When you are talking about the history of the Anglican wars, you really have to remember that it’s really about the bishops.
The Episcopal Church has been struggling with homosexuality — in its national meetings — since the 1970s. But the big signposts have been about the men and women in the purple shirts. Here’s a few.
1989 — Bishop John Spong, Diocese of Newark, publicly ordains first non-celibate, openly-partnered, homosexual.
1991 — Bishop Walter Righter, Diocese of Washington, D.C., ordains a non-celibate homosexual.
1994 — Bishop Spong drafted the Koinonia Statement defining homosexuality as morally neutral and affirming support for the ordination of homosexuals in faithful sexual relationships (signed by 90 bishops and 144 deputies). Spong publishes his 12 Theses, laying out an approach to faith without a transcendent, personal deity.
1996 — Both counts of heresy against Bishop Righter dismissed in an ecclesiastical court, which decides that there is “no clear doctrine” in the Episcopal Church relevant to the ordination of those sexually active outside of marriage.
1998 — The bishops at the global Lambeth Conference uphold traditional teachings on marriage and human sexuality. Then, 65 ECUSA bishops sign a pastoral statement addressed to lesbian and gay Anglicans.
2000 — Archbishops Emmanuel Kolini ( Province of Rwanda) and Moses Tay ( Province of South East Asia) consecrate Father Chuck Murphy and Father John Rodgers as missionary bishops to the U.S.
You get the idea, if you are looking at the revolution of the theological left or the counter-revolt by the right, you have to watch the bishops — starting in the 1970, but with the open warfare picking up in the 1980s and ’90s. That’s the timeline.
Thus, is it possible for USA Today to publish the following about the current General Convention?
Since 2003, when the group approved the election of openly gay bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the church has been embroiled in feuds over what the Bible says about roles of gay clergy and women.
Fractures widened in 2006 when Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected presiding bishop and agreed to “exercise restraint” by not consecrating more gay bishops or establishing a rite for blessing same-sex couples. Still, dissatisfied traditionalists formally split in June to form a rival national church, the Anglican Church in North America, which has more than 70,000 members.
So will this year’s 10-day meeting of 200 Episcopal bishops and 850 clergy and lay deputies be calmer?
Now, I have known Cathy Lynn Grossman for a long time. She is a skilled, veteran religion-beat reporter. She has to know that this fight didn’t start in 2003. That’s just wrong. She also knows that there are issues at stake that are much bigger than sexuality and the ordination of women, although the sacraments of marriage and ordination (viewed in ancient, large-C Catholic terms) are plenty important on their own.
I assume that she simply wasn’t given enough space for the other sentence or paragraph that she needed to state that background information in an accurate manner. Either that, or the story was cut at the copy desk.
However, later in the story we read:
Since 2003, some African and South American Anglican archbishops have refused to take communion with Episcopal Church leaders or partner with the church on projects.
Actually, broken Communion started earlier than that, too, with at least one major American bishop and theological educator boycotting Communion in the House of Bishops as early as 1992 — over the issue of Episcopalians openly worshiping other deities.
Note to the USA Today copy desk: This story does not begin with the consecration of a gay bishop in New Hampshire. That statement is simply inaccurate and a correction is needed. I mean, the consecration of the conservative, extra-legal missionary bishops started in 2000.
I know that it is hard to cover sprawling, complex stories in such short lengths. But here’s a good rule: Don’t publish statements that are inaccurate. Add the extra sentence or even half a sentence (click here for a New York Times example).
Get the facts right.