Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

Bishops' charge to Waikato/Taranaki

Archbishop Philip Richardson (Taranaki) and Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley (Waikato) deliver their charge to the 2014 Diocesan Synod.

Taonga News  |  28 Sep 2014

Kia Whakakororia ki Te Atua i Runga Rawa, Kia Mau Te Rongo ki Runga ki Te Whenua, Kia Pai Te Whakaaro ki Nga Tangata Katoa. 

Honore ki Te Arikinui Te Kingi Ko Tuheitia.  Ki Te Kahui Ariki Katoa, Ma Te Atua Ratou E Manaaki E Tiaki i Nga Wa Katoa.  Ki Te Waka Tainui Tena Koutou. Ki Te Iwi o Ngati Maniapoto, Tena Koutou. Ki Te Pihopatanga O Aotearoa ki Te Hui Amorangi Ki Te Manawa O Te Wheke, Tena Koutou.

E Te Maungatapu e tu ra, ko Taranaki, Tena Koe:  Ki Te Waka Tokomaru, Te Waka Aotea, Te Waka Kurahaupo Tena Koutou.  Nga Mihi Nui Ki Te Pihopatanga O Aotearoa Ki Hui Amorangi Ki Te Upoko O Te Ika.

We have glorified God with the first language of this country.

We have honoured the Maori King and his household, we have greeted the Tainui tribal confederation, including Ngati Maniapoto, as well as our partners in mission from the Maori Bishopric of Te Manawa O Te Wheke.

We have acknowledged the presence of the sacred mountain of Taranaki. We have acknowledged the Taranaki tribes as well as our partners in mission from the Maori Bishopric of Te Upoko O Te Ika.


We wish to record our thanks to all who serve our Diocese in so many different ways and in particular the staff who work so hard to enable our ministry as Bishops. More will be said about those who have contributed so much in the report of the Standing Committee that will be given in full tomorrow morning.

In Memorium

Elizabeth Fahey, widow of the former Bishops Chaplain for Ministry Reverend Michael Fahey;

Dave Harkness, husband of Elaine Harkness Synods person from Brooklands Co-operating Parish New Plymouth;

Geoff Clareburt, long- serving lay leader in the Diocese from the parish of West New Plymouth;

Dennis Beasley, brother of Jackie Tappin;

Mary Hall, mother of the Rev’d Christine Hunn;

Rev Patricia Cooper, former Archdeacon who served at a number of parishes in the Diocese;

Emily (Pixie) Dale, mother of Bruce and Colin;

And many others known to each of us here tonight.

Please stand with us in silent thanksgiving.  May they rest in peace and rise in glory.

 The Joy of the Gospel

One of the great gifts and challenges of our liturgical life as Anglicans is our determination to listen to, and be shaped by the whole of Scripture not just the bits that we like!  We, like millions of Christians world wide, follow the rhythm of the Revised Common Lectionary.  So last Sunday we heard again from the Gospel of Matthew the story of the landowner who paid all the workers one denarius irrespective of how long they worked during that day.  You know the one! It provocatively holds before us the generosity of God, a generosity that challenges all our presuppositions about what is fair and what is just.  It reminds us that we live not by the principles and rules of an economy of mere “fairness” but the principles and rules of the economy of Grace.  This takes us right back to the very basic understanding at the foundation of our faith.  We know ourselves to be captured by generosity, unconditional, inexhaustable generosity.  We are captured by Grace.

Theologian and philosopher Paul Tillich[1] said he was launched on his philosophic and religious journey when somebody said to him in his teenage years, "Why something and not nothing?" In other words, why did creation ever get called out of nothing into being?

The Bible gives a very specific answer to that question.  In Genesis, it is clear that in that ‘beginning that has no beginning’, back before there was anything except God, this Mystery who is life and has life, that One must have said within himself, "This wonder of aliveness that I am, it is simply too good to keep to myself.  I want others to know the ecstasy of being and of having and of doing."  ++Philip expressed this in another way in his charge to Synod last year; “it is a love that cannot contain itself; it is a love that has to reach out in a continuous movement of self-offering, self-giving, self-surrender. A love that in spite of rejection, in spite of distortion reaches out and reaches out and reaches out because in its very character it can do no other.”

So God began to create, and continues to create, not to get something for God's self but to give something of God's self 

In other words, inexhaustable, unconditional,  generosity is the source out of which all creation comes, and because of generosity, the truth is none of us can claim that we have earned this life of ours through our own efforts.  Each one of us is given life as a gift, it is sheer windfall, pure grace!

If we stay in touch with this primal grace that marks the beginning of all of our lives, then we have every reason to be grateful no matter what our particular circumstances.  We have reason to believe that the sheer wonder of being alive is an unending source of joy and of gratitude.

There is an old rabbinic parable about a farmer that had two sons.  As soon as they were old enough to walk, he took them to the fields and he taught them everything that he knew about growing crops and raising animals.  When he got too old to work, the two boys took over the chores of the farm and when the father died, they had found their working together so meaningful that they decided to keep their partnership.  So each brother contributed what he could and during every harvest season, they would divide equally what they had corporately produced.  Across the years the elder brother never married, stayed an old bachelor.  The younger brother did marry and had eight wonderful children.  Some years later when they were having a wonderful harvest, the old bachelor brother thought to himself one night, "My brother has ten mouths to feed. I only have one.  He really needs more of his harvest than I do, but I know he is much too fair to renegotiate.  I know what I'll do. In the dead of the night when he is already asleep, I'll take some of what I have put in my barn and I'll slip it over into his barn to help him feed his children.

At the very time he was thinking down that line, the younger brother was thinking to himself, "God has given me these wonderful children.  My brother hasn't been so fortunate.  He really needs more of this harvest for his old age than I do, but I know him.  He's much too fair.  He'll never renegotiate. I know what I'll do. In the dead of the night when he's asleep, I'll take some of what I've put in my barn and slip it over into his barn."  And so one night when the moon was full, as you may have already anticipated, those two brothers came face to face, each on a mission of generosity.  The old rabbi said that there wasn't a cloud in the sky, a gentle rain began to fall.  You know what it was? God weeping for joy because two children had got the point.  Two of God’s children had come to realize that generosity is the deepest characteristic of the holy and because we are made in God's image, our being generous is the secret to our joy as well.

Knowing ourselves to be the recipients of God’s generous love, brings great joy and is also the basis of evangelism.  For if we are the recipients of a love that has restored meaning into our lives how can we not but want to share that love with others.

Goodness always tends to spread, goodness grows and and takes root and develops.  If we wish to lead a dignified and fulfilling life we have to reach out to others and seek their good.

“Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others.” (Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel, p. 7). 

Being Anglican

The overwhelming reality of God’s love in our lives connects us with our forebears in the faith, who also experienced the joy and transformation that built the early church.

Early Christian identity was forged over a period of time that we have access to in the books of the New Testament.  The earliest documents: the letters of Paul, and the Gospels, provide insight into the person of Jesus Christ, and the impact that God’s revelation through Christ had on the lives of the first disciples.  Acts describes the coming of the Holy Spirit, and how the early followers of Jesus, who were known simply as ‘the way’ gathered together in mixed communities of all ages and social groupings, for prayer and worship, for the breaking of bread, and in compassionate care of one another.  In so doing, what we know to be ‘the church’ was formed, a word that in its Greek origin, means literally ‘called out.’  Christians are people grounded in place, yet always connected to the world around them.  Both these elements of place and community engagement are vital to understanding what it means to be Anglican. 

We have so much to be joyful and confident about in our Anglican identity, but sometimes the outcome of our reflecting on this identity can lack clarity.  Perhaps this is less of a problem, and more of an opportunity through this vision we present to you, to reconnect with what grounds us, and appreciate the many threads that are woven together: past, present and future?  Our grounding as a church lies in history that is beyond the sovereign bounds of our islands, but which, like our nation, has a connection with the history of the development of the church in England.  To explain that a little: the word ‘Anglican’ seems to have been first used in the mid-19th century to describe the Church of England in its independence from the Roman Catholic Church.  The term ‘Anglicanism’ was used by John Henry Newman in 1838 to distinguish from ‘Protestantism’.  In that sense, sometimes the term was equivalent to Anglo-Catholicism.  So even with that, you begin to gain a sense of the breath of the Church’s constitution and practice; catholic yet reformed.

Consequently, we are a denomination with a lot of baggage!  Some of the load we carry is local, some of it global; all of it is richly part of who we are, and who God is calling us to be here in this Diocese.  At the heart of being Anglican lies a willingness to be patient and attentive, spacious and sensitive, and a desire to share the load together in a very intentional way, all of which requires persistence and mutual forbearance.  We need constantly to place Christ in the midst of who we are and what we do.  In that sense, it is hard not to think about the life of the early church, and to recognise that our present endeavours echo down the centuries with the faithful who have gone before us.  But all too often we view this as excess baggage, rather than tools to help us engage afresh with God’s mission, and deepen our discipleship.  Too often, what is in fact patient persistence in discernment of the movement of the Holy Spirit is perceived as unresolved conflict, and an inability to make a clear decision.  Bishop Stephen Pickard comments: ‘we might say, following John’s Gospel, that ‘God so loved the world that he sent his Son into the middle of things’…And it is precisely here that we can expect to find the abundance of God’s presence and activity.  It is in the middle of things in company with God that the seed of faith is planted, new things sprout and the kingdom grows’[2].  To be ‘in the middle’ of things carries vulnerability, tension, and risk of failure.  Yet it is also a place of excitement and joy, with opportunity for innovation and creativity, all of which need courage and commitment.  It is also a more helpful image of direct and active engagement rather than constantly feeling we are on the edge or out on a limb.  Remember limbs are part of the Body of Christ!

To be ‘in the middle’ of our communities, as churches, schools, tertiary institutions, hospitals, prisons, in whatever places our lives are linked with, means we have many opportunities to work with this unique Anglican charism of place and engagement.  Often, revelation lies in an ability to observe and abide with the most ordinary things of life.  R. S. Thomas was a Welsh poet and Anglican priest who lived from 1913 to 2000.  In his poem The Bright Field, he picks up on an image from our Gospel reading this evening:

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it.  But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it.  I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it.  Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past.  It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

It is significant that our charge is delivered in the middle of this Eucharistic celebration, where we encounter one another in the mystery of God’s eternal changelessness.  Our celebration of Holy Communion is about companionship, literally being alongside those ‘we break bread with.’  In sharing bread and wine, we pledge ourselves to one another and to God, making Jesus known in and through our actions.  We commit to the bonds of unity that depend on trust, and a search for peace.  This does not mean that we always agree, and it does not mean that there will never be sadness or division, but it does mean that we are never separated from God, the God who never lets us go.  With this ecclesiology, we should have no reason to let go of one another in the Body of Christ.

Grounded in prayer, we participate in a pattern that is both ancient and contemporary, both local and contextual as it is expressed in our Prayer Book, and global in sharing with our Anglican sisters and brothers across the world.  The so-called ‘Great Commission’ of Matthew 28, where Jesus commands his disciples to ‘go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ begins from the perspective of worship.  Lex orandi; Lex credendi: as we worship; so we believe.  This may be expanded with the addition of Lex Vivendi: so we live.  Our prayer and worship, expressed through our liturgy is the beginning point of mission.  In its Greek origin, the word ‘liturgy’ means ‘the work of the people’, but this does not mean services are planned and led by all the people, or that everyone is free to create whatever liturgy they like without any regard to tradition or doctrine!  In actual fact the word ‘liturgy’ has a far more radical meaning.  In its Greek usage ‘liturgy’ typically referred to a piece of work that was built or given for the purposes of the common good.  If a community needed a gathering place such as a town hall, a wealthy person would build it for the good of all the people.  It was public, so that the benefits were available for all.  Fast-forward a few thousand years to today: liturgy – a work of the people of God – is supposed to have public benefits.  All we say and do in our worshipping life is for the people of God, but for the up-building of all.  Now this doesn’t mean we ditch the prayer-book!  Rather we regain a sense of renewed confidence in its order, structure, rhythms and beauty.  If we are clear about the message we seek to communicate, then diligence in prayer and worship truly does become the starting point of our missional life.

The episcopal vision we share with you now invites each one of us to reconnect with our Anglican identity in a very intentional way.  Our vision is three-fold: grounded in prayer we are equipped for discipleship, and connected to community.  It is a vision that renews our confidence in God’s mission, and which will be engaged with in particular ways over the next three years.  It is a vision that began last year with Bishop Philip’s charge to Synod, and has been developed through the life of our new episcopal partnership.  Each of you should have received a vision prayer-card which you are encouraged to take away as a reminder of our work going forward from this Synod. 

The three strands of the vision will interweave with one another in creative, playful and joyful ways over the next three years.  Each year will engage with a particular strand, which will set our educational priorities as a Diocese, inviting us to participate in events and initiatives, anchored in a deeper understanding of our Anglican identity, equipping our journeys as disciples, and in formation of new leadership. 

This evening we can announce that 2015 will be a year of focus on prayer and our worshipping life.  To help resource and encourage one another, there will be a number of regional gatherings for stipended, part- and non-stipended clergy, and laity holding licenses, with participation from the bishops and invited speakers.  Each regional gathering will focus on a topic related to prayer and liturgy which will aim to better resource our understanding and practice.  Alongside this, there will be a Diocesan-wide festival-week of prayer and spirituality, featuring the promotion of resources, and local-based initiatives.  Every parish, ministry unit and other sector ministry will be encouraged to participate. 

Our Ministry School for next year will be re-launched as ‘The Gathering’ and will have as its focus celebrating our Anglican Identity.  There will be a keynote speaker to engage and inspire us, and a number of associated workshops and opportunities to reflect together.

The latter part of 2015 will also see the launch of the ‘Bishops’ living faith course’, a programme of nurture and teaching in the faith enabling participants to grow in their understanding, and thereby enhance the faith and life of their home congregation or locality, and the Diocese as a whole.  This will form a major part of the outworking of the second strand of our vision in 2016: equipping for discipleship. 

Building on this foundational commitment to equip disciples we recognize that the development of a new cohort of leaders is key to growing the Church. There is considerable evidence, from both the New Zealand context and overseas, that good leadership is fundamental to growth.[3] We need to identify, train and resource mission focused leaders, lay and ordained. We are particularly excited by a vision developing in one of our schools for an “Anglican Christian leadership development programme”. We are committed to nurturing this vision and can see how this initiative can flow into our parishes. Leadership development will be a high priority in our ministry as your bishops. We are also delighted with the initiative of the students of Southwell School that will see a copy of the Gospel of Mark, illustrated by the children, travel throughout the Diocese. We know that you too will delight in this and welcome the Gospel into your parish worship.

While this charge is necessarily focusing on the foundations we believe need to laid in order to grow the Church in its mission, we cannot ignore or skate over the suffering of so many in our community. The economy of generosity, the economy of Grace, the economy of the Kingdom of God is rooted in all having the means for fulfilling and joy-filled lives. A society in which fundamental inequalities have been “hard-wired” in excludes many from access to the basics they need for full and happy lives. We know that between the mid 1980’s and the mid 1990’s the income and wealth inequality figures in New Zealand underwent a step change. The rapid increase in the gap between rich and poor has not increased significantly since the mid 1990’s but neither has it decreased.  In New Zealand the top 10% of incomes receive around 25% of the total income, and 50% of total wealth is owned by the top 10%. The bottom 50% of the population owns only 5% of the wealth. In countries where the income and wealth equality statistics are much more favourable; for example health and well being statistics are markedly better than ours, the situation of their children is better, incarceration figures and recidivism figures are also lower. In short, a more equal society is a happier, safer and more fulfilling community for all its citizens.[4]

From the earliest days, Christians have been referred to as members of the Body of Christ.  Each of us participates in the life and witness of God’s mission through our lives as disciples.  Each of us has something to give, and all of us have much to take by way of encouragement from this rich image of collaboration.  With all of this lies immense opportunity, to see one another as bound up together, as accountable to one another, with immense potential for learning and growth.  The image of Christ that you see displayed is made up of photographs from around our Diocese.  If you take a closer look, you may well find yourself!  It is a living reminder that we are the Body of Christ, and that filled with the joy of the Gospel, and inspired by God’s unending grace, we are empowered for our life and vocation as children of God.  It is our delight to be called to be your bishops at this time in the life of our Diocese.  We commend this vision to you, and ask for your prayers and engagement as surely we pray for each of you daily.

And so, in keeping with our being grounded in prayer, let us now pray together the vision prayer that you will find on your vision-cards:

God of heaven and earth,
Through Jesus you have made known to us
Your Holy name,
The Word who was made flesh,
And the person of the Holy Spirit.
May you be blessed for opening to us
The vision of your Kingdom,
And for inviting us to enter it
In the glory where you reign
For ever and ever.

++ Philip

[1] Paul Tillich, was a German-born philosopher and theologian who emigrated to the United States in 1933 after a serious conflict with Nazi authorities in his home country. His extraordinary intellectual accomplishments made him one of the most important theological influences in the twentieth century.

[2] In-between God, ATF Press, 2011, p.1-2.

[3] We commend the report from the Church of England entitled “From Anecdote to Evidence” which provides some compelling evidence about the characterisitcs of ministry situations that are growing. The conclusions of this research is backed up by similar research being undertaken here in New Zealand

[4] Please see the full discussion in the paper “Inequality in Aotearoa New Zealand – 23rd 2014 – Briefing to Church Leaders”. This paper was prepared for a meeting between the Prime Minister and Church Leaders.