March 31, 2006

Non-Hunting Dogs of Ecclesiastical War

Dr Andrew Goddard takes up Bishop Langrish's comments to our House of Bishops and highlights this argument:

The Bishop proceeds to define precisely the difficult features of the New Hampshire consent and consecration (and hence any similar future consecration). These are two-fold in that such actions amount to:
-'consecrating a Bishop - presumably with intent to create a bishop for the church catholic - without seeking the assent of that wider church catholic (and this is about more than consultation)'
-'ordaining to the episcopate someone (and I make a general rather than a personal point here) who was in a relationship not liturgically sanctioned by the church, and to that extent at least irregular'

It is unfortunate that folks like Langrish and Goddard frame their arguments in ways that simply beg for rebuttal.

For example, are they unaware that the "liturgical sanction" of marriage in the church is not, according to the church's own teaching, what "makes" the marriage? Marriage, in the time of the church's foundation, was a civil phenomenon. The church did eventually get around to imparting its peculiar blessing on this secular institution, but never required the nuptial blessing for "regularity" until the Council of Trent! Quite simply, those of the apostles who were married (such as Peter) did not have the benefit of "Christian marriage" because it didn't exist.

(I leave to one side the observation that for most of its history, and throughout its broadest extent, being in the married state at all was a bar to the episcopate, period. Hmmmm.)

But back to church sanction: The Episcopal Church meeting in General Convention in 2000 recognized (in large part in response to Lambeth 1998.1.10) that persons living in same-sex relationships, while in tension with the historic teaching of the church, and absent any authorized ecclesiastical recogntion, nonetheless were to be given "the prayerful support, encouragement, and pastoral care necessary to live faithfully by" principles of "fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God."

Moreover, the 2003 General Convention, drawing upon this resolution, recognized that indeed there is liturgical recognition being given to such relationships, albeit without provincial authority, and that those who do so are acting within the bounds of the church's common life.

Of course, Goddard would like to play a game of Whack-A-Mole with this, because the "liturgical" objection is simply a smoke-screen for his real opposition to any recognition of same-sex relationships, to say nothing of electing bishops who are living in such relationships. This is also known as the famous Catch XXII (Vicesimus Secundus).

Finally, as to bishops for the "church catholic" -- has either Dr. Goddard or +Exeter checked in with the Vatican lately to see if they are considered to be ordained in the "church catholic"? Failing such broad recognition, what are we to say of the fact that the Church of England and a number of other Anglican provinces would not recognize (at this point) a woman in the episcopate as authorized to function as such?

This dog will not only not hunt, but I am not entirely convinced it is a dog.

— Tobias S Haller BSG

March 23, 2006

Annunciation and Response

She knelt beside the neatly planted rows
of cummin, dill, and mint. The clear March sky
was bright; a flock of birds flew high.
She pinched a leaf;
                    then, suddenly, she froze —
a voice had spoken. There was no one there.
It spoke a second time; she looked around.
“How can this be?” she asked the vacant air.
Once more it spoke, yet there was not a sound.
She paused again; her answer in her mind.

In thirty years and three, her words would find
an echo: “Not my will, but thine be done,”
said in another garden by her son,
while three friends slept.
                           So here none heard her words —
except an angel, a high flight of birds,
and three neat rows of cummin, mint, and dill:
“Be it to me according to thy will.”

April 7, 1989
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

March 11, 2006

The Origin of Species
and the Descent of Man

Claims for a new species of persecution
have recently appeared.

It is one thing to be persecuted
because of what one believes.

It is another to be persecuted
because of what others believe.

Now, it seems,
one can claim to be persecuted
because of what one believes
others should believe.

—Tobias S Haller BSG

March 9, 2006

Still Anglican After All These Years

To read some of the conservative blogs out there, one would think that the Episcopal Church was already no longer a member of the Anglican Communion. Certainly the bonds of affection have been markedly weakened, and in a few cases actually disconnected by our overseas partners' letting go of their end, so to speak.

But the Episcopal Church still seems to be on Canterbury's mailing list. The letter that went to all 38 primates about Lambeth, came to +Second Avenue as well as +Abuja.

More important than Lambeth, however, is the Anglican Consultative Council. This is the sole constitutionally established "instrument" of the Communion. And according to its constitution, it will take a vote of 2/3 of the present member provinces' Primates (including the US) to "expel" the US from the Anglican Consultative Council by amending its roster of membership. As I count it, there are fewer than 1/3 willing to take that step, perhaps less than 1/4. Others may read the situation differently, but for all the noise from the "Global South" I do not think it amounts to 2/3 of the Primates.

Of course, things may change after GC2006. But for the time being, we are as Anglican as apple pie; or should I say, Jamaican meat pattie (a favorite at my parish coffee hour!).

Meditations on the Way of the Cross

by Tobias Stanislas Haller, BSG

V. We will glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ:
R. In whom is our salvation, our life and resurrection.

Let us pray. (Silence)

Assist us mercifully with your help, O Lord God of our salvation, that we may enter with joy upon the contemplation of those mighty acts, whereby you have given us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

First Station

Jesus is condemned to death

V. God did not spare his own Son:
R. But delivered him up for us all.

The Lord who set his hand upon the deep,
who stretched the compass on the heavens’ face,
who planned the universe and gave it life,
here, now, is trapped — the victim of a plot.
The judge is judged, and shares a sinner’s fate,
while Pilate, at the warning of his wife,
evades his guilt with water and a towel,
delivering up the one who would deliver
the world that owed him all of its existence.
The very ones who call out for his death —
that he deserves to die — owe him their breath.
Let us pray. (Silence)

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen

Second Station

Jesus takes up his Cross

V. The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all:
R. For the transgression of my people was he stricken.

The eternal word now mutely keeps his peace
and opens not his mouth. The worthy one,
held worthless now, takes up his heavy cross.
The one who bore the weight of all the worlds
now wearily takes up a cross of wood.
The Lamb of God who takes away our sins,
in meekness his last pilgrimage begins.
Let us pray. (Silence)

Almighty God, whose beloved Son willingly endured the agony and shame of the cross for our redemption: Give us courage to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Third Station

Jesus falls the first time

V. Surely he has borne our griefs:
R. And carried our sorrows.

A star shot from its place in heaven and fell
down to the depths of the abyss. Was Christ’s
descent less terrible, his humble stooping down?
Yet humbly he had washed the apostles’ feet,
so now he falls to wash away our sin.
Can we do less than kneel here and adore
the one who all our sin and anguish bore?
Let us pray. (Silence)

O God, you know us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: Grant us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations; through JesusChrist our Lord. Amen

Fourth Station

Jesus meets his afflicted mother

V. A sword will pierce your own soul also:
R. And fill your heart with bitter pain.

A mother’s pain! to see her own child die —
tragic reversal, when age sees youth undone.
The heart that stored such hope, such promised joy
now breaks to see the ruin of that hope.
Yet breaking, that heart’s hope finds its release
and brings the world the promise of its peace.
Let us pray. (Silence)

O God, who willed that in the passion of your Son a sword of grief should pierce the soul of the Blessed Virgin Mary his mother: Mercifully grant that your Church, having shared with her in his passion, may be made worthy to share in the joys of his resurrection; who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen

Fifth Station

The Cross is laid on Simon of Cyrene

V. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me:
R. Cannot be my disciple.

Simon didn’t know who Jesus was;
just that he’d better do as he was told:
take up that cross and carry it a while.
What unknown hands lift crosses from our backs?
Who serves us? And what strangers do we serve?
Whom do we serve, if not our Lord himself,
who told us that as we each do unto
the least of them we do it unto him?
To follow him we must take up that cross —
to save our lives our lives must suffer loss.
Let us pray. (Silence)

Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son came not to be served but to serve: Bless all who, following in his steps, give themselves to the service of others; that with wisdom, patience, and courage, they may minister in his Name to the suffering, the friendless, and the needy; for the love of him who laid down his life for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

Sixth Station

A woman wipes the face of Jesus

V. Restore us, O Lord God of hosts:
R. Show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

He came to show us all that we could be,
to stand displayed a perfect man, that we
might have a model for our lives. Instead
we turned away; and worse, we cursed and mocked
his beauty, so much greater than our own.
Yet all our hurts and harms could not deface
the inner glory of his perfect soul,
and his wounds only served to make us whole.
Let us pray. (Silence)

O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Seventh Station

Jesus falls a second time

V. But as for me, I am a worm and no man:
R. Scorned by all and despised by the people.

How can he bear that weight? How can he bear
the gathered sorrows of a billion souls?
How bear these sins, since he is innocent?
It is no wonder he should fall, beneath
the heavy weight of all this unearned guilt.
All we like sheep are scattered, wandering, lost;
we set the price; and he has paid the cost.
Let us pray. (Silence)

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen

Eighth Station

Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

V. Those who sowed with tears:
R. Will reap with songs of joy.

What tears are these? Whence comes this grievous moan?
Is it for him, or for the loss of hope?
If this is how the world will treat its Lord,
what hope is there for anyone? For us?
If green wood burns so easily, what flames
will ravage those whose hearts and souls are dry?
It seems for our own sins we’d better cry.
Let us pray. (Silence)

Teach your Church, O Lord, to mourn the sins of which it is guilty, and to repent and forsake them; that, by your pardoning grace, the results of our iniquities may not be visited upon our children and our children’s children; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Ninth Station

Jesus falls a third time

V. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter:
R. And like a sheep that before its shearers is mute, so he opened not his mouth.

Where is the light? The candles have gone out!
There is no hope, no way to see the way;
the one we hoped would lead us has collapsed.
Yet in his fall, this third bone-weary fall,
his voice cries out, Remember me, O Lord;
and God, who hears the fallen, will not fail.
Up from the depths and darkness without light,
he calls on our behalf through our long night,
his prayer ascending God’s high throne unto:
Father, forgive; they know not what they do.
Let us pray. (Silence)

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

Tenth Station

Jesus is stripped of his garments

V. They gave me gall to eat:
R. And when I was thirsty they gave me vinegar to drink.

The night before, he’d spoken of his blood,
and blessed the cup of wine, removed his robe
and kneeling, washed their feet; and later, in
the garden kneeled again, and asked his God
to let the cup of bitterness pass by.
All comes together here: wine, blood and gall.
The garments are removed, the veil undone:
We see the naked glory of the Son.
Let us pray. (Silence)

Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Eleventh Station

Jesus is nailed to the Cross

V. They pierce my hands and my feet:
R. They stare and gloat over me.

The carpenter of Nazareth is brought
at last to Skull Hill’s bloody, dismal mound.
Between two criminals, hemmed in by sin,
the sinless one is nailed upon the cross.
How many times had he with his own hands
wielded the hammer, pegging wooden frames,
or driven nails. He’d made good yokes, good yokes
for oxen at the plough, or at the cart.
Yet here he is undone with his own art.
Let us pray. (Silence)

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen

Twelfth Station

Jesus dies on the Cross

V. Christ for us became obedient unto death:
R. Even death on a cross.

What legacy is this, what parting gift?
A mother loses one son, gains another,
as John, belov’d disciple, gains a mother.
The end has come; time for one bitter taste
of vinegar on a sponge, a gasping breath,
the words of commendation, and of death.
Let us pray. (Silence)

O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; who lives and reigns now and for ever. Amen

Thirteenth Station

The body of Jesus is placed in the arms of his mother

V. Her tears run down her cheeks:
R. And she has none to comfort her.

Long, long ago, an angel called her bless’d
and full of grace. Did Gabriel know the course
her life would take, the life of her womb’s fruit,
the Son of God — that it would come to this?
And did he know as well that this was not
the end, that there was more — far more — to come?
Yet Mary’s grief is not relieved in this,
as on his wounded brow she plants a kiss.
Let us pray. (Silence)

Lord Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death: Grant to us your servants so to follow in faith where you have led the way, that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in you and wake up in your likeness; for your tender mercies’ sake. Amen

Fourteenth Station

Jesus is laid in the tomb

V. You will not abandon me to the grave:
R. Nor let your holy One see corruption.

His foster father was named Joseph, too;
in death, he takes another Joseph’s tomb.
He had no earthly father of his own,
nor would he have a grave but as a gift.
His birthplace was a stable let on loan,
his burial in a tomb another built.
And all this was to free us from our guilt.
The Way is ended, now the tomb is sealed —
our eyes have seen the love of God revealed.
Let us pray. (Silence)

O God, your blessed Son was laid in a tomb in a garden, and rested on the Sabbath day: Grant that we who have been buried with him in the waters of baptism may find our perfect rest in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen

To Christ our Lord who loves us, and washed us in his own blood, and made us a kingdom of priests to serve his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

March 6, 2006

Listening, Acceptance, and Approval

In a recent interview with David Frost, Archbishop Rowan Williams observed:

I think, to find ways, as long as possible, of getting these two sides to make sense of themselves to each. The biggest problem is people don’t listen very much. That’s, you know, that’s human nature, and the Church is no exception. And so long as people are still trying to - so long as people are aware that they’ve enough in common to disagree, rather than just to tear it all up, so long as that’s true, it’s worth working at. Now the point may come where people say well we no longer have enough in common and we may reach that point - I don’t know. Meanwhile, my first priority is to try and keep the conversation going, to say do you understand why this matters.
It seems to me that the Archbishop says two things here: one false, and one true — and they are related. The false part is the accusation that “people don’t listen.” I think people have in fact listened very carefully; and that after listening we still disagree. +Rowan is betraying his liberal optimism here: if only you will understand me, you will agree with me. But arguments are not always persuasive, and a failure to agree need not indicate a failure to understand. An old priest friend of mine once told me of a conversation with his senior warden, who finally said to him, in exasperation, “Father, you aren’t listening to what I’m saying!” The priest responded, “George, I hear you perfectly. But I disagree.”

Where the Archbishop is “spot on” is in the question of how we deal with the disagreement. This is where we can choose to act in a gospel fashion, or not. Do we have enough in common to hold the church together in spite of strong disagreement about the rightness of same-sex relationships, and, whether right or wrong, how important is this particular aspect of a person’s life in terms of ordained ministry? Can those who disapprove accept the full participation of those of whom they disapprove in the church — in all orders of ministry? — that is the question for the “reasserters.” The question for the “reappraisers” is not (or ought not to be) Will you stop doing this? but Can you live with this lack of full approval — is acceptance enough? In short, can we maintain our unity in spite of a difference of opinion: even if it means various impairments in the communion, and juggling of episcopal oversight to accomplish it?

Ultimately, we have no control over others accepting us, only over who we accept. The Gospel way, for me, is the way of acceptance, not of “being accepted” — in fact, Jesus promises rejection in the short run for those who follow him. And it seems this is precisely what we are seeing: churches that are welcoming and accepting are getting a tongue lashing for not being restrictive enough. And if we criticize those calling for restriction for being restrictive — they say we don't “accept” them!

What can we do in response? I say, keep preaching the Gospel! And remain open and welcoming even to those who disagree — that is crucial, I think. I can say, “I hear what you are saying, but I disagree with you; but you are welcome to worship with me — if you want to.”

Acceptance in this sense need not mean approval — on either side. Rather we should acknowledge that we are all to some extent in error, but “accept one another as Christ accepted us” — with all our imperfections, and not as a sign of approval, but as an act of salvation.

—Tobias S Haller BSG

March 3, 2006

California Dreamin’

Some, including most “reasserters” — and even a few who in general support the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy, but have gotten antsy about our place in “the Communion” — have reacted negatively to the posted slate of candidates for Bishop of California, because it includes two people whose “lifestyles” create a stumbling block to unity in the church — something bishops are supposed to “safeguard.” Some have gone so far as to suggest that these two candidates are only there because of their sexuality. Others have gone further and implied their presence is primarily to “thumb our nose” at “the Communion.” This strikes me as a very myopic view, or at best a cynical one. I’ve know Robert Taylor for years, from before he was ordained. His name has been circulated as a likely episcopal candidate long before even GC2003 — so his presence on the California slate is no calculated surprise move.

Let me be frank. It is certainly true that out gay and lesbian bishops are a stumbling block to some Anglicans. The election of another such bishop may indeed lead to some of the provinces of the Anglican Communion severing their ties with the Episcopal Church (how many in addition to those who have already done so remains to be seen.) That would be their choice. I do not believe “the Communion” is going to vote us off the island in this case, as I do not feel that a majority of provinces feel that strongly about the matter; and if I am mistaken, and they do, it will still be their choice to do so. It would not be the first time that a part of the Body has suffered exclusion because it did what it thought was right.

But as to stumbling blocks: The cross was a stumbling block to Jews and a folly to Greeks. Jesus’ “lifestyle” was a scandal (that is, a stumbling block) to his contemporaries, shocked and appalled as they were at his fellowship with sinners — eating with them, and even letting them touch him. This led to deep and serious divisions in the religious community of his day; only a small minority of whom came eventually to join his movement. So Jesus did not come to bring unity, at least not at first, and certainly not as expected — but division. There had to be, as Saint Paul said later (1 Cor 11:19), a certain amount of partisan division and factions (Paul used the word heresy) so that what was truly genuine might be made manifest.

For true unity does not emerge from compromise, but crucifixion. The grain of wheat does not grow unless it perishes. It is through the Paschal mystery, and only thus, that the unity of the church emerges and is preserved.

You may recall that “the last temptation of Christ” was to appease those who crucified him: to deny himself and his mission, to compromise and come down from the cross, and settle down in the acceptable lifestyle of a first-century Jewish male. He did not do so. He remained the scandalous stumbling block, the great division, the wound that healed the world. I am called to follow Christ, and proclaim the unity for which he died: not the cozy fellowship of our little Anglican tea-party, as nice as that is and as loath as I am to see it split — but the unity of all who bear the likeness of God in Christ — the unity which he purchased on the cross and which no human action, whether mine or the Diocese of California, or the Primate of Nigeria, or the Archbishop of Canterbury can in any way destroy. That is the only unity worth standing for, for it is the only unity that will endure the end of days and the gates of hell. The one who was the stumbling block gave us his word, and I, for one, trust him.

— Tobias S Haller BSG