Quiz Night

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We held a parish quiz night at Opoho Church Hall.  I’m getting good at these things.  Don’t people know these answers any more?  Thanks to recently subscribing to the Christian Science Monitor’s newsletter I was the only person in the hall who knew the leader of which country had recently visited Gaza (Qatar).

And I knew who wrote The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women.  We worked out what a chukka is in polo; and the incomplete jerk who is Mitt Romney’s running mate.  I also worked out the name of the country which has LIETUVA on its stamps.

We weren’t perfect on every question.  I didn’t know at all who produced the recent albums 19 and 21.  I am not familiar with Adele’s portfolio at all.  With eleven rounds of four questions each we were consistently getting three out of four questions for most rounds.  It allowed us to come second.  A member from church provided a table of prizes from a box of unwanted gifts.  I took the toilet bag.  I don’t have one and it would be useful.   Somebody else took Josh Kronfeld’s autobiography and all the weet-bix All-Black bowls went.

That was fun.  We should do it again.

The Persistance and Problem of Religion

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Brain-storming about mission in the middle of the week I wrote down this question, which is meant to be rhetorical: How do we in the progressive church movement share or create relations inside and outside our community of faith?

The next night I went to the local Fulbright lecture on the university campus which was on the topic used as the title of this post.  At the end I started to write some notes.

The present danger from religion is exclusive extremism from beyond the norm of social religion, using religious violence to impose its values on the majority group.

The alternative involves engaging in dialogue, teaching religious education as knowing and respecting the other person without entering into indoctrination, and joining together with the other person in actions of common witness.  Perhaps the next step will have us engaging with each other with affection for what we can do and share.

We are part of the diverse mix in society.  The alternative would be bland and conformist.

As I stepped out to go to the supermarket this morning I was surprised to greet one of my fellow residents at Manono House returning from morning prayers.  He was dressed in a white robe.  Today is Eid, and, despite the forecast, the sun is shining.

Hobbit-spotting for Labour Day

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Happy Labour Day, I hope the Trickle-down Fairy brought you something nice, or not, as the case may be.

It’s a public holiday so I get to listen to Matinee Idle on National Radio.  This may count as a form punishment, or possibly musical masochism.  I can hear the grass grow and it’s keeping me awake at night!  The gym was open earlier so I got a cardio session in before lunch-time.

Sunday across town to church.  I was asked if I could take the opening prayers.  The minister was away and it relieved one of our retired ministers from taking the whole service.  I must have done a good job of the prayers as several people complemented me on them.

I thought I could walk to Mornington on Thursday for an induction service.  Not a good idea, the rain was wretched, coming down like a monsoon.  It was about to get lost when I was on the edge of Mornington which a rabbit warren of streets.  Fortunately that was the time when I was spotted by a nice warm van going the same way.  I got a ride and arrived on time, still soaking wet, which greatly impressed some people.

Barbecue on Saturday on Caversham Heights.  The rain held off and I proved to be reasonably good at barbecuing meat.  If it’s still bleeding turn it over and move it closer to the hottest spot on the barbecue plate.

Current mood: rain and hail

Reviving the Flame

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A couple of weeks ago I examined a historic document of the Presbyterian Church to consider the Church’s position relating to marriage equality.  The document in question was Chapter XXIV of the Westminster Confession, an English document imposed on the Scottish Church which for historical reasons has been our standard since then.

I’m sure the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand has produced a statement on marriage and divorce which is more relevant; and even though it contradicts some of what this chapter states on marriage and divorce, does not have the authority of being a subordinate standard.  The modern confession Kupu Whakapono says nothing about marriage and divorce.

For my own understanding of the text I translated it into a created language I use for journal keeping and translated it back into English.  As the original document is written in dead sixteenth century legal language it was the only way to read it that was relevant for me.

In the confession only opposite-sex marriage is practiced.  Monogamy is expected.  Reformed Christians shouldn’t marry inter-faith, Papists, nor idolators; it will only lead to trouble.  If a spouse dies the remaining partner is not allowed to marry the late spouse’s relatives any closer than would be expected to be incestuous among their own siblings.  Sex outside of marriage or abandonment are the only reasons for divorce, and only after reconciliation is determined to be impossible.

The proverbial ‘dead wife’s sister’ slipped away be the turn of the last century.  Presumably early-to-late modern Victorians hated the idea of property slipping out of family hands and changed the rules about who could marry whom.  Presbyterians were resistant to this idea.  It delayed the union of Synod of Otago and Southland to the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand by a generation.

I find the modern resistance to marriage equality, and other socially liberal trends, among Presbyterians is comparable to the sectarian group, the Destiny Church.  At least they are honest about the code of conduct that they expect from their members.

I am also reminded of a document I have seen in several collections at the Presbyterian Archives.  It belongs to the Church Union debate, about the time the Plan For Union was going to fail.  It was copied from the New Zealand Listener, and described the membership in the old mainstream churches as being of two camps.  One stream saw the united church working towards the transformation of the society.  Our old friend Rutherford Waddell would have been a nineteenth century ancestor of this camp.  The other camp, resistant to Church Union, worked for change through the conversion and discipleship of individuals.  The presence of these two streams in the Presbyterian Church is evident in that both approaches are included in the Church’s statement on the Five Faces of Mission.  They exist like yin and yang.

I continue to support marriage equality, and the inclusion of people of diverse orientations into the Church.  I claim no sexuality.  As a younger man in deciding whether I was gay or straight I decided that I would chose to be neither.  I would be a celibate.  It was a gift, easily chosen, a charism from god.  I suspect there are a handful of others who have made the same choice.  In our sexed-up culture of identity it is not discussed except as a disorder, a taboo.  Still we can enjoy others’ identity because ours is fluid, a liminal state, on the threshold, the maiden aunts and uncles.  Perhaps some day I may return the gift if I chose to lay it down.  While the Church rules no one in a queer relationship can be a leader in the Church my gift is being used as a millstone on the innocent, and we are all suspect and distrusted.

Mother Kirk does not trust me, her errant and heterodox boy!

Second Opinion

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I’ve been to the physio again.  Much more bendy this week.  I need to do more stretching exercises and the physio has given me another one to practice stretching my upper legs.  I was stuck with more needles which left me with an aching twinge for the rest of the morning.  I decided not to make another appointment as my body will continue to remedy itself naturally.  In hindsight it might have been wise to get a clean bill of health.

I do need to replace those slippers!  They have no tread left on them and are slowly turning ragged.

Solutions to Child Poverty

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This was today’s discussion hosted by the Centre for Theology and Public Issues.  They hosted representatives from the Expert Advisory Group set up by the Commissioner on Children.

Our country’s reputation for care of its children could be better.  How well we treat our children is measured on nine criteria.  Criteria as basic as having your own bed to sleep in.  On measuring poverty as not meeting any three of the list child poverty in New Zealand can be measured as affecting 18 per cent of all children in the country under 18 years old.  In contrast only 3% of adults over 65 are classified as poor under the same measurement.  Adults get to vote,  and politicians like people who vote them back in.

During the best economy that we have had in recent years solo parents on the domestic purpose benefit decreased by less than 5%.  These are the families most at risk, the people that the Expert Advisory Group are working to protect and for which create the best deal.  Sort of common sense really, for people who have no options.

That is why they wait to hear from us.