OK, everyone. Think like a journalist for a moment.
I am sure that — in light of the facts on the ground — you are shocked, shocked to know that Episcopalians in the liberal Diocese of Massachusetts are not anxious to embrace Pope Benedict XVI and flee into the doctrinal embrace of the Church of Rome. Correct? You can see that, in terms of basic facts?
So forget about that as a moment, as you consider a few points of logic in a recent Boston Globe story about the Vatican rescue mission (viewing it from the point of view of the Anglo-Catholics who started petitioning Rome for help about a decade ago) into English territory.
Consider this chunk of the story:
The Vatican’s announcement last week that it would ease the way for disaffected Anglicans to join the Catholic Church prompted strong negative reactions from some progressive Episcopal priests and parishioners, who saw Pope Benedict XVI as capitalizing on divisions in the Anglican Communion over the ordination of female priests and an openly gay bishop. The Episcopal Church is the US branch of the Anglican church.
During his sermon at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Salem yesterday, the Rev. Paul B. Bresnahan said the Catholic Church was essentially offering itself as a “safe refuge for bigotry,” and he “must respectfully decline” the pope’s invitation.
“This really sends a terrible message to the gay community, as well as to women, which is half the population of the world,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s about time we embraced these folks in a kinder, gentler way than we are now.”
No, I am not that interested in the “bigotry” quote from Bresnahan. That’s a solid quote that expresses the stance that most mainstream Episcopal leaders have, when it comes to Rome, the Christian East and the growing Protestant churches around the world. You know that the pope would not be shocked to hear this quote from an Episcopal priest in Salem, Mass. Do you hear Benedict sobbing? Probably not.
Here is my main point. This quote also perfectly expresses how the Episcopal establishment views the doctrinal beliefs of most of the world’s Anglicans, numerically speaking.
Thus, I think the Globe — for reasons of simple logic — needs to rethink a key phrase in this section of the story. I refer to this statement:
The Episcopal Church is the US branch of the Anglican church.
The Episcopal Church has long been the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion, one church in a communion of churches. It is also the U.S. branch that is currently recognized by Canterbury and the Church of England, and that is what matters the most — at this point in time. However, that status is currently in dispute, even in England. Should that be mentioned?
It is also a fact that the Episcopal Church is not the only branch of Anglicanism in the U.S. that is recognized — statistically speaking — by most of the world’s Anglicans. Some churches are already starting to cut those ties, while forming ties to the new, alternative Anglican provice in North America.
All of that is in process. The ultimate outcome is not known.
Thus, I would argue that this simple, blunt sentence fails to express — in terms of statistics and emerging facts — the current realities. It is impossible to state, at this point, the status of the Episcopal Church or the new alternative provice in such a short, blunt sentence. Readers need to know a few more facts to understand what is happening at the local, regional, national and global levels.