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Introducing the No Anglican Covenant Coalition and the No Anglican Covenant Web Site


November 3, 2010 — November 3rd is an ideal day to launch a new international organization resisting the proposed Anglican Covenant because it is the day Anglicans commemorate the sixteenth-century theologian Richard Hooker. Hooker argued that the Church should use the full range of reasoning faculties in matters of faith and should develop in light of changing circumstances. New ideas and differences of opinion, therefore, have a proper place within the Church. It is this openness and tolerance that we, the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, wish to defend today against an Anglican Covenant that would suppress differences of opinion. (For more information about the Coalition, click on the About link, above and read our November 3, 2010 press release.)

Richard Hooker  
Richard Hooker (1554–1600)  
(Artist Unknown)  

On 3 November 2010, Anglicans commemorate the 410th anniversary of the death of Richard Hooker. Hooker is often described as the father of Anglican theology. He is best known for his appeal to three authorities—scripture, reason, and tradition—often described as his “three-legged stool.”

Hooker was a Church of England clergyman during the reign of Elizabeth I. He died in 1600 at the age of 46, busy preparing a defence against the accusation that he did not believe all the Thirty-nine Articles. His writings were mainly directed against the views of influential Puritans promoting some of the more extreme views of the early Reformation. Because the Reformers rejected the authority of the Catholic Church, they insisted that the Bible is the only authority for Christians. Many Puritans, believing that revelation completely transcends human reason, argued against all interpretation of the Bible; instead, their ideology led them to believe that true Christians would find every text easy to understand and should accept every statement and obey every command. Some even argued that Christians should not perform any act that is not in the Bible, and made heroic attempts to live accordingly.

While not disputing that the Bible contains all things necessary to salvation, Hooker argued that it also contains much that is obscure, and it does not tell us, for example, how to build houses, solve mathematical problems, or rake up straw. We learn some things from scripture but others from nature, reason, experience, and practice. In this way, he reaffirmed the essential role of reason: in judging about matters not mentioned in scripture, in interpreting scripture, and in acknowledging the authority of scripture in the first place.

Hooker understood tradition dynamically. Most Catholics and Protestants in his day claimed to be doing exactly what the first century Church had done, and they accused each other of innovating. Hooker could see that times had changed and that it was acceptable for the Church to change also: “The Church hath authority to establish that for an order at one time, which at another time it may abolish, and in both do well.”

Equally important is Hooker’s insight that God has given us not one single, infallible source of authority, but a variety that need to be balanced against each other. We need them all because none is infallible. This means that when we face the challenges of our own day, we do not simply look up answers inherited from the past, but apply our faith in creative ways, sometimes producing genuinely new insights. His Puritan opponents would have given us a church that was always seeking to recreate the past and opposed everything new; Hooker taught that God’s gifts of scripture and reason can produce new insights in every age and contribute to an ever-developing, constantly renewed tradition.

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