December 23, 2006

Unity By Division

A leaked letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury more or less confirms the suspicions I outlined below concerning the Primates' Meeting. The Primate of the Episcopal Church is to attend as Primate. But Canterbury is working out how to invite some additional persons from "that Province" to attend a gathering prior to the official Primates' business meeting. (I guess that couldn't include +Minns, since he's not part of "that Province" any more, but part of another Province that will be represented via its Primate. Then again, there is enough logical inconsistency around to bend that principle too.) On the whole, ++Rowan is showing himself once again to be flexible to the point of injuring himself and others. I suppose years from now this era will be known as the Deformation.

The problem grows more serious, of course, in relation to the Lambeth Conference, for which ++Rowan still suggests support for the flawed Windsor Model of Consensus by Subtraction — in which those who disagree are asked not to be part of the discussion. He says, "at the moment, we urgently need to create a climate of greater trust within the Communion, and to reinforce institutions and conventions that will serve that general climate in a global way." Naturally, by not having someone who disagrees at any meeting one can create a greater climate of agreement. Perhaps this should become a new practice for Vestries? After all, comfort levels count for more than discernment, and it is above all important that the troublesome be removed so that the "peace which avoideth understanding" can continue undisturbed.

The problem with this "solution" is that it second guesses the outcome, and works by division rather than comprehension. It represents a kind of "unity by division" that deems, a priori, a part of the body with its own point of view to be expendable in order to preserve a very questionable communion of whatever is left. It is a classically Protestant approach, which is odd coming from a man of supposedly catholic sensibilities. It will produce a Rump Lambeth, and institutionalize a Rump Communion, consisting of those who will not tolerate disagreement.

—Tobias Haller BSG


Anonymous said...

Tobias, You are, as usual, right on the money. Thanks for your clarity and your charity in discussing this mess.

Elizabeth Morris Downie

Anonymous said...


Great insights here. Appeasement will honor no one. I fear ++Rowan risks adding only more fuel to the fire.

I hope I'm wrong.

Peace to you this Christmastide!

Anonymous said...

WHEN will the Archbishop of Canterbury figure out that what the Network types want more than anything is recognition by him as having equal standing with the legitimate structures and duly chosen Primate of The Episcopal Church, and that every time he does something like this he both insults our church and undermines our polity? Inviting other representatives besides the Presiding Bishop to Tanzania just feeds their resistance to resolving their conflict with the legitimate authority of this Province. It does not encourage them to seek compromise; rather, it encourages them to believe they will eventually get what they want: full recognition of an Anglican body, either parallel to The Episcopal Church or replacing it. It inflates their egos and their appetite for status far beyond the small minority they actually represent in our church.

Moreover, the Archbishop's approach is fostering the same kind of rebellion in his own back yard. The Church of England can now look forward to the same kind of divisive wedge politics, and rival pre-schismatic structures like the Network in the U.S., since a group there has made demands for circumventing bishops they deem too liberal. Her Majesty's Government had better wake up to the fact that Rowan Williams is leading the Church of England right over a cliff, emboldening reactionaries at home with his meddling in the affairs of provinces abroad. If he keeps this up there won't BE a single Anglican Communion for him to play with very much longer.

His position from the beginning should have been: You Yanks sort this out among yourselves, it's none of my business. All the rest of you Anglicans around the world, mind YOUR own business. See you ALL at Lambeth." Instead he continues to inflate the importance of the Windsor Report and repeat the fantasy that he or anyone else has the right to judge the Episcopal Church's "compliance" with it. He won't give a clear "no" on the ridiculous "alternative primatial oversight" innovation being proposed, at least not in a way that the Network folk can hear it. His notion of a two-tier Communion of "constituent" and "associate" provinces has fed the flames of faction and schism. He's encouraging factionalism among our bishops with his support of the Camp Allen "Windsor-compliant" foolishness. Now he seems to think he's being gracious by inviting our Primate and Presiding Bishop to Tanzania, as if the Dromantine Primates' REQUEST that TEC *voluntarily* refrain from attending meetings of Anglican consultative bodies applies, and is within his gift to choose to apply or waive. Let's ask Frank Griswold if he thought that was going to apply to him or his successor, and whether this is what he thought "voluntary" meant!

Voluntary has become mandatory. Windsor process has become Windsor requirements. Dialogue has become a steady diatribe of one-way shaming and judging. None of our attempts at conciliation and cooperation are being credited. Our polity is being trampled on, ignored, and wantonly insulted from every side. Our Presiding Bishop, elected by the whole church to serve and represent the whole church, is discounted, mocked, and insulted. Men who won't even receive communion from her are being treated as her equals or worse, as having the moral high ground of their self-chosen victimhood.

This is bullying. This is abuse. This is tyranny. It is time for our Executive Council to tell the Archbishop of Canterbury and the rest of the Anglican Communion, as the American colonists once did: DON'T TREAD ON ME! What is going on is a complete distortion of the Windsor Report. We cannot possibly begin discussing an Anglican Covenant under such conditions of duress--indeed that whole idea is about conformity and control, pure and simple, and ought to be rejected now. We can no longer agree to meetings ABOUT us that don't INCLUDE us. We cannot tolerate intrusions by foreign bishops in our jurisdictions any longer. All these things have proceeded despite our efforts to be conciliatory, our willingness to accept criticism, our efforts to remain open to peaceful resolutions and compromises.

In all this Rowan Williams has not been nearly impartial or objective enough to serve as mediator. Although he hasn't given the reactionaries all they want either, that's not the same as neutrality, and that is what's required to broker a fair compromise. He's no longer in a position to do that.

For all the holy talk, our efforts have been interpreted as weakness, and that perceived weakness is being exploited in the rawest, crudest political struggle for power. I do not say we should respond in kind, but we must wake up to the nature of the threat and defent our autonomy and independence. Other churches in the Communion would do well to think long and hard about what's going on, too, because Canada? Scotland? New Zealand? I don't know, Brazil or South Africa? YOU'RE NEXT.

Tony Blair, Queen Elizabeth? Lord Carey could use some company in the House of Lords. If Rowan Williams remains Archbishop of Canterbury much longer the Church of England can look forward to the same kind of mess we have over here, and there won't BE an Anglican Communion past Lambeth 2008.

Bryan Taylor
Fort Worth, Texas

Anonymous said...

Tobias and commenters, "Yes!"

Marana tha!

"A Merry Christmas to us all; God bless us, every one!"

Anonymous said...

Bryan that was a very good piece of analysis. I hope that you post it on a few other Episcopal blogs (Father Jake, Episcopal Majority, etc etc) because that really needs to get out there and in the discussion. Well thought out and well written.

Anonymous said...


We have many of those "vestries," in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. At my old parish you didn't allow you to be in a leadership position unless you passed the "I love Bishop Duncan Test." (I'm now the organist/music director at a liberal non-network TEC parish and they that old parish really needed my services. Such is life.)

I have to agree that if only those who agree are to participate fully in these functions, how do we ever continue a viable, learning dialogue? I am a teacher. If my student's got to skip every lesson they didn't like how would they learn. Better yet my music comp teacher's use to say "you like what you know!" (then they made me listen to more and more modern composers. I now like many of those, not all but many). We need to learn to listen to one another.

Duncan will be encouraged by this letter but he'd be there (Primates Meeting) with invitation or not.

God's Peace this Christmastide.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

One thing I think it would do all, on all sides of the question, to consider, is the Cantuar's apparent unwillingness to "expel" anyone from the Anglican Communion. His own words aside, the WR appears to emphasize "choosing to walk apart" -- and even its strongest language of "last resort" refers to "withdrawal from membership" (not "expulsion from membership"); and the Covenant development process suggested that those who might wish not to sign on might accept a secondary status -- for themselves.

The Archbishop seems to be setting the stage for people to choose to "walk apart." I recall he was reported to have been dismayed at the Primates who chose not to share in Communion with ++Griswold. He has said the evolution of the CANA effort from a cultural network into a missionary "jursidiction" is "unhelpful." By deciding not to withhold an invitation for the Primate of the Episcopal Church, he appears to be setting up an opportunity for people to choose to remain together, or choose to step away.

I could, of course, be mistaken in this reading, but I'm looking at his past actions and trying to find the consistent line in his behavior. All feelings of what ought to be aside, am I mistaken?

Anonymous said...

"After all, comfort levels count for more than discernment" A totally unfair comment.
Lambeth 1.10, WR and Dromantine are all about Communion-wide discernment. Having reached a broad concensus, your argument is that they must continue to toerate dissent and dissension that detracts from mission. Why? If TEC is intent on having its way, who is stopping it? You simply can't have it all ways.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Several things, Anonymous:

First, there is no "broad consensus." There is a majority opinion -- but that is not the same thing. "Consensus" implies an absence of significant opposition. That is far from true in this case. Even the sources you cite (Lambeth, Windor and Dromantine) are about continued discernment and dialogue -- which would not be the case if we already had a consensus. Indeed, the report underlying the Lambeth Section 1 actions refers to ways in which "the Anglican Communion as a whole may find consensus" on these vexing issues. The Windsor Report refers to an emerging "new consensus," yet to be acheived -- we are clearly in a time of discernment.

Second, it is during such times that toleration of dissent is essential if we are not to beg the question. So the sexuality issue is not a "closed" one -- or else why the call for continued dialogue? The difference is that some feel that no action should be taken until there is a "new consensus." I have shown elsewhere that this is not how the church has functioned in the past, and see no reason to expect it to work this way in the present or future: rather action has been taken locally which has either eventually won wide support -- or not.

Any sane reading of the movement on the issue of sexuality from, say, 1950 to now reveals a definite trajectory towards greater, not lesser, acceptance. In the face of that trajectory (and the passing of the old consensus), many who hold to the "old belief" are becoming less tolerant of dissent -- or even discussion.

Third, at this point the major distraction away from mission is coming from the "conservative" side of the aisle. They are the ones making a fuss about something they could simply ignore. They are the ones placing actual obstacles in the transfer of funds and mission workers.

The proof of this is in the number of provinces that have taken the opposite approach, stating that while they disagree on the sexuality decisions taken in TEC, they do not see this as a reason to stop working together in the mission of the church. This includes places like Japan and Southern Africa, and the Diocese of Central Tanganyika. So it is possible to "tolerate" or even to ignore the fact that New Hampshre has a gay bishop, or that same-sex couples are getting married in Canada, and get on in carrying out the mission work of the church. It is just that some choose to be "bothered" that other people, somewhere, do something they don't like.

Father Doug said...

As usual, a cogent analysis, beautifully composed, by Tobias. What a gift he has! Williams is being "protestant." Set aside the unhelpful opposition of "protestant" and "catholic." As the terms are here used, Haller is right. But, now, what could be more baldfacedly "protestant" than TEC's decisions of 2003? Perhaps excesses of "protestantism" beget more of the same.

Anonymous said...

"It is just that some choose to be "bothered" that other people, somewhere, do something they don't like" Again, an exaggeration. It is not simply what some few individuals do that has very little impact upon anyone else. TEC (or a large portion of it) now teaches that what Scripture calls sin, is the opposite - blessed and life-giving. Now putting aside who is right, that has broad implications for all Episcopalians, all Anglican and all Christians. You cannot profess to be catholic and ignore catholic teaching - not just dissenters within TEC and the AC but Roman Catholics and the Orthodox churches. It is much more serious than some not liking your innovations.

Anonymous said...

I hope that the Windsor-compliant bishops in the US - those who claim that they wish to remain in TEC - take note that Archbishop Akinola is not Windsor-compliant, else he would not be poaching in the US.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Anonymous, I'm afraid you appear to be simply engaging in negation rather than argument -- rather like that Monty Python character. Could you provide some basis for your assertions:

1) that my statement is an "exaggeration" (I would agree with "understatement" btw)

2) that Scripture calls something the Episcopal Church now approves of "sin" (please cite both the Scriptural condemnation and the ecclesiastical approval); you might also want to explain the fact that while traditional theology insists (since Augustine) that the sexual act even within marriage partakes of sin, yet marriage can be considered blessed and life-giving

3) that any of this is part of "catholic teaching" and not a matter of pastoral or moral theology (about which there is signigicant variance) -- please cite the relevant decisions of the Ecumenical Councils

Anonymous said...

TEC (or a large portion of it) now teaches that what Scripture calls sin, is the opposite - blessed and life-giving. Now putting aside who is right


First of all, what TEC *practices* (vis a vis its actions in GC) is that what what some (conservative) Christians call sin, can be seen (through Scripture, Tradition and Reason) to be "the opposite - blessed and life-giving."

That being the case, we can't POSSIBLY put aside "who is right".

(See, Anon? Not whether the Bible is right but, like you said, "WHO is right" re what the Bible actually says!)

...but even so, TEC is *still* not trying to mandate its "right-ness"---it just wants to be allowed to live by the lights that God has given US to see with, in communion w/ other Anglicans who see things very differently.


Lord have mercy!


Merseymike said...

The sooner a split happens, the better. I want to see TEC be the focal point of a new international Communion. Anglicanism is finished - it has become a fundamentalist denomination dominated by pre-modern homophobes.

Anonymous said...

Tobias said... you might also want to explain the fact that while traditional theology insists (since Augustine) that the sexual act even within marriage partakes of sin, yet marriage can be considered blessed and life-giving

That is the most outrageous distortion of a theology I have seen in a long time. I can only guess at the root writing that you are distorting. I assume that you are looking at Augustine?s writings. Augustine never said sex within marriage was a sin. He did say that sex even within marriage could be sinful. There is a big difference. I would also say that Augustine?s view of pleasure is part of theological tradition, but is not traditional theology.

Yours in Christ,

Anonymous said...

Tobias+ : What you wrote: Thank you. Clarity, consistency, reason, as usual.

Brian: What you wrote: Excellent --

I wish I could say you both took the words right out of my mouth, but that would be wishful thinking :-)

Christmastide Blessings,
Wayne Nicholson +
Mount Pleasant, MI

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

I suggest you go back and reread the relevant portions of Saint Augustine on this matter. For him, this concept was crucial in his moral theoloty and his doctrinal thinking on original sin. See especially "On Marriage and Concupiscence."

His teaching on this subject formed a crucial element in later understandings of marriage law and moral questions, and to this day forms an element in Roman Catholic opposition to birth control -- since Augustine held that sex even between a married couple, if it did not have the intention of procreation, was sinful, though licit. Even when procreation was the intent, however, there was still the troublesome matter of concupiscence, which, as even the Articles of Religion say (following Paul and Augustine) has "of itself the nature of sin." This was why, in part, Augustine took the view that in the Edenic state procreation could have taken place without carnal desire, but that we lost that capacity through the Fall; thus "lust" is a necessary component even in a licit marriage, and introduces an element of the nature of sin even when all other conditions are ideal.

I was very careful in what I said: "partakes of sin" -- and I had the Articles in mind. Do you dispute that this is part of the "tradition"? I think Cranmer would be very much surprised. I suppose the fact that the Anglican Communion has formally rejected opposition to birth control that this portion of the tradition is no longer active in our portion of the Church.


Anonymous said...

Is it your understanding that catholic teaching derives only from the pronouncements of ecumenical councils? If the teaching of the church fathers and the practices of the early church have nothing to do with cqtholic teaching, I suppose you might be right. However, if patristics (is that the right word?) has anything to contribute to such teaching, then except to tell us that they are as "misunderstood" as the Sciptures that speak to the issue, what about writings such as in the Didache and the writings of Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, St. Cyprian, Eusebius, St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine of Hippo, and doctrinal sources such as the "Apostolic Constitutions" ? for example, Eusebius of Caesarea's statement which condemns "the union of women with women and men with men".
In Acts 15 (The Council of Jerusalem) explicitly advised that Gentile converts were to keep from sexual immorality. Many of the letters of Saint Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, echo this exhortation to "avoid sexual immorality." The first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans refers to lesbianism as "against nature". Thomas Aquinas denounced sodomy as second only to bestiality as the worst of all sexual sins, and Hildegard of Bingen's book "Scivias", which was officially approved by Pope Eugene III, condemned sexual relations between women as "perverted forms."

Are they simply irrelevant factors in considering "catholic teaching?"

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thanks for the interesting response. I would suggest you’ve missed my point though you raise a good one in return, which I will address. My original intent was to distinguish between a doctrinal teaching and moral teaching. This is, in fact, the core of our present division of opinion.

Is the “sexuality debate” an issue of doctrine, or of moral theology. These are different categories, I hope you will agree. I think it fair to say that the sexuality questions fall under the latter. And it is to that that your florilegium of citations attests. While the doctrine of “the eternal gospel” does not change, the church has indeed changed its moral teaching many times over, on sexual issues as well as other moral matters. (I think as well, on closer examination, you will find that at least some of the texts you cite refer to pederasty.) It is, however, fair to say that the patristic and later scholastic moral teaching on sexuality — including heterosexual marriage — was not the same as our own. If you’d like to consult a very long and detailed history of the subject, I recommend Brundage’s mammoth Law, Sex and Christian Society in Medieval Europe. The view of the church on sexual morality was far more complex than a gathering of citations would indicate: one could find an equal number of citations against practices now considered trivial (or even approved) when engaged in by a married couple. Clearly we need to address this element of the tradition -- but that involves a careful and full reading of the whole tradition on sexual morality, which has changed mightily since the days of the Apostolic Constitutions.

Your second paragraph is more problematical, as it hinges on a very broad meaning to the word porneia. Some, such as Robert Gagnon, seek to stretch this poor word to include as much as possible. However, a very careful reading of its uses in context would appear to indicate that in the first century sources (i.e., Josephus) and in Scripture the word had two primary meanings: prostitution and (by metaphorical extension) idolatry. There is not a single instance in Scripture that requires a broader reading of the word. Gagnon’s suggestion that when Jesus uses it Mat 15:19, he is referring to all of the sexual behaviors condemned in Leviticus is without basis. The word is not used in the Greek version of Leviticus, for one thing. The very few times it comes up in the LXX version of the whole Torah, it means "whoredom" either real or figurative (i.e., unfaithfulness.). It is later applied to Jezebel, for example, and more generally in the Psalms to "harlotry." And, as I noted, by extension as a figure for idolatry.
A Palestinian Jew, such as Paul, shows no evidence of considering homosexuality as coming under this word, as indicated in 1 Cor 6:9 -- where, if the words commonly held to refer to homosexuality are such, they are distinguished from pornoi by the use of a neither/nor construction.
So no usage of porneia in the NT need be translated any more broadly than “prostitution”, "harlotry" or "whoredom" (real or figurative). The reference in 1 Corinthians 5 may rather indicate that the man's father's "woman" may have been his father's concubine or mistress -- which would be the simplest reading without stretching it further. (Compare Amos 2:7) The outrage here may be that the son is doing this with the father’s consent — he is pimping his own woman to his son, a harlotry unknown among even the Gentiles.

Now, as to Paul and lesbians in Romans 1. Saint Augustine, among others, held that text to refer to women who practiced anal intercourse with their husbands. This is how men could be doing something “in the same way.” (I have no doubt that Paul is referring to male same-sex acts here; the problem is that he considers this the result and punishment for the sin of idolatry. This is in keeping with his source, Wisdom 13-15, and the Jewish rabbinic tradition regarding same-sex sexuality as a Gentile problem.)

As a far better thinker on this subject than myself has said, “This matter will not be settled by simple recourse to Scripture.”

Anonymous said...

You never cease to impress me, Tobias! Very, very interesting discussion here, and much appreciated by this lay person, and extremely amature "armchair" theologian. Thank you! I now have some well thought out ammunition for why I believe as I do - that homosexuality isn't inherently evil, and homosexuals should enjoy full inclusion in our Christian churches.

By the way, I just love the expression "the deformation". That is a gem!

Anonymous said...

I cannot discuss the Greek origin of the words used in the Scripture you reference. But I am certain that your translation and interpretation is a decidedly minority (tiny even) understanding of them. To the extent their opinions matter, the vast majority of Christendom rejects your interpretation and sees it as a departure from the faith once delivered. A division/separation with "conservatives" (to use a non-judgmental term) is inevitable. TEC has determined it won't/can't abandon its current course. I repsect that it chooses to remain true to what it believes. Wouldn't we all be better off if we part company with as little acrimony as possible, thereby preserving what little prospect exists for eventual reunion?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

I readily admit that my reading is a "minority view" -- but I think there is sufficient scholarship to bear me out on porneia in the texts at hand. The accuracy of a statement is not necessarily assured by its wide popularity, and scholars, as you know, are divided on just about anything you can imagine. All I'm saying here, as I've said before, is that the case against same-sex relationships being capable of moral acceptability rests on rather shakey ground in terms of Scripture and Reason. The tradition, as you noted, is fairly strongly negative. That doesn't bother me in the least; as the vast majority of Christendom up until the 16th century didn't know where babies came from -- so I'm unlikely to take them very seriously on matters of sexual morality and psychology. (Much of the opposition to same-sex relationships hinges on the false notion that they are "unnatural" -- this was Paul's view. We now know them to be fully "natural" -- which doesn't make them good, but removes the reason for claiming they are bad.

But I'm glad to see you get back to the main topic after this interesting interlude. I do see a division in the future, and I don't know exactly what form it will take. I've surmised in the past that from 5 to 15 percent of the Episcopal Church is unhappy enough about recent developments to seek a formal division. My guess is about 1/3 to 1/2 of the Anglican Primates feel the same way. But that still leaves the other 85-95% and 1/2 to 2/3 who would rather stay together and not divide over this issue. Time will tell, but I do believe we can probably serve the church better if these contentious matters can be taken off the table in one way or another -- by division, compromise, or toleration.

Anonymous said...

By and large, Fr. Tobias Haller is in good academic company as he exegetes the meaning of the word PORNOIA. Cf. Gerhard Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromley.
Dr. Priscilla Turner, supposedly an Oxford-educated expert in classical Greek and the LXX, claims to have influenced Robert Gagnon's interpretation of PORNEIA in the latter's nuclear anti-gay option, The Bible and Homosexual Practice.

John Henry

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thank you, John Henry. One of the things I was always taught, as a scholar, was to look up footnote references to see that they really refer to what they claim, or that what they claim is an accurate representation of the source. Sadly, Gagnon is an example of where such care is needed. In his effort to "pile high and deep" he often gives references which on closer examination have no connection to his thesis.

When it comes to the issue of porneia, it is very easy to sit down with a Greek concordance, and examine each use of the word and its variants in the LXX and the NT. The same can be done with the znh Hebrew root. (This is made even easier with computer based tools.) When one does this, one can verify that all of the uses can easily be explained under two primary headings: whoredom and idolatry. The really careful lexicographers, such as Kittel, have done the work for us. Still, it is best to check things out.

Thanks for dropping by.

Anonymous said...

I cannot discuss the Greek origin of the words used in the Scripture you reference. But I am certain that your translation and interpretation is a decidedly minority (tiny even) understanding of them.

Heh. Anonymous, your comment above reminds me of Lady Astor's (?) famous comment re Darwin and evolution:

"Let us pray it isn't true---but if it IS true, let us pray it doesn't become widely-known!"

Tobias, you ROCK, as always... :-)