Saturday, September 30, 2006

Presbyterians Straight Down the Line

The Presbyterian Assembly confirmed its 2004 decision not to train or ordain anyone involved in a sexual relationmship outside marriage. This is a significant decision for the church and will create ripples around the body of Christ and (already) in the liberal media.

What I applaud about the decision is that it is a decision rooted in sexual ethics and leadership rather than the sexuality of leadership. There is no double standard hiding in the closet. Of course the critics will say it hides behind a conservative definition of marriage and thats true. But even our government with its radical liberal social agenda has not tried to change the rules on marriage (even if they did create a backdoor route).

Watch for the media to beat it up and misreport things like the Human Rights Act. This decision only confirms that the Presbyterians are lining up their doctrine with virtually every other church in New Zealand, with the exception of the Methodists, Quakers and some Anglican primates.

Anyway, here's the scoop off the Prebyterian website:

GA06 confirms rule on sexuality and leadership

General Assembly today confirmed its 2004 rule that those involved in a sexual relationship outside of faithful marriage (whether gay, lesbian or heterosexual) can not be trained, licensed, ordained or inducted for leadership within the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. This ruling does not apply to homosexual people licensed, ordained or inducted prior to the 2004 Assembly.
Commissioners from presbyteries around the country, together with a considerable number of parishioners, gathered at St Kentigern College as the Rev Dr Kerry Enright, Assembly Executive Secretary, presented the motion to the Assembly. As is the tradition of the Presbyterian Church, open and robust debate followed the motion, which reflects an issue that has been before the Church for many years. Strong feelings were expressed on either side by commissioners from a variety of presbyteries and synods, some of whom had attended many Assemblies and others who were attending for the first time. After voting by ballot, it was announced that the motion had been carried by 230 votes to 124 (65 percent in favour).
At the request of the Moderator, the Right Rev Pamela Tankersley, news of the decision was met with silence, as commissioners were encouraged to hold it in God’s hands. In her closing prayer, Pamela asked that the church keeps in mind that this issue is not a question of winning or losing, but rather about finding God’s way. She remembered those whose lives will be deeply affected by this decision and prayed that “we will be able to deal with each other in love, even when we disagree”.
This rule is not retrospective and only applies to people being assessed for future training or leadership positions. It is not a disciplinary standard and cannot be used to remove a person who is already holding an office.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Coffee Anyone?

I'll take mine hot and strong with just a half teaspoon of controversy, well stirred...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

And the Oscar Goes To...

The issue of the Christian community's attitude to film and media has been a fascinating eye opener for me this past year. Oh I knew the successors of the "Moral Majority" were still out there looking to catch TV programmers out if a suggestive wink was proffered on our screens before 7.30pm...but I didn't know that the sense of moral insecurity bulwarked by a celluloid siege mentality was quite so endemic to such a wide cross section of the body of Christ. I'm not sure how they manage to complete their "Bible in a Year" programmes without confronting the sometimes harsh reality of life - at least they won't be challenged by what they see at the movies.

This posture of cranium enveloping silica insertion is something you won't find over at Filmguide - well you will find it, you just won't find it going unchallenged! Anyways I find it refreshing. I came across this fascinating letter to a new division of Fox - "Fox Faith" raises parallel issues as they relate to the concept of "Christian Film". Some of the bits that stood out for me I highlighted...

Making "Christian" Movies: An Open Letter to Fox Faith
by Marc T. Newman, Ph.D.

Dear Fox Faith:

I read with great interest about 20th Century Fox's launch of your new entertainment division that is dedicated to the production of Christian and family-friendly films – particularly when the About Us section on your website clearly defines your intent: "To be part of Fox Faith a movie has to have overt Christian Content or be derived from the work of a Christian author." As a new brand, I recognize that money may not flow too quickly to your division; perhaps that explains why most of the films will have small budgets -- around $5 million – and that many titles will go straight to DVD. I want to assure you that I, and millions of other people who are hungry for good films, wish you only the best. And, even though the advice comes to you unsolicited, I'd like to share with you a few thoughts on how you might achieve your goal.

The Trouble With "Christian Films"

One of your biggest marketing battles is to convince Christians to see "Christian films," [what a MAGNIFICENT understatement!] a label which, over the years, has come to be nearly synonymous with "bad movie." I was heartened by your desire to skip the proselytizing. Thoughtful writers who happen to be Christians, such as Dorothy Sayers, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Flannery O'Conner would all agree with this choice. The job of preachers (and Christians everywhere) is evangelism. The job of movies is to tell great stories. [amen] Great stories can move us, affect our world view, cause us to consider ideas that we had never entertained before, and lead to open doors for spiritual conversations – but they cannot substitute for them. When films push too hard to preach or moralize, they tend to fail miserably. C.S. Lewis, when asked whether the world needs more Christian writers, replied, "No, we need more writers who are Christian." What Lewis meant was that Christians who want to be writers need to hone their craft so that their stories are compelling to anyone who might read them. He was not interested in ghettoizing a narrow niche of minor, or outright bad, literature written by Christians, for Christians. May God bless you in the search for great new screenwriters and filmmakers who are Christians, and may the Church recognize the need to raise up and support committed, creative artists.

The Audience

Most Christians are grown-ups. [I thought this was an unsubstantiated assertion...] It is unfortunate, but many Christians associate "Christian films" with dull, badly produced movies whose major recommendation is that they are inoffensive to your average 8-year-old. [Another unfounded assertion: I think most 8 year olds are offended] As a result, they do not watch them or select them on DVD. When contemporary films are made about encounters between the Church and, for example, the world of gang-bangers, the "Christianizing" technique of sanitizing the language of the gangsters simply results in an utter lack of authenticity [Yo mother dear, I'm gonna bust a cap in your arm...]. Within Christian circles most are looking for age-appropriate stories with accompanying ratings. I would not show Amistad to a 10-year-old, but I might to a mature 16-year-old. It is a fine film and has a seamlessly-integrated Christian message.The Passion of the Christ demonstrated that Christian audiences are not opposed to violence in films as long as it is authentic and, ultimately, in the service of a higher good. (Those who argued that the violence in The Passion of the Christ was gratuitous know nothing about scourging or crucifixion.) Sure, bad guys can shoot, but good guys should be able to shoot back or otherwise engage the sword to exact justice. Christians also are no strangers to sexuality (they do have kids, after all, and have read The Song of Solomon), but while watching violent behavior is unlikely to cause people to go out and commit similar acts, watching naked people coupling gives rise to lust. The old-fashioned method of fading to black to indicate impending sexuality still works if artfully employed [I've never managed to fade to black...]. The key is quality storytelling. Christian audiences want to be engaged, not lulled into a saccharine coma. That said, unlike some film reviewers who appear to want all films to be dark, edgy, coarse, and offensive – Christian audiences (like most other people) are not opposed to sentimental films (meaning films that evoke just sentiments). They just don't want them to be sappy.

Production Values

I am admittedly a little nervous about the fact that Harrison Ford's salary per film (as reported on the Internet Movie Database) would eat up nearly half of your budget for an entire year's slate. Don't get me wrong. I know that some great-looking pictures have been made for little money. The Illusionist has a beautiful period look, and cost only $16.5 million to make. End of the Spear (a biopic about Christian missionaries) had terrific production value for a $10 million film. But even the "shot on home video" look of Little Miss Sunshine cost $8 million. Show production values – don't skimp. If Christians would have been willing to support poorly-scripted, shabbily-shot Christian movies, the Left Behind films would have been box-office hits.[comment of the letter] As it was, the domestic box office take on Left Behind was less than the projected budget for one of your films.

While not every film can be a summer tent-pole production, most Christians would still rather see fewer titles with greater quality, than a lot of cheap, inoffensive, bland movies. Seek out intriguing stories, pay for clever screenwriters, put a beautiful, well-produced film up on the screen and, just like Field of Dreams told us, "They will come."

Honest Interest

Christian audiences are slowly becoming more media-literate. They have learned their lessons about studios trying to manipulate them into staging boycotts of films offensive to their faith. They will not deliver to studios that they perceive as merely pandering to them. What they want is for you to take them seriously and have an honest interest in their concerns. The vast majority of Christians go to the cinema along with everyone else when a story is good. They will not turn out for films with "overt Christian Content" if the movie is otherwise bad. I think that there is a small, but growing, number of young actors, screenwriters, cinematographers, and directors out there that can deliver the goods, and who create from a Christian worldview. I have seen their work at places like the Angelus Film Festival. And, if you will excuse this brief aside to the other readers of this letter, if the Church continues to complain about the content of films coming out of Hollywood, but will not emotionally, materially, and spiritually support those in our congregations who gravitate toward the arts, then we are the equivalent of those who, as C.S. Lewis explained, "laugh at honor and are surprised to find traitors in our midst." [how true is this?] If we want the product, we need to encourage our producers.

It is my most sincere hope that you will be succeed in creating movies that reflect the worldview of thoughtful Christian filmmakers. I believe that if you do this job well, you will discover that your audience far exceeds your target demographic. After all, who doesn't want to see a great movie?

You can check out the site that this from - You can sign up for weekly reviews if you like that sort of thing, but I prefer the fix I get at filmguide!

Friday, September 22, 2006

So, What is Holy Living?

This is a question that has been niggling at me from more than one angle. Too many to really explain. I've heard a lot of pat answers. I've tasted (mostly vicariously) a rules-based approach which I utterly reject. I fail miserably in the personal pursuit of holiness. In fact, I find the most consistent reflection of Christlike character in community. Maybe that's an issue that deserves more thought.

This quote from Out of Ur sums up part of the debate for me:

More and more, the new generations cannot stomach these holiness codes. I have regularly met with outstanding candidates for ministry who raise their eyebrow at my denomination’s persistence on its holiness codes for clergy. This is because these codes are not holy. Instead, they trivialize holiness. The real question for us holiness denominations, if we are ever to be taken seriously by the postmodern generations (and our credibility slips everyday we hold onto to these “legalistic and unbiblical” codes of behavior—e.g. there is no Bible verse prohibiting drinking alcohol, quite the contrary), is whether we have the wherewithal to be sanctified in such a way as to be trusted with a drink or a stogie.

The real issue that our denominational leaders should focus on concerning the fitness of clergy is the commitment to a holy life and what that looks like in community. Obviously this refers to issues like drunkenness, addictions that reveal our lack of dependence upon God including tobacco, pornography, gambling, and yes, food! But this should also include how we handle money, how we engage the poor, how we speak to our neighbors, whether we engage in conflict in holy and Christ like ways. We should not resort to legalism!

Legalism is not the answer. Nor is License. Does anyone have any bright ideas?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

For Every Ethical Action There is an Equal and Unethical Reaction

I'm not sure whether there is any truth in this heading or whether it is just an amusing play on words. But I have had much recent cause to ponder the issue of ethics in Christian circles - themes like consistency, integrity have been weaving their way through my life. I have certainly come to speculate whether ethics and character are one - sometimes I think yes and then I wonder about that when I take an ethical position with a force that reflects questionable character!

Maybe its simply another way of saying: "turn the other cheek"?

Anyways I came across
this reflection on Barth which I found helpful. The whole blog is an interesting one and you can access it from my links - and yes this is one of "those" Drury's (son of Keith I believe). I don't think I've met John but I think we stayed in the apartment they lived in for a time in Grand Haven.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Final Trip Musings

Our last week was low key, back in Lansing with the in-laws. Concentrated on honing the golfing skills of my long-time Tiger Woods Golf altar ego - Sabre Slash. He is a human golfing version of my cat. He is very cool looking, much cooler than me if you can believe it.

Other features of the final week:

  • A day of catching up - Phil S (Impact) and Ed Love (Epic). Its amazing to see what the Epic plant team has done with their facility. I was covetous.
  • Caught up with Jim W and Mark G for coffee on the same day. Good to see old friends. Bored Jim to death with stories of heinous crap from 2006 (Deurty and Ken - you see what you missed?)
  • I lost count of how many times we ate out that week - breakfasts, lunch, dinner - its a way of life in the US.
  • Lots of family farewells strung out over the whole week. Try not to feel guilty...
  • Picked up some summer slip ons at an end of season sale (one of the advantages of living a split hemisphere existence)
  • Realised what a hole LA airport really is by going via San Francisco - I couldn't believe the difference - foodhalls galore and a virtual museum in one of the main thoroughfares!
  • Saw Michael Franti and Spearhead on the plane from San Francisco to Sydney (finally I have a musical namedropping story to equal Rhett). Some of the band thought Rhys was cute. Should I say that Mr Franti (and his no shoes) was seen in first class. He redeemed his egalitarian self by slumming it in cattle class for the Sydney-Auckland leg (playing tonight at the St James).

Home after a 30 hour plus flight. Its good to be back.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Bluegrass, NZ Wine & the Ozarks

So its my second attempt to post on the Missouri trip, the first having been frustratingly torpedoed by computer malfunctions...anyways here goes:


Its about 12 hours to Missouri (including breaks, a distance of over 600 miles. We passed through Indiana on the way - lots of flat country surrounded by corn...unfortunately 10 mins of scenery viewing and you're pretty much done. A good book helped with some of the travel boredom!

Missouri is quite different. We crossed the Mississippi into St Louis, complete with its large archway representing the gateway to the west. Missouri is much more like NZ with rolling hill country and lots of green.

Its kind of weird crossing state lines - the signs and speed limits change - the Hinterman family tradition is to sound the horn maniacally whenever a state line is crossed. It reminded me of Bo and Luke Duke fleeing Hazard county across the state line and thus avoiding the clutches of Boss Hogg, the sheriff (Roscoe P Coltrane) and Deputy Enos ("you got your ears on you dipstick").


Dixon Missouri is home to Kristen's maternal grandfather's family - the Martins. We were there for a family reunion and it was great to be able to have Rhys meet his family. A number of the great aunts still live in Dixon and the surrounding area - we stayed with Aunt Mary Sue and Uncle George, who were the epitome of hospitality. The highlight of the trip came when we visited the old family homestead. The family settled in this area some years ago - the homestead itself was built in 1948 - but it was the second home built on the farm. We learned a lot about the family history including the story of Kristen's great-great grandmother, Lily Ponder who was of Cherokee blood and married at age 14! It was a different world I guess.

It should come as no surprise that Rhys was somewhat popular with family and he didn't play up to the attention once ;) The family reunion lunch was a huge feast - significant offerings included fried chicken, mashed potatoes, spicy mexican dishes, baked beans, green bean casserole and a chocolate cheesecake that was excellent. Coffee was not drinkable. If you ever feel the need for a coffee detox, the USA is the perfect place. If it weren't for Chris and his stovetop espresso pot, I think I would dry up completely...


"My mother died last night,
And my daddy in the morning.
It was such a shame,
When that day it came a dawning.
And then my dog got paralysed,
It was a big surprise.
I guess I should have realised,
That life is just too short.

Oh life is just too short
I don't know why I get up out of bed
Oh life is just too short
You take a breath and then you find you're dead

I went to see my girlfriend:
She was with another.
She'd kept it in the family,
Her new man was my brother.
In tears I walked out to the gate,
Then fell and broke my leg.
They say they have to amputate,
And now my leg's too short.

Oh life is just too short
I don't know why I get up out of bed
Oh life is just too short
You take a breath and then you find you're dead

So, this is not an actual bluegrass song, but you get the idea. Actually, when they're not singing about death and tragedy or God, they're singing about adultery. It led me to speculate on whether Bluegrass is really the softporn of American music. Its not hiphop or metal but its not exactly a posterchild for purity either!

The musicianship was at times out of this world. The standard makeup of each group was banjo, guitar, mandolin, double bass and fiddle - thats violin for you classical purists - I learned that a violin is actually a fiddle who has gone to University... the music is punctuated by instrumental breaks so the better soloists got a great opportunity to show off their sometimes extraordinary skill. We spent a day there at the Bluegrass festival and it was just the right amount of time...


I visited a local winery while I was there and discovered that white wine in particular was excessively sweet. But even more interesting was the discovery that one of the winemakers there was a New Zealander! We chatted for a while - very surreal - apparently I was the 3rd kiwi he'd seen there in 4 years. I bought a bottle of red made from a grapevine that was grown from wild grapes found in the area by early settlers. A real local wine!

The trip back was uneventful although strangely it didn't seem as long as the trip down. These past few days have been spent at the family home here in Lansing lazing around. Liking it.