Beneath the big picture

What happens if you vehemently disagree with your denomination and decide to stay -- at least for now? There's been a plethora of coverage in the mainstream press recently about conservative Anglicans who have moved to form their own province of the Anglican Communion separate from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

The dissidents include members of four American dioceses, individual congregations, and some Anglican-themed networks.

(Hopefully somewhere in the United States right now some media critic is trying to figure out why the struggles of this tiny denomination -- guessestimate: 2.3 million -- continue to attract such a huge amount of journalistic attention. The fact that they are a tiny slice of the worlds 80 million Anglican doesn't completely explain it. Tmatt has his own opinion.)

A reader called our attention to an article from an Orangeburg, S.C., newspaper, The Times and Democrat. The timely piece by staff writer Gene Zaleski highlights a segment of the Episcopal population whose voices are rarely heard in the white heat of battle -- conservative Episcopalians who aren't joining up with the separate province.

Zaleski has a strong lede -- but I'm not sure, after reading the whole article, if it's entirely accurate.

Some area Episcopal Church pastors say they sympathize with churches that are forming a more theologically conservative group.

But they say their own Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina is looking to reform the U.S. church, rather than break away.

The Rev. Dr. Frank Larisey, pastor of Orangeburg's Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, said "Theologically, we are on the same page with them. But we have no intention at the present time of going anywhere. We have not changed. We have not gone anywhere. We are the heart of Christian orthodoxy."

Instead, Larisey said he, along with the diocese, will continue to speak out against the "liberal" and "unbiblical" trends in the hope that changes can occur.

It might be more exact to say that conservatives in the Diocese of South Carolina (which helped birth a network for dissident Anglicans) are planning to stay -- for now.

Most of the quotes in the article display strong sympathy and support for those who have left. Consider this one from Kendall Harmon, long a spokesman for conservative Episcopalians:

The Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall Harmon of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina echoed Larisey's statements.

"The important thing to say is that we are in great theological sympathy with the folks who gathered but we have strategic differences. We wish them well and are praying with them. We hope to remain in fellowship with them during this very difficult time," he said.

"It is a painful situation for many of us," Harmon said. "We are losing friends of ours that are a part of the Episcopal Church. It is our desire at this time to tell the truth in the midst of the church that has turned its back on the truth."

Harmon said he would hate to speculate on what the diocese may do next except to note that whatever is decided, the diocese will make the decision together.

In other words -- don't count on the status quo today being the status quo tomorrow. In a denomination being roiled by controversy, nothing is written on tablets.

That being said, I was thrilled to see a piece that bothered to dig underneath the brawling. Here's a local writer presenting another side of what is a much more complex picture than we often see when an article is written from a national perspective.

Let's hope some other journalists are ambitious enough to dig that deep -- who knows what else they might find?

The picture of St. Philip's in Charleston, S.C. is from Wikimedia Commons

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