That sound you heard the other day in England was nervous coughing. It seems that the leader of the U.S. Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, is determined not to let gays, lesbians and bisexuals in England sit on the sidelines while traditionalists in the rest of the world take shots at her troubled flock.
But her move raises real questions for reporters. More on that in a minute. Here is the top of a BBC report by Christopher Landau that shows you what is going on:
The head of the Anglicans in the United States has accused other churches, including the Church of England, of double standards over sexuality. The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katherine Jefferts Schori, told the BBC her church is paying the price for its honesty over sexuality. …
The US church elected an openly gay man Gene Robinson as a bishop in 2003.
Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori defended her ministry.
“He is certainly not alone in being a gay bishop, he’s certainly not alone in being a gay partnered bishop,” she said. “He is alone in being the only gay partnered bishop who’s open about that status.”
She said other Anglican churches also have gay bishops in committed partnerships and should be open about it.
“There’s certainly a double standard,” she told BBC Radio 4′s PM programme.
Jefferts Schori also stressed that many Anglicans — including clergy in the Church of England — are already performing rites to bless gay unions. Here is the crucial statement, when you view this as a matter of how people do basic journalism on this kind of topic:
“Those services are happening in various places, including in the Church of England, where my understanding is that there are far more of them happening than there are in the Episcopal Church,” she said.
Now try, for a moment, to ignore the theology and politics of all of this. What we have here is a kind of soft journalistic “outing,” in an attempt to pull the British left out and into the combat with the Anglican traditionalists in other parts of the world.
How would a reporter verify the presence of gay, partnered bishops in the Church of England, short of hostile investigative reporting? How would reporters verify her claim that there are more gay union rites taking place in England than in the U.S. church?
These are the kinds of claims that gay-rights groups in the church have been making for years, kind of like the statistics — some more substantial than others — about the percentage of gay men in the Roman Catholic priesthood in North America. These are fact claims made by powerful people and groups. Journalists tend to quote these claims, saying, “I cannot prove this is true, but I can quote this authority figure saying that this is true and that person is proven to be wrong, then they are wrong (not my reporting).”
I don’t know how reporters get around this. Any suggestions?
Note, again, that any reporter attempting to verify these facts with real reporting will be accused — by the left, ironically — of hostile, invasive actions. Ironic, isn’t it?
Meanwhile, it is clear that Jefferts Schori is threatening to play the England card in this high-stakes game of global ecclesiastical poker. We are, after all, talking about the Church of England. It will, ultimately, matter who is and who is not in Communion with Canterbury. Jefferts Schori is making sure that Canterbury knows that its leaders will, at some point, be expected to speak with candor.
Stay tuned. Lambeth approaches.