Vicar, Anglican Parish of Gate Pa, Tauranga, Diocese of Waiapu, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia (M.Min, BSc, LTh [Hons], B.A.)
Curriculum Vitae: John Hebenton.pdf
Grace and peace to you from God.
Thank you for the opportunity to say a little about how I have allowed my name to be nominated for the election for the next Bishop of New Westminster and what I might offer.
In the letter I received from Mr Cadman I was asked to comment on why I feel called to this role. To be honest I don’t. But let me say a little more. Over the last 25 years I have come to understand “call” to be more about the process than about an individual’s “feeling”. I have felt called to some roles that I was not appointed to. Those responsible felt others were called to those positions. I did not feel called to my current position and only offered myself because my Bishop asked me to. Through the process of applying and attending the interview, through prayer and listening, I recognised the call and accepted the bishop’s invitation to be vicar. It has been a good decision and I can say I was called here by God and the church. So I will trust the work of the Holy Spirit through your process, and if I am chosen, will understand that I am called.
So what do I offer?
As I read your Diocesan profile I recognised a church going through many of the issues that the church in this land is going through. While I am unfamiliar with the context of the Canadian church, and would need to work hard to understand that context if elected, I wonder if God might use my eyes, questions and ideas as an outsider to help the diocese discern God’s way ahead. I offer the eyes and questions of an outsider at this important time in the life of your diocese.
The most important thing I offer is who I am. I describe myself as a Franciscan priest in the Anglican Church. As a member of the Third Order, Society of Saint Francis, I seek to walk in the footsteps of Francis, who walked in the footsteps of Christ. Much of my spirituality has been shaped by the story of St Francis and St Clare. This includes a commitment to a prayerful base to my life, and the desire to see that base extended in the ministry teams I work with. This approach is also shaped by the principles of poverty and humility. I do not have all the answers. I do not have all the skills needed for any ministry. I am reliant on God and on the people I am called to work with. This would be even truer if I was to be elected as bishop.
Lastly, I offer my ministry experience over the last 25 years. In that time working in teams has been of absolute importance to me and I have sought to work collegially whenever possible. For much of my ministry I job shared with my wife Bonnie, (who is not ordained). This taught me a lot about the importance of lay ministry and how under resourced and unrecognised it often is. In my work as National Youth Ministry Facilitator I have worked to develop teams including the ForumExec, a group of young adults and youth who worked with me to organise and run national events. During this time I have also worked with people of diverse theological positions in the Methodist and Anglican churches, finding what unites us and developing ministry on that basis. I understand the role of bishop to be one of building teams and helping all in the Diocese to find what unites us so that together we can join in God’s mission.
Ministering among, to and for young people has been an important focus for me. I have felt called to advocate for young people, to advocate for youth workers, and to work to help the church resource young people for a life time faith, rather than a fun youth group programme. This has allowed me to be involved in many of the decision making bodies of our church and allowed some experience of the Anglican Communion as a whole. More importantly this experience has shaped my understanding of church and being Anglican and our place in the mission of God. I am not entrenched in the structures of church as it is, and am wondering what church might look like as we let go of what has been and what God might invite us into. As I read your profile it suggested that you too are asking these questions.
As I have struggled with others on how to engage with young people I have become aware of the need for the church to be a lot more missional. This is not so that the church can survive. The Anglican Church is God’s concern. I believe we need to be engaged in God’s mission because that is why we exist as God’s people, as God’s church. I don’t have a lot of answers or great ideas on how to do this, but I look to find others who will work with me to pay attention to God’s ongoing work in the world, and to discern how we are to join in that work.1 I would understand this to be a primary role for all those called to the episcopate.
Over recent years I have been interested in the place of our Anglican tradition, particularly in youth ministry. It comes out of my experience of attending a number of “Anglican” events that seemed hard to describe as Anglican, and a seeming lack of confidence that Anglicanism has anything to offer young people. This led to my Master’s dissertation.2 In this I described the Anglican liturgical tradition as “based on an understanding of corporate worship that is an encounter between the Living God and God’s church, which changes and shapes those who participate as individuals and as the Church. It is about the whole of life, rather than just what happens on Sunday morning. In worship we are invited by God into the life of the Trinity. In worship we are invited to join in God’s mission, acting as a foretaste of the world to come by being the people of God, living in solidarity with those who work for the transformation of the world according to God’s justice. Worship is not primarily an agent of mission, but changes people to be a God’s people of mission.” Good liturgy is at the heart of who we are as Anglicans. I don’t see this as an end in itself, but as undergirding our missional life.
Finally I have to admit I do not know the context of the First Nation people of Canada. However I bring the experience of working closely with Maori and Polynesians in our three Tikanga3 youth ministry network. Working with tangata whenua4 in a variety of contexts has helped me appreciate some of their history and context. This has not always been an easy experience but it has changed how I understand being Anglican and Pakeha5 . The parish I am currently vicar of sits on the site of a significant battle between British and Maori. As a parish we work hard to honour the story of that battle and the resulting confiscation of most of the land from Maori which led to deprivation and loss. We use Te Reo Maori6 regularly in our services. My wife and I are enrolled in a Wananga7 learning Te Reo Maori. It would be a privilege to hear from First Nation People their stories, to learn about their context, to learn some language and if appropriate to extend the model of partnership in ministry that I have experience of in New Zealand. I would value the support of other bishops and those working in the Diocese in this process. And if and when appropriate I would offer the experience of this church and its unique three Tikanga structure.
My blog can be found at http://colourfuldreamer.blogspot.co.nz, and some of my sermons at http://gatepa.buzzsprout.com.
I am honoured and humbled to be considered as the next bishop of this historic and significant Diocese. I will pray for you as you discern the way ahead. During this time of discernment for the diocese, if anyone would find it helpful to speak with me, please do not hesitate to email me.
Te pai me te rangimārie (peace and all good)
- A significant influence has been Franciscan spirituality. Our God is a God of infinite love (Julian of Norwich would say a God in whom there is only love). Francis came to realise that the Omnipotent God Most High gave all as an expression of that love. In the Incarnation, especially the nativity and passion Francis experienced the absolute poverty of God, and in doing so came face to face with his own absolute poverty. He realised that he, and all creation, is completely unworthy of that love and yet it is freely given. In short, we are all equally unworthy, and yet are all made worthy by God’s love alone. So Francis was able to embrace the most hated and despised people of his age, the leper and the Muslim. And in each he saw the risen Christ. To follow Francis’s footsteps, who walked in the footsteps of Christ, means to live to make our Lord known and loved everywhere, to spread the spirit of love and harmony and to live simply. It means to try to see the naked, crucified and risen Christ in those who are on the edge, those who are despised today, and to know that God loves us all.
The second influence is doing youth ministry for over 20 years. At a January Event in 1990 I was introduced to the theology of Dietrich Bonheoffer. He suggested that the faithful question in ministry is not what to do or how, but who is Christ, and how do we experience Christ in our lives and in the world around us. He also suggested that in the Trinity we find an image of God in relationship with God self. God is a relational God, and in can be encountered in relationships. So in every relationship we all can meet this relational God and can be transformed by this God, as Francis discovered.
Also in doing youth ministry over recent years it has become increasingly clear that to do youth ministry means to be missional. We can no longer simply attract “churched” young people to our programmes and services as we once tried and expected to do. There are fewer and fewer of these young people. Doing youth ministry means looking for ways to meet young people where they are and to start from there. It also means paying attention to where God is already at work, and hearing God’s invitation to join in that work.
Much of the “new” missional thinking has been around in youth ministry circles for at least 20 years. Because youth ministry has had to be missional for a long time, and has been embedded in the culture of young people, the culture the wider church is just waking up to. It is also clear that most of us in church, and I certainly include myself in this (part of owning my own poverty) have few clues how to be really missional. I believe that my role is to help offer our Anglican tradition and support younger people less shaped by church as it has been as they engage with our communities in new and creative ways. In short, we need to missional in ways I can’t even begin to imagine. My work over recent years has been shaped by this realisation.
- This examined the place of the Anglican Liturgical Tradition in worship targeted at 15 to 25 year olds.
- Tikanga is culture. The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia operates in three cultural streams or Tikanga, each with its own Archbishop and Synod, and the ability to govern its own life within the limits set by General Synod – Te Hinota Whanui..
- A literal translation is “People of the land”. In this case it refers to Maori in general.
- Mostly refers to those of European descent.
- Maori language.
- Maori University.