Mitres not in style (on first reference)

mitre lgIt has been some time since we offered any kind of update on the Anglican Wars, here and abroad. This one will be brief. I promise.

On one level, the hot news of the moment is that U.S. Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori is pleading — with little or no chance of success — for Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola not to proceed with this Saturday’s rites to install the first bishop of the rebel Convocation of Anglicans in North America. Believe me, that local/regional/national/global story is not going to end anytime soon, as regular GetReligion readers know.

However, there is an interesting shift or two in newspaper style in a recent New York Times update on the situation by reporter Neela Banerjee. On one level, it is interesting to note that the headline — “Visit by Anglican Bishop Draws Episcopal Anger” — now acknowledges a de facto division between the global body (Anglican) and the national body (Episcopal). Frankly, I don’t know how to get around that language problem, which must pain U.S. leaders no end.

But that is not the big news. Read the following and see if you can spot the key style innovation (which I do not think I have seen in the Times before):

The Nigerian archbishop, Peter J. Akinola, will preside over a ceremony in Virginia on May 5 installing Martyn Minns, former rector of an Episcopal church there, as the bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, an offshoot of the Nigerian church.

… Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, said in a statement that Archbishop Akinola’s acceptance of “an invitation to episcopal ministry here without any notice or prior invitation” was not in keeping with “the ancient practice in most of the church” that bishops minister only within their own jurisdictions.

… Archbishop Akinola’s office did not reply to an e-mail message seeking comment about his visit. But Bishop Minns said the convocation that he is to lead was not interfering with the Episcopal Church.

Did you catch it? It seems that Minns is now officially a “bishop,” but only on second reference.

At the same time, all of the other bishops have also lost their titles on first reference, only to regain them on second reference. Interesting, no? Has anyone spotted whether this unique Times style strategy also applies to leaders in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, AME Zion, Lutheran, Church of God in Christ or United Methodist hierarchies (or any others that spring to mind)? Did everyone lose their episcopates on first reference, or is this only an Anglican style thing?

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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.

  • http://www.geocities.com/frgregacca/stfel.html Fr. Greg

    Well, let’s see..

    The first sentence quoted identifies Akinola as “The Nigerian archbishop” and then speaks of Jefferts Schori as, “the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church”. Therefore, it is clear that these two people are, in fact, bishops. The only quibble I have is that it is not clear, from the beginning, that Mims is already a bishop as well; his status as such is not changing, only his job description/function. Therefore, I might reword the first sentence quoted as follows:

    “The Nigerian archbishop, Peter J. Akinola, will preside over ["at" is probably preferrable here] a ceremony in Virginia on May 5 installing Bishop Martyn Minns, former rector of an Episcopal church there, as the head of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, an offshoot of the Nigerian church.”

    I’m also not sure that “offshoot” is the best term for CANA.

    However, since later in the piece, Mark Harris is identified as “the Rev.”, it might have been better, overall, to use ” the Most Rev.” in reference to Akinola and Jefferts Schori and “the Rt. Rev.” with regard to Mims at least once each. Part of the problem, I would guess, is that different churches use different titles for bishops and/or archbishops (but doesn’t the AP Stylebook cover this?). In general, it is not unusual to see bishops and other clergy referred to by their last names only, as with other persons mentioned in news stories, once their function/status has been identified.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    I am raising an issue of actual Associated Press style concerning titles.

    Normally it would be Bishop Martyn Minns, the former rector…

    Or

    Nigerian Archbishop Peter J. Akinola….

    or

    U.S. Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori said that it is crucial that….

    The info is there. I find the packaging interesting and I do wonder if this new semi-style applies to other churches.

  • http://blidiot.blogspot.com/ Raider51

    With respect to the headline, perhaps “Episcopal” refers to the level at which the anger is occuring — among the bishops, i.e., P.B. Schori and Bishop Peter James Lee — and not between the denomination (the Episcopalians [or Episcopals, to use the 2007 stylebook]) and the Anglican Communion?

    Actually, there are so many ways to trip up. That line which reads, in relevant part, “…installing Martyn Minns, former rector of an Episcopal church there…” could read “…installing Martyn Minns, former rector of a[] former Episcopal church there…” or even “…former parish…”

    Or as current, but soon to be former (or is it just “retired”?), Bishop Peter James Lee, refers to us as “now non-Episcopal congregations” or “dissidents.”

    Signed,

    A Truroite
    (or dissident) :-)

  • Martha

    Didn’t we have a similar discussion sometime before on this, as to whether or not we thought it was (dis)respectful to refer to ministers of religion as plain old Smith or Jones in the body of the story after first introducing them?

    Maybe it was just that the “New York Times” got an earful from aggrieved church-going readers about this, and have decided for the sake of prudence to tag on their titles for ‘Bishop Brown’ and ‘Archbishop Green’ every time their names pop up in the story, rather than the former use of ‘Brown’ and ‘Green’?

  • meverest

    No comment on the use of titles, but this caught my attention:

    . . . Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, said in a statement that Archbishop Akinola’s acceptance of “an invitation to episcopal ministry here without any notice or prior invitation” was not in keeping with “the ancient practice in most of the church” that bishops minister only within their own jurisdictions.

    Banerjee should have followed up by asking if the Presiding Bishop is of the opinion that all ancient and universal practices ought to be maintained…

  • Chip

    Terry,

    To what degree are the differences you cite attributable to the reporter and bureau rather than a change in the style book?

    Remember LAURIE GOODSTEIN wrote so many of the Virginia Episcopalian stories frm New York. The present story comes from Washington.

    Have you discoveed that different NYTImes reporters, or bureaus, have diferent style books?

  • Michael

    The NY Times doesn’t follow the AP style book rigidly. They have their own style guide that differs from the AP style guide in many significant ways.

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