Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
December 30, 2011
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
December 28, 2011
We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical... We can change the focus to a soft blur, or sharpen it to crystal clarity. — Not The Joint Standing Committee of the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council“Communion is the fundamental limit of autonomy.” So proclaimed the Windsor Report (¶82). This observation could be merely the recognition of the harsh reality that people often break up when one does something of which the other disapproves, even when the action is objectively within the competence, authority, or right of that other person. But “limits” here has a stronger, and more intentional meaning. It is not a mere marker of a transition point, but an attempt to bar the transition — not a mere border marker but a sentry point, armed and at the ready to prevent any incursion.
At its most generous reading, this represents an aspirational and idealistic approach to human and ecclesiastical affairs. The sentries do not want to shoot anyone; they do want everyone voluntarily to submit to the discipline. They want no one to do anything to offend anyone else. This must mean, when push comes to shove in the situational and real world, that some are expected to refrain from doing something — something they feel strongly about, something they think is right and that they have the right to do, something which the failure to do would be wrong — on the basis of the possible (or real) offense such action may (or will) give to someone else.
This becomes particularly difficult in our touchy times and even touchier Communion, in which a pervasive neuralgia and hypersensitivity seems to have afflicted portions of our former fellowship — to the extent that fellowship is now actually broken. A recent instance of this is the “Dear John” letter from Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan to the Presiding Bishop of TEC. It is a masterpiece of high dudgeon, closing with, “We will not give TEC advice anymore, because TEC ignored and has refused our advices.” Clearly, either you do as they think right, or that’s the end of it. If you do not take Sudan’s expert advice on the interpretation of Scripture, they will have nothing more to do with you.
All of this leads me to see things rather differently from Windsor, and from the optimistic view of the Communionists and Covenanters, and to place the shoe delicately on the foot of the one taking offense. It is not the exercise of autonomy that ruptures communion, but the abreaction of those who find that exercise intolerable. Thus: tolerance is the limit of communion. As I wrote back in December 2010
It is not possible to “agree never to disagree”; [but it is possible to adopt] a commitment “never to allow any disagreements to lead to a severance of communion or any other consequences to the covenanted relationship.” The short message is in this maxim: “It is never possible not to give offense; but it is always possible not to take offense.” ...It is always possible to forgive, in the manner of Christ, even those who do not think or know they need forgiveness. It is possible not to insist that all do as I do, or think as I think. This is the way of Christ...It is, in the long run, more Christlike and more practically possible to “agree to disagree” while remaining committed to one another, “for better, for worse,” than to walk on ecclesiastical eggshells for fear of doing anything others might not like.
Case in pointOver at Thinking Anglicans, an interesting comment stream developed in response to the post about Jonathan Clatworthy’s worthy essay on the proposed Anglican Covenant. One commenter, in response to the appeals (such as my own) for an essentially laissez-faire model for the Communion, threw down the gauntlet (or the other shoe for the other foot) of lay presidency at the Eucharist as proposed in Sydney, Australia.
A few responded that such a thing would be a move beyond the pale, but a number of others, including myself, reflected that this is precisely what I would see as something to tolerate even while disagreeing with it — that is, I could tolerate, and believe the Communion could tolerate, Sydney approving such a novel experiment. I hasten to repeat that I would not personally support such an innovation and would oppose its introduction in my own province. Frankly, while I don’t see the idea catching on, I have my reasons for not feeling this need be a communion-breaking issue.
My general reason is that lay presidency is, as far as I can see, similar to the question of same-sex marriage or the ordination of bishops engaged in such marriages, to the extent that these questions cannot be answered by a sole appeal to Scripture. In Reasonable and Holy I have laid out at some length how I feel Scripture, Tradition, and Reason can support the broadening of marriage to include same-sex couples, and I won’t belabor that here.
But let me sketch out a few of the reasons I see lay presidency as a tolerable experiment, even though I do not support it, except perhaps in the emergency “desert island” situations in which I think the commandment of the Lord to “do this in remembrance of me” outweighs the church’s tradition requiring a priest or bishop to preside at the remembrance.
First, that “desert island” scenario is a good example of “the exception proves the rule.” There is a rule, no doubt about it, from very early on in the church’s history, that the eucharistic assembly is to be presided over by a bishop. This presidency came eventually to be shared with and committed to presbyters. But that evolution itself reveals that the rule is not hard and fast, and bears exceptions as it evolves. No doubt there were those in that transitional period who felt short-changed or took offense that the bishop was not the chief celebrant in their assembly, as the officiant’s task in a growing and spreading church was committed to mere “country-bishops” (chorepiscopoi) — who are very likely the genetic ancestors of our later “parish priest.”
This reveals a church willing to experiment — as experiment it must if it is to survive in a changing world, and evolves new ministries such as the diaconate and presbyterate as part of that experimentation. Look at Paul’s advice to Titus concerning establishing presbyters in Crete, for example. This is evolution and experiment at work.
As the Scripture gives no clear evidence as to who the celebrant must be, other than by commission of the apostles or someone commissioned by them, the question can turn to the various means by which this commissioning has been performed since their times. Although laying on of hands holds pride of place, insufflation, anointing, and the handing over of the instruments essential to the performance of the rite all have formed part of the elements of the rite by which a person was authorized to take on the office of Eucharistic presidency. The crucial factor is authorization, not the form or sign by which that authorization takes place, since the form or sign is of human origin. Late patristic scholar the Rev Canon Richard Norris was once asked, “What do you call a lay person authorized by a bishop to preside at the Eucharist?” His pert response, “A priest.” Celebrating the Eucharist is a“faculty” that when conferred, is conferred.
Moreover, old models of “confection” of the Eucharist by the celebrant have in more recent years given way to a much broader community-based understanding of the sacrament even in many “catholic” contexts. Sydney is not, as I understand it, talking of a kind of informal “anyone like to officiate?” model for the Eucharistic assembly, but the designation of certain individuals to take up this function. This may press the buttons of those — including myself — who favor the rich and sacramental understanding of ordination. But the buttons marked “Break Communion” or “Schism” need not be among those pressed.
Again, let me state that this is not meant to be an argument in favor of lay presidency. It is, however, an argument for toleration of such an experiment, for mission needs in face of pressing situations. Meanwhile, such a local experiment will either catch on or not, and no other province need participate or copy, and the economy of God will cover any other deficits. Or so I trust.
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
December 25, 2011
The Original Word is reissued in a new edition, bound in flesh and blood -- and swaddling bands... a sermon for Christmas Day
Christmas 2011 • Tobias Stanislas Haller BSGWhen I was working on the 150th Anniversary history of Saint James Church, I had a good deal of material at my disposal. One of the most important resources was the 100th anniversary history, the “gold book” as it used to be called because of its cover. Actually I had a copy of this book from long before I came to be Vicar at Saint James Church, left to me as a bequest from my brother-in-Christ William Bunting, who served over at Saint Andrew’s Church in the east Bronx for over thirty years.
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son.
Fortunately, the “gold book” was not my only source: I also had the parish records at my disposal. In the safe there were old papers and documents, what historians call “primary sources” — records from the actual times that things happened. And these records bear the mark of personal testimony and connection. Among them are letters from young soldiers serving in the First World War, writing from the horrors of the trenches to their priest back home in New York. There is the pencil entry in the parish record book, of the burial of the curate’s wife with no further comment — and it was only through correspondence with her great-granddaughter (now that’s a real primary source) that I discovered that the reason for the silence was the fact that she had taken her own life.
There are the more prosaic items like the last cancelled check to Tiffany & Co. to pay for the Saint Augustine and Monica stained glass window, probably the last surviving work of the great artist Louis Comfort Tiffany, or the receipts of sixty-five years earlier from the quarry for the very stones that form the walls of this church, signed and approved by the head of the building committee, Mr. Gustav Schwab.
And the difference between the secondary documents like the “gold book” and the primary sources like these handwritten notes, is that the primary materials speak for themselves, while the later records come second-hand, with interpretation and editing, and most importantly, omissions.
+ + +
John opens his Gospel with an affirmation that the Word was God and was with God at the beginning. This is the Original Message — the first “text,” if you will — that God spoke to creation, the Word through whom all things were made, the source of light and life, the primary source of all that is, but at that point seemingly distant, past and inaccessible to us in the present day. In between come the messengers, such as the Letter to the Hebrews refers to — the secondary sources — most importantly John the Baptist, who comes as a witness to testify to the light, and John the Evangelist, another testifier. But then, surprise surprise and Merry Christmas, the Word becomes flesh: not the secondhand word of a transcribed or translated message, but the Original Word itself, coming with all the power that it had in the first place: the primary source issued in a new edition, bound in flesh and blood — and swaddling bands.
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews affirms this, this distinction between the secondhand word from the prophets, to the word of the Son himself, the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being. This Jesus, this Son of God, this Messiah is no mere messenger: he is the message!
+ + +
Yet still, John tells us, some turn away — the Word comes to his world which owes its existence to him, yet that world refuses to know him. He comes to his own, but his own people do not accept him, or at least not all of them. Those who do, who accept the message, the powerful message, the personal message who has been waiting to be delivered from the beginning of time, waiting for the moment the right instant when it is meant to be spoken — those who accept this message, who believe in his name, receive power themselves to become children of God.
This is the miracle of Christmas, that the power and the person of God became a human child so that we — we might through him — become children of God. He came to us, not through interpretation or translation, not through secondary sources or a third party, but directly and personally. The Original Word, the Original Text, appeared in a new, living, cloth-bound edition — a Christmas present for each and every one of us. As the great old hymn says
He sent no angel of his host+ + +
to bear this mighty word,
but him through whom the worlds were made,
the everlasting Lord. (Hymn 489)
Beloved, we have a personal message waiting. He’s been waiting for two thousand years, for us. Let us, once again, open our hearts to receive him, open our minds to learn from him, open our eyes to behold his light, which enlightens everyone who will receive him and believe in his name, even Jesus Christ our Lord. O come, let us adore him.+
December 22, 2011
Visited my old friend Nan Marvel last night, and was floored by her annual setup of the Christmas Village, which has grown mightily since last I saw it. So charmed was I that I decided to grab a rough video on my cell phone. Hope this gets across some of the charm...
December 21, 2011
I heartily commend Jonathan Clatworthy’s essay Instead of the Anglican Covenant over at the Modern Church website. It is a calm and measured call for engagement rather than schism (de facto via the incursions, severances and refusals by some of the provinces of the Global South; or de jure via the imposed relational consequences of the proposed Anglican Covenant.)
He offers a much more sane, safe, and traditionally Anglican way forward in our Anglican disagreements, and I hope his words will help persuade those seemingly held captive by the “Only Way Forward” scenario to perceive that there are other ways, and better.
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
h/t to Thinking Anglicans
December 19, 2011
December 18, 2011
Bishop of Zanzibar Frank Weston
From his concluding address to the Anglo-Catholic Congress 1923
Tags: social gospel
December 17, 2011
I was very pleased to see a letter in the December 18, 2011 issue of The Living Church, rebutting the misrepresentations and straw-man arguments which the Rev. Dr. Philip Turner raised in response to the "liberal" or "expansionist" authors of the House of Bishops Theology Committee report on sexuality, published in the Winter 2011 ATR. As the Rev. Robert MacSwain, the author of the letter, demonstrates, Turner assailed the gay-marriage-urging authors for a position they explicitly rejected. The argument he attacked is that gay and lesbian marriage is a move towards personal self-satisfaction and sexual happiness. The argument actually made in the papers is about the hard discipline of marriage as a form of sanctification towards holiness — just as for mixed-sex couples. Careful readers will note the resonance of this argument with my own work on the subject.
But why is it that someone as bright as Turner feels the need to concoct such a misrepresentation? Does he truly not perceive the difference? I begin to think that some "conservatives" may in fact have such a blind spot.
That is in part because I have been experiencing something similar over the last few weeks. An obviously intelligent and well-read anonymous blogger posting in the comments section of Peter Carrell's Anglican Down Under criticized me for adopting arguments in defense of same-sex marriage which I have not made, and persistently attempted to paint a picture of a kind of liberal modernism that is very far from my work (as any who have read it know). Let me hasten to add that I do not find Peter himself to be guilty of this sort of reaction, and regard him as a model interlocutor!
Then, over at Titus One Nine, another anonymous commenter declared that I was responsible for leading the charge in trying to depose Bishop Mark Lawrence, and that in a "raging and fulminating" way. That really surprised me, as I was not aware of any rage or fulmination, or even much by way of comment or interest, in or on the subject. When challenged, this person proudly produced three shorter than 50-words each comments separated by over a year — one from the House of Bishops / Deputies list-serve and two from blogs. None of these three line comments called for action against Bishop Lawrence, and the two most recent merely noted, as a point of canon law, that were action to take place it would likely be because of property concerns. As far as I know, and I've done the Google search, these are the only things I've said in reference to the good Bishop of South Carolina in the past year. I assured this irate denizen of Kendall Harmon's comment stream that were I intent on pressing a case against the Bishop I would certainly do more than make three three-line comments over the course of a year!
The point in all this is, What is it with "conservatives?" (Not all, just some.) Does their own upset with how they perceive things to be going blind them to what is actually happening? Is it simply a want of charity that takes everything someone dubbed "liberal" says at its worst possible, and often wrong, interpretation? Is it perceptual set, or a form of neuralgia and heightened sensitivity?
In this season, I plead for better understanding and calm. There are sane and sober "conservatives" out there, able to converse across even strong disagreement. I have had many such conversations so I know this to be true. The key, of course, is listening, and being able to describe to someone with whom you disagree their own position in ways they can recognize and affirm, and especially not telling them what they "must have meant" when they explain that they didn't. Kendall always espoused that, and I admire him for it; and I wish some of the folks who populate the comment-streams at his blog would follow his example. As to Turner, I hope he will re-read the essays which he misrepresented with newly opened eyes and attempt to wrestle inwardly with the arguments as they are actually made. He may still not agree with them but at least then be able to do them the courtesy of responding to them on their own terms. And that may advance the discussion.
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
December 14, 2011
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
December 13, 2011
from the Encyclical letter of the 1878 Lambeth Conference, section 1.5
There are certain principles of church order which, your Committee consider, ought to be distinctly recognised and set forth, as of great importance for the maintenance of union among the Churches of our Communion.It appears to me that most of the troubles in the present Anglican Communion stem from the failure of some provinces to observe and abide by point 1. Some of those same provinces have gone on to violate point 2, and the recent trouble in AMiA seems to reflect a bit of the mess one gets into by not observing point 3.
1. First, that the duly certified action of every national or particular Church, and of each ecclesiastical province (or diocese not included in a province), in the exercise of its own discipline, should be respected by all the other Churches, and by their individual members.
2. Secondly, that when a diocese, or territorial sphere of administration, has been constituted by the authority of any Church or province of this Communion within its own limits, no bishop or other clergyman of any other Church should exercise his functions within that diocese without the consent of the bishop thereof.
3. Thirdly, that no bishop should authorise to officiate in his diocese a clergyman coming from another Church or province, unless such clergyman present letters testimonial, countersigned by the bishop of the diocese from which he comes; such letters to be, as nearly as possible, in the form adopted by such Church or province in the case of the transfer of a clergyman from one diocese to another.
But point 1, in one sentence, is the key to any real Anglican unity. No further "covenant" is needed. And the one currently on offer provides a mechanism to frustrate point 1, by shifting from respecting the actions of the provinces to placating those offended by them. The proposed Covenant is government by discontent and disrespect.
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
December 12, 2011
Over at the Episcopal Café a discussion has appparently drawn to an inconclusive close on what is variously known as "communion before baptism," "communion without baptism," and (more confusingly for those who remember or still use the term in its older sense) "open communion." The discussion was launched from an unlikely port: the story of a Japanese UCC minister disciplined for this practice.
I have many concerns about this practice, by whatever name, and with the arguments used to support it, about most of which I have written in the past on this blog. This includes the irony of emphasis on the Baptismal Covenant while diminishing actual baptism to what seems an optional or at best secondary place in sacramental life; the loss of Morning Prayer as an alternative form of worship in many places, precisely at a time when a larger number of the unbaptized might be present; and a general interest in being hospitable and inclusive. But ultimately it seems to me that Cb4B is the wrong answer to a very real problem, or set of problems.
My greatest concern is not that the odd unbaptized individual might receive communion, or even the disciplinary lapse by which clergy in this church think it within their competence to issue a general invitation for those not baptized to receive communion.
Rather — and this comes through in some of the comments following the story cited above — it is that we risk a great devaluation of baptism, or a confusion about what baptism means in relation to being a member of the Body of Christ, at least from our perspective as part of a sacramental and catholick church.
Part of the problem, as I tried to address it at the Café, is the emphasis on sin in the Western tradition, thanks largely to Augustine of Hippo and those who emphasized this element in his work at the Reformation, including Cranmer. Thus sin becomes a lens to see both baptism and the eucharist, in ways not quite so highlighted in the Gospels and Epistles that give us what little we have to go on about either rite — both of which, if truth be told, evolve and develop in the Apostolic and Patristic era into something like their present forms.
This much can be said, however: baptism is primarily a rite of initiation into a new life, through death to self and sin, in union with Christ. The reason it rids of sin is not just by means of a "washing" or purification as in the baptism of John, but rather a union with Christ in his death. As Paul draws out this theology in Romans 6-7, it is about our being no longer subject to the law because we have died, or been liberated from its slavery. (Paul, as usual, tries to balance two analogies simultaneously, not always successfully!) It is through baptism that we come to be "united with him in his death" and come "to share in his resurrection."
And the Holy Eucharist is the celebration of that resurrection, which is not just a future event but is made real in our own bodies as we join at the Eucharistic table and are re-em-bodied and re-membered into Christ's living Body on Earth, the Church. Cranmer, and the Protestant Reformers generally, tended to fix the Eucharist to Calvary, and focus on the Paschal and Last Supper aspects of the celebration, and concerns of individual salvation: but these need not be the only emphases in our approach to this Sacrament. The rich material of the post-Apostolic era (the Didache, for example) show that early on the emphasis shifts from the personal to the corporate, and to celebration of the unified body of the Church, Christ's Body on Earth, typified in the grain gathered together and made one bread, which is only broken so that we can consume it and thereby be made One.
So, in brief, this is my argument for maintaining the traditional pattern: initiation followed by celebration. You become a member of the Body before you celebrate you membership in it. The practical concerns of a larger number of unbaptized seekers, the urge to be hospitable and inclusive, and so on, can — and must — be addressed: but there are more effective and theologically coherent ways to do so than through inverting this sequence, which tends to rob baptism of its fundamental character as a liminal rite by which one passes from this life into the risen life of God, as a member of the Body of Christ.
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
December 9, 2011
Merton was a major influence in my life, in a number of ways. Most importantly, he began to introduce some of the ideas that would merge into what is sometimes called “the new monasticism” — of which my own community is but one example of new models that emerged in the late 60s in response to a new wave of spiritual hunger, of which Merton was part of the avant garde. In my own thinking, his Contemplation in a World of Action formed a very important part of my coming to seek to follow a life of Christian service and devotion.
Merton lived in tension with the model of monasticism to which he made his commitment. His human frailty makes him, to my mind, all the more important in that witness.
Thank you, Brother Louis, for all you have meant and done for so many.
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
ikon from the "quick ikons" series
December 7, 2011
December 5, 2011
December 4, 2011
December 2, 2011
Hugo is a rich film with much to commend it to a wide range of audiences. There is enough action and youthful characters with whom the thoughtful younger set can identify, as well as some poignant older characters with whom any adult who has experienced disappointment or loss will be likely to resonate. The primary theme is brokenness and loss, but the film is about triumph through and over these obstacles. That a child is the bringer of healing — it does not go too far to say salvation — is all the more appropriate to this season.
That child is played by young actor Asa Butterfield, whom I’d only just seen in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas the day before. He is a bit older and much wiser in this film, and I am very happy to say that unlike the sad emptiness and pathos with which I was left at the end of the earlier film, Hugo left me uplifted and bright with hope. All is not lost, it reassures us. It is just important to be sure you have all the pieces, and they must be there somewhere because that is how things are made. Things can break, or be lost or misplaced, but there is hope for repair, renovation, and restoration.
This film of many films within a film is also a love song to cinema, from one of its more daring artists. He has tried many things in the past, but this is Scorcese’s first foray into 3-D, and I’m not entirely sure it was necessary, even though the result is spectacular. I have to confess that while I find 3-D fascinating, I remain unsatisfied as it presents an image that is not really quite as the pair of human eyes sees it, since our brain wants to focus on whatever holds our attention. This leads me to become even more aware of the artifice, rather than suspending any disbelief. But then again, this is a film about artifice, so perhaps that is all to the best.
Ben Kingsley is his usual excellent self as a man slowly pulled from the depths of bitterness and despair into the literal magical light in which he had once reveled. Sacha Baron Cohen makes the most of what could have been a totally two-dimensional figure, and fleshes it out with poignant effect, as another broken man who finds his own completion and restoration. The other supporting players are quite fine, though I would have liked to have seen more of Christopher Lee as the bookseller — I wonder if something was lost in the cutting room, as his story seems a bit of a loose end. Keep an eye out for James Joyce and Salvador Dali in the crowded train station; I spotted the first but have to say I missed the second.
Enjoy this film this season of expectancy and restoration. There is much to delight the eye and lift the spirits here. And we could all use some of that.
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
December 1, 2011
Further to the previous post...
In what seems a very disingenuous statement, I just noticed (thanks to Rod Gillis for pointing it out in the comments to the report at Thinking Anglicans) the irony in another portion of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Advent musings:
In spite of many assurances, some Anglicans evidently still think that the Covenant changes the structure of our Communion or that it gives some sort of absolute power of ‘excommunication’ to some undemocratic or unrepresentative body. With all respect to those who have raised these concerns, I must repeat that I do not see the Covenant in this light at all. (¶ 7)Beg pardon, but it is the Archbishop who introduced language of two tracks or two "tiers" for the future of the Communion. Moreover, the invitation not to participate in, or be suspended from, one or more of "the Instruments" is spelled out in the Covenant at 4.2.5. And further unspecified "relational consequences" concerning the actual status of communion between members churches, is also threatened (4.2.7).
If these are not "change to the structure of the Communion" then what are they? It seems to me they are fundamental changes to the only structure we have. Evidently, the Archbishop thinks otherwise, which leads me to wonder what he means by "structure."
But perhaps the light in which he sees the Covenant is the gloomy light of the doomsayers who are convinced that the Covenant is the last best hope for Anglican humanity. My hope is that the Archbishop might come to see the Covenant in a different light. I suggest daylight, at the very least, if not the illumination of the Spirit.
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG