Sunday, April 29, 2012

Amazing news. Go Justin. Go the Anglicans

Amazing news. Justin Duckworth, dreadlocked, 44 years olds, pioneer urban missionary for last 25 years, in recent years reforming that around new monasticism (story told with his wife, Jenny, in Against the Tide, Towards the Kingdom (New Monastic Library)) – has just been appointed Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Wellington.

I remember attending an emerging church hui (gathering) in Wellington in 2005. At that time, some were dismissing the mainline church as dead. Others of us weren’t convinced. Theologically, we wanted to retain an openness to the God of surprise. It’s well expressed in the words of one of New Zealand’s best poets, James K. Baxter.

Lord, Holy Spirit, You blow like the wind
In a thousand paddocks, Inside and outside the fences

That sense that God can work inside and outside the church, in forms new and old. Justin was there, deeply involved in mission amongst the underprivileged and justice workshops. Now a Bishop! It’s moments like these that confirm those instincts, the joy of following a God of surprise, the celebration at the courage of the Diocese of Wellington.

I’ve written about Urban Vision as part of a chapter on the emerging church in New Zealand. Its in a book, edited by Ryan Bolger, that showcases a global emerging church, in continental Europe, Asia, and Latin American and in African American hip-hop culture. Titled: Gospel after Christendom, The: New Voices, New Cultures, New Expressions, it’s due out in October, and I hope that, given this news, they don’t mind if I post some excerpts. Under the heading “Mission.” I begin with another quote from James K Baxter.

Lord Holy Spirit, Heaven is with us when you are with us,
You are singing your songs in the hearts of the poor

Followed by:

Urban Vision began in 1996 as a group of people committed to serve the innercity of Wellington, through acts of Incarnational mission. Its origins were in a shared set of friendship, a suburb (Berhampore) and a commitment to quietly follow Christ among the poor and marginalised.

An important ministry feature was “the Castle”, an intentional community where people from the street could experience belonging and equality. There was also a willingness from individuals to deliberately relocate into public housing areas in order to support refugees and migrants.

Over the years, Urban Vision has morphed and grown in strength and outreach. It has seeded teams into other urban poor and marginalized suburbs around Wellington. Then in 2007, Urban Vision decided to reform itself as a contemporary independent Order, centered around a set of shared values. These include
• a prophetic call to seek justice
• a willingness to be sent as Good News
• an action/reflection spirituality
• a commitment to simple lifestyle and
• discipleship formation.
To quote from their website “we’re not simply copying something from the past … [Rather] … this similarity to the old missionary movements has come about because of the contexts we live, because of the times we live in and the prevailing culture of society and the church at this point of history in Aotearoa/New Zealand.”

This commitment to radical discipleship, along with their durability over a decade, are a fine example of experimental emerging praxis, of giving concrete expression to the Wind of the Spirit who yearns to whisper God’s “songs in the hearts of the poor.”

Here’s an interview with the Bishop-elect!

And here’s a fuller written article on Justin, Urban Vision and new monasticism here.

Posted by steve at 07:07 PM


  1. Agree! An astonishing and exciting step for the Diocese.

    Comment by Rochelle — April 30, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

  2. I saw Justin interviewed on the TV3 Campbell live. Great interview. He did say society is most creative on the edges. I hope the Anglicans are able to allow some to get closer to the center. Justin’s appointment is a good step.

    Comment by Tony M — May 2, 2012 @ 8:51 am

  3. Yeah, watched it on TV via the www. Justin came across really well. Edges and centre is really interesting – it came up as part of my job interview for Principal. Am I best left on the edges doing missiology, when a principal is right at the centre. But then, in the middle of the interview process, I had this experience – – which totally messed with how I was thinking about centre and edges,


    Comment by steve — May 2, 2012 @ 8:26 pm

  4. We were delighted to elect Justin – he is surely God’s person for the next stage of the life of our diocese. Thanks be to God.

    Comment by Simon — May 5, 2012 @ 6:27 pm

  5. Sweet. And wonderful that in the goodness of God, there are folk to lead you on in mission. Twill be interesting to see how much the hat shapes him or whether he can shape the hat 🙂 As is the question with all leaders stepping into “roles.”


    Comment by steve — May 5, 2012 @ 6:49 pm

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