December 23, 2009

Another Thought for 12/23/09

It is one thing to bear each other's burdens, and quite another to heap upon others a burden we ourselves are not willing to bear.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
cp. Gal 6.2, Mat 23.4


Fr. Bryan Owen said...

This is a saying that Christians across the theological spectrum can agree with, but for different and even incompatible reasons.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Bryan. That sums up the dilemma in which we find ourselves, I think. Even given a single primary source document, and a single Divine Founder, still -- from the time of Peter and Paul -- there have been different and even incompatible forms of Christianity.

There seem few ways forward: 1) John the Divine: "We're right (the children of light) and everyone else is wrong"; 2) Gamaliel: "Everybody's got a little bit right and a little bit wrong so let's ignore the problems and wait to see what happens"; 3) Hooker / Huntington: "Let's at least agree on some basic things and then allow for freedom of conscience and variation on others."

No secret I prefer the third option, while the first seems to be the besetting attitude of the worst elements in the Global South (and the hardest-hearted of progressives), and perhaps the second the besetting sin of the bleeding-hearted liberal. The Covenant, part Four, seems to be living schizophrenically between one and two, instead of being framed along the more recognizable Anglican lines of Way Three.

Fr. Bryan Owen said...

In spite of the hot rhetoric from the "Left" and the "Right" swirling around in the blogosphere, there are sincere, thoughtful, and yes, non-homophobic Episcopalians/Anglicans whose reading of the current state of affairs suggests that the Covenant is actually a #3 response to #1 (who, from this perspective, tend to be folks on both the "Right" and the "Left" - particularly the more "activist" types who "just know they're right") and #2 (who tend to be folks across the spectrum who don't know or don't care very much about about what's unfolding).

Maybe another way to say it is that, for some, the Covenant is a #4 response that represents a necessary (perhaps even somewhat regrettable, but necessary nonetheless) evolution of #3.

Along these lines, I'm struck by Bishop Christopher Epting's endorsement of the final draft as "an improved Anglican Covenant" and his comments:

I much preferred the way the Communion “used” to function (really more like a federation). Guess I’ve just had to live through the ecumenical as well as communion-wide fall out over these last years “up close and personal.” I just don’t see any other way for us to remain a credible ecumenical or communion partner at this point. And, I didn’t really sign on only to be part of an American/US “denomination,” but a member of a catholic church.

I am, of course, aware that you have a very different reading, and I respect the integrity of your position and the civility with which you convey it.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks again, Bryan. I understand whence Bishop Epting comes on this; and I suppose I'm more content with being part of the American denominational scene than he is. That being said, I'm not in principle opposed to a Covenant, but I remain concerned about some of the incoherence of this present proposal -- though I do think as many signing on who can -- including TEC -- is the surest way to make the best of it and avoid the worst.

Closed said...

I think the proof will be in how applied. I fear that given what I have seen to date, the application will be heterosexist with an inability to receive external criticism, muchless offer transparency in decision-making. All of the worst aspects of Church in our time.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Christopher -- this is, IMHO, also a reason to be a signatory, since it is the signatories who will determine the application -- though of course only the signatories can be held to account. Talk about the horns of a dilemma!

My concern is that on the pro/contra scale I see TACC providing very little good and much possible bad.

Closed said...

First, I think we would be wise to consider 1-4 separately. The first three are not terrible, just hackneyed historical reading of a complex tradition one expects from a committee process.

Four will keep us forever caught up in self-reflexiveness that looks a lot like our current state.

I disagree that signing on will be protection. If the processes of its inception through the Windsor and ABC pushes, creation mostly by a small committee with undue influence from certain people, and refinement by a order of ACC in a Starr-like chamber approach are any indication of things to come, signatories will have little say in application once they are signed up, just as in truth, we've had little actual say in the shaping of whether or not this was the more useful way forward or in the document itself. The underlying ethos is punish TEC and blame TEC for all of the problems of the Communion. That spirit no matter how dolled up is still a pig. Pardon to our swine fellows in advance for the turn of phrase.

The process by which this has largely come into existence has already revealed the sorts of tendencies I expect from the Roman Curia. That process indicates tendencies toward behind-closed-doors decision-making, media-blitzing and use of 1984-speak to create facts on the ground ("Anglican Church," "Anglican Standing Committee", etc.), episcopate-mania coupled with complete disrespect of the laity (the "faithful" we're now being called by the ABC), lack of accountability of those who make the decisions, inability to take into account our system of Churches rather than look to a world church model, failure to build in accountability of leadership and processes, inability to speak firmly and clearly to church-supported death-dealing, incestuous focus on ecclesiology to the expense of the One we exist to proclaim. I could go on.

In our time, this will not evangelize in our context or in the context of many of the secularized nations. Folks expect transparency and accountability, and rightly so, and the Churches' pleading for exemption from what even they demand of others after so many fiasco's and outright scandals will no longer do. And frankly, in our time God's gifts to us is external criticism, especially from the virulently anti-religious. We fail to listen at the cost of God finding others to do the Gospel work.

Our time is best suited to the flexible networking of the Benedictine approach to Church, episcopate, and laity. But we have it in our head that catholicity must look Roman. The age of Big Central is ended. The ACC will collapse of its own weight.

Closed said...

For example:

Failure of transparency is violation of stability from a Benedictine point-of-view.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Amen, Christopher, which is why I remain luke-warm to the Covenant as written. I am prepared to wait through to GC 2012, and if I am reelected as a deputy then, have much to occupy my mind. The Covenant is a huge Curate's Egg -- and I am by no means convinced we as TEC should sign on; and I definitely think it is not the best that could be done, and is likely to accomplish little of use for the church locally or globally. Personally I think there will be further developments before 2012 gets here, and the Covenant may be moot by then.

June Butler said...

How did we get maneuvered into the position of having this Covenant slapped on the table before us with a curt, "Sign this, or else!"? I agree with Christopher that what we've seen in operation is the creating-facts-on-the-ground strategy. Say it is so, and it will be so - the same strategy that was used to turn the Windsor Report into a set of rules to which all in the Communion must adhere.

KJ said...

Amen, Tobias (Regarding your/Jesus' thought). Your way forward #3 was what, in part, drew me to the Land Episcopal. I don't know what i would have done if I did not realize that was not actually the case, but, I guess that wasn't mine to know at the time. I am so blessed to be in a parish in which #3 is a value, and hope that I never take it for granted.