Please believe me when I say that I understand the frustration that many reporters experience while trying to cover the Anglican Communion wars. I also know that GetReligion is causing some frustration among some reporters with our insistence that reporters keep trying, trying, trying to find language that is accurate and (even harder) neutral at all levels of the conflict — local, regional, national and global.
For example, consider those parishes in Northern Virginia that have won a round or two in the courts in their battle with their diocese and, primarily, the national Episcopal Church. It would be accurate to call them “breakaway” parishes if the framing of the story is only national or regional. Yet they are not “breakaway” parishes on the doctrinal issues involved if the frame of reference is Anglican and global, as opposed to Episcopal and national.
These parishes are with the majority of Anglicans at the global level. They are clearly in a minority at the national level. That’s the complicated reality.
So what do you do? You describe what is happening in literal terms and try to avoid the labels.
The same thing goes for that word that the Anglican right loves to toss at the left and the left loves to toss at the right — “schism.” At the global level, the doctrinal innovations approved or condoned by the Episcopal Church are pushing the Communion closer and closer to schism. Yet, at the national level, it is the conservatives who are calling for innovations in order and discipline (such as bishops crossing diocesan and national borders) that are clearly raising the threat of schism here at home. So if reporters are going to use that terrible word, they have to be very clear how the word is being used — and why — at both levels.
It’s very hard to keep all of this straight. But it’s impossible to cover the story without an awareness of the basic facts, facts rooted in the interaction between these local, regional, national and international realities.
Consider, for a moment, the following passage from a Ruth Gledhill piece in the Times. The speaker is Canon Gregory Cameron, a senior adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury and a leader at the headquarters of the worldwide Anglican Communion. He is a major player behind the scenes.
Follow this closely:
Urging understanding of the conservative evangelicalism which led to a rival Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans being set up in Jerusalem last week, Canon Cameron said: “The average Anglican is a black woman under the age of 30, who earns two dollars a day, has a family of at least three children, has lost two close relatives to AIDs, and who will walk four miles to Church for a three hour service on a Sunday.” …
Canon Cameron … said the ties of friendship in the Anglican Communion were still strong. But he added: “Alongside these ties of friendship — the so-called bonds of affection which have been described as holding the Anglican Communion together — there has lurked an unconscious sense of superiority and dependency: a sense that all the really educated theologians find their homes in Oxbridge, and that all the really big money comes from the United States.
“It has been said, with a certain sense of irony, that in the Anglican Communion, the Africans pray, the Americans pay, and the English write all the documents.”
Canon Cameron said: “The dark side to the life of the Anglican Communion is that too often the theological graduates of the seminaries of the NATO alliance do unconsciously adopt an air of educational superiority, while many American church leaders do not even seem to notice, even while they often unconsciously rely upon, the implicit obligations which they place on the recipients of their largesse.”
Follow the money? Cameron seems to be offering this advice: Follow the pride.
PHOTO: The skyline of Oxford.