In the comments below, Laura rightfully asks whether or not knowing the 39 articles are essential. I’m sympathetic – I have a similar reaction when people parade Saint Hooker as the theological answer to our polity problems.
Perhaps there is another question: is there a historical and theological narrative to being Episcopalian we assume people should share? Is there a taxonomy or a lexicon of dates, facts, events and perspectives that we expect to be normative? There may not be. Although I understand the sentiment against idolizing the past, or claiming it uncritically, I wonder if our reticence toward naming our tradition inhibits us in other ways.
Are there some basic ideas we expect people to know about our tradition? I think, for example, that new Episcopalian should be able to distinguish why we are organized differently than congregational churches, peace churches, and The Catholic church.
But should we be affirming denominationalism? Most of the time I’m anti-denominational, but on the other hand, there are aspects of Episcopal culture (beyond gin and tonics), such as its intellectual and musical heritage, that would want to pass on. The organizational potential of the Episcopacy has yet to be tapped.
I don’t think that such a list would be long. But there may be a pedagogical issue here: I’m inclined toward memorizing, drilling, and testing as legitimate (but not comprehensive or complete) aspects of learning. How do we describe the shape of being Episcopalian, and what are the events or facts that articulate that shape?
Another way to look at it is we’re playing “connect the dots” with our denominational heritage or ethos. What are the dots? Do we need Hooker or the 39 articles?
This is separate from what may be essential for Christians to understand. Some could be minimalist: merely be able to be a friend of God and others. Others might require adhering to dispensational theology. I might leave it at believing that the church’s teaching about Jesus’ resurrection is the location for our holiness. That is for another blog.