Again. I'm sorry.
I'm very taken with the various images of stones in the lessons and the psalm.
The first reading is the stoning of Stephen from Acts 7:55-60.
"While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he died."Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 reminds us that God is our "strong rock, a castle to keep me safe, for you are my crag and my stronghold."
1 Peter 2:2-10 implores us to come to Jesus, "a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God's sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ".
In John's Gospel (John 14:1-14), Jesus reminds us that "In my Father's house there are many dwelling places." The gospel story ends with an astonishing promise,
"Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it."I've been holding onto that promise as I consider a response to the Anglican Covenant from my brother, Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG, who has posted his thoughts over at his blog, "In A Godward Direction." His essay is "Still Thinking". You can find it here.
What follows is my response to him. You'll see that this morning's gospel account about 'stones' has influenced some of my thinking.
Let me first say that I am responding to Tobias because he is my brother, sure and true. I have nothing but the deepest respect and admiration for him. He is a good priest and pastor with a brilliant mind and articulate, eloquent voice. His wit is also quite keen and he sometimes makes me laugh right in the middle of a very serious thought. That's quite a talent.
I think what I love most about Tobias is his generosity of spirit. Her really does try to make people feel interesting and listened to, actually take interest in and listen to them. His operating assumption is a positive regard for absolutely everyone, unless proven otherwise incorrect. Even so, he is unfailingly gracious and kind and compassionate.
Which is why it is so difficult to disagree with him in any circumstance. It is even more difficult to do this publicly. However, I feel I must since Tobias is so well respected and his positions so highly regarded as to render his opinions highly persuasive.
Now, I hasten to add that I am no Tobias Haller. I am not going to be able to debate him, point by point. Oh, I could, but I would be a fool to do so. He could unseat me with his rhetorical flourishes and debating ability with one hand tied behind his back and a cloth over his mouth.
I'm simply going to tell you why I disagree with Tobias. More importantly, I'm going to tell you why I think the position Tobias takes is a dangerous one. Not 'end of the world' dangerous, but dangerous to the soul and spirit of Anglicanism.
So, to my thoughts:
Thank you, Tobias, for providing this thoughtful response on a Saturday evening when the mind of a parish priest is usually filled with other details. I appreciate the care with which you responded.
You write: "I have not made up my mind about whether I will vote for or against adoption at General Convention in 2012".
I'm sorry, Tobias. What you write here tells me that you are quite convinced about your position and you are trying to remain open to be otherwise convinced.
Which is fine. Really. You may "still be thinking" but I think your mind is quite made up. While I hear your arguments, I strongly disagree with your position. However, that does not mean that I don't respect you for it. I trust you respect me for my equally strongly held opposite opinion.
Let me just say one thing about what you call “genetic fallacy.”
It's called "context", Tobias. It's the the same way we read scripture. We understand more fully what Jesus was reported to have said because we understand the history of the times, what was going on - the laws, the culture, the customs, the economy. We know who was there and allowed to speak and was named. We compare that to who wasn't there and not allowed to speak and are not recorded in the account.
I am aware of the "process" of how the Covenant was written and who wrote it and from whom the authors sought feedback. It's the 'process' that's flawed which has produced what is in my mind a deeply flawed document.
As one bishop once said to me, "Better to have it said, 'Bad decision' than 'Bad process'." The decision to adopt the Anglican Covenant is, in my mind a bad decision because the process through which it came to be is bad.
The description of what Anglicanism is also flawed. It doesn't resemble much of anything I know about being in The Episcopal Church and part of the Anglican Communion.
And, you are quite right: the Four Instruments of Communion are not given any new power. They are just a new innovation, coming to us as it did from The 1997 Virginia Report of the Inter-Anglican Doctrinal Commission which was presented at Lambeth 1998 and, I think, at General Convention. As I recall, it was not approved by either body, much less the entire communion.
I know this because I was there. At Lambeth. In 1998. And, again in 2008. Which is really the genesis of my deep mistrust of "The Windsor Process" and why I think it's deeply flawed. I know something of how the process works for the Primates, Archbishops and Bishops.
I can still smell the stench from here, all these years later.
I was there, at Lambeth 1998 Conference, when Lambeth Resolution 1.10 was passed.
I clearly remember the "orthodox boyz" in purple shirts coming out of the room where the bishops, archbishops and primates had been meeting, pumping their fists in the air and shouting "V.I.C.T.O.R.Y," as if it were some tailgate party for Jesus.
It was an obscene display of hubris and arrogance.
It did not escape my attention that conservative bishops from across the world had already met the year before, in Dallas in September of 1997, to develop their strategy for the upcoming 1998 Lambeth Conference.
The Dallas Statement includes assertions such as the following:
“We call upon the Lambeth Conference to empower the Primates’ Meeting to become a place of appeal for those Anglican bodies who are oppressed, marginalized, or denied faithful episcopal oversight by their own bishops. In such situations, a way must be found to provide pastoral support, oversight and formal ecclesiastical relationships for faithful people.”(See also “The Anglican Covenant: Where It Came From” by the Rev'd Dr. Caroline Hall)
That was part of 'the process' that brought us The Anglican Covenant, Tobias. Care and concern for "the oppressed, marginalized" white, affluent, heterosexual, able-bodied well educated men - which is so sadly ironic I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
Were there any LGBT people who were authors or had any input about The Anglican Covenant? The answer, of course, is 'No'.
And yet, The Anglican Covenant is all about us - LGBT people, with an undercurrent of hostility to women in the episcopacy, as we see in the 2007 Primates Statement from Dar es Salaam.
27. A further complication is that a number of dioceses or their bishops have indicated, for a variety of reasons, that they are unable in conscience to accept the primacy of the Presiding Bishop in The Episcopal Church, and have requested the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates to consider making provision for some sort of alternative primatial ministry. At the same time we recognise that the Presiding Bishop has been duly elected in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, which must be respected.
Indeed, what we saw at Lambeth 1998, the very next day after Lambeth Resolution 1.10 came a resolution which granted "freedom of conscience" about the ordination of women, stating that "bishops should not be compelled to ordain or license women" . Ironically, it was Archbishop Penny Jamieson of New Zealand who moved the resolution.In God's house, there are many dwelling places. The Anglican Communion, as C.S. Lewis once said, is "the roomiest room in all of Western Christendom".
This is what the process has brought us. V.I.C.T.O.R.Y. for those who consider themselves "orthodox" Christians - most of whom have now already left the building.
This - THIS - is why I am so clear that the process is shot through and through with misogyny, sexism, heterosexism and homophobia. No one is immune from the toxicity.
So, we have the Anglican Covenant that will "just" allow us to continue to talk with one another, but - oopsie! - now enshrines the innovation of the "Four Instruments of Communion" and elevates a Resolution at Lambeth 1998 to a place of esteem and authority neither has ever enjoyed - nor deserve.
You'll excuse me if I see the same technique utilized at Lambeth being employed in the process to approve the Anglican Covenant and understand my deep mistrust.
Why would we adopt, endorse, subscribe or accede to such a fatally flawed, deceptive document?
My suggestion as to how to proceed? Let's study all these new innovations - The Virginia Report's instruments of communion, and The Anglican Covenant - for, oh 20, 30 years or so. You know, the way we do with all 'innovations'. Like, say, the ordination of women.
Not yes. Not no. Just "We're still thinking." After all, it's a tried and true method of the Anglican way. You know. Like you're doing. I could live with that.
I'm sure the folks who gave us B033 will be able to whip up some good Anglican Fudge that will buy us some time, allow us to stay at the table - talking to each other or past each other as we have done for years - while the rest of the church moves on to respond to the call of the Spirit as we hear it in our own way, in our own cultural context, and the voices of people who have been pushed to the margins of power and authority in the councils and corridors of the church given a place to speak. And, minister. And, lead.
John 8:1-11 - Jesus and the woman 'caught' in adultery.
Just imagine The Episcopal Church as the part of the Body of Christ which is the finger of Jesus in the sand, writing something, thinking about the allegations and decisions of the rest of the crowd while they are poised to condemn and throw stones.
7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.That works for me.
Let's take those stones that have been thrown against us, asking God to forgive those who cast them, and edify and expand our spiritual home that looks like the finger of Jesus, writing in the sand, waiting for all those who are without sin to leave until it is just the accused, standing before Jesus.
May we "be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ".
Like the angry crowd who makes righteous accusations, may we put down our stones and walk away in peace.
Like the woman charged with adultery, may we all be left to stand before Jesus so we might, "Go and sin no more."
For this is the awesome promise of Jesus, "If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it."