Anna Alexander vs. Richard Hooker

In yesterday's Faithful Four matchup, Maria Skobtsova defeated Esther 73% to 27% to make it to the Championship Round. Who will compete with Maria to vie for the Golden Halo? That's the question to be decided over the next 24 hours as Anna Alexander, the Georgia Deaconess, faces Richard Hooker, the Anglican theologian.

To get this deep into the Saintly Smackdown, Anna defeated Peter Claver, Edith Cavell, and Eglantyne Jebb, while Richard got past Mary of Egypt, Margaret of Scotland, and Phocas the Gardener.

Anna continues to be shepherded through the bracket by her namesake Anna Fitch Courie. Richard's advocate is Marcus Halley, who...shares a last name initial with Mr. Hooker.

Finally, did you watch the final in-season episode of Monday Madness? Of course you did. But here's the link nonetheless. You know, to share with your friends and family and Facebook friends you've never actually met.

Anna Alexander

Anna sighed as she began her walk between Darian and Brunswick. The day was already stifling hot and the sun had not yet reached its peak. The mosquitoes were already out in full force and the dust from the road was turning her habit from black to brown. She prayed for a breeze to cut the air that was so thick you could swim through it. Although the day was already shaping into a typical southern day, Anna couldn’t help but smile as she heard the sweet chirping of cicadas in the trees. The birds were greeting her with their morning chatter and the magnolias were in bloom. There were signs of God everywhere on her daily journey and these comforted her with her mission ahead.

With each step, Anna prayed for each of her students by name and prayed God would bless them with skills to change the world. She worried that the world would never see her children as equal in God’s sight.  She worried that they didn’t see themselves as equal either. Anna’s shoulders dipped with the weight of worry and love she felt for these boys and girls. She worried that she had the skills to show them why reading, writing, learning, and God were so important. She wanted them to know the Bible tells us that God made all men and women in God’s image. Anna wanted her students to know that the most important lesson is that we love each other.

Mostly, Anna prayed that her students would learn that even when the world tells them otherwise, that Jesus tells us to treat each other the way we want to be treated. Maybe if Anna’s students treat others the way they wanted to be treated that soon the world would treat them that way as well. Anna knew that following God was far more important than the noise of the world. After all, she had been told for years that she couldn’t make a difference being black and a woman. She hoped that with her firm persistence, following the love of Jesus, and the passage of time that she was showing that each of us makes a difference in our own way just because we are children of God.

As Anna neared her destination, she gave thanks to God for this time in prayer on her journey. Each step was a prayer that reaffirmed her faith and relationship with God. She felt strengthened by this time to serve her community. Her walks each day gave her that time to pray and reflect on where she was called to go.  As she headed off to deliver the clothes, food, and books she gathered for her flock, she smiled. Today was going to be a good day.

-  Anna Fitch Courie

Richard Hooker

Dr. James Cone, father of Black Liberation Theology, suggests that “theology is loving God with the mind.” It is easy to dismiss Richard Hooker’s theologizing as aloof, ivory-tower naval-gazing; but, it is important to note that loving God with our hearts, souls, and minds is a command straight out of the Gospels. The practice of theological scholarship is important to the life of the Church and, while its importance can be taken to the extreme (as with all things), it provides the necessary framework to wrestle with incredibly challenging questions. His commitment to the field of theology impressed King James (of the King James Bible fame), who said of Hooker, “I observe there is in Mr. Hooker no affected language; but a grave, comprehensive, clear manifestation of reason, and that backed with the authority of the Scriptures, the fathers and schoolmen, and with all law both sacred and civil.”

Richard Hooker did Anglican theology in a time of fierce religious division. Using the scriptures and Christian tradition, Hooker was able to weave together a system of faith that graciously navigated the Via Media between the excesses of Roman Catholicism and the austerity of continental Reformation Christianity. He allowed the Sacraments, the Church Mothers and Fathers, and Christian tradition to speak to a new age of Christians who were asking incredibly deep questions about how their age-old faith was going to interact with a world exploding in knowledge and size and scope. His Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie has a reach beyond Anglicanism into the field of English prose and political theory. Here is a real, flesh-and-blood man dedicated to a theology that improves the world.

Episcopalians are who we are, people who weave the richness of the Christian tradition into conversation with the real world around us, in no small part due to Richard Hooker. His system of scripture, tradition, and reason creates a framework of faith that is solid at its core and soft at its edges. Our faith is firm enough to affirm the ancient, Trinitarian faith, but soft enough to invite, include, celebrate, and be transformed by the presence of those of us formally closed out of the life of the Church – people of color, women, queer, and trans people, native and immigrant people. While we may not have been on his mind, his system of faith provided the framework that allowed many of us to experience true freedom in Jesus Christ.

Richard Hooker might not be remembered for feeding and housing people on the margins, but his system of faith nourishes and provides spiritual shelter for many, with the potential to add many more, for there is “plenty good room” in the Kingdom.

-  Marcus Halley

Anna Alexander vs. Richard Hooker

  • Anna Alexander (53%, 3,871 Votes)
  • Richard Hooker (47%, 3,469 Votes)

Total Voters: 7,340

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421 comments on “Anna Alexander vs. Richard Hooker”

  1. From Roanoke Rapids, NC, a vote for Deaconess Anna Alexander
    in honor of my chosen sister Rev. Anna Kelley, (UMC, Ret.)
    Its a struggle for churchwomen in NS Ga., but perseverance wins the day.
    Anna All the Way!!

  2. From ST. Margaret's, Lawrence, Kansas where the "other" final four is consuming the town. Terribly hard to chose, but I'm hoping Anna shoots a 3-pointer.

  3. Betty, Dover, NH. I went with Anna. White men, even ones as important As Hooker, get lots of recognition. Not so black women.

  4. I have to vote with Richard Hooker as a cradle Anglican. I identify with the via media and his approach has much to offer in these polarized times. Thunder Bay Ontario

  5. Hingham, Massachusetts, writing from Cortona, Italy.

    Having chosen the Episcopal Church out of a book at age 18 for its breadth, moderation, and reasonability (and notwithstanding utter bafflement at its inscrutable liturgy), I’m voting today for the person to whom it owes so much of those qualities. And giving thanks for the witness of Deaconess Anna and two great third-round bios.

  6. Marcus, I was so going to vote for Anna but your piece was so well written, and reminded me why I converted to Episcopalianism, that I actually changed my mind. Well done!

    1. Me too. I voted for both in the earlier rounds and wanted Anna to win the Golden Halo, but Marcus changed my mind and reminded me why I chose The Episcopal Church. I especially appreciate his depiction of the framework of our theology as hard at its core and soft around the edges. Oakmont, Pennsylvania, Diocese of Pittsburgh.

  7. Comfort, Texas (Texas hill country)
    Although I am inspired by Anna's story and applaud the works she was able to do with "her people", I am also very grateful for Richard Hooker who "fleshed-out" the ways and means of the BCP for us Episcopalians. I too am one because of this. Again, I loved Anna's "story" and her impact was tremendous, however, Richard helped make "us" who we are and helped make Anna's story possible.

  8. As a theologian and convert to the Episcopal Church, I would love to see Hooker go all the way. But I had Anna in my bracket... and we do need to lift up her example.

  9. Good morning from Shippensburg, PA. Had to vote for Richard Hooker. Love in action is important (re: Anna), but so is wrapping one's head around theology and just what it does mean to love God with our whole heart, mind, and soul.

  10. From the Bronx, NY, Anna all the way, in spite of my gratitude for Richard's foundational theology. I think Anna's our best hope for toppling Maria, who laid to rest my favorite, Esther, plus I'm angry at Richard for beating Phocas and laying waste to my bracket!

  11. Janice from North Haven, CT voting for Hooker. As a former Methodist whose Doctrine included Hooker's
    Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, also included Personal Experience. A 3 legged stool is close enough for me.

  12. This is the hardest vote since Peter vs. John! I’m originally from Atlanta, so Anna Alexander is close to my heart. But the via media is why the Episcopal Church became and is still home for someone who grew up Catholic and was conservative evangelical for a while. So Hooker it is. (What a win it is to have two such saints as examples!)

  13. In this world of extremes, we have the privilege of being a part of that pearl of great price which is the reason, properly yoked to tradition and scripture, which is the basic foundations of the Anglican way. And as something that has always been with us, it is something which is so very easy to take for granted, as we see from some of the comments here.
    Still, we also have had, for generations, another pearl of great price, which is the life, faith and example of our Brothers and Sisters, forcibly transplanted from Africa, to be another element in the fertilization of contemporary Anglican life, a rich multicultural tradition, added to richly and abundantly by these who also watered the tradition with their tears and blood, and fed with the loss of their very freedom itself.
    As we wrestle with seemingly impossible questions of reconciliation, restitution healing, perhaps we can draw a modest inspiration from the pattern left us in the beauty of the life of our Deacon, our Sister, Anna.
    This may be a hard question to choose between the two, but I am grateful that LM has given me the chance to learn about blessed Anna and others as inspiring as her, such as blessed Katherine.
    It is possible that either of the candidates of today may win, but if Anna, it will be a profoundly difficult contest again tomorrow between Anna and Maria, but if Richard, then the golden halo will likely go to Maria.
    Ha. And I could be all wrong. Which is the way She made me, after all.

  14. From Morgantown, Pennsylvania (not that other one) a vote for Richard partly because Anna needed there to be a Ricahrd first, but mostly because the minority sex deserves a bit of representation here!

  15. Wow, lots of comments. Impossible choice. The saint from my diocese who exemplifies walking the walk, against the man who laid out the framework for the Via Media - rejecting the concept of salvation through faith without considering works, predestination, and the absolute authority of liturgical leaders. Tough decision from Augusta Georgia.

  16. Voted for Anna, but thrilled all around at the worthy contenders in the Faithful Four this year (and beyond)!
    -- Laurie from Port Washington, NY

  17. Good Morning from Portland, Oregon. While both candidates are worthy of my vote, I am waiting on more coffee and comments before making a decision. This is the toughest round yet.

  18. I live in Henderson, NV but have lived in 12 states. I voted for Anna because in this day when helping people is not honored by so many and people who need help are called names,we need to remember what Jesus said about loving and caring for people. Anna is a wonderful example of love and caring against all odds.

  19. Thank you Anna Fitch Courie for introducing me to Anna. I'm ready for a field trip and yes voted for Anna.
    Thank you Supreme Executive Committee for bringing so many saints into out lives. You bring joy.
    What are the dates of the next LentMadness conference?
    What fun it will be to to meet other LentMadness fans and to have a couple days filled with presentations on saints and the history of the Episcopal Church! See you next summer, Amy from Cambridge, MA

  20. I love the Episcopal Church and Richard Hooker is responsible for a good bit of the affection. Beaverton, Michigan.

  21. This formerly Presbyterian then Universalist now Episcopalian who works for a Catholic Cathedral (Minneapolis, MN) casts her vote for the theologian whose work molded the church she loves.

    1. A good, honest comment, Oliver. I'm sure there are many LM votes that have been motivated the same way! I know I have cast a few.

  22. Today's choice was a real head/heart, Mary/Martha (or should it be Martha/Mary?) dilemma. I went with Anna. But it sure wasn't an easy choice - we need both.

    Sue (Lutheran, Towson MD)

  23. Without Richard Hooker, there might not be an Episcopal Church. Therefore, I must vote for Richard.

  24. Hard choice but I have to go with Anna who persisted despite racism, mosquitoes, and don't forget "no see'ms," to bring love and learning to her Georgia children.

    Isabel, Johnson City, Tn, and Edisto Island, S.C.