The other day I chided some conservative Episcopalians -- loyal GetReligion readers, even -- for being so upset about a feature story in The Washington Post about the origins of the war between conservative Anglicans at Truro Episcopal Church and The Falls Church in Northern Virginia and liberal leaders of the national Episcopal Church establishment. I agreed that the charismatic-Anglicans-equal-holyrollers lede on the story was a bit over the top. However, once you made it past that giddy start, reporters Alan Cooperman and Jacqueline L. Salmon offered one of the best mainstream reports that I have read about the global, national, regional and local clashes between the Episcopalians and the majority of the world's Anglicans.
The key to the feature was at the end, when, framed in quotes from Father Rick Wright, associate rector at The Falls Church, the Post allowed readers to see a glimpse of the ultimate doctrinal issues behind the fighting. The bottom line: There is more to this war than disagreements about moral theology linked to marriage and sexuality. The Nicene Creed is up for grabs.
Thus, we read:
Many say the rift involves something deeper -- whether the Bible is the word of God, Jesus is the only way to heaven and tolerance is more important than truth. When he was a newly ordained priest almost 20 years ago, Wright said, he talked with several other priests about how to respond to a teenager who asked, "Do you really believe in the Resurrection of Jesus?"
"The rest of the priests agreed that it was a sticky question, and they felt that way because they didn't believe in it, but they didn't want to say so," he said. "That's where the Episcopal Church has been for the last 20 years. It's not where we are."
I was hoping that lots of conservative Anglicans would write in to offer some praise -- for a change -- for Cooperman and Salmon. There are, after all, plenty of columns and stories out there in the mainstream media that continue to say that the fight is about sex and sex alone.
Take, for example, the following column by Father Steve Gushee (bio here), a columnist with The Palm Beach Post and Cox News Service. I have, in the past, admitted that I consider Gushee to be the nation's worst religion columnist. I continue to think so, not because I disagree with him (after living in West Palm Beach for four years and reading him as the local religion columnist), but because his work rarely features a single word of new material or quoted information from other people, let alone anyone who in any way disagrees with his point of view. Most of the time, he writes sermons, not columns.
OK, Anglican folks, if you were upset about the Post news feature, check out this new Gushee column with the spiffy headline "Splinter group of Episcopal bigots bad sign." You will not be surprised to learn that Gushee is, himself, an ordained Episcopal clergyman. Here is a sample from this short column:
The breakaway parishes in the Episcopal Church make all the right noises about their struggle for theological orthodoxy, biblical purity and traditional Anglican values. Cut through all the verbiage, and their issue is sex, specifically homosexuality in the church's leadership, with a side order of bias against women.
. . . Bishops of different jurisdictions do not muck about in another bishop's territory, but this sanctimonious crowd observes no such niceties. They alone, they claim, know the truth and read Scripture accurately. The great danger in all this -- apart from the disgraceful treatment of homosexuals -- is the growing power of bigots to use the Bible to condemn those who are different. Christians have long done that against Jews, blacks and women.
And so forth and so on.
You have to ask why The Palm Beach Post does not create a second religion-issues column to offer a different point of view. I know that the area contains plenty of sharp Orthodox rabbis, evangelical apologists and other people who would provide a lively counterpart to Gushee's worldview. That newspaper is in serious need of some diversity when it comes to religion.