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New Container for The Genie

Genie's lamp

[Update 10 October 2014: Nelson Diocesan Synod is meeting (prayers for them) and I have just received the message that they rejected Statutes 711, 712, and 713. The lack of support for these three statutes now in all seven of NZ’s dioceses not only once again highlights the need for our national church to take greater care in its actions, but my discussions with General Synod members emphasised that the processes at the meeting of GSTHW are not fulfilling their purposes. Our church’s formal reporting is incorrect that these statutes “were confirmed and passed into law”. Similarly with the point that this happened “after detailed consideration“. Generally, there was no recollection at all of any discussion for the three readings reported in the minutes. I had several General Synod members claim my blog posts were incorrect, that this had not been at GSTHW at all, that these statutes were coming to diocesan synods not from GSTHW but from GSTHW Standing Committee, or that GSTHW this year had sent then to GSTHW Standing Committee not to the dioceses, etc.]
[Update 29 September 2014: Waikato Diocesan Synod met this weekend and also did not pass Statutes 711, 712, and 713.]
[Update 20 September 2014: Both the Wellington Diocesan Synod and the Waiapu Diocesan Synod met this weekend and both also did not pass Statutes 711, 712, and 713.]
[Update 15 September 2014: The Dunedin Diocesan Synod met this weekend and also did not pass Statutes 711, 712, and 713. ]

Recently, Bishop John Bluck challenged the NZ Anglican Church that in a lot of our worship we are asked to “wear Chloe’s pink fluffy slippers rather than don anything resembling the armour of faith”. Bishop John said:

In recent months I’ve been invited in liturgies to think of God as creeping around like an undercover cop, acting like a blatant burglar, hiding in the compost under pregnant forests, cavorting happily with whales.
I’ve been encouraged to confess grave global crimes and silly misdemeanours, driven by motives that I’d never thought of. And I’ve been offered communion with words I’m more accustomed to hearing in pop song lyrics.

I have often said that our church’s rules allow more than any other church in the Anglican Communion would dream of. It is hard to know what we mean by “common prayer”. Bishop John writes that he is “stunned by the freedom to write your own thing that has been claimed so quickly by so many. There is no appetite anywhere I can see to put the genie back in the bottle, canonically speaking.”

I actually do see some attempts to get the genie back in the old bottle. But I also see new attempts to find a new container for the genie. Part of the irony of Bishop John’s writing is that the genie was let out of the bottle on his watch.

A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa has A Form for Ordering the Eucharist. This allows for any responses, prayers, etc that you can source wherever you like, or you can make all this up yourself. It includes a framework for a eucharistic prayer so you can produce your own prayer with some set paragraphs. The Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer has a similar outline. Both outlines were written to be used for special services, not “for use at the principal Sunday or weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist” (TEC’s BCP page 400).

But in 1998, in NZ, the following limiting rubric was removed: “It is intended for particular occasions and not for the regular Sunday Celebration of the Eucharist.” Since that time, you can use this form for any occasion – including the regular Sunday morning parish eucharist. From that time no particular responses, prayers, or any other particular texts were required for our regular worship. There was no longer even a collection of texts from which it was expected that a choice would be made. The genie was out of the bottle. The removal of the rubric was sponsored by the six-member Liturgical Commission on which Bishop John served.

Then, because that was not yet broad and flexible enough(?!), General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW) passed the formulary (agreed doctrine or practice) An Alternative Form for Ordering the Eucharist. From the start this formulary, again brought by the Liturgical Commission, had no restrictions on its use. It allows us to use any eucharistic prayer authorised anywhere in the Anglican Communion. That includes the TEC (and any other) eucharistic prayer frameworks, as well. If you do not like any of the myriad eucharistic prayers from the Anglican Communion, there are at least three frameworks with which you can write your own.

Then there is A Form for Ordering A Service of the Word, not to mention the confused and confusing Worship Template which Bishop John also mentions. But when that Worship Template first arrived at GSTHW from the Liturgical Commission by a motion which he seconded, it did not have the rider that he quotes, that its purpose was to “make better use of prayer book services” and their “specific instructions”. That was added four years later by the Judicial Commission.

Diocesan Synods debate the Genie

With one eye on the church’s court cases after the Canterbury/Christchurch earthquakes, and another eye on court cases in TEC, it makes total sense that there is a checking of the legal framework of our church with the possibility that GSTHW’s Motion 30 may have legs.

With the realisation that some ways of authorising services (specifically Title G Canon XIV and SLR3) are “inconsistent with the the 1928 Act and lack of fundamental authorisation“, our Liturgical Commission asked our church’s legal experts, “How do we make these legal?” The result is Statute 711.

BUT THAT WAS THE WRONG QUESTION!

The right question is: now that we realise that Title G Canon XIV and SLR3 are illegal, do we need them and why?

And my answer is: I cannot think of a service that is not covered by A Form for Ordering the Eucharist, An Alternative Form for Ordering the Eucharist, and A Form for Ordering a Service of the Word. I can find no one, but no one, who can explain why yet more is needed. Can you?!

The Christchurch Diocesan Synod debated Statute 711 and, not knowing quite what to make of it, has left it on the table. The Auckland Diocesan Synod similarly did not pass it at their recent meeting. If your diocesan synod is meeting – don’t pass it until you are clear what you are passing. And if you are clear what you are passing, please share that with us in the comments.

Other liturgical statutes

Statute 712 is the result of someone once at a Eucharist, putting the baptism rite between the Epistle and the Gospel reading. It introduces a concept, “the proclamation of the Word” which can be confusingly implemented, putting baptism at the start of the service as an entrance rite – as even a cathedral used to do. The response to that suggestion was that clergy should be trained not to do that. But remember that clergy should have been trained not to put the baptism rite between the Epistle and the Gospel… This statute also does not fix bigger issues in the baptism rite. Christchurch Diocesan Synod passed this statute but is sending a letter explaining that further work is needed. The Auckland diocesan synod did not pass this statute.

The mention, above, of clergy training, is particularly significant – the genie being let out of the canonical bottle happened at the same time as the dwindling study, training, and formation in worship leadership and liturgy of our clergy. We are in a perfect storm – only with the arrival of Motion 30 are words such as “Prayer Book”, “Empowering Act”, and “common prayer” being used by people who, relatively recently, would not have used such terms. The motivation and context now, however, is rarely about improving our worship.

Statute 713 is also being held over in Christchurch and it also has not been passed at the meeting of the Auckland diocesan synod. It is the sort of debate that many people think keeps liturgists awake at night: is “of” or “in” or “after” Epiphany?! So it is very hard for anyone with a liturgical interest to speak to without reinforcing that liturgy is about straining gnats. Thankfully, this statute too, is being left for further reflection for next year. Just briefly, NZ Anglicanism has a penchant for not following the rest of Christianity. That’s possibly fine IF you have someone thinking everything through here carefully. If you don’t have that – follow others who have thought things through. NZ is unique – we start our Ordinary Time after the Candlemass, the Feast of the Presentation. So then you would think, wouldn’t you, that our first Sunday in our Ordinary Time (the first Sunday after Candlemass/Presentation) would be called (following Statute 713) “The First Sunday in Ordinary Time”. Well you would be wrong. We in NZ call our first Sunday in Ordinary Time “The Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time”! I am seriously not making this up! You know that I couldn’t make stuff like this up! Only NZ Anglicanism would design a church year which doesn’t have a “Second” or “Third Sunday in Ordinary Time”, but starts counting with the numeral 5!

Thomas Cranmer of or in or after

At the Christchurch synod we spent a lot of time discussing Motion 30, and hearing about the hopes of diocesan leadership. We were informed of the serious financial difficulties in our diocese. We narrowly passed that we encourage diocesan divesting from funds primarily investing in fossil fuels. A motion passed encouraging adult baptism. I had amended the motion to include encouraging ministry units “planning new church buildings or renewing their worship space to seriously consider having a highly-visible font in which it is clearly possible to baptise by “immersion by immersion in the water, or by pouring water on the candidate”.

A further report on the Christchurch synod can be found at Peter Carrell’s site.

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14 Responses to New Container for The Genie

  1. It seems to me that a key driver of the continued existence of an Anglican church is our ability to institute intentional change. Part of our tradition is to preserve an historically meaningful process for worship, and another part of our tradition is to use our hearts and brains in concert to make new and different decisions. Taking into account a greater global consciousness may sound like hooey to the bishop, but imagine, for example, if we hadn’t dropped that whole thing in the 1928 prayer book about exhorting Jews to convert to Chrisitianity during Lent. In America, that kind of anti-semitic thinking was long ago abandoned, despite its centuries-long heritage.

    My personal opinion is that “picking and choosing” has gotten a bad rap! Our divine creator breathes into every being the spark of the holy spirit, and that provides us with insights into understanding when humans have gotten it wrong in the past. For me, the ability to preserve some things and ditch others is key to having a living, vibrant spiritual life.

    Last night at my Education for Ministry class, I led the group in using a compline service based on the NZ prayer book. In particular, people were deeply moved by the re-thinking of the words of the Lords Prayer. Whatever struggles the NZ church faced in parsing out these new texts, I am deeply grateful!

      • “From the UK”, please, not “from within the C of E”. Cotter never had any official liturgical status within the C of E (shame), and the last 15-20 years of his life were spent with the Church in Wales at Aberdaron.

        The idea that Cotter was “too vivid” for Kiwis is frankly bizarre, given what I’ve seen coming the other way!

        • Thanks, James. So only people who have “any official liturgical status within the C of E” are counted within the CofE for you? And did you actually click on the link to see the change NZ made to Cotter’s compline prayer before you judged my comment as “frankly bizarre”? Blessings.

  2. Great challenges to us all, Bosco!

    If NZ Anglicanism is right in leaving room for intentional change, as Jonathan suggests, does it nevertheless need processes to monitor those changes and make sure they do not have in them the seeds of a radical divergence from our shared practice and faith? “Test every spirit” – but if the testing is only done at the local or even diocesan level, is there a danger that the spirit behind a particular change of liturgy is a deceptive one?

    Without some process of review, will we otherwise inevitably move to a place where our only shared creed is, “Anglicanism is a broad church” and our only shared practice is, “If it seems right, do it”?

    Or we could just stick with a limited number of well-tested forms and let ourselves be surprised how the Holy Spirit can make them up to date and relevant in the moment.

    Trevor

  3. It isn’t common prayer unless it is commonly prayed.
    It isn’t catholic worship unless it reflects the language, doctrine and spirit of the church catholic.
    It isn’t biblical worship unless it incorporates the language of the Bible and the practice of the apostolic church.

  4. I think/hope you know how much I support you from overseas, and appreciate all your work.

    The problem seems to be- no genie.

    Nothing makes sense on this earth any more. We have entered a new dark ages thanks to fundamentalism. The Abrahamic faiths need to rework their understanding of what it’s all about- is it being a good person? or is it simply representing a tribe?

    God, whatever that is, seems to become more obscure by the day. Not surprising really, when we see how human relationships with God have probably been a major disappointment…any sane God would be long gone from our nonsense by now!

  5. “15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.”
    I was getting all worked up to make a reply to this “pink fluffy slippers” jibe – along the lines that this reveals a very patriarchal approach to things, and misreads the description of the armour of faith in Ephesians.
    But then I thought I should also read the Bishops full post. It is really worth a read, especially the conclusion:
    “Nobody knows where all this will take us the Selwyn Lecturer I introduced earlier, Philip Tovey, told us that there is no evidence that being freer or more formal in liturgy makes any difference to church growth, any more than it does being high, low, middle or messy church.
    “I do know that new and creative liturgy, when it’s done with clumsy words, bad taste and a hectoring tone, can exclude and alienate congregations as surely as the most archaic and irrelevant language.
    “I do believe our liturgical tradition, and especially our attempts to anchor it in the imagery and experience of Aotearoa, has distilled great wisdom and beauty that we ignore at our peril.
    “And I long for the day when I can sit in the back row of an Anglican church and worship God with some words and lyrics that evoke rather than instruct, celebrate where I belong, respect all sorts and conditions of fellow pilgrims around me, and just once in a while, leave a little space and silence for the imaginings of my heart and soul that lie beyond words.”
    So my challenge, should we run back to the safety of the bottle or stick with the complexity and chaos of the process to allow the Spirit into a new common prayer?

  6. Wellington Diocesan Synod decided today, after appropriate debate, to leave all three statutes “on the table”.
    Well done Bosco for enlightening us and promoting this discussion!

  7. Thanks, Bosco, for all the work and insights (and the humour) – you have a big following in the UK. I have just come from the licensing of a Baptist ‘Minister-under-training’ at an Anglican/Baptist Local Ecumenical Partnership (I’m an archdeacon). Talking afterwards with the now retired minister from a neighbouring Baptist church, we concluded that thorough theological training was particularly essential in situations where there was little or no (canonical) framework to guide or protect, hence the emphasis on thorough training in some free-church traditions. The aspiration to empower people to write liturgies which are relevant and real in a local as well a ‘catholic’ context is laudable, but public worship within a national church demands artistry, skill and understanding. If a church believes there is a need to let the liturgical genie out of the bottle to encourage authentic local liturgies, then it needs to ensure those who’ll be enjoying this privilege/obligation have the tools they need and the skills to use them. I have been edified and enlightened by a number of innovative liturgies, but have endured others which have been self-indulgent, crass, bad or, simply, heretical. It’s not about control but about proper preparation and formation. I follow this debate in NZ with prayerful interest.

    • Thanks so much for your affirmation and encouragement, John. We seem to be totally on the same page. I don’t know if you have watched my talk (if not, I encourage you to do so, & if you like it to use it & share it), where I use the metaphor of learning a language – once you are agile in a language you can be “free from obsessing about the language’s rules”. Recently, again, I fell over “we don’t do jazz until you’ve learnt scales”. An issue here is that the confusion and lessening of “rules” has been accompanied by lessening of formation, study, and training in worship. You are quite right: this is not about control. Blessings.

  8. To get bogged down in the detail, in a way missing the point of the post:

    I can see why the NZ system starts with the “5th Sunday”, it puts it in step with other places using the RCL, where Ordinary Time starts immediately after Epiphany (the Sundays in RCL can, I think, be counted “in OT” or “After Epiphany” ad lib., either way the numbers are the same, and also match the RC count of “Sundays of the Year”). However, when the CofE invented the Epiphany Season (I guess NZ has picked up the idea from us? We adopted it in 2000), we also renumbered all the Sundays. Twice, just to be confusing. So the Collect and Postcommunion for the Sunday after Candlemas are for the Nth Sunday before Lent, but the readings are for Proper 1 (substantially the same as RCL’s 5th Sunday). The same dual numbering operates between Trinity and Advent. This can be confusing, but is more logical than starting to count at 5.

    My advice for the Epiphany season, incidentally, would be not to number Sundays *of* Epiphany, because of the gymnastics necessary to stay in step with the RCL when the 6th of January falls on a Sunday – the 13th is then called the Second Sunday of Epiphany, but uses the materials for the Baptism of Christ; the 20th is called the Third Sunday but uses the materials for the Second Sunday, and so on. In one such year (picking up the formation point), my church came close to keeping the Baptism on the 6th; fortunately, I (lay, self-educated in such matters) happened to be on the reading rota, and was sent the reading far enough in advance to query it.

    • Thanks, Chris.

      Yes, it appears that NZ (relatively recently) picked up an Epiphany Season closing on (in our case, a variable) Candlemas from CofE. This cloning in the Southern Hemisphere would be worth a whole other post – this new NZ “Epiphany Season” in fact is the lowest point in church attendance. Most here, including the clergy, are worshipping God on the beach.

      But in NZ cloning the CofE rule that “Ordinary Time – This begins on the day following the Presentation”, NZ did not follow the counting backwards to Lent that CofE instituted. Instead, at that point it returned to our earlier practice (still an agreed binding formulary of our church) of counting with Roman Catholics, the originators of ‘Ordinary Time’. So we get the bizarre situation that our NZ Anglican first Sunday in our ‘Ordinary (ie. ‘counting’) Time’ is the fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

      My advice differs to yours, Chris. My advice for NZ would be to not create a special Epiphany Season (with an unclear end) in the Southern Hemisphere when barely anyone is in church and which makes a mockery of any Sunday counting system that follows.

      Blessings.

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