June 30, 2008

Thought for 06.30.08

Just as we Anglicans regard the Scripture as "sufficient for salvation"1 so too we regard the Nicene Creed as "the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith."2 Neither tells us everything about the world or the church, nor about God; but they tell us enough. Isn't it interesting that God, through and with the church, appears only to provide us enough daily bread to keep us hungry for the eventual enjoyment of the heavenly banquet?

1. Articles of Religion, VI
2. Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral

Tobias Haller BSG

Fine Words from Rowan

The Archbishop of Canterbury has responded to the GAFCON statement with one of his own, and a fine and sane one it is. He rightly notes that most of the bugaboo issues (such as the denial of Christ) raised by the GAFCONites are not in fact widespread among the Communion's members. He also singles out some of the very real practical problems with the intrusion of foreign bishops upon other provinces' territory, and the danger of self-styled and self-selected Primatial conventicles passing themselves off as legitimate voices for the Communion.

So a hearty "Hear, hear" for the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Tobias Haller BSG

June 28, 2008

Bubble and Squeak

Well, the GAFCON statement from Jerusalem is now available for those interested in reading it. On the whole, it is rather familiar, and in most features and stretches of verbiage similar if not identical to former Global South pronouncements. At least this one isn't called a trumpet, unless I missed something.

The thing about all the GS statements along this line has been that aside from the militant tone, dismissive of anything good coming from Nazareth... uh... the West, and a generally chunky prose style, when it comes to theological concerns there is really very little that is new here — or much that most in the much maligned West couldn't sign on to (or didn't sign on to several centuries ago), perhaps apart from the insistence on the 1662 BCP — oh, and of course, the elevation of sexual morality to the level of doctrine. That's the one consistent novelty in all the GS word-smithing.

When it comes to what this actually means in practical terms, we are back to a Network of Confessing folk functioning within the body of the larger church but not at ease with it, at least not in much of the world outside the Global South, and probably not within large portions of the Global South as well. At this point it is not quite a schism (in spite of Judge Bellows saying a "division" exists; no one bothered to remind him that schism is Greek for "division," and these folks don't like being called and deny they are schismatic) but more the church within the church I wrote of earlier. As with Queen Mary, whether this will prove to be the gestation of a truly new thing to come, or a growth that will eventually require removal or kill the body — a Global Anglican Future or a Global Anglican Failure — remains to be seen.

In the meantime, this proclamation reads like a hodge-podge, a dish of hash, or what the Brits refer to as "bubble and squeak" (a tasty dish of leftover taters and cabbage that makes eponymous noises in the fry-pan). It is full of sound and fury, and though signifying something, it is nothing either new or likely to inspire much in those not already well inclined towards a meal that consists of warmed up leftovers from the Reformation.

Tobias Haller BSG

June 27, 2008

Thought for

Few things are as revealing of the depth of one’s failure to grasp a concept as the inappropriate analogies one brings to bear in the discussion.

Tobias Haller BSG

Shepherds, Where Are Your Sheep?

In 1968 (Resolution 24) Lambeth stated

The Conference recommends that no major issue in the life of the Church should be decided without the full participation of the laity in discussion and in decision.

In 1978 (Resolution 11) Lambeth said,

The Conference advises member Churches not to take action regarding issues which are of concern to the whole Anglican Communion without consultation with a Lambeth Conference or with the episcopate through the Primates Committee, and requests the primates to initiate a study of the nature of authority within the Anglican Communion.

Something appears to have happened to the laity between 1968 and 1978. Have they gone astray? Or have the shepherds, overly concerned with their own identity as bishops and primates, wandered off themselves? And are they continuing on that path?

Tobias Haller BSG

Thought for 06.27.08

If the church is called to bless those who curse and persecute her (Luke 6:28, Romans 12:14), how much more ought she to bless those who love her — and each other.

Tobias Haller BSG

June 26, 2008

Chicago Launch

Happy to announce the launch of the website for the Chicago Consultation, in which I was a participant. The web launch took a bit longer than anticipated, but it is now up and running, and I hope will be a good place for resources in the continuing dialogue — at least for those who want to continue the dialogue!

Tobias Haller BSG

Between Rochester and a Hard Place

Bishop Nazir-Ali of Rochester is reported as repeating his reading of the Windsor Report, that those bishops who disagree with (and have acted in opposition to) the decisions of Lambeth 1998 should absent themselves from Lambeth 2008. Whether or not this is an accurate understanding of the Windsor Report’s recommendation that bishops in this category should refrain from “representative functions” in the Anglican Communion is a matter of separate debate on a number of grounds, from the “authority” of the Windsor Report itself to the question of whether Lambeth is a “representative” body or a conference of bishops.

My chief concern here is the extent to which Bishop Nazir-Ali’s reading makes sense in the context of a more important document, the Gospel, and in the more prosaic context of how people get along in dealing with disagreement in a day-to-day world of varying contexts, points of view, perspectives, and — yes — beliefs.

It seems to me that the Rochester Position assumes that the majority is always right; and by exiling those who disagree with or act in opposition to the majority, effectively puts an end to the dialogue which has not only been called for, but which represents the only real possibility for engagement and change, if either the majority or the minority is in error.

The ministry of prophet often consists primarily in being a round peg in a square hole — whether the pigeonhole of irrelevancy in which dissenting voices are often placed, or the literal cistern into which the unwanted Jeremiah is often deposited. Nazir-Ali of Rochester is taking the role of Amaziah of Bethel, who told Amos to keep away from the temple and the court, to take his unwanted prophecies and shove them. Amos, of course, humbly deferred the title, though he believed in the work and the words, and did his duty.

On that more prosaic level, banning the opposition from the assembly may buy peace, or the appearance of peace. But Jesus did not promise such peace, the peace which comes from attrition rather than the hard work of engagement with those with whom we most ardently disagree.

At the same time, I recognize that Rochester himself has stated he will not go to Lambeth, even though he represents what his colleagues continue to assert is the majority opinion. As his confrere of Abuja is fond of saying, “Can two walk together unless they agree?” This is, of course, more from Amos (3:3) — though unfortunately in the flawed KJV. For the real significance of the text isn’t about “agreement” over the content of belief, but as to the meeting itself, that is, “Can two walk together unless they meet first?” So the issue is, once again, the importance of meeting, not of withholding one’s presence from a meeting — and certainly not demanding that all agree before they can assemble to come to some agreement — and then walk together.

As to the Gospel, it is in how we relate to those with whom we disagree that we reveal our likeness to Christ, who came to us and was among us while we were yet sinners, who was in fact most commonly found meeting with the sinners as opposed to the righteous. The “mind of Christ” which we are called to have in and among ourselves was the mind that brought him to us empty of glory, in order to save. Christ himself did not delay his coming to us until we were suitably redeemed: the whole point of his coming among us, while we were at odds with God, was to bring us what we lacked — unity in him, and forgiveness. It is not the healthy that need a physician, nor is it the unanimous who require a meeting.

Tobias Haller BSG

June 25, 2008

One More Time (Not) All Together Now

The Telegraph is reporting that GAFCON, instead of going for a full split and the creation of a new ecclesiastical body for "Orthodox" Anglicanism, will instead continue to work for change as a "church within the church."

This is not the first time this language has appeared upon the Anglican/Episcopal scene. In fact, this has been the language of Puritan (and puritan) movements from the very beginning: the separation of a portion of the church, the "true believers" from the bulk of the less-than-perfect members.

Not all of these efforts were born of failed schism — some were based more on piety and asceticism, and it was a fairly common usage for some of the more austere religious communities of bygone days to refer to themselves by the sobriquet ecclesiola in ecclesia — the little church in the church. Of course, such groups, unlike the radical puritans and protestants, were kept from going off the deep end by their particular devotion to the church catholic — with an emphasis on their own "littleness" and being "in" that larger church.

In more recent times (1989), the phrase reappeared in the language of the Episcopal Synod of America and its successor Forward in Faith / North America, both styling themselves as a "church within the church." This language has now been picked up by some of the folk at GAFCON. As time goes on it remains to be seen if disappointed or unwilling schismatists will, like the good catholic Cistercians, take cognizance of their place within the larger church, or like the sectarian puritans try to have as little to do with the whole church as possible, and attempt to fortify the boundaries between them and it while stopping short of complete separation — for the time being. But I fear the tendency is not to be at the center, but rather centrifugal, and when enough energy is built up, to launch out into the emptiness.

Tobias Haller BSG

June 23, 2008

Thought for 06.23.08

Sometimes a turning point is just a rotisserie: Dead meat on a spit, spinning and going nowhere.

Tobias Haller BSG

GAFCON Repackaging

The self-appointed arbiters of the Global Anglican Future, meeting in (but not of) Jerusalem, have been learning a good deal this week. First off, it appears that the Primates of Nigeria and Uganda were not aware of church support for laws criminalizing same-sexuality, or if aware, that this was a good idea in keeping with native custom and taboos; and to be surprised to hear that gay and lesbian persons are physically abused within their borders. The Archbishop of Sydney almost literally leaped to their defense and spoke for them when they seemed unable to articulate a response recognizably in keeping with either the gospel or the mandates of Lambeth concerning civil rights for sexual minorities. All in all, a fascinating exercise in reverse sock-puppetry and the power of cultural taboo over gospel.

The leaders also appear to be grasping that the revolution and reformation of Anglicanism is going to take longer than they thought. Rather than a turning point, GAFCON will be the continuation of more of the same, as the leaders continue to work from within at the glorious reform of the Anglican Communion. Perhaps they are realizing at long last that there is not the impetus for a split they may have thought there was. As the whole independence effort by CANA in Virginia was to prove there was a “division” in the Anglican Communion (and The Episcopal Church) — after all, the judge said so, so it must be true! — the language of “working from within” will be of little solace to those who were, quite literally, banking on a split.

In the German film Goodbye, Lenin, an ardent communist east-Berliner goes into a coma just before the reunification; when she emerges some months later, her doctors warn that she mustn’t have any shocks. So her son works overtime to maintain the pretense that reunification hasn't happened, scrounging for old Soviet era groceries — saving the containers and replacing the contents when the old products are no longer available.

Something of a parable, I think.

Tobias Haller BSG

June 21, 2008

Thought for 06.21.08

What shall it profit you if you gain a whole world church at the cost of your true self?

It seems to me that the effort to transform the fellowship of autonomous national and provincial churches known as the Anglican Communion into some kind of centrally governed world church is placing more of a burden upon the existing structures than they can either bear or even bear with.

The real danger is that of Bovarism. Madame Bovary is probably the most misunderstood novel ever written — people see it as a kind of romance (and if one is to judge from the film adaptations, that is how it is almost universally played). But it is not a romance, rather an anti-romance: a study in the damage caused by romanticism. The "heroine" could have been perfectly happy in her life had she not filled her idle hours with reading romances, and imagining that this was what "love" was about. In fact, her ordinary life as the wife of a modest middle-class doctor could have been as loving as she was willing to make it. Instead, she embarks upon one failed and tawdry exercise after another, until at last even her suicide is botched -- instead of downing the swift and romantic cyanide she gobbles the nasty and corrosive arsenic; and even as she dies she is robbed of romantic death as the lyrics of a bawdy street song float through the window.

"Bovarism" is this tendency to live in a romanticized world, in which real joy is bypassed in exchange for an unattainable and impractical ideal; real joy is destroyed by romantic ambition.

The Anglican Communion can continue to function as it has — a bit disorganized, even dysfunctional, at times, yet still able to do much good. Or it can quest after becoming something it never need become, nor very likely can become.

Tobias Haller BSG

Like Minds

Here is a link to Giles Fraser's essay in this week's Church Times, to which he referred in a comment on my earlier post on the similarities between the situation in the European Union and the Anglican Communion. We were, it seems, apparently well on the same band and frequency.

Tobias Haller BSG

June 18, 2008

Thought for 06.18.08

Just as the Son, the living Word of God, does nothing on his own (John 5:19,30; 8:28), so too the Scripture, the written Word of God, can not and does not stand or work alone, but is interpreted and put into effect under the caring stewardship of the church by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in its many members. The Word is meant to be productive as seed, and is thus inseparable from the mission of the church. The truth of the interpretation will be found in the fruit and harvest it bears. (Isaiah 55:10-11)

Tobias Haller BSG

WDJD 1 (What Didn't Jesus Do)

or, Things Jesus Didn’t Say

Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Wherefore if thy neighbor’s hand or his foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them away; and if thy neighbor’s eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it away. — Not St Matthew 18

Tobias Haller BSG

June 16, 2008

Fundamental Limits

First of all, I have to admit I am not expert by any means on the subject of the European Union. It appears, however, that a recent negative vote to ratify an EU proposal on the part of Ireland led to the failure of the document’s adoption across the board.

This got me ruminating — and I share the ruminations here — about the Anglican Communion and its proposed covenant. Would this new covenant have to be adopted unanimously by the present members of the Communion? Or is this covenant actually the Constitution of a new entity — one of which only those who agree to accept it will be part, and the old informal Anglican Communion, which has always lacked a written Constitution, will become the stuff of history if not legend?

I was reflecting on a line from the Windsor Report which has always troubled me in this regard: it is one of those statements that sounds true but doesn’t stand up to very close examination; an example of what Stephen Colbert calls “truthiness” — “Communion is the fundamental limit of autonomy.” But surely communion in itself does not limit anything. Communion is a mechanism of unity, not of restriction — unless one chooses to look at it through the wrong end of the telescope. Which, it appears, some prefer to do. That is, for such people, communion is essentially not about those who share it, but about those who don’t: a way of saying who is in and who is out; of them and us; of figure and ground. This is the only way I can make sense of the Windsor Report’s usage, and it doesn’t make very much sense, I’m afraid.

For it is not communion itself that places limits on autonomy, but rather agreed-upon rules under which the communion operates — its constitution, or its covenant. Thus the covenant of marriage does place limits upon the autonomy of the couple — by mutual agreement they commit to each other and to refrain from sexual relationships with others. That, among other things, is the covenant of marriage — but it is not the communion of marriage, which is rather the union of the couple with each other. Both of the parties agree to the covenant equally; one cannot impose it on the other, and if both do not accept it there is no marriage. It is a condition for their communion, a means by which that communion comes into existence, and by which it is governed, but it is not the communion itself.

So I think we should retire the phrase “communion is the limit to autonomy” as it is fundamentally misleading and confuses the categories with which we are concerned. Covenant, not communion, spells out the fundamental limit to autonomy; and once we have a covenant — if we ever do — we will know what those limits are.

For now, we would do well to fall back on the old notion of subsidiarity — that things should be done at the level at which a body is competent to accomplish them. This does not mean, contrary to the assertions of some, that every one need approve of everyone else’s actions, even if they do not concern them directly. Even in a marriage one party does not have the right to tell the other who their friends can be or whether they enjoy asparagus or not. In the same way, other members of the communion do not have the inherent right to tell others who may or may not be ordained — although they may reserve the right to refuse to recognize such ordinations if they so choose. This is, in fact, the limit on the degree to which any other province of the communion need be “touched” by the ordination of a class of people whom they would not ordain themselves, whether based on sex or sexuality. No one is forcing them to like my friends or eat asparagus. Furthermore, the use of communion itself, or the bonds of affection, as a coercive measure — this strikes me as inappropriate; as inappropriate as it would be for a wife to say to her husband, “If you really loved me you would stop eating asparagus.” Now, perhaps a man might indeed stop eating asparagus if his wife asked him to do so — but to imply that his failure to do so is a failure of love, or of commitment, of their communion — well this goes a bit too far. And if we come to a matter less adiaphorous — say, who shall his friends be — I think one can see how pernicious a use of affection or communion as a lever for controlling the behavior of another is not really in keeping with the gospel. And the church should be based on the gospel, shouldn’t it?

Tobias Haller BSG

June 15, 2008

Delicious Irony

The Provost of the Cathedral of St Mary, Glasgow, has announced the following:

I have been giving much thought as to how we should mark the Lambeth Conference this summer. All the duly consecrated bishops of the Anglican Communion have been invited to Canterbury for a conference with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Well, all bar one - the Rt Rev Gene Robinson, the first bishop to acknowledge that he is living in a gay relationship will not be there as he has not been invited.

I have been invited several time to go to Lambeth, to campaign and wave banners and speak and generally campaign. I have decided not to do this. We must simply be who we are.

it seems to me to be desirable to have someone at the end of the conference to come and preach to us. But who would the best person to have be? After all, all the bishops of Communion will be busy with Rowan Williams in Canterbury at the Conference. Well, all bar one. I’m delighted to announce that the Rt Rev Gene Robinson, the Bishop of New Hampshire has agreed to come and celebrate the Eucharist and to preach the gospel on 3 August 2008 at 1030 here in St Mary’s.

I have met Bishop Gene, prayed with him and heard him preach. He is well worth hearing and I invite you all to bring your friends along on that Sunday to hear him.

This would not be the first time that an American cleric was able to do something in Scotland he was unable to accomplish in England. I find I cannot suppress the thought that somewhere in the Choir Celestial the first American Bishop Samuel Seabury may not be enjoying a quiet chuckle.

Hat tip TA.

Tobias Haller BSG

June 14, 2008

On the Grid

From the Political Compass Test. I turn out to be

Economic Left/Right: -3.25
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.92

No surprise here and a Hat Tip to Mimi...

Saturday Sonata (Sherlock Holmes)

Solo Sonata a minor (1974)

The "Sherlock Holmes" sonata, written and first performed backstage when I was acting in the Royal Shakespeare Company revival of the William Gillette play at the Broadhurst) and had lots of time on my hands (didn't enter until Act I Scene 3) and a willing violinist (who provided the offstage live sound of Holmes' fiddling).

Four movements: Andante - Fuga - Largo - Allegro

Tobias Haller BSG

MP3 File

June 10, 2008

On the Saint Andrews Draft

The Saint Andrews Draft Covenant represents a marked improvement over the earlier effort. Many of the concerns raised in response to the earlier draft have been addressed, and a number of the troublesome details have been eliminated. In particular, the first two sections of the draft place the theology of covenant on a stronger foundation. Section One’s appeal to the articles of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral — long accepted as the basis for intercommunion with traditions outside Anglicanism, and so all the more meaningful as a basis for communion within it — establishes recognizable and already agreeable boundaries. There will, of course, continue to be disagreements concerning exactly what constitutes an acceptable “pattern of Christian theological and moral reasoning and discipline that is rooted in and answerable to the teaching of Holy Scripture and the catholic tradition.” (1.2.2) But the same section’s emphasis on remaining in Eucharistic communion (1.2.3) and common pilgrimage (1.2.6) in spite of such disagreements shows a grasp of the irrevocable nature of communion.

The enduring nature of communion is eloquently laid out in Section Two: it is a gift of God (2.1.1) ordered towards and nourished by mission (2.1.2,3) in a program of action deriving from the Anglican Consultative Council’s mission strategy, itself clearly influenced by the Baptismal Covenant of the American Book of Common Prayer. (2.2)

Section Three begins well, charting out, in an essentially non-controversial manner, the collaborative and consultative structures that have evolved, and are currently in place, in the Anglican Communion. It is only with paragraph 3.2.5 that we begin to hear about threats to the unity so well established throughout the rest of the document. If unity derives from Christ, how is Christ divided? If unity is found in our mission, how is unity challenged if the mission continues to be carried out?

Section Three defines our present difficulties rather than actually solving them: What are we to do when a minority of provinces in the communion disagrees with the majority? The ultimate answer offered by this draft, soft-pedal it as much as one likes, is excision — the very thing one would have thought impossible if the communion truly were based in Christ, who is not, and cannot be, divided. This draft continues in the mode of a pre-nuptial agreement rather than a covenant of irrevocable commitment.

Thus the primary difficulty with this covenant lies in providing for the dissolution of the very communion it seeks to preserve. It is therefore our recommendation that the appendix and section 3.2.5 (and its subsections) be deleted. What remains would then be worthy of the name “Covenant” — a promise to remain together, united in Spirit and in Mission come what may.

— a statement from the General Convention Deputation of the Episcopal Diocese of New York

June 9, 2008

The Vision of Saint Paul

I was reading Morning Prayer today and came upon these verses in Galatians (4:13-15)

You know that it was because of a physical infirmity that I first announced the gospel to you; though my condition put you to the test, you did not scorn or despise me, but welcomed me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. What has become of the goodwill you felt? For I testify that, had it been possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.

What struck me for the first time in many readings was the special reference to the eyes, and the indication that whatever Paul’s infirmity, it seems to have had something to do with his vision.

This would help make sense of another detail of this Epistle, Paul’s reference to the “large letters he writes in his own hand” (6:11). Earlier translations suggests he is referring to the epistle itself (KJV: “Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.”) However, this does not make sense of the plural, which refers to letters.

A vision disability also gives a reason for Paul to have dictated most of his correspondence, and to have made a distinct point about the parts he signed off on in a number of the epistles, including another reference to his apparently characteristic “hand” (2 Thess 3:17). It may perhaps also help make sense of his imagery of seeing dimly in the present what we will one day behold in its full glory. (1 Cor 13:12)

So it occurs to me that Paul may not have fully recovered from his Damascus Road experience, and suffered with a form of what is known as “low vision” afterward; if this was the “thorn in the flesh” it was God’s will he endure it. (2 Cor 12:9)

A quick bit of googling shows I’m not the first to note these possibilities, though I don’t think I’d encountered them before. So I offer them here as an instance of how one can read a text many times but only “see” certain things after many readings. Suffering from an annoying eye ailment myself, I’m amazed not to have noted this before, and always put Paul’s large handwriting down to his not being an experienced scribe — so a vision disability is a fascinating alternate interpretation.

Tobias Haller BSG

June 2, 2008

Thought for 06.02.08

The Anglican Covenant process, as it unfolds, is more about practical issues of working together in spite of disagreements, rather than coming apart over them.

—Tobias Haller BSG
see my reflection on part one of the Saint Andrew's Draft at Episcopal Café.