Showing sins against secularism

turkeyI know Turkey is a secular state. As a reader of books about the Middle East (such as this fine one) and as someone who got a degree in political science, I have heard all about Kemal Ataturk and the secular founding of the country. But I had never appreciated how secular Turkey was until I read reporter Laura King’s story in The Los Angeles Times.

King wrote about whether the country’s ruling party would be shut down by its highest court because of alleged anti-secular activity. (The party ended up being fined.) King wasted no time in showing readers the importance of the nation’s secular constitution. Her introductory paragraphs began this way:

In an overwhelmingly Muslim but avowedly secular state, the legal confrontation illuminates the deep divide between the devout and those who are determined to keep displays of piety from public life.

In the most drastic outcome, the Constitutional Court could outlaw the ruling Justice and Development Party, known by its Turkish initials AKP, for anti-secular activity. It could also ban dozens of senior party leaders, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, from participating in politics for five years.

Later, King showed the nature of the ruling party’s offense: It tried — tried — to overturn a certain type of ban:

The AKP overwhelmingly won last summer’s elections, running mainly on a platform of economic development. However, it caused an uproar this year when it attempted to toss out a ban on head scarves at public universities. That set the current case in motion, with the party standing accused by prosecutors of harboring an Islamist agenda that runs counter to Turkey’s secular constitution.

Then, King gave readers the context necessary to understand the highest court’s impending decision:

Turkish courts and officials have banned political parties in the past, about 20 times in all. But banned parties have often simply reconstituted themselves under another name, and the AKP would probably do the same. The current party is a more moderate offshoot of an Islamist party that was outlawed in the 1990s.

The story was not perfect. Perhaps King could have cited the secular constitutional laws in question. Perhaps she could have mentioned whether the anti-secular laws are unpopular or not. But of course, as Tmatt implied, perhaps newspapers could stop reducing the length of their news stories.

Yet this story got religion. Or rather it showed what happens to a state where public displays of religion are banned completely.

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Nailing down motives

unitarianSome tragic news is coming out of Tennessee. Yesterday, a man armed with a shotgun walked into a Unitarian Universalist church in Knoxville yesterday and killed two people and shot seven others. Whenever something senseless like this happens, the media rush to determine why. Early reports from Knoxville had neighbors suspecting anti-Christian animus:

The man accused of a mass church shooting this morning was described by his Powell neighbors as a helpful and kind man, but one who had issues with Christianity.

“He had his own sense of belief about religion, that’s the impression I got of him,” said neighbor Karen Massey. “We were talking one day when my daughter graduated from Bible college, and I told him I was a Christian, then he almost turned angry.

“He seemed to get angry at that.”

According to Massey, [Jim] Adkisson talked frequently about his parents who “made him go to church all his life … he was forced to do that.”

It seemed curious that an anti-Christian gunman would target a Unitarian Universalist congregation. Both Unitarians and Universalists share a founding in Protestant Christianity but they seek spiritual guidance from all traditions and religious beliefs. Later stories revealed that the gunman had written a four-page letter that shed light on his motives:

The shotgun-wielding suspect in Sunday’s mass shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was motivated by a hatred of “the liberal movement,” and he planned to shoot until police shot him, Knoxville Police Chief Sterling P. Owen IV said this morning.

Jim D. Adkisson, 58, of Powell wrote a four-page letter in which he stated his “hatred of the liberal movement,” Owen said. “Liberals in general, as well as gays.”

Adkisson said he also was frustrated about not being able to obtain a job, Owen said.

The Knoxville paper did a good job of succinctly explaining why the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Univesalist Church might have been targeted:

“It appears that church had received some publicity regarding its liberal stance,” the chief said. The church has a “gays welcome” sign and regularly runs announcements in the News Sentinel about meetings of the Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays meetings at the church.

The church’s Web site states that it has worked for “desegregation, racial harmony, fair wages, women’s rights and gay rights” since the 1950s. Current ministries involve emergency aid for the needy, school tutoring and support for the homeless, as well as a cafe that provides a gathering place for gay and lesbian high-schoolers.

It turns out that Adkisson’s ex-wife might have been a member at the congregation as well. Tragically, one of the dead was a devoted member of the congregation who died a hero, according to the Associated Press:

Church members praised Greg McKendry, 60, who died as he attempted to block the gunfire. Church member Barbara Kemper told The Associated Press that McKendry “stood in the front of the gunman and took the blast to protect the rest of us.”

As this story continues to unfold, reporters must not only explain the shooter’s deranged motives but seek to explain how religious motivations guide the UU tradition. There is a rich history and legacy to explore.

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Not the only person upset

PZ myersPaul Z. Myers, a biology professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris, has made his best effort at enraging as many people as possible by defiling that which is considered sacred by millions around the globe. Some are even considering how his actions could possibly impact the “future of life in our pluralistic democracy.”

Paul Walsh of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has one of the few news stories on the subject:

The chancellor at the University of Minnesota, Morris, is standing up for a faculty member’s freedom of expression after the instructor posted on the Internet a photo of a defiled communion wafer with pages ripped from the Qur’an.

Paul Z. Myers, who teaches biology at the west-central Minnesota school, on his blog this week posted a picture of the wafer with a rusty nail through it and torn pages from the Qur’an. Also in the photo are tattered pages from a book by biologist Richard Dawkins that scoffs at the notion of a superior being.

This is the second time this month that actions such as these by Myers prompted a harsh retort from a national Catholic civil rights group.

Walsh’s story is solid except for the fact that it seems to portray this “national Catholic civil rights group” [the Catholic League] as the only group upset in this matter. In fact, many people are upset about this, and they aren’t all best friends with Bill Donohue:

Atheists have done better out of America’s commitment to pluralism than any other religious group, so it’s hard to see why any of them would now condone an attempt to break down the social compact that demands that we mostly leave other peoples’ religious beliefs alone.

The larger story here is that there is a strain of atheism that has become much more aggressive in their, um, belief, that God does not in fact exist. They want you to know about it and want more agnostics to come over to their side. The likes of Sam Harris comes to mind.

Let us get back to Donohue. If this were all I could comment regarding Walsh’s article, I would have a strong opinion of the piece. However, check out the last paragraph of the story, which describes Donohue’s Catholic League:

The Catholic League at that time also called on the university to act against Myers.

Many rank-and-file Roman Catholics do not endorse the league, which has no formal affiliation with the Catholic Church, because they consider it a reactionary orthodox group run by publicity-seekers. It’s president, Bill Donohue, has gone on record with inflammatory remarks about Jews, Muslims and gays.

Is that really the best way to portray the Catholic League? First, “many” is an interesting and unnecessary choice of words since the group is not affiliated with the Catholic Church. Second, reporters should be careful, to say the least, with the term “orthodox” and “reactionary.” Third, what groups does not seek publicity? Lastly, instead of using the term “inflammatory remarks” about Donohue, can we just get a couple of quotes from the guy instead of generalities?

For the purposes of this post, I am not going to share my own personal feelings on Donohue, nor do I care what anyone else thinks of Donohue, his personal style, beliefs or overall life goals. I am hoping that most people can agree that this was not the best way to describe him in a news article.

Photo of Professor PZ Myers used under a Wikimedia Commons license.

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Football news sacked by religion

amazing sackReaders of The Miami Herald‘s sports section may be wondering if the newspaper’s sports department is on the hunt to hire a religion expert. Based on the last couple of days of football coverage, it may not be a bad investment although they are doing fairly well with what they have at this point.

On Thursday, the newspaper published an article that primarily focuses on the faith and missionary work of Florida Gators quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. The next day the newspaper published an even more extensive article on Miami Dolphins quarterback John Beck and his two-year experience on a Mormon mission.

The Tebow story is nothing particularly new and is the product of Southeastern Conference Media Day. Stories coming out of “media day” in any sport at any level tend to be fairly fluffy, but fans love seeing what the team has to put forward for the upcoming season.

Reporter Joseph Goodman’s story is headlined “Tebow uses fame as a pulpit” and describes the 25 minute news conference as “bizarre” in the lead. But is “bizarre” really the best way to portray what happened?

It was a bizarre beginning to the Southeastern Conference Media Days on Wednesday. There was a football player at the dais — perhaps the best in the country — and there were football writers in the audience, but the topic of football seemed like a footnote.

Then Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, told hundreds of sports reporters that football isn’t that important.

”I want to do everything in my power that football gives me to influence as many people as I can for the good, because that’s going to mean so much more when it’s all said and done than just playing football and winning championships,” Tebow said.

Yet another group converted. College football is a religion in the Deep South, but when Tebow shows up for the season’s kickoff party, the whole thing turns into a tent revival.

The bizarre part of the story is Tebow’s personal story of faith and upbringing and his incredible talent. Is it that bizarre that that was the subject of the press conference?

What an athlete does in the off-season seems like a reasonable thing to talk about though, and if that makes it preaching from the pulpit then so be it. Media days don’t exactly give reporters much option but to write about what was said from that pulpit.

The challenge with covering Tebow, who is the son of Christian missionaries, is that his religious work, including preaching in prisons and churches and mission trips to Thailand, the Philippines and Croatia, has already been extensively covered.

For me, the Indiana Pacers have spent more time recently talking about their player’s off-the-court arrests and legal problems than basketball. And I am certain Peyton Manning’s first press conference of the season will have little to do with football and more to do with the health of his knee. If that turns the press room into a medical center or a criminal courtroom then so be it. Reporters cover the subject at hand on media day.

The day after the “bizarre” Tebow press conference, The Herald published a story on Dolphins quarterback John Beck and how his time as a Mormon missionary prepared him to overcome adversity:

And Beck’s mission turned out to be good preparation. In the 1-15 season, he started four games, passed for one touchdown and three interceptions, lost five fumbles, and then saw the Dolphins draft Chad Henne in the second round in April.

“I always say when you’re on the mission, you have to face a lot of rejection,” Beck said. ‘A lot of people don’t want to talk to you. When you walk down the streets, people throw stuff at you, they cuss at you. Where I was at in Portugal, some people liked to swerve their cars in front of us, kind of joke around like, `I’m going to hit you.’ Ridicule, all that kind of stuff, it was just normal, you just had to work through it.

”Let’s take that into last year where a lot of things were going bad for us,” he said. “It was tough, but we had to just keep on working kind of with the goal in mind that even though it’s tough, we’re going to keep working and things will be good. That’s kind of how it is on a mission.

The article doesn’t go much into Beck’s faith or how it has impacted him personally other than his decision to go on the mission. Obviously that was a fairly substantial decision and commitment, but it would have been nice to see more on how his personal faith informs his lifestyle and personal goals.

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Karadzic: What kind of mystic?

monIn recent days, I have continued to comb the coverage of the Radovan Karadzic arrest, looking for clues that might indicate where reporters were getting the tips that this monster had spent parts of the past few decades hiding in Eastern Orthodox monasteries and churches.

No real clues, so far. Most journalists continue to mention those theories, always in passive voice or in some other vague way. But the main theme now is that Karadzic was using his skills as a psychologist to transition into a new identity — that of a expert in alternative medicine, delivered with a kind of mystical, guru style that fit his new appearance. Yes, some journalists are using that “New Age” label.

But the strangest religious reference I have found is in an ABC News online story by Dragana Jovanovic, which ran with the colorful headline: “Double Life of the Butcher of Bosnia — War Criminal Radovan Karadzic Was on Facebook, Had Own Web Site, Even a Girlfriend.”

But check out the lede:

For 13 years, investigators combed the mountainous regions of eastern Bosnia, looking for Radovan Karadzic. A popular theory for much of that time was that the fugitive Bosnian-Serb leader was hidden away in a monastery, protected by Orthodox monks.

But it turned out to be the colorless boulevards of New Belgrade that provided a hiding place for Europe’s most wanted man. He found an effective alter ego, in the guise of an Orthodox mystic.

Say what? As you would imagine, I read on through the piece — looking for some kind of factual material to justify adding the word “Orthodox” to the very unorthodox profile that was emerging about Karadzic’s life as a freelance mystic. This is all you get:

People who live on Juri Gagarin Street, a street of gray Communist-era apartment buildings across the Sava River, felt certain that their new neighbor was some kind of mystical guru.

“He moved to our neighborhood early last year. I thought he was a spiritual man,” said Danica Jankovic, a sixth floor neighbor of the man who assumed the alias Dr. Dragan or David Dabic. “His dense white beard and distinctive long hair, his long periods of complete silence, and the fact that he was into meditation left me with no doubt. I still cannot believe his true identity.”

Unrecognizable, with long white hair, a long beard and 40 pounds lighter, Karadzic, under the new name, appears to have led a very different life than one would have expected from one of the world’s most wanted fugitives.

That’s it. The word “Orthodox” just came out of nowhere. I have not seen that angle in any other mainstream coverage.

If you are looking for a nasty slam at Orthodoxy in the Karadzic coverage, far and away the worst I have seen is in a Globe and Mail piece by columnist Doug Saunders. Once again, it seems that the goal is to blame the hierarchy of the Serbian Orthodox Church — which actively joined with other religious groups to oppose the Milosevic regime’s use of violence — for the actions of the ethnic cleansing monsters, or at least some of them.

What does the word “fundamentalist” mean in this context?

The man who drew on Serbian Orthodox religious piety to build his movement in the early 1990s, using fundamentalist religious imagery to make speeches calling for the extermination of Bosnia’s Muslim population, appears to have spent the past few years living in sin with a much younger mistress, whose existence was unknown to his wife.

I know it is easy to blur the line between Serbian nationalism and the land’s Orthodox heritage, but that is simply going way too far.

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Karadzic was hiding in plain sight

1995 karadzicNeedless to say, I received some interesting emails in the hours after the New York Times and the rest of the world’s mainstream media started running the following story. The words changed a bit, but here is the key info from the Times:

Radovan Karadzic, one of the world’s most wanted war criminals for his part in the massacre of nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995, was arrested Monday in a raid in Serbia that ended a 13-year hunt. …

Mr. Karadzic, a nationalist hero among Serbian radicals and one of the tribunal’s most wanted criminals for more than a decade, is said to have eluded arrest so long by shaving his swoopy gray hair and disguising himself as a Serbian Orthodox priest. He reportedly hid out in caves in the mountains of eastern Bosnia and in monasteries.

What people wanted to know, of course, was what I thought about the fact that “the church” (or “your church”) was hiding one of the world’s greatest monsters. Some people were sure that I would not want to see that angle covered. We’ll get to that in a moment.

I did not the presence of troubling language in these early reports, such as “is said to have” and “he reportedly hid out.” There did not seem to be any solid sources, early on.

Meanwhile, the story did keep evolving throughout the day. Let’s stick with what was reported in the Times a few hours after the story broke. Here is part of an update:

He grew long white hair and a flowing white beard, and, as Dragan Dabic, the former psychiatrist worked for years in a clinic in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, as a practitioner of alternative medicine. He even lectured at local community centers. …

All along, he was said to have eluded arrest by disguising himself as a Serbian Orthodox priest and by hiding out in caves in the mountains of eastern Bosnia and in monasteries. But details provided by Serbian officials for the first time on Tuesday showed that, at least for some of those years, one of the accused architects of Europe’s worst massacre since World War II had been hiding in Serbia in plain sight.

Once again, the church details were delivered in passive voice, with no sources. This report also added another note of caution, saying that “at least for some of those years” he was not in a church somewhere. Who knows where else he had been hiding. That’s a totally appropriate statement, actually.

Finally, the second-day Times report — with tons of additional reporting — began with this lede that did much to clarify the situation:

The infamous fugitive, long charged with war crimes, was not in a distant monastery or a dark cave when caught at last, but living in Serbia’s capital.

Nor was Radovan Karadzic lurking inconspicuously, but instead giving public lectures on alternative medicine before audiences of hundreds. He was hiding behind an enormous beard, white ponytailed hair topped with an odd black tuft, and a new life so at odds with his myth as to deflect suspicion. …

The fatigues-wearing leader of the Bosnian Serbs was unrecognizable in a guise that was part guru and part Santa Claus. As Dragan Dabic, the former psychiatrist worked for years in a clinic in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, practicing alternative medicine. He even lectured on videotape at local community centers, in an open and active life that would appear to be an extraordinary risk for one of the world’s most wanted men.

You can find additional details about this amazing scam in another Times sidebar. One key detail is that, according to people who knew Karadzic, they would not have recognized him by sight alone. You had to know his voice to figure out who this was. He was even hiding his Bosnian accent.

But back to the Serbian Orthodox angle. Would I have been surprised if Karadzic had been sheltered in a monastery or church? Disappointed, yes, but surprised, no. That is a complex and violent area and the Orthodox Church has been battered and chopped up, while some people — a lot of people, in a lot of different flocks — keep crossing the lines between faith and ethnicity. It’s the Balkans and we have talked about this before here at GetReligion.

When reading these kinds of media reports, it’s crucial to note the complexity of the Orthodox leadership in that region. Reports that say he hid in a monastery or was helped by “the church” need to take into account that the actions of a local leader or priest are not the same thing as the actions of the actual Serbian hierarchy. I have no doubt, in a region in which dozens of priceless monasteries are being destroyed, that there are Orthodox leaders who betray their church’s teachings to strike back.

But here is the key: The role of religious leaders in the wider region, leaders at the top level, has actually been quite admirable — Catholics, Orthodox, Muslims and Jews, included. I wrote a Scripps Howard column on that back in 1999 while the U.S. bombs were falling. It began like this:

It’s tricky for anyone to sign a document in Belgrade these days with the word “peace” in the title.

But back on April 19th, while air-raid sirens screamed overhead, an interfaith quartet of shepherds released a gripping statement to their Yugoslavian flocks and to the world.

“Even as evil cannot be overcome by evil, so peace and harmony cannot be attained by war,” said the seven-paragraph “Appeal for Peace,” released from the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate. “To be a peacemaker is the greatest duty and most noble obligation of every man. That is why we are not afraid to be the first to extend the hand of peace to one another. In the name of our future and our common life together, we pray to God and appeal to all men of good will to endeavor with maximum effort to end this war and resolve the problems by peaceful means.”

The document was signed by Serbian Patriarch Pavle, Catholic Archbishop Franc Perko, Mufti Hamdija Jusufspahic and Rabbi Isak Asiel, all of Belgrade. Together, they called for all bombing and fighting to cease and for the return of refugees to their war-ravaged homes — both the ethnic Albanians fleeing the paramilitary units of Slobodan Milosevic or Serbs fleeing the Kosovo Liberation Army.

This cry for broader negotiations in the Balkans followed a “Kosovo Peace and Tolerance” declaration released on March 18 in Vienna. This longer, more detailed document was signed by a quartet of Orthodox, Catholic, Muslim and Jewish leaders from Kosovo.

pavleIf you are interested in subjects related to that, click here and here.

The goal is not to condone the sins of the guilty. If church officials hid this monster, part of a thug regime of cynics that also jailed and battered faithful bishops, then find the facts and air them out. At the same time, the goal is to not to blame an entire institution for the sins of a few. As noted earlier, religious leaders actually did what they could to promote nonviolence and as much peace as could be managed.

Once again, you have to check the actual actions of the patriarchs in their roles in the interfaith efforts to stop the violence. Yes, you did see bishops marching in demonstrations on issues of Serbian nationalism. It was clear that the Serbian church opposed the loss of Kosovo and the destruction of many of its priceless monasteries. But the patriarchs also opposed the ethnic cleansing and some were jailed and beaten for opposing the regime behind the violence.

Try to keep these two quotes balanced in your mind. The first is from the late New York Times editor A.M. Rosenthal, who once won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting in Eastern Europe:

“I do not get emotional about the history of Kosovo. I am not a Serb. Serbs do. … Serbs are as likely to give up Kosovo willingly because the Albanians want it as Israelis are to give up Jerusalem because the Arabs want it.”

The second quotation is from the Serbian Orthodox bishops, who noted that the “way of non-violence and cooperation is the only way blessed by God in agreement with human and divine moral law and experience.”

Then they added this prayer to the rites for Holy Week and Pascha, as the bombs fell:

For all those who commit injustice against their neighbors, whether by causing sorrow to orphans or spilling innocent blood or by returning hatred for hatred, that God will grant them repentance, enlighten their minds and hearts and illumine their souls with the light of love even towards their enemies, let us pray to the Lord.

“Lord have mercy.

So keep reading. Look for solid, on-the-record sources and don’t be surprised when people sin. It’s the Balkans. You also have to look for the brave believers who took dangerous stands for peace.

Photos: Radovan Karadzic in power years. Patriarch Pavle of Serbia.

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Checking out the Cairo action

hunkercairo10This is one of those cases where I simply want to point out a story and urge GetReligion readers to check it out.

In this world of newsroom downsizing, it is even more important than ever to note when the mainstream press does solid work on tough stories. This is one of those times.

I testified at a congressional hearing this week that focused on religious liberty around the world. My remarks were about press coverage of these issues — or the lack thereof. The bottom line: If the MSM has trouble getting religion, and American readers have little desire to get foreign news, then one of the hardest jobs facing journalists is doing a professional job of covering complex, controversial and expensive religion stories on the other side of the planet.

But how can you not want to read this story? The headline: “Last Call at the Hyatt — As the Luxury Cairo Hotel Stops Serving Alcohol, Another Saudi-Owned Spot Keeps the Drinks Coming.” Here is the top of the story by Ellen Knickmeyer of the Washington Post Foreign Service:

CAIRO – Diners in the revolving restaurant on the 41st floor of Cairo’s Grand Hyatt once could count on a certain order to things: As surely as the torpid Nile coursed below and the Pyramids loomed in the distance, the whiskey, beer and wine flowed for hotel guests.

Then a Saudi sheik bought the Grand Hyatt, one of the city’s leading luxury hotels. On visiting his new holding in April, Abdel Aziz Ibrahim declared the hotel dry and ordered managers to destroy its alcohol. Hotel workers poured out the bottles into drains running into the Nile, according to news reports at the time.

Ibrahim’s imposition of prohibition reflects the disdain that some Muslims maintain for what they see as the libertine ways of Cairo. His action has sparked a five-star tussle with the Hyatt chain, which wants to restore liquor to the hotel, and has revived a debate over tolerance in Egypt.

Wait, there’s more. A whole lot more. I mean, the very next paragraph offers this bizarre twist and drops the ultimate hot name in this context:

Amid the wrangling, the Hyatt’s thirsty have found refuge a few steps away in a dark bar that is also under Saudi ownership. Hassan bin Laden, half brother of Osama, is a prominent shareholder of the Hard Rock Cafe in the Grand Hyatt complex.

By all means, read on. A host of issues linked to night life, globalization, sex and other hot-button issues cruise by and the religion ghost is, well, not a ghost. Bravo.

Still, I would be interested in hearing from Muslim readers. Are the basic facts here? Are readers told what they need to know to understand the conflicts described in this report?

Photo: From the Hard Rock Cafe in Cairo.

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Once again, where do Anglicans rank?

10 lgOnce again,the Rt. Rev. Douglas LeBlanc has spotted another reference to the Anglican Communion as one of the world’s largest and most diverse organizations.

Which it is, of course.

The issue is where it ranks — especially among religious bodies around the world. Here’s the latest strange reference, care of the newsroom. The reference that interests us is this one, in a piece under the headline “Challenge of a lifetime for Archbishop striving for unity” (which is an interesting headline, since Anglican leaders on left and right are striving for unity, only they are are using clashing doctrinal standards to define what “unity” means):

The Archbishop of Canterbury will come face-to-face with Anglican bishops from across the 80 million-wide communion.

These church leaders have gathered for the Lambeth Conference. Many of the men and women are angry with each other and baffled by his leadership. But the task facing the Welshman is to convince the radical liberals and alarmed traditionalists that their unity is worth striving for — that they should remain part of this sprawling and chaotic family of churches. He meets them not as a Pope who must be obeyed, or the ultimate patriarch, but as a first among equals. He cannot dictate decisions but must strive for consensus.

The diversity of Anglicans is only matched by giant international organizations like the United Nations. But the Archbishop lacks the financial riches and physical might which world leaders can marshal to cajole and coerce their rivals.

Now that is not as bad as the reference that we saw the other day, when The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa., ran an essay by Bethlehem (Pa.) Bishop Paul V. Marshall that, as the Lambeth Conference loomed on the horizon, stated flat out:

Next to the United Nations and the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion is the world’s third largest linkage of human persons, cultures and geography. While the American branch of the Communion is the relatively tiny Episcopal Church, Anglicanism is the major expression of Christianity in much of Africa.

The Wales entry in this confusing derby is not statistically wrong, since it is so amazingly vague. But this “Anglican Communion resembles the United Nations” image could get out of control. And note that terrible phrase “linkage of human persons,” etc. What in the world does that mean? Does Islam merely “link” persons” How about “Pentecostalism”? How about the doctrines written on Starbuck’s cups?

Meanwhile, on the issue of the various Communions, GetReligion will gladly admit that almost all of the statistics are inflated and almost impossible to reference with a straight face. Still, when you look at the mainstream reference books, here is what you find: There are about 1 billion Roman Catholics worldwide, about 250 million or so Orthodox Christians and roughly 55 to 70 million Anglicans, depending on who is doing the counting.

By the way, GetReligion is not sitting out the Lambeth Conference, which is poised to get under way. We arejust trying to be patient.

Please remember that we are not a news site about religion. We are a blog that tries to critique the good and the bad in the mainstream presses news coverage of religious events and trends. We are very interested in errors of fact. When the Anglicans get rolling, help us look for the reporters — not opinion writers — who “get” the facts down in as accurate and fair a manner while covering a numbingly complex story with local, regional, national and global angles. Please look, especially, for stories that cover the Anglican left in a manner that is inaccurate or simply simplistic.

Photo: Anglican primates in 2005 meeting, care of the Anglican Communion news office.

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