Anglican thought for the day

oxford aerial photoPlease 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.”

Chew on that as you read the documents coming out of the GAFCON meetings and the blitz of coverage that will lead up to the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury.

Follow the money? Cameron seems to be offering this advice: Follow the pride.

PHOTO: The skyline of Oxford.

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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://stevethorngate.blogspot.com Steve Thorngate

    “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.”

    Actually, it’s even more complicated than that. CANA and the others are “with” the global-south Anglicans in some ways; in others, not at all. It’s in a large part a marriage of convenience.

    The difference matters–the assumption that stateside conservative Anglicans are in general agreement with their African (for instance) counterparts leads people (inside and outside the church) to forget that the groups’ motives, tactics, etc. are in many ways quite different. They’re strategic partners at least as much as they are ideological allies.

  • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

    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.

    If pride it is, pride based upon educational credentials, it is misplaced. Four of the top leaders in this resurgent conservative Anglicanism are Peter Akinola, Archbishop of Nigeria; Henry Orombi, Archbishop of Uganda, Gregory Venables, Archbishop of the Southern Cone of South America; and Peter Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney, Australia. All were educated in either the UK or the United States. Jensen has a Ph.D. from Oxford. My impression is that they are far from alone among this group in their educational attainments.

  • Jeff in Ohio

    Tmatt;

    I hate to point out a typo, but this phrase jumps out at me;

    “For example, consider those parishes in Northern Virginia that have one a round or two…”

    Shouldn’t that be won a round?

    Jeff

  • Jeff in Ohio

    Reporters have deep problems discussing schism. Everyone on all sides of the debate (there are more than just two) is trying to avoid an obvious schism on a worldwide basis, by whatever convoluted means, while having their own way locally. It might be best for reporters to avoid the word altogether, except in direct quotes.

    Jeff

  • Margaret

    I really appreciate Get Religion covering this. It is the only source of updates on my former religious affiliation that I keep up with. You guys (and gals) have the proper approach. May God bless your efforts. If clarity is to be gained in this mess, it will be on this website!

    Happy 4th of July!