Lisa Miller of Newsweek asks the question that's on everyone's mind, "Who cares about the arcane battles of Episcopal Church?" She gives two answers. Her first:
In the wake of that coverage [of General Convention] I received the following e-mail from an editor: "I've been following this story and trying, without success, to think of an interesting line of argument. It's been in the news a lot lately." Right. It's hard to think of an interesting story about the Episcopal Church in America because what happens within the Episcopal Church is—frankly, and with deep apologies to all my Episcopalian friends—just not that interesting.Which begs the question, why bring it up?
Her second answer:
The Episcopalians matter because, small and fractious as they are, they represent the apex of WASP culture—the honorable, formal, Greatest Generation values of a bygone age. (And because, despite their dwindling numbers, they still hold more than $4 billion in investments—not including real estate—according to a 2007 Episcopal Church fact sheet. They could, in other words, fund Obama's new education initiative.) FDR and Ronald Reagan were Episcopalian, as are Gerald Ford and George Herbert Walker Bush.* Watching the Episcopalians fight amongst themselves is like watching a boozy family brawl at a genteel country club. Onlookers continue to hope that someone—grandpa or junior—will finally say what he's really thinking and make a headline.But nota bene: Episcopalians are no longer just WASPs. They are becoming more and more ethnically diverse as the church attracts converts from the Catholic Church and evangelical churches.
Some Evans zingers:
A colleague who is Episcopalian describes the rift thus: "Here we have the faith of the Founding Fathers, the religion that is the purest representation of old-line American power and money, tearing itself apart before our very eyes over … homosexuality. How embarrassing! How publicly humiliating—this for a faith and culture that abhors nothing more than public humiliation."She repeats the 100,000 canard. The 100,000 figure is the membership claimed by ACNA. But ACNA brings together several splinter group some of which left the Episcopal Church as early as the 19th century, others that left formed over the ordination of women or prayer book reform in the 1970s.
In one of the most byzantine organizational maneuvers ever wrought, the conservative opposition then regrouped under the leadership of a few conservative African bishops—still Anglican, still part of the global church, but no longer officially connected to the Americans. (This would be like a Girl Scout troop in Connecticut reestablishing itself as an outpost of Les Guides de France.)....
In the end, number of actual people who have seceded from the Episcopal Church is about 100,000. They would, in other words, fill Wembley Stadium—something Michael Jackson managed to do 10 times over.
Read it here.
*Newsweek editors will want to fact check this sentence!
Added: Doug LeBlanc does some thorough fact checking.