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


Fr. J said...

The ACI article in question, which you quote from without linking to, also goes to great lengths to point out the ways that the GAFCON movement in general and some of the GAFCON primates in particular have been exercising hubris in their attitudes towards Communion life, including by way of making themselves absent from the Primates' Meeting. Your selective quotation here suggests either a desire to pick a fight or a lack of having read through to the end.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Fr. J., I perhaps should have indicated that to the extent the ACI, like Fearon, critiques the refusants I agree with them.

But that is not my point or the point of the quoted text (or the larger argument of ACI from the beginning) -- rather it is the point on which I disagree: their suggestion that the PB should absent herself so as not to disrupt the functionality of the meeting, which is part of their larger agenda to keep TEC out of the affairs of the Communion to the extent possible.

It seems to me you are the one trying to pick a fight, by critiquing something I did not say (assuming I had some purpose in not saying it) rather than addressing the actual subject of the post: the whole philosophy of insisting that those who disagree with the "consensus" should not be part of the discussions. That is a major theme in the work of ACI authors, both within ACI and in their work on the Windsor Report and the Covenant Process. Do you assert that the quotation from the ACI paper misrepresents their view? If that is the case, then I am at fault.

As to what I didn't say, it is, of course, no surprise at all, and barely worth mentioning to my mind, that they urge the GS Primates to attend the meeting. Does anyone think they thought otherwise? I thought my citation of Fearon -- an actual Nigerian bishop, was more of a surprise, and hence cited him.

LKT said...

In light of the shooting today in Arizona, I am more acutely aware than ever of the danger inherent in seeing one another as enemies. The PB's presence or absence does not of itself derail the meeting. And maybe the business of the meeting is less important than the coming together, the encounter itself.

Disagreement is not an evil to be avoided, but as you point out, an opportunity for comprehension.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thanks, LKT. Although differently expressed, the sentiments towards silencing disagreement -- whether in a misguided effort to "keep the peace," or by a liberal political correctness, or a reactionary silencing of "innovators" -- is actually more damaging than letting things play out in the open forum of discussion, with all the authorized participants willing to engage in the discussion present and speaking.

The sad fact is that in support of their own agenda the ACI wants as many "conservative" voices at the table as possible, and want the PB to stay away so as to "allow" them to come. It is similar to their approach to the Covenant: they're (1) urging the GS (including GAFCON) to sign on in spite of their objections to its being less punitive than draft versions; (2) claiming TEC cannot in conscience sign on, and therefore should not sign on; and (3) arguing that once this is accomplished, the GS signatories can amend it to bring it back into line with the earlier drafts, in order to punish and exclude TEC from communion life even more.

There is no secret in any of this, and it amazes me that Fr. J., for instance, imagines that I am the one trying to pick a fight!

On the contrary, as one intensively involved in the Indaba process, I encourage everyone to be at the table, not just the table of debate and discussion, but the Table of the Lord.

PseudoPiskie said...

The sign on a local church says, "Satan subtracts and divides. God adds and multiplies." Every time I pass it I think of the IRD, ACI, ACNA and others who would claim exclusive access to Godde.

Fr. J said...


I've re-read your post a couple of times, but I'm afraid I can't see how what you say is anything other than a false comparison. It reads as if you're saying ACI are the bad guys for not wanting the PB to attend the Primates' Meeting, whereas Bishop Fearon is a good guy for reprimanding the GS primates who are threatening not to attend. Perhaps that isn't what you meant, but it is how your piece reads.

Furthermore, Dr. Radner's essay does more than just encourage the GAFCON primates to attend the Primates' Meeting so that there will be more conservative voices at the table. He says in no uncertain terms that what they are doing by not attending is an act of hubris that is inconsistent with the gospel. To pick one example out of the many paragraphs on this topic:

"What is one afraid of in going to meetings and engaging those who oppose us and the Gospel as we understand it? Yes, it costs money, and it might seem we are wasting it if… what? we are not listened to? if others do not keep their word? if, that is, things do not go as we want them to?"

And a little later in the same paragraph (I cut only because of the limitations of the comment box):

"Foolish or hopeful? Jesus continued to meet the leaders of his people face to face, even on a cross, daring to say 'they know not what they do'. There is no other standard."

Does it mis-characterize the essay to say that Dr. Radner and others believe that the PB should not go to the Primates' Meeting? Only to the extent that this idea, which is not the essay's central focus at all, is stripped from its context. The point that Radner makes well is that hubris now abounds at all levels of leadership in the Communion and that it is a hopeless task to hope that the very broken, very human shepherds who guide us will come up with a way, political or otherwise, to bring us through this crisis. Rather, if we are to see revival and new life at all, it will come because God wills it and because all things are possible through Him.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Dear Fr. J., thanks for your further reflection. Let me try to clarify.

I am saying that I think the ACI are wrong (not "the bad guys" as I don't think they are "bad" in any ontological sense!) for casting the PB as the derailer of the Primates' Meeting and urging her absence. So far you are reading me as I intend.

But I did not mean to set Fearon up as a foil against ACI, or in connection with the PB at all. I simply cite him as a Bishop of the Church of Nigeria who is bucking the Gafcon trend to take offense and not attend any meeting at which the PB is present.

Where I fault the ACI is in their urging the PB not to attend. This, it seems to me, is an incoherent position, and it is that incoherency I am critiquing: urging "their side" to attend for the purpose of "engaging with those who oppose us and the Gospel as we understand it" while at the same time urging the principal of those very opponents not to attend! While I agree this is not the main thrust of Radner's essay, it is, for me, the point that makes his argument incoherent, as high-minded as it sounds. If his message to both "sides" was "meet and engage, as Jesus did" I would have no objection.

Moreover, surely you know that Radner is not writing in a vacuum, and that this essay needs to be understood in keeping with his larger agenda -- which is in fact to exclude TEC (apart from the "communion partners") from Communion life as much as possible. That is the ultimately most important context for understanding this essay.

Hope that clears things a bit. I sometimes write too quickly; but on rereading my post, I do not see what you are reading into it, and you appear to me to have missed the incoherency in Radner's argument, which was my primary point: all should meet especially when they disagree.