Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Fundamentalist Episcopalians?

Not two minutes after I finished writing a paper on Harry Emerson Fosdick's sermon, "Shall the Fundamentalists Win," for the CHBC internship, I read this editorial from the Washington Post written by prominent members of The Falls Church. John Yates and Os Guinness explain in detail why they left the ECUSA, and as I observed recently, it's about far more than homosexuality, as many news reports have suggested.

Thinking about these two situations in such close juxtaposition reminded me how many of the same concerns, values, and ideals Yates and Guinness and the 1920s fundamentalists share.

The conclusion of the editorialfollows. Regardless of our remaining denominational differences, this stand is cause for rejoicing:
These are the outrages we protest. These are the infidelities that drive us to separate. These are the real issues to be debated. We remain Anglicans but leave the Episcopal Church because the Episcopal Church first left the historic faith. Like our spiritual forebears in the Reformation, "Here we stand. So help us God. We can do no other."

Read Fosdick's sermon here.


Bruce McKanna said...

Here are some comments on Yates and Guinness' op-ed from Christianity Today's weblog, posted 1/9/07:

"Such explanations have been given by orthodox Anglicans around the world, but reporters continue to shorthand the conflict as being 'over gays.' Good for Yates and Guinness for working to set the matter straight. However, one does wish that they would have added a bit more on why they actually severed ties with the Episcopal Church, since that was the supposed subject of their article. There are many who agree the Episcopal Church has abandoned historic Christianity, but who choose to remain within the church for various reasons. What's the connection between opposing the teachings and practices of Episcopal leaders and leaving the Episcopal Church?"

As a pastor reared in fundamentalism and now ministering in conservative evangelicalism, I wonder... is CT really wishing for a better articulation of a theology of ecclesiastical separation, or are they implying that legitimate separation needs to be based on something more than the abandonment of cardinal doctrines?

It's one thing to suggest that someone who retains orthodox belief might choose to stay in a drifting denomination (this is one example of the difference between evangelical and fundamentalist thought on the matter), but I have a much harder time with the notion that there needs to be more than a demonstration of doctrinal infidelity in the church to warrant separation from it. I hope that's not what they meant, because if apostasy is not enough, then there could be no possible reason for separation at all, in any circumstance.

Actually, I could imagine fundamentalists wishing for the same thing that CT did, only because they would have liked to see the authors argue for all true believers to follow their example and separate from their faithless churches. Because they did not do that in their article, I don't see why CT wasn't satisfied, unless they are so skittish about separation as something that fundamentalists do that they can't think about "evangelicals" and "separation" in the same sentence.

I would imagine that the average reader of the Post who has no knowledge of fundamentalist and evangelical wranglings over separation had no problem following the logic of Yates and Guinness, even if that reader personally found their beliefs to be repugnant.

Ben said...

Assuming your assessment of Post readers is correct, your final paragraph really nails CT. What an indictment that the flagship publication of evangelicalism would surprised that someone believes that doctrine is the foundation of unity! I guess that's the bowl of lentils evangelicalism bought when it sold its birthright decades ago.

Unless, of course, the CT blog has been hijacked by fundamentalists . . .