(I thought of this when I was reading the previously posted article. It is only very slightly edited from its orignial form as a post on the blog in 2004–KSH).
Andrew Adam covers an absolutely taboo topic with some helpful comments, including this truth:
One of the problems at the seminary level is that very few people preach a half-decent sermon in their first dozen, two dozen, perhaps hundred sermons. Overall, the standard of preaching in the Episcopal Church is pretty low, so some people preach sermons that aren’t nearly as bad as the average; but most folks need more than three or four practice sermons in seminary to make significant strides toward fluency and grace in preaching.
I [Kendall Harmon] would submit that the question ought to be why the Episcopal Church is not repenting over our pitiful preaching. Most Episcopal preachers today think they are terrific, and in most cases they aren’t good at all, or worse than that.
The Episcopal Church in my view has no outstanding preachers, zero, none, nada. It is why in a movement like Promise Keepers there are no ECUSANS who are part of the preaching program. Someone like T.D. Jakes ought to be considered a possible model for great preaching, yet in a diocese I know well when one of my friends mentioned him a bishop said : “Who is that?”
Preaching simply isn’t a priority in ECUSA, and our system gives us the fruit of that.
If you want to see what I consider a typical Episcopal sermon look at this.
Note: an openly heretical beginning invocation, he tells us mostly what he does NOT believe, but when it comes to being constructive, he is extremely weak. In terms of Scripture and the Tradition we have little. In terms of organization it is merely o.k. The application is pitiful if it is there at all.
Yet: if I gave this sermon to many ECUSANS I bet they would say it was pretty good. A lot of people in ECUSA consider that priest to be a solid preacher!
Good preaching has three parts: it is biblical, it is organized, and it applies the Bible to the lives of those listening. 90% of Episcopal sermons I listen to do not even meet those three criteria which is what is needed to GET OUT OF THE STARTING BLOCKS toward being a good sermon (never mind a great one).
Let me conclude with two points. We do have a few–a very few–preachers with potential. I think John Howe is a very good preacher, and Paul Zahl can be quite good when he is on. Among those slightly younger, Russell Levenson…[is a] good preacher…who may develop into [a] very good [one]….
But I would counsel those who want to learn of great preaching to drink heavily from better wells. Go listen to Tony Evans or T.D. Jakes or Jack Heyford for at least a year. If you want Anglicans listen to John Stott sermon tapes, or those of Michael Green.
And repent and pray for better preaching, and for better preachers, in ECUSA. Heaven knows we need them–KSH.