Before we move on to some serious news articles about the conflict in the worldwide Anglican Communion, let us first pay a brief visit to the community announcement columns of the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral, 421 S. Second St., will begin a two-week discussion series on “Queer Eye for the Church Guy (and Gal)” during its adult forum following the 10 a.m. Eucharist tomorrow. A mediator from Just Solutions will facilitate and record members’ responses to controversies involving church actions concerning homosexuality locally and nationally, to be forwarded to a diocesan task force.
No, this is not a satire taken from the pages of a rebellious cyber-list for traditional Episcopalians. The topic of these sessions is actually very mainstream, these days, in mainline Protestantism. What still zings the reader is the name of the program.
On the serious side, this little newspaper item also contains a reference to a journalistic issue that I have underlined many times here at GetReligion. Note that this progressive parish is planning this educational series to deal with “controversies involving church actions concerning homosexuality locally and nationally.” Note the absence of the word “globally.”
In other words, this item assumes that the conflict over the ordination of gays and same-sex unions is essentially an Episcopal Church story, rather than a global Anglican Communion story. Here at GetReligion, we have tried to praise religion-beat reporters who have worked hard to cover both angles of this complex story. However, many reporters continue to see this as the story of a small number of fundamentalist Episcopalians attempting to split the national church. If seen from the global angle, it is a story about the national Episcopal Church openly splitting off, on issues of sexual morality and the sacraments, from the global Anglican Communion.
In other words, many reporters use the same lens as the “Queer Eye for the Church Guy (and Gal)” program planners.
However, some journalists are trying to be fair to people on both sides. Note this fact paragraph from Time’s “The Tale of Two Churches: Strife over Episcopal policy on gay clergy split one congregation. How many other schisms will follow?” This piece was written by Marguerite Michaels and David Van Biema.
No two breakups are alike, and Beach’s split with St. Alban’s has its singular aspects. (There was no squabble over common assets, for one thing.) But it may also be predictive. In electing the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, an actively gay man, as a bishop in 2003, the Episcopal Church U.S.A. placed itself at the excruciating center of American mainline Christianity’s struggles over homosexuality and at odds with much of the international Anglican Communion to which it belongs. In mid-October the communion will publish a task-force report expected to address the effect of Robinson’s election on the American church’s Anglican status; a task-force news release promised “radical changes.” Conservatives hope that at a minimum, the findings will act as a lever to force the establishment of some sort of alternative U.S. hierarchy for traditionalists. If not, they warn, there will be thousands of defections like Beach’s. Thus far, the Anglican Communion Network, a kind of conservative hierarchy in waiting, claims affiliation with more than 500 Episcopal parishes. (An Episcopal spokesman says the number is lower.)
The story is full of solid human details, if a bit thin on some of the legal complexities and unresolved questions. For example, what happens to local church properties if the Archbishop of Canterbury went so far as to actually break Communion with the progressive U.S. church establishment? Who gets the parish keys if Canterbury is in Communion with the U.S. rebel alliance and not the empire based in the denominational headquarters in New York City? (The photo with this piece is from Queer Qlub at Episcopal Divinity School.)
Here is the top of another example of a global-picture story, written by Larry B. Stammer of the Los Angeles Times. Perhaps we have hit the point where the action has moved to the global structures of the church and reporters are simply following the logical flow of the events.
SPOKANE, Wash. — The nation’s Episcopal bishops concluded a five-day meeting here Tuesday, saying they were anxious but hopeful that their church would remain part of the worldwide Anglican Communion despite the Americans’ liberal stands on homosexuality.
The meeting here came just three weeks before an international church panel appointed by the archbishop of Canterbury was scheduled to make public recommendations on the future relationship between the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. That panel was formed after the Episcopal Church, which is the American arm of Anglicanism, consecrated an openly gay priest last year as bishop of New Hampshire and allowed local bishops the option of permitting same-sex blessings in their dioceses.
Some conservatives around the world reportedly are pushing for a strong rebuke of the American church, possibly forcing it out of active membership into some kind of observer status or even outright expulsion.
The last line of the piece was especially sobering: “Despite an official theme of reconciliation, several conservative bishops boycotted the event.”