from his pure and holy hands! To be absolutely clear about this deep point: bishops should take their hats off and pray, indeed, pray mightily!

So, perhaps the final irony in all this is that the Archbishop of York will be present and, no doubt, praying with the rest of the church at the ordination of Father Phillip to the episcopate. I wonder what Father Phillip thinks about whether God can hear the prayers of sinners?


I have been waiting for some inspiration for a last blog of this calendar year. Thanks to those who have read during the last year; special thanks to those who have commented here or on Facebook.

We are leaning towards Christmas and I most wish I could make some construction to hold some light and life of Christ. A luxuriant king sized bed but at once so simple and no more complex or pretentious than a wooden animal feed box. No design dreamed by me seems suitable; all structurally flawed. The waiting remains.

R.S. Thomas’ poem ‘Kneeling,’ a favourite, feels particularly apposite.

Moments of great calm,
Kneeling before an altar
Of wood in a stone church
In summer, waiting for the God
To speak; the air a staircase
For silence; the sun’s light
Ringing me, as though I acted
A great rôle. And the audiences
Still; all that close throng
Of spirits waiting, as I,
For the message.
Prompt me, God;
But not yet. When I speak,
Though it be you who speak
Through me, something is lost.
The meaning is in the waiting.

First things

Marsden Memorial Church, Matauri Bay

On 20 December 1814, Samuel Marsden arrived in Matauri Bay and came ashore and there he first preached the Gospel.

Of course, we don’t quite tell the story like that. The current prevailing narrative is all about a joyous church service on Christmas Day.

The encounter at Matauri Bay is arguably more significant than the one at Oihi Bay. No doubt Marsden prayed at Matauri too. It is possible he actually prayed plenty as he stayed overnight on shore, without Ruatara or his other Maori companions – and it was a tense situation. But the words of his prayers are not what is remembered today.

Five years earlier ‘the Boyd incident’ had left dozens of people dead and a great deal of animosity behind. Inter-tribal and inter-racial relations were deeply damaged by what occured on the Whangaroa Harbour in 1809. But Marsden’s fearless presence amongst tribal leaders and warriors from across the area helped broker a new peace and, frankly, paved the way for the mission at Rangihoua – a mission that may not have happened without Matauri first happening. Here at Matauri was Marsden showing a christianity engaged (at great personal risk) and working hard for peace and justice.

It is St Francis of Assisi that is credited with saying, “preach always, and, if you must, use words.” At Matauri a great message was preached through Marsden’s presence and action.

It might be argued that the Matauri story has even more to offer church and nation than the celebrated church service at Oihi on Christmas Day. Matauri is certainly a part of the story that needs more attention and honouring. I certainly count it an honour to have been there today. I pray what occurred there in 1814 might inspire us all.






Just a quick reflection of the hikoi. I have been more tired today than I expectected.

It was a very satisfying physical achievement. My kayak is 30 years old and at Labour Weekend it was under a bach, dirty, and unused for a couple of years (photo). The kayaker is older still and … well, I’ll avoid the litany of physical failings. Needles to say it is a while since I have done 6 – 8 hours of physical activity in one day, let alone day after day. It was good, however, to be in the midst such a challenge again. So, a good thing done.

There was a host of things to think on while we paddled or rested on remote beaches: Reading historical journals (of Bishop Selwyn in particular); the environment – splendid, beautiful; and scared by humans, and the indigenous wildlife – playing with dolphins a real highlight.

Spiritually the slower pace of self propelled travel allowed the Spirit to restore reassess some parts of my life.

There are a good number of people to thank: people who sent messages and texts one way or another (some on this blog); my father who became honorary admiral of the fleet for a couple of days; Jayson Rhodes; Sarah Stevens and Rich; Mitzi; and Jane.

Most of all my thanks go to John, my companion along the way. I have studied friendship seriously while at Yale. Such study is no real substitute for getting on with it. Aelred of Rievaulx writes of ‘friend cleaving to friend.’ Because of the risks and challenges involved in such a trip at see in little boats we have simply had to cleave to one another. Kayaking demands ‘rafting up’ (coming alongside each other and holding onto each other to provide stability) to rest and look at maps etc. It is great metaphor for life together.

Thank you. Thank God.

on the last day

We made it! A slow and gentle day. Having eaten most of the food there was just less to pack into the kayaks and we got away at usual time in spite of not rising until 5:30. The wind dropped away to nothing for the final stretch across the bay to Rangihoua and Oihi Bay.

It was great to be greeted by Jason and Rich in a little boat. Familiar smiling faces.

I was little choked-up to see the Marsden Cross, journey’s end and a marker of our church’s beginning, more choked up as John and I embraced.

I expect to write a longer and final reflection on our pilgrimage tomorrow – when some sleep has been had – but during the journey I have been reading some of Bishop Selwyn’s letters and one particular quote has charmed me. On his first passage to New Zealand and writing back to SPG regarding his arrival in Sydney he had these words: “After a most happy and prosperous voyage, which the Almighty seemed to bless in a peculiar manner the Bishop and his party …”

Selwyn’s words captures so much of what I want to say about our little passage .. and they are so much better than anything I can think of in current idiom.

Looking from Moturua across to Rangihoua

Looking from Moturua across to Rangihoua

Journey's end