I very much appreciated reading Philip Turner's ruminations about "The Episcopalian Preference" (November 2003). I have thought about similar issues regarding the state of the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA), most especially since the Presiding Bishop defended the General Convention's confirmation of Gene Robinson to the episcopate at Lambeth this past October. Unfortunately, arguments that suggest that this is just how the democratic process in ECUSA works do not square with Scripture, tradition, or reason--the very tools, articulated by Thomas Hooker, by which Anglicans discern truth.
However, American democracy as expressed through the Episcopal Church is not the only problem. It is not just a question of how ECUSA does its business but, more importantly, of how Anglicans of any variety and in any nation (even orthodox ones like myself) go about their business. What is our authority? To whom do we appeal for definitive and binding answers? The simple answer is stated above in what Anglicans refer to as "Hooker's stool." Anglicans assume that if we devoutly apply Hooker's methods to any crucial theological question we will arrive at a very sound answer. Mr. Turner's numerous examples clearly demonstrate that this is not the case. Our repeated failure to reprove and adequately rebuke heresy calls into serious question our theological system.
Although I love our Anglican ethos and believe that there is a great deal to commend within it, the question of binding authority is a serious one that requires our utmost attention. American democracy (within the Church) and Anglican polity and practice both need to be addressed.
Donald P. Richmond
Dean of Christian Spirituality
St. Andrew's Theological College and Seminary
Apple Valley, California
I may be the thousandth person to point this out, but if so, it only underscores the necessity of repeating it: Isn't Philip Turner drinking from the same stream he identifies as the source of the problems in his beloved ECUSA?
Mr. Turner aptly clarifies for us how ECUSA has lost its mind--that is, lost its knowledge of how to make a decision. He rightly ties this ecclesial insanity to drinking from the stream of the Enlightenment rather than the stream of a "preestablished moral order." Thus he says, "For moral agents who think of themselves as individuals, selves, and persons, sexuality becomes ... both a marker of identity and a primary way of expressing the preferences that define identity." Bravo. He...