A few days ago, Elizabeth Kaeton, on her blog Telling Secrets, wrote about Dr. Willie J. Parker, whom she called a “Giant of Justice.” Parker, she explained, was reared in a fundamentalist, Pentecostal tradition but experienced a change of heart after reading Harry Emerson Fosdick’s famous 1922 sermon “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?”
Elizabeth’s post reminded me that I had written about the Fosdick sermon myself, and a quotation from it is on the home page of my Web site. I reproduced the Fosdick sermon in my November 16, 2009, post “Shall the ‘Orthodox’ Win?” I suggested in that post that the situation that Fosdick saw in 1922 was similar to the threat posed by the Anglican Covenant, which, in November 2009, had not yet achieved its final form. The Anglican “orthodox,” who pushed for a covenant but did not get quite what they wanted, are closely related to—and are sometimes indistinguishable from—the fundamentalists against which Fosdick railed.
Fosdick argued that, to defeat the fundamentalists, Christians need to exhibit “a spirit of tolerance and Christian liberty.” Also needed, he asserted, “is a clear insight into the main issues of modern
Christianity and a sense of penitent shame that the Christian church
should be quarreling over little matters when the world is dying of
I want to call attention to “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” again because The Episcopal Church will begin its official consideration of how to respond to the Anglican Covenant, which is no longer a developing draft, in less than a month. The Covenant is the product of anti-modernist obsession with sexual issues, not a proper Christian concern for, as Fosdick put it, “the
weightier matters of the law, justice, and mercy, and faith.” Moreover, the agreement, rather than embodying “a spirit of tolerance and Christian liberty,” exhibits a narrow-minded intolerance and spirit of retribution. If Fosdick were alive today, he would see the Anglican Covenant as driven by the same mindset against which he preached almost exactly 90 years ago. The fundamentalists are still trying to win.
Do read my 2009 post “Shall the ‘Orthodox’ Win?” It requires no updating.