Now that was easy, wasn’t it?

CanterburyNuke2 02As I mentioned the other day, it was great getting to spend part of Saturday hanging out at the Religion Newswriters Association meetings here in Washington, D.C.

I mean, check out the names on the program! Also, there’s some material on the official RNA weblog of the event (and I hope that will be updated and refreshed). Then there is the inevitable YouTube fest from some of the panel discussions. Yes, I’m in there defending what we do here at to an audience of (gulp) religion-news professionals.

It was great to see lots of old friends and talk shop. And in the midst of that, I ran into a veteran Godbeat reporter your GetReligionistas have often hailed as one of the best when it comes to covering highly complex stories, especially those linked to the local, regional, national and global — keep repeating that mantra — Anglican wars.

That reporter is Ann Rodgers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and her work often shows the value of experience on this oh-so-complex beat. Right now, she has a major flare-up of the Anglican wars taking place in her backyard — that 88-35 vote by some of the nation’s Episcopal bishops to depose Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan. At the heart of the battle is the planned vote by his diocese to exit the U.S. Episcopal Church and to align with conservative Anglicans in South America.

Rodgers faces a wide array of challenges in a relatively short, hard-news story about this fight, a report that ran with the headline: “Some expected to resist split from Episcopal Church — Reorganized diocese could come in vote on secession Oct. 4.”

But note this background passage:

Local Episcopalians who want to remain in the U.S. Church have said that one member of the diocesan Standing Committee — which governs in the absence of a bishop — is opposed to secession and will immediately begin to reconstitute a reorganized Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh that would choose its own leadership.

The 2.2 million-member Episcopal Church is the U.S. province of the 77 million-member Anglican Communion. Bishop Duncan and others believe that the U.S. church no longer firmly upholds classic Christian doctrines on the mission and identity of Jesus, the authority of the Bible and sexual ethics.

Decades of contention came to a crisis in 2003, when the U.S. church accepted a partnered gay bishop. This increased what had been a smaller movement among conservatives to realign with more theologically conservative provinces in the global South. The vote to depose Bishop Duncan was because the bishops deemed that his plan to realign violated the discipline of the Episcopal Church.

Can you see all the layers of this complex conflict? Check.

Does the story demonstrate that there is more to the war than picky fights about sexuality? Check.

Does the story note that this fighting has been going on for decades, while building to the crisis of election and consecration of that famous partnered gay bishop? Check.

There is much more to this story, of course. I merely wanted to underline the fact that it is possible to handle these kinds of complex subjects in a few crisp, yet accurate lines of type. I also must confess that I loved the final quote, which, after plenty of details about the national and regional aspects of this conflict, pointed toward a larger, more universal frame of reference. Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun.

Archbishop Mouneer Anis, leader of the Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East hailed Bishop Duncan as a martyr.

“It is with great joy that I welcome you alongside the ranks of St. Athanasius, who, as Bishop of Alexandria, was deposed and exiled from his see. St. Athanasius did not waver and stood firm. History proved that his stance for orthodoxy was not in vain. I trust it will do the same for you! So please count it as honor my brother,” he wrote to Bishop Duncan.

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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.

  • Martha

    There’s a certain irony in the Presiding Bishop speaking of “a canonically inappropriate vote”, since certain sections of the Episcopalian blogosphere are hopping mad about alleged canonical irregularities in the decision to depose Bishop Duncan.

    I am given to understand that the three senior bishops of the House of Bishops must first agree to inhibit a bishop before he can be deposed; they disagreed on their vote and so Bishop Duncan was not inhibited. There is also a dispute about how many bishops need to agree to the deposition – is it two-thirds of *all* the bishops of the Episcopal Church who are entitled to vote, as the usual interpretation of the canons has it, or is it two-thirds of the bishops at that particular meeting, as the Presiding Bishop claims?

    The Presiding Bishop steamed ahead with plans to depose him, saying she had been advised by her advisors that the Canons meant whatever she wanted them to mean. Naturally, a lot of people are very angry about this. Now there’s rumours that she will get rid of the Standing Committee (which, in the absence of a bishop, is the canonical authority in the diocese) and pick her own (around the nucleus of this one member who wishes to stay with TEC) and install a bishop of her choosing.

    The fun is only beginning in Pittsburgh, it looks like.

  • Dan Crawford

    Ann’s work is consistently excellent, intelligent, balanced and reflects the extraordinary work she puts into each of her articles. She is sometimes the only reason to purchase the Post-Gazette.

  • Jerry

    hailed Bishop Duncan as a martyr.

    So what loss of life or great suffering and torment is Bishop Duncan going to suffer as a result of his stance? This strikes me as yet another example of debasing a word to make a point. It’s too bad that particular point was not raised and included in the story.

  • Dan Berger

    Who used the word “martyr”? Was it Bp. Mouneer Anis? Or did Ann Rogers use it in its current colloquial sense of “someone who exemplifies a movement through experiencing any sort of adverse consequences”?

  • Will Harrington

    Jerry, Martyr means witness, and not all martyrs are red martyrs who die for the faith. Archbishop Mouneer Anis seems to have a firm grasp on the meaning of the word.

  • FrGregACCA

    Re: Bishop Duncan as martyr?

    Athanasios is not a martyr. In Christian parlance, a martyr, by definition, is one who witnesses to the faith by giving up his or her life in the face of lethal persecution.

    Athanasios, having been persecuted for his witness to the faith, but without having been killed, is a confessor. In comparing Bishop Duncan to St. Athanasios, Archbishop Anis is implying that Bishop Duncan is also a confessor, but not (so far) a martyr.

    Will, what you are alluding to is the idea that monasticism constitutes a form of martyrdom; that notion, related to the fact that one of the reasons monasticism developed was in reaction to the decline of actual martyrdom after Constantine, is not directly relevant here. There is no evidence in the story to suggest that Archbishop Anis himself used the word “martyr”, and he certainly knows the difference between the two terms. Ms. Rogers, however, apparently does not.

  • Pauli

    Dude, you can see the devil’s head in that explosion.

  • Jerry

    Jerry, Martyr means witness

    Go argue with the dictionary, not me:

    1. One who chooses to suffer death rather than renounce religious principles.
    2. One who makes great sacrifices or suffers much in order to further a belief, cause, or principle.
    1. One who endures great suffering: a martyr to arthritis.
    2. One who makes a great show of suffering in order to arouse sympathy.

    Yes the Greek root of the word means witness but that is not the current usage

  • Citizen Grim

    Not to further this rhetorical schism, but technically, wouldn’t it be more appropriate for Christians to use – and praise – the Greek meaning of the word ‘martyr,’ rather than its current melodramatic connotation?

  • Brian Walden

    All the Doctors of the Catholic Church, for example, are white martyrs. One doesn’t need to die for their faith to be a martyr (witness) in the inclusive sense of the word. Martyr, in everyday terms, usually refers to a red martyr, but given that Rodgers was paraphrasing the words used by tradition-minded Anglican Bishop who was referencing St. Athanasius (a white martyr and all around awesome saint) – I think it’s a correct (or at least not incorrect) usage of the word.

    Maybe a clarification of the meaning would have been better (but also clunkier). Even if Rodgers was using the red martyr definition which most people use – I think it’s fairly common to use martyr in a figurative sense as a hyperbole. Overusing a phrase like this can turn it into a meaningless cliche and ruin the whole word – but I don’t know that using it in this instance is wrong per se.

  • Jerry

    I have another thought: how about a different image such as a “tug of war” image for the ongoing melodrama?

  • robroy

    What errant pedantry. People argue that martyr must die for the cause, but then we have the second definition supplied by Jerry, 2. One who makes great sacrifices or suffers much in order to further a belief, cause, or principle.

    I think we all understand the statement that Ms Schori made a (figurative) martyr out of Bp Duncan. And we all understand what a bonehead move it was. OK?