February 26, 2007

An Immodest Proposal

In my previous post, O Theophilus, I wrote concerning what I perceive as the failure of the Episcopal Church to make an adequate, concerted, and persuasive case for steps in the direction of affirming persons in same-sex relationships. A number of people have commented on this post, and I have responded; but I would like to raise and address some of those concerns here before continuing with my proposals.

A few have suggested I have fallen into the liberal fallacy of “if only you will listen to me you will agree.” This was very far from my intent; in fact, it was this very liberal tendency I was addressing. I do not believe that reason alone will convince everyone of the rightness of my point of view; but I do believe it is incumbent upon me to make the best use of reason I can, in order to reach those open to such a reasonable approach.

It is the large number of undecided, moderate Anglicans who are hungering for a better case from the progressive side — and it is to these I am hoping we might address our arguments, as they are crafted and refined. There will be those who are beyond reason; real homophobia and bigotry — and let us be honest and acknowledge they exist — require therapy, not mere discourse.

At the same time, I by no means intend (as some have suggested) to abandon the “incarnational approach” that is so important in bringing people to a change of mind or of heart. (I was encouraged to hear our Primate reflect a similar note in her address to the staff at 815.) But I must point out that the incarnational approach — if it assumes, “once you get to know me you will accept me” is also false. I’m sure we’d all like to think, “To know me is to love me.” And personal presence can be a very powerful — and I would say essential — part of the ongoing process of engagement; but that presence must also be combined with a willingness to debate and defend on the topic at hand.

An incarnational presence is not always going to convince, even when it is accompanied by eloquent teaching. You will all recall, no doubt, that an incarnational presence can lead to a crucifixion. Moreover, Jesus noted, in his parable of Lazarus and the rich man, that those who have not heeded the weightier matters of the law inherent in such notions as “love your neighbor as yourself,” and the prophetic call to justice, will be unmoved even by the resurrection.

I can give one concrete example from my own experience. At the last General Convention I had an extended conversation with an English Evangelical who began the conversation by saying to me, “Some of my best friends are gay; but you are wrong, and you are going to hell.” My response was an aggressive: No, I am not wrong; but you are, and you will go to hell yourself if you persist in judging others; and here is why. As the evening wore on, I was able not only to reject his premise, but challenge every argument he brought to the fore — clearly not to the extent of convincing him, but to the extent of making him realize his arguments were not nearly so airtight as he had supposed.

It was also helpful to be able to say, “You are talking about me when you make these accusations.” However, if that is all I had said, I doubt it would have shaken his thinking; after all, he said right at the beginning that some of his best friends are gay; it’s just that we’re going to hell. It was the willingness to argue as well as be a presence that made the difference. He said he’d never been confronted in this way before, and made to think about what he was so blithely saying about who was going to hell, as well as a number of his other favorite arguments. I heard the next day from several people who know him that this conversation was profoundly important for him — and he was grateful for thechallenge as well as for the presence.

In short, we need to do both. We are in a Hillel moment here: it isn’t just about us, but about others, too. The “easy” ways at either end, capitulation or revolt, seem to me to lead in the wrong direction. How can we speak to and for the gay and lesbian persons suffering real persecution in so much of the world (far worse than not being allowed to be a bishop, or have their relationship blessed!) if we either give in completely, or separate off into our own private sanctum. “If I am not for myself, who will be? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” So what do we do?

A sketch of a response in four movements

1. Of the Process of Engagement

1.0. I have never cared for the language of “the listening process.” It sounds altogether too passive and casual. So I prefer to call for a process of engagement. This has several elements.

1.1 Assemble a theological critique of the current position on same-sex relationships. You will see that I do not frame this as a defense as much as a re-examination of the case made by the prosecution. I take as my basic stand the notion that guilt must be proven, not innocence; and as the Archbishop of Canterbury has acknowledged this week, in some even of the best of the traditional argumentation there are rather significant lapses in logic and theology. It is these lapses and inconsistencies that can and should be exposed and corrected, for in some cases the whole argument hangs by a slender thread indeed.

1.2. Develop a positive theology of human sexual relationships built on the unitive function of human sexuality (which is universal and lifelong and eternal) rather than the traditional approach based on procreation (which is neither universal nor lifelong nor eternal). There is ample Scriptural, traditional, and theological material to support such a theology.

1.3. Insist and mandate that in any discussion of the issue of same-sexuality, in any parochial, diocesan, provincial or international forum, gay and lesbian persons, both lay and ordained, be involved. It will be necessary for the Executive Council or the General Convention to assemble a team or bureau of such persons, equipped with the material produced in steps one and two above in order to carry out this mandate.

1.4. As these steps will require funding, I suggest that a portion of the funds formerly committed to the Anglican Consultative Council be directed to this effort. As the “listening process” is a mandate of the ACC, this use of funds is in keeping with the importance of addressing an issue that, if nothing else, is capable of leading to the utter collapse of the Anglican Communion as we know it. If the Anglican Communion is worth the effort, it is also worth the expense.

1.5. Insist that representatives of The Episcopal Church, or the church itself, not be threatened with dismissal or exclusion from any of the councils of the Anglican Communion, or the Communion itself. Such exclusion is both repugnant to the Gospel, and the common sense that if we are to reach a common mind it will only be through the meeting and engagement of those who disagree. Peace achieved through the excision or exclusion of persons with whom we disagree is reprehensible.

2. Of Lambeth and the Primates

2.0. I trace the current division and turmoil, and the beginnings of the tearing of the fabric of the Communion, not to the General Convention of 2003, but to the Lambeth Conference of 1998. There, through a manifestly disordered process, in which both members and the chair acted inappropriately, a resolution was adopted that did not represent the true mind of the Anglican Communion in its present lack of consensus. Moreover, since its passage, resolution 1998.1.10 — which itself uses the language of recommendation and advice — has been treated by some of the Primates and others as if it represented a unified “teaching” — rather than a statement of a traditional view that is no longer universally ascribed to, and which is under discussion. This unilateral transformation of the Lambeth Conference into a magisterial body is contrary to its charter, and lacks the consent of the various Provinces of the Anglican Communion. I therefore suggest:

2.1. The Primates and Bishops of the Anglican Communion be invited to express their repentance for having breached the bonds of affection that constitute the historic basis for this fellowship of autonomous churches, in having sought to substitute coercive constraint, violation of provincial autonomy, and threats of exclusion in their place.

2.2. That pending such an expression of repentance, The Episcopal Church continue to work with those Primates and Bishops who wish to continue in such a fellowship, in keeping with the historic constitution (in large part unwritten) by which the Anglican Communion has heretofore exercised its unique ministry in the whole Body of Christ.

2.3. That if it is desired to assemble a teaching body for the further exploration of a pan-Anglican doctrinal statement on any matter, and recognizing that not only do the ordinals of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England and the 1979 Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church both confer the office of teaching to the presbyterate, but that many of the greatest theologians of the church’s past have been laity, and that the diaconate is charged specifically with bringing the needs of the world to the attention of the church: that any teaching body so assembled consist of priests, deacons and lay persons as well as of bishops; and that any decisions or positions reached by this assembly receive the assent of each and every constituent Province of the Anglican Communion (alike working through provincial assemblies consisting of all orders of ministry) before being considered to be “the teaching of the Anglican Communion.”

3. Of ordination and election of bishops

3.0. I do not believe anyone has a need or a right to be a bishop. I also believe that the episcopate is for the good order of the church. At the same time, it is unjust to exlude persons or classes of persons without good cause. I recommend:

3.1. That the Episcopal Church commend and urge its Bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees to withhold consent to the consecration to the episcopate of any person whose manner of life is inconsistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

4. Of the blessing of same-sex unions

4.0. The church teaches that the nuptial ministers are the couple themselves, whose vows are blessed, not constituted, by the church. One of the earliest western marriage liturgies, in the sixth century Gallic tradition, consisted of a blessing of the couple in their home. I therefore suggest that:

4.1. Until a wider consensus is achieved on the rightness of blessing same-sex relationships in an ecclesiastical setting, The Episcopal Church not proceed with the development of a liturgical rite, or its authorization.

4.2. Recognizing that priests are ordained to pronounce God’s blessing, and that no further authorization is needed for a priest to bless than there is to preach; and that the liturgy “The Celebration of a Home” in the Book of Occasional Services is authorized for use in this church, without further permission from the Bishop being necessary; and that this liturgy provides for the blessing of the residents of the household; that it be recognized that the use of such liturgy is within the ambit of pastoral care.

4.3. The the church include in its studies and discussion the issue of the role of the church in those civil jurisdictions in which same-sex relationships are licensed, and the larger issue of the interaction between civil and ecclesiastical law in this area.

I realize that this first draft of proposals may not please everyone. I am not sure it pleases me entirely. But it is a good faith effort to lay out a way forward that is, I think, far more in keeping with the traditional Anglican way of working than is evident in the statement from Dar es Salaam.

February 23, 2007

Of the Dangers of Self-Evident Truth

I have taken to heart the request of our Primate to step back and reflect before diving into the seething mass of commentary and critique that the Primates’ Communiqué has stirred up. Leading the Litany of Penitence at two Ash Wednesday liturgies, and working yesterday on the mundane matters of finishing the Parochial Report, have given me some time to think. Reading the various contributions of many others has also helped me in seeing what I hope is a bigger picture. In what follows, I will try to lay out what I am beginning to see as the root of our present difficulties. In doing so, I fear I may join our Primate in offending some of my friends; but I hope that in what follows I am offering — to use the therapeutic language I usually avoid, but which I am now convinced has become appropriate — an accurate diagnosis, so that we can continue with an appropriate and productive course of treatment.

When Jefferson declared it to be a self-evident truth that human beings are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, it is obvious that the self-evidence did not extend to his own slave-quarters. It is also obvious that even though two out of the three human rights Jefferson held to be self-evident (life and liberty) were derived from the thinking of an English philosopher, it would take a war with England to establish the boundaries of a land in which, nearly a century later, that life and that liberty might be said to have begun their imperfect (and still less than complete) realization.

In our present situation, the Episcopal Church has effectively adopted in practice (although in less than perfect agreement) what I regard as a self-evident truth, articulated in the Koinonía Statement in 1994, “that homosexuality and heterosexuality are morally neutral.”

It is abundantly clear that this thesis was not universally accepted in 1994 (the statement itself being signed only by a minority), and can only be said to be accepted in the Episcopal Church today by an incomplete majority; and further, that it is not self-evidently true to a very large portion of the rest of the Anglican world. On the contrary, a minority of Episcopalians, and a majority of Anglicans would insist in no uncertain terms that not only is this not self-evidently true, but patently false. Same-sexuality is not morally neutral in their eyes, but always and in every circumstance morally culpable.

And this is where my sense of Lenten reevaluation and repentance come in. Those of us who support a neutral or positive view of same-sexuality have not made a case for our position in a way that is persuasive and convincing to the world-wide majority. (I acknowledge that the majority bears some fault in this; but my concern here is to confess my failings, since it is only over my own actions that I can be said to have control.) This is self-evidently true: a majority of the Anglican world have neither been persuaded nor convinced. Many and various voices have spoken, my own included, but there has been no systematic effort to produce a definitive examination and demonstration on this issue — at least one capable of moving beyond the impasse of asserting our conclusion as a premise.

Yes, I fear we on the liberal side have been just as guilty of petitio principii as the “reasserters.” We have been swept up in the knowledge of the rightness of our cause, forgetting that knowledge is capable of puffing up rather than building up. It is certainly true that we have not been well listened to in many places — but what have we offered those we most wish to persuade — who are convinced that same-sexuality is morally wrong — to listen to?

I fear we on the liberal side have been blinded by the splendor of the truth we seek to expound. And so we have moved beyond the essential first step of demonstrating the moral neutrality of sexuality — and the potential goodness of same-sex relationships — into issues of justice, inclusion and baptismal dignity. These are all very important issues — of far wider application, and of far greater Gospel import — but if the underlying question is not settled, they are, sad to say, beside the point to those who see same-sexuality as morally repugnant. (I realize that will sound harsh to my liberal friends, but I am trying to see this from the opposing point of view.) So we take offense when someone analogizes same-sexuality to murder, adultery or incest — failing to hear in this the traditional voice of the majority that judges same-sexuality as sinful — because we have already decided, for ourselves, that the underlying issue is moot.

Well, it is not moot for those with whom we are engaged, or if it is moot, it is moot in contradiction. This is revealed in the liberal misunderstanding concerning conservative opposition to Jeffrey John’s appointment as a bishop (and yes, the English appoint, while we elect — another distinction that seems to be as lost on the bulk of the Communion, as our own liberal understanding of the depth of our disagreements on sexuality falls short.) It is not simply that Jeffrey John is gay, and that his celibacy should let him off the hook, but rather that he espouses the very teaching that is at issue: that same-sex relationships can be morally good; and the conservatives believe that those who teach such things should not be bishops, as it is contrary to what the church teaches, and the bishops are the guardians of the teaching. Yes, that too is a circular argument — but as I said above, we have no control over what our interlocutors argue, only over our response.

So this is where our repentance comes in, repentance that is the first step to actions which I hope will move us away from the impasse of “yes it is / no it isn’t.” I would like to hope that there is a middle way between a revolutionary war and a mere capitulation to the Powers. Is the Anglican Communion worth the effort? Is schism the only answer — cutting the Gordian knot by destroying the bonds of affection, or ending the chess game by turning over the table? I would like to hope that there is another way forward, and I will share some of my hopes and fears in my next post, after further reflection.

— Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

February 20, 2007

Solemn Communique and Covenant: The Quick Version

The Communique and Schedule:

Dear Bishops of The Episcopal Church: We don't want you to approve any more openly gay or lesbian bishops with partners, or authorize any same-sex blessing liturgies. And we really, really mean it this time. You've got until September 30. If you don't do what we ask by then we'll have to get even more upset and do something else. We don't know exactly what that will be, but you won't like it. Oh, and once you've agreed not to do what we don't want you to do, we'll tell the folks who've been crossing your national church boundaries and trying to take over parishes to stop doing what they are doing, too. In the meantime, we think you should stop trying to sue them for the property, since if you do what we say it will come back to you anyway. We may change our mind about those things we don't want you to do someday, but this is what we think now.

Also, we want to set up a team of people to help you through all of this, and to help provide for the folks in your church who are just as upset with you as we are. You get to have some input, but we'll be watching, because you have been so very naughty. Play nice or we'll make you sit on the sofa without TV.

The Covenant

We need to make sure we really do agree about the things we thought we already agreed about. And if we find out that we don't really agree, we'll have to try to make each other agree, or else who knows what might happen.

Tobias Haller

About the bonobo

At the end of the previous post I asked the question, "What's a Primate to do?" and offered a picture of the Nigerian postage stamp portraying a bonobo "chimp." A number of people rashly accused me of racism -- quite missing my point. I've addressed this in the previous post in a comment. I've also removed the graphic lest there be any further confusion.

I want to take this opportunity to explain at greater length what I intended. I relied, I see now unwisely, on people knowing more about bonobos than apparently they do. One poster over on T19 even seems to think this was a gorilla (in spite of the fact that the stamp is clealy labled.)

Any racist comment was very far from my mind -- so far that it didn't even occur to me that someone might read it that way. Rather, my reference -- in response to the closing question "What's a primate to do?" -- was to the way in which bonobos, probably unique among primates, use sex to settle disputes in their society. You can read more about this at the Columbus Zoo website if you are not already familiar with it. Note in particular under the FAQ the comments:

What are they doing?

Bonobos engage in sexual activities of all sorts— frequently for purposes other than breeding. They use heterosexual and homosexual activities to release excitement and tension. Any erotic behavior employed by man is also used by bonobos.

How are bonobos different from chimpanzees?

Chimps resolve sex issues with power; bonobos resolve power issues with sex. Bonobos believe in "make love, not war." Chimps are known for making war...

It is also ironic that the Nigerian government would choose such an image for one of their stamps. I guess that should have clued me that not everyone knows about the tendency of bonobos to "make love, not war"!

People can learn not to take things at their worst, and to find positive and upbuilding ways to settle differences. That is what I am now trying to do with the material the Primates have placed before us: and at first glance it appears to be very much a mixed bag, and relies too much on pressure and coersion and threats. I would rather have seen a more loving approach. But this is what we will have to deal with in the coming months and years. I will reflect further on this at another time.

February 19, 2007

Of the Products of Primates

After considerable smokeless back-room, late-night, hard-ball negotiation, the Primates of the Anglican Communion have emerged with a Communiqué with an attached Schedule.

Once again, the Institution appears to emerge triumphant, but devoid of the Spirit that once inhabited it. Once again, the Institution appears to be preserved, but weakened in the purpose for which it was intended. Once again, in order to preserve Institutional Unity, the pastoral realities of whole sectors of humanity are dismissed or deferred.

Will it work? Will the Bishops of the Episcopal Church continue on the road paved with B033's good intentions -- the less than adequate intentions to win over the Primates? Or will the number of those who rejected that road of cobbled-stone increase, and take another way?

The question that has to be faced, and faced squarely is this: is the Anglican Communion worth it? Is it worth further delay "until a new consensus emerges" to have no more gay or lesbian bishops who are open and honest about their lives (as we will surely have many others who are less than open and honest)? Shall the bishops stamp out irregular blessings of couples, or wink and turn a blind eye instead of "authorizing." Shall we go back to the days of not asking, and not telling?

And while we do, how will that impair the "listening process" about which one hears so much, but which receives scant attention in this latest batch of Primatial Product. Will those in the closet feel free to speak, or will the dust and mothballs render them silent?

So many questions! What's a Primate to do?

February 17, 2007

Of Sin and the Power of God

Over on the House of Bishops/Deputies list, a member responded to my post about What Would Gamaliel Do? by pointing out, quite rightly, that the divisions in the church may well be a result of human sin.

I would certainly have to acknowlege that human sin plays its part in the generation of divisions in the church, which, as I noted in the original post, have been going on since Apostolic times. But I would also have to apply the felix culpa principle: that God can bring even out of this some new great work. I'm reminded of the Rabbinic concept that the inclination to the self (the "evil" inclination) is an intrinsic part of the created human nature as much as the inclination to the good of the other -- these are the yetzer ha'ra and the yetzer ha'tov. (The Rabbis say this is shown because the word used for God "forming" Adam is misspelled with two yods -- one for each yetzer. Go figure...)

Anyway, the Rabbis also say that the evil inclination has its own kind of goodness. What? How? If it were not for this inclination people would have no ambition to build, to expand, to raise a family.... In short, the desire for self-preservation is an essential requirement for the eventual evolution of morals. (I will say more about this at another time.)

So, applying this, I suggest that the proliferation of divisions in the church, while it may originate in human fraility and failing, may yet be spun to God's ends by the proliferation of cooperation between the emergent variety -- when all come to realize they share a common life. In this we find mirrored precisely what happens in the living world of evolving creatures, who are not all alike, who differentiate and develop, and yet who taken together make up the biosphere.

By analogy, our richly diverse "ecclesiosphere" is also full of many wonderful creatures, in a stretched out sheet let down from heaven -- to show us that what God has declared clean we must not call unclean.

-- Tobias S Haller BSG

February 16, 2007

Blogging in Tanzania

Friday Satire from Tobias

Meanwhile, journalists and bloggers in Tanzania have found the power situation frustrating, as communication has frequently been interrupted by unexpected outages.

Those who walk apart

Seven of the "G"S Primates have refused to share in the Holy Communion with the rest of the body. They have issued the following statement, which I submit for your consideration.

Aside from the appalling self-righteousness, and the utter inversion of the principles of repentance and forgiveness (that is, it is only in one's own power to repent and forgive -- to demand either of others is not a Gospel value!), I suspect this may be the outline for any coming departure from the Anglican Communion to form some new coalition of national churches. The Anglican Communion, represented by the remaining Primates, will continue to do the hard work the Gospel demands -- which is to remain together in spite of our differences, as members of a body whose head is Christ.

I have observed elsewhere that the far-right coalition, both in the US and in the Anglican Communion, have missed or misunderstood the nature of our disagreements all along. They see the book as closed, as far as same-sex relationships are concerned -- they want repentance not so much for having breached the bonds of affection, but for having breached what they believe to be God's eternal and everlasting laws of nature. They are unwilling to see these supposed "laws of nature" as cultural artifacts, not universal values -- that even though they are "biblical" they represent cultural beliefs of particular times and places and peoples -- and they have been unable to prove otherwise, to a growing number of people throughout the world.

They do have the inertia of tradition on their side, and this has held the field in some quarters. Anglicans treat "tradition" with some significant suspicion, and are loath to give it the persuasive power to stand unexamined by reason. So it is that the Windsor Report itself envisions a possible eventual acceptance of same-sex relationships in certain contexts, as the church continues to explore and discuss the issue. Hence the use of such terms as "moratorium" -- which is a temporary suspension. The WR also alludes to changes in consensus, including, most importantly the lack of a current consensus on these matters as a reason for cautious dialogue rather than final action one way or the other (143); the Report also refers to the "current teaching" of the Communion, as an indication that such teachings can, and do change (69).

Indeed, if the book were closed, why would even Lambeth 1.10 have called for listening and dialogue? The Windsor Report goes even further not only in leaving the door open, but demanding that it remain open: "...[D]ebate on this issue cannot be closed whilst sincerely but radically different positions continue to be held across the Communion. The later sections of Lambeth Resolution 1.10 cannot be ignored any more than the first section, as the primates have noted." (149)

This is not what the "reasserters" want to hear. They do not want debate to remain open, but to be closed. For them the issue was settled by Leviticus, and sealed by Romans. But what they fail to see is the growing reasonable reassessment of these texts, placing them in a cultural context that is no longer applicable to our present day. They remain stalwartly unconvinced by these reevaluations. But a sea-change is happening, and the tide is against them. Or perhaps they do see it, and are as keen as Canute in seeking to hold it back.

Meanwhile: Here is the unsuprising news from Tanzania: (From the Globalsouth Website, reported at Stand Firm)


Statement from Global South primates


A number of the Global South primates have not shared in the Holy Eucharist today with their fellow primates. They include Abp. Peter Akinola, Abp John Chew, Abp. Benjamin Nzimbi, Abp Justice Akrofi, Abp. Henry Orombi, Abp. Gregory Venables, and Abp. Emmanuel Kolini. They represent more than 30 million faithful Anglicans. They have released this statement:

"We each take the celebration of the Holy Eucharist very seriously. This deliberate action is a poignant reminder of the brokenness of the Anglican Communion. It makes clear that the torn fabric of the Church has been torn further. It is a consequence of the decision taken by our provinces to declare that our relationship with The Episcopal Church is either broken or severely impaired.

Scripture teaches that before coming to sit with one another at the Lord's Table we must be reconciled. (Matthew 5:23-26 and 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 ) We have made repeated calls for repentance by The Episcopal Church and its leadership with no success. We continue to pray for a change of heart.

We are unable to come to the Holy Table with the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church because to do so would be a violation of Scriptural teaching and the traditional Anglican understanding, "Ye that do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways; Draw near with faith" (Book of Common Prayer)

This is a painful decision for us and also for our host and brother, the Most Rev¹d Donald Mtetemela. He understands our painful dilemma and accepts our decision. Pray for the Church."

Friday, February 16, 2007
White Sands Hotel, Jangwani Beach, Tanzania

February 14, 2007

What Would Gamaliel Do?

I've talked before about applying the "Gamaliel Principle" (If it is of God, it will last) to our present crises. But I got to thinking today about its larger application to the church as a whole. And it seems evident to me that the one thing about the church that hasn't lasted is institutional unity. There were divisions in the church from the days of the Apostles on -- as we see from the various tiffs between Peter and Paul, with friends like Barnabas and John Mark drawn into the divisions, and foes like those troublesome folks in whose direction Paul tosses epistolary brickbats in his postscripts.

This tension in the church is usually seen as the cause of our "unhappy divisions" -- but it has lately struck me that this mournful tongue-clucking may be a matter of crocodile tears, since it is well within our power to end the divisions rather than piously asking God to do so. Problem is, we don't do that, as it means surrender of things we believe to be good and right and proper -- and more important than institutional unity.

My point here is that maybe God's plan for the church never was an institutional unity in which all members were the same, and part of a single institutional administration, but rather institutional variety in a fellowship of equals. I'm not just being "Anglican" here: I think of all those organs of the body with their different functions all working together -- and yet the eye is not the hand, the foot not the eye, and so on. Maybe it is the gift of the Episcopal Church to be an eye for a certain kind of justice, and for Nigeria to be a voice for a call to faithfulness; for England to be a hand for balance, the Caribbean and Central America a heart for joy and celebration. And beyond this: to the Roman Catholics for a call to seriousness in reflection, the Baptists and Pentecostals for a dose of the Spirit, the Moravians for their music and the Orthodox for their spirituality.

I noted on the floor of the General Convention that Jesus said we were to be one "as I and the Father are one." Well, as the old symbol shows us, the Son is not the Father and the Father not the Son, yet each and both is and are fully God. What if we were to acknowledge the fullness of the Church present in every separate organ, each a "person" in this wonderful divine embodiment; rather than pine for an external "unity" that "confuses the persons" into a single monochrome entity in which the eye and hand lose all distinction. What if each of the churches was to be seen as a hypostasis of the one ousia; fully and substantially the church -- as completely as Christ is present in each separate fragment of the bread that once was one, but now is many?

Perhaps we should accept that what has endured -- a church with many and various members and traditions -- is really what is "of God" -- and that, if we could accept it and stop bickering about our differences (and criticizing each others' gifts), we might then be about the tikkun olam that is God's purpose for the church in the world. What might that accomplish?

Worth trying, don't you think?

— Tobias Haller BSG
Valentine's Day 2007

February 12, 2007

Reflections on Resurrection and Shrubbery

Take a visit, if you will, to my sermon website for a reflection on the state of that Anglican Communion in connection with the lectionary from this past Sunday. The sermon is called, Misplaced Trust. —Tobias

February 9, 2007

Les jeux sont faits

The Anglican Communion —
Heading Every Which Way Since 1867

Speculation concerning the upcoming Primates’ Meeting in Dar es Salaam is running rampant — which is almost as dangerous as running with scissors. Rampancy is best suited as a standing posture, as it is difficult to run with arms raised in a threatening manner. Like most postures, it looks sillier the longer it is held.

The speculations range (to continue the geographcial metaphor) from Armageddon to Grovers Corners as to whether this will be decisive and divisive, or cogent and coherent.

All I can say is, I only just now realized how much the Anglican Communion “Compassrose” resembles a roulette wheel. Round and round she goes, and where she stops, nobody knows.

Rather than adding my own spin to this particular wheel, I will rather pray for the players in this serious game. Most especially for our Primate, and for those to whom she speaks — that ears, minds, and hearts may be open, and the tedious postures of rampancy set aside, as all sit together — or better yet, kneel together at the table of the One who told us not to judge, but to love one another.

Tobias Haller BSG

February 7, 2007

God's Way with Strangers

I was in a ballad mood today, and the following popped into my head. When I got home I checked my Inbox to find reference to a wonderful meditation by ++KJS in which she speaks of Christ as the welcomed stranger. As my ballad reflects on the reverse — that God seems from time to time to shed special blessings on strangers — I thought it might be worth sharing this ballad on the other half of the picture; and remember also as I do so that wonderful hymn text, that assures us in the breaking of the bread, “strangers now are friends.” Blessings to all, and thanks be to God who loves us strangers all.

Home Town Prophet

When Jesus went to his home town
the people gathered round;
he spoke to them in words of grace,
but they didn’t like the sound.

“Why don’t you do a miracle,”
they said, “some magic trick;
like cure a leper, raise the dead,
or heal someone who’s sick?

He said, “When prophets worked God’s might
in Israel of old,
it wasn’t for the Israelites
but those outside the fold.

The leper was a Syrian,
the bread a Sidonite’s,
God’s grace was shed on strangers
rather than on Israelites.

It seems a prophet gets high praise
except in his home town...”
They took him to the cliff’s high edge
intent to throw him down.

“See here,” they said, “we’ll hear no more
this blasphemy you say!”
But passing through the midst of them
he went upon his way.

— Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG, Feb 8, 2007

February 3, 2007

What’s In A Name?

It is time for Saturday Satire once again, but reality seems to overtake satire at times. So I want to focus on the strange speculation (that-will-not-die) that the use of “The Episcopal Church” instead of “ECUSA” is some kind of recent plot designed to bolster our being an international body — a sort of mini-Communion to “rival” the Anglican Communion — as columnist* Ruth Gledhill opined last year in a piece headlined, “Ecusa [sic] is no more, long live The Episcopal Church.”

Well, let me set the record straight, as “ECUSA” has long been one of my pet peeves — at this point having outlived one-and-one half cats.

[...Peeve Mode On...]

We have never been “ECUSA.” From 1789 on through 1964 we were “PECUSA.” In 1964-1967 two General Conventions amended and then ratified our new Constitutional Preamble introducing “The Episcopal Church” as an optional monicker. In 1976-1979 the new BCP was adopted, in which “The Episcopal Church” became the preferred form. We continue to use the full PECUSA-lingo in things like the corporate name (DFMS-PECUSA) and on the title pages of the Constitution and Canons, but since 1967 it has been perfectly correct to use TEC — and many have done so. True, some people have used “ECUSA” all along, and will very likely continue to do so. But this has never been a correct “use.”

[...Peeve Mode Off...]

I hasten to add this is among my lesser pet peeves. There are more important things to be peeved about, and Lord knows I have had and will have ample opportunity for bepeevement in the recent past and near future. But it is Saturday.

— Tobias

* I refuse to dignify as “journalism” a report that headlines news nearly forty years old, apparently without realizing it.