Reporting vs. fear-mongering

When the Rev. George Conger is on an Anglican story, it's hard to top his firsthand reporting for thoroughness, relevant details and good humor. Consider Conger's report this week for The Church of England Newspaper (part 1, part 2), which gives a fuller picture on why primates from the Global South boycotted Communion with U.S. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold:

Archbishop Akinola wrote to Dr Williams on behalf of the global south coalition stating they would not share altar fellowship with Bishop Griswold. Dr Williams suggested a "pastoral Eucharist", and then proposed a priest be brought in to celebrate Communion.

Archbishop Akinola responded it was not the worthiness of the minister that prompted their objections, but their belief that unity of doctrine preceded unity of worship. It was not a question of receiving "from" Bishop Griswold, but "with" Bishop Griswold.

. . . The endorsement of the communiqué, however, did not return harmony to the Primates. After the deal was done, Archbishop Williams announced he was going to lead the noonday Eucharist on Friday and invited all the Primates to attend as a gesture of unity. The global south primates declined.

Compare this to the primates' meeting in 2003, also reported by Conger, in which the Archbishop of Canterbury insisted that Global South primates partake of Communion with Griswold if they wanted the emergency meeting to occur.

Observers at the Lambeth Conferences of 1988 and 1998 said both meetings reflected the Global South's growing strength in numbers and in influence. In a similar way, the primates meeting of 2005 is now reflecting its own southward shift in authority.

At another point on the journalism spectrum, Stephen Bates of the Guardian offers another installment in his series of "all the villains are on the Right" narratives. In this spine-chilling episode, Bates reports that a conservative primate already has "defied the agreement within hours in order to address traditionalist parishes in Canada."

The primates' communiqué discourages primates from initiating alternative oversight in provinces not their own. How this prohibits a primate even from addressing a gathering -- not ordaining new priests or confirming new church members or welcoming a new breakaway parish -- is a mystery that remains to be explained in Bates' reports.

Bates also relies on an anonymous primate who claims that conservative primates treated the Archbishop of Canterbury rudely and that African primates will -- imagine the audacity! -- rely on different American sources to meet their financial needs. "I understand they have been told that American fundamentalist millionaires have promised to match any funding the African church would have received from the Episcopal Church dollar for dollar," Bates' deep-cover source tells him.

That's right, American fundamentalist millionaires! No names, no proof, no explanation of what makes these shadowy figures so clearly fundamentalist. At moments such as these, even Bates' feverish conspiracy theories and name-calling achieve that sublime status known as hathos.

Photo: Primates Peter Akinola, Nigeria; Drexel Gomez, West Indies; Datuk Yong Ping Chung, South East Asia. Photo by James Rosenthal, Anglican Communion News Service.

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