Month: May 2016

come holy spirit

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.