NPR Letters on the Episcopal Church Story Last Week

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Listen to them both. In the second one we learn that the Episcopal Church has "long held" a belief in the three legs [which itself is wrong] of Scripture, tradition and "continuing revelation"(!) [More Adult Education needed anyone?].

Why is NPR using the wrong nomenclature of Episcopals? Ugh--KSH.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)

31 Comments
Posted June 28, 2009 at 4:40 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Jeffersonian wrote:

Why is NPR using the wrong nomenclature of Episcopals?

As Louis Armstrong said when someone asked what jazz was, “Man, if you gotta ask, you’ll never know.”

June 28, 5:31 pm | [comment link]
2. Kendall Harmon wrote:

Jeffersonian, NPR is better than that.

June 28, 5:38 pm | [comment link]
3. Jeffersonian wrote:

If the facts do not conform to the theory, do we adjust the facts or the theory?

June 28, 5:55 pm | [comment link]
4. AquinasOnSteroids wrote:

Continuing Revelation????? Sounds like the Mormons!!!!!

June 28, 6:15 pm | [comment link]
5. Jeffersonian wrote:

Great, now we’ve got the Mormons ticked off at us.

June 28, 6:22 pm | [comment link]
6. Fr. Dale wrote:

#2. Kendall Harmon,

Jeffersonian, NPR is better than that.

Kendall, no it’s not.

June 28, 6:45 pm | [comment link]
7. Passing By wrote:

“Why is NPR using the wrong nomenclature of Episcopals”?

Probably for the same reason that ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, or CNN would.

June 28, 6:55 pm | [comment link]
8. InChristAlone wrote:

Well let’s be honest, parts of TEC actually have held to “Scripture, tradition and “continuing revelation,” it just isn’t part of the Anglican tradition.

June 28, 7:19 pm | [comment link]
9. centexn wrote:

Episcopals??  Where did that name for Episcopalians come from?

June 28, 7:45 pm | [comment link]
10. Kendall Harmon wrote:

Ahem, please, this thread is on the two letters and the issue of media terminology and its accuracy, NOT NPR.

June 28, 8:13 pm | [comment link]
11. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

Episcopals - friendly Episcopalians?  Cf. Episcochums.

June 28, 8:55 pm | [comment link]
12. Alta Californian wrote:

I heard that this morning on Weekend Edition, too, and was irritated.  My only thought was that perhaps someone had encountered Maynard’s “Those Episkopols” in their research for the original story. 


I do often wonder whether this sort of thing is carelessness or intentional irony. I recall an episode of “Dharma and Greg”, where Greg’s mother Kitty introduces them to “the Episcopal Archbishop of San Francisco”.  I remember thinking, either someone didn’t do their research or they’re intentionally getting this wrong so as not to refer to a real person (i.e. “the Episcopal Bishop of California”—the actor playing the “Archbishop” at that time certainly looked nothing like +Bill Swing).  In NPR’s case, perhaps they were being a little too clever, in insinuating that there two sides to the Episcopal coin now, two Episcopals.  Ultimately I suspect both “Dharma” and “Weekend Edition” were probably just careless.  It probably didn’t occur to them to worry what nomenclature we use.  One can forgive a sitcom for that, they had no reason to care.  But a respected (by some, including myself) news organization should be more careful, and do their research.

June 28, 9:22 pm | [comment link]
13. robroy wrote:

Mr. Hurst had made this same mistake in the commentary section of the original story. I took him to task on it and he said that he was “paraphrasing” Hooker.

June 28, 10:32 pm | [comment link]
14. The young fogey wrote:

That’s just it, Erik and InChristAlone. Liberal Protestantism, like all Protestantism believing in a fallible church, can change its doctrine like when Joseph Smith claimed to get new revelation, taking him out of Christianity.

In ways both liberal Episcopalianism and Mormonism are English Calvinism gone bad. So’s Unitarianism.

High-church libertarian curmudgeon

June 29, 7:49 am | [comment link]
15. BlueOntario wrote:

It is interesting that Hurst makes such prominent mention of the Friends. At best it is sloppy history.

June 29, 9:34 am | [comment link]
16. rob k wrote:

No. 12 - Maybe they were confusing ++Swing with the RC Archbishop of SF

June 29, 6:41 pm | [comment link]
17. Alta Californian wrote:

Possible.  I do think they chose Episcopal intentionally, to highlight Kitty’s snobbishness (though fading as we slide into cultural irrelevance, the notion of TEC as a church of the upperclass is still holding on in some places).

June 29, 8:31 pm | [comment link]
18. centexn wrote:

I hear that term all the time. Its very common when people who are not Episcopalians use Episcopals in identifying us who have known ourselves as Episcopalians.  It grates because it sounds like someone, either ignorant or insouciant, mispronouncing your name.  One can forgive ignorance..insouciance..not so sure.

On another note…I recently visited the website for the Church which has the dubious honor of having had on its vestry the gentleman who pimped his adopted child.  HATE

June 30, 5:38 am | [comment link]
19. centexn wrote:

sorry hit the wrong key.

As I was saying, hate that word, but its so descriptive of the heinous nature of the act…a very dark color…but that is beside the point.
This was the heading at the top of the home link(http://www.ouradvocate.org/index.htm),  I am guessing the mission statement, “The Advocate - An Episcopal church where tradition, liturgy and reason meet compassion, justice and transformation.”  I really want to be generous but I thought it was scripture, tradition, and reason.  Maybe I am just looking for a fight.

June 30, 6:03 am | [comment link]
20. Jeff in VA wrote:

I heard the story and “continuing revelation” stuck out to me, too.  I figured T1:9 would pick it up.

What I find fascinating is the easy equation of “reason” (which IIRC is the usual “third leg” in Hooker’s formulation) with “continuing revelation.”  As I understand it, the liberal logic goes like this:
1)  “Reason” is at least co-equal with Scripture and Tradition, and all are revelation.
2)  But I don’t like what Scripture and Tradition tell me.
3)  Reason, on the other hand, can justify whatever I want to do, or think should be done.
4)  Therefore, Reason is the same thing as Continuing Revelation, i.e. God changing His mind and giving His blessing to whatever I want to do.

(I’m not saying liberals—okay, reappraisers—will admit this is the logic they’re using, in as few words.)

Whether you talk about Hooker’s original trio in terms of priority or at the very least consistency, I think it’s pretty clear that Mr. Hurst is in need of some remedial Anglican theology.  This easy slide into functional moral self-determination and remaking God in our own image is all too familiar…

July 1, 9:58 am | [comment link]
21. Ross wrote:

#20:  That is not the reappraiser logic, and you know it.  I will refrain from describing reasserter reasoning in the same fashion.

The difference is a disagreement about the nature of revelation.  Reasserters believe that God has handed humanity a number of truths, and the church’s job is to zealously preserve those truths unchanged.  The code-phrase for this is, “The faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”

Reappraisers, in general, would question whether there is “a faith” in that sense that was “once for all delivered.”  Certainly God has revealed things to many people at many times, and the most complete revelation was in the person of Jesus; but even Jesus did not leave behind anything like a complete set of doctrine and dogmas, and he gave only the barest and sketchiest outlines of what the practice of a “church” might look like.  The first generations of the church made all that stuff up.  They based it as best they could on the life and teachings of Jesus, and the Jewish tradition he came from, and their own spiritual and religious experience, of course.  But it was (and is) a human creation, and like any human creation is bound to contain errors.

We here in the 21st century are no smarter than they were, and no more virtuous or spiritual or earnest.  And admittedly they were a lot closer in time to the historical person of Jesus.  But the advantage that we have over them is roughly two thousand years more collective human experience from which to draw, and that accumulated weight of experience informs our attempts to make sense of Jesus just as much as the experience of the church fathers informed their attempts.  It’s not surprising that we come to somewhat different conclusions.  Our descendants two thousand years from now will no doubt come up with yet different answers than we do—hopefully wiser and better ones, based on their superior depth of history.

That’s a rather different thing than what you impute to “liberals.”

July 1, 11:34 am | [comment link]
22. Jeff in VA wrote:

Ross (#21), I didn’t say they’d be honest about it; in fact, I think I said quite the opposite. 

My point was that if “Reason” is not seen as subordinate to “Scripture” and “Tradition,” then it quickly becomes “Continuing Revelation,” and thereby a license to do whatever one wishes, though (again) I’m certain those who adopt that position would claim that revelation originates outside themselves.  It’s the same issue I have with fundamentalist evangelicals who claim God told them to do something that their co-religionists would say is clearly contradicted by scripture and the teaching of the church.  You can claim “new revelation” all you want, but unless there’s some external means of judging its authority and validity (such as consistency with historical revelation), it’s pretty much indistinguishable from claiming divine warrant for whatever I feel like doing today.

But it was (and is) a human creation . . .

Ships passing and all that.  Yeah, it is a disagreement about the nature of revelation.

July 1, 12:13 pm | [comment link]
23. Ross wrote:

#22:  I don’t appreciate being called a liar.  My reasoning is as I have said.  You can dispute it all you like, but you have no grounds for asserting that I am being dishonest about it.

July 1, 1:25 pm | [comment link]
24. Jeff in VA wrote:

Ross (#23),

If I consider someone’s views to be objectively baseless and incorrect and say so, then even if that person genuinely believes it, I can’t deny that I’ve at least accused him or her of self-deception.

I don’t think it’s a new complaint from reasserters that many reappraisers are seeking a religious cloak for conforming to whatever is culturally acceptable at the moment. 

For those who genuinely adhere to the understanding of revelation you articulated in #21, all I was saying is that I find it hard (nay, impossible) to draw any meaningful practical distinction from the first group.  In other words, if the only standard for evaluating whether it’s revelation is your Reason, there’s no way for me to say it’s not just your Will.

So, someone who genuinely believes that might not be lying (to me or to herself), but even if she isn’t lying, there’s no way for me to tell.

July 1, 2:21 pm | [comment link]
25. Ross wrote:

If you meant by your comment that “reappraisers are deluded,” then I am less offended.  I think you’re wrong, of course.  But what you said was that reappraisers are liars—quote, “I didn’t say they’d be honest about it.”  I don’t think that can reasonably be interpreted as, “I think they are sincere but fooling themselves.”  Dishonesty requires deliberate intent to deceive, and you have yet to supply any evidence for such an accusation.

July 1, 2:51 pm | [comment link]
26. Jeff in VA wrote:

Ross (#25), fair enough.  I should have said “honest with themselves” about it—that’s more along the lines of what I meant.

July 1, 3:18 pm | [comment link]
27. Fr. Dale wrote:

“The problem with humans is that they are not rational, they are rationalizing.” (from one of my sociology professors and I can no longer remember his name).

July 1, 4:00 pm | [comment link]
28. Ross wrote:

#26 Jeff:  Fair enough in turn; thank you.

July 1, 4:49 pm | [comment link]
29. rob k wrote:

Didn’t Hookers’s view of the place of reason in the so-called three-legged stool comcept make it subordinate to Scripture and Tradition by stipulating acceptance of their authority by reason?

July 2, 4:18 am | [comment link]
30. Ross wrote:

#29 rob k says:

Didn’t Hookers’s view of the place of reason in the so-called three-legged stool comcept make it subordinate to Scripture and Tradition by stipulating acceptance of their authority by reason?

Hooker’s view was Scripture first, then reason, and finally tradition.

What Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that first place both of credit and obedience is due; the next whereunto is whatsoever any man can necessarily conclude by force of reason; after these the voice of the Church succeedeth.  That which the Church by her ecclesiastical authority shall probably think and define to be true or good, must in congruity of reason over-rule all other inferior judgments whatsoever.

July 2, 12:02 pm | [comment link]
31. rob k wrote:

Must have been someone else writing about Hooker, or something I misunderstood.  In this case I disagree with Hookerl.  I’ll go back to the Continuum site.  I think that’s where I got this idea.

July 3, 6:03 am | [comment link]
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