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BISHOP ALLISON RESPONDS TO RADNER'S LECTURE

BISHOP ALLISON RESPONDS TO RADNER'S LECTURE

By the Rev. Dr. C. FitzSimons Allison
1/25/2004

(Submitted by David W. Virtue)

The Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner's strategy for the Conservative Network of Dioceses and Parishes, which seeks to maintain Christian integrity within the Episcopal Church, was the topic of the last and culminating address at the SEAD-ACI Conference in Charleston, SC recently. Dr. Ephraim was at his scholarly and eloquent best. He gave us a vivid and poignant view of the Roman Catholic Church during the French Revolution, the Reign of Terror and the Napoleonic years.

It was a salutary lesson. Faithful Christians were persecuted, divided among themselves, harassed and slaughtered. Nothing in our recent times can compare with those unimaginable horrors. All the while they had to make decisions about strategy and obedience which divided them not only from their oppressors but from each other.

Radner's lesson, however, seems to be that we, too, are called to endure, to suffer, to be humiliated but not to disobey or separate. We must not rebel but quietly and humbly remain faithful in spite of unfaithful authorities. He has long insisted that the Christian's duty is to obey and endure without rebellion, without separation. In previous SEAD conferences Dr. Radner had acknowledge that his strategy entails dismissing the Anglican Reformation as a mistake that should not have happened. He conceded, in answer to a question posed by Dr. Robert Sanders, that it would mean that Cranmer was correct in his early submissions/recantations but wrong in the last one.

I should like to offer a quite different model to help us with our current issues. The turmoil of 17th century Anglicanism, I believe, provides a better lesson that Dr. Radner's French Roman Catholic model. The English monarchy, under James I and Charles I, was one with that of Frances's Louis XIV in their claim to Divine Right of Kings and absolute powers of monarchy. James' response to Anglican puritan objections was that they must "conform or I will harry them out of the land or else do worse."

Charles I, paralleling Louis XIV's absolutism, dissolved Parliament rater than acquiesce in the historic parliamentary right to have grievances addresses before granting taxes. The use of the Star Chamber by Archbishop Laud to enforce tyranny was almost as cruel as the French Catholics against the Huguenots. Ears were severed, noses sliced, and tongues cropped when the Divine Right claims were not obeyed.

Fortunately for Anglicanism Laud's political ineptness had none of the Machiavellian sagacity of Cardinal Richelieu. After the fall of New Rochelle in 1629 and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, France lost a significant portion of Bible believing middle class artisans and scholars. They were dispersed over the world but in large part, seeking religious freedom, they settled in the American colonies and the Episcopal Church. Many, in subsequent generations, became outstanding leaders and bishops: Dr. William Porcher DuBose, Bishops Guerry, Dehon, Quintard, Gadsden, Huger and Provoost. If I understand Dr. Radner correctly, the Huguenots should not have separated from France and Roman Catholicism, but instead should have abjured and returned to Roman Catholicism.

England, unlike France, enjoyed the outstanding genius of Oliver Cromwell and his New Model Army. They violated Ephraim's strategy by rebelling and disobeying ecclesiastical and royal authority and, in doing so, made possible a constitutional monarchy and subsequent constitutional republics all over the word.

The great constitutional scholar William Haller, used to pound his lectern insisting that if his students were to understand constitutional history, they must study the Putney debates. These were discussion among the victorious soldiers of the New Model Army who, with open Bibles and wet thumbs, debated what to do with the power they had in their hands. Professor Haller says that of all the victories of that Army none was as significant as its victory over itself as they voted, though yet unpaid by the Rump Parliament, to disband and go home. (Cf. Liberty and Reformation in the Puritan Revolution)

The examples of English victory over ecclesiastical and royal absolutism were accomplished by actions that Professor Radner seems to urge us to forego and resist. The failure in France to defeat the Royal Absolution of the "Sun King," Louis XIV, resulted inevitably in the cataclysmic and horrifying reaction in revolution and the Reign of Terror, so ably described in Radner's lecture.

His lesson for us is not to disobey or separate from apostasy and tyranny but to repent our Anglican Reformation and meet our current issues with acquiescence and obedience. This seems more like masochism than humility. We have a serious disagreement and I pray that I have misunderstood my friend, Ephraim, and will be corrected.

I was so dismayed by the content and funereal tome of Dr. Radner's lecture that I asked Professor Philip Turner if I had misunderstood Radner's contention in effect that the Anglican reformation was a mistake. To my consternation he firmly agreed with the implication concerning the Reformation and cited the innumerable protestant divisions in America as justification for remaining Roman Catholic. Dr. Turner had just delivered a brilliant lecture showing the central figure in Anglicanism to be Thomas Cranmer, who has provided us with the way to live out our life and ministry in corporate worship, which would not be an option had we remained with the Pope.

Fortunately, we had an eloquent presentation from the evangelical British scholar, Dr. Christopher Green, who pointed out citations from St. Cyprian and Origen that the early church knew orthodox teaching to be of such paramount importance, since it involved the salvation of souls (not mere academic difference), that the church must disobey and replace heretical bishops. This has been amply demonstrated by Professor Werner Elert in Eucharist and Church fellowship in the First Four Centuries (Concordia, 1966) in which he shows that, contrary to Radner's lesson, the early church demanded that heretical bishops be repudiated and replaced by orthodox teachers. Certainly we have reason to thank God that Athanasius did not acquiesce in the Arian establishment of his day.

The endeavors of such SEAD-ACI scholars as Ephraim Radner and Philip Turner, with Christopher Seitz, Kendall Harmon and others, under the leadership of Anglican Primate Drexel Gomez, have produced three excellent pamphlets on the present dilemma caused by ECUSA and New Westminster's departure from the Anglican faith. To Mend the Net, Claiming our Anglican Identity: The Case against the Episcopal Church, USA, True Union in the Body: A contribution to the Discussion Within the Anglican Communion Concerning the Public Blessing of Same-Sex Unions. These short publications are marvels of profundity, simplicity and clarity. Only gifted and orthodox scholar could have produced such timely and eloquent works. It is, therefore, exceedingly important that the strategy for orthodox Anglicanism be established on a solid and truly Anglican foundation.

Dr. Ephraim Radner's abilities are unquestionably awesome. He certainly is not lacking in courage having criticized the actions of the Presiding Bishop and his own bishops with unmistakable candor. He was a Swahili speaking missionary in Burundi. His ability with the violin can evoke tears, he is too orthodox to be acceptable at culturally accommodating academic institutions and is especially respected by his contemporary academic colleagues.

Phil Turner, one of these colleagues, makes it clear what is his hope: If the Primates and Rowan Williams are prepared to exercise some discipline on the American Episcopal Church and the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada, then we will continue to have an Anglican Communion" And if not?

Archbishop Drexel Wellington Gomez must be given enormous credit in his endeavors for this Communion in bringing together such able scholars and in the production of the excellent publications. However, his and all our endeavors will be aborted if the strategy implied by Radner and Turner prevails.

It would mean that Cranmer was mistaken to issue the Prayer Books, Articles, and Homilies. Elizabeth was wrong in not submitting to Rome and the Council of Trent. Englishmen should not have rebelled against Stuart tyranny and the claims of an absolute monarchy, which rejected constitutional qualification on absolute power. Huguenots should have abjured and returned to Richelieu's Roman Catholicism and Louis XIV's absolutism, and the three of us should either be married or priests but not both.

I am reminded of something Archbishop William Temple said in the middle of the Second World War: "I thank God for pacifists, And I thank God there are so few of them."

END

The Rt. Rev. Dr. C. FitzSimons Allison is the retired Bishop of South Carolina

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