April 14, 2017

Triduum Thoughts

At last night’s Maundy Thursday liturgy, I felt a bit like Scrooge on Christmas Day: “I don’t deserve to be so happy.” But I was, despite the solemnity, perhaps because of it. Last year on Maundy Thursday I was in the hospital ER with a heart attack, waiting to be operated on the next day... yes, on Good Friday, under local anesthetic, able to watch my beating heart on the fluoroscope as the doctor threaded it with a stent, lying on the table in the same hospital in which I was born, intimations of mortality dancing in my head like preserved sugar plums.

But last night — through the washing of the feet (with painful knees on the stone floor) as I have done so many times before, but then to a liturgical act new to me, cleaning the altar with water carefully poured into the five incised crosses on the mensa, and wiping it down with the same sort of towel used to dry the parishioners’ feet, and then using that same moistened towel, folded, to stifle the light of the sanctuary lamp, watching it dim and die, stopping Ed the cantor’s voice as all the lights went out — I experienced the same inexplicable joy.

More apt for joy, perhaps, such moments as bearing the incomparable weight of the Body to the Altar of Repose, beneath the canopy, God’s parachute. But the most joyous moment came at the Sursum Corda. As I turned and looked down the long aisle of the nave, out through the clear glass doors and the open wooden ones, I saw a man across Charles Street, walking along, who at that same moment turned to look into the church. He stayed standing directly, centrally opposite, looking, through the call for lifted hearts, the call for thanks to be given. I was calling to him perhaps more than to the people already churched, already on board. I don't think he could have heard me — the glass doors, open earlier, had been closed to hush the sounds of traffic on that busy street — but I hoped he knew, and knows, that I was calling him, I was calling him on behalf of someone far greater than us all. And I hope his heart was touched by that mystery, if even only for a moment, and that perhaps those doors, or the doors of some other place where God is calling, will feel the press of his hand, and gently open wide.

I don’t deserve to be so happy. But I am.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

April 9, 2017

The Options Market

a sermon delivered at Church of the Advent, Federal Hill, Baltimore, on Palm Sunday 2017

It has been said that our lives are constituted by the choices we make. At every point of our lives we are faced with options, alternatives to go one way or the other — and the choices we make determine the shape of our lives, each choice like a bead on a string, strung together by our identity. Some of these choices are dramatic and obvious; some, we may not even be aware of as we make them.

This truth is laid out plainly in Matthew’s account of the Passion. We see the choices people make all along the way, choices to act or refrain from action, options and opportunities taken or rejected. So many options for so many lives! And each of these choices shapes the reality of each one’s world — and our world!
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Think of the terrible choice that Judas makes: the choice of betrayal, the choice to accept a handful of silver to betray a man to death, a man in whose company he could have found eternal life. Instead, he opts for delivering him to death, and when stricken with remorse, chooses death for himself.
Then look at Peter, the unsteady man who totters between heroism and cowardice, pulling out a sword at one point to defend his Lord, and then cowering in the shadows at another, denying that he even knows him. He chooses to deny Jesus, and only the rooster’s crow recalls him to himself, and rebukes him for his choice.

Then there’s the high priest, Caiaphas. Matthew doesn’t supply us with a window into why he acts as he does; for that we have to depend on John’s Gospel, which we will hear on Good Friday. Caiaphas is a practical man — he follows what would later be called the utilitarian ethics of “the greatest good for the greatest number.” So, John tells us, he advises that, given the danger Jesus creates in the fragile political climate of Jerusalem, it is expedient that one man should suffer instead of many. This choice goes against the teaching of the greatest rabbi in Judaism, Hillel the Great, who ended his ministry during Jesus’ childhood. Hillel taught that to save a single human life is to save an entire world. Caiaphas on the other hand, weighs human life in the shopkeeper’s scale, one life against many, and figures the trade-off is reasonable. And by that choice he sets the course for all that follows.

Then we have Pilate, another politician, a man who also weighs his choices carefully. It is easy to sympathize with Pilate — so much is pulling him one way and another — even his wife chimes in to warn him to disengage. And so Pilate makes the interesting choice not to choose. Like many a politician before and since, rather than take a position — he takes a poll. Pilate is a leader who leads from behind, safely insulated — he thinks! — from having to take responsibility should things not work out, sheltered from the consequences of his inaction, able to wash his hands of the whole matter — a perfect example of “plausible deniability” — but only known to ages since for this one choice not to choose, forever immortalized wherever Christians gather with those words: “crucified under Pontius Pilate.”
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All of these choices, all of these lives, swirling in the mix of options and opportunities! And step by step, each one of them choice by choice, each life collapses into reality as each choice is made, all the fuzzy options fading away as each choice becomes concrete, and the path is taken. And amidst this cloud of options, the most important choice, the one that is the eye of the storm around which all of these other possibilities swirl, is the one that Jesus makes, and he keeps right on making it through to the end.

It begins in the garden of Gethsemane, as he appeals to his Father for another option — a way for salvation to be accomplished without his having to drink the cup of suffering set before him. Matthew portrays only one side of the conversation: it is as if we were witnessing a telephone call — we hear what Jesus says, but not the response. God spoke at his Baptism and his Transfiguration. But now? Is God truly silent? Is this the beginning of the terrible silence of God that will lead Jesus to cry out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

We do not know. What we do know is that Jesus has a choice, there in the garden, and throughout the rest of the suffering that follows. There in the garden it is perhaps clearest: even with Judas and the guards on their way, it is still not too late for Jesus to escape, to leave the city and head on back to the safety of Bethany, to flee to far-off Galilee. But he doesn’t.

That same choice is available to Jesus right on up to the end. When they bring him before Caiaphas, he could choose to deny himself and his mission as God’s holy one, the Messiah. But he doesn’t. When brought before Pilate, he could play on Pilate’s weakness for “the art of the deal.” But he doesn’t. Even when they nail him to the cross, he could indeed — as the taunters say — choose to “come down now from the cross.” But he doesn’t.

For he knows at any one of these steps that for him to do so would be to disobey his heavenly Father, to deny the very purpose for which he was born. To choose not to die on the cross — that is the most tempting option, but it is one that he refuses.
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In his novel, The Last Temptation of Christ, author Nikos Kazantzakis explores what it might have been like if Jesus had given in to this last temptation, this option to come down from the cross. In a flash, even as he hangs there crucified, Jesus envisions what it would mean to come down from the cross. He sees himself return to Galilee as an ordinary man, to settle down and get married, to run his carpenter shop — and to leave the world unredeemed, human nature broken, left to lay where — not Jesus — but Adam and Eve “flang it.”

But he doesn’t. Jesus doesn’t do this, in the novel or the Gospel. He rejects that dreamlike fantasy of an ordinary life; he doesn’t give in to that last tempting choice, that seductive option to live instead of dying. He gives himself to death on the cross, knowing that in the options market of Calvary, all of the conniving deals and bartering in human souls are turned upside down. He lays down his life because he knows this is the only investment that will bring a return — and what a return it will be! What had he said? “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world at the cost of his life?” Jesus took that risk, as only he could do. And his gift of himself, his one sacrifice of himself once offered, would bring redemption to the whole world. His act of obedience unto death, even death on the cross, will lead to his exaltation above all earthly things, and the sanctification of all things, in him.

This is the path the Son of God chose on our behalf, for our salvation. It meant pain and suffering and death for him — but life for us. At the cost of his life he gained the whole world.
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We are offered a similar choice each day of our lives: we too are offered the option to take up our cross day by day, and follow him. Or... or will we follow Judas’ choice to betray, Peter’s choice to deny, Caiaphas’ choice to victimize, or Pilate’s choice to abdicate?

Will we bend our knee at the name of Jesus, or bow to other earthly gods of wealth and comfort, or act like we don’t know who he is, or take advantage of our sisters and brothers, or act as if this all has nothing to do with us? Sisters and brothers, how we choose each day of our lives, how we play the stakes in this options market, will determine our fate for all eternity. As we sow, so shall we reap.

You may remember a line from Charles’ Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” when Scrooge asks Marley’s Ghost about the heavy chain that binds him. The unhappy ghost responds: “I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it link by link... I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you? Or would you know the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this seven Christmas’s ago, and you have labored on it since. Ah, it is a ponderous chain!”

Such are the choices we make, my friends, day by day: the things we do and refuse to do — “things done and left undone.” The life and death of our Savior is set before us to show us how to free ourselves from the ponderous chain of self-interest that binds us to betrayal, fear, victimization, and evasion of responsibility. Judas, Peter, Caiaphas and Pilate — and their choices — offer their testimony.

But a greater witness still is there as well — there, on the cross. God is calling us to follow him, my sisters and brothers, and he will give us the strength to do so. So let us choose, and choose wisely, to follow him, through whom alone we find the way to eternal life. ✠

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

April 8, 2017

For Holy Week

This is a combination of a Symphonic Poem I wrote back in 1982 with images from the Way of the Cross that I drew last year for my parish. The musical portion is based on some of the traditional Passion music, including a closing chorale the looks beyond the Way of the Cross to Easter....

Peace and all good, and blessed Holy Week,
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

April 4, 2017

Bodies through the Window

The Church of England is currently being pecked at by a number of chickens home to roost, in particular those hatched from the settlement attempted over the ordination of women to the episcopate, embodied in the Five Guiding Principles. And ultimately, the problem is the embodiment.

The Elizabethan Settlement (a classic instance of Anglican Fudge) on issues such as the nature of Christ's presence in the Eucharist, comprehending mutually contradictory positions, was possible because no windows into personal belief were needed, and the language of the liturgy was adequately ambiguous so as to cover diversity of opinion and belief, so people could attend the same liturgy while holding completely contradictory understandings of what was taking place. Issues only became contentious when physical actions betrayed differing attitudes, so the advice was to keep these to a minimum, keeping the Peace, so to spek.

The problem with Order in general, and the ordination of women to the episcopate is that it is external and visible. Societies and factions are formed. Those who reject the concept are compelled to keep lists of those priests who have not been "ordained" by questionable hands, for neither they, nor the bishop whose hands were laid upon them, are true ministers of the sacraments, in the rejectionist view. Comprehension can no longer be sustained because the diversity of opinion has taken on flesh, and one has to be more or less public in response to the question of whether Jane Doe is a priest or bishop, or not.

It is, of course, still possible to allow for that diversity, within a national church structure, but it takes a much greater effort to sustain since it is now part of the structure itself that is in question. If, as some believe, women cannot sustain Order, the whole edifice risks becoming like those housing blocks Monty Python's Mystico and Janet sustained only by hypnosis.

Someone once noted the fragility of a house divided against itself.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

March 24, 2017

On Originalism

Originalism is a useful tool in determining authorial intent, but apart from that it is self-defeating as a legal philosophy. To understand the intent of the framers of a document by examining the original meaning of the words they used in the context in which they wrote is so obvious as scarcely to need defense. To give a trivial example, if you want to understand a first century BC text in Latin you had best begin by realizing that first-century BC Latin is neither fourth-century BC Greek nor twenty-first-century English, and the cultural contexts of these different languages also play a role in any attempt at discerning what, for instance, Julius Caesar was writing about. Just because the US Constitution is written in English doesn't mean any of the words have the same meaning they do today. I can guarantee that not one of the authors intended "arms" to mean "snub-nose revolvers" or "tactical nuclear weapons" when asserting a right not to be infringed by the state.

So originalism has its purpose as a hermeneutic tool. But it is less helpful — perhaps disastrous — when it is raised to the level of a philosophy, or worse, ideology. The notion that the Constitution should be set in 18th-century stone, and be inapplicable to later circumstances is belied by the fact that the document provides for its own amendment. The framers were intelligent men, aware of the fact that language changes, as do the times. To suspect they regarded their words as inviolable and unalterable, fixed in meaning and application only to what they intended, is to attribute an almost sacral quality to the Constitution, which is nothing short of idolatrous. I will confess I imagine that even some of the authors of Scripture itself would be shocked to think people of a later time would regard what they intended as topical advice to be unalterable divine mandate for all time. How much less would the men of Enlightenment America regard their efforts to be immutable and fixed for all time?

So go to the sources, read the contemporary commentary, study the lexicons and dictionaries by all means. But remember these are but the starting points for understanding and application. If the Constitution is to live — let it live. Do not suffocate it in the bonds of originalism's lack of imagination and understanding.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

March 22, 2017

But for Wales...?

The election of a new bishop to serve the Welsh Diocese of Llandaff has created a good deal of storm and strife. The electing convention failed to elect by the necessary 2/3 majority, and so the choice devolved to the five bishops to take up the task. Among other things, they stated that they chose "not to give further consideration to any candidate nominated at the Electoral College in order not to compromise the integrity of the College process."

Among those nominated was Dean Jeffrey John of St Albans. If you don't know who he is, you can stop reading now. If you know, you will recognize the significance of his nomination. Beyond that nomination, he received (so it has been reported, though much of this was to be confidential) unanimous support from the Diocese of Llandaff itself, and a majority of all the other required votes, but less than the 2/3 required for election.

Now, I can well understand the rationale the bishops embraced in their most recent action; it might well be true, all other things being equal, that to consider any of the candidates who failed in the earlier round would be to second-guess the process, or perhaps cobble the future ministry of anyone so nominated who was approved on the second go. Indeed it might be seen as quite irregular to award the seat to one who failed to win it by the normal process.

But all other things are not equal. Dean John has a past, one that includes several quite irregular twists and turns towards an episcopal seat. Secondary considerations and "concerns," such as are raised in other parts of the Anglican Communion, have reared their heads. And there is a very slight difference between "concern" and "fear of consequences" — and "fear" is English for phobia — and I think you know which phobia this seems to be.

It is a mess, without a doubt, and will get messier before it gets clearer.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

The title is part of a quote from Man for All Seasons when More chides Rich for his betrayal: "It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world ... but for Wales, Richard?"

February 21, 2017

As Jesus Did

The church could do worse than follow Jesus. He said adultery was wrong, and expanded the definition even to include lustful eyes — but when faced with an actual adulterer he critiqued her accusers and sent her on her way forgiven. He taught chastity — but when the woman of the streets broke into the banquet and poured out her tears and perfume doubly to anoint him, declared the redemptive quality of her love. So I say to the church today: teach what you will, but bear in mind that your teaching is not the heart of your mission, but forgiveness and love.

—Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

January 30, 2017

Prongs and Rings

Heterosexuality, under a dominant male view, is about penetration. Thus it maps well to things like electrical plugs and sockets, male and female.

Marriage, however, is about permanence and fidelity, suitably imaged by unending rings, and mapped to things as diverse as religious profession by a nun and the union between Christ and his Body, the church.
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

January 19, 2017

Wedding Preparation

Very happy to see my latest work for Church Publishing off the press, and delighted to see the kind words about it on the back cover.

"Kudos to liturgical scholar Tobias Haller for crafting this comprehensive guide to marriage in the Episcopal Church, based on canonical and liturgical changes authorized by the 2015 General Convention and presented in an easy-to-use format, for clergy, church musicians, and couples. Great to have this information all in one resource!"
-The Right Reverend Thomas C. Ely, Bishop of Vermont

"Preparing for a Wedding in the Episcopal Church is an invaluable resource for any Episcopalian involved in wedding planning and preparation. It thoroughly and concisely explores everything from balancing the sacred and secular to navigating liturgical options to managing photographers and florists. Firmly rooted in solid theology and liturgical practice, it is a timely and practical guide:'
- The Reverend Susan Russell, Senior Associate at All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena, California

"Here is a very practical, thorough, and theologically sound guide for clergy, couples, and church musicians on marriage in the Episcopal Church. The church's canon on marriage was updated most recently in 2015, and Tobias walks us through the changes and implications for planning, offering practical advice and guidance to assist all those involved."
- Carolyn Moomaw Chilton, Associate for Evangelism and Stewardship, Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Richmond, Virginia

"Every parish priest should have this resource, which will help them become familiar with the marriage canon and marriage liturgies authorized in 2015. Tobias Haller offers wise pastoral guidance. Drawing from his years of experience, he explores the many options and recommends sound liturgical and pastoral practices."
- The Reverend Dr. Ruth Meyers, Dean of Academic Affairs and Hodges-Haynes Professor of Liturgics at Church Divinity School of the Pacific

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

Timely Thoughts

Early this morning I woke with some images and thoughts running through my mind. 

The future does not exist except as potentiality.
The arrow of time is connected with the expansion of space-time — we do not move "into" an existing future any more than the universe expands "into" a presently empty space — it is space-time itself that is expanding, and this drives the arrow of time.
Experience (the present and past) is the collapse of potentiality into actuality.

That's enough for now. My brain hurts.


December 16, 2016

The nature of the/our church

In a recent interview, Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon revives interest in the Anglican Covenant. This proposal has only found favor among the minority who would like to see the Anglican Communion more tightly organized into a conciliar body, rather than continuing to be a loosely affiliated grouping of national churches sharing a common heritage but no central governance.

What I don't understand is why those who want to be part of a communion not based on independent national churches don't affiliate with the church that the Church of England left when it decided being an independent national church was of crucial importance. To claim — as do some who favor the Anglican Covenant — that the idea of “national church” is un-Anglican is to rob “Anglican” of any relevant meaning.

And if one believes conciliarity is of the esse of the church, to continue as a member of a non-conciliatory body is to be outside the church.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

December 4, 2016

Child's Play

Church of the Advent Baltimore • Advent 2a • Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.
Advent is the season of the church year in which we prepare our minds and hearts for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, not only the yearly commemoration of his coming as a newborn infant to the stable in Bethlehem, but in watchful preparation for the as yet to be realized coming in glory at the end of time, when he will judge the living and the dead in perfect righteousness. So we find ourselves, in Advent, perhaps especially in the Church of the Advent, somewhat torn between two images: the sweet Christ Child in the manger, and the transfigured, majestic figure of the everlasting Judge and King, whose coming is foretold by the wild prophet John the Baptist.

On this Sunday the two images come together. in the prophet Isaiah’s words. The prophet describes the peaceable kingdom, his vision of God’s just and righteous reign. And at first the vision of the one who shall come forth from the root of Jesse sounds like the same mighty judge John the Baptist promises. Here is one upon whom the Spirit rests, who is full of wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and fear of the Lord. Here is one who shall judge with righteousness and equity, whose very voice strikes the earth like a rod, whose breath slays the wicked.

But then the imagery shifts. Suddenly all is peaceful: wild beasts of forest and field no longer prey on the domesticated animals of pasture and barnyard, but graze and nestle beside them. The two worlds, wild and domestic, come together in peace. And, wonder of wonders, all this harmony is orchestrated, brought about and led not by an army of lion-tamers with pistols and whips, or a crowd of Australian alligator wrestlers with cages and anesthetic darts, but by a little child. Even more surprising, infants young enough still to be nursing, and others just starting on solid food, can play with snakes in perfect safety, the archetype of human enmity with the natural world from our infancy in the Garden of Eden — the serpent — has lost it’s poison, and has become a plaything for the children of Adam and Eve. This peaceful lordship that turns the curse of Adam on its head, this peaceable kingdom established on God’s holy mountain is, simply put, child’s play.
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Now, this is not frivolous talk. Few things are more serious than child’s play. I really mean that. Have you ever watched children playing? Children take their play very seriously, and the more deeply involved in play they are, the more intense their concentration. Where else but in play do you see actual wrinkles form on the foreheads of children? Where else but in play do you see little tongues appear at the edges of tiny mouths, as tiny hands struggle to color within the lines, to make a puzzle come out just right, for a doll’s hair be styled in high fashion, or a plastic peg hammered down just so with a plastic hammer into a plastic hole? No, children at play are quite intent on their playing!

Children in a snowball fight are as focused on their battle as any general. And I dare not even mention the intensity of a child apparently glued to a PlayStation! And a five-year-old hosting a tea party for dolls and teddy bears will — should you be honored with an invitation to such an event — enforce upon you a protocol and etiquette as rigorous as a state banquet. The Cabbage Patch twins must always be served first, in recognition of their youth, while Barbie, being a mature young lady, is expected to be patient, and Pooh Bear has to be watched lest he sneak a cookie before the proper time. As you balance the tiny saucer and minuscule teacup, savoring the invisible tea and make-believe cake, you are apt to marvel at the child’s knowledge of etiquette, and stern resolve to enforce it.

Yes, the prophet was right in describing the kingdom of God as child’s play, for child’s play is not frivolous. It is just that we tend to forget this as we grow older. As we age out of the pure, clear world of childhood, we are apt to begin making compromises, to accept less than what we know is right, to move from the clarity of the black and white into those shades of grey. And we tend to see this as maturity. We gain peace at the cost of principle. We become judicious; we weigh profit and loss ratios, and we deal and we compromise. And we settle. And how often do we end up with far less than justice and righteousness for the sake of an imaginary peace — a peace that turns out not to be peace at all.
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But the judge eternal described by Isaiah, comes upon us with the ferocious intensity of a child: a single-minded child who can look straight through our adult compromises to the burning truth of our failures. He does not judge by what he sees or hears, this eternal judge whose coming we await. What? A judge who pays no attention to evidence? What kind of justice is that? Who wants a trial before a judge who passes sentence before he hears our excuses and our explanations and our rationalizations?

But my friends, this is the justice of a child, of the child. The child who knows what’s fair and what’s not, and from whose ringing sentence, “It isn’t fair!” there is no appeal. The child who knows when her parents have been arguing, however much they try to pretend it’s all O.K. for her sake. The child knows when he’s being lied to, however good our intentions, and his piercing eyes see through us as if we were so much cellophane. The child who knows the rules for snowball fights and tea-parties, and dispenses the firm justice of the playground. The child who knows how to tame animals more real than the ones of flesh and blood, the animals of the playroom, where Pooh Bear and the Lion King take tea together, and a dinosaur eats cookies from a plate. And all the while, the child oversees this feast with serious attention, and a sense of what is fair and right that puts any adult tribunal to shame.
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This is what the Justice and Lordship of Jesus is like, the just, clear, focused reign of the Son of God. Under the watchful eye of this child who comes forth from the root of Jesse, all our excuses and compromises and rationalizations are laid bare. All of our efforts to bend the rules are exposed. All of our lording it over one another, preying on each other like wolves and bears and lions, is shown up for what it is.

But the good news is that this Child of God who comes to judge us is merciful as well as just. Though he sees right through us, perhaps because he sees right through us, he will also save us, for though he sees how shallow we are he knows we are worth saving. And his loving justice can begin to transform us, and redeem our corrupted nature as surely as it undoes the curse of Adam. The old curse is done away with, transforming serpents into playthings, undoing the ancient enmity and antagonism between the wild and the domestic. Under the miraculous rule of this divine child-king even our own rough nature is transformed, our rough coats of wolf-grey fur, soften and turn to plush. Our shaggy lions’ manes are trimmed and turn bright gold, festive with bows and ribbons. Our leopard spots turn into polka-dots. Rough grizzly bears grow plump and soft and dip their blunted claws into a jar plainly labeled H-U-N-Y. And all of us together gather around the tea-table, colorful bows around our necks and ribbons in our hair, as the Child pours us our tea, and feeds us cakes, and we partake of the sacrament of peace — coming to God’s kingdom, at long last, precisely and exactly as he said we would have to come: as children.

May we then, dear sisters and brothers in Christ, be ready to enter the heavenly child’s-play of the this miracle child, the just and righteous rule of the Son of God, whose infant hands possess all might, majesty, power and dominion, henceforth and forever more.

November 23, 2016

Tectonic Shift or Slip of the Tongue?

The Secretary-General of the Church of England has just issued a clear response to the  syllabus of accusations raised by GAFCON that the said Church has "violated" the provisions of Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference.

I'm very pleased to see one particular affirmation in the letter: "clergy and laity alike are entitled to argue for changes to teaching and practice." Those with sufficiently long memories will recall that the principal reason for denying the episcopate to Jeffrey John was not the fact of his living in a civil partnership (which was within the bounds set) but the fact that he was advocating for something contrary to the teaching of the church.

It would appear that this "raison de ne pas être" has reached its sell-by date. It also indicates that same-sexuality need not be regarded as a first-order doctrinal issue, or a part of the permanent deposit of the faith.

UPDATE: GAFCON UK has responded to William Nye. The rejoinder continues the trend noted above to raise marriage to the status of a "core doctrine" — this time explicitly. And there you have the nub of the problem: GAFCON and its fellows believe and claim marriage to be a central doctrine of the Christian faith, about which there is one and only one orthodox position.

Obviously, as any reasonable review of Scripture and the Tradition show, this assertion is not true, since Scripture itself and the Tradition (both within Anglicanism and outside it) offer mixed testimony concerning the nature of marriage itself, and provide no evidence for a continuous place for marriage as a central doctrine. Marriage has rarely found a place as more than peripheral in dogmatic theology, if it is mentioned at all.

A further UPDATE: Stephen Noll has issued yet another response to Nye's letter. This is a particularly absurd example of revisionist history. It contains the astounding statement, "These [Lambeth] Resolutions, read together, form a fairly harmonious tradition." I suppose to give him benefit of the doubt his definition of fairly might differ to mine. But to pretend that Lambeth has consistency on matters of "family life" is an absurdity. Instead, the Lambeth resolutions explicitly rescind, overturn, or contradict each other on things such as birth control, polygamy, and remarriage after divorce.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG