December 8, 2007

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.


Ann said...

A secret meeting on inclusion -- hmm -- what an oxymoron. Ends justifying means?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

The meeting was not secret, though a low profile was maintained until we had a chance to meet and address what it was we were about and how we wanted to frame our further work. I think "private" might be a fair word, but certainly not "secret."

More importantly, there is no natural antipathy between inclusion and privacy: Jesus himself said many things to his inner circle privately and apart from the crowds. The Gospel has both aspects, personal and public.

Ann said...

So you are the private Jesus club?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...


Have you never been part of an organization that had organizational meetings before "going public"?

What do your comments here add to the discussion?

Ann said...

I think it adds to keeping leadership transparent.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...


I think you will find, now that the organizational work is done, that the group will be very open and communicative. One of the issues that needed to be settled was the status of the papers that were presented at the meeting -- whether they were committed to print publication, or would be available prior to publication in that form. The groups decided (with input from the publisher in question) that electronic distribution would be appropriate and not create problems with the publication's policies. So the papers will be posted on-line shortly.

I assure you there was nothing sinister in this meeting -- merely the good strategy of making sure that the message was agreed upon before it was distributed. This is simply common sense and a strategic reality.

Ann said...

All is revealed here -- I did not ever think "sinister" - my point was that it did not seem very inclusive. It is a progressive attempt to do what the so-called Windsor bishops, the Network, AAC etc have done in previous years from another point of view. I am whole-heartedly in favor of the Chicago Consultation agenda and have been doing my part to make it happen since 1979.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

And all I meant, Ann, was that it was inclusive without its being public -- as I think the partial list of participants demonstrates. It was not a secret meeting -- it was on the Seabury-Western public website calendar, and a number of the students attended various sessions.

So let's get on with the work, in which I too have been engaged for over thirty years...

Anonymous said...

Toby, I hope at some point to hear your take on Rev. Adams' paper, "Shaking the Foundations," as it does appear, to me, to call in fact for a rather thorough shake.

Do you agree that the Church's role here is not a call to repentence, but a confession of homophobia and work to reverse what has been taught regarding sexuality lo these past two millenia?

I think she is perfectly right that the "progressive agenda" is something other than the ideology of tolerace or "inclusiveness" with which it is normally associated. If homophobia is indeed a sin it cannot be tolerated in pockets, nor can something be credibly considered a mortal sin on one side of a diocesan boundary line and a sacrament on the other.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...


As I have tried to show in my previous articles, much of what the church has taught in this regard for the past two millennia is erroneous -- based on faulty reading of "the book of nature" and a very limited understanding of the will of God. Homophobia fits into this, as Dr. Adams shows. Put simply, the church has been as mistaken about this matter as it was about cosmology (which also came about through a faulty reading of nature, and an over-dependence on a literal reading of Genesis. That is a dangerous combination.)

I remain optimistic that this error (and sin, which is clinging to error) will eventually be as rooted out as the error concerning the relationship of the earth to the sun. Those who think faithful, monogamous, life-long same-sex relationships are incapable of moral good are wrong, whatever their rationale. And as more and more people come to see the error (and I think the numbers are definitely and verifiably increasing) the old belief will gradually fade away, and be forgotten, as so much "doctrine" has been, over the years.

On the question of inclusiveness or tolerance, I don't think a "witch hunt" will be required -- merely patient continued witness. I don't think the Copernicans had to wage war on the "orthodox" of their day; the error simply became obvious after a time, and the church quietly reordered its "doctrine" to take account of it. So it will be in this case.