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New voice for those on the margins

For immediate release April 6, 2005

New voice for those on the margins

How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? Psalm 137:4 KJV He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 NIV They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech Acts 2:4 Jerusalem Bible

"Helping the church to fulfill its mission – and calling the world to account." That, in a nutshell, is how Anthony Dancer, the Anglican Church's newly appointed Social Justice Commissioner, sees his role.

His tasks, among others, will be to speak out for the poor, for refugees and asylum seekers, for the jobless, for the excluded – and for adherence to the Treaty of Waitangi, and for care of the environment.

He is also committed to fostering "hospitable environments" for reconciliation, and lobbying for restorative justice, fair trade and peace-building.

Anthony, who is presently the Cathedral Missioner at Nelson Cathedral, is also charged with helping the Anglican Church here build its capacity to respond to these realities.

His job, he says, starts within the church. He plans to move around the regions, learning and listening, working alongside church people to help encourage change at a grass roots level.

But it won't end with the church.

"There is an assumption," says Anthony, "that, apart from one or two things, the church and the state rub along just fine. But history shows that, fundamentally, this has not, and never will be, the case. The church and state serve different masters.

"The state," he says, "spends a good deal of time calling the church to account. By and large, the church doesn't spend much time calling the state to account.

"Yet, if we are to be an authentic, Biblical people, there is an inescapable call, always and everywhere, to do this."

Anthony came to New Zealand three years ago. He was born and raised in Oxford, in the UK, and has a D.Phil degree in Theology.

There's no doubt, he says, that the 'dreaming spires' of Oxford University are lovely.

"But if you scratch beneath the surface, you'll find a town fraught with tensions. Oxford has great wealth, and it also has a great deal of poverty, over-population, lowquality housing, and large numbers of homeless people living on the streets.

"I grew up amidst that – I was definitely from the wrong side of the tracks – and I spent many years working there before studying. I've experienced both sides." Bishop Derek Eaton met Anthony during a visit to Oxford. He was attracted by Anthony's evangelical faith and social justice commitment.

"I felt then," says Bishop Eaton, "that Anthony had something important to offer the Diocese of Nelson. I don't want to lose him – but I'm happy to release him to Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. He will benefit the entire church." Bishop Muru Walters, who heads the Church's Social Justice Commission, and who is Te Pihopa o Te Upoko o Te Ika, says he and his fellow commissioners were unanimous in their decision to appoint Anthony.

"We believe," says Bishop Muru, "that he is the right person at the right time for this position. He is an academic New Zealander, Oxford-trained, sensitive to the requirements the position demands, and able to communicate these needs to the Church."

Anthony, who is 37, takes his new responsibility for the whole church in July. Note to Editors:

As part of its mission, and its understanding of Christian responsibilities, the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia is committed to "transforming unjust structures".

So, since 1990, it has had a Social Justice Commission, and a fulltime Social Justice Commissioner. Previous people who have held this post include Richard Randerson (now the Assistant Bishop of Auckland); Rev'd James Greenaway and Stephanie McIntyre.

When these three people served, the Social Justice Commissioner post was a Tikanga Pakeha one. Anthony Dancer is the first commissioner to be appointed by the whole, three tikanga church.


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