Baltimore Sun ‘perceives’ an Episcopal trend

CenterburyNuke1Clearly, the Anglican vs. Episcopal warfare is just getting started at the local level here in the United States, which means that more and more religion reporters are going to have to wade into this journalistic swamp in the weeks, months and years ahead.

This time around, it was reporter Liz F. Kay of the Baltimore Sun, writing about a Pentecost service attended by Anglican Bishop Hector Zavala of Chile, who was visiting a missionary parish of his diocese that is located in Baltimore County.

The heart of the story comes early, in the grit-your-teeth-and-write-it background paragraphs that reporters simply have to write in order to help readers understand what is, supposedly, going on. So here is Kay’s shot at this almost impossible task:

The Church of the Resurrection is one of many in the United States forming relationships with foreign bishops after growing increasingly dissatisfied with the perceived liberal direction of the Episcopal Church, the U.S. arm of the international Anglican Communion.

For several Resurrection members, the 2003 election of the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, who is openly gay, as bishop of New Hampshire was a recent — but not the only — evidence of a church straying from biblical values and truths.

Reisterstown resident Vince Clews, a founding member of Church of the Resurrection, said its formation after Robinson’s election may imply homophobia but had more to do with public statements by Episcopal bishops who don’t believe in tenets such as the divinity of Jesus, his resurrection or virgin birth.

That isn’t all that bad, as these things go. Saying that there are “many” U.S. parishes forming ties to traditional Anglicans in the Third World will raise some eyebrows on the left, since many newspapers are using words like “some,” “a few” or “dozens.” It would really help if the elves at one or more of the Anglican sites created a master U.S. Anglican parish list online to help reporters (hint, hint).

Then there is the issue of Clews’ claim that there is more to his parish’s stand than homophobia. This is, of course, a fact of history if anyone wants to study a timeline of the Anglican conflict.

However, this is what is really hard for reporters to capture in a mere paragraph or two.

The Anglican right is correct when it says that the doctrinal and creedal conflicts dividing this worldwide Communion are broader and deeper than sex. It is also true that this open warfare has been going on for a long, long, long time — for a quarter century or so. This is why I came up with the questions in the “tmatt trio” back in the mid-1980s and added the Anglican “bonus question” in 1993. (Follow those links if you need background or you are playing the GetReligion drinking game.)

However, the Episcopal left is absolutely correct when it notes that the conflict — for whatever reasons — truly exploded as the ordination of noncelibate gays and lesbians entered the mainstream of the church here in North America. The Robinson election threw the final switch, especially in terms of media coverage. It personalized the conflict, which creates a story that is easier to write than one centering on often foggy theological language.

The most interesting word, journalistically speaking, in Kay’s report is the word “perceived” in the statement that traditionalists are upset about the “perceived liberal direction of the Episcopal Church.” This interests me, because I think we have reached the point where leaders on the Episcopal left are openly and honestly saying that God wants their church to move in a liberal, or progressive, direction.

“Perceived”? Let’s turn that around. If the Anglican right was victorious tomorrow and somehow began to pass and enforce statements, well, that salvation can only be found through Jesus Christ, that clergy must preach that the resurrection literally happened and that sex outside of marriage is a sin, would The Sun write that mainstream Episcopal leaders were upset that their church was swinging in what they “perceived” was a conservative or even, heaven forbid, a “fundamentalist” direction? Would anyone doubt that the facts were clear?

Once again, I think we have reached the stage where newspapers can quote people saying what they believe and then let the readers figure out what is going on. At least that is my perception.

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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.

  • Jake

    Don’t you think that particular timeline is a bit slanted?

    If you’re going to recommend it to the press, let’s offer a little more balance.

    Might I suggest an alternative timeline?

  • tmatt

    I openly note, in the post, that the timeline is from a conservative point of view.

    However, the dates are all accurate and so are the references. I am sure there are other events — from both sides — that could be added.

    Jake, what would you consider a major liberal defeat IN THE US CONTEXT in the past 25 Episcopal years?

  • Jake

    The link I provided above may not be working. Here is an alternative link for an alternative timeline.

    I’m not going to play the game of “victory” or “defeat.” I simply want to make sure that there is a balance of information offered to the press. What I saw being offered was certainly not balanced. What I am presenting probably is not either. But now a good reporter will be able to see both sides of the story, and pick and choose what to present.

  • tmatt


    Amen on the more info….

    And my question again: What would you consider a major liberal defeat IN THE US CONTEXT in the past 25 Episcopal years?

  • tmatt


    You out there? Jake? Hello?

  • elfgirl

    Terry, I note your plea:
    It would really help if the elves at one or more of the Anglican sites created a master U.S. Anglican parish list online to help reporters (hint, hint).

    You’re not the first who’s asked, and I’m guessing you won’t be the last. Given this repeated plea (for which I’m afraid I DON’T know anyone who has a very complete set of data available), we did at least create a category on the new TitusOneNine blog tonight — even before we saw this post!

    The category name is: TEC: Departing Parishes
    It’s a sub-category of Anglican / Episcopal
    — TEC Conflicts
    You can search the categories in Advanced Search. We’re hoping to get them up on the sidebar soon.

    We’ve got our hands really full with getting the new blog fully up to speed. But if we have some time in a few weeks, we’ll see what we can do to search the old T19 site and come up with some data and links on departed parishes. But, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

    Oh, here’s one link that might help. There was a very basic blog one of the T19 readers once set up called ECUSA Departures.

    I don’t think it’s been touched for months, and it was never verified for completeness. But it’s a starting point.
    [We have no idea who compiled it, otherwise we'd put you in touch.]

    A few other tidbits revealed by a quick Google search:

    (If you can’t get into the old T19 site, the Google cache still works fine.)

  • C. Wingate

    Well, in the interest of, I don’t know, obsessiveness, I’ve compared the two timelines. (Shortly I shall post the joint version to my blog.) There were some difficulties in doing so, mostly because Jake’s version is vague on dates and specific citations. The conservative version starts earlier, as well. Ignoring the earlier portion (with one exception), I find the following differences:
    Jake doesn’t mention the Philadelphia 11 ordinations.
    The conservative list neglects to mention that GC 1976 allowed dioceses to continue to ordain men only. Neither list mentions the subsequent revocation of this permission.
    Jake doesn’t mention Spong at all.
    The conservative list omits mention of the initiation of primates meetings or the 1978 Lambeth decision on autonomy and ordination of women. They also do not note the formation of the Province of Nigeria.
    Jake omits mention of a number of “conservative” GC resolutions. He also remarks on some other Protestant developments whose relevance is weak.
    the Conservative list neglects a statement Jake makes about evangelicals in the C of E.
    Jake completely skips the homosexual ordination crisis of the early 1990s except to note Righter’s acquittal. Likewise he makes no mention of the same sex unions in 2004.
    The conservative list omits the New Westminster same sex rites issue. It also omits mention of Akinola’s anti-homosexual statements.
    Both lists omit the Jane Dixon crisis in Washington, and neither mentions western rite Orthodoxy or the Anglican Use.
    When it comes down to it, Jake’s list elides too much. In particular, it omits the provocative acts that generally preceded each “progressive” advance. His mention of the Southern Baptists also a problem, not just for the obvious reason, but also because he omits the story of these same conflicts in other mainline churches, where they played out quite differently.

  • elfgirl

    By the way, I should have added: we would welcome feedback from journalists covering the Anglican wars about how we can set up the new Titusonenine site to be most helpful to those needing information.

    We’ll probably be duplicating (with some tweaks) the comprehensive list of categories on the old T19 site. The new site has some more advanced search options that should be helpful.

    What categories would y’all like to see? What type of “quick links” or information in the sidebar? There’s still a lot of work to be done on the new blog, so there is opportunity to get us your feedback:


  • Jake

    What I supplied was incomplete, and not my work. The author, Richard Helmer, has now made the timeline available in PDF format:

  • Jake

    Ok, to answer tmatt’s question regarding a major defeat in the last 25 years;

    The progressives were late in realizing that the internet has changed everything.

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  • elfgirl

    Oh, too fun. Fr. Binky is having lots of fun with that great comment, Fr. Jake! ;-)

    You just made the day of all of us who have been working so hard to get the new T19 up to speed!


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  • Jake

    Ha! Glad to provide some entertainment…but who is that guy? Can’t be me. I despise purple shirts.