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Leaky Anglican Church of Or

Leaky homes, Oriental Bay, NZ

Last week, in the newspaper, I read an article about a new book, Rottenomics. The book is written by journalist Peter Dyer and describes the NZ “leaky building” phenomenon of buildings that have been found to suffer from weather-tightness problems to the point of being structurally unsound.

Wikipedia explains further:

Some buildings became unhealthy to live in due to moulds and spores developing within the damp timber framing. The repairs and replacement costs that may have been avoided were estimated in 2009 to be approximately $11.3 billion.

As I read the article about the Rottenomics book, I could not help myself (I know, it’s the plague for all preacher-priest-parable-producers). What I was reading seemed to parallel parts of the NZ Anglican Church and its recent history.

Rottenomics indicates, statistics are not being kept well:

The total cost to fix all of New Zealand’s leaky homes would be $47 billion, probably.

So – the cost is about 4-5 times what many people thought! [And to put it into perspective for non-NZ people, the cost is about $10,000 per head of population; or about a fifth of NZ’s GDP. Yes – it’s BIG, people!]

In the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, useful statistics are not readily available or may not exist at all. For example: approximately, how many people are there actually in Anglican churches nationally each week? And see more below.

In summary, NZ’s leaky buildings are due to the combination of weak rules and poorly trained-and-formed builders. [Stronger rules and/or well trained-and-formed builders would have prevented producing leaky buildings.]

Dyer put the blame for the debacle on both Labour and National, both of which governed New Zealand by turns through the 1987 to late 2000s during which a neo-liberal agenda of de-regulation saw untested building products and techniques flood the market.

It also caused a massive de-skilling of builders resulting from the closure of government-run technical training bodies.

That collective political responsibility could be behind the failure to properly account for the leaky building disaster through a royal commission.

Rottenomics article

NZ’s Anglican Church, in the last three decades has (similarly) had a combination of weak rules and poorly trained-and-formed clergy.

In the 1980s (keeping to the parallel, when building regulations were strong and clear, and builders well trained and formed) I sought to test my vocation to the priesthood. There were about forty from my diocese who put their names forward. After a rigorous process, four of us were accepted for training and formation. There was no question: we, and our spouse (for those married) were required to resign our jobs, however well paying (generally, postulants for ordination had had some previous career). We all moved to the national seminary in Auckland. The seminary, St John’s College, was accredited to offer degrees and other tertiary qualifications. Resident lecturers worked ecumenically (RC, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist). We were obliged to follow a rigorous spiritual discipline, and we were allocated to a series of different pastoral placements.

After this seminary training and formation, we had several years of curacy, ministering under the daily oversight of a highly-experienced priest. Then, we were assigned to serve sole-charge in a numerically-smaller worshipping community before being trusted with larger responsibilities, all the while participating in ongoing training and formation.

Every year, there was a review of the life and ministry of each clergy person, overseen by Archdeacons, and that rigorous process culminating in an extended meeting with the bishop.

Since that time, three decades ago, in NZ we now have no idea what proportion of clergy have what kind of training and formation. Certainly, the percentage that have anything like the training and formation I’ve described above is minimal.

And the church’s rules are now weak, confused, and confusing. We could start, for those who need a starting date, with the removal of the ideal of requiring clergy to follow the discipline of daily prayer. Removing that discipline required real tenacity by those who wanted to see the disciplined Anglican life dismantled. It required the long and complex “Twice-Round” process of General Synod, diocesan synods, hui amorangi, General Synod again, etc. Then, The Worship Template was introduced (come in – do something – leave). A Form for Ordering The Eucharist (a bullet-point list of headings originally intended and authorised only for rare occasions) was altered and is now authorised to be used for any and every Eucharist. An Alternative Form for Ordering the Eucharist was authorised with a similar bullet-point-list-of-headings format but extending the options for the Eucharistic Prayer beyond NZ (and NZ’s framework Eucharistic Prayer) to any authorised in the Anglican world – including frameworks elsewhere. A Form for Ordering a Service of the Word was authorised.

The confusion was highlighted when General Synod Te Hinota Whanui itself quietly admitted that for decades what it had been authorising was actually inconsistent with the 1928 Act of Parliament and lacked fundamental authorisation in the first place.

As to clergy training and formation, our (small) church cannot come to any agreed standards. Are there even easily-publicly-available standards of individual episcopal units or bishops?

Call me naive, but I think there is a huge yearning for a community of shared spiritual discipline with a well-trained-and-formed leadership – the ideal of Anglicanism. Instead, the Anglican Church of Or appears to follow our surrounding culture, where NZ is a laboratory for trialing the far edges of such ideals as postmodernism.

We live with “the legacy of the era in which the country forgot how to build weathertight homes” …”There’s great comfort in denial, especially in government,” Dyer said. …The collective failure to face up to leaky homes meant the country continued to built homes that would one day leak.

Rottenomics article

All the people did what was right in their own eyes

Judges 17:6; 21:25

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.

image source: Leaky homes, Oriental Bay, Wellington (NZ) by Phillip Capper (photo adapted by me)

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5 thoughts on “Leaky Anglican Church of Or”

  1. Hi Bosco. Challenging parable as is often your way. Should we not however tip our hats to Diocese where Bishops (there are a number of new ones…Bishops that is), have made their intention for greater emphasis on training plain?

    One notes for example The Diocese of The City of Gardens, has outlined a return to an expectation for residential training at the National Seminary. From their Bishops’s Discussion Paper…

    “Formation at St Johns.

    Everyone will go to SJC for at least a year, unless aged over 55 in which case we will discuss what works and what does not.

    Testing for Resilience and for Leadership (Pre Discernment).

    We will be testing, looking for evidence of resilience and leadership skills and experience before we formally recognize a person is being discerned for ordination.”

    Surely you found this encouraging? Perhaps the Govt. cannot undo what uas been done, short of pulling down all the leaky homes. But here at least the episcopal govt. is taking steps to ensure a more rigorous training for the accredited builders for the future. (Stress here on all God’s people as builders)

    There was another quote from The City of Garden Dio Bishop, which prefixed the above thoughts,

    “Everything is open for discussion, feedback, better thinking:”

    I trust you have fedback your concern, applause, and otherwise. Perhaps offering your skill and experience as part of that testing?

    Just wait until after this pre-new episcopal govt. ordinand is through though please…

    All good things to you Bosco. Pray for me.

    1. Thanks, as always, Cameron.

      As a current seminarian and postulant for ordination, you are one of the best placed to provide feedback whether a year at St John’s College is sufficient training and formation for ordained ministry.

      My own position is well known: simplify and clarify our rules;
      & my points for ordination formation and training:
      * A deep contemplative foundation
      * Rigorous academic education
      * Pastoral
      * Liturgical
      * practical aspects of parish and chaplaincy management skills &
      * 21st century mission and ministry – including the digital world

  2. Hello Bosco and Cameron
    Theological training and ministry formation does vary through the years: (my father, in a certain kind of heyday, 1950s, was a resident in College House for a number of years, completed his MA in History; spent one further year in theological studies (eventually completing his Otago BD a dozen or so years later) before being ordained and launched into 2 x 2 year curacies; a little different to Bosco’s SJC years though perhaps respective curacies were similarly intentional etc).
    There is also variation within periods: I never went to SJC in the mid 1980s and there were others in my POT group who were not asked to go; but most of the group did attend SJC.

    There is a distinction between a minimum expectation (e.g. one year at SJC), a standard expectation (e.g. three to four years when a degree in theology is part of the standard expectation) and whatever we deem to be the “ideal” re training, learning and formation.

    What is the “ideal”? On that matter there is discussion, even debate and certainly difference within our church: from Diocese to Diocese, between Diocese and College, within Diocese (e.g. within the group consisting of bishop and advisory chaplains), and, indeed, between Bishop and ordinand! These discussions and debates, in my experience, across two very different dioceses, in varied Tikanga contexts and in two different roles (educator, bishop) are ongoing, and sometimes talk which leads to no change and sometimes talk which leads to change (e.g. within a Diocese; at the College).

    I cannot think of any point in the last 20 years where any such examination of what we are doing, locally or nationally, has concluded with either “We have now reached a very satisfactory position” or “We are now all agreed, all committed to the same set of standard expectations, let alone an “ideal” expectation.”

    In other words, the reflection offered here by Bosco is part of an ongoing conversation in the life of our church.

    There is another way to approach these matters – as Bosco does – by examining the quality of clergy we experience (as colleagues, as parishioners, as reviewers where professional development reviews occur). In consumer terms, whether or not we find the “production process” satisfactory by examining the process, we can look at the “product.”

    I offer two reflections on that approach, after five years as a vicar (when I had two curates, only one of whom had been at SJC), and 20 or so years in education and now episcopacy:
    1. Yes, always, there is room for improvement. I find myself still learning … hopefully still improving!
    2. Development, growth and improvement does take place through education, training and curacy (or other form of apprenticeship, internship): I have always counted it a privilege to see that growth. And …
    … I have never been able to measure my contribution to that growth 🙂
    Thankfully God is involved as well as educators and bishops.

    1. Thanks, Peter. I would add one other heartening point to the “product” thought – the many clergy I encounter who are deeply committed to their own ongoing spiritual and ministry development (some articulating frustration at the training and formation they have been part of, others not). Blessings.

  3. Hi Bosco,
    Is there not a greater issue here? The loss of vision, and spirituality in general, within the Church? The church exists primarily to worship, yet the focus – seen conspicuously at recent synods – is not worship but peripheral, worldly matters. Recently, I and Fr Mark met with three of the leaders of the Eritrean Community and Orthodox Church. As we entered into the church they removed their shoes at the door, went to the centre of the chancel steps bowed deeply three times making the sign of the cross before going to the back of the church where we held our meeting. The deep respect they have for all that is holy is an example to us. The Secular West has lost a sense of the sacred, with the church drifting towards the secular rather than the sacred. We should decry the Church of Or PLC!

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