May 26, 2006

Tearing the Fabric

One of the assertions common these days is that the actions of North American Anglicans have somehow obscured the underlying reality of our communion in God the Holy Trinity. (Primates’ Dromantine Statement 2005.12). This assertion also sometimes takes the form of an accusation that we have torn the fabric of the communion. (Primates’ meeting 2003)

Whether obscured or torn, it seems to me that two very different kinds of communion are being spoken of here. One is the pragmatic ecclesiastical communion that we talk about in ecumenical relationships, the sure and certain sign of which is mutual acceptance of ministers. On this ground, let’s face it, the Anglican Communion is not just impaired, but divided, by the lack of agreement on the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate, pace the historical fiction of the Windsor Report.

But I would submit that the communion referred to in the Dromantine statement, however “obscured” is not capable of being torn, for it does not lie in our power to tear it. The communion we share in God the Holy Trinity does not come about by our doing, except to the extent we participate in and carry out the mandate to baptize all nations. Once baptized, there is no human power that can unbaptize. One can depart from the ecclesiastical institution — but however far we flee, be it to the heights or to the depths, we cannot escape our incorporation into God.

It seems to me that the concern with tearing the fabric of the communion — preserving the shreds of the partial unity we seem to enjoy in the manifestly divided church— is perhaps misplaced, as a part of our general fixation on the institution. It struck me in the early hours of this morning that a similar concern about tearing fabric took place in another context. To what extent are the powers that broker the future of our Anglican Communion like the soldiers haggling over the seamless garment, casting lots to see who will end up in possession, while the Lord of Glory hangs naked and crucified, spilling his blood for the world, and praying forgiveness for those who know not what they do?

—Tobias S Haller BSG

May 22, 2006

Doing The Lambeth Walk, In Circles

The Lambeth Commission has issued its "consultation paper" on how to move Towards an Anglican Covenant. I've read through the document, which is, of course, not a Covenant, but an additional call to outline the parameters for the possible development of a Covenant. (As such, it is even less practical than the Windsor Report, which at least offered a concrete model that few were willing to accept.)

I would like to suggest that we already have an Anglican Covenant, and it resides in the Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council, and any more than that is only perceived as needed at this time because of the unwillingness of some in the Communion to accept that there is disagreement on a fairly narrow range of particular issues.

The Anglican Consultative Council is officially recognized in the Canons of the Episcopal Church (I.4.2) and we should by all means resume our seats as part of it.

—Tobias S Haller BSG

May 21, 2006

Two of them were walking

I've just finished realizing the orchestration of Symphonic Poem 2 -- my first in many years, written for James on his birthday. This one is built up around the themes of the walk to Emmaus, and is called "Two of them were walking into the country." It isn't strictly programmatic, but rather reflects the themes of sorrow and joy, concealment and revelation, the paschal mystery and the recognition in broken bread, "and he vanished from their sight."

The piece was written using Finale composition software and realized with the Garritan Personal Orchestra. Enjoy! (You'll need software capable of playing mp3, and a highspeed connection for best effect...)


May 16, 2006

Drama Queen

I'm getting very weary of the histrionics from Ambridge. Before the terrorist bomb (read, nominees in California), there was the relatively mild imagery of the Titanic and the Carpathia (read, General Convention and the rest of the Communion).

Now it's the SA and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. I begin to wonder about Dean Zahl's rationality at this point. Seriously. Is he literally seeing monsters where none exist? It is astounding to find in one short essay such a raft of argumentum ad misericordiam combined with the relatively more recent argumentum ad Nazium. Certainly he is prosecuting a "Cause" here which was settled 2000 years ago on the hill of Calvary, and which does not need his sense of persecution and threat to complete what is lacking in the suffering of Christ. That Paul can, from the relative comfort and security of his Deanship, portray himself as persecuted — while gay and lesbian people are threatened with prison sentences merely for associating in public or speaking out for civil rights (threats supported by his Nigerian ally +Peter); while gay and lesbian people are beaten to death or executed, by true believers nursed on the toxic teaching of homophobia cloaked under the vestments of religious faith, Christian or Muslim — almost beggars imagination.

But I have a good word for Dean Z. Paul, the strife is o'er. The proof of your faith will lie not in the extent of your purity, or the depths of your sense of persecution, but in how you love your sisters and brothers.

—Tobias S Haller BSG

May 14, 2006

Ekklesiastes: The Bible and the Church

I've just posted my sermon for today (Easter 5) over at my sermon blog. It's called The Bible and the Church and may be of some interest in light of present discussions concerning Scriptural authority. It concludes:

Ultimately, as Philip showed the Ethiopian, the heart of the Scripture lies in how it points to Christ. He is the living Word of God to whom the written Word of God — the Scripture — leads us in the Way into the Truth, and the Scripture is useful to us only to the extent that it performs that task, a task for which we are assured it is, as the Anglican tradition puts it, sufficient. For its ultimate purpose is to bring us to the new Life of faith — as it did the Ethiopian, who, when once on his Way the Truth was opened to him by the Spirit’s guidance and Philip’s teaching, immediately asked to be baptized into the new Life, to become himself the newest member of Christ’s body, the church.

Most of the tension in the present life of the Anglican Communion would vanish in a flash as sudden as Philip’s disappearance if we would simply take Jesus the Word of God at his word! The Scripture is not hard to understand in this respect, though we find it hard to put it into practice. He has told us mortals what is asked of us — it is amply stated in John’s teaching to us today in both epistle and gospel: the commandment of God is to believe in Christ and to love one another. Got that?

When Jesus summarized the law in his commandment to love God and neighbor, when he taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to do unto others as we would be done by, he meant what he said, and he gave us both a task and a promise. Those in Christ who love their sisters and brothers in this way — doing for them as they would be done by — have observed God’s commandment. All the rest is commentary.

My sisters and brothers, as I prepare for the General Convention this summer, where I will serve as a deputy from this diocese, along with three other priests, four lay persons, and the three bishops who serve New York, this is what I will keep in mind and heart. The Scripture is sufficient to salvation, for it has told me the truth that is so simple a little child can sing it: Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. This simple truth is my armor against doubt, against judgment, against those who seek division and domination, against bigotry and ignorance, against pride and power, against all who would diminish human dignity or deny human worth.

So, as Christ taught us in his Word, “Let us love one another, not in word or speech but in truth,” neither condemned by our hearts nor dismayed by those who would demean us or deny us. God is love, beloved sisters and brothers, and we follow his commandments when we love him and each other.Against this the Scripture records neither law nor prophet, but rather the voice of the Lord himself to affirm us in our faith in the power of the Spirit, now and to the end of the ages.+