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

November 21, 2016

Thought for 11-21-16

If I hate someone, the hate is mine, my emotion, my feeling. I should not say I hate someone because they are hateful. It is I who am full of hate. It is mine to conquer or be conquered by.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

October 17, 2016

Fulcrum says it all

English author Andrew Goddard, at the aptly named blog, “Fulcrum,” has published a long essay on why he thinks a pastoral accommodation for same-sex couples in the Church of England cannot work.

It strikes me that Goddard’s arguments, particularly in the detailed section on how the church has come both to change its teaching and to make pastoral accommodation concerning remarriage after divorce, demonstrate a willingness to read texts (both liturgical and biblical) in the broadest and most flexible sense possible when applied to such changes and accommodations. Goddard does not show the same flexibility and generosity in his reading of texts concerning same-sexuality, and pastoral accommodation for same-sex couples who take advantage of the civil law to marry. So it appears to me that his inability to see a possibility for accommodation in the latter case is based in part on an unwillingness to weigh the evidence equally on both sides, but to excuse (if not condone) on one side rather than the other.

The reason I suggest that “Fulcrum” is an apt name and forum for his thinking is that a fulcrum — unlike a scale as held in the hands of Justice — is inherently unequal. It is designed to allow a small amount of pressure to accomplish a great deal of work; or, as in this case, for a weak and unbalanced argument to hold sway and persuade a multitude. In spite of my concern for those who “make the ephah small and the shekel great” (Amos 8:5) and those who trouble themselves over gnats while gulping camels, I do not think that Goddard’s arguments will carry much weight outside his own circle. I remain alert, however, to the nature of the fulcrum: to allow small weights to do big things.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

September 19, 2016

Off Center

It continues to surprise and bemuse me to see Christian authors (particularly Anglicans and Roman Catholics) these days writing about marriage as somehow the central doctrine of the Christian faith. For example, one author defends a notion that "The biblical narrative, ...locates marriage at the centre of the history of a good creation, a creation gone awry, and God’s redeeming action; to this narrative, further, sexual difference is essential."

Of course, Scripture does no such thing. The author in question has fallen into the fallacy of averages — that is, while Genesis clearly places sex (and as traditionally understood, marriage) at the beginning of creation, and Revelation reveals the marriage of the Lamb and the New Jerusalem at the other end of time, there is precious little about marriage in the center. Nor does the beginning stress sexual difference, as I have written before (Genesis 1 is about the first human couple and their likeness to God; and Genesis 2 is about the likeness of the couple to each other, not their difference.)

Moreover, it is obviously completely wrong to suggest that marriage is at the heart of redemption, given the Christian witness of the New Testament. Consider these facts:

  • The Redeemer himself comes into the world not through an ordinary marriage involving sexual difference, but a miraculous birth without any sexual intercourse at all, and a putative marriage that under Jewish Law would have been considered adulterous had the source of the Virgin's pregnancy been heterosexual sex. (Matthew 1:18f)
  • When pressed on the issue, Jesus declares that marriage is wholly a matter of this world, and that those worthy of attaining to the resurrection do not marry. (Luke 20:34f)
  • Paul holds marriage to be inferior to celibacy, but allows it for those incapable of containing themselves. (1 Corinthians 7:8-9)
  • He also affirms that sexual difference (the "male and female" of Genesis 1) has been transcended in Christ, in whom all difference is dissolved. (Galatian 3:28)

If we look at the Christian tradition, it is obvious that the main stream of thinking on marriage is that it was good and useful, but hardly essential to the Christian life and faith. From the traditional Roman Catholic view that marriage was inferior to celibacy, through the views of the Reformers that it was "allowed" (Anglican) or "a matter for the town hall" (Lutheran) marriage was peripheral to dogmatic thinking until about the middle of the 20th century, when some Roman and Reformed theologians began to try to elevate it to a more central place — largely in reaction to societal pressure involving increasing divorce rates and contraception use. Some, such as Pannenberg, went quite off the deep end (in addition to jettisoning central Christian dogma such as the Virgin Birth) in an effort to drag marriage into the spotlight. It is helpful to observe that if marriage and sexual difference is part of the creation — a creature — then it is good to recall that putting the creature in place of the creator is exactly what Romans 1 said was the problem, not the solution.

It is, of course, good to continue the discussion of marriage and sexuality and their place in the church, but let us have no more nonsense about their being central to the Christian faith, or Christian theology. The center of the Christian faith is Christ, and him crucified.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

August 20, 2016

Lost Youth

Some people involved in crafting liturgy find it difficult to accept that they are no longer young. They seek to attract the youth of today by means of the things that attracted them in their own youth. This rarely works well since few things are less attractive to the young than the fashions of their parents' youth; better to aim for the great-grandparents, as fashion tends to skip several generations before it become fashionable again. Besides which, the whole enterprise becomes a too mercantile approach to evangelism. It is not so much the church's task to give people what they want, but to equip them with what they need — not to please themselves, but to serve others. Temple said it best, that the church exists primarily for the good of those not yet its members. “Do that, and you — and the church — will live.”

—expanded from his now lost comment on Facebook about so-called contemporary worship music, most of which dates from before the intended “audience” was born, by Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG 

August 12, 2016

On Voting

My basic rule is: vote as if what you vote for will be adopted. This assumes that you actually want it to be adopted. That seems simple, but some people vote for secondary reasons. What does that mean? I offer two real-world examples. Some years ago, a bishop was elected on the first ballot — not unheard of, but at least unusual. He was a widely admired figure in his diocese, but it emerged after the election that a number of people reported they had voted for him as an expression of their admiration and support for his good work as a priest, but had intended to switch their votes on the second ballot to the person they actually wanted to be bishop. The second example is more recent: a number of those who voted in favor of Brexit reported that they had voted for it not because they wanted it to succeed, but to "send a message" to Europe that there was a substantial minority of people who weren't entirely happy with the European Union.

So what are the implications for the present presidential cycle? Vote for the candidate you wish to see elected, as if he or she will be elected. That includes third party candidates — don't vote for them as a symbolic act, but as if they will be president. It also means withhold your vote if you don't want to see any of the candidates elected. (I have supported all elections having a "none of the above" option so as accurately to gauge electoral discontent — mere abstention is a nullity, and one cannot distinguish between dissatisfaction or nihilism. This approach also allows for voting for "the lesser of two evils" in a pragmatic sense — not as a protest vote but a conscious choice of between two or more imperfect options with a view to choosing the least damaging.

But don't vote to "send a message" or to "show support" for a lost cause you would not want to see in power.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

August 10, 2016

Marriage Inequality

The dominant biblical understanding of marriage in the Hebrew Scriptures was based on inequality, in which a man ruled over a woman (or several women), but was himself free to indulge his sexual appetites with other women, so long as they were not married to another man. This inequality is reflected in the language used to describe marriage: throughout the Torah and beyond, the husband is "the lord" (ba'al) of the woman; for a woman to be "married" is to be "governed" (be'ulah) or to "have a lord/master" (be'ulat ba'al).

But it was not always so. This inequality can be regarded as a consequence of the curse delivered to Eve after she and her husband ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge: "He shall rule over you." But it was not so in the beginning, when equality reigned, an equality recognized by Adam in his exclamation of joy upon his first encounter with Eve — the one like himself; taken, as the figurative interpretation has it, from his side — as one to stand beside — rather than from his head or his foot, to rule or to be ruled.

Hosea (2:16) recognized this in his portrayal of the loving God speaking to his unfaithful but redeemed spouse Israel: "On that day, says the LORD, you will call me, 'My husband,' and no longer will you call me, 'My Baal.'" The word Hosea uses for "my husband" is "ishi" — the same title the primeval couple shared in Eden (ish and ishah — man and woman, husband and wife). This expresses their fundamental equality, as God intended.

Karl Barth held that a husband is only a husband in relation to his wife (an assertion complicated in German, as in Hebrew, because Mann and Weib have this ambiguous double meaning.)  The double meaning actually reveals more than Barth intended: for a single man is a man, a single woman is a woman; but a married man is still a man, and a married woman still a woman — though now married, joined in a union and relationship of equals.  The quality of "being married" has to do not with the sex of the person or the pair, but on the covenant of relationship that exists between them. In German one can say "Mann und Mann" or "Weib und Weib" with all the ambiguity intact. For a married man or woman is married because of the plighting of a troth and mutual pledge of exclusive fidelity — the exclusivity, as Jesus observed, harking back to the necessarily exclusive first married couple; but the fidelity, as he also taught, is the essential meaning of marriage. So it is not the relative sex-difference that constitutes the marriage, but the mutual swearing of faithful love. This is one of the reasons that opening the institution of marriage to same-sex couples is both a recovery of a Creation principle of equality, and an eschatological realization of the ideal relationship between God and the People of God, based on love, not domination. This is one of the things marriage equality can reveal to the church, for so long mistakenly serving the notion of male dominance.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


August 1, 2016

Prophets with Honor

a sermon delivered at the Annual Convocation of the Brotherhood of St Gregory, at Mt Alvernia, Wappingers Falls NY 
Although Wisdom is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets.
In one of the Elizabethan period episodes of Rowan Atkinson’s Blackadder, the principal character, plagued with a personal problem of Shakespearean proportions, sets off to find help. One of his goals is to find a wise-woman, and in that quest he meets one of those annoying gnomes who litter quest stories and add plot elements by giving cryptic directions or posing ridiculous riddles. This particular gnome gives the advice, “Two things must ye know about the wise woman. First, that she is wise. And second, that she is a woman!” Our hero departs with this useless bit of guidance, cursing under his breath.

Well, today we get to hear about not just one, but count ‘em, four wise women. And two things must ye know of Elizabeth, Amelia, Sojourner and Harriet: They were wise, and they were women! More importantly, they were wise, and persistent in their wisdom, in an age when the powers and principalities rarely expected wisdom in women, and regarded their persistence as obstinacy or worse. Some few recognized their gifts in their own time, and today we honor them as prophets.
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One irony with which this presents us is summed up in the reading from Proverbs. Here we have a hymn of praise to Wisdom with a capital W, portrayed as nothing other than a woman. The irony is that this tribute comes from a culture that generally did not honor women, or give them much of a place in the councils of leadership or authority. That same book of Proverbs also goes on and on about that other sort of woman, no better than she should be, the harlot who uses her wiles to trap unwary, foolish men to their destruction. One woman offers wealth and riches and is herself more precious than gold and jewels; the other — well, with the other as the saying goes, You pays your money and you takes your choice. This is, of course, part of the well known male view of womankind as either on the pedestal or in the gutter, a pure virgin or a dirty whore.

In their day, Stanton, Bloomer, Truth and Tubman were seen by many men, and probably some women, as of this latter sort — hussies and harlots, harridans and harpies, sluts and slatterns and slags, skanks and skags, bitches and witches: and isn’t it interesting that English provides us such an array of colorfully nasty names for women — and I challenge you to think of some nice nouns for good women when you have the time — and to reflect on how our language shapes our perception of reality. I don’t know if it is true that the Inuit (The People Formerly Known as Eskimo) have forty words for snow, but English has a huge lexicon of nasty names for women, and precious few nice ones.
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But back to our four prophets: There were some few, of course, who saw these women for their virtues:their persistence in seeking justice, their commitment to the betterment of the world they lived in, and their wisdom. And some would call them prophets.

But what is a prophet, after all; and what is wisdom? I would start with another Shakespearean word, soothsayer, which is someone who predicts the future. That’s one way to understand a prophet — one who can accurately predict what is going to happen. In fact that is the test of a true prophet, given a word from God, recorded in Deuteronomy 18:22: If what the prophet predicts in God’s name comes true, they are a true prophet. If not, not. Simple.

But is the prediction itself always so easy to understand and verify — that is, what is being predicted? You may recall the soothsayer from Julius Caesar, who warned, “Beware the Ides of March!” Beware of the date — or what might happen on that date? This prediction didn’t help poor Julius much, but the soothsayer was proved right, in that always 20/20 hindsight. Successful soothsayers, like the oracles of old, and those annoying gnomes in quest stories, owe part of their retrospective success to giving such general or ambiguous warnings. Because human beings are pattern-seeking critters, seeing castles in clouds and faces in inkblots, you can be considered a true prophet if you cast your prediction as vaguely as the oracles or soothsayers of old.

Or you could use the cynical technique Nikos Kazantzakis described in his novel The Last Temptation of Christ. In the vision in which Jesus comes down from the cross to live an ordinary life, one of the apostles returns home and tells Jesus, “I’ve learned the secret of prophecy! When things are going well, tell people they are going to get bad, and when they are going badly tell them it is going to get better! It always works!” It still works for politicians of every sort.
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But I am less interested in the flim-flam men of old, or of now, when we have such excellent women before us. What I want to stress is that soothsayer and prophet at base mean, not “One who predicts the future,” but “One who speaks the truth.” And there is a lot of wisdom in that, for an accurate assessment of the present is the best way to think about and plan for what is possible in the future. A firm and discerning grasp of the present rules out impossibilities for the future, and allows one to focus on the range of what may be most probable — as that other famous wise guy, Sherlock Holmes, observed, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” A chess master is a master precisely because of the ability to focus on the state of play at each moment, to see only the range of possibilities for the next sequence of moves, eliminating impossibilities to weigh the optimum possible outcome and urge it into the best actual move.

So the real wisdom lies in understanding that the truth — what is — is not just possible, and is never improbable, as strange as it may seem. It just is. And as I’ve often said, Reality is our friend. And engaging with reality, persisting in discernment, asking the questions, searching for answers, knocking at the doors even to wake the sleeping and embarrassed friend (for Reality is sometimes drowsy and often embarrassing, and unknown until known) — these actions of asking, seeking, and persisting in knocking at the door of Reality are the tasks of the wise.
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This is all the more true for those who worship the God who goes by the name The One Who Is, the Great I AM! Those who engage with Reality at its deepest levels, who plumb the depths of Holy Wisdom, become, as Proverbs says, “friends of God and prophets.” We have such friends before us today: Elizabeth, Amelia, Sojourner and Harriet — one of them even known as Truth! You can see their image and read their story in the handy Office app, so I won’t repeat it here. Suffice it to say that they were wise, and they were women — in times and places where few associated those categories.

But they persisted in the quest — not so much as those sought out, but as seekers themselves. And what they sought was justice, charity, equality, and truth. They knocked on the doors of Reality, and a sleepy and reluctant world roused and still rouses itself to respond with like justice, in all charity, and by and for the truth. May God give us strength to do the same, Soli Deo Gloria — to the glory of God alone. In the Name of The One Who Is, whom we know as our Maker, Defender, Redeemer — and Friend.

— Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

July 15, 2016

On Church Growth

People talk about church growth but are terrified of change. They want clones, not contrast, numbers in the sense of ciphers, rather than the challenge of novelty, newcomers who come but who are not really new, who fit the mold and don't rock the boat. 

But God created difference, and we should welcome those who bring it. More than welcome, we should go out in search of them. This is part of the wisdom of Indaba: difference energizes with opportunities. Fear keeps things the same, then kills.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

July 13, 2016

O, Canada!

In case you haven't heard the news, the Anglican Church of Canada has adopted a resolution towards the amendment of their canon on marriage, making marriage equality in the church a canonical reality if the change is ratified at the next session of the General Synod in 2019. The motion passed by the large required two-thirds majority in each order (bishops, clergy and lay) though not after some confusion due to a single affirmative clergy vote having been miscounted in the wrong order, and three other affirmative clergy votes not counted at all. In the end the super-majority prevailed by a comfortable margin.

It should also be noted that the ACoC Chancellor had already opined that even the current canon does not actually forbid marriages for same-sex couples; but some minds may rest easier given the adoption of the first reading of the amendment. Several Canadian bishops have indicated they plan to move forward on these bases, so as a practical matter marriage equality has arrived.

Other minds are not so easy, and the comment threads on the related stories at the Anglican Journal, in addition to expressions of joy and hope, are replete with the complaints of those so unhappy with this turn of events that they are abandoning the church, or mobilizing for a militant effort to defeat the canon change in at its second reading in 2019. Further afield, the trumpet from the Global South has not tooted yet, or at least not loudly or clearly enough to be heard here in the North; nor has there been a comment from Canterbury — though the Church of England has also just emerged from its own General Synod, in which the Shared Conversations formed a major part. That and the turmoil with the recent Brexit vote and the change in parliamentary leadership is no doubt occupying archepiscopal focus at the moment.

We continue to live in interesting times.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


July 9, 2016

Racism and Realism and Jesus

Racism, no less than beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. It is the junction at which perception meets prejudice, and what is is distorted in the mirror of the mind, as a characteristic obscures the character, the generic obscures the specific, and the individual is lost in an emotional cloud so that who is seen is only a member of a class, and even then not the class as it is but as it is believed or felt to be.

Some offer as an answer an appeal to common humanity. This is good so far as it goes, but it too is generic. Some go further and say we must see the face of Jesus in each person. Again, a step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough.

The goal is not to see Jesus in a person, but to see the person as Jesus sees the person, who “looks on them and loves them” — to see the precious individual who is, in her specific individuality, the image of God, just as much as Jesus is; not because of a common resemblance, a common humanity or a common divinity, but as a specific person, One Who Is.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG