November 2017

Greetings everyone,

I’m writing this on Tuesday 31st – the 500th anniversary of Luther’s nailing his thesis on the door of Wittenberg Church – the date that is popularly considered to be the start of the Reformation. But the seeds of dissatisfaction in the excesses of the Roman Catholic Church can be found years earlier. John Wycliffe (in England) challenged the whole practice of indulgences and affirmed the primacy of scripture over tradition – a similar battle that we face today between scripture and reason? I have found it fascinating, over the past weeks (beginning during my Sabbatical) to be exploring – and reflecting upon - the Reformation in relation to where we find ourselves today. As a Diocese we stand within the Reform tradition as it found expression in England which, of course, was formed through Henry VIII’s frustration at Rome’s refusal to grant an annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon. Although he declared himself supreme governor of the Church, he never wanted to leave the Catholic Church – he wanted an English Catholic Church rather than a Roman one!  It wasn’t until Queen Elizabeth I was excommunicated by Rome that the Church became fully independent. 

We are only one of five major Protestant movements that developed during the Protestant reformation. One was the movement that followed Luther and stressed ‘sola fide’ (by faith alone) and ‘sola scriptura’ (scripture alone) - the Lutherans (our spiritual cousins) produced the first Protestant confession of faith, pioneered congregational singing, affirmed two (rather than seven) sacraments, practiced infant baptism and taught ‘consubstantiation’ rather than the Catholic practice of ‘transubstantiation’. Another movement was founded in the reforms of John Calvin – which birthed the Dutch Reform and the Presbyterians etc. A third was the Anabaptist movement - which birthed the Brethren, the Quakers and the Baptists. (They were the radicals of the Reformation wanting to strike deeply at the roots of the old order). A fourth was that of the nonconformist – the Puritans and others like them. Then there were the Anglicans – the English Church – that found its expression during the reign of Elizabeth and was based upon the 39 articles of Cranmer and upon the Book of Common Prayer. 

Our doctrines and our practices come out of the English Reformation and mark us as a Church that has one foot in the sacramental tradition of our catholic heritage and the other in the ‘sola fide’ and ‘sola scriptura’ of Luther and Cranmer (and Wycliffe – 130 years earlier).  It is really interesting to note that the English Church didn’t want to leave (they certainly wanted to reform the Church) - they were excommunicated. And also important for us to remember that hundreds of thousands lost their lives during this struggle to reform the Church – Protestants in Europe were burned at the stake and Catholics in England were hanged or beheaded. Makes me think as we consider the bitter division that faces the church today! During this week’s celebrations, my close friend the Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, is in Wittenberg with his close friend the Catholic Bishop of Derry and Raphoe! 

I sincerely appreciated the clergy gathering a couple of weeks ago to reflect on the controversial (to some) motion 29. There is almost unanimous acceptance of our biblical stance here in this Diocese that affirms the traditional view of holiness and marriage. But there are major differences when reflecting on how we respond (relate) to those who hold diametrically opposing views. Maybe the Reformation can still teach us something?? 

The Spring Camp was a great occasion. I was humbled by those clergy who gave up the whole of this long weekend to be there with their young people. This certainly reflected a passion for the vision of building a new generation of leaders. It was a privilege to be able to take the Dean of Sydney Cathedral (Kanishka Raffel) out there for the Saturday morning. I then headed back into town in the afternoon to greet the descendants of the 3rd Bishop of Nelson (Bishop Mules) who had gathered from all over New Zealand (and beyond) to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Bishop Mule’s arrival in New Zealand. He was invited by his friend (Bishop Suter) to come and take the parish of Brightwater which he did – spending over 20 years as the Vicar, before being appointed Archdeacon of Waimea and then (upon Suter’s retirement) the Bishop of Nelson.  Bishop Mules was a quiet man who didn’t have the profile that Suter had – but he got so much done. He was passionate about Bishopdale College; he trained and ordained Frederick Bennett, the first Bishop of Aotearoa and officiated at his wedding; was one of those who founded NZCMS – and acted as its first President (a role I carry today). It was a moving afternoon. 

We remember the parishes of Awatere and Kaikoura as we approach the first anniversary of their devastating earthquake this month. Particularly we pray for the road to be opened through to Kaikoura from the north. We keenly feel the separation from us. And we also give thanks to God for Kevin and Sandy Topp with the announcement of Kevin’s retirement from ministry in Kaikoura from the end of November. These two are the epitome of a servant ministry.

 On the 1st of December at 7pm, we will be hosting an ordination service at the Cathedral for Luke Shaw who will be ordained Priest and Henk Lups (from Mapua – and also Mission to Seafarers, and Port Chaplain) who will be ordained Deacon. This is a Diocesan occasion and a wonderful opportunity to celebrate together.

 Our love and prayers go out to Sepi and Pate (Sepiuta Hala’api’api and Patemosi Buekilagi) who return to Fiji earlier than expected because of the call placed on Sepi to become the Diocesan Secretary. They will always be a valued part of this Diocese and we are so grateful to Archbishop Winston Halapua for sending them to us here at BTC.

 Advent is approaching – the celebration of the coming of our Lord. It should be a season of excitement and anticipation of the One who lives and who will return. Let’s make sure our spiritual lamps are full and the wicks prepared!!

 With every blessing

+Richard

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