July 15, 2016

On Church Growth

People talk about church growth but are terrified of change. They want clones, not contrast, numbers in the sense of ciphers, rather than the challenge of novelty, newcomers who come but who are not really new, who fit the mold and don't rock the boat. 

But God created difference, and we should welcome those who bring it. More than welcome, we should go out in search of them. This is part of the wisdom of Indaba: difference energizes with opportunities. Fear keeps things the same, then kills.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

July 13, 2016

O, Canada!

In case you haven't heard the news, the Anglican Church of Canada has adopted a resolution towards the amendment of their canon on marriage, making marriage equality in the church a canonical reality if the change is ratified at the next session of the General Synod in 2019. The motion passed by the large required two-thirds majority in each order (bishops, clergy and lay) though not after some confusion due to a single affirmative clergy vote having been miscounted in the wrong order, and three other affirmative clergy votes not counted at all. In the end the super-majority prevailed by a comfortable margin.

It should also be noted that the ACoC Chancellor had already opined that even the current canon does not actually forbid marriages for same-sex couples; but some minds may rest easier given the adoption of the first reading of the amendment. Several Canadian bishops have indicated they plan to move forward on these bases, so as a practical matter marriage equality has arrived.

Other minds are not so easy, and the comment threads on the related stories at the Anglican Journal, in addition to expressions of joy and hope, are replete with the complaints of those so unhappy with this turn of events that they are abandoning the church, or mobilizing for a militant effort to defeat the canon change in at its second reading in 2019. Further afield, the trumpet from the Global South has not tooted yet, or at least not loudly or clearly enough to be heard here in the North; nor has there been a comment from Canterbury — though the Church of England has also just emerged from its own General Synod, in which the Shared Conversations formed a major part. That and the turmoil with the recent Brexit vote and the change in parliamentary leadership is no doubt occupying archepiscopal focus at the moment.

We continue to live in interesting times.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

July 9, 2016

Racism and Realism and Jesus

Racism, no less than beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. It is the junction at which perception meets prejudice, and what is is distorted in the mirror of the mind, as a characteristic obscures the character, the generic obscures the specific, and the individual is lost in an emotional cloud so that who is seen is only a member of a class, and even then not the class as it is but as it is believed or felt to be.

Some offer as an answer an appeal to common humanity. This is good so far as it goes, but it too is generic. Some go further and say we must see the face of Jesus in each person. Again, a step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough.

The goal is not to see Jesus in a person, but to see the person as Jesus sees the person, who “looks on them and loves them” — to see the precious individual who is, in her specific individuality, the image of God, just as much as Jesus is; not because of a common resemblance, a common humanity or a common divinity, but as a specific person, One Who Is.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

July 7, 2016

The System is Corrupt

Police violence is a tragic but logical element in the systemic racism that is foundational to the American political and social fabric, embedded in its DNA from the beginning: colonial slavery, revolutionary hypocrisy, constitutional inequality, legalized classism via segregation and separation with detriments to housing and education and medical care, a war on drugs selectively deployed, a misnamed “justice” system feeding a commercialized prison system, and a mania for weapons fueled by a fear of the other when the self is the danger. And we wonder why we have problems with a police force that is the enforcement arm of this same system.

I offer no solution; only my grief. God forbid I should give up hope, but hope is ever more difficult to maintain.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


The problem isn't a few bad apples in the barrel. The problem is the barrel.

That is, the system supports and enables the bad behavior. We’ve seen this with the way the Roman Catholic Church mishandled pedophilia — moving guilty clergy instead of dismissing them; with the similar handling of police misconduct; with the polite homophobia that declares it is “just holding to the traditional doctrine / biblical view...”; with a wealth and oppression complex that keeps the greatest wealth among the fewest people. The corrupted system resists reform because reform threatens the system itself.