July 20, 2015

Why the Church?

The "deep magic" of the Church, the great mystery outlined in Ephesians as existing from before the foundation of the world, is the mystery of Unity. It is at the heart of the mystery of God the Three in One. It is reflected in the cosmos that God created in all its multiplicity, coming back into unity in Christ, with the Church being the initial beneficiary of the Incarnation (the reunion of Divinity and Humanity in one Person). If the Church is incapable of exercising its underlying unity in spite of jurisdictional divisions, it has failed in the One Task for which it exists -- as the growing edge of the emergent New Creation, the Body of Christ in which all things in heaven and on earth become One, even as God is One.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

July 10, 2015

The Nature of the Feast

In the old legend, the Grail provided its knight-guardians a eucharistic feast that all of them found to be the food that each liked best, according to his taste. With the growing number of eucharistic prayers and lectionaries now on offer, with more to come, I think we Episcopalians are in danger of reversing this process. We seem to be hasting to replace the simple serving of 'common prayer' with a groaning board of options with little stability from parish to parish or week to week.

I am by no means arguing for a return to the 1928 standard (one eucharistic prayer and one lectionary), but would urge that we not go too far in the other direction. A small set of liturgies and lectionaries, spiced with variety in hymnody, music, ceremonial, and preaching, which we have long enjoyed, seems a more wholesome diet, conducive to nourish faith and community, across time and space.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

July 1, 2015

Comprehension not Compromise

The resolutions concerning liturgies and canonical amendments that will provide for marriage equality have been adopted by the House of Bishops, and will head to the House of Lay and Clerical Deputies by this afternoon. Both resolutions were adopted by very wide majorities in the House of Bishops.

Some have characterized these resolutions as compromises. I prefer to see them as comprehensive. The resolution on liturgies authorizes trial use as provided for in the Constitution, with the mandate that bishops will see to it that all couples have access to the liturgies, while at the same time affirming that the bishop is responsible for directing and permitting these liturgies. This may be too subtle for some, but I believe it will allow the minority of bishops who are personally opposed to marriage equality sufficient conscientious cover, while at the same time requiring them to find ways to provide for couples in their dioceses who wish to make use of the liturgies. This will be a time for creativity and generosity.

The canonical amendment, in the drafting of which I participated, is, in my likely not sufficiently humble opinion, simultaneously orthodox and comprehensive. I challenge anyone opposed to it to point to any line in it that contradicts the teaching of the church. It is true that it omits reference to "man and woman" -- but omission does not constitute denial. Again, some may find this too subtle, but it is true. For on the contrary, this amendment accomplishes exactly what the Task Force on the Study of Marriage was charged with providing: a canonical way to provide for marriage equality, but it does so without contradiction to the opinion of those who oppose such equality. The revised Declaration of Intention is perfectly consonant with the traditional teaching of the church, but equally applicable to all couples. It also implies openness to adoption as well as procreation -- thereby including an extremely important theological, biblical, (and perhaps more importantly) actual reality. And it is, in my opinion, suitable for framing.

The Deputies will have the opportunity to amend these resolutions, but I hope and pray that they will accept them as adopted by the Bishops, and concur. Amendment will mean sending the resolutions back to the Bishops, who may not have the interest or the time to take them up again.

So I beseech all involved to accept this moment of gracious generosity, as the collect for Richard Hooker says, not as "compromise for the sake of peace, but comprehension for the sake of truth." It is true that this comprehension will not satisfy everyone: there are hurting people on both sides; though strangely enough likely in the same dioceses -- where the bishop is uncomfortable to have to implement something he opposes, and couples may have to find creative ways to solemnize their marriage that falls short of their ideal.

I also acknowledge that the pain felt by traditional colleagues -- many of whom I regard as personal friends beyond seeing them as brothers and sisters in Christ and children of God -- cannot be compared with the suffering of gay and lesbian Christians down through the ages and to this day, even in parts of our beloved Anglican Communion. I think I can guarantee that no bishop will be beaten to death for his opposition to marriage equality.

But now is not the time to compare pain with pain, or hurt with hurt. Now is the time for healing, and grace, and with grace it will come. Many of my friends, and I myself, have been recipients of the "generous pastoral response" of this church over the last three years. It is time for the "liberals" among us to be willing to show the same generous pastoral response to those who no doubt feel their world (both sacred and secular) collapsing around them; and I can empathize with that pain, and its depth and reality. I call on all my brothers and sisters to show the same loving toleration that they expect to receive.

For I believe that some day all of us children of God will sit on the great front porch in the kingdom, and like old war veterans roll up our sleeves and compare our scars, and say, "This wound I got me at the Great Salt Lake." Until, that is, our friend comes by -- you know, the one with the wounds in hands and feet and side -- and he gives us that look, and we lower our heads, and quietly roll down our sleeves, and turn to our brothers and sisters, and take them in our arms.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG