God's representatives - not particularly Godly
In NZ, more than a million people stated they had "no
religion" in last year's census -– up from 867,264 in 1996 -– according to
the New Zealand Official Yearbook 2002.
There was growth in some religious sectors though: Buddhism,
up at 41,634 from 28,131 (21% increase); Islam, 23631 from 13,545 (42.6 %
increase), and Hindu 39,798, up from 25,551 (35.6 % increase)...
Church numbers dwindling?
When Jesus came to earth the last time, three groups of
people were seen to be representing God: The Pharisee's, the
Sadducee's and the Essenes. Each held 'the Word' of God -– and from the
average citizen's point of view -– they represented God. Today at the end of
2002, the same spirits live on (midrashically), and we see a re-run of history
as the time draws very near for Jesus to return a second time.
Each group had its merits, and in my view started out with
good intensions and purpose -– the Pharisee's maintained the purity of the
oral and written law, the Sadducee's provided a counterbalance to the over the
top 'straight' sect, inputting reason and questioning (much more liberal)
-– the Esseens had decided that 'changing the world was impossible', and so
set up exclusive communities away from the sin of the world -– where they
maintained: holy (set apart) but self-righteous lives.
Bottom line: these people of the word were so busy
with their interpretations of Scripture, and preoccupied with their
Lordship over the lay people, and busy making money from merchandising the Word
of God, that when the 'Word made flesh' came and stood in front of them -–
not only did they fail to recognise Him, they instigated His crucifixion.
So, who actually spoke 'for God'?
"There was a man sent from God, whose name was 'John'"
-– John 1. He was sent to 'prepare the way of the Lord'. That's the
believers roles today - to understand we 'are not that light, but are to
testify of that light'...
It is a very interesting time of manifestation in mainline
traditional churches, and 'sect' churches alike -– certain fruit is
appearing on the branches:
In God's Name:
The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 March 2002, "...Back in
the 12th century, celibacy may have provided priests with extra
mystique. Wrapped in purity and secrecy, they became, as one priest puts it, "sacramental
studs". But now we have a walk of sacramental perverts. It is glaringly clear
that mandatory celibacy draws a disproportionate number of men fleeing confusion
about their sexuality..."
In the same paper: "Church 'deceived' hospital to keep
abusive priests in fold -–
...Federal racketeering charges, typically used to bring down
large criminal syndicates, are warranted in the case because they highlight a
broader pattern of concealment by the Catholic Church, the leading lawyer in the
case, Jeff Anderson, said.
He alleged the church keeps secret files on abusive priests,
helps them get secure posts in dioceses in other states, and offers bribes to
Let's check out the current Protestant situation: "The
man who is set to become a reluctant Archbishop of Canterbury has refused to
sign up to traditional Christian teaching that sex outside marriage is wrong...
His surprising public avowal of his beliefs will deepen the
division that the present leader of the Anglican Church, Dr George Carey, has
warned will lead to schism between traditionalists and evangelicals and the
liberal wing of the Church...
... the controversial 1991 document Issues in Human
Sexuality, which ruled out practising homosexual relationships for clergy but
permitted them for lay people..."
At least Rowan Williams (incoming Archbishop of Canterbury)
is consistent: "If the Church's mind is that homosexual behaviour is
intrinsically sinful, then it is intrinsically sinful for everyone," he said
in July last year..." Waikato Times, 4 October 2002,
The spiritual leader of 70 million Anglicans worldwide has
caused something of a furore in a denomination which is already experiencing a
meltdown of essential doctrinal belief: In Britain, a third of Church of England
clergy do not believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead -– 50% believe in
the virgin birth. 75% accept the doctrine of the Trinity.
So the incoming archbishop of Canterbury has his supporters.
He is also a druid - The Star, December 03 2002: "The
softly-spoken archbishop of Wales and honorary druid formally took over the job
at a ceremony in St Paul's Cathedral on Monday. He will be enthroned at the end
Even before he starts his tricky task as religious head of
the Church of England, Williams, 52, has angered conservative members by being
openly tolerant of gay clergy and same-sex relationships, and promoting women as
"It seems to me rather sad, and rather revealing, that
when it comes to sex we suddenly become much less intelligent about our reading
of the Bible," he said in a BBC profile broadcast on Sunday.
"If the Bible is very clear - as I think it is - that a
heterosexual indulging in homosexual activity for the sake of variety and
gratification is not following the will of God, does that automatically say that
that is the only sort of homosexual activity there could ever be?
"My own personal conclusion is that I can see a case for
acknowledging faithful same-sex relationships," he added.
The grey-bearded, bespectacled intellectual from the valleys of Wales has also
not been shy of criticising the government on its increasingly warlike stance
towards Iraq, and has questioned the traditional link between church and state.
Williams, who describes himself as a poser of questions, said
his church - already split over the decision to ordain women as priests - had to
get to grips with the even more divisive issue of ordaining them as bishops.
"I see no theological objection to consecrating women as bishops," he
"You can't indefinitely perpetuate a situation in which,
in one body, the ministry of some is regarded wholly negatively...I think that
included in the sadness and bitterness after the vote about the ordination of
women as priests was a sense that people didn't know what their options
were," he said.
His baptism of fire over his stances on gays and his
induction as an honorary druid have made an impression. Reuters
A Druid -– and a minister?
The Times, 19 July 2002, "Why the Archbishop is
embracing pagan roots -–
The man expected to be the new Archbishop of Canterbury will
be inducted as a druid in a 200-year-old ceremony with pagan roots in Wales next
As the sun rises over a circle of Pembrokeshire bluestones
the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Rev Dr Rowan Williams, will don a long white
cloak while druids chant a prayer to the ancient God and Goddess of the land.
After a trumpet fanfare and the thrice partial sheathing and
unsheathing of a 6ft 6in sword, a citation will be read...
Dr Williams will not be the only church leader admitted as an
honorary druid to the Gorsedd. The Right Rev Daniel Mullins, retired Roman
Catholic bishop of Menevia, South Wales, is a member..."
St Paul's, "Freemasonry is fine"
"In an attempt "to dispel some of the myths that have
frown up around the organisation," the Freemasons launched England's first
Freemasonry in the Community Week with a service at St Paul's Cathedral on 18
HRH Prince Michael of Kent, and HRH the Duke of Kent - Grand
Master of the United Grand Lodge of England -– were both guests of honour at
the service, which was also attended by a contingent of religious leaders form
other faiths. One of these, Rabbi Stanley Brickman, joined the Rev Canon Neil
Collings in leading the prayers.
Jeannie Wyness, a spokesperson for the Freemasons, said: "The
theme of the week is 'Playing Our Part'. It's all about freemasons playing
their part in the community. People often confuse freemasonry with a religion,
and it really isn't one... To be a Freemason, you need to have a belief in a
Supreme Being -– but it actually includes people of all religions." ..."
Christian Herald, June 2002.
I used to wonder how churches would ever lay down their
doctrinal differences in order to form a 'World Church system'. The answer
would appear to be that they won't have any doctrines to lay down...