Resuscitating James Begg: a review of Kate Malcolm’s Pastorale

PastoraleKate Malcolm, Pastorale: being part of the life of James Begg as reconstructed by Kate Malcolm: A Novel (Wellington: Kate Malcolm, 2011). 369pp. ISBN: 9780473189969.

A guest review by John Stenhouse

Kate Malcolm has written a superb historical novel about one of her Scottish Presbyterian ancestors, the Revd. James Begg. The author trained in history at the University of Otago; it showed. One of the book’s many strengths is how well the author placed it in the historical contexts necessary to understand the life and times of James Begg and his family, church and nation. Historians are trained to avoid anachronism – language, ideas, objects and practices chronologically out of place in the period about which the author is writing. It is a tribute to Kate Malcolm that she avoided anachronism almost entirely.

Chapter one depicts young James Begg growing up the son of a Church of Scotland minister in New Monkland. The author’s account of a Scottish communion gathering conveyed a sense of the drama and excitement of occasions that caught up entire communities. Here, as elsewhere, Malcolm combined impeccable historical research with a novelist’s eye for her subjects’ inner worlds of thought and feeling.

After making a name for himself as a powerful preacher, James Begg joined the Free Church exodus out of the Church of Scotland during the Disruption. Here the author nicely captured the volatile mix of social, intellectual, political and theological tensions between the Moderate party and the Evangelicals, led by Thomas Chalmers, who reluctantly led the latter out of the established church in 1843. Academic historians who have difficulty understanding how deeply past generations felt about theology, politics and their interconnections have sometimes written accounts of such controversies that are too dry, dispassionate and cerebral. In Malcolm’s telling, by contrast, we can feel the anger of the Begg family when well-heeled Moderates and their supporters imposed a minister on an unwilling congregation. The author brings to life the Disruption – probably the most important event in nineteenth-century Scottish history – by refusing to confine theology to the private sphere of heart, home and house of worship. Weaving together theology with politics, law and social history, Malcolm brings our Presbyterian past to life just a few years before Free Church folk founded the Otago settlement. It is worth remembering that the Evangelical party left the Church of Scotland because they did not believe that the dominant Moderate party was keeping the church in vital contact with the mass of the Scottish people. Free Church visions of society as a godly commonwealth did not suddenly disappear; this tradition significantly shaped Otago, Southland and New Zealand history well into the twentieth century.

While the author writes about her subjects with empathy and understanding, she avoids hagiography. She depicts James Begg as a gifted and passionate preacher and dedicated pastor but not as a plaster saint. I found myself cringing at how harshly this Presbyterian patriarch sometimes treated his eldest son, Jamie. Sensitive and uncertain, Jamie responded to his father’s disapproval by withdrawing. It is a painful story that illuminates a shadow side of Scottish Presbyterian culture.

One of James Begg’s sons, Alexander Campbell, emigrated to Dunedin, where he played a lively and sometimes controversial role in Presbyterian church life as a staunch defender of tradition. Strongly attached to the Westminster Confession, A. C. Begg encouraged southern Presbyterians to try the Revd. Professor William Salmond and the Revd. James Gibb for heresy in 1888 and 1890 respectively. Begg’s support for prohibition, Bible-in-Schools and strict Sabbath observance annoyed working class radicals such as Sam Lister, whose Otago Workman newspaper regularly attacked ‘Ace’ Begg as a domineering old bigot.

Modern New Zealand historians have tended to side with Lister. In a famous article appearing in Landfall in 1953, Auckland poet-historian Robert M. Chapman, who later became professor of political science at the University of Auckland, identified Scottish Presbyterians and English Evangelicals as the main carriers of ‘puritanism’ to New Zealand. And puritanism, claimed Chapman, was the root of almost evil, plaguing society with interpersonal violence, marital discord, family dysfunction, female frigidity, latent homosexuality, patriarchy, self-hatred, and the ‘dominant mother.’ During the 1950s, with his friend and fellow poet-historian Keith Sinclair, Chapman translated into history and the social sciences the anti-puritanism burgeoning in literary circles since the 1930s. During the 1960s and 1970s, as the universities expanded, antipuritanism grew into a powerful new orthodoxy. Many of our writers, artists, historians and social scientists sought to save us from puritanism (or Calvinism, as they sometimes called it) and the churches that brought it here. Just how far this antipuritan crusade transformed attitudes to our Scottish Presbyterian forebears may be illustrated simply. In The Land of the Long White Cloud (1898), William Pember Reeves, our most influential nineteenth-century historian, praised the Revd. Thomas Burns, spiritual leader of Otago’s Free Church pioneers, as ‘a minister of sterling worth.’ In 1959, by contrast, Keith Sinclair’s Pelican History of New Zealand described Burns as a ‘censorious old bigot.’ Had Burns changed so much in sixty years?

‘Amor ipse intellectus est,’ wrote Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a saying we might translate into English as ‘love itself is the knowing faculty.’ In a labour of love, Kate Malcolm has rescued one of her Scottish Presbyterian forebears – and ours – from the condescension of posterity. This beautifully written book deserves a wide readership.

Christian Perspectives on Marriage

Christian Perspectives on MarriageLast year, the Council of Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand asked the church’s Doctrine Core Group to provide the church with a discussion paper on marriage. That group decided to approach the task by inviting a select and representative number to write a brief response to the following question:

‘What do you believe lies at the heart of a Christian doctrine of marriage, and what are the key biblical and theological considerations that inform your position?’

The discussion paper is now available for download here. It is offered in the hope that the statements therein might provoke deeper engagement with the complex issues about marriage in New Zealand church and society.

Kerry Enright: an interview

Kerry Enright and Pastor BerlinLast night’s edition of the ABC program Sunday Nights, hosted by John Cleary, included an interview with the Rev Dr Kerry Enright, the outgoing National Director of UnitingWorld, and a friend of mine. During the interview, Kerry reflects upon two of his favorite topics – the catholic nature of the church as gift from God and as sign to the world, and on the role of the church in civil society (here the discussion is focused particularly on Fiji, Australia and New Zealand). He also talks a bit about his forthcoming appointment as minister of Knox Church (Presbyterian) in Dunedin. I’m looking forward to welcoming Kerry back to Dunedin, and back to the PCANZ, soon. You can listen to the interview here.

And while I’m mentioning Kerry, there’s also an older interview in which he talks about God’s mission and about the significance of partnerships that UnitingWorld enjoys:

Interviewing David Clark MP

Interrogation roomLike many of life’s journeys, it all began with a single question. On this occasion, it was one posed by my daughter Sinead: ‘Why are so many things in Dunedin made in China?’, she asked. Rather than blunder my own way through an answer, I suggested that we write to the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon John Key, and ask him. She thought that that was a good idea: ‘Mr Key always seems to have a lot of time to play golf and to tweet about Lorde, so surely he will have enough time to talk with me!’, she said. And, ‘he’s always rabbiting on about how much he enjoys talking to average New Zealander’s about issues that matter to them’, I added. So, hopeful, we wrote to him. We received no reply. We wrote to him again, and again, and again, and again – inviting an answer to the question – but still no response came. This was disappointing, and birthed some grumpiness.

The invitation to discuss this, and any other question Sinead might have, was taken up by our local MP, David Clark. He should know about this stuff, we thought. After all, he is the Opposition spokesperson for economic development.

So, a few weeks ago, Sinead meandered down to the MP’s office to arrange an interview. That interview took place yesterday. In addition to her initial question, she posed a number of other questions – about Dunedin, about being a parliamentarian, about the personal costs of politics, about the relationship between politics and faith, and about the push for New Zealand to have a new flag. David was gracious, unpatronising, and honest in his replies, Sinead (and her dad) learnt a lot, and new questions were formed. And then she and David went out for ice-cream at Rob Roy Dairy.

I was very proud of her, and grateful to David for taking some time out to discuss matters of importance with one of New Zealand’s newest citizens.

New Zealand and the demise of an egalitarian dream

Changing TimesMy antipodean readers, in particular, may be interested to listen to Phillip Adams’s interview with Jenny Carlyon and Diana Morrow, authors of Changing Times: New Zealand Since 1945, on the subject of changes in New Zealand’s social landscape. The blurb for the show reads:

Before WW2, New Zealand was among the most egalitarian nations on earth, but recent OECD stats suggest that its once narrow gap is widening so fast, it’s now ranked second from the bottom. But in contrast to its early years as a largely white, Anglo-centric culture, today 213 different ethnic groups call New Zealand home. This one hour special is a retrospective look at the vast cultural, political and demographic changes in New Zealand over the past 60 years.

You can listen to the interview here.

Position: Senior Lecturer in Mission Studies

laidlawLaidlaw College in Auckland is seeking a Senior Lecturer in Mission Studies for its School of Theology, Mission & Ministry:

The Lecturer will be responsible for teaching in mission and contextual studies, ensuring that courses are developed and delivered in ways that are faithful to the Gospel of Christ, culturally incisive, and grounded in a biblical understanding of God’s missional purposes for Aotearoa New Zealand, the nations of the Pacific region, Asia and the world. They will also be actively involved in the College’s community and will lead the College’s Centre for Cross Cultural Mission (C3M).

The desired candidate will have the following skills and qualifications:

      • A PhD or equivalent in a relevant area of research
      • Significant missional experience
      • Active involvement in a local Christian community of faith and in Christian initiatives in the wider global community
      • Ability to publish papers and present research at academic conferences
      • Experience in teaching within a tertiary education provider
      • Experience mentoring students and providing pastoral care
      • Understanding of recent developments in the theological and general tertiary education sectors nationally and internationally
      • Experience and/or willingness to utilise e-Learning pedagogies and technologies

This position is a permanent full-time (1.0 FTE) position.

Please email your CV and cover letter to Natalie Tims, Human Resources Manager, at to register your interest and request an application pack. Application packs include an application form related to your previous experience and theological principles, a Statement of Faith and a five-year Professional Development Research plan. Application packs must be submitted by Friday 2 May, 2014.

You can read the Job Description here.

Calvin: The Man and the Legacy

Calvin The Man and the Legacy

After over four years in the wings, it is indeed a delight to see that Calvin: The Man and the Legacy has finally hit the press. (One recalls Walter Benjamin’s words in Aesthetics and Politics―‘I came into the world under the sign of Saturn―the star of the slowest revolution, the planet of detours and delays’).

The book, which is edited by Murray Rae, Peter Matheson and Brett Knowles, consists mostly of papers delivered at a conference held at the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership in 2009, one of a plethora of conferences organised to mark the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth. It really was a great two days—marked by intelligent papers on a diverse range of themes, good humour, abundant attendance, a generosity of spirit, real coffee, and low testosterone, a combination of features relatively rare at these kinds of gigs.

The book’s description reads:

Alongside essays on aspects of Calvin’s theology, Calvin: The Man and the Legacy includes studies of Calvin as pastor, preacher and liturgist and traces the influence of Calvin as it was conveyed through Scottish migration to Australia and New Zealand. Fascinating stories are told of the ways in which the Calvinist tradition has contributed much to the building of colonial societies, but also of the ways it has attracted ridicule and derision and has been subject to caricature that is sometimes deserved, sometimes humorous, but often grossly misleading.

And the TOC reads:

Part 1: The Man and His Thought

1. Graham Redding—Medicine for Poor Sick Souls?: Calvin’s Communion Service in Profile
2. Jason Goroncy—John Calvin: Servant of the Word
3. Randall Zachman—The Grateful Humility of the Children of God: Knowledge of Ourselves in Calvin’s Theology
4. Elise McKee—A Week in the Life of John Calvin
5. Murray Rae—Calvin on the Authority of Scripture
6. Randall Zachman—Calvin’s Interpretation of Scripture

Part II: The Legacy and the Caricature

7. John Roxborogh—Thomas Chalmers and Scottish Calvinism in the Nineteenth Century
8. John Stenhouse—Calvin’s Own Country? Calvinists, anti-Calvinists and the Making of New Zealand Culture
9. Peter Matheson—The Reception of Calvin and Calvinism in New Zealand: a Preliminary Trawl
10. Alison Clarke—Popular Piety, the Sacraments and Calvinism in Colonial New Zealand
11. Kirstine Moffat—‘Mr Calvin and Mr Knox’: The Calvinist Legacy in the Fiction and Poetry of New Zealand Scots
12. Ian Breward—Calvin in Australia and New Zealand

You can pick up a copy here.

The dirty politics of oil

Oil drilling

News that the Texan oil and gas exploration company Anadarko Petroleum Corporation is to undertake a test drilling program in the Canterbury Basin just off the Otago Peninsula is causing stir here in Dunedin among a good number of residents deeply concerned about the significant environmental and economic risks that such drilling poses to the region. Shell too have plans to explore the Great South Basin for additional oil and gas reserves.

Such highly-charged ventures rarely display politics in its most attractive, reasoned, transparent and democratic guise. One example of this occurred just a few weeks ago (on 10 January) when the intelligent and responsible folk who make up the St Martin Island Community were ordered, by the Otago Regional Council, to take down a ‘No Drill’ sign (erected in late October 2013) because, according to the ORC, the community were in breach of resource consent which states that ‘no advertising signage shall be erected on the jetty’. Now it’s not at all clear to me, or to the SMIC, just how such a sign is an example of ‘advertising’. (It is difficult to imagine such an order being issued for a sign encouraging the All Blacks to thrash their opponents at a game at the ORC’s beloved stadium (once described, in what sounds like a joke, as ‘pivotal to Dunedin and Otago’s future’; similar rhetoric was being used to sell the drilling program: ‘A key to Dunedin’s future prosperity could lie buried beneath the seabed just 60km off the coast’, we are told), or a sign welcoming cash-carrying Chinese tourists to Dunedin, or a sign championing the importance of brushing one’s teeth without the use of rat poisons, for example. And yet a ‘No Drill’ sign appears to me to be of much the same order.)

At the most recent meeting of the SMIC Council, it was decided that an appeal of the ORC’s decision would be made to the Environment Court asking for a stay on the grounds that the ‘No Drill’ sign is not advertising but ‘a prudent safety message’. Such an appeal has since been lodged and we now await the court’s decision, hoping that common sense and the rule of law (these are not always at odds!) will prevail over all other interests. Certainly any democracy that seeks to legislate against legitimate (i.e., non-violent) forms of protest has failed tragically to understand its own virtue.

Saint Martin Island

The Story of Dr Beryl Howie

Beryl HowieIt was 1958 when the London-based Ludhiana Fellowship invited Beryl Howie, a young and newly qualified New Zealand obstetrician/gynaecologist, to join the staff of the Ludhiana Hospital in India. In this invitation, Beryl recognised God’s calling, and went to India.

It was no easy challenge. In addition to undertaking a very busy clinical load, she also had to learn at least one of two local languages. Along the way, she was sustained by her faith in God, faith which motivated not only her medical work, but which also encouraged the study of the Bible among the students and patients that she had come to love. It came as a bit of a shock, therefore, when just before she was due for her first furlough the Ludhiana Fellowship told her that they had decided to move their support to training Indian doctors and asked her to find support elsewhere. Bewildered but not undetermined, and after exploring several options, she soon accepted an invitation from the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand to become one of their missionaries and, in 1963, she set off under new colours but to essentially the same job.

Over the next few years, while Beryl’s own workload stretched, so too did the old buildings in which she worked and which became increasingly inadequate for the burgeoning number of patients and new theatre equipment which arrived. She was soon dreaming about a new hospital for women and, during her next furlough, she challenged the New Zealand churches to raise $500,000 towards this. People all over New Zealand took enthusiastically to the project. When they had reached $100,000, the New Zealand Government offered to contribute $500,000 if the project raised that amount by Christmas. This challenge sparked off further enthusiasm among New Zealand churches. Several other missionaries were ‘at home on leave’ from India and others with a strong interest in Ludhiana helped to enthuse congregations and individuals to great heights. Suffice to say that Beryl returned to India with the plans and funding to begin planning for a new hospital and to start building.

Teaching Hundreds to Heal Millions

At the same time, she continued to work towards raising the standard of care of patients and developing higher educational and treatment standards of doctors, nurses and midwives.

But there was another encouraging development. When Beryl first came to India, all newly-trained doctors with any available funding went to the UK and, if possible, the USA for postgraduate training. Most of them then looked for work there and didn’t return to India but rather supported their families from the high salaries they now earned. Beryl longed to change the natural path of graduates to keep them in India to serve their own compatriots. To that end, quality advanced training would have to be available. By 1980, 84% of all graduates in obstetrics and 29 of her MD graduates remained in practice in India.

In 1981, Beryl finally left India and found work in two other missionary challenges – one was to write a text book on obstetrics and gynaecology specifically for students in India , and the other was to visit missionaries all over South East Asia and further encourage the development of improved healthcare.

After finally retiring to New Zealand, she was honoured with an honorary doctorate in science by the University of Otago.

My friend Bartha Hill has just authored a beautiful little book on Howie – Teaching Hundreds To Heal Millions: The Story of Dr Beryl Howie – and those in Dunedin are warmly welcome to attend its launch on Sunday 17 November, at 2 pm, at Highgate Presbyterian Church, Maori Hill, Dunedin.

‘The Conversion of the Māori': a review

Timothy Yates, The Conversion of the Māori: Years of Religious and Social Change, 1814–1842 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2013). ISBN 978-0-8028-6945-6. 150pp.

A guest post by Graeme Ferguson

When James Hamlin, my great, great grandfather, joined the CMS mission at Paihia in 1826, he came as an artisan lay missionary. His trade was flax dressing. He quickly found that not only was the New Zealand flax a distinctively different species, but also that the Māori knew a great deal more about flax weaving than he did. As a result, his life changed direction. He became a fluent idiomatic Māori linguist able to contribute to the translation of the Scriptures into Māori; he was a trusted mediator and negotiator between warring tribes; he was a faithful catechist and church planter in places where Pākehā rarely penetrated; he was a dogged explorer and a good farmer. In the last years of his long service, Selwyn was finally persuaded against his better judgement to ordain him. (Hamlin, after all, was not a ‘gentleman’.) With his wife, Elizabeth, they had twelve children. Two sons intermarried with local tribes-people so that their descendants reflect the unity in diversity of the meeting of the races in the development of this country. At Captain Symonds request, he called the hui of the Manukau tribes, in the area of Awhitu to witness the Treaty of Waitangi. Te Whero Whero who was present, ensured that few Manukau chiefs signed, since his authority as Māori king and Paramount Chief of Tainui was not to be compromised.

Hamlin’s life of undistinguished, faithful service encapsulates many of the questions that any writer on the formative years of the New Zealand mission needs to confront. It is with these questions that I approached Timothy Yates’ book in Eerdmans’ series Studies in the History of Christian Missions (SHCM).

Yates’ overview of the development of the Christian mission in New Zealand is a competent survey. It recognises the role of Māori in transmitting the Gospel so that missionaries in newly planted stations already found worshipping communities who had been told the Christian story. This could have been further developed. He deals with the relations between Anglican, Methodist and Catholic missions but may not have adequately considered the fraught nature of the different expectations in each group. He deals judiciously with difficulties relating to inappropriate moral lapses by Kendall, Yates and others and alludes to the tensions people coped with in establishing communities in the bush.

The strength of his work lies in his assiduous reading of the correspondence and reports between missionaries and their sending agencies – the CMS, the MMS and the Marist order in Paris. But the writer gives me less confidence that he has an adequate grasp of the socio-cultural context in New Zealand, within which the missions operated. He also shows both linguistic and geographic insecurity that does not enhance his work. (My favourites are the mis-spelling of Te Whero Whero, and various odd adjectival forms of Māori  places.) My evaluation is that the work is ‘worthy’ rather than ‘insightful.’

My first question relates to the way he interprets his primary source documents. The question is: who were these reports written for and what did they expect to hear? How far were they written to accommodate European attitudes and expectations which may or may not reflect the situation on the ground? To what extent could the recipients grasp what was happening in the encounter between the missionaries and the people of the land? I suspect that a healthy suspicion of what was being written is called for.

Secondly, I am interested to know what the effective points of contact were within which the Gospel was able to be shared. What was being offered and what was really being heard? Yates draws attention to the insights into local society and practices that the more insightful missionaries observed which were essential to good understanding and communication. I am interested in the differences the Gospel made in how people lived.

Thirdly, I would like to know the tenets of the Gospel that were in the forefront of missionary proclamation, what was heard and the degree to which it was appropriated and internalised. These people had very limited access to resources. Each mission had its catechism and tradition of teaching in books, like Wesley’s Forty Four Sermons or Pearson on the Creed, but few resources beyond these basic texts. All taught through methods of catechesis but in each case the content would be culturally alien to their hearers. There is the further question of the pedagogical value of catechesis as an educational tool.

Coupled with this is the role of worship in expanding the mission. Large groups are reported as gathering to worship. What were they doing? How far was worship another expression of traditional spirituality and how far an imposed foreign structure? What was going on?

The way in which missionary families lived within the host communities is crucial. The fact that many lived with mutual respect and good will and were trusted is a mark of the practical wisdom many brought to their service. I suspect that their impact was primarily experiential as they lived out the Gospel in community in the tradition of nineteenth century romantic sensibility.

A further question relates to extending the missions. One would like to know where the concentrations of population were that led to establishing stations in what are now oddly inaccessible places. Yates did this in discussing siting the initial station at Rangihoua because of the protection Ruatara was able to offer. I would like it more widely considered.

The overarching question is: what did the local people hear and what did they make their own? To what extent was the Gospel indigenised and internalised? This question is crucial and finds its high point in the reception of the Treaty of Waitangi itself. The dominant narrative on that occasion utilised the thought forms and cultural images of nineteenth-century evangelical Christianity on issues of covenant and promise, rule and governance, responsibility and citizenship, the rule of law and the place of land. The Treaty could be ratified in many places because those interpreting the terms of the Treaty were trusted in their communities. Like the wider transmission of the Gospel, the Treaty was reinterpreted in local cultural terms in order to be received and accepted.

While there is much of interest in Mr Yates’ book, it is written from the perspective of a disengaged observer. Years ago, Archbishop Appleton commented that if he were to have his time as a missionary in Burma over again, he would don a saffron robe and sit and listen for seven years before he began to share the good news of the Gospel. I suspect that more engaged listening would have improved this present study.

Position: Director, Presbyterian Church Schools’ Resource Office

Applications are now invited for the position of Director of the Presbyterian Church Schools’ Resource Office. In 2011, an office was established to strengthen and support the Christian character of the thirteen schools and colleges around the country that are affiliated to, or associated with, the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. This role consists largely of supporting chaplains and religious education teachers in their work, and the compilation and development of curriculum resources.

The office is run by the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership on behalf of the church schools. It is currently located in Auckland, but can be relocated if necessary.

This is a half-to-two-thirds-time position.

The successful candidate will have a theological qualification, a teaching Diploma, and proven experience in chaplaincy and/or teaching. Knowledge of, and/or ministry within, the Presbyterian Church and the Reformed tradition will be an advantage.

Enquiries about the position (including requests for a job description) should be directed to the Principal of the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, the Very Rev Dr Graham Redding (phone: 03 473 0784; email).

Applications should be submitted to the Principal of the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, either in hard copy (address: Knox College, Arden St., Opoho, Dunedin 9010) or electronically (email) by 15 November 2013.

Jonathan Mane-Wheoki on Christianity and Māori Art and Architecture

The Crucified Tekoteko by Darcy NicholasIn July this year, the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Otago hosted the first of what promises to be a biannual lecture series in honour of Professor Albert Moore. This year’s lectures were delivered by Professor Jonathan Mane-Wheoki, Professor of Fine Arts at Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland, and addressed the theme Toi Karaitiana: Christianity and Māori Art and Architecture’.

For those who missed these lectures, or would like to experience them post festum, these are now available:

  • Lecture 1: From Samuel Marsden to Frederick Bennett: Te Hahi Mihinare (23 July) [Video; Audio]
  • Lecture 2: From Patoru Tamatea to Ralph Hotere: The impact of Catholic spirituality and iconography (24 July) [Video; Audio]
  • Lecture 3: Regret and resistance – The Crucified Tekoteko (25 July) [Video; Audio]

My friend Andrew has also provided a wee summary of the lectures here.

Ageing and Spirituality conference

Aging-5The Selwyn Centre for Ageing and Spirituality is organising a one-day conference to ‘hear New Zealand researchers and others with an academic interest in the area speak about ageing and spirituality’.

Dates:  6 September 2013, 9.30 am – 4 pm

Place:   Tamaki Campus – University of Auckland, 261 Morrin Rd, St Johns, Auckland

The conference is concerned with the following topics:

• Spirituality and ageing: a discussion from a principle-based, evidence-informed and zeitgeist-based approach
• Spirituality teaching in NZ medical schools
• Spirituality in a Dunedin rest home
• The church and older people after the Christchurch earthquakes
• Older people and euthanasia
• Religious and spiritual data from the LILAC study
• The role of religion/spirituality in mental health and mental health care – general findings and data and literature relevant to the older adult participants
• Caregiving across cultures
• Grief and loss in caregivers of people with dementia
• The role of caregivers and their interaction with rest home residents, particularly noting their preparedness to respond to needs of a spiritual nature
•  Spirituality in residential dementia care

More information here.

Orders of Service for a Tangihanga and an Unveiling: A resource manual for worship leaders

Te Paepae Tapu o Te Maungarongo ki Ohope

The Rev Wayne Te Kaawa, the Moderator of Te Aka Puaho (the Māori Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand) has helpfully produced a bilingual Māori and English resource for ministers and worship leaders who may need resources to aid them with a tangi, funeral and unveiling. It can be downloaded here.

The cruel and godless practice of live animal exports

live-export-australian-steer-slaughtered-indonesiaRecently, I posted a video of David Clough’s lecture ‘Rethinking Animality: Towards a New Animal Ethics’. One of the reasons that I drew attention to that lecture was because I consider the work that David (and others too) is engaged in around this issue to be incontrovertibly ‘vital’ [from the late fourteenth century Latin vitalis, meaning 'of or belonging to life']. Any society that takes lightly the killing of animals (those creatures whom Dietrich Bonhoeffer refers to as the brothers whom Adam loves), as do those societies with which I am most familiar, has grossly misjudged the sheer giftedness of life itself and is, it seems to me, already well on the way to responding lightly to and of justifying various forms of homicide and deathliness in its midst, blinded by the lie that the life of any creature belongs to something or someone other than God. This is why Karl Barth, for example, argued with due passion that ‘the slaying of animals is really possible only as an appeal to God’s reconciling grace’, and that we ought to have very good reasons for why we might claim the life of another creature for ours. Human beings can only kill an animal, Barth avers, knowing that it does not belong to us but to God alone, and that in killing it – an act which itself is incredibly traumatic, as I can testify – one surrenders it to God in order to receive it back from God as something one needs and desires. ‘The killing of animals in obedience is possible’, Barth contends, ‘only as a deeply reverential act of repentance, gratitude and praise on the part of the forgiven sinner in face of the One who is the Creator and Lord of humanity and beast’. Here Barth’s words compliment the Jewish tradition which champions the need to avoid tzar baalei chayim – causing pain to any living creature – and insists that where animals are killed that they are done so ‘with respect and compassion’, most properly by way of shechita.

With that, I come to the subject of this post; namely, live animal exports. Animals Australia reports that

every year millions of Australian animals are exported live for slaughter. Those who survive the journey often endure brutal treatment and conscious slaughter. Cattle, sheep and goats are sent throughout the Middle East and South East Asia — to countries with no laws to protect them from cruelty. Tens of thousands of animals don’t survive the sea journey and those that do disembark into countries where they are transported, handled and then slaughtered in appalling ways. Most animals slaughtered overseas have their throats cut while they are fully conscious, leading to an incredibly painful and prolonged death. Since 2003, Animals Australia has conducted numerous investigations into the treatment of animals exported from Australia. The evidence from investigations in the Middle East and South East Asia has consistently revealed the willingness of Australia’s live export industry, and consecutive Federal Governments, to export live animals despite appalling cruelty in importing markets.

While Australia remains by far the world’s largest exporter of sheep and cattle, this is not, of course, only an Australian issue. Earlier this year, the New Zealand Herald, for example, reported a ‘Boom in live cattle exports to China’, although thanks to the Customs Exports Prohibition (Livestock for Slaughter) Order these are mostly for breeding purposes, and recent protests at the Port of Dover in the UK are evidence that exporting of live cattle remains a practice in the UK and the EU, with exports going mainly to Italy and France.

This video, produced by Animals Australia, testifies to the cruel and godless practices that attend the live export of animals:

Clearly, this is a political as well as a moral issue (not that the two can ever be separated); and as the Australian Federal election draws near, I wish to publicise my support for the campaign by Animals Australia and Ban Live Export against the sickening and anti-vital practice of live animal exports. I learned recently that one of the Coalition’s priorities, should it win the election, is to ‘apologise’ to Indonesia (a country that receives some 45% of Australia’s live animals) for the Labour Government’s five week trade suspension in 2011, a suspension put in place in direct response to an ABC Four Corner’s program, ‘A Bloody Business’, which exposed the practices that attend live animal exports. In Australia, with the exception of Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, it has been The Greens who have consistently spoken out against this practice and who have sort to (re)introduce the Live Animal Export (Slaughter) Prohibition Bill (2012) into the Senate. And in New Zealand, from which there has been no live animal exports for slaughter since 2003, it is again The Green Party who have tried to maintain pressure to restrict the export of live animals. (I don’t mention this in order to propagandise for The Greens, but simply to report a fact.)

Here is the campaign video produced by Animals Australia:

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, and the other Coalition party leaders, seem to have forgotten – or, just couldn’t give a rats about – the outrage that Australians felt after that program aired, the facts therein being also corroborated by the live export industry’s own reports. Certainly, it is difficult to see how any formal apology to the Indonesian government or business groups could do anything other than serve to send a message that animal abuse is condoned. To my mind, this ought to be an important election issue. It is certainly an important theological issue. So if you are a fellow Australian citizen, or have your name on the electoral role, then please consider joining me in supporting this campaign.

Jobs for historians? – yeah right!

Scott, Great moments in New Zealand history

… that’s what I thought, but it seems that the Waitangi Tribunal, a permanent commission of inquiry that researches and reports on claims submitted by Māori under the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975, is serious about seeking to appoint two historians and one senior historian.

  • Information on the historian positions, including the job description and application form and process, is available here.  Applications close 19 July.
  • Information on the senior historian position, including the job description and application form and process, is available here.  Applications close 10 July.

Should you require any further information, please email Jonathan West.

‘Outspoken: Coming Out in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand’ – a review

OutspokenLiz Lightfoot (ed.), Outspoken: Coming Out in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2011). ISBN: 9781877578083; 218pp.

A guest review by André Muller

In mid-2009, Liz Lightfoot, an independent researcher working under the supervision of Dr John Paterson of the University of Waikato, interviewed eleven subjects as part of a project aimed at documenting the stories of gay and lesbian people within the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. Whatever the merits of the ‘Listening Process’ upon which the Anglican Communion embarked in the wake of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, it has become clear that many gay and lesbian Anglicans feel that their stories have not in fact been heard. In publishing the edited versions of her interviews, Lightfoot hopes, in a modest way, to redress this situation, if only by showing that at least some gay and lesbian people have been so hurt by the Church as to have abandoned all hope that the ‘Listening Process’ is anything other than a charade concealing a profound lack of courage on the part of those charged with leading the Church. If this reveals an irony at the heart of a project commended as a contribution to that process, it is perhaps one that brings a measure of clarity to the situation in which Anglicans (and, by analogy, members of other Churches), find themselves, by drawing attention to the limits of an official process that has, by its inability to bring about effective change, done a great deal to foster cynicism on the part of the very people it is claiming to serve. Such a process is yet to prove itself a means by which the complexity and depth of the often painful experiences of gays and lesbians within the Church is rendered audible to clergy and laity alike. To talk of the need for honest dialogue while in practice allowing a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy to flourish at both official and unofficial levels, is simply to have failed to hear the voices of gays and lesbians.

It may seem rather strange to press the logic of Lightfoot’s book in this way, since it is presented as a piece of qualitative research that aims to conform to academic standards (indeed, it is published by a university press). But Lightfoot is aware that the role she is playing is more than that of the neutral observer. She believes her research to be ‘primarily about justice and about what is done, how people are treated in the name of God’ (p. 15), and this as a way of outworking a ‘gospel bias … to the oppressed and towards justice … to the suffering and towards healing … to the captives and towards liberation’. Given such commitment, it is curious then that Lightfoot hedges at the very moment when most is at stake, claiming that when it comes to the issue of homosexuality, ‘the definitions of justice, healing and liberty are up for debate’. This is fine in so far as empirical descriptions of the way in which that issue, or rather, set of issues, is being played out within the Anglican Communion go, but it is clear that the justice with which her research is concerned is incommensurate with policies that would exclude gays and lesbians from full participation in the Church. To appeal here, as Lightfoot does, to the supposed ability of the Anglican Church to accommodate a range of views on the subject, or worse, to theological clichés that insist that ‘God is beyond theology’ and ‘sexuality is no barrier to God’s love’ (p. 16) is to beg the very question at stake. It is hard, particularly when reading the introduction, not to feel that Lightfoot wants to answer that question while, at the same time, pretending that she isn’t.

The bulk of Lightfoot’s book is, of course, taken up with the edited versions of the interviews she conducted between May and July 2009. The experiences of the eleven interviewees are, as one might expect, enormously diverse, and it would be perilous to attempt any generalisations were it not for the fact that Lightfoot herself encourages us to do so by offering at the end of each interview some reflections that ‘might help the reader’s understanding of the participant’s experience’, and by summing up the key themes that emerge from her interviews in a concluding ‘postscript’. There is a quite proper sophistication to the analysis Lightfoot offers in the concluding pages of her book, recognising that the process of ‘coming out’ is an enormously complicated one for gay and lesbian people within the Church. ‘The cost of integrity in the church is devastatingly high’, one of the interviewees remarks, and Lightfoot sees in this comment a way of approaching one of the key problems that gay and lesbian Christians face. Indeed, notions of personal integrity, and therefore, notions of the self, play a profoundly important role in many of the experiences of Lightfoot’s interviewees. To cite but one example, after coming out to his wife (of more than thirty years) and children, ‘Rob’ (all the names are pseudonyms) tells Lightfoot that he decided to write them a letter, saying ‘I love you and all the rest of those nice, humane and truthful things but I have to be true to myself too. There’s not much point living a lie and having you people happy and me not. I’ve got another thirty years perhaps, if I play it right’. If many of the other interviewees come off sounding less childish than this, the imperative to be ‘true to myself’ is one that continually resurfaces throughout the book as an explanation, even justification, for often painful, and sometimes tragic, decisions.

At this point we begin to see the sort of work that is being done by Lightfoot’s insistence that ‘people’s lives are sacred ground’. Although it is not immediately clear what she means by this claim, it effectively functions as a way of forestalling any attempt to question the Emersonian framework that supplies the moral imperative to be ‘true to myself’. It was the American novelist and host of A Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor, who once remarked that Ralph Waldo Emerson had a great deal to answer for, not least because his writings encouraged men and women who would have made fine accountants and bus drivers and lawyers, to become very bad writers and musicians and artists, and to find in their supposedly artistic temperaments the warrant for jettisoning ordinary virtues like kindness and patience. They were told to throw caution to the wind, to escape from the ordinary obligations and responsibilities that constrained their lives, and to be true to themselves. Only the selves they were being true to were selves in the process of becoming monstrous precisely to the degree that they were being extricated from concrete and unspectacular obligations to others. Monstrous and, we might add, incoherent (which may be the same thing), since the attempt to orientate myself, to find my bearings within the world, by appealing to myself is necessarily self-defeating. Not only does it trade upon an essentialism that is profoundly problematic – a stable self, at one remove from our interactions with others (a self, therefore, behind the public, historical self), that is simply there to be known; it also presumes that knowledge of that self is a rather straightforward affair. It was the early church theologian Augustine of Hippo who pointed out that we are not, in fact, perspicuous to ourselves; that we cannot simply lay ourselves out like a map. There is no vantage point from which we can obtain a clear enough vision of ourselves for us to be able to say, at any one point in our lives, ‘now, at last, I am truly being myself’.

The question here is whether the Emersonian logic to which many of the interviewees in Lightfoot’s book appeal as in some sense offering justification for actions they have committed can actually do the work it is claiming to do. When ‘Rob’ tells his family that he has to ‘be true’ to himself, or ‘Edward’ says that one of the best things about his new homosexual life is ‘just being open … just being myself’ (p. 33), or ‘Janet’ suggests that the root cause of the sense of emptiness she felt while married was that she was ‘unfulfilled in terms of who I am’ (p. 41), or ‘Gareth’ says that it is out of ‘my spiritual journey that I’ve discovered and come to terms with who I am’ (p. 151), even when ‘Naomi’ says that ‘the Church is my home, where I am myself’ (p. 118), one has to ask whether the sort of clarity that is being presumed here is the sort of clarity that human beings can have with respect to themselves. And if it is not, we have to admit that if we are to try to come to terms with the experiences of those interviewed in Lightfoot’s book, we must press them to provide deeper, more adequate, accounts of those experiences. ‘What precisely do you mean when you say you are just being yourself?’ is the sort of a question a good interviewer ought to ask. At the very least, we might expect Lightfoot’s postscript to contain some analysis of the Emersonian framework that plays such an important role in many of the interviewee’s account of their experiences. Instead, Lightfoot offers her readers an exemplarist Christology that has itself been thoroughly domesticated by that framework. ‘What I see in the life of Jesus’, Lightfoot writes, ‘is someone integrated. Not someone living, as we all do to some extent, on conflicting, disparate planes. He was what he seemed; he was what he claimed to be’ (p. 214). To point out that such a picture of Jesus bears little resemblance to those offered in the Gospels would be to misunderstand what it is that Lightfoot is doing here. She is not commenting on the historical, flesh-and-blood Jesus, but rather seeking to legitimate one particular – and highly modern – account of what it means to be human. ‘My understanding is that our Christian journey is one towards integration of the parts of us that we might prefer not to face’ (p. 214). Only an Emersonian could write of the Christian life in such terms, freeing it from any real connection to the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth, indeed, reinventing that life so that it conforms to pictures of what it means to be human that would have been sheerly unintelligible to pre-moderns.

Lightfoot’s book is marked by a curious naivety. She wants to make a number of substantive claims without engaging in the sort of critical analysis that those claims demand if, that is, they are to be convincing. She asserts, and then pulls back at the very points when most is at stake. In so doing, she is not serving the subjects of her interviews, but abandoning them. Neither is she serving her readers, who find that they are unable to gain real purchase on the experiences of those they are reading about precisely to the extent that the notion of ‘being myself’ remains unexamined. In the end, what we are left with are stories that in themselves are rather unremarkable: a man leaves his wife for his gay lover, only to find that some people in his local church are not sympathetic; a devout woman discovers that she is a lesbian, and has to rethink certain aspects of the conservative theology with which she was brought up; and so on. Such stories are valuable in their way, but not very interesting. And this because Lightfoot does not allow us to get into the inside of them, in the way, for example, that Conrad enables us to gain some purchase on the experiences of Tuan Jim, or Stryon on those of Peyton Loftis. If Lightfoot is right to say that selves are ‘sacred’, then this must be an invitation not to call a halt to our enquiry, but to probe further, knowing that in the end, as Augustine understood, it not we who confer meaning on our lives, but one who is closer to us than we are to ourselves.

The Tendering of New Zealand’s Restorative Justice Services: Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Restorative Justice New Zealand

A guest post by Janet Sim Elder

The recent announcement that government tendering of Restorative Justice (RJ) services throughout Aotearoa New Zealand to a smaller number of providers based here in NZ or from offshore is imminent. Judith Collins, Minister of Justice, has also announced there an increase of funding of $4.42 million in the May budget. Clearly this National Government wants to expand services.

A good thing you might say. Yes it is, but … and there is a large ‘but’. Ministry staff numbers entrusted with servicing the Restorative Justice groups around the country have gradually diminished over the last thirteen years since we in Dunedin and three other jurisdictions trained and were part of the world-first pilot of RJ as an alternative way of doing justice within the Justice system.

From a vibrant, forward-thinking, large group of public servants, the staff in this unit now number about five. The logic is, I suspect, that it is much easier and more cost efficient for a small group of Ministry staff to work with a handful of providers; the fewer the better.

Restorative Justice Aotearoa, the national grouping of all RJ services in NZ, is not in a position to put in a tender for all those services and is clearly not interested in doing so.

Nicola Taylor, the feisty Director of Anglican Family Care in Dunedin under whose umbrella we work as Restorative Justice Otago, providing long-term, highly professional and skilled work in bringing victims and offenders together to hear each other’s stories and to begin repair of the harms caused by offending, has decided we have no other option than to submit a tender ourselves. It’s risky because we have no certainty we will be successful, and because there is no contingency plan if we fail. Our story will be replicated throughout the country for the other RJ providers.

justice is what love looks like in publicSo we are committed to going all out for a strong bid to provide services in our Otago region. We have a depth and breadth of experience and are known and trusted by victims and offenders alike, as well as by local professionals working within and around the court system. This all has to be done in a few short weeks rather than months. Anglican Family Care is committing resources including in governance and making tenders to ensure we put in the best tender we can.

If you can help with brief letters of support for our bid, or for the RJ group near you elsewhere in the country in the same boat as we are, then, who knows, Peter does not have to be robbed in order to pay Paul and both might have a chance to live life in all its fullness!

To help out, please contact:

Restorative Justice Otago
c/- Anglican Family Care
PO Box 5219
Dunedin, Otago, NZ
p: +64 3 477 0801