Wed, 15 Apr 2015 21:05:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Becoming Mayor of Chicago Wed, 15 Apr 2015 20:55:48 +0000 Continue reading ]]> I surfaced this morning – in Scotland but reading the Irish Times on the app. Fintan O’Toole, who is one of their best, writes about the demise of the Irish political machine. He describes Ireland’s main contribution to world politics as being ‘transactional politics’ – by which he means ‘the creation of parties that could hold power by trading votes for favours on a massive scale – you give me your vote, I get you a public job or a house or access to health care.’ We used to call that messenger boy politics – public representatives seen as being in office to pull favours for the electorate and with a good deal of nepotism on the side.

O’Toole suggests that this has had its day. He quotes as evidence the place where this system has been seen at its most effective. That’s not in Ireland but in Chicago where it ensured the election and re-election of Mayor Richard Daley for 21 years to 1976 and then for his son Richard Michael Daley for a further 22 years. But the anointed successor Rahm Emmanuel was only elected in a run-off – because the system doesn’t work any more.

All of this is just one more example of the way in which systems, patterns and paradigms – call them what you will – change. Those of us who believe that the church is similarly challenged by changing patterns think about how we might respond.

I’ve been reading ‘From Anecdote to Evidence’ which you will find here

But I started with the critique which is called ‘From Delusion to Reality’. You will find it here

It’s not hard to see what works in congregational life. But it’s hard to see how what seems to work well can be replicated …

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The Holy Week lump in the throat Sun, 05 Apr 2015 08:46:24 +0000 Continue reading ]]> It’s hard to worship when you conduct worship. But I find that the repetition of the story in Holy Week in the end always ‘gets to me’

This year there were three …

The first was actually in Passiontide – early morning worship in the Chapel at St Andrews House, the Anglican Communion Offices in London. I was with the staff group who are a remarkably talented and very international community of people. ‘Which part will you sing?’, I was asked on the way in. So we sang ‘When I survey … ‘ without accompaniment in four part harmony. Quietly. And at the end there was one of those pauses which says that ‘something happened’

The second I was ready for but it still caught me. Peter goes out and weeps bitterly and so do I. It’s the story of the person whose reality couldn’t match their aspirations. Or to bring it closer to me .. the person who thought they could fly but who crashed to earth.

The third was last night’s Easter Vigil. I’ve been with our congregations in Auchterarder and Muthill this week, rediscovering my soul as a parish priest. Darkened church .. Paschal Candle .. story of God’s faithfulness read by faithful people in the timelessness of semi-darkness. Its the story of hope gradually emerging from despair – the triumph of soul over mind. We hugged each other at the end and went home.

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Chrism Mass Sat, 04 Apr 2015 14:52:56 +0000 Continue reading ]]> We gathered on Thursday to renew our Ordination Vows and be anointed for ministry. Always a moving moment – particularly so this year when we have quite a number of clergy who have joined us since last year.

This is what I said

I believe ever more strongly that the sustaining of vocation is at the heart of clergy life – sustaining with resilience through the up’s and down’s of ministry; living out of it so that we are defended against anger and bitterness; standing back from it and wondering so that we can walk the way of love That’s why the ministry which our Diocesan Director of Ordinands exercises on behalf of all of us is so important. That’s why the establishment of the post of Provincial Director of Ordinands as a 2/3 post is equally important.

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With our students Wed, 01 Apr 2015 22:07:26 +0000 Continue reading ]]> I was glad to be able to meet our students from the Scottish Episcopal Institute in Saturday. It’s all very new. We’ve moved on from TISEC to a new training institute with its emphasis on formation.


Well for me that means just about everything. It’s about how vocation is nurtured. It’s about the shaping of future clergy and Lay Readers in the spirituality on which they can draw as they face the demands of ministry. It’s about the skills which they need to offer pastoral care and leadership which is both authoritative and collegial. Ministry is a demanding calling and we owe it to those who make this commitment to give them the best training possible.

I went to talk about Mission and Evangelism with them – to learn as well as talk. I could have spent time on ‘what we do and how we do it’. But I reckon that that is for other people at other times. I think it’s important to help people to reflect on the nature of our church – its culture and context. Our future clergy need to understand that and to work with the grain of it if they are not to be disappointed and frustrated as they help our church to grow.

Ah well … more after tomorrow’s Chrism Mass

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Leanne’s Baptism – Dot pours the water Thu, 26 Mar 2015 16:47:37 +0000 Continue reading ]]> IMG_0367.JPG

I was glad to be part of Leeanne’s baptism on Sunday at St Finnian’s, Lochgelly. Dot pours the water – responding to my request to pour it from high enough that you can hear it!

Lochgelly is in the heart of post-industrial Fife. It was known for having the lowest house prices in Britain. Our congregation has held together – it’s really important that our church should be present in places like Lochgelly. They are now growing again with leadership and encouragement from Lay Reader, Margaret Dineley.

Leanne’s baptism was an opportunity for celebration and affirmation

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Giving up sermons for Lent Wed, 18 Mar 2015 11:08:56 +0000 Continue reading ]]> IMG_0364.JPG

Revd Graham Taylor, Rector of St John’s, Perth, told his congregation that he was ‘giving up sermons for Lent’. What he meant was that he was going to interview members of the congregation and encourage them to talk about life and faith.

So he did that with me on Sunday. We had what I thought was quite a searching conversation. It took place at the end of the week in which I marked 10 years since my consecration and arrival in Scotland. So there was some reflecting about that. We talked about my reaction to illness and whether I felt that faith had sustained me. We also looked at the ‘can a bishop go to heaven?’ question. The latter sounds frivolous but it is anything but that. I told Graham that I found some of the conflicts which a bishop is involved in to be spiritually distressing at a deep level.

And what about giving up sermons? Well I think we need to work hard at the difficult art of preaching. I try hard not to read a script because communication which appears to be spontaneous communicates better. ‘Appears to be spontaneous’ – because there has to be an underlying script if the preacher is to achieve a creative blend of economy and spontaneity – with personal conviction. As a Rector, I was fond of interviewing members of the congregation. That’s how the media do it and I think it works for us. People want to hear personal story and faith story – and this is a good way of giving them access to that.

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Commemoration, Reflection and Remembrqnce Fri, 13 Mar 2015 15:34:26 +0000 Continue reading ]]> IMG_0360-0.JPG

I was glad to be in St Paul’s Cathedral today for the Service to mark the end of operations in Afghanistan. It was a dignified service which acknowledged bravery, faithfulness and the costliness of it. Archbishop Justin referred to the families ‘taking the phone to bed ….’ Just in case.

I sat beside my friend and colleague, Rt Rev John Chalmers, whose son was wounded and was in the congregation. I was really glad to meet Ivor and Marie Turkington, whose son Neal died during the campaign. Neal was a friend and contemporary of our younger son, Mark. I knew him well and preached at his funeral. Ivor and Marie and their family are building schools in Afghanistan. Their courage is humbling

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Canon Alison Peden moves to St Modoc’s, Doune Thu, 12 Mar 2015 23:54:08 +0000 Continue reading ]]> IMG_0358.JPG

Canon Alison Peden has been instituted as Rector of St Modoc’s, Doune. The preacher was Bishop Kevin Pearson.

This completes another set of significant changes in the life of our church. Alison will spend one third of her time at Doune. The rest of her time will be spent in her expanded role as Provincial Director of Ordinands, working as part of the Scottish Episcopal Institute – our new training agency for our future clergy and Lay Readers.

I find that people tend to make rather gloomy assumptions about the supply of potential ordinands. The reality is that people are appearing and uttering those remarkable words, ‘I believe that God is calling me to be a priest’. Not enough perhaps to replace the high level of retirements which are coming – but a much healthier situation. Alison’s task will be to oversee their journey from vocational discernment, through training and on into ministry.

So she – and the staff of the Institute – have in their hands the shaping of the next generation of people in ministry in our church. Literally a vital task

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Diocesan Synod – an annual marker #pisky Sat, 07 Mar 2015 18:03:07 +0000 Continue reading ]]> We had our Diocesan Synod today – my eleventh as it happens.

We are quite upbeat at the moment. Many of our congregations which were seeking clergy now have the new leadership which they need. And those clergy seem to be settling in well and giving us all encouragement. By my calculation, we have five more appointments to make – and one recently-appointed to be instituted. If you come from a diocese which counts its clergy in 100’s, that may not seem like a lot. But for us, it is really significant

During our Synod, we commissioned Revd Thomas Brauer as our Diocesan Missioner. This is also a really significant event which greatly increases our capacity for development in our congregations.

This was my Bishop’s Address
And this was my Sermon at the Eucharist

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The power of symbolic action #pisky #anglican #ecobishops Thu, 26 Feb 2015 11:54:08 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Here at the Eco-Bishops Conference, we are coming to the end of our time together. We are all professional talkers and conference goers. So the question of whether we might together engage in some symbolic action – something which has power beyond words – begins to float into the conversation.

I’ve always believed in the power of symbolic action. I learned early on in Northern Ireland the negative power of symbols – most obviously flags and emblems. I learned that you can sometimes negotiate the substance of things. But symbolic stuff is directly connected to the feelings and the gut – and tends therefore to be non-negotiable.

But this is South Africa. And deep in the communal memory here are symbolic actions which had positive and creative power – which crossed barriers and were transformative in that they helped people to see things in a new way, The ‘Invictus’ example – Mandela putting on the Springbok Rugby Jersey is only the most potent,

So in the midst of the talking, we’ve been searching for a symbolic action which of itself wouldn’t change anything – but which might catch attention and encourage people to think in a new way about Climate Change issues.

Maybe – let’s see ..

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Learning from indigenous peoples. #pisky #ecobishops #anglican Thu, 26 Feb 2015 10:17:29 +0000 Continue reading ]]> IMG_0347.JPG

We need to learn from the experience of indigenous peoples. One of the themes which has been emerging here at the Eco-Bishops Conference has been the need to recover and learn from the wisdom and experience of indigenous peoples.

The picture is of our Eucharist yesterday morning led by Bishop Mark, Canadian National Bishop for Indigenous Peoples. We sat in the ground conscious that we are hosted by creation rather than users of it. Our worship ‘under the trees’ with Bishop Api of Fiji carried similar messages. His people are aware of rising sea levels as a daily reality – the need to move whole populations is is becoming a possibility which they will need to contemplate.

These ages-old ways of thinking are integrated and subtle – which makes them hard to grasp for those of us who are used to the very binary ways of thinking in the developed world.

But I found myself being drawn towards the affinities between these ways of thinking which are embedded in the lives and traditions of indigenous people and the insights and understandings of Celtic Spirituality. The connections are in ways of integrating understandings of earth and heaven, the mundane and the spiritual.

So we are moving here from addressing climate change issues – and what others here prefer to call ‘climate justice’ – as a matter of a few tweaks in lifestyle, important as that may be. This is about challenging ways of thinking and theologies which have brought us to the crisis which now faces the world

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With the Eco-Bishops. #ecobishops. #pisky. #anglican Tue, 24 Feb 2015 09:34:12 +0000 Continue reading ]]> IMG_0343.JPG

‘Maybe a little piece of heaven ….?’ I said enquiringly to Andrew Deitsche, Bishop of New York as we headed into the Eco-Bishops dinner in a winery in Stellenbosch this evening. A beautiful South African evening in a lovely place – and the extraordinarily diverse group of Eco-Bishops reminding us of the global family of which we are a part.

Anyway .. It turned out to be a remarkable evening at which Helen Ziille, Premier of the Western Cape and Opposition a Leader was being honoured by the Tutzing Academy of West Germany.

We found ourselves in the presence of some authentic and moral communication of the strongest kind. She expressed her political philosophy: that everybody has the opportunity and the means to live the life which expresses the freedoms which they value’.

Such a comment has a particular poignancy when spoken in a beautiful place – when round the corner countless thousands of people are living in abject poverty and indignity in the townships of Cape Town.

And then she moved on to say what is special about South Africa – that the privilege of being South African is to take a shortcut through history – moving from being a pariah state to being a state where people learn to live their togetherness.

We have been listening this morning to Bishop Tom Wilmot of Perth – Australia’s Perth that is. He set out the reality of the crisis facing humanity. I’m learning but I can see that if we are to make any progress at all on addressing these issues, we need a new quality of political leadership – less of short-term pragmatism and more of vision expressed in practical reality. We heard some of that in the South African context last night – and we need to hear more of it in the global context

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Coherent Communion Fri, 20 Feb 2015 17:02:26 +0000 Continue reading ]]> It has often been stated that what the Anglican Communion offers is a way of being a global church without a centralised authority. But how to cohere – in the sense of holding together? Previous generations spoke of bonds of affection but that sounds a bit ‘soft’ to me. We’ve explored Anglican Covenant but that that isn’t the way forward.

The ‘single issue’ pressures which threaten to pull us apart are very strong. Both within provinces and across the Communion, clarity about divergence seems to offer more security than patient engagement in ‘honest conversation across difference’. Archbishop Justin speaks of ‘visible unity in Christ with functional diversity’

There are however many strands of our life which do help us to hold together. We have an extraordinary network of diocesan companionships – like our relationship in the Diocese of St Andrews with the Diocese of Calcutta – which quietly help us to explore and affirm what we share. Our contexts could not be more different – yet there is a commonality to our life which sustains our belonging together

And there are the Anglican Networks. I’m in South Africa at the moment – heading towards an Eco-Bishops Meeting which is being held at the invitation of Archbishop Thabo of South Africa. Shared concern about the impact of climate change is another agenda around which we can gather. I’ll be going to listen and learn from the experience of people whose lives are affected by climate change in dramatic ways. That meeting around climate change – like other meetings around other agendas – are part of the reason why I have hope for our Communion

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Eco-Bishops Meeting in South Africa Thu, 19 Feb 2015 20:05:22 +0000 Continue reading ]]> I’ll be writing more about this – but this is the reason why I am in South Africa at present

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Chair of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, is calling together a group of bishops from various countries impacted by climate change.
Bishops have been chosen from countries reflecting the great challenges we face, from the sea level rise of Fiji, the deforestation of Argentina, the droughts of Namibia, the hurricanes of the Philippines and the storms of New York, and the warming of Alaska. These bishops are united in their commitment to addressing these environmental challenges.
Sixteen bishops will be gathering in Capetown from the 23rd of February to exchange ideas and concerns, to share challenges and successes. First the bishops will hear about the challenges faced in different parts of the globe.
Then they will share actions and theologies that have been helpful in moving forward. The goal is to strategize together in order strategies for raising the issue of climate change and environmental degradation throughout the global Anglican Church.
What is the event?
A strategic planning meeting hosted by the Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa of a core group of bishops and archbishops whose dioceses or Provinces are in areas affected by climate change or in areas that contribute significantly to conditions that lead to climate change. The bishops and archbishops identified are already active in responding to climate change and environmental degradation as a result of human activity in various ways, eg, through theological exposition and challenge, advocacy, greening churches and communities, and supporting local mitigation.
Building on relationships already established virtually, the meeting will foster a strengthened, working collegiality among the bishops who have been identified and ultimately serve as a catalyst for further response and activities throughout the Communion.
The bishops will share their experience in responding to climate change so far, their hopes, their concerns, and ideas about how they, specifically, might organize themselves better for that purpose. They will have an opportunity to reflect and study together, and to look at the obstacles they face and discern what they can do, by working together, to move through these obstacles.
Drawing on their own experience and ideas, a strategic plan will be developed for themselves, with proposals for broader engagement in the Anglican Communion.
Science and the experience of the impacts of climate change suggest that in many ways survival is at stake – for human communities, for the ecosystems on which human life depends. We have listened to Anglicans in a number of regions where congregations face food and water shortages and other stresses that are directly linked to climate change. The meeting and the broader project will enable Anglicans at leadership level to make coordinated efforts towards upholding human dignity and the integrity of creation, and strengthening interdependence within the Anglican Communion as we become better stewards of God’s creation. It is hoped that the outcomes of this project will have an impact that reaches far beyond the present time.
Expected outcomes
To form a group of bishops and archbishops (Eco Bishops) representative of the regions of the Anglican Communion, who will have participated in the core group as described above and worked together to formulate an action plan for themselves, with proposals for broader Anglican engagement in responding to climate change, faithfully, prayerfully and proactively.
The core group of bishops will become visible in offering biblical and moral leadership in the area of climate justice. Their experience and deliberations will be communicated to Anglicans and others around the world via ACEN, news releases and other forms of media.
As a resource for the broader Communion, a concise report will be produced, gathering the bishops’ lived experience and responses to climate change and setting out future actions. More Anglicans will understand that responding to climate change is part and parcel of our baptismal vocation and will be active in greening their homes, churches and communities and in speaking out on behalf of those experiencing the worst effects of climate change. The Anglican Church will become active in global advocacy.
The Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (currently the chair of ACEN) will have shared the experiences and deliberations of the core group with his sister and brother Primates. Anglican leadership will increasingly be taking the initiative in networking effectively with ecumenical partners, other faith groups, government and UN structures. Those currently affected by the impacts of climate change will be given a voice at the international level of the Communion, and know that they are remembered and supported, both in the prayer and in practical ways.
Those who have the power to curtail carbon emissions will have a fresh sense of how their actions can have a positive impact on their sisters and brothers in other parts of the world and contribute towards climate justice.
The Anglican Communion will benefit from a shared endeavour.
The following Eco-Bishops will be coming to Cape Town:
Jane Alexander, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Mark MacDonald, National Indigenous Bishop, Canada; Andrew Dietsche, New York, The Episcopal Church; Nick Drayson, Northern Argentina; Nicholas Holtam, Salisbury, Church of England; David Chillingworth, Primus Scottish Episcopal Church; Chad Gandiya, Harare, Central Africa; William Mchombo, Eastern Zambia, Central Africa; Ellinah Wamukoya, Swaziland, Southern Africa; Stephen Moreo, Johannesburg, Southern Africa; Nathaniel Nakwatumbah, Namibia, Southern Africa; Thabo Makgoba, Cape Town, Church of Southern Africa; Thomas Oommen, Madhya Kerala, Church of South India; Andrew Chan, Hong Kong; Jonathan Casimina, Davao, Philippines; Tom Wilmot, Perth, Australia; and Apimeleki Qiliho, Fiji, Aotearoa-New Zealand.

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Revisiting South Africa Wed, 18 Feb 2015 16:25:53 +0000 Continue reading ]]> I first came here in 2003 – on sabbatical from ministry in Northern Ireland. Many of us who were struggling to make an impact on the relentless sectarianism of Northern Ireland came to South Africa to get a flavour of what seemed to us like a miracle of reconciliation. And it was – I remember particularly driving around and listening to the talk radio. There was a sort of grace about it – something almost entirely absent in Northern Ireland. I remember deciding that I wouldn’t accept any more invitations to go on BBC’s Talkback. It didn’t seem to me to serve any purpose to provide a pretext for bitter phone-in comments and the unending cycles of what we came to call ‘Whataboutery’

This is my third visit – 21 years after the end of white minority rule. It takes a long time. As the plane dipped towards the runway in Capetown, it skimmed a small township/shanty town. Across the motorway outside the airport is the vast sprawl of Khayletsha township. I spent part of Holy Week there with Revd Rachel Mash whom I look forward to meeting next week at the Anglican Eco-Bishops Meeting in Hermanus – of which more later. I remember being moved by the experience of washing calloused black feet in pink plastic basins on Maundy Thursday. I drove back through miles of darkened township – following Rachel’s cheerful direction, ‘Just head towards the lights of the planes coming into the airport’

And I did until, with some relief I found the slip road back onto the motorway – leading back to relative security of the world I knew and away from human indignity the like of which I hadn’t seen before.

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