Stephen Noll: A Response to Phil Turner

Dr. Turner’s letter, to which Noll is responding, is here:

The one criticism you make of my Open Letter that I find particularly painful relates to my call to “take the risk of breaking communion with false and lukewarm colleagues in TEC.” I do not retract it, but I shall try a clarify it. “False and lukewarm” refers to two groups, not one. There are those who have lapsed into heresy (which I think is identifiable whether or not it is declared so by a Church council). There are others who “tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet.” Many of us have been quite willing over the years to work within a church that included worldly leaders and comfortable pewsitters. We even tolerated the Pikes and Spongs, thinking we had the historic tradition and formularies on our side. This is no longer the case. Jesus uttered a paradoxical pair of statements when he said: “He who is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30) and “whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40). The time is coming and now is, I think, when the Spirit will dictate that only one of these courses is faithful. Hence it will be necessary to break communion with ”“ not to judge the eternal destiny of ”“ those who hold a true gospel while remaining in the Episcopal Church.

The exercise of prudence ”“ a virtue which I know from your writings you value highly ”“ always involves making a judgement call. I am making such a judgement call in my Open Letter. It appears you are doing likewise when you state that after September 30, if TEC retains its status unreformed by the Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury, then the Anglican Communion will have “morphed into another creature altogether.”

So you yourself seem prepared to set a make-or-break date for the completion of the Windsor process and the sealing of the fate of the Anglican Communion. I agree. I do not think there is anything in my Open Letter that conflicts with that timetable. I am quite content to wait until September 30 to see what happens. That date is less than two months from now, and I don’t see what further division can happen in that time anyway. What I do think we need to do is to consider the outcome that the September deadline will come and go and no decision will be made at the Communion level.

That nothing will be done seems likely from two realities: the adamantine stubbornness of the Episcopal Church hierarchy and the apparent unwillingness of the Archbishop of Canterbury to take the necessary steps to discipline it. The House of Bishops, I am sure you will agree, will not change course, even as it effuses about its desire to remain in the Communion. You may be more hopeful than I about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s taking final action after TEC has been given its full measure of indulgence. I see little evidence of willingness from his actions and statements since the February Primates’ Meeting ”“ especially if the recent statement of Archbishop of York reflects the view at the top.

We shall know soon enough. There is nothing in my Open Letter that preempts the Windsor Report as qualified by the Primates’ Communiqué from Tanzania. There is nothing that precludes the Anglican Communion Network and Common Cause partners working within the formal structures of the Anglican Communion if the Episcopal Church walks apart; indeed, it is my hope and prayer that they may be recognized and enabled to do so.

Read it alll.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Communion Network, Anglican Identity, Anglican Primates, Archbishop of Canterbury, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts

22 comments on “Stephen Noll: A Response to Phil Turner

  1. EmilyH says:

    Dr. Noll is speaking from the perspective of one already ensconced in a comfortable job in Uganda. He is the Vice Chancellor of Uganda Christian University and +Orombi is his Chancellor. He engages Turner as if he and Turner were on equal footing and were both active senior statesmen if you will in the Episcopal Church. They aren’t. Turner’s life is in the US, Noll’s is not. Noll’s boss and primate is entirely focused on a single issue agenda, same sex relationships and how they are treated in the Episcopal Church. It is entirely in Noll’s+ vested interest for conservatives in the US to act and to act now, not wait until Lambeth. There is a principle in law about statements being more credible? when they are made against interest. Nolls’+ does not operate from this perspective. I am sure that Noll’s+ was disappointed in +Stanton’s intervention in the Network’s deliberations regarding on the Articles of Structure. Those who had set the agenda for the meeting undoubtedly knew that, had the articles been adopted as written, all of the TEC bishops would be subject to immediate presentment, yet, no one of this group….adding even Bishop Wantland who is a canon lawyer, seemed to be upfront in alerting the attendees to that. My point is that Noll+ speaks not only from a postion of safety but self-interest (that doesn’t mean he souldn’t anyway) but, what he is advocating is in his interest, particualy with his boss. To claim that he has some senior status in TEC likened to Turnbull is at minimum disingenous.

  2. EmilyH says:

    Woops, I wrote Turnbull instead of Turner… excuse please. Works better if you proof read

  3. evan miller says:

    I think you’re too hard on Fr. Noll, but I think the principle in law you cite is worth bearing in mind and applicable. There is much to commend in this letter, even though my sympathies lie more with Fr. Turner and Fr. Radner in this present matter. I think we all need to be a bit more charitable all the way round.

  4. Philip Snyder says:

    Emily (#1)
    The Primate of Uganda is [b]not[/b] “focused on a single issue agneds, same sex relationship and how they are treated in the Episcopal Church.” +Orombi is focused on spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and working to alieviate the suffering of his people suffering from poverty and AIDS. The issue of human sexual expression is important, not because of human sexuality, but because of the underlying issue of authority and community. Does a group have the authority to deny the teaching of the community and still remain part of that community? Beyond that, does General Convention have the authority to change the Doctrine of the Church? Does it even have the authority to say what is doctrine and what is discipline? Finally, can the Church teach something that is contrary to the universal witness of Holy Scripture and the unbroken tradition of the Church? TECUSA can do whatever it wants. However, if it doesn, it breaks the bonds of affection that tie it to the Anglican Communion.

    Does the human sexual expression debate take away from our ability to proclaim the Gospel and to focus on bringing others into a relationship with Jesus Christ? Absolutely! There is not doubt that this debate hurts our evangelism efforts. That is why +Orombi and the rest of the Global South primates are so upset by the debate! It hurts their efforts in evangelism. Just remember who started the debate and kept it up each time they were told “no.” It was not the reasserters who started this mudbath. If there is anyone who has been “focused on a single issue agenda, same sex relationships and how they are treated inthe Episcopal Church,” it is the reappraisers!

    Phil Snyder

  5. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) says:

    [i]Noll’s boss and primate is entirely focused on a single issue agenda, same sex relationships and how they are treated in the Episcopal Church.[/i]

    Not so. Far from it. ++Orombi is deeply and passionately involved in the development of the Church of Uganda — indeed all Ugandan Christians — as a missionary force to reach people-groups not readily evangelised by white westerners. Many of these people-groups are animists or nominal M** lims. The actions of TEC and other western revisionists are profoundly damaging to this missionary effort and carry potentially fatal consequences for the missionaries.

    ++Orombi is also quite focused on the secondary-level education of young women throughout Uganda (particularly rural areas such as his native Nebbi), as well as dealing with the devastating consequences of HIV/AIDS … orphans, hollowed-out village leadership structures, and so on. Additional points of focus within CofU are youth leadership development, economic development, and addressing the disastrous consequences of the LRA rebellion.

    To state that what Noll [i]is advocating is in his interest, particu[lar]ly with his boss[/i] is not only false, but the diametric opposite of reality, not least because CofU has sacrificed substantial US dollar transfers. The actions and doctrinal positions of the CofU are most decidedly ‘against interest’ and thus by your own criteria gain a certain moral weight. As ++Orombi stated about two years ago “The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not for sale.”

  6. Brien says:

    To suggest, as EmilyH does, that there is some vested self-interest in Stephen Noll’s position seems to lack foundation. This is from SN’s own apologia on his website:

    “I serve as Vice Chancellor (President) of Uganda Christian University in Mukono, Uganda. Several of the writings in this collection bear on my everyday work. However, my views are personal and are not to be attributed to the University or to the Anglican Church of Uganda. I have no official position in the Anglican Communion and am a retired priest of the Episcopal Church USA, so again these views are mine alone.”

  7. William#2 says:

    “Dr. Noll is speaking from the perspective of one already ensconced in a comfortable job in Uganda . . . a position of safety”
    As Sarah would say, “heh.” Thats good one EmilyH. I can see you know absolutely nothing about Uganda, or what Stephen+ does; I do, and suggest that you do a little more research before you start accusing others of being “disingenous.”

  8. Dale Rye says:

    I would suggest that, before commenting, everyone should read not only Dr. Noll’s letter in its entirety, but also Dr. Turner’s.

  9. Dale Rye says:

    You might also want to read some of the [url=]264 comments on an earlier exchange between Ephraim Radner+ and +Bob Duncan.[/url] They illustrate that this is not just a debate about tactics, but is rooted in theological differences about the Church and how it should exercise discernment and discipline.

  10. The_Elves says:

    Just a reminder that we hope some commenters might want to discuss Dr. Noll’s words, not merely Emily H’s comment!

    Dr. Turner’s letter, to which Noll is responding, is here:

  11. Br_er Rabbit says:

    [blockquote] Noll’s boss and primate is entirely focused on a single issue agenda, same sex relationships and how they are treated in the Episcopal Church.[/blockquote]

    Not so. Anyone anywhere who has had a chance to listen to Henry Luke Orombi speak or teach knows full well that this statement is not true. For a proof (in print) of the wider focus Henry Luke, see his recent essay here:

  12. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) says:

    Okay, elfie …

    [i]the adamantine stubbornness of the Episcopal Church hierarchy and the apparent unwillingness of the Archbishop of Canterbury to take the necessary steps to discipline it[/i] … just about says it all.

    [i]Many people have left the Episcopal Church over the past decades in grief and as a matter of conscience, convinced that their souls or the souls of their families and flock are in mortal danger from continued association with a false gospel[/i]. We confront the same antinomialism as the classic prophets, beginning with Amos in about 750 BC and ranging through some 300 years.

    The last of these felt quite keenly that their role on Earth was to show that the word of God, though expressed in a different form to an earlier age could (and ought to) be applied to the ‘new’ problems of what was then the present. Their entire focus was on morality, instead of ritual. Noll+ continues in that noble tradition, and would (no doubt) add hierarchy to the mix.

    The classic prophets fought antinomialism primarily in the form of polytheism and (particularly) idolatry. Today we confront it primarily in the form of cultural relativism, played out in the name of “diversity.” The cult of “self” is but another form of idolatry, now (sadly) prevalent in TEC. This stream of belief is far from new in America: Walt Whitman said “I celebrate myself … I dote on myself.”

    Today in TEC this takes the form of “If you love me, you’ll let me do what I want” which is the operational philosophy of a 3-year-old. What Noll+ so correctly points out is that in order to implement such auto-idolatry it becomes necessary to deny, remove, or ignore significant and important portions of Scripture.

    This Second Reformation is, like the first, being fought over the authority of Scripture. Five centuries ago the challenge was from those who would add things to the Word. In our time, it is those who would [i]subtract[/i] from Scripture, all the better to affirm those most active of antinomialists who not only reject the transformative power of Christ acting through the Holy Spirit but (in one instance) persist in their desire turn God’s command “Be fruitful and multiply” inside out and backwards by directing their sexual energy not into the organ of life, but that of waste, and decay, and elimination.

    When an entire church structure requires not only acquiescence to such things, but affirmation in the name of God, things have gone drastically, desperately wrong. Noll+ is entirely correct in seeing no possible common future.

  13. robroy says:

    Though tempting, I would say that EmilyH’s comments against the good and godly Orombi and Noll do not dignify a response. I would ask the gentle readers of Titus not to respond to her obvious baiting.

    It is remarkable how brightly the light shines out of the tragic country of Uganda. If anyone is interested in refugee medicine, an unfortunately burgeoning field of medicine, this week’s Journal of the AMA is dedicated to it with two major articles and a editor’s essay discussing the medical issues of those refugees from northern Uganda where the evil incarnate Lord’s Resistance Army kidnaps children and forces them to participate in brutal rapes and killings.

    But getting back to Dr. Noll’s gracious letter. I repeat my favorite Bonhoeffer quote which I think is very relevant to Dr. Noll’s reference to the “false” and “lukewarm”:

    [blockquote] Our humanitarian sentiment made us give that which was holy to the scornful and unbelieving. We poured forth unending streams of grace. But the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way was hardly ever heard. Where were those truths which impelled the early Church to institute the catechumenate, which enabled a strict watch to be kept over the frontier between the Church and the world, and afforded adequate protection for adequate costly grace. [i] What had happened to all those warnings of Luther’s against preaching the gospel in such a manner as to make men rest secure in their ungodly living? Was there ever a more terrible or disastrous instance of the Christianizing of the world than this? What are those three thousand Saxons put to death by Charlemagne compared with the millions of spiritual corpses in our country to-day? With us it has been abundantly proved that the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generations. Cheap grace has turned out to be utterly merciless to our Evangelical Church.[/i]
    The false are the purveyors of the cheap grace and the lukewarm are those who have bought into it, “resting securely in their ungodly living.”

    Jesus’ parable about the wise and foolish bridesmaids reminds us to be prepared. To not have plans for any and all contingencies of the wily HoB, would be a dereliction of the orthodox Christian leader’s duty.

  14. Philip Snyder says:

    I admit to being conflicted in the best path forward. I don’t think that the HOB will give a positive response to the Dar communique (other than “Positively No!”). I also don’t know if the Archbishop of Canterbury will discipline the US Bishops who are so obdurate in the face of Communion teaching, pleading, and cajoling. These are beyond my ability to see or to reason.
    I know that unity without truth is not true unity. Thus, we have no unity because we are divided on the truth. As much as we use the same words, I fear that we mean different things by them. TECUSA seems to be run by the idealogical progressives who take social justice as their goal and that is idolatry (just as morality as a goal is idolatry or anything that is not God as the goal is idolatry). I see endless meetings and conferences with the can being kicked down the road with no end in sight. There have been too many leaders teaching and preaching too much heresy for too long and TECUSA has not done anything about it.
    All of that is on one side of the “ledger” and moves my heart to leave TECUSA and continue in the Anglican Tradition with one of the GS Provinces.
    On the other side, I see AMiA, CANA, CAAN (the Kenyan church), Uganda, Southern Code all taking congregations under their protection and ordaining bishops for oversight. I know Jesus wants us to be one and I believe that connection to Canterbury is important. I know that the current ABC is only temporary and will be replaced. I also know that the Church of God has been beset by worse troubles than this and that the classic American Protestant action is to split when we don’t get our way. I look at what Anthony, Athanasius, Dominic, and Francis faced for the Faith. I see the CofE being in much worse shape during Wesley’s day than it is today and being called to renewal by Wesley and then by the Tractarians. I have a deep abiding love for the Episcopal Church and for the Anglican way of doing theology and worship. I sense that God is bringing about a renewal in the Church and we are seeing it starting in Africa and the 2/3 world. I pray that this will come to America. These forces and desires call me to stay and witness to the joy and power of orthodox Christianity. I admit being torn between leaving and washing my hands of the mess and staying and trying to clean up the mess – even if it is too much for me. The mess may overwhelm me, but I will work to clean it up none the less, knowing that in the end, heresy and evil and darkness and all messes will be cleaned up. My task is not to be successful, but to be faithful.

    For now, I will stay because I trust God and I trust my Bishop. God will see me through and bless my work. I will stay as a witness to the joy of Christ found in the ancient and orthodox faith. I will stay and witness to power of Jesus Christ to change lives and to make all things (even TECUSA) new.

    Phil Snyder

  15. Dale Rye says:

    Re #12: I don’t think anyone is in serious question that a separation of some sort is in the offing. The issue in the debate featured here and in the earlier thread is how that separation is to be effected. Dr. Turner (and Dr. Radner) would argue that the approach of Dr. Noll (and Bp. Duncan) itself exemplifies the exaltation of individual judgment over collective discernment that lies at the root of the problem. Whether it is an individual province choosing to act alone in consecrating a non-celibate gay bishop, or an individual province choosing to set up a rival episcopate in another province’s territory, the rejection of the oversight of the Communion is much the same. I have even heard the same language being used, of God’s Spirit calling forth a new thing to replace the old. This is not a fight over the authority of Scripture, but over who will have the authority to issue a binding interpretation of Scripture—the Communion as a whole, individual provinces, or indeed individual persons. Right now, the tide is moving towards individualism from both the reasserter and reappraiser ends of the spectrum.

  16. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) says:

    Those of you who might wish to support some of the desperately-needed medical work alluded to in #13 ought to contact — and support as generously as you are able — the [url=]Uganda – Sudan Medical Mission[/url].

    Dr. Katie Rhoads walked away from a thriving surgery practice in Kansas City to work as a permanent medical missionary in both northern Uganda and southern Sudan. [i]SHE[/i] is the face of Christ to an awful lot of people, and she’s training Ugandans to do the same.

  17. Dale Rye says:

    I will say no more.[url=] Sarah Hey has said it all. [/u]

  18. azusa says:

    #15: ‘Whether it is an individual province choosing to act alone in consecrating a non-celibate gay bishop, or an individual province choosing to set up a rival episcopate in another province’s territory, the rejection of the oversight of the Communion is much the same.’

    No, it isn’t, Dale, and you only obfuscate things by asserting moral equivalence. The consecration of Robinson was a pointed act of repudiating ‘the oversight of the Communion’ (one in which Griswold very hypocritically participated). Extending episcopal oversight to those who have stayed faithful to historic Anglicanism is something Athanasius would have readily understood.
    Radner and Turner don’t want to recognize that the game is up. If they wish to fight in the last trench, well, blessings on them – but they should not disparage those who deem it right to regroup – ‘reculer pour mieux sauter’. Our commitment is to the historic catholic and reformed faith, not to one branch that has disconnected itself and may still be in leaf but is pitifully short of fruit.

  19. Dale Rye says:

    I am not asserting moral equivalence. Those who consecrated Robinson were convinced they were following the lead of the Holy Spirit when they rejected the advice of the Communion for the sake of justice. Those who consecrated Minns, et al., were convinced they were following the lead of the Holy Spirit when they rejected the advice of the Communion for the sake of orthodoxy. Perhaps one of them was right; perhaps one or both were morally justified in following the dictates of their conscience as enlightened by prayer and study of the Word. I don’t know.

    What I do know is that both of them equally preferred their own reading of what was required by God’s Command to that taught by the community they claimed to belong to. It is that individualistic preference of personal judgment over community judgment that has landed us in this mess.

  20. Kevin Maney+ says:

    #19 Dale, read your post in #17.

  21. Larry Morse says:

    Would someone tll me how I can extirpate that mumbly phrase “walks apart”? This is like a blackfly in the ear, buzzing and buzzing until death do it part. What a mealymouthed phrase this is! This is like “listening.” If only Anglicans would speak clearly, would avoid the spineless euphemism, soft and soppy, the pablum of the toothless argument.

  22. Dale Rye says:

    I think the exchange above illustrates my point about why communications—and the Communion—have broken down. The “godly” are allowed to attack the “infidel” (see #18), but the person attacked is not allowed to explain himself (see #20). Heads you win, tails I lose. In contrast, the people on the “right” side are allowed to speak, but are not obliged to listen to those on the “wrong” side (see #21).

    This reminds me of Arthur Miller’s play [i]The Crucible[/i]. Those who support the Salem witch prosecutions are self-evidently on God’s side. Those who cannot support them are to be given a choice: confess to being a tool of Satan and accept pardon, or deny it and hang. There are only two choices, no gray areas. You are 100% with us or you are fighting God’s will as infallibly recognized by His servants and deserve to be cast into outer darkness.

    Sometimes people who disagree with us are not stupid, deluded, fraudulent, or possessed… they are just mistaken. Indeed, sometimes [b]we[/b] are mistaken. As a seminary professor of mine often said, “God is God and folks is folks. Folks ain’t God, and God ain’t folks.”