Fake News, Modernity, & Sin by Peter Matheson

Peter Matheson is an active thinker still building on his interesting ministry (among other ministries) as Professor of Church History at Knox College.

Bewildering, but hardly dull, living in our post-truth culture! The twittering never stops.  From the President of the USA down to inanities closer home the ether is dense with nonsense.  Often enough, too, it is dangerous nonsense. Continue reading

From Reform to Renewal: Scotland’s Kirk, Century by Century – Review by Kerry Enright

Reform to RenewalFinlay MacDonald’s book From Reform to Renewal: Scotland’s Kirk, Century by Century is a help to discerning what it’s worth holding on to, and what needs letting go in the Presbyterian Church.

It is a lively, fascinating and accessible account of the history of the Church of Scotland since the Protestant Reformation. Full of intriguing stories, it is eminently readable and maintains interest. It helped me understand more of how our Church gained its shape and identity. Experiences generations ago, often repeated, have nourished a wisdom that alerts us to practices that too easily harm people and compromise integrity.

The author, Finlay Macdonald, is a respected former principal clerk and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He is a good storyteller.

New Zealand pragmatism, the attractiveness of secular gods and generational hubris can lead us to discount valuable inherited practices. Our Church deserves appreciative inquiry of our past, of how we came to value certain principles and practices. We will not understand them unless we know their history. We will not properly apply our Book of Order without appreciating the history behind it. Finlay Macdonald’s book is a good account of that history. It speaks of a broad Church seeking to be faithful to the way of Jesus Christ. It describes a sibling Church facing challenges like our own. I commend it wholeheartedly.

Macdonald, F, (2017) From Reform to Renewal: Scotland’s Kirk, Century by Century, Edinburgh, Scotland: Saint Andrew’s Press.

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An offering to the powers that be – Martin Stewart

Martin is the editor of Candour and a minister in the team at The Village Church, Christchurch.

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A few weeks in Wellington I photographed Finn, my seven-month old grandson, revelling in the wonder of a Wellington gale.  I was about to head to the airport to fly home.  I was dreading the flight because of the intensity of the gale, and I was eventually held up on the tarmac for almost two hours because of that wind!  But there was Finn, throwing his head back in laughter as he delighted in the wonder of wind! Continue reading

The Zero Carbon Bill is open for consultation: why you should care… – Jordan Redding

Recently the Government opened a public consultation process on the upcoming Zero Carbon Bill. They are requesting online submissions from individuals and organisations as to how and in what timeframe Aotearoa transitions to a net zero economy.[1] Here’s why it’s worth taking the time to read the discussion document, and to consider making a submission as an individual, as a parish council, or to recommend it to your congregation. Continue reading

A Health Check on “Healthy Congregations” – Tom Mepham

Tom Mepham is a first-year ministry intern with KCML and a co-leader of Student Soul, a young adult congregation in Dunedin.

Since 1995’s General Assembly we have used a model for assessing the well-being of our Church called “Healthy Congregations” (see Appendix 1 in Strategic Directions). This provides us with a way to measure the health of each parish in the PCANZ. Putting this model to work would be the equivalent of sending a congregation to the doctor’s office for a full-scale health check up; and by extension, measuring the overall health of the whole PCANZ.

I wonder how healthy we are!

This model uses a qualitative assessment process (as is appropriate for measuring the most important things in church life) and focuses on four relationships: a congregation’s relationship with God; with the wider environment; with the wider church, and within it’s own life. (These are similar to the four relationships used in UK church circles: UP, OUT, OF, IN).

If I can read our most recent stats correctly (which is not a given, I assure you!), it appears that we have 273 parishes around the country. I don’t see the statistic about the number of congregations within these parishes, but the Mission Clarity document says 400. So I would like to know… how many congregations out of 400 would pass their “Healthy Congregation” check up?

Now, I fully appreciate that measuring health is an ongoing process, like sanctification, and it doesn’t just stop when a focus-group delivers a report. Even getting to the stage of having an accurate diagnosis of a congregation is a lot of work. So why bother going through with this measurement?

We bother, according to Strategic Directions, because “the local church is the agent of mission” and the whole point of being a national Church/denomination/network is that together we are more effective at “developing and sustaining healthy congregations for mission” than we would be alone.

I have some questions:

  1. How many of 400 congregations have undertaken a formal process to assess their health?
  2. How many are currently doing this process?
  3. What do we do with persistently unhealthy congregations?
  4. How many unhealthy congregations do we have?
  5. What percentage of our congregations need to be “healthy” to give the PCANZ as a whole a pass mark?
  6. Is there any way to measure the health of a denomination other than through a system-wide assessment of its congregations?

I’m not emotionally invested in the Healthy Congregations model. I was 9 years old when General Assembly approved it, and I haven’t read the minutes. Still, I can appreciate its value. Is it still a useful measure of our effectiveness in mission? If so, how do we ensure we’re putting it fully to work?

As it is a General Assembly gathering this year, maybe it’s a good time to ask for PCANZ to go for a check-up. We have a working measurement (and have had for 23 years). What’s the doctor going to say: are we headed for surgery? Going on a diet? Starting an exercise regime? Might we be talking hospice care? Or are the vital signs looking good?

Let’s find out!

 

 

Matariki: a season of unity – Hone Te Rire

In late May or early June each year, the Pleiades – or Matariki as it is known by Maori – star cluster becomes visible in New Zealand. This signals the Maori New Year. In this article, the Rev Hone Te Rire shares the significance of Matariki.

Matariki_LRGBMatariki is the Maori name for the cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters in the Taurus constellation. Matariki is also associated with the winter solstice. Matariki translates to “Eyes of God” (mata – ariki) or ‘Little Eyes’ (mata – riki). This star cluster rises in the last days of May or early June. This heralds the Maori New Year.

Every year during the month of Matariki, whanau gather to commemorate loved ones passed, and to celebrate the birthdays of newer additions to the family. It is a time where whanau gathered together to celebrate unity, faith and hope through aroha. Celebratory feasts were held as whanau gathered around the table. Continue reading

Just a lot of hot air? – Phillip Donnell

Phillip Donnell is the Director of New Creation New Zealand, which seeks to assist churches in their pursuit of creation care.

green tree stem in grey dirt crackFor some time now it has been generally accepted that the humanly-induced increase of greenhouse gases, such as CO2, nitrous oxide and methane, in the earth’s atmosphere has been environmentally damaging. These gases deplete the protective ozone layer, absorb sunlight, and lead to global warming. Some people, of course, still deny that this is happening, or that we are exacerbating it, but according to the American scientist James Powell, of the 25,000 pieces of peer-reviewed literature about global warming written between 1991 and 2014, only 0.1% deny that global warming is a reality and humans are contributing to it. Continue reading

Volatile Uncertain Complex Ambiguous

Tom Mepham is a first-year ministry intern with KCML and a co-leader of Student Soul, a young adult congregation in Dunedin.

The world as we know it can be understood using the acronym VUCA: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

What do each of these words demand of us?

Volatility requires extra margins so that energy, time and resource don’t run out during unexpected crises. Keeping good boundaries should include the (five in this case) cornerstones of the whare: taha wairua (spiritual health), taha whānau (relational health), taha tinana (physical health), taha hinengaro (intellectual health) and taha pütea (financial health) – and probably other areas too.

Uncertainty requires resting deeply in identity. We might not know what the heck is going on, but we can take comfort in the fact that we’re called, empowered and sustained for such a time as this. Also, sometimes offence is the best form of defence. We have the potential and power within us to thrive in this new world.

Complexity requires an adaptive spirit, a fertile and conversational thought-world, and the freedom to move with speed and skill.

Ambiguity requires us to see that we actually don’t have the answers already, and that’s OK. It’s impossible to know what will ‘work’ or not. In an age where precedents don’t exist, we’re to embrace both systematic and spontaneous experimentation. Our mindset must be for adventure; our eyes toward the horizon; our attitude one of bravery.

In a VUCA world we get to be vibrantly and undeniably confident, assured that our best days are ahead of us.

“So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 13:4)