While William Murchison (Cultural Revolutions, June) is correct that the United States, and, in particular, almost all of its nominally Christian bodies, should be seen as a missionary field, his prescribed cure will only make the patient more gravely ill.

Protestant faith is being eaten alive by a monster with three heads: heresy, Anglo-Catholicism, and charismatic theology. Worldwide Anglicanism has the distinction of being consumed by all three. Sadly, the “two stoutly Orthodox American priests” who were consecrated as “missionary bishops to the United States” are charismatics, as are the consecrating bishops from Singapore and Rwanda. While charismatics seem conservative compared to an heretical church which does not defrock the likes of Bishop Spong, this wing of Anglicanism is as guilty of making “frantic accommodations to the secular culture” as is the archbishop of Canterbury.

As Mr. Murchison writes, the religion of the Bible should be what Episcopalians offer on their (silver or roughhewn) platter, but the Bible was removed from that platter in 1979 with the demolition of the Book of Common Prayer. In fact, Anglicanism has been splitting apart over theological issues throughout its long history, and the heresies of 1979 were the watershed of a larger schism. Why have “conservative” charismatic Episcopalians not left an Anglican Communion that has been in heresy for 20 years? Because on the central question—what is Scripture, and what does it demand of Christians?—this group is as slippery as the heretics who permeate the Episcopal Church U.S.A.

The 1928 Book of Common Prayer, like all of its predecessors, is grounded in Scripture, including 1 Corinthians 14, where St. Paul declares that speaking in tongues and other charismatic “signs of Spirit” are no longer means of the manifestation of the Holy Ghost. That is why charismatic worship didn’t gain acceptance in the Episcopal Church until after 1979. Charismatics are also none too fond of the 450-year-old Prayer Book’s stark Morning Prayer Confession, in which the sinner expresses to God that he “has no health” in him, and that he is a “miserable offender . . . ” That sort of worship and language won’t “pack ’em in” the “contemporary” worship hour of our sensationalist culture. To be a “conservative” in the postmodern Anglican Communion simply means opposing gay “marriage.” Charismatics differ from their more liberal brethren only in style and taste; hence, they have been quite comfortable in the Anglican “Big Tent,” where the ordination of women is in, and the 39 Articles of Religion are out.

A handful of tiny denominations, seeing in 1979, that the emperor had no clothes, began to weave some, and they have grown rapidly over the last 20 years. My own denomination, the Traditional Protestant Episcopal Church in Point Clear, Alabama, has expanded from one broken-down old church building, one minister, and seven parishioners in 1984, to a home parish of approximately 170 members, three out-of-state parishes, eight clergymen, and a website (www.reformer.org) which gets more and more visits each day. By maintaining the Christianity of Cranmer, Calvin, and Wesley, little parishes such as ours are restoring the true Anglican Church. I invite Mr. Murchison and other concerned Episcopalians to join us and to forget about having tea with the archbishop which, unfortunately, the charismatics are unwilling to forgo.

        —James P. Hunter
Montrose, AL

As a cradle Episcopalian, I eagerly read William Murchison’s Cultural Revolutions on the Episcopal Church. I have watched the Church’s decline and was anxious to see what new light this article might shine on the situation. I was stunned.

What was he trying to do? I cannot figure it out. Mr. Murchison is the editor of Foundations, a publication of the Episcopal Synod of America, and undoubtedly fully informed about the struggle for Anglican orthodoxy. I can only imagine he has written with such subtle irony that his purpose is beyond me, and nearly any reader, even those of Chronicles.

He begins in the past tense: “The Episcopal Church used to offer salvation—on the inevitable silver-filigreed platter . . .” He then comes to the present: a “rougher-hewn brand of salvation” is now available to save the Church, or failing that, to provide an Anglican gathering point in the United States. This new witness, he tells us, is provided by two “stoutly orthodox” Episcopal priests recently consecrated to serve as missionary bishops to America. He does not raise the question of how these men might be more effective than the orthodox bishops of yesteryear, who were shouted down. He closes with, “It’s what’s actually on the platter that counts—right?”

Both the silver-filigreed platter and what was offered on it bear close consideration. The reason is not to understand the wonderful metaphor, but to get past the amusing comfortableness of it, and to consider the terrible possibility that the platter and “immaculate taste and good manners” grew dearer than the salvation on it. The salvation offered was the catholic compliment of graces bestowed on, and affirmed by, the undivided Church. This faith and practice—without reformers’ deletions or Roman accretions — is the Anglican hallmark. Regaining this balance in the storm of Reformation and Counterreformation, and maintaining it in the heaving waves that followed, is the great achievement of the Church of England. But Satan never rests: In time, he raised waves to wash over the orthodoxy.

The problem facing these new “missionary bishops” is, by now, an old one. It began in the first half of the 20th century from a combination of forces and blossomed by the late 60’s, eventually removing the Anglican and Catholic nature from the Episcopal Church. In response, the continuing Church movement arose among Episcopalians, most visibly in 1977 at the Congress of St. Louis, out of which marched the Anglican Catholic Church, determined to maintain an Anglican presence in America. Today’s major derivatives are the Anglican Province of Christ the King and the Anglican Church in America. As a result, there arc hundreds of traditional Anglican churches across the country established by former Episcopalian clergy and laity. And within the Episcopal Church itself, there is Mr. Murchison’s Episcopal Synod of America, trying to call the Church back to orthodox)’.

These jurisdictions offer salvation in the essentials of Anglicanism —”lots of old-style religion,” most often roughhewn, and only occasionally on a silver platter—but their cry in the wilderness is unanswered. The deafening silence is puzzling. In small part, this may be because the call is consistently ignored by commentators such as Mr. Murchison, but surely there is another reason.

Looking beyond the article and at Anglicanism in its present state, I submit a different conclusion: that, in fact, it is the platter that matters. Objectively, the evidence forces the conclusion, because what was on the platter has been available in the continuing churches for 25 years.. . and rejected. That it is rejected by Mr. Murchison is disheartening. That, in this latest form, it will be rejected yet again is certain. Satan never rests.

        —James Muse Davis
Starkville, MS

On Speaking in Opar

Although I enjoyed Brian Kirkpatrick’s “Letter From Barsoom” (Correspondence, May) and have no desire to diminish its claims for the uniqueness of Argentine culture, I must point out an error. Dr. Kirkpatrick claims that only the Argentines use vos, but the Costa Ricans also use it and, as my patriotic Tico neighbor regretfully admitted, so do the Nicaraguans.

        —Bill Isley
Santo Tomds de Santo Domingo
de Heredia Costa Rica