2014 is about to retire and welcome its replacement. Though perhaps not an especially momentous year in Episco-world, we thought it might be worthwhile to look at what stories generated the most interest in the past year here at the Episcopal Café.
Undoubtedly, the biggest story this year has been the unfolding drama at General Seminary. To recap, eight faculty members delivered a letter to the Board saying that the relationship between the faculty and Dean/President had irrevocably broken down, levelling serious accusations against the Dean/President and announcing that they were initiating a strike. The Board chose to interpret this as a resignation and proceeded to terminate all eight faculty. The Board also hired a law firm to investigate the charges against the Dean/President levelled by the faculty. As Bp Sisk relayed: “Their investigation found that the most egregious allegations regarding alleged statements made by the Dean were uncorroborated and legally deficient.” Similarly a Canon IV complaint to the Dean’s bishop was also dismissed. After much hue and cry, the Board offered a provisional reinstatement and committed to a reconciliation process with the assistance of an outside entity. Currently, seven of the eight faculty have opted to return and the reconciliation process is ongoing.
Another unfolding story throughout the second half of the year was the response to the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, MO, which has triggered ongoing protests not only in Ferguson, but across the United States. The issue of racism and police response was not limited to the St Louis metro area, but also was highlighted in New York City, when a police officer, using an illegal choke hold, killed Eric Garner after initially attempting to arrest him for selling cigarettes illegally. In both cases, the men killed were black and unarmed and in both cases, the officers were exonerated. Related, two police officers in New York were murdered by a mentally ill man (after shooting his girlfriend) claiming his actions were in response to the killings of Brown and Garner. The bishops in the New York area made statements attempting to address the situation, though the one by Bp Provenzano, of the diocese of Long Island, was strongly criticized (including by us) though he is not without his supporters as well.
Stories of individual triumph and tragedy also attracted the attention of Café readers. The death of Robin Williams by suicide and the death of Bishop Mary Grey-Reeve’s husband both reminded us of the fragility of life. Meanwhile, the announcement that Libby Lane would be the first female bishop in the Church of England was almost unanimously welcomed by Episcopalians and Café readers, who widely shared and talked about this on social media.
And, not surprisingly, stories of life in the Episcopal Church of all kinds were popular throughout the year. The story of Sewanee’s seminary chapel being used for a same-sex union was big as was the story of the National Cathedral hosting Muslim Friday prayers. Stories of the role of clergy were also popular, especially our piece on 20 questions to see if your priest is any good and robust conversations were generated around wearing clerical collars and preaching styles, especially in social media. A post by an evangelical pastor on his discovery of the Book of Common Prayer was also very popular.
And for us here at the Café and for many readers, the retirement of long-time editor and Café founder, Jim Naughton (see here and here), was big news. Our switch over to the new site was hampered by a vexing programming problem that caused the site to be very slow in loading and which took almost two weeks to debug. The Café site may look different, but it still has the same great content as always. We’re committed to maintaining an independent voice in the life of this church, and you can help by supporting this work with a financial donation (just click on the big red button in the sidebar).
Some stories weren’t especially popular but we suspect may have a large impact in the future; the Episcopal Church’s loss in courts in property disputes with congregations that left the Episcopal Church and the release of the final report of the Task Force for Re-imagining the Episcopal Church. The TREC report was received critically by many commentators, though most everyone found the kernels of good ideas within and we hope that it will be the basis to begin a process of re-forming the Church to enable its mission and ministry to thrive. And Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, seems determined to re-imagine the Anglican Communion and not be held to pre-existing expectations of what the Communion is or how it functions.
From everyone here at the Café, we wish you a Happy New Year. We’d also like to hear what you thought of 2014 in Episco-world and what your hopes for the Church in 2015 might be.
Posted by Jon White