Monday, July 09, 2007

confessions of an episcopal fundamentalist

I highly recommend the Rev. Kenneth D. Aldrich's article in the July edition of The Living Church. It's available on-line here. He does a great job of stating, in terms recognizable to liberal Episcopalians, the basics of straight-up traditionalist Christianity. He could have done more with the history and character of the movement, for which I recommend you read this website. It has a great list of legitimate and scholarly fundamentalist websites at the bottom.

I wrote a letter to the Editor of TLC about this article, which I hope they publish. While researching for that letter, I came across this website from the PCA Historical Center, an Archive & Manuscript Repository for the Continuing Presbyterian Church. It had the full text of the Doctrinal Deliverance of 1910, one of the seminal statements of American Fundamentalism, which is still a good guide to the movement's theological and cultural underpinnings. According to this document, widely influential in American fundamentlism, the five "Fundamentals" of the Christian faith are these:

1. The inerrant inspiration of Holy Scripture (as I read it, this statement is compatible with the belief that the bible is inerrant in all matters of faith and morals but not necessarily so in matters historical and scientific);

2. the Virgin Birth of Christ;

3. the doctrine of a substitutionary atonement;

4. the bodily resurrection of Christ from the dead;

5. the reality of the miracles reported in the Gospels.

If you believe these five things, welcome to the ranks of the Fundamentalists. The label is yours for the taking, and I suggest you do. Most of the baggage we associate with fundamentalists and their churches is not theological but comes from bad personal experiences or economic classism - wealthy East-Coast liberal churchmen sneering at the crass and unsophisticated theologies of lower-class midwesterners. The irony is that many so-called or self-styled fundamentalist churches do not themselves know thier roots or what they stand for, or their very important place in the history of this country and of the Church in America.

I note, also, since Fr. WB has started us in the sad irony department, that according to the PCA Historical Center, the 1910 Doctrinal Deliverance came as a result of some irregular ordinations (sound familiar?) of clergy who refused to affirm the virgin birth and were charged with heresy (sound familiar?), and that the charges were dismissed (sound familiar?), and that some years after this excellent stand on their part, the PCUSA General Assembly repealed the Deliverance, claiming that as a General Assembly it had no authority to say what was essential to believe and what was not (sound familiar? try getting General Convention to affirm any fundamentals! or our new Presiding Bishop, for that matter.).

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