December 31, 2007

Poon and Conflict Within

Thinking Anglicans is once again documenting the disagreements between the leaders of the self-styled Global Anglican Future conference and others in the Global South consortium. It appears the Gaffers have invited themselves to the Holy Land for a pre-Lambeth caucus without checking with the Anglican Primate of that Holy Land; who, it appears, has suggested that meeting after Lambeth might be better.

Meanwhile, Michael Poon's initial question, "What's all this then?" has been "slapped down" by an unnamed Primate and his amanuensis (the telltale trail of metadata seems still to be a type of forensic evidence some in the Global South are not yet skilled in erasing).

This back and forth all seems to me to be the consequence of people taking upon themselves the mantle of judgment; the habit of being judgmental soon comes to be applied within the group as much as outside the group. It is a bad habit, wherever directed other than towards ones own behavior. This is why Jesus said to love rather than to judge. It is a teaching simple to say but hard to practice.

Meanwhile, this effort to end the "paralysis" in the Anglican Communion has instead produced tremors and jitters rather than useful motion. Incompetent and self-appointed physicians have no right to peddle their nostrums — and the rest of Anglicanism would be foolish to swallow their treatments: ineffective at best, and toxic at their worst.

Tobias Haller BSG

December 29, 2007

Psalms for Unity, Service and Blessing (133 and 134)

O how good and pleasant it is, when brethren live together in unity.
It is like fine oil upon the head, that runs down upon the beard,
Upon the beard of Aaron, and runs down upon the collar of his robe.
It is like the dew of Hermon that falls upon the hills of Zion.
For there the Lord has ordained the blessing: life for evermore.
Behold now, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, you that stand by night in the house of the Lord.
Lift up your hands in the holy place and bless the Lord; the Lord who made heaven and earth bless you out of Zion.

a setting by Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG, 1991

MP3 File

View or download the sheet music here.

December 28, 2007

A thought for 12.28.07

The Common Cause Partners are just one more example of a same-sects relationship.

Tobias Haller

Do You Know the Way to San Joaquin

"I may go wrong and lose my way..."

Well, contrary to my advice in the previous post concerning patience, things are humming in connection with the decidedly hasty actions of +John-David Schofield and his diocese's convention, exacerbated by the speed with which the former Episcopal Bishop has chosen to displace the vicar of a mission that had been under his care.

The so-called reasserter blogs are strangely quiet with regard to this move --- perhaps out of embarrassment, or due to the extent to which this action rather undercuts the case being made in Virginia; or perhaps they are just keeping Christmas rather than leaving it alone.

Speaking of leaving it alone, there is no doubt who is cast in the role of Scrooge in this current reenactment. Bishop John-David has acted in haste, even before the California Supreme Court renders a decision on where property rights fall, and clearly contrary to the recommendations of more judicious, though no less conservative, minds.

Progressives are taking up the cry for agitation, with questions as to why the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies aren't doing more, or doing more publicly.

It appears to me that the "problem" of San Joaquin and its erstwhile Bishop has not yet fallen to the Presiding Bishop for response, but rather into the lap of the Review Committee charged with making a determination and recommendation. It appears to many observers (including observers with little or no stake in the outcome) that +JDS has renounced the Discipline of The Episcopal Church in no uncertain terms (why, after all, should he seek to place himself "under" another Primate and remove his diocese, contrary to the discipline of The Episcopal Church?) and has thereby abandoned communion with it. I take it as evident, his asseveration that this may only be "temporary" notwithstanding, that he has no interest in being or remaining in communion with a church he has recently described in such a negative light, as "an apostate institution that has minted a new religion irreconcilable with the Anglican faith."

The Review Committee consists of Bishops Henderson (USC), Ohl (NwTx), Jones (VA), Rivera (Oly) and Waggoner (Spo), The Rev. H. Scott Kirby (EauC), The Rev. Carolyn S. Kuhr (MT), Mr. J. P. Causey (VA), and Mrs. Deborah J. Stokes (SoOH). (See page 33 of the Journal of Convention 2006). Their action, described under Canon IV.9.1 as a "duty" is now expected. I hope they may already have begun to carry this duty out, so that the Presiding Bishop can move the process to the next step, which will require the consent of the three most senior bishops with jurisdiction.

Those are the rules, folks. This is no time for guerrilla actions, but for due process and care and clarity. In the meantime, we can also do all in our power to encourage the faithful Episcopalians of the central valley of California, the remaining members of the real live Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.

Tobias Haller BSG

December 21, 2007

Patience, Patience

from a sermon at St James Fordham • Advent 3a
Tobias Haller BSG

... Into the midst of this royal purple season of Advent, a rosy intrusion makes its way, and the day takes on a rose-tinged hue — including the vestments. We are given a verbal and visual command: Lighten up! We set aside for a moment the stern admonitions of John the Baptist, calls to repent and flee the coming wrath of God. And we turn to a gentler vision of a more upbeat world to come, a world foreseen by the prophet Isaiah, a world whose reality began to take shape in the ministry of Jesus, a world in which blind people see, lame folk walk, lepers are cleansed, deaf people hear, dead people are raised, and the poor hear the good news.

This is the lighter side of Advent, the rose-colored glasses view of the life of the world to come: a laid-back, sunny afternoon kind of Advent, fresh with the surprising fragrance and color of a rose blooming on the verge of winter, the thirst-quenching miracle of a spring appearing and welling up in the middle of the desert of our lives.

But there is another nickname for this Sunday, and it captures the other side of the Advent spirit. This Sunday is also known as “Stir up” Sunday, because of the phrase in the collect of the day: “Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us.” Now, that’s a more familiar kind of Advent, the Advent of breathless expectation, of the imminent nearness of the Lord’s coming. As Saint James says in today’s epistle, “the coming of the Lord is near... the judge is standing at the doors!” and it’s as if the door has opened and a sudden draft of frigid air has invaded the cozy warmth of our living room, setting the candles to flickering, and causing us to draw our scarves up around our shoulders.


However, lest we jump immediately to our feet, Saint James, somewhat paradoxically, also tells us to be patient. “Be patient, beloved, until the coming of the Lord.” ... The patient waiting that Saint James counsels is not mind-numbing waiting in lines at city hall, the bank, or the crowded shop in which everyone wants to pay with an expired credit card or with a check but no i.d.! It is not the anxious waiting by the telephone or the mailbox for a long-delayed but promised call or letter. No, the waiting patience Saint James counsels is the patience of a farmer waiting for crops to grow. “The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.” That’s a very different kind of patience, a very special kind of patience, the patience of expectation, the patience of hope. For hopeful expectation is not merely waiting, it is waiting with a purpose and for a promise, a promise not of what we will do, but a promise of what will be done for us.

The purpose of a farmer’s wait, as well as its promise, is the crop. The farmer is purposeful in preparing for the crop, and looks to the promise of the harvest on the basis of his past work — the work of planting, and on the basis of God’s present and future work, the work of growth, nurtured through the sending of the early and late rains to nourish the seed as it lies in hiding underground and mysterious. There, in hidden darkness, it sends out roots long before the green blade spears its way through the clods of soil, and the miraculous sprouts of spring reveal what has been going on beneath the earth; and then on through the growth and ripening of summer to produce a crop a hundred-fold greater than the mere handfuls strewn upon the soil the year before. And this work of waiting, this waiting game, takes patience. It takes hope and confidence and trust — confidence and trust in the knowledge that while nothing may appear on the surface of the field until spring comes, that long before, throughout the patient waiting winter, God’s secret work is being done underground.


We too, the Church of God, are in the waiting game as well. We sow the seed of the word of God in the fertile soil of the world, a world hungry for the bread of the good news, hungry for spiritual nourishment, but impatient and demanding in its clamorous hunger. Some religious leaders in our world respond with similar haste and impatience. And it isn’t only terrorists who push God’s hand as they imagine they can hasten God’s judgement, or fanatical cultists who seek to speed the day of the Lord with nerve gas or bacteria.

Some even in our own Anglican tradition have fallen into the impatience of haste, the urge to take upon themselves the mantle of the just judge, to purify the world (or the Anglican Communion, at least) by getting rid of those deemed less than righteous by their standards, who use the word of God not to feed the spiritually hungry, but as a hammer to batter those they judge as sinful. In doing this they have neglected the wisdom of Saint James. He warned the members of the church not to judge each other, not to grumble against each other, but to stand patiently before the tribunal of the Lord, the only truly and completely righteous one, the one and only just judge of the world.

This is the Advent time in which we live, the secret, growing, waiting time of the Church. We live in the in-between time of purpose and promise, the time between the coming of our Lord as a child to Bethlehem, and his coming as righteous judge of the world and all who dwell in it. Whether we experience this in-between time as frustrating because we don’t see anything happening, or not happening fast enough, or as full of purpose and promise will depend in large part on our relationship with God and with each other.

If we are full of the spirit of vengeance, the zeal for judgment, we will find the waiting difficult. If we are full of the impatience that will not allow the subterranean work of God to accomplish God’s goals in God’s good time, if — obsessed with self-study and self-examination — we insist on digging up and digging up the seed to see how well it is doing, so that it never gets a chance to put down roots and grow; if we become consumed with grumbling about each other, judging each other, or angrily tapping our feet at God’s delay and forbearance, we will find our lives filled with anxiety and grief. But if we adopt the patient hope of the wise farmer’s waiting, placing our trust in God’s ultimate victory over all that is less than perfect even in our selves, indeed most especially in ourselves, if we carefully set our hands to our work of husbandry and watchful care, concentrating on the work God has actually given us to do — to feed the hungry with earthly and heavenly bread — we will find at harvest time a rich reward.

We will find that all the things we thought were wrong have been taken care of — by God. We will find that the people we thought so dense and dull, so blind they couldn’t see what was right in front of them, will see clearly — and we ourselves will see things that we missed while we were busy picking splinters from our brother’s eyes.

We will find that we can walk in places we had once avoided, or that we thought off-limits, and that those who couldn’t walk at all are dancing in the streets to music we didn’t even know was playing.

We will find that all the people thought impure, all the lepers afflicted and stigmatized, will be freed from the marks of separation that distinguished the in-crowd from the outcasts, and no one will be able to tell who was who, we will all be so changed, so transformed into a new likeness.

We will find that those who seemed deaf to God’s word will be the most attentive audience of all; and we will find that all of us, dead in our sins, will be more alive than we ever dreamed or imagined possible, as we sing and rejoice together at the harvest of the good news, a harvest as paradoxical as a spring flowing in the desert, as unexpected as the blooming of a rose on the verge of winter, as miraculous as the birth of God in a manger or in our hearts. +

read it all at Ekklesiastes.

December 14, 2007

John's Advent Birthday Song

This is a version of my text of the Benedictus conceived as an English folk-song. Apologies for the sound quality, which does seem to sound as if the singer and brass are inside a tunnel somewhere outside of Leeds.

MP3 File

Here are the words (the tune was suggested by by friend and colleague Richard of Caught by the Light:

Bless’d be the God of Israel
who sets his people free.
He has raised up a Savior from
the branch of Jesse’s tree.

His prophets promised us of old
that we would find release
from bondage and captivity,
and come to know his peace.

Our forebears heard his promises,
as by himself he swore
that one day we would worship him
in righteousness once more.

And you, my child, shall be the one
to clear your Master’s way,
who’ll guide us out of this dark place
and lead us into day.

So God will let us know of grace,
in saving us from sin,
a light that shines in darkest night
from death our souls will win.

All praise to God the Father, with
the Son and Spirit One,
as was, is now, and will be, while
eternal ages run.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

Come thou Long Expected Advent Letter

Well, the Archbishop of Canterbury has issued his Advent letter, strangely enough a day after his Christmas greeting.* The form and content of the Advent letter perhaps make it clear why it was delayed: it is no brief greeting but a rather detailed examination of the situation in which the Anglican Communion finds itself. For the Archbishop of Canterbury it represents something of a breakthrough in clarity, even though the situation it describes remains rather fuzzy; it is rather like a very sharp photograph of a painting by Monet — perhaps of a cathedral in the late afternoon sun.

So what can we draw from this letter. I think a few points are worth noting.

  • The Episcopal Church has done about all it can do in relation to meeting the demands placed upon it by the primates. This will not be (and has not been) enough to satisfy some of those same primates; so there is at present no consensus as to how well TEC has complied with those demands.
  • The decisions of the Lambeth Conference, while not canonical, represent the "mind" of the Communion even if they do not represent a consensus. There is thus a some tension between a general agreement, a majority view, and a true consensus.
  • The major problem now is that there is no consensus about a process by means of which a consensus can be reached: we need to have a covenant, but until we have one we have no way of deciding how to get one, unless everyone agrees — and those who don't agree are ipso facto no longer part of the consensus. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Lambeth 2008 will be the forum for all of this to come to a head, and any invited who refuse to come have abdicated their place at the table, and perhaps in the Communion. Those who are not invited are not being invited because they represent, in different ways, breaches in the status quo ante of Lambeth 1998.
  • We are in this together and we should stay together. We just need rules we can all agree to, and then we'll all agree.
  • More committees and commissions will be formed to continue the dialogue as we continue to work our way through these differences of opinion. When we've decided we've got enough in common to stay together, we will stay together. Those of us who are still there, of course.

This admirable clarity being acknowledged, the Archbishop still does not appear to grasp that the House of Bishops in the Episcopal Church is an equal partner with the House of Deputies in the General Convention. They do not have any "decisive" power to operate contrary to the decisions of that Convention; although as part of that Convention they do hold an absolute veto power over any decisions of that Convention (as, of course, do the Deputies). If this is what the Archbishop means (that the Bishops alone can hold the line at GC 2009) then he is spot on. But if not, it appears the place of Bishops in our governance is one of those things that simply will not penetrate the Archbishop's psyche. They are not the primary theologians of the church; and in the Episcopal Church they are only one strand of its governance. At least the Archbishop has finally acknowledged that this may be a matter in which there is a difference between what TEC believes and what he thinks is believed "elsewhere in the Communion." And yes, it does need to be addressed.

So, where does this Advent letter leave us? About where we are. No further forward, no further backward. The Archbishop has admirably described the present situation, more precisely than he has heretofore. And the way forward, in his eyes, is further engagement and dialogue rather than separation. Several balls have been cast into several courts, and whether any are kicked back remains to be seen. I do not look for this Advent letter to find wide approval among those itching for decision. It is good, in Advent, to be reminded, "woe to those who look for the day of the Lord."

Tobias Haller BSG

*Update: According to Jake, whose more thorough commentary I commend, the Advent Letter to the Primates was actually sent to the Primates earlier, but only released now when it was assumed that all the Primates have received their copy.

Further Update:
Jake has received an e-mail from no one less than Venables himself, who declares that he, as a Primate, received the Archbishop's Letter at the same time as everyone else, on December 14. This would certainly explain his having made assertions the week before which the letter shows to have been profoundly mistaken. I do not, by the way, share Jake's assessment on this question, as I see the ABC's letter as a strong rebuke to the nonsense in San Joaquin and elsewhere.

December 10, 2007

The Entrails of Primates

It appears my reading of the situation, outlined a few weeks back in House of Cards, was correct. According to a note from Deacon Rosenthal of the Anglican Communion Office, the Archbishop of Canterbury

has not in any way endorsed the actions of the Primate of the Southern Cone, Bishop Gregory Venables, in his welcoming of dioceses, such as San Joaquin in the Episcopal Church, to become part of his province in South America.

Now, this announcement would have been helpful last Friday, in time perhaps to hose down the restive Fresnonians with a cold draught of temperance and restraint. Why was this word of caution not issued sooner?

Might I offer another insight concerning Archbishop Rowan Williams in light of this? I don't think he wants to be a leader. (Quiet, please, in the back row; I'm serious.) I mean that he sees his role as a monitor, a guardian of unity but not its enforcer, one who wants people really to do what they think best and then to offer his assessment afterwards. Perhaps this is a form of leadership; though it reminds me of the old game of Hot and Cold we played as children, and seems a needlessly time-wasting way to lead.

What is paradoxical in all this is that Rowan, apparently (and explicitly) not wanting to impose his own views, by playing his cards so close to the chest they become subcutaneous, has engineered a situation in which people hang upon his every arched eyebrow. I mean that quite literally; at the Chicago Consultation one of the English participants mentioned how often people will say things like, "I said such-and-such to Rowan last week and he winked and nodded." This is communication by innuendo, in which Rowan has become like one of those elfin fairy-tale characters (well, he is Welsh, after all) given to winks, nods, and cryptic gnomicisms.

The irony is this: I don't honestly think Rowan wants the power; that much is true. But his efforts to repulse the "greatness thrust upon him" have produced a strange kind of power, not unlike that held by certain imperial persons of history, followed about by a suite of stenographers taking down passing comments, and passing those comments to the wider world, in which they take on lives of their own, including one instance that led to the assassination of one of Rowan's predecessors.

My advice to Rowan, if he wants it, is to set aside the Delphic mode for the Socratic, at the very least. If he wants to remain on the sideline as an umpire rather than as the quarterback, let him adopt the voice of one who issues challenging questions rather than proffering quizzical hints. Apart from that, all I can see on the horizon is the old way of augury, in which wise men sacrificed animals to various gods, then examined their entrails for portents and signs. In this case, it will be the retrospective analysis of Rowan's career, after he has retired from the scene, which may at last show the true trajectory of his intents.

Tobias Haller BSG

December 8, 2007

The Immaculate Deception and the Vacant See

Well, it seems the leadership of the Diocese of San Joaquin have gone and done it. That is, the Bishop and a majority of the clergy and laity have voted to change the diocesan constitution and to realign themselves, their souls and bodies, with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. Souls and bodies they may have charge of; it remains to be seen what becomes of the real property and assets, and the loyal Episcopalians (clergy and lay) who remain.

Now, of course, this is a deception; a baseless fantasy movement. Dioceses cannot so realign themselves motu proprio, on their own, any more than a man can divorce his wife or a wife her husband by saying thrice, "I divorce thee!" The church is governed by laws, and this lack of a capacity to divorce is all the more clear, constitutionally speaking, in cases such as that of San Joaquin, which began its life as a missionary diocese and was only granted full status in the 1960s. Contrary to the imaginings of former Bishop of San Joaquin John-David Schofield, the canonical silence on the subject of how dioceses become independent does not signify consent, but inconceivability. Anyone familiar with the history of The Episcopal Church should know that, and numerous canons make it clear: the territorial limits of the United States play a definitive role in determining the relationship of a domestic diocese with the only legitimately constituted Anglican presence in our portion of North America, which is to say, The Episcopal Church.

John-David wishes however to continue in his illusions, and has nourished many of his clergy and lay leadership on this addictive brew. Regardless of these dreams, now that he and they have removed their allegiance to The Episcopal Church, and allied themselves with the distant Cone of the South, it is abundantly clear that they have abandoned the communion of The Episcopal Church, hold its laws and its leaders in contempt, and declare themselves the true believers and possible martyrs to the cause. And the end will come, no doubt about it. The inevitable canonical process of the real Episcopal Church will now begin to be engaged, and the see of San Joaquin declared vacant; a number of clergy will be adjudged to have abandoned this communion and they too will be deposed.

Tobias Haller BSG

The Gospel via Chicago

They came from as far as the antipodes: primates and bishops, laity and clergy, theologians, journalists and politicians, gathering in Chicago at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary for three days of intense discussion, planning, and strategizing. Theologians and canonists read papers (which will be available on the web in relatively short order), the assembly divided into small groups and regathered into plenary, and much newsprint was marked. Why? A modest goal — To help the church recover its soul, as a community of neighbors, a fellowship of diverse members unified by the love which called them together, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Chicago Consultation, as it is being called for short, addressed the prevailing boundary issue that has beset our church and our Communion over the last decades, and most irritably over the last six years: the place of GLBT people in the church’s life and ministry.

In plenary sessions and small groups, we challenged ourselves to find a way forward that would be grounded in the powerful message of Jesus’ call and care. We focused on the the full inclusion of those whom some have determined to be inappropriate minsters of the Gospel, embracing the mandate and charge which comes with the highest authority, and in response to the question, “Who is my neighbor?”

Lambeth is coming, little more than half a year away; and it too will be a forum which will provide the bishops, albeit non-legislatively, an opportunity to consider and reconsider their own past actions, and to recognize that the so-called consensus of 1998 was far from complete even then, and has demonstrably revealed itself no longer to exist, having led to increasing conflict, dissent, and in some cases, division.

Further away on the time-line is the next session of the General Convention. This will provide us with the opportunity to reevaluate the usefulness of resolution B033, and address the underlying issue of the appropriateness of moving forward in our growing recognition that same-sex couples, particularly in those parts of our country where the civil authority already recognizes the value of their relationships, deserve the church’s full support in ordering their lives in consistency with the Gospel principle: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

This is the only “agenda” guiding the Chicago Consultation: to call and help the church to live the Gospel it proclaims.

Tobias Haller BSG

For more information, see Inch at a Time, Preludium, and keep an eye on Episcopal Café.

December 4, 2007


I will be away at a conference for the remainder of this week, and so will likely not be posting anything new to the blog during my time away.

December 1, 2007

A Daft Anglican Covenant

Saturday Satire

Bishops can go anywhere they wish and do anything they damn well please. No one need take notice of any bishop under any circumstances, no matter where they are or what they do. Like God, they shall aspire to be incomprehensible and invisible. 1

For the purposes of this Covenant, all Provinces shall remain in “Communion” with one another; which shall mean being best friends forever, or until someone says or does something someone else doesn’t approve of.

The four instruments of communion shall be: Castanets 2, English Horn 3, Autoharp 4, and Thumb Piano 5.


1. Which should please everyone no end; or world without or with end, whichever comes first.

2. In Galilee.

3. The English have a tendency to horn in on everything. This is the concept of primus inter pares, or “The Primate has gone all pear-shaped.”

4. The Autoharp is a favored instrument of reasserters and reappriasers (or re-anythings, really): it will automatically keep harping on the same thing over and over without any additional input.

5. This is the most decisive instrument: The thumbs can be up, the thumbs can be down.

Tobias Haller BSG

No Chocolate, Still....

The Diocese of Washington has made their annual electronic Advent Calendar available online. Do pay a visit and sample something with no calories, other than those provided by the Holy Spirit.