A while back, Episcopal über-blogger Kendall Harmon adopted the term "reappraiser" as a non-perjorative label for the so-called liberal side of the Episcopal Church. Kendall's intention was praiseworthy, but his specific choice of words seems just a shade off the mark. I want to propose another term: "Reexaminer."
Here's what concerns me about Kendall's coinage: To me at least, the term "reappraiser" connotes someone who studies a closed evidentiary record, one that has already been scrutinized by other experts, and announces his own very different conclusions about what it supposedly means. And to some, this reappraiser may come across as expecting everyone else to recognize the superiority of his analysis; I'm sure the liberal ranks of the church include at least some people like that.
If that's what "reappraisers" are, then I agree with traditionalists that we do well to be skeptical of their views. I also understand how some trads might react strongly to what they might perceive as implicit condescension.
In Kendall's nomenclature, the opposite of a reappraiser is a "reasserter." From my extensive observations of reasserters in the wild, I would characterize them as claiming something like the following: The existing scriptural record was properly compiled and closed by our forefathers. It is all we will ever need to study in matters moral and spiritual. Highly qualified experts have studied that record for hundreds of years. All these experts — save for a few misguided heretics, to whom we need pay no attention — agree on what the record means; and their conclusions are so compelling as to be practically irrefutable. Say no more; end of story; QED.
Many reasserters would really rather we didn't look in the direction of an elephant in the room, which is humanity's impressive track record of getting things not-quite-right (and often flat-out wrong). To these reasserters, it shouldn't be but usually is a shock that a lot of people — especially among the unchurched — simply don't buy their closed-record approach.
Let me propose a third category, that of "reexaminer." I would characterize a reexaminer as someone who doesn't accept that the evidentiary record can ever be closed; who in principle is always willing to consider new evidence as it is revealed to us, let the chips fall where they may. In the mind of the reexaminer, evidence from whatever source, together with memory, reason, and skill, are gifts that help us to tentatively grasp what God has actually wrought (as opposed to what we imagine, or wish, he had wrought). These gifts lead us to a sense of awe, and guide us to a trust in God that all will be well.
It won't surprise regular readers to learn that personally, I strive to be a reexaminer.