Would Richard Hooker support gay marriage?

hooker mugLately it’s becoming popular among Episcopalians who support blessing gay unions to cite this remark attributed to the 16th-century theologian Richard Hooker: “Pray that none will be offended if I make the Christian religion an inn where all are received joyously, rather than a cottage where some few friends of the family are to be received.”

The remark was a foundation for “The Anglican Communion: A Roomy House,” an address by Bishop Jon Bruno to the Diocese of Los Angeles’ annual convention in December. Larry Stammer of the Los Angeles Times summarized Bruno’s remarks without attributing the quotation directly to Hooker.

Bishop Bruno is not alone in attributing these words to Hooker. The remark also appears in a convention address by Bishop Michael Curry of the Diocese of North Carolina; in a sermon (PDF) by the Rev. Susan Russell, president of the Episcopal Church’s gay caucus, Integrity; in an essay by the Rev. Christopher A. Smith on what he considers contemporary Donatism; and in a convention sermon in the Diocese of Utah by the Rev. Dr. J. Rebecca Lyman of Church Divinity School of the Pacific.

Since hearing Bruno’s convention address, the Rev. Richard A. Menees, a Ph.D. student at Fuller Theological Seminary, has made several efforts to find anyone who can cite a specific Hooker text to establish the remark’s authenticity.

Menees wrote to GetReligion:

I have been studying the missiological aspects of the ecclesiology of Richard Hooker for several years under the direction of Dr. John Booty, the former dean of Sewanee’s School of Theology and an editor of the Folger Library Edition of the complete works of Richard Hooker. Dr. Booty, Dr. Philip Secor, Dr. Egil Grislis, Dr. William Haugaard, Dr. Torrance Kirby, Dr. Robert Sanders and Dr. Ashley Null have all looked into this quote and none of them can find it in Hooker. Secor, Grislis and Kirby all say they do not believe it is Hooker.

Menees provides a lengthier reflection on Hooker’s teachings in this paper (PDF).

Here’s a challenge to our readers: Can anyone demonstrate that Hooker ever wrote these words?

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  • I’d rather not say

    A more apt quote, this time definitely from Hooker:

    From Richard Hooker, The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book 5.xxv.3

    Virtue and godliness of life are required at the hands of the minister of God, not only in that he is to teach and to instruct the people, who for the most part are rather led away by the ill example, than directed aright by the wholesome instruction of them, whose life swerveth from the rule of their own doctrine; but also much more in regard of this other part of his function; whether we respect the weakness of people, apt to loathe and abhor the sanctuary when they which perform the service thereof are such as the sons of Eli were; or else consider the inclination of God himself, who requireth the lifting up of pure hands in prayer (1 Tim. 2.8), and hath given the world plainly to understand that the wicked although they cry shall not be heard (John 9.31; Jer. 11.11; Ezech 8.18). They are no fit supplicants to seek his mercy in behalf of others, whose own unrepented sins provoke his just indignation. Let thy Priests therefore, O Lord, be evermore clothed with righteousness, that thy saints may thereby with more devotion rejoice and sing (Pslam 122.9)

  • http:titusonenine.classicalanglican.net Kendall Harmon

    I have just returned from staying at the House of a leader in the Anglican Church in Canada, Bishop Anthony Burton. He had an email from another Canadian church leader with this Hooker quote at the bottom, again without attribution. Bishop Burton is deeply suspicious of this quote.

    I look forward to an answer to your question.

  • I’d rather not say

    I did a Google search of the following:

    Hooker Pray that none will be offended if I make the Christian religion an inn where all are received joyously, rather than a cottage where some few friends of the family are to be received

    It turned up several hits–68 to be exact–which, in the nature of Google searches, included a great many that had nothing to do with Hooker but only included a few of the same words. Sixteen hits, however–from Diocesan and parish websites, Integrity, Louis Crew, etc.–did use the Hooker “quote.” Of these, NONE gave a reference or citation as to where it could be found. Not one.

    The mystery continues.

  • John Goodwin

    The real Hooker said (E.P., Bk. V., ch. 12):

    [[Christ could not suffer that the temple should serve for a place of mart, nor the Apostle of Christ that the church should be made an inn.]]

    This is part of a discussion against holding liturgy in a house. I suspect “neither a cottage nor an inn” got turned into “not a cottage but an inn” quoted by the Ps-Liberal Hooker.

  • http://tolleblogge.blogspot.com Russ

    I think Hooker wrote those words in the same book Luther wrote “I’d rather be ruled by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian.”

  • http://bradboydston.blogspot.com Brad Boydston

    Even if, per chance, Hooker is the source of the quote, it is still a major leap to suggest that it has anything to do with blessing homosexuality or any other sin for that matter.

  • Nova Scotian

    Good grief! Do people using this (apparently fictitious) quotation know what ‘cottaging’ is?! (In Britain, anyway, given the slang term for public toilets.)

  • Richard A. Menees

    Even today, November 24, 2005, I read of another fake use of the fake Hooker Quote. Now a self-published author who has written a manual gays who want to read Scripture claims he got his inspiration from the words Hooker never said.

  • http://reader.classicalanglican.net Todd Granger

    And one also notes that Harold Lewis, Rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh, “authoritatively” attributes the pseudepigraphal passage to Hooker (on the basis of addresses given by Bishop Curry, Dr Lyman, and Dr Morgan, the Archbishop of Wales) in an article in the Fall 2005 issue of The Anglican Theological Review.

    Stuff and nonsense. And bad editing on the part of ATR’s editorial staff.


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