Wednesday, 27 October 2010


You taste the apple but its chalky.

You buy the car but its a lemon.

You take the holiday but rains all the time.


We went to Lindisfarne today.  Visually it was beautiful, haunting; ancient history before your very eyes.

 But I went home disappointed.  Why?  Because what I saw today present Christianity as a museum piece; it talked about the Gospel, but presented nothing of its content. In the Lindisfarne Centre there was a lot about the history of the island in the face of Viking invasion; a lot on the history of how the Lindisfarne Gospels were written and illustrated; a lot about life on the island in that early era; a lot about Cuthbert.  Not a lot - if anything - about Jesus.

Where was the content of the four Gospels?  Who was it that the early missionaries spoke about?  Why was it the monks lavished so much effort on their books? 

Where was God?  Where was Jesus?

Nowhere in what we saw today - with one exception, the Catholic shopkeeper who had various devotional items in the general store.  How come I could buy any number of books on the history of the Lindisfarne Gospels, but couldn't buy a copy of the Bible on the island (let along a copy of Matthew, or Mark, or Luke, or John)? 

A lot of the 'Christian history of England' seems to be about the buildings, the institutions, the kings, and not about Christ himself.

A lesson for home - in one hundred or a thousand years time people of talking about the Anglican Christians of Canberra and Goulburn Diocese (or whatever your home region or demonination is) will they be talking about your faith in terms of its outward signs (buildings and documents) or about the Lord Jesus Christ? 

Does our use of money and energy represent our investment in proclaiming Jesus or proclaiming our institution?


Friday, 22 October 2010

The promise of good things.

Well now, THIS looks interesting...  Looking forward to reading something by these two Anglican scholars.

Barton Books — Published Titles

Barton Books logo
Called To Minister

Defining Convictions and Decisive Commitments: The Thirty-Nine Articles in Contemporary Anglicanism

Michael Jensen and Tom Frame

RRP: tba
Published: November 2010
"We firmly believe that the Articles have a continuing place in the life of the Anglican Church of Australia because they deserve such a place. In our view the Articles are a treasury of wholesome doctrine and ought to serve as the basis for assessing new thinking and novel customs. We are convinced that the Articles point to a distinctly Anglican approach to theology and ecclesiology, and are worthy of close attention and sustained study. Rather than have the Articles overlooked in the hope that they might quietly fade from view, we argue that Anglicans ought to pay closer attention to the Articles. In relation to disagreements about their meaning, Anglicans ought to engage in discussion about where and how they might be amended. Ultimately we might achieve a new consensus or see new articles added in relation to matters that presently divide Christians – and even Anglicans. Pretending the Articles do not exist is not a long-term solution or an attractive option in any sense. The longer the task of reviewing and revising the Articles is delayed, the more imposing will be the scope and substance of matters requiring clarification and codification.
This small book is part of our effort to revive interest in the Articles. It reflects our commitment to an expression of Anglican mission and ministry that honours the past, engages with the present and anticipates the future, for the sake of Jesus Christ and the coming Kingdom of God."
Michael Jensen
Moore Theological College, Sydney
Tom Frame
St Mark's National Theological Centre, Canberra

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Monkey alert!

Had the first session of a MA class I'm auditing on Anglican Theological Identity today; it was a good start but highlighted a serious flaw.  (Apologies to any English Anglicans reading...)  The Church of England actually finds it hard to speak of Anglicanism; the colonials present (Australian, American, New Zealand) seem to have much sharper sense of a distinctive Anglican identity, even if we don't agree on the features of that identity.  What does it mean to be an Anglican Christian?

The problem is like the above picture - too many monkeys!!!  (No offence to anyone at the seminar today.)  In practice its very hard to talk about Anglican theological identity - often whats discussed isn't theological but historical or experiential.  Yes, I'm aware that church history is sometimes regarded as as the history of doctrines; what I mean is how to define Anglicanism by its distinctive theology not merely by its history?  Lots of people want to talk about my subjective experience of being Anglican rather than talking about its theological distinctives.

This is a horse I've been laying into for some time and see no reason to stop now;  why is it we're so reticent to accept the theology of the 39 Articles, the Prayer Book, and the Ordinal?  If you're ordained (as I am) you're asked by your Bishop to subscribe to these things.  For many this seems to be wink-wink, nudge-nudge...  Oh yes, I subscribe to the 39 Articles - but I don't believe in them.  Many pew perching Anglicans may not even know that we have a doctrinal statement (or have never been sufficently bored by a sermon to surf the Prayer Book).  But they are there.  They are official.  And they don't seem to be going away.  They may not have the size of the Westminster Confession, but they are as J.I. Packer says of a confessioinal nature.  Yes, they go beyond theology into the polity of the era they were composed it, but they are still for the greater part theological in nature.

Some have pointed out that Anglican theology isn't so much confessional as it is liturgical.  In some cases this is little more than an attempt to obfiscate the formularies (the 39 Articles, etc...).  But there is a sense in which this is also true - we enact our theology of the atonement when we join in the words of the Great Thanksgiving which draws our attention to Jesus' death as 'full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the world'.  Anglican liturgy is mean to be didactic - it teaches us about the 'faith delivered once for all to the saints' (Jude v3).  We learn to live as justified sinners called to new life in Jesus in the weekly communal call to repentance and assurance of God's forgiveness.  We learn to come under God's rule through hearing the Bible read and proclaimed.  At its best Anglican liturgy is gospel shaped.  There is of course much more to being a Christian than a weekly meeting, but what we do in that meeting should further our discipleship of Jesus Christ.  We enact reconcilation and unity in the passing of the peace (or at least we should be.  Its meant to be about applying Paul's call for a recognition of the church and all its members as parts of the body of Christ rather than the aneamic handshake its become in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34).

Why be Anglican?  What does it mean to attend an Anglican church? 

Clergy - how seriously do you take the oaths and declarations you've made?

Laity - think beyond custom and musical preference;  think about what it is that the Anglican church stands for theologically.  Borrow a prayer book and think about whether the shape of the service has a gospel ring to it.  Think about what it is our ordained ministers are called to in the ordinal.  Think about what the 39 articles put forward as the basis of Anglican theological identity.

But please keep reading the Bible too!  There is a perverse trend in which we can be so smug about being Anglican that we think of being Anglican ahead of being Christian.  Some Anglicans know their Prayer Book better than they know the Bible.  That's tragic - our traditions should help us not distract us from our core identity - Christian.

Anglican, Baptist, Prebyterian, Methodist, and all the rest... they're secondary things.  Not the main game.

On other fronts, Emma is suffering the twin burdens of cake and supermarket rage.  She'd made two cakes for Aly's birthday.  The first one rose but was stuck to the pan.  The second collapsed but came cleanly out of the tin.  I blame the local climate as Emma is normally quite a good cake maker and chef (except for the time she tried to cook and artichoke but make some sort of blue porridge).  And apparently supermarkets are a lousy place to try to resettle a child whose woken up.  Who knew?  Aly is turning one.  I can't believe it.  Where's the year gone?

How best to teach your child about God?  How do you introduce them to Jesus?  It starts with parents not Sunday School.  More on this as Aly gets older.  At the moment its making church part of her life with us, reading her Kid's Bible (when it arrives from Australia), praying with her and singing hymns to her - Amazing Grace helps her settle.

More rants to come.  G.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Take one, scene one, action!

Ok, um, first post.  Better make this profound...  Ahhhhhhh...  Well...  Can I start again? 

Take two.

Hi all, welcome to Theoblog!  This blog is devoted to chronicling my work and life as a doctoral student at the University of Durham, a husband and father, and whatever thoughts my feverish mind deems preserving.  I'm an ordained minister in the Anglican Church of Australia (a priest/presbyter depending on how reformed you are - I prefer the latter).  I trained at Ridley College in Melbourne, Australia; started a Master of Ministry at Ridley but finished it at St Mark's National Theological Centre in Canberra, Australia.  I'd moved from Melbourne to Canberra so finishing it at Ridley was going to be a stretch.  I also wanted to be able to identify with Canberra and Goulburn Diocese - fly the local flag as it were.  For my Master's research project I created a feedback form for Anglican preaching (for use in parishes and theology colleges) and examined the general culture around reviewing preaching in the Anglican Chuch of Australia. 

I've been a Rector in Canberra before my Bishop nominated me for a scholarship to study in the UK; my research area is: "The theology and use of the Bible in the Fresh Expressions of Church movement".  I'm hoping to finish in 2013 and then return to Canberra with knowledge that will be helpful in the Australian church and a degree that might let me teach at a theological college.

I'm an evangelical Anglican Christian with an egalitarian view of gender and ministry..  I think Jesus is the most important person who ever lived (and still does).  I try to take following him seriously; if you're a Christian too I hope you find my writing stimulating.  If you're not a Christian I hope you find my writing a pointer to investigating who Jesus is, and why he matters.  Can I start by suggesting that you read Mark's Gospel - its short, pithy, and a great way of getting to know the man.

My wife is awesome and gracious.  She's left her family and job back in Australia while I do this (how long for is hard to say - she's a medico type but the NHS doesn't recognise her qualifications).  My daughter is beautiful, delightful and very busy. 

I'm also a nerd.

I play D&D and other roleplaying games.

I'm a Games Workshop fanboy - while in England I'm trying to limit myself to Ultramarines, Orks, Skaven, High Elves, and Orcs and Goblins.

And I have a large Transformers collection back in Australia - I have too much stuff.  If anyone wants a pile of TFs (some rare) please contact me on my return to Australia.

Still reading?  Trying to figure out how this all fits together?  You're not the first.

I'm just about to start some reading for the prelimary work for the degree - reading and reviewing the practical theology of Alistair McFadyen's "Bound to Sin:  Abuse, Holocaust, and the Christian Doctrine of Sin" (Cambridge University Press, 2000).  I'll post my reflects for your interest and edification.