St Andrew’s on The Terrace Presbyterian Church (Wellington) is deeply disappointed but defiant in the face of the news today that the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church has voted to ban Ministers from performing marriages between same-sex couples.
“This decision is deeply disturbing and we strongly dissent from it” says St Andrew’s Parish Convenor, Sonia Groes-Petrie. “The Presbyterian tradition is for ministers to have freedom to make decisions about whom they will marry. There is a range of opinions on same-sex marriage within the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and today’s decision does not reflect that diversity.”
Interim Minister Jim Cunningham says “I’m appalled at the decision that has been made. We see sexual orientation and gender identity as irrelevant in the celebration of a couple’s union. It is the quality of the relationship, the love and commitment that matters. St Andrew’s has been blessing the relationships of same sex couples for over twenty years, celebrating civil unions since 2005 and marriages since August last year.”
The national church has been debating the implications of same-sex marriages now being legal.
“It seems incredible that the church is legislating against love. It’s embarrassing that religious organisations are the only stumbling block to full equality for same-sex couples” says St Andrew’s Parish Councillor and General Assembly representative Paul Barber.
Ministers and celebrants of many denominations – including Presbyterian – have signed up to love and marriage equality.
The Yes to Love website ‘is a celebration of faith that is accepting and welcoming. It profiles leaders of religious and spiritual communities in Aotearoa who are saying “yes” to love and marriage equality. These are people of faith who are willing to conduct weddings for same-sex couples.’
So I sit once again on the steps
outside St Louis Cathedral
and wait here, quietly, for daylight.
When it comes, I will go into the Cathedral,
into the presence of God, or of Mystery,
and a man who believes what he’s saying
will tell me what he knows of truth.
Then he will lay his hand on my forehead
and leave a tiny smudge of ashes in the center of it,
a reminder of those truths in this life that remain unknowable,
and I will open myself to mysteries greater than death
and to the possibility of believing in them again.
– Elizabeth Dewberry
Sacrament of Lies (New York: BlueHen Putnam, 2002)
Progressive Christianity in our time has emerged through two related but distinct processes. One is a process of elimination: Christians, over the last couple of centuries, have realized that many elements of our Western culture are not essential to – or even compatible with – Christian life and belief, and we have sought to shed them. We have looked hard at the false claims of government absolutism, of slavery, of racism, sexism and homophobia and have rejected them.
The other process has been one of refocusing. Here the question isn’t “What is extraneous to our faith?” but “Where is its centre?” Our answers take different forms, but, eventually, they come back to the way Jesus united, in both his life and teaching, the two commandments to love God and to love neighbour.
The two processes may produce related results, but they are not identical. One prunes the excess at the peripheries; the other is looking for the ground of our faith. Many of us who claim the name of progressive Christians are probably more comfortable with the elimination than the search for the centre, clearer about what we don’t believe than about what we do.
We have seen how the powers-that-be have repeatedly invoked Christianity to justify their sins. We are clear that we need to reject this entanglement of Christian faith with the status quo. But simply to reject is not enough. Rejection does not inspire hope or love or delight or even intellectual coherence.
The real reason why progressive Christianity exists is not to prune away archaisms and false accretions. It exists to be an authentic gospel voice, to proclaim the good news of Jesus’ life and teaching: a vision of humanity united to the sacred and to one another in love and justice.
—Rev Dr Margaret Mayman (extract from sermon, “postmodern prayer?” July 2004)
Yesterday I drove past a neighborhood church sporting the sign, “Jesus paid the price… you can keep the change.” Disconcerting was the dissonance between the progressive denomination (United Church of Christ) and the regressive theology invoked (sacrificial atonement). Having walked away from my life in ministry just weeks earlier, I am loathe to jump into a theological conversation and I initially pass on the bait. ”To each their own,” I reply when asked to comment.
Later in the day I received an email from a former colleague, expressing his concern with theological integrity and requesting conversation. Like me, he explains, he believes Jesus about God but does not believe the church about Jesus. With this truth, he asks, how can we stand before congregations uncritically parroting phrases that infer sacrificial atonement? What, he wonders, is the price for claiming that Jesus already paid it?
Before I reply to the theological question, I must confess a personal investment.
Continue reading beyond “our savior” – extract from a blog on “Ponderings” website
Here’s an example from St Andrew’s on The Terrace’s 2013 Matariki service:
Matariki: a time to tell our stories
What’s your story?
Do you know your own story, your birth story, your life story? Did someone tell it to you, or have you made it up from memory and experience? It’s worth keeping in mind that there are different Matariki stories, different meanings depending on the location of the tribe who tells them: in some, Matariki is a time for planting; in others, that’s not the case at all. There are many variations of the calendar and many ways the different tribes used stellar guides for their own specific environment.
So, Matariki isn’t just a time to learn the legends of the stars, fascinating as they are. Learning about family and whakapapa is also important. Around Matariki the harvests such as kumara were in, and this cold part of the year was a time for hui, for korero, to exchange stories, learn about ancestors who have passed from this world to the next, and hand down knowledge and practices to ensure the culture is preserved. Memories, good and bad, are powerful…
Continue reading How are you celebrating Matariki?
At the age of 66, when most people are thinking of retiring, Sir Lloyd Geering began a ministry to Wellington and the modern world, as principal lecturer for St Andrew’s Trust for the Study of Religion and Society.
Now 96, he delivered his valedictory lecture this month to a crowded church and a standing ovation.
His topic was ”The Evolving City”, tracing the evolution of the city from the earliest settled population clusters and the biblical city of Cain, in Genesis, to the megacities of a globalising world and the biblical vision of the City of God in Revelation. Continue reading Ian Harris on Sir Lloyd Geering’s themes on religion