Nigel Taber-Hamilton: The Limits of Tolerance

Posted by Kendall Harmon

One of the most significant failures of modern progressive Episcopalians is the belief that the application of reason to any given conflict will ultimately prove effective in convincing our opponents of the correctness of our cause.

This is proved false again and again, of course; people are often irrational. But our own innate – sometimes arrogant – belief in the reasonableness of humanity and its susceptibility to what we perceive as rational discourse seems to have the ability to overwhelm the mountains of evidence to the contrary.

This is clearly the case in the current struggle within the Anglican Communion. The majority in the Episcopal Church continues to maintain a tolerant attitude to those within our own province and in Africa who have adopted a stance toward our actions that has profound echoes of the scapegoating and exclusion that the first Puritans practiced.

It should be said that the perception of Episcopalian tolerance by these Puritan heirs is quite different than our own self-understanding. Part of their concern is, I think, that the very beliefs they abhor will be imposed on them, either by canonical action or the pressure of the majority. Calming fears is surely a part of toleration.

Yet those who stand against our vision are driven by a narrow imperial ideology that denies our right simply to exist and seeks to delegitimize our identity as Anglicans. The overall conservative message – certainly presented by the leadership cadre of this group – is “Think as we think, be ‘our sort of Christian,' or we will seek to exclude you from the Anglican community of Christians.”

Such rhetoric is not an empty threat. We continue to see well-planned and organized attempts to bring about the replacement of the Episcopal Church as the U.S. embodiment of Anglicanism by such groups as the American Anglican Council, the Anglican Communion Network, Forward in Faith North America, and, most recently, the “Convocation of Anglicans in North America” (Archbishop of Nigeria Peter Akinola’s extra-territorial “Nigerian” mission to the U.S.A.).

And such a strategy is being pursued elsewhere in the Anglican Communion, most notably in Canada, England, and Australia.

Until now we have not prepared well to face this assault. And so we have been blinded to this narrow totalitarian vision seeping into our nation’s and our faith’s – and even our Communion’s – DNA. It is a vision that threatens to destroy our open North American society and emerging Christian identity.

Read it alll.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: CommentaryAnglican Identity

18 Comments
Posted May 31, 2007 at 9:13 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Phil wrote:

The truth is beginning to dawn on us, however: toleration has its limits. Unlimited tolerance will lead to the end of tolerance, for the tolerant will be stamped out, leaving only the extremists. A tolerance that is unlimited in scope and boundary-less in expression represents a fundamental error of judgment on our part.

Indeed; more true than he knows, and a good capsule of the history of ECUSA over the past thirty years.

May 31, 9:46 am | [comment link]
2. Daniel Muth wrote:

I find it hard not to feel something of a thrill of envy for someone like this who can, with such apparent honestly, live in so small, simple, and unfettered a world as his where apparently, an effortless puff of reason is sufficient to overturn any and all theological objections (including the consistent witness of thousands of years of Divine Revelation) to his political agenda, where all disputants are either reasoned, sensible agents of light or else bigoted, dimwitted workers of evil, cackling and twirling their mustaches as they tie innocent homosexuals and preogressives to the rails of obscurant dogma.  It must be so comforting to slough off the last traces of forebearance for others, to divest oneself of the responsibility of actually listening to what others have to say.  I wonder what it’s like, I really do.  I must sheepishly confess that some part of me would love to do something similar, but alas I have been chosen to be a Christian and that means hard work, patience, the sufference of fools, if not gladly, at least with the recognition that the same Lord died for their salvation as for mine.  It means I need to see in them His own image and likeness, and however much I disagree, at least extend to them the courtesy, owed to all made in His image, of forebearance and some semblence of His love.  But doesn’t it sound delicious, at least in one’s unguarded moments, to think of giving it all up and talk like this.  I’d love to try it some day, but I can’t help but suspect that it might not be the best thing for my soul.

May 31, 9:48 am | [comment link]
3. Milton wrote:

Gee, NTH+, you sound paranoid.  Unless the Vast Right-Wing Anglican Conspiracy really IS out to get you!

May 31, 9:56 am | [comment link]
4. Larry Morse wrote:

This essay is a good measure of the degree of desperation that TEC is increasingly feeling. The tone is intemperate. But this isn’t the point really. Rather it is the sense of hanging from a cliff by one’s fingers while the rain is washing out the roots one holds. He smells death; it is close, too close,and no one is coming to help him and the others holding on to his ankles. Perhaps if he can shift the blame for his being there, someone will overlook that he slipped off himself. Will someone help him? LM

May 31, 10:05 am | [comment link]
5. Rev. J wrote:

Go to Page 317 or Page 350 in the BCP, and read the FIRST COMMANDMENT, then think about tolerance, and how tolerant God is.

May 31, 10:18 am | [comment link]
6. Veronique wrote:

This would be funny if it weren’t so sad.  TEC thinking it’s been too tolerant of conservatives !  Now I would agree that TEC has been too tolerant.. of unrepentance, of heresies, of bad hermeneutics.  We do live in a parallel universe.  I could rewrite the whole thing, inverting almost every sentence, to sincerely hold the exact opposite views. 
The overall conservative message is “Think as we think, be our sort of Christian or we will seek to exclude you from the Anglican community of Christians” ?  Well, I’m sorry that’s not radical inclusion, but to be part of the Anglican Communion one should be Anglican, which is first of all Christian.  Not an emerging Christian identity that can be shaped into whatever TEC wants, as they feel.  And since the American church has shown that it is not willing to respect the boundaries of the Anglican faith when simply asked to by the other Primates (leaving aside for a moment the fact that they made them ask, when it should have been obvious), it will come to signing on to a Covenant.  It’s a more legalistic approach, but one that fits right into the legalistic/lawsuit-happy culture, nay, DNA, of our nation.

We should indeed keep the faith (not the one begun with WO, we like to go back a bit further), and be firm that, while we welcome everyone on this journey, we will not allow pride and unrepentance to destroy Christianity in light of a God who calls us to come to Him in humility and accept Him as our Savior, that we may be changed into His likeness.

May 31, 10:25 am | [comment link]
7. BrianInDioSpfd wrote:

The canaries in the Anglican coal mine are our gay brothers and lesbian sisters and their supporters, attacked with increasing vehemence by the shrill voice of conservativism. Having spent the last 30 years berating and seeking to marginalize various ethnic minorities and women, conservative rhetoric condemning gays and lesbians has reached an Inquisitional pitch. If we are not alarmed by this trend, the liberating teachings of Christ will succumb to the religious fascism of our age.

No one I know on the conservative side fits this description.  Rather there is a real issue about how to truly love sinners of all kinds, including ourselves.  It is not very loving to merrily encourage sinners on a path to perdition the way TEC wants to do.  Nigel Taber-Hamilton’s words do not sound very loving. 

Let us pray for him and for others that they will be delivered from deception.  Saul the persecutor was turned to Paul the Apostle.  May the Lord turn the hearts of those who are persecuting his flock.

Think ye not that without profit there are evil men in this world, and that no good God maketh of them. Every evil man either on this account liveth that he may be corrected, or on this account liveth that through him a good man may be exercised. O that therefore they that do now exercise us would be converted, and together with us be exercised! Nevertheless, so long as they are such as to exercise, let us not hate them: because in that wherein any one of them is evil, whether unto the end he is to persevere, we know not; and ofttimes when to thyself thou seemest to have been hating an enemy, thou hast been hating a brother, and knowest not.  [AUGUSTIN: EXPOSITIONS ON THE BOOK OF PSALMS, Edited by Philip Schaff, Psalm 55, p. 464]

May 31, 11:32 am | [comment link]
8. RalphM wrote:

We continue to see well-planned and organized attempts to bring about the replacement of the Episcopal Church as the U.S. embodiment of Anglicanism by such groups as the American Anglican Council, the Anglican Communion Network, Forward in Faith North America, and, most recently, the “Convocation of Anglicans in North America” (Archbishop of Nigeria Peter Akinola’s extra-territorial “Nigerian” mission to the U.S.A.).

I agree that it is a well planned and organized attempt that is bringing about the replacement of the Episcopal Church.  It has been going on for decades and is the fruit of the work of those who treat scripture as a guideline.  As you sow, so shall ye reap…..

May 31, 11:44 am | [comment link]
9. Phil wrote:

Amen, BrianInDioSpfd; and, in a similar vein, here is an excerpt from St Nicolai of Zica’s “Prayer for Enemies:”

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.
Enemies have driven me into Thy embrace more than friends have. Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world. Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world. Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath Thy tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

May 31, 12:50 pm | [comment link]
10. Jim the Puritan wrote:


It should be said that the perception of Episcopalian tolerance by these Puritan heirs is quite different than our own self-understanding.

Jim the Puritan pleads guilty.

May 31, 1:44 pm | [comment link]
11. libraryjim wrote:

Tolerance, as defined by TEC and other politically correct organization, falls in the lines of the old Irish toast:

Here’s to you and
here’s to me.
and if you and me
should disagree,
then to he11 to you
and here’s to me!

May 31, 2:40 pm | [comment link]
12. Jim the Puritan wrote:

Part of their concern is, I think, that the very beliefs they abhor will be imposed on them, either by canonical action or the pressure of the majority. Calming fears is surely a part of toleration.

No, this Puritan’s real concern is that TEC is promulgating false teaching and heresy to people who don’t know any better, primarily because they have all been kept Bible-illiterate.  Such actions have eternal consequences.

Although Scripture is clear that severe punishment will be meted out to false teachers on Judgment Day, we cannot let thousands of people be led astray to Hell by clergy who teach what is directly contrary to the Word of God, and call it good.

The other night we had a pastor from another church come speak to our church men’s group (yes, we have a large men’s group in our church) about our responsibilities as Christian men.  He spoke about the man being enticed to destruction by an adultress in Proverbs 7:


    All at once he followed her
    like an ox going to the slaughter,
    like a deer stepping into a noose

23 till an arrow pierces his liver,
    like a bird darting into a snare,
    little knowing it will cost him his life.

24 Now then, my sons, listen to me;
    pay attention to what I say.

25 Do not let your heart turn to her ways
    or stray into her paths.

26 Many are the victims she has brought down;
    her slain are a mighty throng.

27 Her house is a highway to the grave,
    leading down to the chambers of death.

His point was that the worst part of this chapter of Proverbs is that the story is told from the viewpoint of another man sitting at his window, watching this taking place, but doing nothing to warn the other man of the danger he was in.  He emphasized that as Christians, we have an obligation to attempt to rescue people being enticed by the false beliefs of the world before they crash and burn.  Although the minister did not in any way make this allusion, TEC came into my mind as the adultress at the street corner.

May 31, 2:52 pm | [comment link]
13. robroy wrote:

“Until now we have not prepared well to face this assault.” I would say that they are bringing the formidable force of David Beers’ artillery against this assault. Literally millions of dollars are being brought against the assault. Fortunately, as Shakespeare said, “but at the length truth will out.”

May 31, 3:49 pm | [comment link]
14. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

This diatribe is proof that some people really do believe newspeak.  That’s rather frightening.  I don’t think Nigel gets out very often or very far.

May 31, 9:12 pm | [comment link]
15. Larry Morse wrote:

#12. YOu say you have a large men’s group. How did you accomplish this? I really am interested in how a success story came to pass. Larry

May 31, 9:33 pm | [comment link]
16. Larry Morse wrote:

#1: But we should note something else about tolerance, t hat it MUST be limited. What sort of creature is the completely tolerant man? There can be only two sorts, one who has no beliefs whatsoever so that all acts and motives are the same to him, and second, one who, understanding principle, has lead a life so devoid of principle that he is obliged to grant to all others what he hopes will at last be granted to him. This is the logical end of the perfection of tolerance.

Tolerance is not a virtue, after all, if it is true that a virtue is behavior which is correct whenever it is elicited. The virtue we should wish for is forbearance, the refusal to apply the power we have for the sake of a higher principle. LM

May 31, 9:47 pm | [comment link]
17. Jim the Puritan wrote:

#12:  I think there are a number of reasons.First, our church is roughly 50/50 men and women, so we don’t have this situation with being “feminized” in our church.

Two.  We have a lot of military installations in the area, army, navy and marines.  Unlike most mainstream churches in the area, we are known as being “military friendly.”  In other words, military members and their families know they aren’t going to get anti-military, left-wing, anti-Iraq sermons every Sunday.  Our church, like the military, is apolitical.  We’re concerned about spreading the Gospel, not pushing forward some political agenda like most mainstream churches are.  We also have an active ministry outreach to the military and their families, developed as a result of meeting with some of the local military chaplains a couple of years ago.  A lot of the young soldiers are lonely and far away from home.  And a lot of the families whose husbands or wives are deployed really need help, which we try to give.  So we have a lot of military attenders and their families.

Third, and most important, our church doesn’t belittle or marginalize men.  Our monthly meetings cover a lot of practical topics, such as how to be good fathers and husbands and how to care for your family, how to be a Christian and apply Christian principles at your jobs, and helping each other with practical problems.  We have a men’s presentation group that meets once a month, and a men’s prayer group and Bible study that meets at least every other week, and another Bible study that meets on Saturday mornings.  We’re also looking at setting up a ministry to area men (believers and non-believers) based on the “Men’s Fraternity” system (http://mensfraternity.com).

Four, our Bible studies are serious.  We don’t have touchy feel-good sessions.  We actually go through the material carefully and have some really heavy discussions on what the Bible means and how it is applicable in people’s lives.

Five, we do things.  We have had groups of men helping build homes for Habitat for Humanity, and caring for the homeless.  We sent teams to New Orleans after the hurricane, and to Sri Lanka and Thailand to help after the tsunami.  Fortunately, we have a number of guys who are in construction and related trades and so they can really help lead, and the rest of us can swing a hammer if we’re shown how and where.

The moral of the story is that if you want to have men in your church, treat them like men, not like appendages to their wives and children.

May 31, 10:32 pm | [comment link]
18. mathman wrote:

Failures of progressive Episcopalians? Application of reason?
The only progressive Episcopalians I know use law and force to impose their views on the clergy and laity of the Episcopal Church. Bishop Smith of Connecticut did not use reason. He used force, broke down doors, and seized records. The same is true of Bishop Lee of Virginia, although he has not yet enjoyed the same success.
What majority is maintaining a tolerant attitude? The author here is replacing see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil with tolerance. Episcopalians are not tolerant. They are wilfully uninformed, and do not want to hear that there are any problems or significant issues which matter.
Those who stand against our vision? Narrow imperial ideology? The language used in the previous two sentences are familiar to me, as I studied propaganda and slanted writing many years ago. Denies our right to exist? Eh?
Denies their right to claim fellowship with the Anglican Communion while walking apart, yes. Denies their existence? No.
Well-planned and organized attempts to bring about the replacement…? Say what? If the efforts of the AAC, the CAN, FIFNA, and CANA are organized, I would hate to see what a disorganized effort looked like. The facts of the case are otherwise. The well-planned and organized effort was carried out by groups such as Integrity and Via Media and has successfully hijacked TEc.
Narrow totalitarian vision? Gosh. This person is not familiar with the Bible.
May I suggest, Sir, that the Bible has no peer in presenting a narrow totalitarian vision. The path is narrow, and the way is hard, that leads to life, and there are few who are found on it. That is a Narrow Totalitarian Vision.
Emerging Christian identity? Emerging from what?
Emerging to use the word Christian in a Christ-free manner, I guess.
Claiming the language, suitably re-defined, and using the donations of many faithful to impose a new theology, a new language, and a new worldview is more like it.

This is well-written propaganda, but it only convinces me that the totalitarian vision of PB Schori is intended to sweep away all opposition.

June 1, 1:57 pm | [comment link]
Registered members must log in to comment.




Next entry (above): S. M. Hutchens: Der Ewige Jude

Previous entry (below): Design That Solves Problems for the World’s Poor

Return to blog homepage

Return to Mobile view (headlines)