"Question Authority"

December 2005By Robert Hart

Fr. Robert Hart, a Continuing Anglican priest, is the Vicar of St. Andrew's Church in Easton, Massachusetts, and a Contributing Editor of Touchstone magazine.

When I drive behind a bumper sticker that reads "Question Authority," I always wish that my car were equipped with a siren and flashing lights. I would love to pull the driver over so that I could ask one simple question: "Is that an order?" To expand, the meaning of the question would be: "By what authority do you command this thing? Who gave you this authority? Was it from Heaven or from men?"

Well, of course the whole point of displaying this imperative is to deny the idea of authority itself; and it is likely that the driver who put this on his car would be surprised to learn that he has issued a command to everyone behind him. It is unlikely that he would want to be thought of as authoritarian. This problem becomes more serious when it has consequences in the lives of people and of churches.

In August 2003, within minutes after the approval to elevate Vickie Gene Robinson to the office of bishop in the Episcopal Church, the news was flashed across the world that a divorced and openly "gay" man, living with his homosexual lover, was going to be a bishop. An Episcopal priest who was present at the General Convention in Minneapolis that had done the deed by majority vote, stood beaming from ear to ear as he answered questions put to him by Bill O'Reilly of Fox News.

"What about the biblical injunction against homosexuality?" asked O'Reilly.

"The Scriptures aren't the final authority in Anglicanism," said the cleric, "the Holy Spirit is."

From the many apologetic responses that were subsequently issued by Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, and by others, it is clear that what this priest said to O'Reilly was the simple version of their defense. In the final analysis, they were claiming to have been led by the Holy Spirit to overthrow 2,000 years of Church teaching from the Bible. Any such claim only makes sense in light of the promise that Jesus Christ gave to the Apostles, "When He, the Spirit of Truth is come, He will guide you into all truth" (Jn. 16:13).

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