Anglicanism out of AP style at the Times?

289517980 eb53a9b5cb oGentle readers, I am going to have to ask your patience for a few minutes as the former copy editor in me rages a bit. However, I have no idea what is going on at the moment at The New York Times‘ copy desk when it comes to handling the tricky issue of formal titles for clergy.

I totally understand that some newspapers have their own unique styles and have, in fact, worked at one or two that had some strange pages added in the local style sections.

That is well and good. What I am trying to figure out is why the Times has done what it has done with clergy titles in its coverage of the Anglican world wars. I also wonder whether the lords of the copy desk will be consistent in applying the rules.

What do I mean? Consider, first of all, a very recent Times story about a Connecticut law that will require all hospitals to provide rape victims with emergency contraception. The Roman Catholic hierarchy is not pleased.

Archbishop Henry J. Mansell of Hartford and other church leaders argued that the legislation would conflict with Catholic beliefs, which state that life begins at conception and prohibit abortion.

This is the normal way to identify a clergy person — the title goes before the name on first reference, uppercase. It is very common to see this condensed further, as in “Hartford Archbishop Henry J. Mansell.” If the story involves clergy of several different churches, you might see “Catholic Archbishop Henry J. Mansell of Hartford.”

This is the normal style and the Times seems to be using it consistently — except with Anglicans and Episcopalians. What do I mean? Consider the latest developments in Northern Virginia, as described by reporter Neela Banerjee. Here is the opening of the latest story:

WOODBRIDGE, Va. May 5 – The Anglican archbishop of Nigeria, Peter J. Akinola, on Saturday installed Bishop Martyn Minns of Virginia as the new leader of a diocese that would take in congregations around the country that want to leave the Episcopal Church. In doing so, Archbishop Akinola rejected requests by leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church to refrain from taking part in the ceremony.

This contains a traditional reference to “Bishop Martyn Minns” as well as a rather roundabout reference to the “Anglican archbishop of Nigeria, Peter J. Akinola,” who becomes “Archbishop Akinola” on the second reference. A few lines later, we see this unorthodox use of titles used again — three times.

A decision by the Episcopal Church in 2003 to ordain an openly gay man, V. Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire outraged traditionalists in the United States and abroad, who believe that the Bible condemns homosexuality.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Anglican Communion, sent a letter to Archbishop Akinola late last week urging him to cancel his plans to visit the United States. His letter repeated requests made by Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the American branch of Anglicanism. Bishop Jefferts Schori said that by attending the ceremony, Archbishop Akinola would heighten tensions between the Episcopal Church and many in the 77-million-member Anglican Communion.

gene robinsonNormal style, for those keeping score, would be “Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire,” “Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams” and “Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church.” Also, shouldn’t that be “Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori” on second reference instead of merely “Bishop Jefferts Schori”?

What is going on here? Did style-committee members at the Times debate this issue and, in the end, decide that it is impossible to decide who is an Anglican bishop or archbishop at the moment and who is not? Did this result in a compromise for the newspaper of record to, as a rule, soften the use of clergy titles — period?

All of this is, I know, very confusing. So much so that I can understand that journalists are perplexed when they hear from liberal Episcopalians who are sure that Bishop Minns is not a real bishop and from traditionalists who are sure that Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori is not a real priest, bishop or archbishop. These issues are at the heart of the current liturgical warfare.

How? OK, if Minns ordains a man as a priest, is he an Episcopal priest or is he an Anglican priest? Can he serve at an altar in London? In New York? On the other side, if Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori ordains a man or a woman as a priest, is that person a priest in Lagos? At all altars in the United States? This division goes beyond issues of gender, but strikes at the heart of Anglican doctrines of apostolic succession. What happens when several female bishops are involved in the consecration of a bishop? Is that person a bishop in parts of the Anglican Communion and not others? Who is keeping careful records on who is and who is not valid?

So how does a newspaper handle this, when it comes time to apply formal titles to these clergy? There is, after all, no way to make both sides happy. However, unless I am missing something, it appears that the Times is using this innovation in style for Anglicans and Episcopalians, but not in coverage of other churches.

It is also possible to see the battle over the titles affecting other publications, such as The Washington Post and its “missionary bishop” status for Minns. Has the Post printed a clear reference to “Bishop Minns” yet? A search for that title on the newspaper’s website gets zero hits.

Meanwhile, The Washington Times continues to follow the Associated Press Stylebook, with simple first references to “Bishop Martyn Minns,” “Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola,” “New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson” and “Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.”

Let me stress again: There is content in this journalistic confusion, content that is at the heart of this regional, national and global story. There is good reason to be picky here. The words matter.

Photos: U.S. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

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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.

  • Martha

    It looks as though they are trying to negotiate the alphabet soup of Anglicanisms in the United States and I sympathise with them: AMiA? CANA? the Network? TEC that used to be ECUSA that used to be PECUSA? Who’s Anglican? Who’s Episcopalian? Isn’t that the same thing? Usedn’t that be the same thing? What’s going on?

    TEC is claiming that it’s still part of the Anglican Communion, which means that it’s in communion with the Church of Nigeria. So it has to (?) recognise the clergy of the church of Nigeria. So it has to (?) recognise that Bishop Minns is indeed a bishop. Unless it’s claiming that he’s still a member of TEC and so can’t be consecrated a bishop until he’s left TEC. Which he seems to have done, so that’s okay now, isn’t it?

    I think they’re probably playing safe by giving everyone the titles they claim, because if they say “X is/is not a bishop while Y is/is not”, then they’ll get angry letters from both sides saying “Oh, yes, X is!/isn’t!” So I guess it isn’t really fair of me to nitpick that Gene Robinson wasn’t ‘ordained’ bishop, he was ‘consecrated’ one (or not, depending on your view of (1) the validity of Anglican orders (2) his fitness to be so consecrated) ;-)

  • Huw Raphael

    When I worked at 815, standard speaking style was not “Presiding Bishop Edmund Browning” but just “Bishop…” The Times may be hearing a lot of people referring to “Bishop Jefferts Schori” or even just “Bishop Katherine.” In writing it was usually “The Most Rev’d….” with the the salutation being “Dear Bishop…”

    I think the Times’ style is non-uniform, but they seem to be hitting all the right points. Is it the lack of uniformity that’s getting to you?

  • tmatt


    If they were going to let people use the titles that they claim, they could still just go ahead and use AP Style. Click the link and look at the Washington Times story to see what that looks like.

    No, they created this Anglican/Episcopal style for some unique reason.

    I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what that reason is.

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  • Fred

    The only source for Christianity and God’s will on how to be saved is the Holy Bible. The Catholic church began the great apostasy and lives it today. The bible clearly states in Matthew {23:9} And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. {23:10} Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, Christ.

    Funny how that’s never mentioned. Titles are alien to the bible. Stop using them and search the scriptures for the truth.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Gee, I sure hope Fred doesn’t call his Dad, father.
    A few points–Martha, you are right about the words “ordain” and “consecrate” as they were used by Catholics in the past in the U.S. But lately I’ve seen the word “ordain” used for the ceremony raising a Catholic priest to a bishop’s seat. Who ordained this change in the U.S. I do not know.
    This Episcopal-Anglican confusion in consecrations (ordinations) of bishops is not new. It, I believe, is part of the reason that Rome doesn’t recognize their apostolic succession.
    Matt–Do the Orthodox recognize them as real bishops????

  • Mollie

    New visitors to GetReligion: We don’t discuss religion here, we discuss how the mainstream media handles religious issues. Please take a gander at our commenting policy before going off.


  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Curtis is right–we Christians do a terrible job living up to the words of a man who said to even love your enemies-do good to those who persecute you–turn the other cheek. But if I start spewing anger and hatred as Curtis has, then I have a judge I am answerable to Who I hope will also keep me from the evils Curtis says Christians habitually commit. ( Although it was Christian clergy who frequently defended natives from the depridations of the conquering nations). My only thought is–what Judge or Teaching Master keeps hate-filled atheists in check. Who kept Stalin in check? Who kept Pol Pot in check? Who kept Mao in check??? If the 2oth Century proved anything it is that avid atheists are much better at killing hordes of people than nominal Christians.
    But the media–in talking of moral depridations by groups seems to have developed a total amnesia about the blood-drenched 20th Century–blood-drenched mostly by atheist leaders and their lemming followers.

  • Fr. Greg

    tmatt writes:

    No, they created this Anglican/Episcopal style for some unique reason.

    I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what that reason is.

    Well, Terry, why don’t you pick up the phone and call the copy desk at the Times? I, for one, would be interested in the response you get.

  • P.S. Burton

    I recall debate in my youth over official Roman Catholic print media’s use of lower case in respect to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

    The problem in respect to salutation and appropriate address of title is perhaps con-sequenced by changes in cultural linguistics or the result of life in the era of Internet.

    To be frank, you have lived past the time when words matter.

  • John

    Dear Tom,

    I’m sorry you missed the movie “Bambi” and the lesson in it from Thumper’s daddy, to wit: “If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all.” Honestly, I’ve never seen anyone so passionate about protecting the news media, and the Times in particular, from criticism. Do you really think it’s a good idea to get your blood pressure up or bust a few capillaries just to vent on a religious organization?

  • Douglas LeBlanc

    AP is clear about titles in the second reference. I’ll quote the entire paragraph for greater clarity and context:

    CARDINALS, ARCHBISHOPS, BISHOPS: The preferred form for first reference is to use Cardinal, Archbishop or Bishop before the individual’s name: Cardinal Timothy Manning, archbishop of Los Angeles. On second reference, Manning or the cardinal.

    Please forgive the dated reference to Timothy Manning. I’m using the 2004 edition of the AP Stylebook, though even that edition should reflect that Roger Mahony is now the archbishop of Los Angeles.

  • Michael

    The WP used the same approach as the NYT in describing Wiliams and Schori

    In the days before yesterday’s service, Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury and head of the entire communion, and Katharine Jefferts-Schori, head of the U.S. church, asked Akinola not to oversee Minns’s installation.

    So it’s not just the NYT copy desk. My guess is both papers are putting clarity ahead of slavish adherence to the AP Style preferences. With such a confusing cast of characters, I imagine the goal was trying to be clear for people who are new to the unfolding drama.

  • marco frisbee

    As a point of clarification: St. Paul implied in at least one of his letters to being a “father” to those he addressed. The post-Reformation assertion by some that “Father” is an “unbiblical” title and meriting divine wrath is, well, unbiblical.

    From one schizophrenia to another, Catholic bishops were “consecrated” prior to Vatican II, based on the idea of the episcopacy being “the fullness of the priesthood.” This thinking was tweaked ever so slightly at the Council and as a result priests being given the office are now “ordained” as bishops. Also, senior bishops (and very rarely these days, priests) are “created” as cardinals.

    I mention this because some bishops in the Roman and Orthodox churches are “titular,” having no actual territory assigned to them. In Roman practice the “titular” part usually comes first, meriting ordination and then assignment to a diocese. Then there’s the difference between “Most Reverend” in Roman/Orthodox usage and “Right Reverend” in Anglican usage – both referring to a bishop – but someone else can explain that!!

  • Stephen A.

    Ron, as mentioned before, this site is ALL ABOUT how the media covers religion – not about the issues themselves. So, how the media refer to clergy is VERY relevant here.

    That said, I’m at a loss to describe the seeming confusion over standard usages. A meeting ought to be called in the newsroom, or a memo should be prepared.

  • Matthew

    I suspect Michael has the answer here. I imagine the NYT is using appositives after the name rather than AP style because it allows them to pack more information into the phrase and not sound horribly awkward. “Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church” sounds a lot better to my ear than “Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church Katherine Jefferts Schori,” and it tells me who she is more than just “Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.” And “Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church” just sounds redundant.

    On the topic of “creating” a cardinal, I suspect this has to do with the fact that the title cardinal has no theological significance in Roman Catholic doctrine–it’s just a title. So you don’t consecrate or ordain one, as those processes supposedly result in a spiritual change; instead you just grant them a title, similar to “creating” someone a baron.

  • Jeffrey Weiss

    Terry, I think you are overreacting. There is style and there is smooth writing. Style that gets in the way of smooth writing can sometimes be tweaked a smidge, assuming the smooth writing does not mislead the readers. In each of the examples you cite, the usage that is there includes the title you think is appropriate.
    Do you really find so much of a difference between “The Anglican archbishop of Nigeria, Peter J. Akinola,” and “Nigerian Anglican Archbishop Peter. J. Akinola”? I suggest the first is a bit more conversational.
    Ditto “V. Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire” Would you have had it written “Bishop V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire”? Redundant, that.
    “Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the American branch of Anglicanism” keeps the title and explanation next to each other.

    Style is not, ahem, theology. It exists to promote clear writing and properly informed readers. In none of your examples do I see that violated. In previous posts you’ve pointed out some diddling over whether someone is a priest or a bishop and whether the titles were properly applied. But in this case, I do not see it. Everybody seems to have the right title with no ambiguity.

  • Robbie

    I’m away from the AP stylebook right now and haven’t been on a rim for about six months, but at a glance, I don’t see anything too unusual here, considering some of the NYTimes’ quirks in general.

    My memory is fuzzy on this, but I think I remember someone from the Times mentioning at last year’s ACES conference that they were trying to move away from long titles before names, instead using descriptions after the name: i.e., not “Deputy Press Secretary Joe Schmo,” but “Joe Schmo, the deputy press secretary.” I always liked doing this, for the simple reason that I then didn’t have to remember whether to capitalize a title…

    So while “Archbishop Henry J. Mansell” might be seen as short enough to use a title, “Nigerian Anglican Archbishop Peter J. Akinola” would seem a bit long, and it would be unclear whether his title was “Archbishop” or “Nigerian Anglican Archbishop.” On the other hand, saying “the Anglican archbishop of Nigeria, Peter J. Akinola.” is a bit less obtrusive. I don’t think you could just say “Archbishop Peter J. Akinola of Nigeria,” because the Anglican part would seem important, since the point of the story is the crossing of national and organizational lines.

    My biggest problems with the titles here are these: (1) I’m not sure why they said Akinola “installed Bishop Martyn Minns of Virginia” rather than “installed Martyn Minns of Virginia as bishop.” Regardles of whether one considers him a “real” bishop, it would seem that he clearly wasn’t a bishop until being installed as one, while the language used seems to say he was already a bishop. (2) Considering the use of a appositive description rather than a title before the name, should it be “Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury,” sted “Archbishop of Canterbury” capped.

    As for subsequent references, it would seem that they use “Bishop So-and-So” just like they still use courtesy titles on second references. And I’d agree with the other commenters that Katharine Jefforts Schiori can be described as just “Bishop” sted “Presiding Bishop” — I think its seen as a kind of “first among equals” role…

  • MattK

    Deacon John,
    The Orthodox do not accept Anglican orders. We require all baptized Anglicans who convert to Orthodoxy to do so through the rite of Chrismation. They enter the Orthodox Church as laity. (But there is probably an orthodox bishop somewhere in the world who makes exceptions. Bishops in Orthodoxy have great flexibility.) Roman Catholic clergy convert by vesting as Orthodox priests. But this is not the same as recognizing their ordinationas as valid. If we recognized their ordinations they wouldn’t have to convert because we would be the same Church. Roman Catholic laity convert to Orthodxy by confessing to an Orthodox priest.

    Mr. LeBlanc,
    I was surprised to read that the AP Style book has “Cardinal Timothy Manning” when the Roman Catholic Church usually puts the title between the first and last name of the Cardinal. For example: His Eminence, Bernard Cardinal Law, Archbishop of Boston was created cardinal under the title Santa Susanna.” (Source:

    I always assumed that when I heard the words in the wrong order it was because a reporter made a mistake. But, I guess, they were just following the AP Style book’s mistake.

  • tmatt


    I have not assigned any motive or judgment. You are overreacting to my reaction. Ditto Michael.

    However, I will say that the NYTimes language strikes me as more jarring and awkward than the AP literalism of the Washington Times. Read the two one after another. Honest.

    Now, you can make a case that the NYTs is preparing for a totally post-Episcopal world, or, better said, a world in which there is an Anglican structure and an Episcopal structure. If so, that will be lots of info to jam in there and, perhaps, that is a train wreck worthy of this style revision.

    My other question stands, however. Will they apply this structure to other churches? Or is it truly Anglican-specific? What an amazing statement that would be.

  • Chuck

    My personal guess is that the Times recognizes that these church officials are more popular by their name than by title. It is as if Joseph Ratzinger were more known by his name than B16. I’m sure the Times would then call him “Joseph Ratzinger, newly elected Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI”. The Times has always had this elitist view that they don’t follow style but create it, which is not bad of people can read a story and get it’s full impact, that there are a lot of personalities clashing in an ecclesiastical world war.

  • Emily

    Regarding MattK’s question of whether “Cardinal Timothy Manning” or “Timothy Cardinal Manning” is appropriate: The AP Stylebook dictates that reporters use the first. I believe that somewhere in the AP Stylebook (alas, I don’t have it here at home) there is a comment explaining why this is so. Basically, the second usage is a relic of medieval England, when people had noble titles immediately following their first names. Americans generally have not recognized titles of nobility, so therefore it’s not appropriate to put an archaic noble title like “Timothy Cardinal Manning” in print, and the title goes before his name.

    At least that’s the argument. I still think that many times “Diana, Princess of Wales” (a more formal, and according to AP, archaic usage) sounds and looks cleaner than “Princess of Wales Diana.” Likewise, “Nigerian Anglican Archbishop Peter J. Akinola” sounds rather cumbersome to me. I do find it odd that the NYT is applying this new policy on titles only to Episcopalians/Anglicans; I can only surmise the reasons for doing so. However, as a copy editor, I find the NYT text to be clean and understandable. I would argue that the NYT should apply this new policy regarding titles across the board — using them as appositives almost always makes the text more understandable. (On occasion, I have edited stories to place a title after a person’s name, in outright violation of AP style, if I felt doing so would improve the clarity of the text.)

    -Emily, young but crochety copy editor.

  • Michael

    My other question stands, however. Will they apply this structure to other churches? Or is it truly Anglican-specific? What an amazing statement that would be.

    They also appear to apply it to Catholics. From today’s story about the Pope’s visit to Latin America

    At the behest of conservatives, the Vatican has imposed sanctions on the liberation theologians Gustavo Gutiérrez of Peru, Leonardo Boff of Brazil and, most recently, Jon Sobrino of El Salvador, a Jesuit born in Spain. But when the Vatican admonished Father Sobrino, in March, Pedro Casaldáliga of Brazil, one of the bishops most committed to liberation theology, wrote an open letter calling on the church to reaffirm its “real commitment to the service of God’s poor” and “the link between faith and politics.”

    At a news conference here on April 27, the newly appointed archbishop of São Paulo, Odilo Scherer, 57, tried to conciliate the two opposing viewpoints. While he criticized liberation theology for using “Marxism as a tool of analysis,” he also praised liberation theologians for redirecting the church’s mission here to focus on issues of social injustice and poverty.

    I would argue the Anglican/Episcopal story is so complicated–especially with the Episcopal church not using the word “Anglican” in its name–that there needs to be a lot of explanatoin for readers not familiar with thte story. Thus clairy and smoothness means style takes second place to clarity.

  • Alan

    I suppose it would be easier to take seriously if it didn’t look so much as if ++KJS is doing a Vulcan mind meld.

  • Jeffrey Weiss

    Um, Terry, I didn’t say nuthin’ about your motive. How would you feel about:
    John Roberts was sworn in as chief justice Tuesday. Justice Roberts, bla bla bla…

    George W. Bush was sworn in as president Tuesday. The new president bla bla bla…

    Whether or not these constructions would be to your taste, is there any substantive difference between them and putting the titles in front? Sez I: Nope.

  • Martha

    They may also be trying to clarify that Bishop Jefferts Schori is the equivalent in rank to Archbishop Akinola or Archbishop Williams, and superior to Bishop Minns, even though she’s just styled Bishop and not Archbishop.

    And that Episcopalian is part of the wider Anglican church, but that other countries refer to themselves as Anglican not Episcopalian. I know that when I first heard of all this to-do, I kept saying to myself “Oh, so the Episcopal Church is Anglican – why don’t they just say the Church of North America, so, like the Church of England or the Church of Nigeria?” Of course, that was before all the history was explained.

  • YetAnotherRick

    About the Cardinal rule, as a Chicagoan for 27 years, I seem to remember many references to Joseph Cardinal Bernardin in local news. I don’t consume much local news anymore, but I don’t think I’ve heard Francis Cardinal George as often, percentage-wise. But then, Chicago has a rather large number of Catholics, and Bernardin, Cardinal of the Chicago Diocese, was very popular, so that may have been an influence.

  • Dennis Colby


    The AP Stylebook isn’t mistaken by advising “Cardinal John Smith” instead of “John Cardinal Smith.” Both usages are common in the Catholic Church, as at Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s blog:

    Check out how he identifies the various cardinals in the caption to the photo of them together.

    “Cardinal John Smith” is preferable in a mass media context because people unfamiliar with Catholicism might be confused by “John Cardinal Smith,” not knowing why the title comes between the first name and the surname.

  • Garry

    If I had my way, no ecclesiastic, of any denominational persuasion, would be identified by anything other than his/her given name, followed by whatever position he/she holds in the Church. A person’s name is the most important part of his/her public persona and that should speak for itself.

  • obadiahslope

    Robbie asked
    ‘I’m not sure why they said Akinola “installed Bishop Martyn Minns of Virginia” rather than “installed Martyn Minns of Virginia as bishop.” ‘
    Thats because Minns was consecrated Bishop in Nigeria last year. So he was already a bishop at the time of the recent ceremony in Virginia. When Jefferts Schori was made presiding Bishop there was a second ceremony as well.

  • Gallycat

    New York Times’ house style departs significantly enough from AP that they wrote their own dern stylebook. I have it floating around gathering dust somewhere weird; it should surface when I finish moving-if so, I ‘ll see if I can find chapter/verse citation on treating these particular titles.