This picture was taken when James and I visited Kimhae about two years ago, at dinner hosted by the man in the centre (wearing a tie), who is James' brother-in-law and senior member of the Kimhae part of James's family. I was deeply honoured when he told James that he respected me as his peer and a member of the family. Some of the family is Seoul and some in the family home town of Kimhae, in the far south. At the left is James's younger brother, Kyu Seong, who is also a wonderful friend and generous host. James is next to him.
If you went into an art gallery and immersed yourself in painting and sculpture, you would inevitably be influenced by biblical religion, since the history of art in western Europe has in large measure also been the history of Christian art. [. . .] But religious themes are rarer in contemporary art and those who prepare catalogues for exhibitions now find themselves having to explain religious references in more detail.The same goes for music, Billings says, and even for eating.
Seeing salvation, singing salvation -- even eating salvation. Until recently, the story of Christ was called to mind with seasonal food -- mince pies, simnel cake, hot cross buns and Easter eggs. But my local supermarket now stocks mince pies and hot cross buns out of season and Easter eggs have transformed into a generally available cream egg. What this means is that those whose Christianity has been sustained and nourished culturally -- the cultural Christians -- need to wake up to what is happening.I think this is important. Whatever our faith, our life and testimony are richer and more fun if we express them culturally, in every day life as well as so-called 'high-culture'. A book I have loved for years is Hidden art by Edith Schaeffer (1972). It has been much recommended to 'Christian homemakers': well, yes, but only if that includes singles and couples, men and women of all ages, living anywhere and with anyone. Schaeffer argues for simple artistry in everyday things, discovering the God-given creativity that is part of our being. She gives ideas and advice on music, writing, interior decoration, gardening, food, clothes and more. In all of these, we can bring joy to ourselves and each other. Don't buy Easter eggs, or greeting cards, make them!
In the fine arts, a superb, though sometimes controversial, Australian example of faith expressed in culture is the Blake prize for religious art. The 2004 prize was given for this work, Pieta (Darfur) by © AñA Wojak. "The men depicted," she says, " are mourning a child that has died of malnutrition in the refugee camps of Dafur. It was inspired by press coverage of the ongoing war in Western Sudan. Amidst the horror and despair, this is a moment of dignity and prayer."
Of course the religious music scene is enormous, especially on the rock/pop side. Interesting to me is the growing use of jazz in Christian worship in Australia. The ABC's Encounter program recently did a fascinating feature on this. There is a transcript and a web page God, Church and All That Jazz: a brief history from an Australian perspective, by Bill Haesler.
|When we moved house last year, I threw away a pile of old greeting cards I'd received, but I kept three. My workmates signed this and gave it to me when I left a directorship in the public service to go to theology college. Maybe they thought theology college was like an outhouse at the end of the known universe?|
|My Mum sent me this. I'm sure she had in mind for me the quiet life of a scholar; cups of tea and books in the drawing room. I wish. Sigh.|
This card goes back to 1976. My family gave me it just before I boarded a plane to fly to Malaysia where I worked as a volunteer librarian for two years; my first time overseas and I was going for two years. This was just the message I needed.
So it's not surprising that I have had healing on my mind this week. It is interesting and encouraging that Dr Rowan Williams emphasised the ministry of healing in his Easter message this year.
It should not need saying, but it must be said: our Christian faith is a faith in the rising of Jesus Christ from the tomb in his glorified body; and so it is about leading lives that take the life of the body seriously. The words for 'salvation' and 'health' cannot be distinguished in most languages, and this should remind us that faith in Christ has to be bound up with care for suffering bodies as well as suffering souls.Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. (James 5.14-15) I was much encouraged when our parish priest came to our home, annointed me with oil, laid his hands on me and prayed, with James joining in as well. (And yes, I am almost recovered.)
Only Christ can make us whole in every aspect of our lives. But we can show the world something of the nature of that comprehensive hope in Christ as we put our energies to work for healing. First we have to begin to learn what it is for each one of us to receive healing: quietly and thankfully, we must let our wounds be exposed to the physician and allow his life to 'sink into' our lives. And then we must act as if we believed we had truly received authority to heal -- in all sorts of different ways.
One of the least known features of the life of the Anglican Church over the last twenty years has been the dramatic revival of the ministry of healing as a routine part of the life of thousands of congregations. But it is the same hope for healing that is shown when we also look at how we can put our resources at the disposal of programmes to combat disease and poverty.
This is not an additional extra -- the boring bit of a message in which all the excitement is generated by church politics. [. . .] This Easter, let us, as Paul tells us in Colossians 3, try to live as if we had truly been raised with Christ -- clothed 'with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience' and showing all these things in our priorities for action to heal suffering bodies. -- Rowan Williams
The Easter message is one of new life, resurrection life. But this is not only spiritual but physical and mental. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53.5) I've long believed in, ministered and benefited from healing prayer, but have been a bit lazy on it lately. I need to check out the Order of St Luke the Physician, which teaches and encourages Christian healing ministry. Must do this!
Meanwhile, an article in the recent issue of the Brotherhood of St. Gregory's newsletter, The Servant, encourages the Brothers (and others) in healing ministry:
[W]e speak about the ministry of reconciliation, about charity, and about many aspects of expressing the love of Christ to others, but hardly at all do we actually speak about healing. My brothers, I suggest that we fill that gap and add someplace that the "Brother Is a Healer." I believe each of us is called to a personal ministry as a healer in this world. [. . .] This healing is not about miracles, at least not the kind that have people alternately fainting or leaping in the aisles! Yet it is open to the whole canvas of life.I believe in miracles. But there are many kinds of healing, and of restoration, too. The article starts with this prayer:
Sanctify, O Lord, those whom you have called to the study and practice of the arts of healing. Strengthen them by your life-giving Spirit, that by their ministries the community may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Amen.
Unlike many branches of the Anglican Communion the Scottish Episcopal Church, through its history, does not owe its existence to the development of the British Empire, and the spread of worship from the Church of England into those parts. We are conscious that this means that within Scotland there is perhaps a greater "scepticism" about the importance of the Anglican Communion than may exist elsewhere and provincial autonomy is highly rated. However, as a College we would wish to affirm that we value our place within the Communion and will certainly be seeking to work to preserve the unity of that Communion.The Most Reverend Bruce Cameron, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church and Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney, told BBC Scotland that the church was simply encouraging debate by stating the beliefs on which the Scottish Anglican tradition already operates. He said: "We do not have a synodical decision like the Church of England has, which it made a number of years ago, and therefore if someone who was of a homosexual orientation felt a sense of call to the ordained ministry then we would begin the process of testing that vocation. We wouldn't bar him or her simply because they were homosexual."
[. . . ] On the matters of sexuality which occasioned the Report we are conscious that, like any province within the Anglican Communion, there is in our life significant diversity of view on both the matter of the consecration of Gene Robinson and the authorisation of liturgies for the blessing of same sex unions.
The Scottish Episcopal Church has never regarded the fact that someone was in a close relationship with a member of the same sex as in itself constituting a bar to the exercise of an ordained ministry. Indeed, the Windsor Report itself in suggesting that a moratorium be placed on such persons being consecrated bishops, itself acknowledges the existence of many such relationships within the Church.
[. . . ] The College of Bishops is conscious that the pressures within the debate on matters of sexuality vary from one province to another. Within our Province the debate tends to focus on matters to do with scriptural authority and human rights and justice. We sense that we are privileged in that we are a small province, and discussion across differences may be more easily achieved in our life than in other parts of the Communion. We hope that as a result of the publication of the report discussion across difference will take place, rather than a consolidation of opinion among the like minded.
[. . .] We are conscious that as a Church we are much indebted in our life both to a significant presence of persons of homosexual (lesbian and gay) orientation, and also to those whose theology and stance would be critical of attitudes to sexuality other than abstinence outside marriage. We rejoice in both . . .
In a further statement on 24 March, the Bishops said:
In referring to the fact that there is no current bar to ordination for someone who might be in a close relationship with a member of the same sex, the Bishops were simply stating the present position as it applies in Scotland where, unlike some other provinces, no motion discouraging such ordinations has ever been passed by our General Synod. Consequently, the statement earlier this month does not represent any change in policy on the part of the Bishops.
One of the odd things about shingles is that it attacks only one side of the body or one side of the head. This is because the virus travels through the nervous system which is largely divided left-right. It reminds me of an ancient Star Trek I first saw on black and white TV, "Let that be your last battlefield" (ep. 70, Jan. 1969), in which the Entreprise encounters two warring half-black, half-white human-like beings, Lokai (Lou Antonio) and Bele (Frank Gorshin). Lokai's people, black on their left sides, are opposite to Bele's people, and therefore seen as inferior. Bele, a lawman, has been pursuing Lokai, an escapee from oppression, for thousands of hatred-filled years. This was powerful stuff just a couple of years after massive 'race riots' in the US in 1967.
rich, well-pitched and glowing woodwinds with a tangibly distinctive grain, brass (trumpet and horn) which blended, blared and buzzed on cue with the peremptorily firm sound of hard sticks on hide from the timpani. . . . [The symphony] was exciting, vivid and richly coloured, and even in the overcrowded category of Beethoven symphony recordings, the ACO would have something to offer by releasing their own Beethoven cycle.The Mendelssohn Violin Concerto is oft described as sweet, and indeed it was -- too sweet for my taste, though I enjoyed the performance. The Canberra crowd went wild (well, wild for a Canberra crowd, at least). But the Beethoven symphony touched deeply. I was feeling a bit wobbly to begin with, having just gotten out of bed from a fever, and I sat in the theatre in tears again. Sigh. Nice to know Mr McCallum and I agree, though.
P.S.Vincent Plush in The Australian (10 March) is interesting. "Whose music is it anyway?", he asks, noting that the ACO does not reveal the perfoming editions its uses. Does it matter whether the performance, despite the presence of traditional instruments, is not really Beethoven as we know him? How much of the performance bears the personal mark of Director Richard Tognetti is left to the audience to surmise. And fair enough, too. Of the performance of the Beethoven Seventh that I much admired, Plush writes:
For all this bristle and brilliance, there comes a point when one pleads to be let off the roller-coaster, to cool the temperature and let the music sing. Is this some kind of personal thesis or exorcism being played out, some kind of Australian spin on the riches of our inherited European tradition? We need to debate style and substance, the role of truly informed historical practice and what, if anything, we have to contribute to it. In the final analysis, does it matter if the music itself is secondary? The ACO's music-making is always challenging and stimulating, never dull. Adoring capacity audiences, nationwide, reward the players with ovations and laurels. They have become peerless icons. The ACO is so consistently excellent that it now invites the kind of microscopic critical attention accorded to top-echelon international ensembles. Don't miss this concert: go make up your own mind.Well, I did both. I'm no purist and found the performance, as performance, to be stimulating, yes, even thrilling. Better that than dry purism. But, yes again, it was rather relentless and the decibels were well up there.
The Comments on the Windsor Report by the House of Bishops of Nippon Sei Ko Kai (February, 2005) offer simply worded sanity and openess. The English isn't perfect, but it's worth reading the whole statement, especially from paragraph 6 onwards.
(Text kindly made available by the Revd Laurence Minabe, General Secretary of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai.)
- The House of Bishops of ( The Anglican Church in Japan) has received and studied the Windsor Report very seriously as a part of the wider Anglican communion.
- We assume that; the Commission has dealt extensively and deeply the nature of the Communion and possible expressions of its unity, and also some practical steps which each of the concerned parties ought to take toward a fuller reconciliation and unity. The process must have been not easy. We highly appreciate this piece of work of the Commission.
- Nippon Sei Ko Kai had already expressed regret at the occasion of the Primates' Meeting in 2003 on the fact that the Episcopal Church, USA and the Anglican Church of Canada (Diocese of New Westminster) proceeded to a series of resolutions and actions in spite of preceding statements of the Lambeth Conference and Primates' Meeting. Accordingly we understand the principal position of the Windsor Report.
- However, we believe that; what the Anglican Communion collectively, or the Archbishop of Canterbury should urge to those concerned province and diocese may well be simply a conscientious reflection, trusting their likely reconciliatory initiatives, rather than listing up the recommendations as indicated in Section D. Similarly, the same should be addressed to those who seemingly interfered the due actions of the autonomous provinces of the Communion. (The subject matter may depend on how the mandate (2) of the Commission can be interpreted.)
- It should be noted that the l998 Lambeth Conference of which resolution suggests to refrain from ordination of the persons involved in the same gender unions, at the same time is urging to commit ourselves to listen to the experience of the homosexual persons. We wish strongly that every province and diocese of the Communion take this statement seriously.
- Nippon Sei Ko Kai sees the extra-importance of our common Anglican tradition that the Anglicans have been accepting a real diversity which has inevitably been arising in the process of the inculturation/indigenization of Gospel.
- While we firmly believe the authority of the Scriptures, we understand that the biblical texts themselves were born out of particular historical and faith contexts. Therefore, the Scriptures themselves allow de facto diversity of their interpretations in a different historical and faith context.
- Based on the above assumptions (6 and 7), it can hardly be said that there is only one legitimate Christian view on the human sexuality. It is possible that the Christian understanding of human sexuality and its expression in the actual Church life could be more than one. We wish to see a series of recent decisions and actions of American or Canadian Churches in this perspective.
- The Windsor Report certainly enlightens us greatly about the nature and unity of the Anglican Communion. However, we believe that the unity of Communion may not necessarily be resting upon one common position of the biblical interpretation and theological understanding of the human sexuality.
- Regarding the proposed 'Anglican Covenant'. Nippon Sei Ko Kai believes that one of the best and foremost traditions and legacies of Anglicanism is trusting communion of believers without stated covenant like this. The Anglican Church is not a confessional Church. We are not convinced by, for example, the statement spelled out in the proposed Article 10. Even if the Communion needed a certain set of principal and stated agreements among the Churches, it should be much more concise and simple, allowing much room for autonomy, diversity and mutual trust. The Communion should spend more years for study and debate before we come to propose such a Covenant.
In the brochure for this year's Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival Federal Attorney General, Philip Ruddock, gushes with support in his letter of endorsement for the month long celebration. He writes:
"The Government supports tolerance and freedom from discrimination against individuals on the ground of sexual preference. The Coalition condemns discrimination in all its forms and believes each of us should have the opportunity to participate in the life of our community and to experience the benefits and accept the responsibilities that flow from such participation without fear of discrimination. The Government is committed to maintaining the Australian traditions of tolerance and respect for diversity, which are the foundations of one of the world's successful multicultural societies."
Sadly, this professed government support for tolerance, freedom, diversity and non-discrimination does not extend to our Prime Minister, who once again pointedly refused to send a message.
To the casual observer or international visitor however, this uncompromising statement of equality and tolerance from Australia's top law officer would be reassuring. But for those of us all too familiar with the Howard Government's anti-gay agenda, this pro-gay rhetoric is an outrageous political lie of Orwellian proportions.
Only last December, Ruddock and his department oversaw the removal of 'sexuality,' as a recognised status from within Australia's National Framework for Human Rights - National Action Plan. The Framework, now lodged with the UN Human Rights Committee, in Geneva, conveniently ignores the inequality and discrimination which still impacts on sexual minorities and same-sex relationships.
This was despite the [Australian] Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission advocating the continued inclusion of 'sexuality' as an area for the government to address. For the first time ever, gay and lesbian people have been airbrushed from our nation's human rights portrait. Not just overlooked, but deliberately removed.
This is notable, in that Australia is one of very few western countries that has no national anti-discrimination laws on the grounds of sexual orientation, and no national partnership laws for same-sex couples. Most Western countries and many Eastern European and Latin American countries now outlaw such discrimination with national laws, and to varying degrees legally recognise same-sex relationships. Australia does not.
This is further complicated by the fact while most States and Territories have come a long way in addressing these inequities, the Commonwealth is lagging far behind. As a consequence, the Federal Government is the most frequent discriminator against sexual minorities.
So it is that we [The Primates' Meeting] reaffirm the resolutions of our Lambeth Conference on sexuality in its entirety. [. . .] But the resolution also mentions in very strong terms to respect the human dignity of lesbian and gay people and the need to to continue a respectful listening. And the communiqué before you does make it clear that we acknowledge that we haven't been very good at this. - Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, at the press conference following the Primates' meetingThere must come a time when the churches talk WITH gay and lesbian people rather than ABOUT them.
Muriel Porter writes in The Age of 1 March 2006:
Unless the Americans and Canadians decide to abandon the cause of gay clergy and same-sex marriages by 2008 -- and please God they won't --- the threatened split will still happen. [. . .] The real tragedy is the failure of more reasonable and inclusive church leaders. [. . .] The real tragedy in the humiliating dismissal of the North American churches is not the behaviour of the Global South bullies. It is the failure of more reasonable and inclusive church leaders, of whom there are significant numbers in the Western church at least, to stand up to them, to refuse to give way so readily in the name of preserving church unity.God bless you, Muriel. But if we do 'dare to speak' how we can we find an audience and make ourselves heard?
The fragile unity left to the Anglican Communion is no unity at all. It is an unworthy appeasement, bought at the price of the many gay people who are faithful, worshipping Anglicans. Numbers of them are priests, and some are even bishops; Gene Robinson is certainly not alone, though he is the only gay bishop to have declared he is not celibate.
While some traditionalists, such as the primate of Nigeria, may be celebrating, these vulnerable people are in deep dismay. Like all gays, they are in constant danger of being marginalised and even attacked for their sexual preferences. In the Anglican Church, once tolerant and generous, they now fear personal public rejection. But few will hear their pain, because they dare not speak.
So moderate church leaders should speak out on their behalf. They should vehemently reject the Global South's claim that adherence to the authority of the Bible is centred in one particular interpretation of its (limited) references to homosexuality. Since when has sexual practice been the supreme test of Christian orthodoxy?
It is a pity they have not instead publicly named the conservatives' power trip as a form of abuse, and their bullying as a failure of Christian compassion and a form of judgementalism, against which Jesus specifically preached. This is the scriptural teaching to which they should require Anglican allegiance.
As the saying goes, evil things happen only when good people do nothing.
March 1 is a public holiday in (South) Korea and commemorates the day in 1919 when, in Tapgol Park in the centre of Seoul, independence campaigners proclaimed a Declaration of Independence from Japan. About 2 million Koreans responded in hundreds of demonstrations throughout the country. Thousands were killed. The park is small, roughly 200m by 100m. It has ancient origins, and was home to a temple at least 700 years ago. In 1467, King Sejo ordered the construction of a 10-story pagoda in the temple grounds in repentance for having usurped the throne of his young nephew King Danjong. This pagoda 'Wongaksaji Sipcheung Seoktap' still stands (in an ugly glass protective building) and the park is named after it.
Tapgol was converted into a modern park in 1897 and is now venerated as the birthplace of modern Korean independence, with memorials of the early independence struggle, and a statue of Sun Pyong-hui, leader of the 1919 independence movement. Japan had annexed Korea and abolished the Korean monarchy in 1910, following a long period of Japanese domination in Korean affairs. Independence was not regained until the defeat of Japan at the end of the second world war -- to be soon followed by the Korean war.
All this interests me because James is a Korean and because I visited Seoul with him a couple of years ago. We stayed in a hotel just a short walk from Tapgol Park.
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from who no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you
and worthily magnify your holy name,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
These are the flowers bought by James to celebrate my birthday yesterday, 28 February.