January 30, 2011

Bread at its Rising

A quick link with no extra comment from me needed; to a wonderfully thoughtful essay by Richard Helmer


Taking Account

Look into your heart: that is where you will find what you treasure. And of that treasure decide what is really yours to keep, and what God wants you to give away.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

Wise Words from Giles Goddard

I commend Giles Goddard of  for his powerful sermon at Trinity College Dublin.

An hors d'oeuvre:

. . .we need to find a way out of the absurd stalemate we are in over human sexuality. We need as a Communion to find a way to recognise that there are a great many Anglican and Episcopalian Christians whose faith and life, and the faith and life of those around them, is deeply enriched by their same-sex relationships. That these relationships are undoubtedly blessed and hallowed in the sight of God. A way which recognises differences of opinion; which does not force those who disagree to abandon their beliefs; but which recognises and celebrates the ways in which the love of Jesus is expressed in the world. Here we are in Ireland, close to a living example of what’s possible in extremely complicated issues with flexibility and care. I do not believe that something similar isn’t possible within the Anglican Communion. It’s time to find that way.
Please do read it all.


h/t to Thinking Anglicans
and thanks to Jim Naughton for pointing to my tendency to confound the Gileses!

January 28, 2011

Rowan on Kato and Consensus

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a strong response to the murder of Ugandan gay human rights worker David Kato Kisule. The forthright statement is only marred by the inclusion of this clause:

Such violence has been consistently condemned by the Anglican Communion worldwide. 
If this is taken as, 'Various provinces of the Anglican Communion around the world have opposed such violence,' all well and good. But this seems to me to parse too fine, and not sit so well with the Archbishop's habit of suggesting greater unity — on the basis of Lambeth Conference resolutions — than there is "on the ground.."

So while I warmly welcome the statement as a whole, that clause about the Communion, once again suggests the Archbishop's tendency to confuse statements on a piece of paper (even Lambeth Conference stationery) with "the 'mind' of the Anglican Communion." Just as there are provinces out of step to the left, there are those out of step to the right.

When will +Rowan learn that pretending to Unanimity — or even its stepsister Consensus — on conflicted matters is counterproductive? Better to acknowledge disagreements where they exist; as +Desmond showed us, truth comes before reconciliation. To do that and just say, plain and simple, and with all the authority that can be mustered, "I, as Archbishop of Canterbury, condemn this deplorable act." I, as Vicar of Fordham, am unanimous in that.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

January 27, 2011

The missing QED

One would be hard pressed to prove — as the Articles of Religion require, from Scripture — that belief in heterosexual marriage is necessary to salvation. Lacking that demonstration, it cannot be a matter of the faith.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

January 26, 2011

Something to chew on

Anglicans and Orthodox agree that bishops do not form an apostolic college apart from and above the local churches. Bishops are an integral part of their respective churches. Such an understanding precludes any form of centralised universal episcopal jurisdiction standing apart from the local churches. [Furthermore] if conciliarity is one important complement of primacy, reception is another. Decisions of councils and primates need to be referred back to the local churches for their acceptance . . . . Such decisions must be received by the community in order to become authoritative. This fact reinforces the truth that bishops, including primates, are not independent of their local churches.” 

The Church of the Triune God: The Cyprus Agreed Statement of the International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue 2006. V. 21-23.

Emphasis added.


Mouneer Gets It Wrong

Titus1:9 has posted the full text of Bishop Mouneer Anis' address on the role of Scripture in the Anglican Communion, delivered as part of the Mere Anglicanism Conference in South Carolina. As far as Anis is concerned, I'd say "Hardly Anglicanism" would have been more accurate. To paraphrase the host of that website when referring to others, there is so much wrong in this short speech one hardly knows where to begin. But I will cite two or three problems that immediately show themselves.

Most importantly in relation to the theme of the address, the good bishop has completely misunderstood Richard Hooker, and thus misrepresents him. This arises from basing his understanding of Hooker on a citation widely quoted as a description of the "stool" or "threefold cord" of Scripture, tradition and reason. Divorced from its context and place in the massive philosophical work in which Hooker was engaged, this might barely support Anis' thesis that, "In Hooker’s teaching, Scripture comes first, reason comes second, and the voice of the church, the tradition comes third. In other words, people need to examine human reason and traditions of the church in the light of the Word of God."

But this is very far from the overall understanding Hooker seeks to unfold, particularly in terms of hierarchy. Hooker deems Scripture primary in those matters of salvation that are not attainable by natural reason and only become known through revelation; most importantly, that Christ is the Son of God. But he also affirms that natural reason can demonstrate truths apart from and prior to revelation, echoing Paul in Romans 1 and in the address in the Areopagus. Moreover, Hooker teaches that reason is no mere supplement, but a necessary tool even to understand what Scripture reveals; so it plays a prior and subsequent role in relation to the sacred text.

Ultimately, Hooker affirms that apart from the core doctrines of revelation — the "eternal Gospel" of salvation through Christ — reason can and does have the power to set aside the application of portions of Scripture that are demonstrably either no longer applicable, or formerly held as literal but now understood to be figurative. He joins the Anglican mainstream in making a distinction between the "Moral Law" (the Decalogue) and the various other commandments in the Law of Moses — a distinction not clearly evident in the sacred text itself, which presents all of the laws as binding, and most of them in perpetuity.

On a related matter, Anis seems to be unaware that Hooker spends a considerable portion of his work contradicting another notion Anis holds up as an Anglican truth: "If it is not written in the Scripture, it cannot be accepted as a norm..." That was the Puritans' position, not Hooker's. (There is a difference between a norm and a requirement, by the way!)

Finally, as readers of this blog know, I have been waging a long-standing battle against the misunderstanding of the legal principle "What touches all must be agreed to by all" as mangled and misrepresented in the Windsor Report. (See here, and here, and even tangentially here.) Bishop Mouneer repeats and lauds this perverted understanding of the principle, getting it precisely backwards.

It is not about unanimity or majority rule; quite the contrary: it is about the protection of the minority. On the basis of a real application of the principle, Lambeth 1998.1.10 is out of order because it imposed (actually, it "recommended") a position not agreed to by all, abridging the scope of an authority possessed by all provinces in governing their internal policies on ordination and marriage. Most notably, those most concerned with or "touched" by this action — gay and lesbian Christians — were not a part of the decision, except perhaps as represented by a few bishops at the conference (who may well have voted in favor as part of their protective coloration). Be that as it may, the vote was far from unanimous, and the principle, "What Touches All," was violated.

I hope that the adulating fans of Bishop Mouneer, and he himself, might get a copy of Mike Russell's helpful little book as a guide to Hooker, if they are unwilling to spend the time, as some of us have, to read his work in complete form.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

January 23, 2011

January 22, 2011

Uriah Welcomes His Step-Son Into Sheol

2 Samuel 11:2-12:18

Your father stole your mother from my breast —
he spied her while out strolling on his roof
and saw her in her nakedness, undressed
while bathing, reckless of his lust.

My loyalty was soon put to the proof,
a soldier under orders, as I must
obey my Lord. Abandoned in my trust,
an arrow pierced my breast, a lance my side,
and so it was I came to rest in dust.
In fighting for your father — so I died.

A prophet gave your father a reproof,
a promise you too soon would find your rest;
you died a few days after your first breath.

Come, greet your foster father here in death.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
January 22, 2011

Stopping the Flow

There was once a rich and prosperous land, which derived its wealth and prosperity from a river that ran through it. A number of large and prosperous families lived and farmed close by this river, and as they grew and prospered further, realized they could do even more if they added field to field and extended irrigation to land far from the river. And so they set to work creating conduits and aqueducts and irrigation ditches, to feed these added fields. And they did increase their harvest and prospered more and more. But as they did so, draining off more and more water from the river, there was less and less for those further downstream. So they too began to construct cisterns and catchbasins so as to keep as much water in reserve for their land as they could. In the end, there was not enough water for the few farms further downstream, and it came to pass that the river no longer even reached the sea.

This parable has been acted out time and again in human history. At one point, in ancient Rome, it gave rise to a legal principle designed to curb such actions: What touches all must be agreed to by all. The ones at the end of the stream have as much right to the water as those at the headwaters, and along the way.

The Windsor Report made use of this legal principle, although in an inappropriate way. The assertion is that actions of a few have “touched” the larger Anglican world, harming the majority who have to put up with this unwanted new reality.

This is, of course, an inversion of the principle. What in fact is happening is the imposition of pressure from the majority to keep one certain kind of flow — concerning two rites and ceremonies of the church, ordination and marriage — from reaching a particular minority. That minority is not preventing or withholding anything from the majority — even their right to be offended and express that displeasure — except their purported right to stop the minority from doing that which offends them. As the action of the minority is simply to drink from the same stream that the majority enjoys, the application of the principle ought to be clear.

To put it in the context of another parable, leave to us our little ewe lamb.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

January 20, 2011

Thought for 1.20.11

The Holy Spirit is not that kind of “comforter.” She has wings and feathers, but not that much down.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

January 17, 2011

Theology of the Body

When it comes to human embodiment, some appear to see the body as determinative and closed by intrinsic limits, while others see it as creative and open to possibilities. 

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

January 16, 2011

Jesus a Pharisee?

In my sermon at St James Church today, I explored the possibility that Jesus may have spent those "missing years" as a disciple of the Pharisees, and become a rabbi of that school. The notion is not original with me: see Harvey Falk's Jesus the Pharisee for a Jewish perspective. But in my sermon, it is the narrative in John's Gospel that I find intriguing. The full text of the sermon is available at Ekklesiastes, but here is the audio.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

January 12, 2011

Kick up your heels!

A bit of jollity: the final Bransle from a suite called "After Arbeau" — dances based on tunes from the high renaissance. Back in the 70s I was part of a consort that performed at renaissance fairs and meetings of the Society for Creative Anachronism, and this was always a popular finale. Here performed by "The Flying Buttress Family" in what is called a broken consort of cembalo, recorder, vielle, shawm, and dulcian. Go on, tap your toes, you know you want to!

MP3 File

Can these bones live?

One of the fudging factors in all of the discussion surrounding the Anglican Communion and the proposed Anglican Covenant is the time-worn distinction between action and essence. The question can be set as, "Is the Anglican Covenant a constitution for the Anglican Communion or a way of working (in particular with regard to settling differences) for the Communion?"

We are, in short, back to the distinction between models for the church, and the tendency to confound the governing bodies that hold sway over this or that portion of the Body of Christ with the Body itself. To some extent it is the difference between polity and theology: which makes the church? I have argued that a broad and robust baptismal theology makes the church, and the polity makes the denomination.

It used to be said that the Anglican tradition had no distinctive theology — two testaments, three creeds and four councils — but of course that's bumper-sticker thinking and doesn't hold up very well on close analysis. TEC jettisoned one of the Creeds in its early days, and who has much familiarity with the Councils any more? It also leads one to ask, Then why exist? (Which has its own set of answers which then indicate all of the reasons, theological, historical and political, for why we aren't Roman Catholics.)

Others point to the liturgy as a unifying factor, but from the day the Scots branched off with their own liturgical forms (followed by TEC), and the English and others in their line stuck with 1662 up to a point, on all sides to be replaced or supplemented by a plethora of new Books of [Somewhat] Common Prayer abounding -- though there are points of overlap and congruence, there is clearly no pan-Anglican liturgy any more.

Even when it comes to polity there is scant uniformity across the Communion, from Province to Province. Just taking the appointment / election of bishops as an example reveals almost any configuration of processes for gaining or bestowing the split hat as one might devise at work here or there around the world. And as for the Establishment — what a mass of problems that presents for the "Mother Church" in distinction to all of her daughters!

So can the proposed Covenant pull any of this together? Or is it simply an instrument of disunity that will clarify the lines of dissent and disagreement? Is it a symptom of an autoimmune disease, or the possible cure?

I have to say that in spite of my reservations concerning its many faults, amply expressed here and elsewhere, I remain somewhat on the fence concerning the Anglican Covenant. (That may shock or surprise some, and dismay others, but that is where I find myself. Please hear me out before immediately rushing to comment!)

In conversation with my brother Richard the other day, it struck me that the Anglican Communion is at present a bit like that wounded man on the Jericho road. The Priest and Levite may pass by, unwilling to assist, for what may have been very sound reasons based on notions of purity; the Samaritan, less concerned with purity than charity, acted.

So I ask, all fears aside, and all awareness of its imperfections laid on the table, could it be possible the net effect of as many provinces as possible adopting the Covenant be of any benefit for the future health of the Communion? That is, as you note, a question. And I'm looking for more positive answers, rather than doomsaying, of which I admit to having done my share. The question is: Can anything good come out of this proposal, and what form might that take?

Enough kvetching for the time being; let's see if there's an up-side, and if not, then it will be all the more clear which way we should go.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

January 11, 2011

Thought for 1.11.11

I have no objection to finding ways for the Anglican Communion to speak with a single voice,where it is of a single mind. But reaching consensus by quelling dissent leads to self-fulfilling fallacy.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

January 8, 2011

Pressure to Bear

With the upcoming Primates' Meeting looming, and in their latest effort to rewrite the past and influence the future, the busy scribes at the ACI have come up with this gem of a question: "Why does the PB insist on being present, e.g. at the Primates’ Meeting when she knows that this presence will derail the Meeting’s functionality?"

If it is the function of the Primates' Meeting to represent the breadth of the Communion as it actually is -- and I think it hard to argue that is not a major function of that body -- then it is the urged absence of the PB or the threatened absence of primates from elsewhere that disrupts the functionality of the meeting. Concerning the latter, none other than Bishop Fearon has urged the dissenting primates to think twice.

From the beginning, the reductionist view of the Communion supported by the ACI and portions of the Global South (if I dare reduce the verbosity of the scribes to "communion requires agreement") has dominated their side of the discussion. The church properly shows itself to be the body of Christ not only when it agrees, but when it loves and lives in hope in spite of disagreement. Consensus by elimination of those who disagree has a venerable history in the Christian past, but it is not a way to emulate. Comprehension requires more, and not to become too Hegelian, it is out of the process of addressing dissenting opinions that better understandings of the full truth will often emerge.

Schism is easy, faith and love are hard.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

January 6, 2011

Block that Metaphor

Marshall Scott has a thoughtful and thought-provoking reflection posted at the Daily Episcopalian.

One thought it started for me is the problem with biblical metaphors, and how they are used. Argument or instruction by metaphor or analogy is always a tad perilous; but how much more over time when the metaphor may no longer click quite so well? Must we constrain reality so that the metaphor still works?

Part of the difficulty, it seems to me, with Paul's analogies and metaphors is that he took metaphors from his own cultural milieu and applied them to the eternal verities he was attempting to describe. Problem is, too often we stick with the metaphor instead of dealing with the thing being metaphorically described. Paul says, for example, that the church in relation to Christ is as a woman in relation to her husband — as husbands and wives were understood in his time and place.

Things get even stranger when, because of the analogical relationship something eternal bears to something temporal, the thing that is temporal comes to be seen as just as permanent or eternal as that for which it was only a handy illustration or metaphor. Christ will always be the head of the church, but there is no reason to think (even if Paul, as a man of his times, did) that a husband is everlastingly to be the "head" over his wife. It is by such processes that is (or in this case was) becomes ought to be. 

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

January 3, 2011

Entering the Electronic (Reader) Age

I'm happy to report that Reasonable and Holy is now a Google Book, through an arrangement between Church Publishing Incorporated and Google, at a significant markdown over the list price. This version is readable on all open format eReaders (sorry Kindlers, your day will come...). That means the iPadistas, Nooklings, and Sonyites, as well as a slew of other tableters will be able to join the thousands who have already enjoyed (or not, in a few cases) the text on the printed page. — Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG