The power of the “tmatt trilogy”?

front smallAs we have mentioned in the past, it is very rare for local television stations to have a Godbeat specialist in their newsrooms. Sadly, it is just as hard to find a religion-beat professional in a national-level broadcast newsroom.

Anyway, WKRN in Nashville — a logical, Bible Belt city for this product — does have a religion-news slot, and reporter Jamey Tucker at News 2 has even created a blog on which he discusses journalistic issues linked to his beat and, well, football. I have said it once and I will say it again: Football is a religion in parts of the South and Southeast. Go for it, big man.

So it is with a heavy heart that I have to call Tucker on the carpet and ask him to correct a terrible error on his blog. I am really torn up about this. Here is the key part of this blog item, which focuses on the aftermath of the very long and very tense campaign to elect the new bishop of the pivotal Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee.

Can you spot the horrible error?

Reverend John C Bauerschmidt was consecrated Saturday as the 11th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of TN. What a job he has to do. The Episcopal Church of America seems destined to split from the Anglican Communion. I don’t think anyone would be surprised if that happens within the next year, in fact I think there are many Episcopalians who would be surprised if it didn’t happen.

So I was most interested to hear the Bishop’s response to the tmatt trilogy. Some of you read Terry Mattingly’s column and work at www.getreligion.org. Terry likes to get a sense of where people stand theologically by asking them three questions: 1. Is Jesus the only way to get into heaven? 2. Did the resurrection happen just as the Bible describes? and 3. Is sex outside of marriage a sin?

So I asked Bishop Bauerschmidt those questions. #1, yes “Jesus says I am the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through me”. #2. “I believe Jesus was crucified, was dead, buried and rose again on the third day.” #3, “Christianity has traditionally understood sexual expression to be appropriate within marriage.” Prompted further on the issue of ordaining homosexual priests, Bauerschmidt told me “God creates us male and female and I think for that reason, we need to tread very carefully as we look at other forms of sexual intimacy.”

Those are the issues facing the Episcopal Church and Bauerschmidt’s responses will be welcomed by many church members but I’m sure are reason for concern for some local clergy.

Let’s get this straight. J.R.R. Tolkien has a “trilogy.” I, tmatt, have shamelessly (cheers!) used this blog to promote a “trio” of questions about ancient Christian doctrines as a way to glean useful information about oldline Protestant leaders, First World Catholic hanchos and other religious bigwigs on both the left and the right.

However, three cheers to Tucker for grasping the purpose of the questions and using them properly. Notice that, on question No. 3, the new bishop has dodged the “sin” question and there is no “only” after the words “to be appropriate.” What we have here is a gently stated fault line. Is he a corporate man or a doctrinal man? There’s the story looming in the future.

However, let me also note that Tucker has the questions in the “tmatt trio” out of order and has changed some of the wordings. Hey, to each his own. He also should consider — since this is an Episcopal story — adding my infamous Anglican-wars bonus question: “Should churches in the Anglican Communion ban the worship, by name, of other gods at their altars?”

Hey, Tucker, just try that last question. I promise the results will not be boring.

Photo: Christ Church Cathedral, Nashville.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Fr. Andrew

    Well, FWIW, J.R.R. Tolkien doesn’t have a trilogy. The Lord of the Rings is a single story in three volumes. Tolkien originally wanted it published in one volume, but the publishers decided otherwise (due mainly to the post-WW2 paper shortages). A trilogy is instead three separate, but related works.

  • Alan

    Great 4th question to add to the trilogy. Considering many past Episcopal services, it is one which should be considered. However, one would have to ask how effective it would be.

    For instance, Bishop Spong, who seems to believe nothing of traditional Christianity, says with a straight face that he can say the Nicene Creed because he has his own understanding of the words. And the Episcopal Church Women’s Ministry has been busted on multiple occasions for taking, almost verbatim, Wiccan and other pagan services for use.

    So I can see a service which outwardly seems to comply with such a hypothetical rule which is nevertheless directed at something other. In fact, I am fairly certain I have already attended a few such services already.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    My take is that if you used my 4th question as a resolution in the House of Bishops of TEC, it would be tabled. Not defeated. Silence.

    But the ballot vote to table — demanded by traditionalists — would show you the fault line for what is to come.

  • Dan Berger

    “Hauncho”? Is this a typo, or an extremely witty dig at First World bishops?

  • charlie

    There are a couple of errors in the tv guy’s post. First, since Bauerschmidt has been consecrated, he should be referred to as the Rt. Rev. Secondly, the Episcopal Church of America (sic) as it it presently construed, is not “destined” to leave the Anglican Communion. Individual parishes, and even dioceses, may leave the Episcopal Church to link up with other members of the communion. That said, I think that a great many people, including Episcopalians, would be SHOCKED if ECUSA and the communion parted ways in the next year. The covenant design commmittee is just getting started, for Pete’s sake. Any split between ECUSA and the AC is years away. To not know that is to brutally misunderstand Anglican polity.

  • Ned Carmody-South Carolina

    Let’s hope the TEC will go its own way and leave the orthodox to remain faithful to their historic faith.