April 6, 2010

Loser Take All

Virginia Theological Seminary has published an article by James Baker. Yes, that James Baker. I'm always wary of people who say, "I'm not an expert in X, but it seems to me..." This articles gives me no reason to lose my wariness. In it, Baker suggests something like a kind of congregational polity for handling differences of opinion in The Episcopal Church, whereby individual parishes could officially vote on things they [mostly] don't like about what the rest of the church has done through General Convention.

Why is it that proposals like this for "local option" always seem to come up when the church is moving in a progressive direction, but are shunned like the dickens when more conservative folks hold sway. Compare the appeal for the Port St. Lucie "Conscience Clause" with the ardent critique of "local option" on same-sex blessings, par example. (I'll note this doesn't seem to happen only in the church: the state provides ample evidence of similar tendencies. Maybe it is just that conservatives -- sacred or secular -- can't bear to be in the minority?)

Baker's proposal seems to me merely to formalize (and set in concrete) more or less what we already have de facto in terms of the prevailing issue, anyway (which is the issue Baker uses to frame the proposal): i.e., no parish is forced to call a gay or lesbian priest, or perform a same-sex blessing. There are many dioceses in which neither will happen for quite some time. Should the day come when parishes are actually required so to do, it will only be because in the course of time opposition has so far dwindled that any "vote" such as Baker proposes would produce the same result. Just how much does a democratic institution have to allow a local veto to joint decisions -- at least in the official and formal way Baker suggests?

In short, I think the system we have now provides for an ample degree of laissez-faire and toleration of moderate dissent without institutionalizing it, setting it in stone, and creating a Balkanized Church. And let's be frank once again: the problem isn't that a portion of Episcopalians don't like gay or lesbian bishops or couples getting blessed and don't want to have to deal with them. The problem is that a portion of Episcopalians don't want there to be any gay or lesbian clergy, far less, bishops, or same-sex marriages. They want what they want, for everyone. So it is not a question of laissez-faire not working, but the desire of a minority to have their way not just for themselves, but for the whole Episcopal Church -- and when they cannot achieve this through the canonical structures of General Convention it is a case of "loser take all."

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
begging pardon for taking off the gloves for a bit...

35 comments:

Grandmère Mimi said...

Tobias, I started reading your post and burst out laughing as I thought of how many of my comments here and elsewhere begin with, "I'm no theologian, but...." or "I'm no Scripture scholar, but...." and I then proceed to give my inexpert opinion. Thank you and everyone for your forbearance. I'll never do it again. I promise. Pardon the digression, dear Tobias.

I agree. We already have what Baker wants. You state the problem quite well.

a portion of Episcopalians don't want there to any gay or lesbian clergy, far less, bishops, or same-sex marriages. They want what they want, for everyone.

Go away. Disappear. Leave us in peace.

Yes, of course, if you want a peace that is no peace.

David |Dah • veed| said...

begging pardon for taking off the gloves for a bit...

You have been doing it more lately, at least when you post at other blogs. I like it! I sometimes have felt that you are waaaaaay too bend-over-backwards accommodating.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Mimi, you've given me a smile right back! Maybe that "I'm just a simple country lawyer" intro has something to do with a Southern Rhetoric -- it occurs to me it may be more common south of the Line of Mason & Dixon. Yankees are less apologetic, perhaps, and dive right in!

Maybe as well it has something to do with the American interest in "experts" -- and Lord knows even those who are certified "theologians" and "Scripture scholars" often make fools of themselves. I've long been a believer that the truth of a statement should rest on the statement, not the speaker, so I'm probably just as -- if not more -- suspicious of people who start off with their credentials instead of their lack of same!

Thanks again, for lifting my grumpy spirits!
T.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Ah, Dahveed, I, even I, can lose my patience! Between the Balkanizers, the RC Guilt-Deniers and Reverse Name-Callers, the whole Covenant and Communion "Spin Doctors of the Church" Institute, and the Tea Party-Goers, the No-Nothings, the Conspiracy Theorists and Glen "Bushel and A" Becks et alia -- and a leaking parish hall roof just to add to the excitement -- I do think I'm more than a little testy lately. Perhaps I will take the gloves off more often!

Paul said...

I'm glad I read the coverage elsewhere. The first James Baker that sprung to mind actually spells his name Bakker, or something like that. At least VTS hasn't gone that far off the edge.

R said...

Br. Tobias,

Leaking parish hall roofs notwithstanding, there should be no offense taken from your clarity at a time where dissembling, sophistry, and complaining seem to be the norm.

As is often the case, many mean what they say, few say what they mean.

Your posts, refreshingly, fall into the latter category!

JCF said...

Maybe it is just that conservatives -- sacred or secular -- can't bear to be in the minority?

Just so. Exactly.

As a liberal, I am used to being in the minority (quite literally, in my 48 years---30 of them voting---I have NEVER before had someone I voted for in a primary, become President of the USA!). As a queer, I've long accepted I'm no MORE than 10%, and as a genderqueer, a tiny % of that!

But for "our opponents"? They've had THEIR Country, THEIR Church stolen from them (to the barricades, or town halls, w/ pitchforks---or side-arms! Get the Global South primates speed-dial---cry "Racism!", if one of them shows up, uninvited, in a diocese of TEC!)

I'm far from being "The Victim", in all this. The Victim IS in Nigeria or Uganda . . . but is an LGBT person, not a prelate in purple! >:-/

MarkBrunson said...

I'm just tired of their throwing the "brotherhood" thing at us, when it's a lie. They're our brothers and sisters when it allows them to manipulate us; the rest of the time it's "None of your business!"

Andrewdb said...

Mr. Baker defines "hubris."

I still remember when he was SecState and came out one day to announce some peace plan for the Middle East, and this time it would work because the USA cares!

Mind you they've been fighting for thousands of years and this will stop because of _us_ (or something we will do). Right.

After that I stopped paying attention to him.

Erika Baker said...

Tobias
I agree with David, it's good to see you take your gloves off a little more. But please be careful. Your voice carries weight because it is the voice of reason and the influence you have comes from that.
If you get bogged down in the fray like most partisans end up doing, you risk losing (some of) that position.
I'd rather have you grumpy but effective :-)

John-Julian, OJN said...

Tobias:

List me with Dah-veed! (as a matter of fact, I think I probably agree with everything Dah-veed has EVER posted!)

The fact is that your "tough love" is not merely jeering or hollow ridicule (as it might be on another's tongue) -- yours has its base firmly planted in orthodoxy and orthopraxis.

And I think our "liberal tolerance" literally has been used against us. It's time to reply!!!

(Happily the new organizations of faithful Episcopalians in South Carolina and Albany are another evidence that finally we are beginning to step forward actively rather than merely re-acting.)

So, go, Brother, go! With all our blessings......

David |Dah • veed| said...

as a matter of fact, I think I probably agree with everything Dah-veed has EVER posted

I am humbled Brother John-Julian. I am usually in hot water somewhere for shooting from the hip and calling spades spades. Currently it was in a thread at Father Mark Harris' blog. Before that...

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thanks to all for the additional insights. I've spent most of today doing my taxes -- a chore I put off for as long as I could!

Paul, I did think of mentioning that other Bakker... perhaps just as well I didn't.

Richard, thanks as always for the kind words.

JCF, yes, sore losers seems to be the rule on that side. To be fair, it does happen sometimes among liberals -- but liberals are more likely to fall into the bleeding heart syndrome, and abdicate instead of standing firm. The latter having little or nothing to do with the enhancement of anyones performance.

Andrewdb, I was surprised to see a Secretary of State writing for VTS; but then again, Alexandria is an exurb of the Capital. But yes, "peace in our time" and "we'll handle this" does seem a tad uppity, esp. as peace in the Middle East may be more likely of solution than the current impasse in what is left of Anglicanism...

Erika, with all this encouragement who knows what I might end up saying. I will try to abide with the truth as I see it, and speak plainly and with some affection... as has been my wont. With a little grumpiness now and again, no doubt.

Fr John Julian, thanks to you too... and welcome to the other side of blogging, over at the "Owl" site. I concur with your assessment of Dahveed; who has a head on his shoulders, even if sometimes in hot water!

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

I'm with Erica, JCF and David, of course!

C. Wingate said...

Not to be too contrarian here, but...

I don't know where you live, JCF, but if it's Texas, you can fix that. Here in Maryland there hasn't been a liberal minority as far back as I can remember-- that is to say, there hasn't been so substantial a conservative power base as to prevent liberals from generally doing as they pleased. Liberals haven't wanted for power in ECUSA in my lifetime either: they may not always had enough moderate allies, but they've always had enough power to prevent any traditionalist advances.

And from what I can see here in the two dioceses at hand, the big issue for the traditionalists (since they certainly don't have any hope of advance-- the radical liberals hold power in both) is trust. There are too many stories going around about how the ordination process is used to winnow out anybody who won't go along with liberal activism, and about how rector searches and the like are being manipulated here and there to push parishes in the direction of similar activism. The first I have seen for myself; the second, even if they are only rumors, speaks to the climate. But then again, the comments thus far express a similar hostility. I sense a certain tolerance arising out of the confidence that present traditionalists can reliably be replaced with moderate liberals who will go along with the radicals.

Grandmère Mimi said...

There are too many stories going around about how the ordination process is used to winnow out anybody who won't go along with liberal activism, and about how rector searches and the like are being manipulated here and there to push parishes in the direction of similar activism.

C. Wingate, do you believe that the type of activity you describe is restricted to "radical liberal" dioceses? Is it not also happening in conservative dioceses? I hear stories, too.

You say:

I don't know where you live, JCF, but if it's Texas, you can fix that.

No. Not everyone can fix their lives by moving to another state.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Dear C.W.,

I take your point, but I think, on balance, my position still holds. I agree that "trust" is an issue, but it is that in itself that I find odd -- because the trust is basically in the form, "Can I trust you to allow me to continue to do as I please if the General Convention makes decisions I don't like." To me this strikes very deeply at the core of what it means to be a community in discernment -- which is a major part of the church's identity.

Let me take up your example as an instance: the "winnowing" of conservative ordinands.

Obviously "liberal" aspirants for ordination are more than merely "winnowed" in conservative dioceses, and any openly gay or lesbian aspirants, and in a few cases (now subject to alteration in circumstances) women -- whether they are theologically liberal or not -- are advised not even to start the process. Now the sandal is said in some places to some extent (though I don't think to quite the same extent) to be on the other foot.

That may be true, but I am here merely noting that the calls of "foul" from the Conservative side are asymetrical -- conservatives in general are not known for tolerance of liberal opinion, but get bent out of shape the moment they perceive themselves not to be tolerated. Conservatives (per Baker's article) want special treatment they are not prepared to give to others, including parochial veto over actions of General Convention!

As to first hand on the winnowing: I serve on a standing committee in a "liberal" diocese -- and we do approve candidates from conservative and evangelical parishes, and winnow out not a few liberals: all on the basis of perceived call and skill set, not activism or lack thereof, or where they stand on the prevailing issues. Are you sure that people whom you've heard were dropped from the process were dropped solely because of their conservatism? There may well be other [non-public] reasons for a person not being admitted as a postulant.


Returning to the lack of proportion: I just learned that over at the site of "Upright Firmness per the Credenda" my observations here have given rise to references to jackboots and storm-troopers! The lack of symmetry is startling, and reveal the great divide between real Anglican breadth and Fungelical narrowness (and paranoia, in my opinion.)

JCF said...

C. Wingate, I really don't know what you're talking about.

I spoke of voting in National Presidential elections. I said, I had never before voted in a (Democratic) Primary, and had that same candidate win the General Election. Moving to/from Texas/Maryland wouldn't have changed that.

Have Progressives been ascendent in TEC's GC? Generally speaking, Yes. But look how FAR we (LGBTs) had to travel, from 1979! ("not compatible") Look at the stab-in-the-back we received as recently as 2006! See, C.Wingate: when conservatives lose, they lose an election. When LGBTs lose, we lose our rights: very different!

dr.primrose said...

Actually, I think the worst accusation that Matt Kennedy has made is that the philosophy you supposedly expresssed in this posting is "We won't shoot you unless we think the majority wants you dead."

Comments like that are signficantly beyond paranoid and expressing a lack of symmetry and proportion. Comments like that simply evil.

MarkBrunson said...

And from what I can see here in the two dioceses at hand, the big issue for the traditionalists . . . is trust.

And why do you think we should trust so-called "traditionalists?" Look at the example we've had. Really, I'm very tired of this. What have "traditionalists" done to warrant better treatment than they give liberals - and yet still receive as Mimi and Tobias point out?!

And, another point on the "trust" thing: one minute "traditionalists" tell us they're the unheard majority of the people in the pews, then, the next minute, are trying to play the pathos card as a minority underdog. This is a pattern in all that traditionalists do! We gays and lesbians tell you about our direct experience of our own lives and you refuse to even etertain it, then complain you're ignored when everyone else is simply not buying what you're selling.

Trust problem? Yeah, can't imagine what that's like!

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

[Posting again to correct many typoes. My voice recognition software is not a good combo with vision difficulties!]

Thanks, GM, JCF, Dr. P., and Mark for the further comments. JCF, thanks for the clarification, although I thought you were clear.

Dr. Primrose, I try to avoid applying the epithet "evil" loosely. I would say it is more "deranged." I know the folks at that site enjoy flamboyant and over-the-top rhetorical flourishes, and it is hard to tell in some cases how serious they might be; but it is certainly troubling to see the frequency with which life-and-death language is employed in a situation in which the worst that can happen is an ecclesiastical slap on the wrist. Being passed over or rejected in the ordination process is no doubt a painful and discouraging experience; I have known many people who have not "made it" through the discernment process over the years, for various reasons. Most appear to get over it in time though some remain resentful -- but none of them have died as a result.

When does such asymmetry gravitate so far from the balance-point that it becomes "evil?" It is certainly unhelpful, and it does absolutely nothing to edify the church.

Mark, this "trust" issue is strange indeed. Perhaps the conservatives fear that liberals will naturally be as intolerant as they themselves are, if and when the "come to power." This whole rhetoric puts the situation into a very subjective frame, when what I am offering here (I hope) is simply objective as an analysis of the situation. The phrase to which MattK took such exception being a case in point: It isn't, "We won't shoot you unless we think the majority wants you dead" but "There will come a time when opposition has so far dwindled that it would not be able to muster a majority even at the parochial level." This is simply part of the nature of change (not, as it is suggested at SF in F, necessarily "progress" -- a notion I reject on the evidence of the world at large!)

I am not a "Progressive" in that sense. Far from it. Minority views can bounce back to take the majority, can remain at a low level, or can disappear. That is simply a fact. A number of minority views (and in some cases views which at present are in the majority, speaking globally) will, I think, eventually die out: among them opposition to the ordination of women, and the opposition to [at least civil] marriage for same-sex couples. That I see this as "progress" is my value judgment. Things could go the other way, and the other side will see that as "progress" from their perspective. But either way will definitely be change. As the old philosopher said, "Things change." That is objective. But I know as well that things can change for the worse as well as the better. That is subjective.

C. Wingate said...

I do not accept the assertion that conservatives as a rule are intolerant. The loudmouths at Stand Firm are, and they don't tolerate me very well either even though on the presenting issues you all would probably class me with them. But it also seems to me that church politics have left them with little choice but to respond in kind. Those who don't so respond face having institutions taken away from them by attrition, and that's what a lot of us face, even among the centrists. I was confirmed into the church a year after women could be legitimately ordained, and I have never had an issue with female clergy. But I also have never had a problem with making some allowance for those who cannot accept them. That is actual tolerance, and I recall the time when GC refused to make such allowance.

Of course such winnowing happens in conservative dioceses, but inasmuch as that is supposed to be part of their nature, it is supposed to be inimical to your own (that inclusion, remember?) and therefore it isn't acceptable for liberals to do it simply because conservatives do it. That's really the point at which I start to have big problems. I can't marry anyone, so to that degree that issue is moot to me; if I don't accept that such marriages are realized, it doesn't matter that other people are conducting rites which (in this view) don't do anything. But what I see is almost certainly going to happen is that a lot of the people who want this are also pushing for prayer book changes which I cannot accept. And at that point I am made a participant. But I don't expect that I'm going to get tolerance for my really rather moderate views; I think that the current rites which I can participate in will be suppressed because of their sexism.

JCF, clearly I misunderstood you. But as you continue to personalize the discussion, I must refuse to respond in kind. I will not be put in the position of granting you the only authority as to how you will be treated-- because none of us can be trusted with that authority. The fruit of that kind of discussion is inevitably that one of us be attacked, and in the interest of tolerance, I won't be a party to that.

Geoff said...

Do you think, Br Tobias, that lay and diaconal presidency will will reach that ascendancy?

MarkBrunson said...

The thing is, Tobias, I keep hearing how we've "driven them out" and how they just can't stay, after "all these years of being a loyal Episcopalian."

Now, I really do try to understand where they're coming from. The thing is, I'm afraid I do! It's sheer selfishness - because I've done that, too! That's how I recognize what it is.

I became an Episcopalian some 23 years ago, eyes wide open about the current stance on homosexuality and women, et al, here in the South, especially. I accepted it, because, though I thought the position on homosexuality was wrong (and later changed my view on WO to realize there was no objection to it that was worthy) I saw a church in which I would - at least - receive a fair shot. Not the absolutism of Orthodoxy or Romanism in which a very few decide subjectively, but a group approach. I accepted what the group, at the time, had ascertained. That changed. I was delighted. I looked forward to a new day, and the "orthodox anglicans" broke fellowship by changing the rules of engagement. I still, early on, encouraged them to stay, to present their case and engage, as the rest of us had, in real debate and learning. They said "Okay" and lied about that, too. There was no exchange, just attack. So, I became a mirror for them.

The Dalai Lama once was asked what to do about religious wars in which neither side will "give," and his response was that, perhaps, the answer was to exacerbate it to such a pitch both sides are exhausted and have no choice but to either co-exist or die. I've begun to think that that's what's happening here, but, I'm sorry to say, I think that we're past the listening stage only because the so-called "orthodox anglicans" have pushed us there.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Dear C.W., I may be misunderstanding you, but I am fairly certain you are misunderstanding me.

I do not accept the thesis that toleration or inclusion must necessitate the toleration or inclusion of absolutely anything. My point is that I believe in the rule of law. To quote the venerable Hooker,

To small purpose had the council of Jerusalem been assembled, if once their determination being set down, men might afterwards have defended their former opinions. When therefore they had given their definitive sentence, all controversy was at an end. Things were disputed before they came to be determined; men afterwards were not to dispute any longer, but to obey. The sentence of judgment finished their strife, which their disputes before judgment could not do. This was ground sufficient for any reasonable man's conscience to build the duty of obedience upon, whatsoever his own opinion were as touching the matter before in question. So full of wilfulness and self-liking is our nature, that without some definitive sentence, which being given may stand, and a necessity of silence on both sides afterward imposed, small hope there is that strifes thus far prosecuted will in short time quietly end. (Laws, Preface VI.3)

You refer to the ordination of women: and yes, some tolerance was made for those opposed for the purpose of transition. But such toleration has its limits, and its purposes. As it stands, a bishop is still free not to ordain a woman so long as provision is made to permit another bishop to ordain. Some few cannot accept even that, so the question becomes, to what extent is protecting their conscience to be weighed against the collective discernment of the church, working through its canonically established government?

As to conservatives being relatively intolerant -- I wish you could read your own words with my eyes. IN particular "pushing for prayer book changes which I cannot accept. And at that point I am made a participant." In short, you will "tolerate" things until they become official! That is, you are free to ignore a same-sex marriage conducted with an experimental rite, but will feel somehow made a participant should it become officially recognized: that is, your conscience should be the limit to changes in the law. Do you not see how high-handed such a view is? And how actually intolerant: in that you will graciously permit or tolerate something that you don't want to see made the law of the church?

The problem with this view is that applying it universally (as in Kant's model) we would have mere anarchy -- with everyone free to disregard the decisions of the competent government. Such an atmosphere is clearly abroad in the world as well as the church.

For the record, I opposed the ordination of the Philadelphia 11, and still think it was a mistake, strategic and ecclesiastic. I deferred entering the ordination process until it was abundantly clear that the church no longer felt itself constrained from ordaining partnered gay or lesbian persons. I do not agree with every action of the General Convention. I believe in Obedience, and am indeed bound and vowed to it, and obedience only becomes real when it comes up against something one does not like.

That any number of clergy under this vow are now disregarding it, or finessing it in their minds with ingenious mechanisms, is to me a sad state of affairs. Toleration has its limits: A house divided against itself cannot stand.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

A clarification: my opposition to the Philadelphia 11's act was not opposition to the ordination of women, but rather to the illegality of the action. It was destined to become legal at the next GC, and I think this action hurt the "cause" in the long run.

Geoff, I do not think lay / diaconal presidency will ever become normative -- except perhaps in the antipodes! And as the late, great, Canon Richard Norris said when asked what do you call a lay person authorized to preside at the Eucharist: "We call them priests." ;-)

C. Wingate said...

Fr. Haller, I think you misunderstood me there. I am told that same sex blessings have been going on in my diocese for some time, only sub rosa; I am told that a former bishop had something of a "as long as you don't frighten the horses" policy. Doing it is the problem, not talking about doing it, so whether it is official and commended or unofficial but accepted makes no difference to me. The thing is that as a (already married at that) layman there is no forcing me to participate in such a rite, and as far as treating such a couple as if they were married, that problem has already gone far beyond worrying about homosexuality already, as I am constantly presented with the need to treat people who have no intention of marrying or otherwise formalizing their, um, domestic habits as if they were a permanent social unit.

So I can escape from same-sex marriages, but I cannot escape from changing the liturgy. And my ability to escape from that is diminishing: I already have to vet parishes when I travel, whereas a decade before the worst I generally had to do was avoid the guitar service.

In fact you and I hold to much the same position with regards to Philadelphia. And I do not deny in any way the legitimacy of Gene Robinson, as least with regards to his sexuality; nor do I have that issue with respect to Mary Glasspool, whom I know passingly. But for worse (for I cannot say it was for better), transgressiveness has become the polity of doctrinal development; inasmuch as you agree that doing it that way is wrong, you don't represent the dominant thinking of this church. Law, it appears, is just for conservatives. I'm not saying you agree with this, but I do think you have no power to reverse this.

I could live, grudgingly, in a church where rites I cannot practice are performed-- because I already do. What I think will happen, however, is that the rites of 1979 will not be tolerated (and never mind 1928 or the various A-C deviations). One cannot justify being an Anglican and uphold obedience as an absolute. In that wise, we are Protestant in our origins.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Dear C. W., thanks for the clarification.

What I was suggesting is that you feel to some extent "trapped" if the text of the liturgies in the BCP is changed. You feel the need to "escape" from liturgical changes you find, I can only assume, intolerable. If that is not what you mean, then I am missing something.

My point is that the changes you describe -- in the BCP liturgy in particular -- are not some kind of ad hoc peculiarity of a given parish (though I know that goes on too... and let me say I am a died in the wool "traditionalist" when it comes to liturgy, who sought to "escape" the RCL for as long as I could, for instance). The BCP was amended (and expanded) through the due process of legislative action. I don't agree with many of those changes, but I am willing to submit my private judgment to that of the church. I will "avoid" attending liturgies that offend my sensibilities, but I do not suggest they are in any way "transgressive" -- though I know some transgressions do happen, such as CWOB, about which I've opined elsewhere in the negative. However, if this were to be accepted by the wider church at some point, I am vowed to accept that it has been accepted, though I very much doubt it will ever be mandated. But in any case, I don't think it will be "transgressiveness" that achieves that goal (if the goal is ever achieved) any more than the Philadelphia 11 actually sped the course of the cause of the ordination of women -- in fact, it nearly put the kibbosh on the whole idea! Rather it will be careful theological reflection on the issue -- just as has been happening in the area of same-sexuality; in which the arguments against are showing signs of wear, and revealing the inconsistencies that are fatal to any really thorough argument.

On a similar note, closer to the prevailing issue: the present BCP allows for the marriage of a couple only one of whom is baptized. I disagree with that allowance, and am not forced to perform such a marriage, though I am obliged to recognize that such marriages are, according to church law, licit and valid. In short, obedience does not necessitate consent. And that goes for liberals and conservatives alike.

Finally, I don't think that transgressiveness is as widespread as you suggest -- or that it has become a dominant way of church action, any more than it has always been -- for instance, in the slow accommodation of the church to many A-C innovations that were benignly tolerated for so long as to become the norm. It is hard for many to believe that having candles on the altar could have ever been a matter of dire controversy.

Which is my point about change over time -- not necessarily progress, as I think we are in many ways not progressing in the liturgy department -- things that seem outré in one age will, within three generations, become humdrum. Change happens, and yes, not all change will be acceptable to all. And I think it quite possible to justify being and Anglican and upholding obedience as a practical reality -- if not an "absolute" (as I'm not sure what you mean by that. Witness Hooker.

In any case, by the time (and if) the 1979 marriage rite is totally superseded I think we will all be taking part in a far grander marriage banquet!

C. Wingate said...

The only thing that "traps" me is my perhaps misbegotten loyalty to the church that confirmed me. Well, and geography: not being a cleric, I have to take what's offered nearby. Anyway, that loyalty is not so strong (not Roman-strong) as to override my obligation to hold the church to its teachings-- and by "its" I mean not just whatever the canons say right now, but over history.

And I think we will just have to disagree about the pervasiveness of transgressive culture within the church. Or maybe the problem is more that the non-transgressive majority has of late had trouble talking back to radicals who do as they please. I think there is a very good chance, for example, that there will soon be dioceses in which CWOB is the norm, partly because of the asymmetry-- it's harder to undo permissiveness than it is to institute rigor-- and partly because it's hard, in the church culture in these parts at any rate, to mount a theological response to "inclusion" that gets heeded. And there are coolness points to be gained by being the permissiveness vanguard, especially insofar as it annoys the rigorous traditionalists.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Dear CW,
Thanks again. I agree with much of your analysis of the dynamic of how radicals work. My only point of disagreement is the extent to which this happens. For that, we each have our anecdotal evidence. I know that NY is a "liberal" diocese -- which means it is generally tolerant. Though the present bishop and former bishops are both opposed to CWOB and in favor of the ministry of gay and lesbian clergy, they have taken a non-confrontative approach both to the couple of parishes known to dabble in CWOB, and to the couple of parishes of the very far-right evangelical side who are adamant in their opposition to gay and lesbian clergy. This, to me, is part of the toleration I think is due, and it has proved successful in holding the diocese together with no major losses of congregations or congregants in many a year. I think it a healthy sign that at the recent Holy Tuesday "Renewal of Ordination Vows" ceremony, I happened to be in the procession next to the rector of one of the two very staunchly evangelical congregations, and we noted how a pair of of his former members, whom he joined in Holy Matrimony, are now happy members of my congregation due to the husbands studies taking him to Fordham University. So all I can say is that toleration, and sticking to the Gospel rather than the "issue du jour" is likely the way through. But that becomes a problem for those who see the "issue du jour" as inimical to the Gospel. That, I think, is where we run into problems. Once the bar is raised that high, it is hard to lower it.

For example, in the recent paper prepared for the HoB, the "conservative" writers admit, "The attempt to discover what the Bible has to say about same-sex relationships involves looking to it for answers to questions it does not pose, at least in the form we want to ask them." Instead of stopping at that point, however, they press on with the usual treadmill of supposition and lopsided treatment of the evidence, special pleading, and circular reasoning. (I understand the paper is in the process of revision; I hope it leads to a more serious and worthy examination, one that actually takes account of the objections to its "traditional" assertions.

In any case, I have found this conversation fruitful, as I hope you have. A blessed Eastertide!

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Dear Mark, sorry I missed your post of the 13th; it is now in place.

I think you assess the situation accurately. There is no hope for dialogue with the self-styled "orthodox" secessionists, and those who choose to walk apart. There is hope for moderates, and even some fairly staunch conservatives -- some of whom really do want to hold things together. I've seen it happen, in the Indaba Listening Process in which I'm involved. So while I see a clear division coming for the Anglican Communion, as I have for a long time, it will be most likely 1/3 of the Primates of the far right against a coalition of the "willing to remain together in disagreement" made of the 1/3 liberal and 1/3 moderates. That's been my projection for a long time, and I don't see reason to change the odds.

C. Wingate said...

Fr. Haller, I don't think "issue du jour" is a particularly apt way of putting it; you make it sound as though this were in the same class of, um personal decision as whether to put two or six candles on the altar. "Presenting issue" I would accept, but then I must add that the issue has been presented, and presented on the basis that opposition to the innovation/change/advance (choose one according to one's position) is inimical to the gospel. Once the bar is raised that high, the options for those who do oppose increasingly get reduced to fight or flight.

To take an example quite close to home (as Jane Dixon was at one time my rector): forcing the female assistant bishop of Washington on parishes who refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of her ministry was confrontational and the antithesis of tolerance. There was no administrative necessity, as Haines was certainly capable of providing those visits himself. But the argument was that the gospel required their submission to her, both because of her position and because of her gender. It became the "issue du jour" because that's what the authorities at Mt. St. Alban decided should happen.

I'm happy to hear that things are not so fraught in you diocese. Down here they have been so at times.

I haven't had a chance to go over the reports, though I am glad to see their appearance. I've been engaged in a frustrating struggle with the latest Brian McLaren book which I need to complete before the book is due back at the library. And I really do not want to get caught up in a debate about the various positions in blog comments; it's too constricting a medium. However, I must say that As far as homosexual marriage is concerned the lack of mention in scripture is a problem for its advocates, not for its detractors. It is necessary to construct an ontology of marriage if same-sex relationships are to be subsumed in it, but if they are not, then the construction isn't necessary. In that respect the bar cam pre-raised, as it were.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thanks, C.W. I used "du jour" simply to avoid the now very frequent "presenting." They are much the same, to my mind. Because there was a time when candles on the altar was seen as a major concern. Even in the Diocese of Washington! I know of a parish there that when ordered by the bishop to remove the candles from its altar, bricked up the windows in the sanctuary and claimed they needed the candles for light! It was definitely a "fight"!

And FWIW I agree that the Dixon situation was neither wisely nor charitably handled. That is not the kind of solution I press for, nor would my bishop, who is very sensitive to such concerns. I think such pugnacious attitudes are the exception rather than the rule, however. Perhaps your sensitivity is heightened due to past exposure. I have never claimed that all liberals are always sweetness and light -- simply that the general tendency of liberalism is by definition more tolerant of dissent. I hope I'm not falling too far into the "no true Scotsman" fallacy, but it seems definitional to me.

As to the SSM issue, as you may know, I've written a book on the subject, in which, in part, I do make a case for consistency with (and perhaps mention in) scripture, and with tradition and reason. Not all are persuaded by my arguments, but I've not seen any cogent response to them that presents anything other than the usual reassertions of premises or evasion and misdirection.

But I realize you are caught up with "The McLaren" -- not as pleasant as a single malt, I take it... ;-)

C. Wingate said...

I'm not sure how far I want to believe in your analogy between candles and marriage, and I suspect inasmuch as you consider one to be as adiaphora as the other, I think you are definitely in the minority. I have to say I have not come across a lot of people in the church who, if pressed for an answer, do not choose between the church being forbidden or obligated to marry homosexuals, but I suspect that few people outside altar guilds in a few rarefied high/Catholic parishes are that set about candles. (Those elsewhere have to get past the losing battle to push the altar back against the wall.) The cry of "justice!" does not ring out when it comes to candles.

And I have to say that the "liberals are tolerant; conservatives are not" trope hasn't been true in my lifetime. American politics has degenerated into a decidedly adolescent attitude on both sides of the aisle, and it doesn't seem to me that "toleration" is the right word to describe an attitude of "I want to do as I please, and anyone else to as long as they don't bother me." And it has definitely seemed to me that church liberals, at least in a core group, have seen the church as an agent of political power. You may wish to exclude yourself from that group (and I'm willing in good faith to accept that self-exclusion, at first) but I don't see a lot of will to resist it. I prefer "presenting' to "du jour" to dispel the notion that the conservatives started it, which they did not.

And the thing is that maybe it's just my pessimism talking, but it seems to me that the tendency in the church is for determinedly traditionalist bishops to be driven away or replaced by non-traditionalists, and for centrist traditionalists to be replaced by liberals, and for intolerant liberals to be replaced by liberal tyrants. I commend your diocese for its toleration, but I am not confident that its attitude will last. Sorry.

I had forgotten your book; I suppose I should put it in my list. McLaren, unfortunately, is one of those Emergent types working the "traditional Christianity is finished" trope that's a century old now (if not more). The problem (and he says he was at one time pointed down the Episcopal ordination path, so it isn't as though he has ignorance for an excuse) is that the only Christian tradition he knows is fundamentalist, evangelical American hyper-Protestantism. So he seems to be basically a theologically (because politically) liberal Miller or Russell or Eddy. (At least he's not Joseph Smith.) It's particularly ironic that he is but a few years older than I and engaged in his house church founding some few years after I was looking up the phone number of the local Episcopal parish upon my return from being confirmed in high school. The problem with narrative, it appears, is that there are too many of them.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Dear C.W., I think you misunderstood me on one point, and I am afraid I don't understand you on another. I did not mean to suggest the candle issue was "hot" today -- but that it definitely was in the nineteenth century, as were a number of other haberdashery issues. My point is that the hot controversies of one era may be looked upon in retrospect as of minor or passing concern. Who, for example, today bothers to check if anyone is circumcised or not? A matter which in apostolic times was a source of considerable division. Closer to our time, many of the controversies of the pre-Reformation and Reformation itself (the common cup, vernacular liturgy, etc.) that were highly divisive are now considered adiaphora. The problem, it seems, is that adiaphora can only really be recognized in retrospect.

Where I don't understand you, and this may be trivial, is your distinction about "presenting" and "du jour." To me they seem equivalent, and I don't read the former as implying the fault lies on one side rather than the other. I'm happy to admit that those such as myself who favor same-sex marriage are proposing a change!

I suppose our differing views of how things are trending reflects our different experiences. I don't know that anyone has actually done a study along the lines of the relative liberalism/conservatism of newly elected bishops. I don't think things in general always trend towards the liberal side (one reason I'm not a "progressivist") -- witness the Supreme Court over the last 40 or so years. I do think TEC has on the whole trended in a more liberal direction; but I don't see that either as the work of the Holy Spirit (as some appear to) or as inevitable or irreversible. But I also do not see the "iron fist" as a general trend, though I acknowledge it happens in some cases -- on both sides of the aisle. But I've also seen toleration on both sides: as part of my work for the Anglican Communion Listening Process, I've seen liberal and conservative bishops and clergy and laity able to sit down together, worship together, and have reasonable discussions together without giving up their strongly held beliefs. That is the kind of church of which I want to be a part.

Peace and joy to you. I am away at a conference through tomorrow and will not likely check my email again until late Sunday.