June 30, 2006

Unity and Truth

Unity without truth may be mere conspiracy.
"Truth" without unity leads only to divisions and factions.
But unity in pilgrimage towards the truth we only know in part:
this is the path the church is called to walk,
following the One who leads us into Truth.

—Tobias S Haller BSG

June 28, 2006

A Theatrickal Masque

I'm wondering if instead of a Lambeth Conference it might not be worth staging a pageant or theatrical production. One play to which I've alluded below comes to mind: King Lear. I think +Rowan would be admirably typecast -- he certainly has the "look" -- though he might prefer to spell the title character's name by the older mythological "Llyr"! He was the king, you will remember, who decided to divide his kingdom among his children, giving the best bits to the ones who flattered him the most.

Cordelia will, of course, be the first role for our new Presiding Bishop: the daughter who truly loves but will not dissemble just to please, and must suffer the consequences of disenfranchisement. In this she stands in for the whole Episcopal Church, it seems, or 90 percent of it, anyway.

The Fool who tells the truth but to whom no one listens as the tragedy unfolds? Bishop Robinson, I think you've got a part to play: Shakespeare's fools are the wisest but also the saddest, and Lear's fool most of all. Of course, you may not be invited to the show. If so, I nominate Desmond Tutu for a special farewell performance of a part he's played not just in the church, but in the world.

The other daughters will have to be played in drag, in the tradition of Shakespeare's time. A number of US bishops seem to be vying for the roles of the sisters who butter up and then betray their father, so auditions will be held. (The star has casting approval.) So too for their husbands. Perhaps an Australian accent might be good there; with a touch of Southern Cone.

Then there's Edmund and Edgar (Akinola and Ndungane?) and a host of other characters.

It could be a very interesting production. Perhaps even instructive.

Feeling somewhat of a Fool myself (and I actually did play the role once years back in a very odd musical version of the play) I remain,

Perplexed at the haste with which people seem to be moving in widening gyres,

June 27, 2006

Canterbury's Latest Thoughts

Not bad; not bad at all. Finally a response that begins to make a good bit of sense, and lays out some clear paths for the future. Thank you, +++Rowan.

I, for one, could live with the "second track" solution; maybe even prefer it! After all, what does it really mean in practice to be "second class" in this new Communion: not going to Lambeth, maybe not being part of ACC (which takes a vote of 2/3ds of the primates -- including us and Canada and SA and Mexico etc.) So let's say that's what happens; as my CPE supervisor would say, "And.....?"

In one sense, Lambeth and the ACC and $2 gets you on the subway. We're talking about two weeks of meetings every 3 or 10 years! In the interim is all the good stuff of MISSION, which is what the church is FOR! What a novel idea. As Lear put it, we can be God's spies, and stop worrying about who's in and who's out, and all the intrigue and gilded butterflies of the ecclesiastical "court." And maybe spend more time on the real work of the church.

And that's my point, as I made it at the Convention when I spoke in favor of the process leading to a Covenant: the problem with the contemporary church is we're thinking about ministers instead of ministry: all this focus on personal qualities and manner of life instead of whether they do what Jesus said to do.

Jesus seems to have been completely indifferent to the "manner of life" of those he called to serve, and those who served him -- as long as they served! (Remember the woman who washed his feet with her tears, and Simon's pious reaction?) You know, Jesus never mentions personal holiness at all; it's part of the purity code he rejected. He talked about prophetic righteousness and not judging others. Hmmm... could sure use more of that in the Anglican Communion!

The only downside to Rowan's reflection is his still being mired with this particular sticky matter: "The Church's One Obsession" with its own structure, its being rather than its doing; the tendency to exalt form over function. But I'm hopeful the two-track solution might actually be liberating for us all!

So let's embrace an imperfect communion based on mission instead of a pure one based on the lifestyles of the missionaries!

June 26, 2006

What should have happened

a Swiftian catena

The General Convention should have listened to the clear directions of the Primates and repented and repudiated all that had been done to offend.

The Episcopal Church should have ignored the tradition of national church polity and remained as a missionary arm of the Church of England even after the Revolution.

The Church of England should have listened to the pope and never separated from Rome.

The Eastern Orthodox should have done the same and submitted to Rome so as not to sever communion.

The martyrs should have followed Saint Paul’s advice to obey those in civil authority.

Saint Paul, in the interest of not tearing the fabric of the early church, should have acceded to the circumcision party instead of trusting to his own private interpretation of Scripture.

The Jerusalem Council should have ignored the anecdotal evidence of Paul and Barnabas — which could only serve to make Law-abiding Jewish converts uneasy.

Saul should have ignored his personal “experience” on the road to Damascus and followed his orders from the Sanhedrin.

The other apostles should have ignored Peter’s “dream” and stuck to the letter of the Law.

Jesus should have heeded Peter’s advice and turned back from Jerusalem.

He might also have considered more seriously the various options presented to him in the Wilderness Report.

Joseph should have ignored the “personal revelation” he received — again in a dream, no less — and acted in accordance with the Law, and when he found Mary to be with child by someone other than himself, had her stoned to death, and her unborn child with her.

Then we wouldn’t be having all these problems with the Anglican Communion.

—Tobias S Haller BSG

June 25, 2006

Our New Primate: God Bless Her!

An announcement at Saint James Fordham • June 25 2006
Last Sunday was Father’s Day, but it was also the day upon which the gathered bishops of the Episcopal Church — numbering almost 200 — elected the first woman Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church — the first woman primate of the Anglican Communion, ready to take her place alongside the leaders of the other thirty-seven independent provincial churches of the Communion.

We have indeed come a long way from the days in which Saint Paul said it was not proper for a woman to speak in church or to teach, but that she should learn in all submission. It is evident that although Saint Paul was doubtless guided by the Holy Spirit in much that he said, he was also limited — as he admitted — as a man of his own time by the culture of his own time. Even today there are human cultures that do not allow a role of leadership to women. But divine order overturns human limitations.

In his better moments, Saint Paul knew this: that woman’s submission was not part of God’s original will for human beings; that indeed when God created man and woman he created them as equals. Adam himself recognized this fact when he greeted Eve by saying, “This at last is one like me: bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” Eve was meant by God to stand at Adam’s side, from which she was taken — not cringe under his feet! It was only the fall that led to her submission and subjugation to the husband from whom she came, just as Adam was forced into subjugation to the earth from which he came: to toil at it with a sweaty brow until he would return whence he came.

But as Saint Paul also recognized, in his better moments: in the redeemed life in Christ, the effects of the fall are reversed: the world is leveled out, and there is no more domination or subjugation, but rather mutual love, as God’s curse is reversed by God’s grace. As Paul wrote to the Galatians, in Christ there is no more slave or free, no more male and female. These differences have lost their importance, and more importantly, their power to enslave.

It is true that Paul found it hard to give up the cultural beliefs in which he was immersed like a fish in water. He approved of slavery — even though we now consider that for one person to own another as a piece of property is not acceptable in God’s sight. So too Paul tolerated the subjugation of women, and would not allow them to teach or hold authority.

Fortunately, Paul knew that his vision was limited, clouded as it was by his own cultural limitations, and he admitted to his partial knowledge in struggling to see the truth through a glass darkly. But even more importantly, Paul’s limitations in this regard are more than offset by our Lord Jesus Christ himself, who made no such distinctions: who in fact allowed women to be the first apostles of his resurrection, the first to bear the word that he had risen from the grave — to be apostles to the apostles.

And so it is we welcome Katharine Jefferts Schori as the first woman Presiding Bishop, Chief Pastor and Primate of the Episcopal Church — and perhaps we should, as Anglicans, be reminded that the supreme governor on earth of the Church of England is also a woman: Queen Elizabeth the Second; and that our Anglican tradition came into its own under the loving and careful direction of Queen Elizabeth the First. So perhaps Bishop Katharine might well echo the famous words of Elizabeth the First as she prepared for battle against foreign invasion, when she said: “I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and a king of England, too!”

God bless Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, and may she guide this church in the light of the Gospel.

• Tobias S Haller BSG

Note: my congregation consists largely of West Indian and West African members, many of whom come from parts of the Anglican Communion that do not ordain women even to the priesthood, let alone the episcopate, and many of whose cultures still regularly subject women to a secondary status. I can report that this somewhat extended announcement was very well received!

Parliamentary Procedures

An article in the on-line Living Church describes the various actions surrounding A161 and the more Windsor-complian substitute. In so doing it somewhat confuses the procedural challenge that I offered after the chair ruled the second resolve of the substitute was in order. My constitutional objection was to the language of the second resolbe: "Resolved that the 75th GC effect a moratorium on the authorizing of all public rites of blessing of same sex unions (WR 144)," which is not the language reported in the TLC article: "that this General Convention not proceed to develop or authorize Rites for the Blessing of same-sex unions at this time." That language would have been in order, as it referred to the General Convention choosing not to do something. But that is not the language the substitute proposed.

My point, eventually upheld by the chair, is that the GC cannot "effect a moratorium" on such matters by resolution, since this is a Constitutional issue: Article X and the BCP itself give bishops the right to authorize liturgies not provided for in the BCP. Had the language of the substitute used the word "recommend" rather than "effect" it would have been entirely in order.

—Tobias S Haller BSG

June 24, 2006

Resolution Redivivus

A thought came to mind in relation to the language I used in a response to a reporter about A161 -- since widely quoted -- that the resolution had died. Little did I know it would come back in another form on the following day! Whether this was a resurrection or a case of someone having neglected a stake through the heart, it is clear that this was a sentiment that would not rest easy in a legislative grave.

But this also brings back memories of an earlier time. It seems to me that in GC2006.B033 we are essentially dealing with a resolution (and situation) not unlike GC1979.A053, except this time only consent to bishops is addressed. Like that resolution, this one is recommendatory: not because the Convention is unable to adopt binding language, but because it can only do so by amending the canons and constitution, as was pointed out in the objection to the substitute that used the Windsor language of "effect a moratorium." (Had this substitute used the word "recommend" where it used "effect" it would have been entirely in order.) As in 1979, a number of bishops have already made clear what is well within their right: they are not bound by this resolution.

The reason for this, of course, is the other principle embodied in the Windsor Report, about which I've written before: what touches all must be decided by all. It is at present within the right of any diocesan bishop or standing committee to consent (or withhold consent) to an election of a bishop, for reasons which need not be specified. The General Convention can recommend concerning this right, but not restrict it, short of expressly adding an impediment to the canons. (This was attempted in resolution D067, which I don't believe ever made it to the floor.)

My sense is that in the coming weeks and months we will see this matter put to the test: given a candidate's many qualities apart from his or her "manner of life," and the high regard in which the decisions of electing dioceses are held, whether the church will be willing to withhold consent in order to please the dissident within our church and the arrogant* without it.

--Tobias S Haller BSG

* I use the word arrogant in the somewhat archaic sense, of those who assume powers they do not have. Such as telling other provinces what to do.

Fear, Folly, & Disorder

Fear cloaked as courage, victimization masked as sacrifice, and disorderly expediency: these are the qualities that typified the dysfunction of the closing day of the General Convention meeting in Columbus.

Fear of fear itself

Our leaders spoke of not giving into our fears. But what were the fears they hoped we might set to one side? The only fears of which I was aware on the last day of the General Convention were fears we did not set to one side: fear that the Anglican Communion might split, or fear that we as a province might be excluded from the conversation. It seems very possible that in spite of the good intention, our action on the last day of Convention will not prevent the Communion from splitting, and though we may have provided Canterbury with the minimum to allow an invitation to the Anglican conversation pit, we no longer have anything to say.

How much better to have let our Yes be Yes or our No, No. How much better it would have been to tell those who accuse us of imperialism — within our church or in other provinces — that we have no wish or will to impose our views upon anyone, and are willing to take whatever steps are necessary to assure them of this willingness, including placing our future as part of the Communion in their hands. How much better to be excluded to the margins (or even off the page) for doing what we believe to be right: for Christ would be with us in our exclusion to the edge or over it, as he was always more comfortable in the company of those deemed sinners than in the synagogues of the ones who thought themselves righteous.

The sacrifice of the few for the many

I wasn’t a Girardian before this General Convention; but I have to admit I saw the Girardian principle of scapegoat-making in full play: as a few were selected to be the offering that would relieve the anxiety of the many. In the course of debate, a number of persons spoke of the sacrifice being made in the first-person plural; however, it was evident that very few of them were making any personal sacrifice at all. And while it is always permissible to sacrifice oneself, it is never so to sacrifice someone else.

As the day wore on I began to appreciate what it feels like to be the Sudetenland, as a little piece of paper marked B-033 offered the false promise of peace in our time. It is already evident this blemished sacrifice has been rejected by the augurs.

Disorderly Houses

On the last day of Convention, disorder plagued both Houses. The deputies had on the day before considered and rejected a resolution urging the church to refrain from ordaining any bishop, or blessing any relationships, that might provoke anxiety. The deputies also heard a substitute imposing moratoria à la Windsor — unconstitutional because the General Convention cannot abridge the rights and responsibilities of the various organs of the church except by amendment of the Constitution and Canons. I am happy to have pressed the point on the liturgical question, on the basis of Article X of the Constitution and the Book of Common Prayer, which gives bishops the right to authorize liturgies not provided for in the BCP; the President received my objection in good spirit and after further consultation ruled against consideration. The original resolution was rejected by a wide margin, and a motion to reconsider it similarly failed. So far the normal orderly procedures of the House.

It was on the following day that pressure began to be exerted, with the calling of a joint session in which the Presiding Bishop appealed to both Houses to pull the Episcopal fat from the Anglican fire. The Bishops departed to their chamber and adopted B-033, substantially the same as the first resolve that failed in the Deputies: calling on the various organs of the church to refrain from consenting to a bishop whose manner of life might add to the tension in the church. (We all know what that means, and to whom it refers, I assume.) In order for the Bishops to take up this matter, it was necessary for them to suspend their Rule XVIII, which forbids new legislation after the second day of Convention, and even more strongly on the final day of the session. I assume the Bishops took this necessary step prior to adopting their Resolution B-033.

In any case, this resolution was then sent to the Deputies, who had to suspend their Rule 28 governing the consideration of a matter once settled, and should likely have suspended Rule 31.b.7 on the reconsideration of a reconsideration without material change. (The Parliamentarian ruled that as the matter of B-033 did not include the resolve about rites that it was materially different.) After the vote on the second reconsideration passed, debate was engaged, into which was inserted an address by the Presiding Bishop-elect, concerning fear, swords and shields, and conjoined twins. I fear this action will cost her ministry more deeply than we can even begin to estimate at this point, and that B003 may not turn out to be so much a gift as a burden.

I remain concerned when such a scramble at accommodation combines with a helter-skelter setting aside of rules of order — rules not designed for their own sake, but to prevent this very sort of coercive (or, if you prefer) persuasive exercise of power: to protect the rights of the assembly and its many members. One of the things that could well be said of GC2003 — whether one agreed with its decisions or not — was that all canonical rules and regulations were followed scrupulously. The same, quite simply, cannot be said of GC2006: rules were not followed, but suspended.

After all is said and done, I do know one thing: Jesus is my friend. I thought the Episcopal Church was my friend, too — really. And B033 is not how you treat your friends.

In conclusion

Can good come of this? Yes, I do believe, in God’s good time and with God’s good grace. But expediency often shows itself to be inexpedient in the long run. Perhaps an icon for the Episcopal Church at this point might be the electronic voting system adopted for this General Convention. It was hoped that it would simplify and expedite our process. In fact it took up far more of our precious time together than was wise of us to expend, leaving us stumbling over ourselves in the closing hours of what I cannot call debate, but simply haste. When the means by which we do things (the institution of the church) becomes more important than, and draws resources from, the things we are called to do (the mission of the church) — well, we have made the error of Babel: as if the point was that we be united, that we not be scattered to bring the message to the world’s ends. The “unity” of Babel is the antithesis of the Gospel. Pray that God may restore the gift of distinctiveness that shatters the false unity of accommodation.

—Tobias S Haller BSG

June 8, 2006

About that bus...

As I feared, and referred to in responses to comments on the preceding post, my analogy has been misunderstood.

By "back of the bus" I did not, repeat not, mean to imply returning to a time of repression and injustice. I firmly oppose the suggested moratoria on ordination and same-sex blessings, and will not vote for their adoption. I support full and open inclusion of gays and lesbians in all orders of ministry, and favor the adoption of same-sex blessings. As a practical reality, reflecting the Anglican tradition of reception, and in order to promote broader acceptance over time, I believe such rites should be authorized on a diocese by diocese basis. This is what I meant by "local option" in the essay in Episcopal Life.

So what did I mean by the "back of the bus"?

I meant the situation in which we find ourselves at present: being out of favor with a large portion (about one-third as I reckon) of the Anglican Communion. The consequences of our not adopting the Windsor Report (whatever that means) may lead to our bishops not being invited to Lambeth, for example. So it is the "Anglican bus" as a whole I'm talking about, not the status of gays and lesbians, women, or disadvantaged people. Some have suggested that the whole Episcopal Church is to be placed in the back of the bus, so to speak, if we do not enact the moratoria. (Others have suggested we'll be thrown off the bus entirely, and some have even called for that explicitly, though I think it very unlikely given the super-majority of the Primates that would be needed to accomplish such a division in the Communion).

So it is in this respect that I am willing to "suffer wrong for doing right." I don't think that's "good" -- I wish following the gospel had no negative consequences -- I just think it is a sad fact of where the sorry-assed Anglican Communion is right now. I know it will change, and I will work for that change with every fiber of my being. But I believe the way to do that is the constant patient witness of enduring unmerited punishment.

Hope this clears up the misunderstanding.

— Tobias S Haller BSG

June 1, 2006


I've had a short essay published in the June issue of Episcopal Life, dealing with the current issues. It is called A comprehensive view...

An additional thought came to mind early this morning, in relation to the civil rights movement. Now, let me say right up front that I make this analogy not because of "rights" but because of "civil." There is no "right" to be ordained -- though there is a right for the church to ordain those whom the church discerns are called. But back to the "civil" part. What we are talking about is how we can live as a civitas: a civilized society in which differences are comprehended under the Sign of Love, not Judgment.

Anyway, I was thinking about the matter of the back of the bus. To put it bluntly, I am willing to stay on the back of the Anglican Bus. I am willing to accept the reality that my ministrations as a priest would not be acceptable in parts of the Anglican Communion, even in some parts of the Episcopal Church. But as long as I get where I need to go, the back of the bus works for me; for I trust that the day will come when those in the front will be willing to say, at last, "Come up higher." I am willing to "take the lowest seat."

The problem at present is that I get the feeling that some in the front of the bus don't want me on the bus at all. They'd rather I walk. What I ask of them is a willingness to let me stay on the bus. I am not asking them to leave; I am only asking them to let me stay. Because I believe the bus is going where we all want to go.

In short, my compromise is to say, Let us live with this imperfect agreement on these matters of rites and ceremonies, while relying on the perfect unity that comes in, with, and through the blessing of Christ. Let Christ be the focus of our unity and our goal -- not our own treaties and contracts.

Tobias S Haller BSG