Robert Munday’s Doing It Over Again, and a Note on Systematic Theology

Former Nashotah House Dean Robert Munday’s “If I had to do it over again…” is an excellent response to a sorry episode.  I know it’s hard for someone who has put his life into a work which others delight in unravelling to watch that take place.

Some comments on what he had to say:

To be more precise, Episcopal seminary education has concentrated on preparing men and women for a career in the Episcopal Church (note my choice of words) but has been utterly incapable of equipping them for biblically-faithful, Gospel-centered, Spirit-empowered ministry.

That may end up being the epitaph of American Protestant and Evangelical Christianity.  If there’s one thing that bothered me more than anything else in church work, it is the obsessive careerism of so many in the ministry.  That in part is because it’s full of Boomers, but that’s not the only reason.  Jesus Christ came, in part, to offer a radical alternative to the careerism of the Middle East, past and present, and for us to replicate that in church is unfaithful to Our Lord.

Most observers generally agree that the Charismatic movement in the Episcopal Church began with the Rev. Dennis Bennett’s experience of the Holy Spirit while he was rector of St. Mark’s Church in Van Nuys, California, in 1960.  The next thirty years saw a remarkable spiritual renewal that included leaders such as the Rev. Terry Fullam, from St. Paul’s Church, Darien, Connecticut, and a list of other leaders and parishes that is much too long to list here.

Alongside that Charismatic renewal, Evangelicals in the Episcopal Church, which had long been a small and beleaguered minority, began to find new life and strength, and a sense of their own identity.  They were aided in their self-discovery by Evangelicals from the UK, Australia, and elsewhere.  There were organizations dedicated to promoting renewal in the Episcopal Church, but there were numerous, seemingly spontaneous examples of spiritual renewal popping up all over the Church as well.  Several entire dioceses began to take on the character of the renewal movement.  Those who had been touched by the Charismatic renewal and the Evangelical resurgence came to grips with the realization that no existing Episcopal seminary was capable of training biblically faithful, Spirit-filled clergy to serve and lead parishes.  This realization led to the founding of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry.

Reformed people hate to admit it, but the Anglican Revolt would have never taken place without the Charismatic Renewal (with all of its faults) providing the fuel and the people motivated by that fuel.

The opposition to my remaining as Dean was driven ostensibly by Bishop Ed Salmon’s contention that I was getting Nashotah House in trouble by being too closely allied with those who were outside of TEC.  The reason I use the word “ostensible” is that it should have been apparent to all concerned (and should be doubly apparent in retrospect) that Bishop Salmon was using his position as Chairman of the Nashotah House Board of Trustees to undermine my position as Dean and President and to take the job for himself.

Is Bishop Salmon insane?  Or is he one of these Episcopalians who, irrespective of how loony or heterodox the church becomes, stick with it until their last breath?  I’ve always been amazed at the institutional loyalty that TEC is capable of instilling in people, particularly since it traditionally discourages any time of enthusiasm as in bad taste.  But we see here two things going: the obsessive “company man” being a thoroughgoing careerist to boot.

You can have orthodoxy or you can have the Episcopal Church, but you can’t have both.

It’s just too bad it took so long for so many to realise this, but not everyone gets to grow up Episcopalian “where the animals are tame and the people run wild”.  Maybe that’s why it clicked for the senior Henry Louttit so early.

And for something completely different:

During my years at Trinity, I happened to meet the professor who was then teaching Systematic Theology at Nashotah House (around 1994).  We were discussing which textbooks we used for teaching theology, and he remarked that he used John Macquarrie’s Principles of Systematic Theology.  I gulped, and explained that, at Trinity, we treated Macquarrie in a separate course on Contemporary Theology where we did apologetics against him.  (I should add that this theology professor left Nashotah House before I began as Dean, and I had the opportunity to select his successor, who is thoroughly orthodox.)

Let’s face facts: after St. Thomas Aquinas, there is no systematic theology.  Period.

One thought on “Robert Munday’s Doing It Over Again, and a Note on Systematic Theology”

  1. Sounds like sour grapes. It would be beneficial if he would accept responsibility for his failures as a dean.

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