July 3, 2008

Other Foot, Meet Shoe

Bishop N.T. Wright has responded to the GAFCON pronouncement with trenchant words, including this:

When one finds people coming high-handedly, who don't actually know what's going on, and say, 'We've now drawn up this list of 14 points and you've got to sign up to them and then we'll authorise you and you can be part of our club, and if you don't then we're going to sweep you aside'... anyone has a right to feel angry when faced with that kind of thing.... And to be told that I now need to be authorised or validated by a group of primates somewhere else who come in and tell me which doctrines I should sign up to is not only ridiculous it's deeply offensive.

My! Perhaps now that he's woken up and smelled the schism he may be getting a tiny inkling of how TEC felt in response to Windsor, Dromantine, and Dar es Salaam, to say nothing of multiple trumpets from the South -- all of them driven by the same engine and fueled with the same energy source he is facing now. Then there's this gem:

[As to GAFCON] taking a global sledge hammer to crack the American nut... There's a lot of bits that's going to fly around the room if you do that, especially here in England where we do not have the same problems that they have in America.

The problem being: I don't think +Dunelm has the slightest understanding of the "problems that they have in America" or how they differ from those in England. From his earlier writing, it is abundantly clear he doesn't really understand our Constitutional polity -- one of the things that is different from England, along with the fact that the English say "different to" instead of "different from."

It is also clear he felt it appropriate for Windsor (et alia) to make demands to which TEC had to "comply," but doesn't like it much when others make demands of him. The real problem is that Bishop Wright has been indifferent to the reality of The Episcopal Church, so absorbed is he in the "90 to 100 hours a week" he spends "doing the work of the gospel and the kingdom of God in my diocese and around the place." The "around the place" in particular can be taxing, as we all know. Perhaps in all the to-ing and fro-ing he forgot the Gospel maxim about not demanding of others what you are not willing to demand of yourself. Hard stuff, this equal weights and measures business.

Still, one hopes this is the dawning of some awareness as to what's going on, and of the mess into which, with his well-intentioned help (especially around the place), the Communion has been drawn by people who "have a monopoly on Biblical truth" and want everyone to do as they do.

Tobias Haller BSG

An additional note: Bishop Wright is still at his America bashing.


June Butler said...

Dear Fr Haller,

Please counsel me on ways to avoid Schadenfreude. I know you don't run an advice blog, but I need help and fast. If you don't help me, I shall return seeking absolution. Do you do internet confessions?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Dear Mimi,
Didn't Schumann write a lied on the subject, O, meine kleine Schadenfreude...?

I do not do confessions on line, but can provide for indulgences at a very low mark-up. These come in handy since they can be obtained prior to the naughty enjoyment of S.Freud. We call it a Schadenfreudian Slip in these parts.

My own feelings incline a bit more towards melancholy at lost opportunities, and pity for those who set snares and then get caught in them. I'm also saddened to see good minds so poorly used, especially by perceptive people who can't see forest for trees. Perhaps instead of being on the Colbert Report he should have been paying more attention to Gafcon.

I hope he's learned a lesson -- who knows; but whatever the case I think he will be a very different voice at Lambeth than what he would have been sans Gafcon.

As to the indulgence -- do you do Paypal?

Davis said...

Clearly when +Dunhelm goes this far - Gafcon has gone way too far.

Lord deliver us!

June Butler said...

Oh, Tobias! I'm still laughing at O, meine kleine Schadenfreude... and the Schadenfreudian Slip. PayPal gives me grief, so I'll send a check for the indulgences, if you don't mind.

Seriously, in our Sunday school class, we watched several of Wright's teachings on DVD. I believe that the name of the series was Simply Christian. I thought they were quite good. On certain issues, I don't agree with Wright, but the segments that I saw of the series seemed fine to me. He has a good mind, and he's quite well-spoken.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Mimi. You've inspired me and when I've the chance I think I may pen a parody along the lines of Schumann. Will need help with the German, however, so will call on my sister who served in that land for a time and knows the lingo. Actually about all I do know in German comes from Lieder.

As to Wright, he does have a good mind, and that is what makes it so sad that he didn't see this coming, and act to forestall it. He set his foot upon the path of hegemony (in his support for Windsor's assaults on autonomy) and that is a dangerous game -- telling other people what to do will almost always backfire.

Anonymous said...

John 2007 writes:
I don't believe, for one second, that the charge leveled at Wright that he doesn't understand our polity is accurate. When such a charge is made--and it has been made of +Rowan and many others who stand against TEC--it seems to me to be carrying with it a prescriptive plea: namely, only General Convention can do anything that really counts . .. the bishops cannot exercise enhanced responsibility, as a group, for the church nor can they take a prophetic stand against, say, the laity. In truth, although the House of Bishops is not united enough to take a stand, our polity does allow it. There would have been costs to be sure if our Bishops stood solidly with Windsor or any of the Primates warnings, but they could have and it would in no way have violated our polity. Of course, what common mind and common will exists in our bishops stands opposed for the most part to the rest of the communion. But I think, apart from the current issue, the fact remains: bishops and primates can do things and refuse to do things, as a group, apart from GC, as part of their calling. Just because the votes happen to be on your side on this particular issue does not mean that we have to truly morph what we say about our polity.

And then there is the question: do you really think +Wright and +Williams are, about our governing, so dense?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

John 2007,

You raise some good points about our Bishops in terms of practical realities; all that you say is quite true about their ability, were they of a mind, to veto any action before General Convention, when they are sitting as one house in it -- I have said as much myself, any number of times on this very blog, concerning the matters under discussion. It is, to some extent, a no-brainer -- like saying Jerry Lewis could be elected president if only enough people voted for him. The bishops with jurisdiction could have withheld consent to +Robinson's election, for instance. As a no-brainer, I think both Williams and Wright understand that; but that is not where the misunderstanding lies.

There is first the general problem of an attitude that the bishops have some kind of anointed responsibility to act in the way you suggest -- as the prophetic voice of the church. It is equally true that any one order can block any action (when a vote by orders is taken) at General Convention -- this isn't some special power given to bishops; the clergy and laity can do it too. In short, it is the uneven focus on the bishops that represents the lack of understanding of our polity on the part of many English observers -- as if the House of Bishops had some independent function apart from the General Convention -- which it doesn't except in a few matters of internal housekeeping. (Even in the consent to an election of a bishop, it isn't the House of Bishops who vote, but the bishops with jurisdiction.)

However, the real Constitutional question is what I was referring to, and linked to: our Constitution and Canons grant rights to bishops and dioceses, and (as I have also written before) those rights cannot be taken away by a vote of the House of Bishops acting alone -- it requires a constitutional or canonical amendment, the former of which necessitates two consecutive Conventions. If Wright were to appeal for that (rather than the rewording of the resolutions before GC 2006 in ways that were unconstitutional) he would indicate an understanding of the issue. Instead, in the document to which I linked, he proposed language for unconstitutional resolutions for a moratorium. The language in such resolutions, echoing the Windsor Report (which was Wright's starting point -- see the link), was determined at the meeting of the General Convention itself to be unconstitutional; as indeed it was and is. I am happy to say I was one of those who brought the point of order leading to this decision.

That is the issue that Wright (and Williams) don't appear to grasp. They backed a horse that had no chance of winning, because it was disqualified under the rules. If they really understood our polity, they would have asked for what was possible: an amendment to the canons stating that "no person living in a relationship outside of holy matrimony" could be ordained to the episcopate. It is quite true such a canon would very likely have failed, as such attempts have failed before (that's where reality sets in) -- but they would at least have demonstrated an understanding of the canonical issue involved.

Erika Baker said...


let me know if you would like help with the German Lieder.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Will do, Erika and thanks! This will likely be a spare time project, though some lines are already in my head "you sweet little Schadenfreude that bubbles up in [mein Herz] when I see [mein Feind] stumble or trip up. Oh how you rise from the [Grab] of my past injuries, and bring delighted smiles to my [Lippen]." Usw...

My exciting news, for which this must take back seat, is that I am about to sign a book deal, the ms for which is due in September. Yikes... more on this later.

Erika Baker said...

Now that IS exciting news!

June Butler said...

Tobias, more good wishes about the book contract. Excellent news.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but to me +Wright is a little dim and protected by his refusal to see what’s there – and the change from plain Tom to NT is silly.

As to the other fellow you mentioned, well… "subtle" seems to say it all.

Intelligence can be so many things... The appearance of Brilliance is over-rated, methinks.

Rev. Richard Thornburgh said...

Good comments, sir, even when viewed from, and perhaps especially when viewed from, this side of the pond.

Anglocat said...

Dear Fr. Haller,

1. Congratulations--heartiest congratulations!--on the book deal.

2. On Wright: Yes, it's self-inflicted, and yet--I admired his co-authoring with Borg, and their clearly genuine friendship.

3. Schumann it isn't but the play "Avenue Q" has a song titles "Schdenfreude" that coves some of the same ground. (Now I've got a verse about Wright unning through my head. Bloody marvellous).

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks AngloCat. As to Wright, I'm inclined to say he is less than brilliant, but perfectly acceptable. I don't find in him the kind of "Aha" that I find reading other scholars, and more often find things to fault him for (such as his reading of Romans 1 which I believe is totally off, and which I've addressed before).

Still, I can't help but think of that line from Hamlet, "O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown." Noble, and well-intentioned, I think he is. He has been paving the road with his good intentions, and now finds that someone has been following him.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why my Bishop has the right to interfere in the workings of your Church in the first place

Brother David said...

Dear Abuela Mimi, I have heard an on-line confession or two. Here is the form that I prefer in English; The Reconciliation of a Penitent begins on page 447, with your choice of Form One or Two.

No donations or bribes accepted.