Over at the always essential Christianity Today weblog, Ted Olsen kind of hit a wall and put up this headline for all of those who are paying attention to religion news this week:
"Gay, Gay, Gay, Gay, Gay -- Plus: ABC pulls Assemblies of God ad, Talking Jesus toys return to tots, and a few other non-gay stories from online sources around the world."
I mean, The Washington Post only managed to get three gay religion news events into one convenient package -- the Presbyterian Church (USA) dismissing the lesbian wedding case, North Carolina Southern Baptists cracking down on churches that become gay friendly and, the big story, the U.S. Catholic bishops affirming Roman doctrines on homosexuality, marriage and sex, but managing to retreat over whether to offer public praise to a Catholic organization that actively advocates and teaches those doctrines at the grassroots level.
However, the Post did miss -- or stunningly downplay -- one of the biggest gay-theology-related mainline stories of the week, which hinged on the vestry votes at the historic Falls Church (Va.) Episcopal Church (pictured) and Truro Episcopal Church to exit the Episcopal Church. As Olsen noted, this is turning into one of those stories -- huge, growing, evangelical Anglican parishes leaving the Episcopal fold in the wake of national innovations on sexual doctrines -- that is becoming so common that each new headline no longer seems like a big deal. It is the new normal.
But the exit of these two churches is a giant Beltway-region story and it broke on page one of The Washington Times. Here's veteran scribe Julia Duin's opening:
Leaders of two of Virginia's most historic Episcopal parishes have voted to split from the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia, a move that could spark a legal battle over millions of dollars' worth of property.
The vestry -- or governing board -- of Truro Episcopal Church, an 18th-century church in downtown Fairfax, voted unanimously Saturday to depart from the 2.2-million-member Episcopal Church over questions of biblical authority and the 2003 consecration of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, an active homosexual. Monday night, the vestry of the Falls Church, an equally historic Virginia congregation in the city of Falls Church, voted 15-2, with one abstention, to leave the Episcopal Church, a denomination it has called home for more than 200 years.
Its rector, the Rev. John Yates, called the process a series of "terribly hard decisions" in a Nov. 14 letter to church members. His church sits on $17 million worth of prime real estate; Truro's property is worth about $10 million.
You can read about the emerging Anglican District of Virginia and other details in Duin's report.
Olsen added a fifith story to the "Gay, Gay, Gay, Gay, Gay" mix with links to reports that the fall of the Rev. Ted Haggard has once again opened up debates about the validity of ministries that strive to help gays and lesbians who seek, through prayer and therapy, to make changes in their sexual lifestyles.
The Associated Press notes that what some call "reparative therapy" is "espoused by many religious conservatives and disputed by many mental health experts."
True. Of course, ministries of this kind are usually based on the work of religious believers who also happen to be mental-health experts and professionals, but talking to them might hint at some kind of break in the clergy vs. science story template. It would mean talking to a third group of people and trying to report their views. So never mind.