David Wilson, one of several Evangelicals in the Diocese of Pittsburgh who followed Anglo-Catholic Bob Duncan into the Anglican Church in North America, has written a description of a group of mostly evangelical clergy in the Pittsburgh diocese who met together for fellowship and encouragement from the mid-1980s to the division of the diocese in 2008. The group was given the nickname ‘Thunder on the Theological Right’ by Pittsburgh bishop Alden Hathaway, and became known as TOTTR.

It seems to me, though, that Hathaway got it wrong. Not about the ‘thunder’—if you know any of the people involved, you won’t quibble about that. But surely when Evangelicals thunder, they thunder on the left. It’s Anglo-Catholics who share characteristics with the political right: conservative, traditionalist, opposed to change, authoritarian. Evangelicals, on the other hand, are the party that has sought change in the church since before the Reformation, and who have never been satisfied that the degree of reformation so far achieved is enough; ‘but halflie reformed’ was our view of the Elizabethan church, and what Evangelical would say it’s any better today? Evangelicals have only one tradition, the truth in God’s Word Written, agreeing with Augustine that ‘custom without truth is error grown old’. Evangelicals are those who treasure the ‘blessed change’ wrought in them by the Holy Spirit, and pray for similar change in others and further change in the same direction for themselves. And Evangelicals have always asserted the Scriptural standard of shared ministry rather than clerical dominance, and preferred the designation ‘minister’ to ‘priest’ because of the hierarchical and authoritarian implications of the latter term.

If Hathaway had got it right, they would have been TOTTL, not TOTTR; ‘Total’, rather than ‘Totter’, might they have said? In my foolish dream, this simple change of nomenclature would have kept us standing together, rather than tottering, and there might still be a reform movement in the Episcopal Church.

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