crisis and showdown and schism, oh my!

Religion columnists are setting up their stories from the House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans. Although the meeting has yet to begin, writers are priming their coverage with dire predictions of what the Archbishop will demand at his first visit to an Episcopal Church meeting. Originally invited by the Bishops to listen to the experience of The Episcopal Church (TEC), most reporters believe that the Archbishop will come to tell TEC what to do or else.

Stephen Bates writing in The Guardian predicts:

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will demand concessions from the bishops of the US Episcopal Church tomorrow at a crisis meeting aimed at staving off the most damaging split in the churchs modern history, over the issue of homosexuality.

They will be asked to give guarantees that they will not allow the election of any more openly gay bishops or authorise public blessing services for same-sex couples and will create a structure for separate episcopal oversight for conservative congregations who disagree with the churchs liberal leadership.

and comments on possible strategies:

But with few signs of compromise, an air of fatalism and uncertainty has descended on senior officials in the Anglican communion. The strategy appears to be an attempt to minimise any split by seeking an alliance of liberal and moderate conservative US bishops behind a form of words that would strengthen previous US assurances that they will not promote more gay clergy or formally celebrate gay partnerships. They are hoping to rally support around Charles Jenkins, the Bishop of Louisiana, a leading conservative who has insisted he wants to remain within the Episcopal Church.

The position of the American presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, will also be critical in keeping the majority of American bishops together. Although the meetings will be in private, broken by one public service at which Dr Williams will preach, the bishops will be surrounded by lobbyists for both sides.

While a compromise might satisfy some in the communion, it will not be enough for African archbishops or their conservative American and English allies who are ambitious to split the church and force a realignment.

Regarding some African archbishops, Bates writes:

In increasingly bizarre moves, African archbishops in Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya have been busily appointing American conservatives mainly men who have previously failed to secure election to American dioceses to African bishoprics in recent weeks ostensibly to minister to disaffected Africans and Americans back in US churches. There are now nearly as many American bishops belonging to the Rwandan church as Rwandans.

Read The Guardian article here

Other columnists and their predictions:

The Telegraph

Associated Press

New York Times

Reuters

Atlanta Journal Constitution

Christian Science Monitor

New Orleans Times-Picayune

Daily Mail

USA Today

This list above will be added to throughout Tuesday and Wednesday. Watch this space.

Jim Naughton, writing at Daily Episcopalian, reflects on the hopes for the meeting here. Just as importantly, read Jim's primer, how to read this week's news.

The Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori offers a video overview of the meeting here.

Comments (5)

And I've talked to the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune and USA Today ... today. Who knew "As the Anglican World Turns" was such a hit!

Susan Russell

The report by Jonathan Wynne-Jones was in the *Sunday* Telegraph. The *Daily Telegraph* correspondent, Jonathan Petre is a different person and might have a different opinion.

The Reuters story is a journalistic embarrassment. Utterly unbalanced, it quotes only conservatives--and fringe conservatives at that. It also omits the fact that David Anderson, whom it quotes, is now a bishop in the Church of Nigeria. The Times-Picayune story is by far the best of the lot.

The other difficult thing about this sort of "open season on Episcopalins" kind of coverage is the annointing of bogus experts. We get Philip Jenkins thrown at us a lot. He knows a lot of Christianity in Africa, and almost nothing about Episcopal Church politics, yet he's frequently allowed to comment on our future. Another faux expert is David Hein, who is quoted in the Atlanta JC story:

"And it does not appear the bishops will do that, said David Hein, chairman of the religion department at Hood College in Maryland and author of a book on the history of Episcopalians in the U.S.

"As far as I can tell, they will take themselves out of Anglican communion and be, in effect, one very tiny American sect (Episcopalians are about 2.3 million of 77 million Anglicans worldwide.) And they will probably drift farther and farther to the left without the ballast of the Anglican communion," Hein said.

It would take quite a while to unpack the shaky assumptions that inform this quote. But just to start, we clearly aren't going to take ourselves out of the Communion, and if he has info that we are going to get kicked out, he has obtained it from a source unknown to the rest of the world. The assumption that membership in the Communion keeps us from being a "sect" says something about Hein's ecclesiology, but nothing about the political realities we face. And the use of the word "sect" is, of course, loaded.

So, after devoting the top half of his story to a Nigerian congregation, and then quoting the bogus expert, reporter Christopher Quinn gives Bishop Neil Alexander--the one person in the story who has some sense of what might transpire at the meeting in the last three paragraphs. I guess this passes for balance.

Tell us what you really think, Jim.

In the Reuters story it was amusing, given their history mutual animosity, to see Anderson and David Virtue mentioned virtually hand in hand.

I'm sure Anderson was not hiding the fact he's recently been named bishop in Nigeria.

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