Remember Tonga… Manatua a Tonga

Dear Friends in Christ,

I bring to you at this time an opportunity from within one of our churches in the south. For some time now a Discipleship training School has been run from a base in Riversdale Presbyterian Church in Southland. This school is run through a sister organisation called Global Disciples and the one in Riversdale has focused on helping people to draw closer to Christ and to share the Gospel in both New Zealand and Tonga. The schools usually involve some teaching time in Riversdale (11days) and then three weeks working in Tonga.

The next school begins in mid-June and will go to mid-July and will focus on the rebuilding effort in Tongatapu. The DTS base in Tonga has suffered significant losses but these pale into comparison with those the people of this small Island nation. At this stage a team member is assessing how best a team can be used and this information will be used to guide the team when they enter the country.

Usually the cost of the DTS is $2650 which includes flights and all meals. This may have to be changed if flights become more expensive.

Team leaders John and Heather Gullick are looking for people who can be a part of the DTS and come to Tonga to assist with the clean-up. Could this be you?

Please contact the team if you are interested or have questions.

Contact numbers and email are…

jgullick@xtra.co.nz

or Globaldisciples@gmail.com
website:3Dtraining.weebly.com

Yours in Christ,

Richard D

No Place for Killing

The ICBC released its submission today on the assisted death bill called the ‘End of Life Choice’ Bill. It is implacably opposed the the bill on multiple grounds. It is poorly written showing evidence of real naivety in regard to the implications of the bill for the future both of suicide statistics and medicine to say nothing of the plight of those whose lives are a cost on their families and society. Here is the submission in full.

 

12/2/2018

InterChurch Bioethics Council Submission to the Justice Select Committee:

On the End of Life Choice Bill:

 

The InterChurch Bioethics Council (ICBC) is an ecumenical, cross-cultural body supported by the Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches of Aotearoa, New Zealand (www.interchurchbioethics.org.nz).  Its role is to increase the knowledge and understanding of church members and the wider community, of the spiritual, ethical and cultural issues connected to biotechnology and related issues, and enable and encourage citizens to take action on their own behalf on these issues.  ICBC members have between them considerable expertise and knowledge in science, ethics, theology, medicine and education.

 

In writing this submission against the proposed End of Life Choice Bill introduced to the House by David Seymour, the ICBC recognises that we do not represent all Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians, but that as a designated committee, we are providing our “expert” opinion following our own discussions, research and reading over the past 3 years and some limited wider consultation.  Our submission will follow 8 areas that we would like to bring to the Justice Select Committee’s attention.  We would like to appear before the committee to talk to our submission should the opportunity arise.

 

We would also like to remind the Justice Select Committee that over the past 2 years the Health Select Committee has undertaken a comprehensive process to determine public attitudes towards legislation permitting medically-assisted dying following the petition of “Maryan Street and 8,974 others” that sought to determine the public opinion on assisted suicide.  Their report was presented to Parliament in August 2017, received 21,000 unique submissions and heard from 944 oral submission.  The key finding was that “80% of submitters were opposed to a change in legislation that would allow assisted dying or euthanasia”.[1]

Before addressing these issues, we believe it is important to clarify terminology in this current debate.  The term “assisted dying” we believe is inadequate as this confuses scenarios where the intention of the medical practitioner is actively to cause death with those where the intention is to relieve suffering.  Where the intention is to cause death, this may be either through prescription of drugs which the patient takes (assisted suicide) or where the doctor administers a lethal dose of drugs (euthanasia).  Where the intention of the medical practitioner is to relieve suffering, this may include withholding or withdrawal of treatment and administration of appropriate treatment through which “nature” is allowed to take its course and death is allowed to occur.  This is not defined as euthanasia and is currently legal.  For the purposes of our submission the term “euthanasia/assisted suicide, EAS” will be used.

We acknowledge that there is a small but significant population for whom the conditions of their death are horrendous and unacceptable. We would advocate for funding for research and access to resources that helps to alleviate this suffering. We acknowledge also that there will sometimes be family and even medical assistants who will quietly hasten death in these circumstances. However tragic these situations are we do not think the appropriate response is to give everyone the “right to die” or the “right to be assisted in dying”. The cost is too great – for the other vulnerable populations mentioned below, for doctors who have always seen their calling as maintaining life, not taking life, and for all older people who might begin to wonder if they have outstayed their welcome on earth. The enshrining of this right in law would have widespread and deepening repercussions for the way we understand life, and the callings and duties of life.

Indeed, much of the current debate centres on a patient’s right to choose when and how to die in the face of a terminal illness.  But the right to self-determination does not take place in a vacuum – no-one is completely free, we are embedded in family and society involving critical relationships, including a debt to future generations.  Our personal freedom is always held alongside the rights of others, and from a Christian perspective, our personal rights must be considered alongside our responsibilities to others that reflect our love of God as indicated in the command to love both God and neighbour (Mark 12:28-32).  In the face of suffering, the Christian and humane response is to maximise care/compassion for those in most need.  Killing, however, is not a part of the arsenal of care/compassion for the dying.

 

Reasons for opposing the End of Life Choice Bill.

 

In acknowledging that euthanasia and assisted suicide have significant moral and ethical objections, there are also significant discrepancies in this legislation that we suggest make the End of Life Choice Bill untenable.

 

  1. We believe the scope of the Bill is too large.
    The purpose of the Bill: “gives people with a terminal illness or a grievous and irremediable medical condition the option of requesting assisted dying” (part 1 clause 4).
  • Provides “assisted dying” for NZ citizens 18+. This criterion is too arbitrary and open to legal challenge. As seen overseas, over time minors (those under 18) have also been granted permission for assisted suicide.[2]  If death is a good/right for some it ultimately becomes seen as a good/right for all.
  • with a terminal illness likely to end his or her life within 6 months – Medically speaking this is difficult to determine, and overseas evidence shows some people being given permission for assisted suicide living longer than 6 months. In Oregon 2014, the range of days between first request and death was 15-439 days.[3] Even Lecretia Seales was initially given only weeks to live and survived 3½ years.[4]  Furthermore, significant discrepancies between clinical diagnosis before death and post-mortem findings suggests that misdiagnosis in up to 39% of cases is possible.[5]  The problem here is that euthanasia/assisted suicide is a non-reversible ‘solution’, and the 6-month criterion (or any time frame) cannot be provided with absolute certainty.
  • or grievous and irremediable condition. The Bill is not just about persons with a terminal illness but embraces anyone with a grievous and irremediable condition. This criterion includes those with: depression and mental illness; physical disability; long term illness; or the increasing frailty of old age (as seen in the Netherlands).[6]
  • and in advanced state of irreversible decline and experiences unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner the person considers tolerable. In this context, ‘Unbearable suffering’ is self-defined and is effectively euthanasia/assisted suicide on demand.  This criterion would allow for euthanasia/assisted suicide even if the patient rejected effective treatment on the basis they deem it intolerable.
  • Although this bill is framed to provide an Option for euthanasia/assisted suicide, we believe “option” is a loaded term, and one that is not simply a clear rational perspective. Our society projects certain values, including what we value in people – productivity, intelligence, physique – so that people can be made to feel a burden on relatives or society, or feel devalued by not fitting the social stereotype.  For example, in the Netherlands there are moves to extend euthanasia/assisted suicide laws with a “completed life” bill.[7]  The danger in the suggested law change provided by the End of Life Choice Bill, is that we may be providing a threshold beyond which a person’s life is seen as having little or no value instead of addressing how society hold and value people, especially the vulnerable.

 

  1. The Bill does not properly characterise the current NZ situation (pg 2-3)
  • It prioritises the Lecretia Seales case. Although Justice Collins remarked that “The complex legal, philosophical, moral and clinical issues raised by Ms Seales’ proceedings can only be addressed by Parliament …” all three petitions to the court based on the human right to die/choose death were rejected on legal grounds.[8] Ms Seales herself stated that she may not have used assisted suicide even if it was legal or the Judge had found in her favour.[9]

 

  • As evidence for a required law change, it is argued in the background to this bill, that the current law has treated with leniency those who have assisted terminally ill family members to end their life (Background pg 2). This however is evidence that the current law works, not that the law needs changing.

 

  • New Zealand First has asked for a binding public referendum on this issue. However, even if a referendum identified a majority position for euthanasia/assisted suicide, this would not mean that the public were suitably informed about the difference in terminology or the significant issues involved.

 

  • As previously mentioned, the claim that there is strong public support for a law change (background pg 2) is incorrect given the Health Select Committee 2017 finding was that “80% of submitters were opposed to a change in legislation that would allow assisted dying or euthanasia”.[10] This figure contradicts previous surveys indicating support for a change (2012, 2969 people 62.9% support; 2015, 2800 people 66% support).[11]  These previous survey results reflect the level of public confusion about what the terms euthanasia/assisted dying mean.  Significantly, 63.6% of all submissions to the Health Select Committee, equating to 82.5% of all submissions opposed to a law change, used no religious argument in their opposition to change.[12]  The Health Select Committee process was an open process, with no leading questions but simply asked for public opinion.  The scope of this report, the number of respondents, and the significance of the findings, means that the Health Select Committee report should have significant weight in the Justice Select Committee deliberations.
  • Of great significance, the current discussion is largely a rationalist Pakeha conversation. Many cultures in New Zealand other than the majority Pakeha culture have traditional ways of managing death and dying in family/whanau settings.  Our conversations and research identify that euthanasia/assisted suicide has no equivalent in language or practice in Māori and Pacific people practices.  Therefore, the current debate risks imposing on New Zealand culture a largely individualistic worldview without adequately considering other perspectives.  Within Māori and Polynesian communities, euthanasia/assisted suicide is not part of everyday reality or something readily discussed.  For many Māori the tribal custom of karanga aituā means that talk about death will ‘call it down’,[13] which could further limit discussing the issue of euthanasia/assisted suicide.  However, the Bill now brings this issue into the open for us all, and the result of this Bill may affect any one of our whā That is why there is a call for Māori and Polynesian families to discuss this Bill, and its impacts on whānau, hapu and iwi.[14]  As Tess Moeke-Maxwell and colleagues state, “the dying and their whānau are proactive in doing whatever they can to ensure a high quality of life is achieved to enable the individual to live for as long as possible and as comfortably as possible” – “They do not give in easily to death”.[15]

 

  1. Terminology within the Bill.
  • As defined in the Bill (Part 1:3) “assisted dying” means the administration by a medical practitioner of a lethal dose of medication to a person to relieve his or her suffering by hastening death.
  • The term “assisted dying” as defined above is inadequate as this confuses scenarios where the intention of the medical practitioner is actively to cause death with those where the intention is to relieve suffering. The Bill identifies 4 methods: ingestion or intravenous delivery by the person; or delivery through a tube or injection by a medical practitioner (part 2 clause 15). Where the intention is to cause death as outlined in the Bill this may be either through prescription of drugs which the patient takes and is correctly termed “assisted suicide”, or where the medical practitioner administers a lethal dose of drugs, is correctly termed “euthanasia”.
  • Where the intention of the medical practitioner is to relieve suffering, this may include the withholding or withdrawal of treatment and administration of appropriate treatment through which “nature” is allowed to take its course and death is allowed to occur. This is not defined as euthanasia/assisted suicide and is currently legal.
  1. The Bill claims that relief of suffering and compassion is the motivation for this legislation (Purpose pg 1 and Part 1 clause 3).
  • We acknowledge there are circumstances where individuals face unbearable suffering, however compassion is a societal value, not only for the individual. There are many arguments against assisted suicide that do not have a religious foundation, and there are some that have their foundation in religious values. One such shared value is our understanding of love and compassion. Care and compassion contained within the view of unconditional love is about doing good without doing harm and identifies the intrinsic value and dignity to human life regardless of abilities or situation.  Compassion is exercised in relationship with others so the ‘suffering’ of an individual does not happen in isolation.  Nor does its treatment, or the choices an individual may wish to make.
  • Respect for human dignity applies to everyone throughout life, and to humanity as a whole. In this context, the causing of death is seen as a harm, whereas compassion denotes walking alongside the other so as to not die alone, and where the relief of suffering can include not prolonging the process of dying.  Furthermore, there is also the preferential care for the vulnerable within society, so that our compassion and care extends to create conditions where all can flourish.  For those experiencing suffering, this includes the greater availability of palliative care; research into palliative medicine; and by listening to those who speak for the ‘disabled’ so that there is “nothing about us without us”.[16]
  • This bill identifies the relief of suffering as the major motivator for law change. However, “suffering” is too broad a term and needs further definition. Suffering can be understood as: 1. Pain – physical suffering which can be managed through medication, including terminal sedation near the end of life; 2. Distress – physical/psychological suffering in situations for example when a patient can’t breathe.  Again, this can be adequately managed through medication or medical interventions.  Suffering – existential, where people feel they have no place, no value, no hope, no autonomy or are a burden. It is this form of suffering that surveys identify as the major reason for people wanting to use euthanasia/assisted suicide.[17]
  • New Zealand is rightly concerned about the levels of suicide especially among young people, and men aged between 20 and 65 where the New Zealand rates are high compared with other OECD countries.[18] Suicide rates have reached their highest since records have been kept, and have risen three years in a row.[19]  “From June 2014 to May 2015, 569 people are officially listed as having died by suicide or suspected suicide – the highest number ever recorded in New Zealand.” Furthermore, it is recognised that the rates for suicide are under-reported.[20] Do we want suicide (whether physician-assisted or not) normalised as an option when a person is in distress?  Do we want to be a society that when someone takes their own life, our response is to say, “well that was their choice”? Furthermore, overseas studies show that allowing euthanasia/assisted suicide does increase the rates of unassisted suicide – in the Netherlands unassisted suicide rates have increased 35% over the 6 years up to 2015.[21]

 

  1. Safeguards for the Bill.
  • Part 2 clause 6 talks about conscientious objection and safeguards. Although a medical practitioner may refuse a request for euthanasia/assisted suicide, the Bill compels the medical practitioner to refer the patient to the SCENZ group – an appointed body that does not have an objection to assisted suicide/euthanasia [part 2, clause 7 (2), part 3 clause 19]. This overrides the professional autonomy of the health practitioner and forces him/her into colluding in the process.
  • This undermines the safety processes in that the SCENZ group will refer the patient to a doctor that has no long-term relationship with the patient and is in no position to assess coercion or other underlying issues. This is of concern in that depression, the commonest factor in requesting assisted suicide or euthanasia, may be difficult to detect even when the doctor knows the patient well.
  • In New Zealand the population at risk includes elderly people and people with disabilities. There is already concern about the level of elder abuse,[22] and older people have little or no power to resist subtle pressures that they should end their lives, and many worry that they may be a burden to other people.  As indicated by the US states of Oregon and Washington, 40-60% of those who used legally prescribed lethal drugs to end their lives cited concerns that they would be a burden on their families as a factor in their decision to end their lives.[23]
  • The Two-person safeguard (part 2, clause 10 and 11) has been shown to be inadequate in Oregon over time,[24] with one or both medical practitioners having no long-term relationship with the patient and evidence of “doctor-shopping”. Again, referrals to specialists provided by the SCENZ group does bias the process towards medical practitioners who are in favour of assisted-suicide/euthanasia and could constitute “doctor-shopping”.  In the Netherlands mobile squads have been established which provide access to such medical practitioners who may never have met the patient before.  Furthermore, in Oregon, there was a significant decline in people referred for psychiatric assessment over the first 5 years of legalising euthanasia/assisted suicide.[25]  Evidence from Quebec also shows a failure of safeguards after just 2 years of legalised euthanasia/assisted suicide.[26]
  • International evidence shows, wherever legislation is introduced to allow assisted-suicide and euthanasia, there is an incremental extension of criteria allowing euthanasia to more groups over time; including lowering the age limit – for example Belgium now allows euthanasia for minors of all ages, the inclusion of other conditions including non-terminal conditions such as depression and other psychiatric conditions. Recent examples are a 20-year-old sexual abuse victim in the Netherlands,[27] and a 17-year-old in Belgium.[28]  It has even been argued that euthanasia for prison detainees is permissible under Belgium law based on unbearable psychological suffering.[29]   Also there is a gradual shift from voluntary to involuntary euthanasia, for example dementia patients.  It is worth noting that in 2007, 32% of euthanasia events in Belgium occurred without request or consent.[30]  You might say – surely good legislation can prevent this expansion.  The reality is “No”! Legislation cannot stop this.  Why – because if death is now seen to be a right and to be a benefit worth having – then it is a right and a benefit for all, not just for some in society. Therefore, as seen overseas, any restriction on assisted suicide is open to legal challenge and over time the numbers increase.[31]

 

  1. Reporting of Assisted Suicide/Euthanasia Practice (Part 2 clause 17).
  • The Bill has an inherent contradiction in that it promotes assisted suicide and euthanasia as acceptable practice and a register kept (Part 3 clause 21), yet at the same time proposes an amendment to the Births, Deaths, and Marriages regulations (part 4, clause 28) so that any death through “assisted dying” is recorded as if no assistance has occurred [Part 4 clause 28 (2xiia)]. This clause would prevent an accurate assessment of assisted suicide/euthanasia events and runs the risk of “hiding” this activity.
  • The best legislation in the world cannot restrict this practice. To quote Professor Theo Boer, Professor of Ethics at the University at Groningen, and for nine years a Member of a Regional Euthanasia Review Committee in the Netherlands, “the very existence of a euthanasia law turns assisted suicide from a last resort into a normal procedure – don’t make our mistake”.[32]

 

  1. Effects on Medical Professionals carrying out euthanasia/assisted suicide.
  • A central aspect of the Bill is to provide immunity from criminal prosecution or disciplinary action for Medical Practitioners (doctors or pharmacists) involved in hastening death (unless provable that they acted in “bad faith”).
  • Throughout the Bill there is the assumption that euthanasia/assisted suicide will be administered by a medical professional (doctor). However, euthanasia/assisted suicide is not a medical issue, as seen in the fact that the Justice Select Committee is hearing submissions. Furthermore, it was noted in the Health Select Committee report, that for the NZ Medical Association and the World Medical Association, “assisted dying is incompatible with medical ethics”.[33]  The concluding statement of the Gillett report for the New Zealand Medical Association, summarises the caution that is needed in bringing about a legalisation of euthanasia/assisted suicide:[34]

The debate about the legalisation of euthanasia is complex and the medical profession should remain cautious about any change in law that would interfere with principles that have guided medicine and general healthcare to good effect for most people throughout the centuries. The WMA’s resolutions on euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide reflect this tradition; its clear opposition—to what would mark a departure and move towards a different ethos in an area where medical practice needs sound guidance and standards—is worthy of support because of the value it puts on human life. This stance does not prevent a physician from respecting the desire of a patient (or the patient’s guardian) to allow the natural process of death to follow its course in the terminal phase of sickness (where that may involve the withdrawal of life-prolonging treatment or treatment limitation because the treatment is properly deemed futile).

  • EAS effects on families and people involved. In countries where euthanasia/assisted suicide is legal, there is a web of people involved in each individual case – doctors, nurses, pharmacists, psychiatrists/psychologists, and often decisions of family members.  We note that the proposed bill does not name nurses amongst “medical practitioners” for whom the bill provides legal protection.  Also, overseas studies identify that those involved can and do suffer vicarious trauma from being involved in euthanasia/assisted suicide practices, as this quote from a study undertaken in Finland suggests:[35]

We can’t go that far and have this or that kind of criteria to let you kill another person. Nobody can cope with it mentally for very long. You have to think about the personnel. Everybody’s talking about the patient but nobody says anything about the one who has to do it and who also has feelings.

  • There is an assumption that doctors will be the ones to enact any law change. But doctors see their calling as maintaining life, not taking life.  Any law change would have widespread and deepening repercussions for the way we understand life, and the callings and duties of the medical profession.  These are fundamental roles within society charged with caring, healing, curing wherever possible.  At our most vulnerable times – when we face death – physicians (and others) have a considerable role in the care of people through a relationship in which the real questions are addressed with patient and family, unnecessary treatment is stopped or not started, relief is provided for physical, mental and spiritual distress, and the person who is dying is supported to the end.  The intention is a dignified, pain-free, natural death. Euthanasia/assisted suicide and would cut across this trusted relationship. There may also be pressures for doctor to conform to the wishes of families or patients.  As Margaret Somerville suggests;[36]

We also need to consider how the legalisation of euthanasia could affect the profession of medicine and its practitioners. Euthanasia takes both beyond their fundamental roles of caring, healing and curing whenever possible. It involves them, no matter how compassionate their motives, in the infliction of death on those for whom they provide care and treatment. Euthanasia thus places the soul of medicine itself on trial. We thus need to be concerned about the impact that legalisation would have on the institution of medicine – not only in the interests of protecting it for its own sake, but also because of the harm to society that damage to the profession would cause.

 

  1. Addressing issues preceding a request for EAS.

Rather than promoting euthanasia or assisted suicide as a ‘compassionate’ solution to unbearable suffering, critical factors that precede the requests could make a great difference to many more people and have a positive effect on society.  These include:

  • Palliative care services – improve access so all in this situation can receive care, as it has been shown that recipients of these services find hope and relief of suffering;
  • Mental health services – improve access to services, provide training for recognition and treatment of depression which is frequently a significant factor in a patient’s suffering and request for EAS;
  • Continue/enhance programmes to prevent suicide among all age groups and reduce its normalisation;
  • Address social isolation particularly among elderly people – this has been shown to be a cause of depression, and of the sense of being a burden;
  • Continue measures to address and prevent elder abuse
  • Providing funding and adequate resources so that society can support those in need at their most vulnerable times.

[1] Health Select Committee, Petition 2014/18 of Hon Maryan Street and 8,974 others.  Wellington: NZ Parliament, 2017, pg 6.  https://www.parliament.nz/resource/en-NZ/SCR_74759/4d68a2f2e98ef91d75c1a179fe6dd1ec1b66cd24

[2] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-18/euthanasia-17-year-old-first-minor-to-be-granted-belgium/7855620

[3] Oregon Public Health Division: Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act – 2014. https://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/DeathwithDignityAct/Documents/year17.pdf, pg 6.

[4] Macfie, R. (2015, January 8). Dying wishes. The Listener. Retrieved from http://www.listener.co.nz/current-affairs/health-current-affairs/dying-wishes/

[5] Gavin D Perkins, Danny F McAuley, Sarah Davies and Fang Gao (2003).  Discrepancies between clinical and post-mortem diagnoses in critically ill patients: an observational study. Critical Care 7:R129.

https://doi.org/10.1186/cc2359. https://ccforum.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/cc2359.  Also see The Sydney Morning Herald. (2004, June 8). Post mortem reveals euthanasia crusader clear of cancer. Retrieved from http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/06/08/1086460287366.html?from=storylhs.

[6] Simon Caldwell, Number of mentally ill patients killed by euthanasia in Holland trebles in a year as doctors warn assisted suicide is ‘out of control.  Mail Online, 2016 (First Published October 2014).  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2779624/Number-mentally-ill-patients-killed-euthanasia-Holland-trebles-year-doctors-warn-assisted-suicide-control.html.

[7] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/13/netherlands-may-allow-assisted-dying-for-those-who-feel-life-is-complete.

[8] https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/69112451/lecretia-seales-did-not-have-right-to-die-high-court-rules

[9] https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/69068898/Lecretia-Seales-lived-with-passion-determination-and-autonomy

[10] Health Select Committee, Petition 2014/18 of Hon Maryan Street and 8,974 others.  Wellington: NZ Parliament, 2017, pgs 6, 15, 47.  https://www.parliament.nz/resource/en-NZ/SCR_74759/4d68a2f2e98ef91d75c1a179fe6dd1ec1b66cd24

[11] ibid, 14-15.

[12] Care Alliance. Analysis of written submissions to the Health Select Committee’s investigation into ending one’s life.  May 5, 2017. http://carealliance.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/HSC-submissions-analysis.pdf.

[13] Tess Moeke-Maxwell, Linda Waimarie Nikora and Ngahuia Te Awekotuku. “Māori End-Of-Life Journeys”. In Human Development: family, place, culture 2nd ed, W Drewery and L Bird Claiborne eds.. North Ryde: McGraw-Hill Education, 2014.pp. 382-383.

[14] Mamari Stephens. We need to hear the Māori and Pacific voices on the euthanasia debate, Feb 21, 2016. https://e-tangata.co.nz/news/we-need-to-hear-maori-and-pacific-voices.  Bishop Kito Pikaahu, Māori perspective needed in death debate, Dec 20, 2017. https://www.waateanews.com/waateanews/x_news/MTgxMzU/National%20News/Maori-perspective-needed-in-death-debate.  Alice Guy. End of Life Choice Bill sparks debate about euthanasia and Māori values. Jan 20, 2018.  http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11977365.

[15] Tess Moeke-Maxwell, et al., “Māori End-Of-Life Journeys”, pp. 382-383. Tess Moeke-Maxwell et al., “End-of –Life Care and Māori Whānau Resilience”. p. 145.

[16] Margaret Somerville, The Importance of Stories in the Euthanasia Debate: the risks and harms to vulnerable people outweigh any possible benefits.  https://www.mercatornet.com/careful/view/the-importance-of-stories-in-the-euthanasia-debate/19452

[17]https://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/DeathwithDignityAct/Documents/year17.pdf (2014).  Also http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/05/assisted-dying-suicide-bill-justin-welby-archbishop-canterbury

[18] Glenn McConnell. The highest rates of teen suicide in the developed world.  Last updated October 16, 2016. https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/85305366/the-highest-rate-of-teen-suicide-in-the-developed-world. Andy Fyers. Unicef Report: New Zealand 34th out of 41 developed countries for child wellbeing. Last updated June 15, 2017. https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/93583589/unicef-report-wellbeing-of-kiwi-kids-languishes-behind-other-developed-countries.

[19] Tina Law. National suicide numbers rise three years in a row. Last updated August 28, 2017. https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/96217175/national-suicide-numbers-rise-three-years-in-a-row.  Jess McAllen. Suicide toll reaches highest rate since records kept. Last updated  July 3, 2015. http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/69920289/Suicide-toll-reaches-highest-rate-since-records-kept

[20] Amy Maas. The story of one woman, a suicide note, and blind justice. Last updated May 29, 2016. http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/80450197/the-story-of-one-woman-a-suicide-note-and-blind-justice

[21] Aaron Kheriaty, The dangerous contagious effect of assisted suicide laws.  Washington Post, November 20, 2015.  Also: Margaret Somerville, The Importance of Stories in the Euthanasia Debate: the risks and harms to vulnerable people outweigh any possible benefitshttps://www.mercatornet.com/careful/view/the-importance-of-stories-in-the-euthanasia-debate/19452

[22] Ministry of Health Guidelines, Elder Abuse and Neglect. See http://www.health.govt.nz.

[23] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/05/assisted-dying-suicide-bill-justin-welby-archbishop-canterbury

[24] See http://dredf.org/public-policy/assisted-suicide/some-oregon-assisted-suicide-abuses-and-complications/

[25] Data retrieved from Annual Death with Dignity Reports, Year 1 – Year 17. https://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/DeathwithDignityAct/Pages/ar-index.aspx

[26] Aubert Martin, Two years of euthanasia in Quebec: the facts, 2017. https://www.mercatornet.com/careful/view/two-years-of-euthanasia-in-quebec-the-facts/20831

[27] Simone Mitchell Euthanasia debate reignited by 20yo sexual abuse victim.  Monday May 16, 2016. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=11639637

[28] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-18/euthanasia-17-year-old-first-minor-to-be-granted-belgium/7855620

[29] Katrien Devolder, (2016). Euthanasia for Detainees in Belgium. Cambridge quarterly of healthcare ethics : CQ the international journal of healthcare ethics committees. 25. 384-394. 10.1017/S0963180116000037.

[30] http://www.alexschadenberg.blogspot.ca/2013/09/euthanasia-is-out-of-control-in-belgium.html

[31] The Netherlands saw a 190% increase in euthanasia from 2006-2015.  In the 10 years to 2013, the number of euthanasia cases in Belgium has risen from about 1,000 to 8,752, according to official records.  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-18/euthanasia-17-year-old-first-minor-to-be-granted-belgium/7855620

[32] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2686711/Dont-make-mistake-As-assisted-suicide-bill-goes-Lords-Dutch-regulator-backed-euthanasia-warns-Britain-leads-mass-killing.html#ixzz475CQjW5M.  See: Boer, T. Rushing toward death? Assisted dying in the Netherlands, March 28 (2016) at http://www.christiancentury.org/article/2016-03/rushing-toward-death.  Also see Theo Boer, I supported our euthanasia law, but I was terribly wrong: Dutch ethicist.  https://www.lifesitenews.com/opinion/i-supported-our-euthanasia-law-but-i-was-terribly-wrong-dutch-ethicist

[33] Health Select Committee, Petition 2014/18 of Hon Maryan Street and 8,974 others.  Wellington: NZ Parliament, 2017, pg 34.  https://www.parliament.nz/resource/en-NZ/SCR_74759/4d68a2f2e98ef91d75c1a179fe6dd1ec1b66cd24

[34] Grant Gillett. A Report on Euthanasia for the NZMA, 2017, pg 64.  https://www.nzdoctor.co.nz/sites/default/files/2017-11/NZMA-euthanasia-Gillett-report.pdf.

[35] Kuuppelomäki, M. (2000). Attitudes of cancer patients, their family members and health professionals toward active euthanasia. European Journal of Cancer Care, vol, 9: pgs 16–21. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2354.2000.00184.x.  Also see https://healingrefuge.com/life-issues/compassion-fatigue-and-vicarious-trauma/.  Fiona Cocker and Nerida Joss, Compassion Fatigue among Healthcare, Emergency and Community Service Workers: A Systematic Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2016 Jun; 13(6): 618. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4924075/

[36] Margaret Somerville, What would we lose by legalising euthanasia?. ABC Religion and Ethics, May 2013. http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2013/05/24/3766685.htm.

Te Reo For All

Waitangi Day 2018

Ko taku reo taku ohooho, ko taku reo taku mapihi mauria

My language is my awakening, my language is the window to my soul

The whole point of the Treaty, as I see it, was to form a partnership between two peoples – a partnership which valued the culture of each fully and equally. What formed the basis of this agreement was a deep understanding that each culture had significant taonga (treasures) to offer a combined people.

One of the fundamental treasures of each culture was, without doubt, the language. Yet today – despite the fact that it is an official language of this country and despite the fact that the government has supported spending on the development of Te reo within a Maori context – the language remains unknown by the majority of New Zealanders. This is a huge loss, both to the personal development of all New Zealanders and, indeed, to our nation.

The one thing that will forever be unique about this country is Te reo Maori. No other nation can ever lay claim to that. Furthermore Te reo remains the very best pathway to the treasures of Maori, and therefore to true partnership.

This Waitangi Day, as Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, I call for this language to be placed on the same footing as English in our education system and to become the true possession of everyone who is a citizen of this country. It is not just those who identify as Maori who should have to work to preserve this treasure. This is the birth-right of everyone who calls themselves a New Zealander – a citizen of Aotearoa, and it should be treated as such, I believe.

Many countries teach multiple languages from the start of school. Many teach more than two. It is not a hard thing, but it is the right thing to do, so I call upon the new government of this land to honour the Treaty in this way and to give Te Reo Maori the same resources we give to teaching English. In doing so, this will make the language what it truly is: the legacy of a Treaty between two peoples who desired to become stronger not through conflict, but by sharing their treasures.

We are weaker than we should be because we do not truly hold this treasure. Let us correct this today and more fully resource every educational institute in this country to teach and to speak this wonderful language.

In the name and for the glory of Christ

Richard Dawson

Moderator Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand

Our Place

Salt and Light

13“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.16In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matt 5

 

Where is the place of Christianity today? For that matter where should it be in societies of this 21st century? This is an important question both because the answer will form certain basic expectations for the Church and because it will need to address certain assumptions which a free society will make concerning religion in general.

It is taken for granted these days that the ‘great days’ of Christendom are behind us. These were, for want of another definition, days when the Church held not only significant power within the state but was also a significant political power in virtually every community within that state. Church mattered and its opinion mattered and this position conferred status to its credentialed servants. In counted to be a priest or minister. It still does in certain parts of the world but the days when this was common everywhere in the West are gone.

The rights and wrongs of this have been debated ad infinitum elsewhere and I don’t want to repeat that save to say that many Christians believe this to be a good thing because power did not suit the Gospel. The question I want to raise is this – what should we expect from the state in terms of our place in society now – what is a biblical expectation?

My contention is this; any kind of hope or ambition for a return to the political power the Church once had, while possible, is both highly unlikely and unbiblical. Now this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t attempt to raise our point of view and to have it heard as a good citizen of the state. We have a duty, I believe, to both live and preach morally in whatever society we live for to do so is the first duty of every Christian. And who knows, this may win the day politically and so be reflected in the laws and ethics of the society within which we live.

So far, perhaps, much of what I’ve said will not be particularly surprising to many. However, there is an aspect of this which I suspect we’ve gotten wrong over many years, certainly in my life time, and which we need to improve on. This concerns the nature of the ‘morality’ I am speaking about.

The word ‘moral’ is a deeply Christian word and was first used as a noun to translate the Latin Moralia, the title of St. Gregory the Great’s moral exposition of the Book of Job. It was subsequently applied to the works of various classical writers. As such, it meant, in this context, ‘scriptural behaviour’ or behaviour based on the scripture (of Job) and then, more generally, “proper behaviour of a person in society,” literally “pertaining to manners,” and then to translate the Greek ethikos – ἠθικός (see ethics) from Latin mos (genitive moris). So, to act and to preach ‘morally,’ as I understand it, is to act in accordance with scripture and, in this case scripture has some important things to say to us about the ‘place’ of the Church.

My point is a simple one. The operative nouns in the passage above from Matthew 5 are salt and light (specifically a light under a bushel). In and of themselves they have one thing in common – they constitute only a tiny percentage of the whole – they are small compared to the thing they are influencing. Salt constitutes the very smallest part of a meal. The light that may be placed under a bushel will be, perhaps, one small flame – the tiniest part of the world which it is illuminating. In short, it is likely that the Church’s proper place or, at least, the place which it will normally hold, is small, miniscule compared to the peoples, states and regions which it can and will influence.

It’s not that it is wrong to command a greater place. I don’t think this can be adduced from scripture. It’s just that it’s uncommon and unlikely given the state of humankind. Furthermore, even when it did command such a place, such as during the Middle Ages in Europe, that power led to greater corruption of the Church and the Gospel it preached than perhaps at any other time. It also resulted in significant dissatisfaction with the Church and to the rise of Reformers such as Luther and Calvin and later Wesley and Whitfield who effectively lead great splits away from the powerful parts of the Church.

But need this be the case. Could we not do with more influence from the Gospel on the state? Is it not a good thing to have the ultimate moral book at the centre of political life? Some might point to the early theocracy of Israel in the Bible and say that this was and is, in fact, God’s plan but an honest evaluation of that period and even of David’s reign would surely suggest that this was little better than the reign of a beneficent but pagan King and, certainly, at times much worse. Micah 3 portrays perhaps the end point of this rule in a manner that can hardly be any worse than the worst pagan states…

9Hear this, you leaders of Jacob,

you rulers of Israel,

who despise justice

and distort all that is right;

10who build Zion with bloodshed,

and Jerusalem with wickedness.

11Her leaders judge for a bribe,

her priests teach for a price,

and her prophets tell fortunes for money.

Yet they look for the Lord’s support and say,

“Is not the Lord among us?

No disaster will come upon us.” (Micah 3)

And this, indeed, was not unlike the Church prior to the Reformation. The sad thing is that power corrupts even the most godly of people and institutions and we should not think that the Church is any different. It is still a very human institution.

But there is an even more important reason why the Church is at its best when it is not counted amongst the powerful and it is this. The Church’s true influence is always as a witness to the One who holds all power in His hands and yet remains uncorrupted. The act of being a witness to power is not the same as having power and, in fact, is more effective when done by the powerless. We are, in many ways, a people of power but this power is not our own – it is another’s. The whole of Christian mission is predicated on this strategy – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” says Christ.

Of course, power is promised here but it is power to witness, power to proclaim, power to heal, power to love. Again, at times, we may receive power and we may be asked to use it responsibly but this is not the primary act of the Church. The primary act is to witness to Christ in and through our weakness.

What’s In A Name?

There has been much debate in the last week or so about the prayer said before each sitting of parliament, which last week didn’t include reference to Jesus or the Queen, as it has done in the past.

Speaker, the Rt Hon Trevor Mallard has indicated he is open to feedback on changing the prayer and I wanted to add my thoughts into the mix.

I can understand the concern around the archaic language of the parliamentary prayer and the desire to pray in Te Reo, which I heartily commend. I would, however, encourage our parliamentarians to consider again the desire to drop the name of Jesus in their traditional prayer.

The question of being fair seems to be the driving concern of Mr Mallard’s desire to leave Jesus’ name out, but will it really be so? What I find in talking to people of many different faiths who come and settle in NZ, and who enjoy this country’s freedom to worship whomever they might, is that almost without exception it is this freedom and the lack of persecution – especially religious persecution – that they enjoy the most. And where does that come from?

It comes from the ethic derived from the person and work of Jesus Christ – the one whose life has also inspired the creation of the central institutions of most of the Western democratic world – modern medicine, science, education and even, dare I say it, modern democracy.

Ah no! I hear you say. That was invented by the Greeks. So it was, but it only flourished once planted within a Christian world view. It is the commitment to selfless service and to the betterment of all which Jesus promoted in his life, death and resurrection which inspired the egalitarian basis of modern western democracy. It is Christ who has made religious tolerance possible, so why would one want, in the name of such tolerance, to delete his name from the prayer of those who represent us in parliament?

When we speak Jesus’ name, we speak of both the understanding and humility which makes room for other beliefs even though we may not share those beliefs. The effect of removing his name from the prayer is to buy into a universalism which so far from promoting unity encourages the exclusive individualism of a fundamentalist belief. That’s the danger.

In a funny sort of way, much the same could be said of the notion of no longer praying for the Queen. Our tangata whenua have taught me much about our attitude towards the past. Maori spirituality takes the past into the present as a living element of existence.

The acknowledgement of our ancestors whose communal efforts have bequeathed to us the world we now inhabit is vital in a world besotted with the illusion of progress. While we may, with hindsight, be critical of our forebears, we cannot deny our link with them and this is extremely important for us as a modern society. We cannot deny our past, both its dark places and its triumphs. This is what made us.

To pray for the crown by praying for the Queen acknowledges the history of our present constitutional status, honours those who gave it to us, and lifts up all who now participate in it. The queen is a vital link to that past and to incorporate her in our prayer is to invite God, in a very real way, to redeem the present.

Finally, to the issue of representation. It is true that not all Kiwis are Christian, so is it not fairer to pray a more general prayer to which all other faiths can subscribe?

It is this last part which I believe contains a flaw in the argument. The ‘neutralising’ of the prayer by removing the name Jesus from it enthrones the assumption that one can esteem all religions by naming none of them – that to pray in general will show respect to all and therefore be more acceptable. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The assumption that we can somehow deal with religious difference by proclaiming a ‘neutral space’ where no god is named and no heaven defined, where every colour is grey and music has become one note is a mistake. This approach subsumes your religion into mine and suggests that I know and understand your faith enough to say that it is no different from mine.

General prayer to a general god does not acknowledge that it is the life of Christ which is one of the very best examples of inclusivity in our culture. Let’s continue then to acknowledge our past and to name the one who has helped us make this society one in which all people of all faiths can live alongside each other in peace.

 

Carey Nieuwhof here in 2018

Carey Nieuwhof, a Canadian minister who has a proven track record of Church growth in both a traditional context and an independent context is coming to New Zealand next year and will be hosted by a variety of churches including a Presbyterian one during his time here.

The image below displays the full itinerary. The Orange Seminar is, I think, a day long edition of the Orange Conferences in the USA which focused on working with teams. The Parenting Seminar should be self-explanatory and the Pastor’s Days focus on the four topics of

The High Impact Leader

Breaking Growth Barriers ( esp. the 200 barrier)

10 Predictions about Future Church

Renewing the Leaders Heart

Early bird tickets are only $75pp and if 5 are bought a sixth will be offered free of charge. I can’t encourage you more to bring your most influential leaders to this. They will be enormously encouraged.

 

carey nieuwhof nz tour 2018 (1)

Please Be Political

Richard is the current Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Aotearoa New Zealand

Politics is the ultimate expression of the fact that we have to exist with people who don’t think like us. Derived from the Greek polos – meaning ‘people’ – politics is the art and, perhaps, science of being a people – being together. Every expression of politics is basically a reaction to this fact. Fascist and communist expressions of politics are simply more extreme reactions. Democracy is simply an attempt to find the fairest and broadest expression of this reality. As such we who are Christian should avoid two extremes in our involvement with politics.

The first is to reject the whole notion of politics as worldly sinful expression of human attempts at self-government. This is how many Christians view politics and as a result they refuse to become involved or even to register their right to vote and have their say. The rationale for this is usually that politics is part of a worldly attempt to govern that will ultimately fail and won’t address the real need of humankind which is salvation and the spiritual governance of God through the Holy Spirit. The problem with this is that it is not biblical in the least.

Jesus Himself said ‘Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s’ establishing forever that Caesar did indeed have some rights, rights established in heaven itself. Paul is perhaps even clearer when he states in Romans 13:1 ‘Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.’ And he goes on in the next 6 verses to establish very clearly that political authorities are both necessary and God ordained.

Now I realise that this seems to be at odds with all the some of the less palatable realities of politics and especially the fact that many political leaders down through the ages have used their authority to do terrible things to the people under their power. However, that does not in and of itself mean that we’d be better living in state where all people do what they think is best. This is simply another form of tyranny where the power resides not with an individual but with every individual. Under such a regime there is little chance for ‘righteousness’ to thrive since no one could challenge the individual’s right to govern themselves.

The Bible is convinced that political power is both necessary and right even if it’s administration is often corrupted by corrupt human beings.

The second extreme is to replace our hope in God with hope in politics, political parties and political figures. Here we become far too optimistic about what political power can achieve for us and we are therefore attracted to those who promise the most or with whom we identify the most. This is certainly a feature of our age and of Kiwis and it is a very human thing to want to see our hope. But let’s be clear, there was never a closer thing to outright idolatry than this view. Our idol becomes the party or person who seems to think like us the most and to promise to act like we think they should. This idol is clearly made in our image and they remain our hope and the promise that the future will be what we want it to be. In this regard we act like idolaters.

We identify with the ‘visible’ features of the idol; how they look, how they express themselves, what they say; all these things have to line up with our imagination and our hope just as a little wooden idol would.

We enjoy control of our idol. We rejoice when things go well and we hide it away when things don’t – making excuses for it and for the loss of some of our hope.

We protect our idol. We defend our party or person. We feel offended when they are attacked. We are prepared to rigorously defend our idol even when a defense is not available in which case we will recall the mistakes of those who are attacking our idol.

Finally, we imagine that our idol has so much control that they will be able to change our personal circumstances and make things different for us according to… our desires and dreams. In short, our world is in their hands but, and what is more to the point, their hands are really all about fulfilling our world!

Friends, this should not be!! We should recognize both how limited our political masters are and, much more importantly, who our true lord is! Yes, politics is both important and necessary but it should not be our idol or where we place our true hope.

Perhaps the worst feature of this is the party spirit this sort of thinking brings out in Christians especially around election time. I am horrified at the cynicism and barely disguised hatred expressed so freely by card-carrying Christians around election time. There’s simply no need for it. Yes, by all means support your person/party but don’t do it at the expense of the dignity and grace which is the mark of your faith.

When we behave in the manner I have outlined above we proclaim a different message from the one we’ve been given as Christians by our Lord and it this – ‘I am your true hope; I am the One in whom your dreams and desires should be invested – not the political powers of this world.’

By all means be political but do so in a way that reflects who you are – a child of Christ whose true hope is Christ.

The Church as an Icon of Trust

 

51jli3J10SL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Steven Covey Jnr has written a remarkable book on the importance of trust in the corporate environment and, indeed, in everyday life. This book should be required reading for every Minister and Elder in the Presbyterian Church because it deals with something which should be at the heart of our life as a Church and as Christians.

Do we trust one another or, more to the point, do we trust our organization from the minister through to the elders and on to the Presbytery and from there to the Assembly Office? It may seem like a shocking question to ask but my feeling is that trust is at an all-time low for a variety of reasons.

To some extent the causes are external. The constant claim by atheistic secularism that the Christian narrative is both historically inaccurate and philosophically empty has continued to erode both confidence and trust in the Gospel. Add to this a form of Theology which became popular in the 20 century which bought into this claim and you may add further erosion from within to the trust quotient within the Church.

A further and important problem has arisen within every main denomination which must also be taken into account. This is the inability of our ecclesiology to adapt to the changing culture in the West and, thereby, to convict and convert new generations to Christ. In particular,  the Reform Church by its very nature understood the requirement placed on its ecclesiology for it to change in response to the missiological imperative to be ‘all things to all people.’ It’s fundamental self-definition that ‘Ecclesia reformata semper reformanda’ – the Reformed Church must continually be reformed, was seen as being vital to both the Church’s life and its mission because its life depends on its mission and its mission depends on its ability to incarnate the Gospel in every culture. To do that it must be open to being reformed.

We find ourselves in an age when our unwillingness to be reformed has created a major crisis in Church vitality in the West and this is nowhere better seen than in the low level of trust the Church engenders from the community within which it resides and more so within itself.

Covey’s main thesis is that Trust is the key driver of corporate success as well as providing the most important measure of health in any organisation and it is so because it constitutes the crucial driver of cooperation in society. With trust people will give of themselves freely and fully to the task allocated to them. Without it, despite good rewards, clear goals and very nice environments, people will not give fully and freely of themselves. And this is not just a productivity issue. Where lack of trust really bites is in relationships. Trust is the lifeblood of healthy relationships and where it is lacking dysfunction results.

We all know the terrible cost of relationship breakdown to society in regard to marriage, but I believe we may trace many other significant social losses to this basic deficit.

Violence, poor physical and mental health to say nothing of spiritual health, political disillusionment and disconnection, general distrust of authority and poor educational outcomes are all deep and persistent problems for Western society in general which derive in large part from relationship breakdown. Furthermore they constitute a major source of economic underperformance to say nothing of the effect they have on the West’s ability to help developing countries.

My concern and message to the Church has been about the importance of Hope but it is clear to me that without trust Hope becomes impossible. Therefore, we must address those things which both undermine trust and which promote it. Covey’s book provides a major resource for the Church in this task.

Covey’s approach is both anecdotal and yet intensively analytic. He begins by dividing Trust into two main categories – character and competence. Character is a constant and is required for trust under any circumstances although this does not mean we can’t change and improve in this area. Competence is situational meaning that the requirements for trust will change dependent on circumstances.

From here he works through 5 waves of trust which build on each other acting as a metaphor for how trust works in our lives and communities. These waves move from the personal through to the organisational. At the end with the fifth wave, they take on board a global perspective by looking at developing societal trust. What becomes clear from the beginning is that trust cannot operate unless we are prepared to begin with ourselves – a Gospel parallel which shouldn’t be missed.

The first wave begins with the individual and their ability to develop ‘self-trust.’ Personal behavioural goals which lead to ‘self-trust’ are divided into the following: Integrity, Intent, Capabilities and Results. These are called the four cores of credibility and provide the basis of trust both in ourselves and of ourselves. As Ralph Waldo Emerson says,

Self-trust is the first secret of success . . . the essence of heroism[1].’

These four cores allow us both to see what self-trust means and how we might improve it.

The second wave makes explicit what is implicit in the four cores – behaviours that amount to trustworthiness. In his own words…

The Second Wave— Relationship Trust— is all about behavior . . . consistent behavior. It’s about learning how to interact with others in ways that increase trust and avoid interacting in ways that destroy it.[2]

These 13 behaviours are; Talk Straight, Demonstrate Respect, Create Transparency, Right Wrongs, Show Loyalty, Deliver Results, Get Better, Confront Reality, Clarify Expectations, Practice Accountability, Listen First, Keep Commitments, Extend Trust.

These behaviours grow out of the four cores, they are actionable and they are universal. They provide a real handle on how to understand and to grow trust.

The third, fourth and fifth waves are really an exposition of how to apply these cores and behaviours to 3 different situations – organisations, the market and society. Clearly the Church should be interested in all three but the first is perhaps most crucial for if we cannot inspire trust within our structures and if we remain a low trust organisation in the community the future looks bleak.

Trust is a key Christian value. It lies at the heart of the New Testament as a cognate of belief. Trust and belief are almost inseparable. The question I want to ask is this… if we’re asking people to believe us and to believe the Gospel do we act in a manner that is trustworthy and do we organise ourselves so that trust is built into our way of being as a church? If not it is hardly credible that we should ask people to trust us with a message of trust is it?

Trust should be a primary goal as a Church I believe. It should be developed as a fundamental concern of discipleship and from there extend into the way we structure our life together. It should drip from every pore of our body life and it should be an unspoken witness to the incredible way God has entrusted us with His love for the world. More simply, we should be the message we bring.

Read the book. Listen to what the Spirit is saying.

God Bless,

Richard D.

[1] Covey, Stephen M.R.; Merrill, Rebecca R.. The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything (p. 46). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

[2] Covey, Stephen M.R.; Merrill, Rebecca R.. The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything (p. 125). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

 

Mental Health and Church

mentalhealth

June 2017

Mental Health Disease is the modern leprosy. We prefer it to be hidden away. It is a label, despite the wonderful work of Sir John Kirwan, of shame. There is also a kind of mystery around it for it can hit anyone in society no matter how healthy they look on the outside. Chronically underfunded and suffering from what might be called a significant class war between the medically trained psychiatric service and the somewhat less recognised counselling based service of psychologically trained professionals people get lost in the cracks of this landscape all the time. Professionals such as Ministers of Religion have little place in this menagerie until they can show that they can abide by the unspoken rules of the system – which may well be fair enough since this really only amounts to professional courtesy but try challenging the assumptions of those in charge and all bets are off.

However, I don’t want this to become another mental health services bashing exercise. I’m sure all those who serve there are doing their best. We in the Church need to put our house in order first and that’s why I simply want to put the question to us all – what are we doing about mental health in our churches? Have we ever preached on it? Have we ever tried to help the people in our church who are struggling with mental health feel as if their illness doesn’t define their humanity? Have we ever tried to understand a little more about mental illness?

The first thing that must happen if we are to break the curse of mental health is to talk about it openly and honestly. I myself have had a brief brush with depression. It was when I was 14 and after a very bad year at school. So dark was that year that I had nightmares about it for years afterwards and the memory of how I felt brought dread to my soul well into adulthood. But my journey was nothing compared to the people I’ve met along the way in my ministry. People whose lives have been brutally broken by long periods of depression; whose marriages have fallen victim to these episodes and whose families have struggled to understand and relate to their illness. And others whose illness has become such a poison to the family that the only thing they could do was separate themselves from the family member with the illness further isolating the victim and delivering them to a life on the streets.

It’s a highly destructive disease which we must work to both understand and deliver the best of our healing science to. I don’t think we’re there yet – do you?

RD

Pentecost

pentecost1June 2017

Where is home for you? Perhaps I should ask what is home for you for home may not be a place. It may be a people, a period of your life, a position or even a poem. Words have great power to evoke our deepest needs and desires as is the case with the Psalms. The notion of ‘home’ is one of those words which evoke so much longing in us. For me, when I think of home I immediately go to memories not of my place of growing up but of my grandparent’s orchard in the North Island which we visited for several weeks every summer at Christmas time. So many good things flowed from that visit not least the wonderful welcome we received from my grandparents and the special world which was their home. It became a place of peace, of joy, of adventure and of deep deep belonging; in short, it became home for me. At Pentecost the Spirit created such a place for the Christian Church – it created ‘home’ for the Church.

Home is, so they say, ‘where the heart is,’ and if this is the case then just about anywhere can be home. I wonder if you’ve ever visited a place and found yourself so taken with it, with the beauty, with the peace, with the atmosphere, that it felt, quite literally, like you’d come home? I believe this is something of what Paul comes to in that amazing passage in 2 Corinthians 5…

So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

Paul here uses the idea of ‘home’ to redefine heaven as our true place of belonging because it is where the God who loves us is. So, while he recognizes our natural connection with this life and, indeed, with our bodily existence he also recognizes that despite the strong connection we all have with these things there is another home that is more desirable and, indeed, more complete – the place where God is.

When the Spirit was poured out in Jerusalem on that first Pentecost of the Christian Church not only was the Church properly founded but God created a true home for the followers of Christ. Not a home built of anything material but a home of deep relationship with God and with each other. Furthermore, it was a home which called and calls us into mission because the whole aim and goal of the Spirit’s presence and power was to proclaim Christ in a manner which could not be denied. How we need this today!

The Church’s true home is to be in mission – to be reaching people who are far from God with the amazing power of the Gospel; a power which has healed and held and helped people into the Kingdom of Heaven from the beginning.

As we celebrate this event this year let us be mindful again of the relationship between the Spirit and Space for it is the spirit that transforms every space into a place we may call home; a place we can sense God’s welcome and God’s belonging and a place where the welcome of God is extended in power to all who feel and who are disconnected from their true home which is God’s love.

RD