So the big it is mentioned within first three paragraphs of all the major stories on this week's announcement that the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops rejected a demand from the Anglican Communion's primates to establish a separate leadership structure for dissenting U.S. dioceses and parishes. Can you guess what it is?
Here's Laurie Goodstein of The New York Times:
Responding to an ultimatum from leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion, bishops of the Episcopal Church have rejected a key demand to create a parallel leadership structure to serve the conservative minority of Episcopalians who oppose their church's liberal stand on homosexuality.
And three paragraphs into a Los Angeles Times article by Rebecca Trounson:
The U.S. bishops did not directly address potentially thornier issues, including demands from Anglican leaders that by September they stop performing official blessings for same-sex couples and consecrating openly gay bishops.
Figured out the big it yet? Yes, this story is made out to be about sex -- homosexuality, to be specific. That's at least what the headlines would lead you to think. But it's more than just sex. It's theology. It's doctrine.
A couple of journalists got it right, including The Washington Post's Alan Cooperman:.
But U.S. bishops, though divided on underlying issues of theology and sexuality, described themselves yesterday as increasingly united against foreign interference in the internal governance of their church.
Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA Today used the phrase "dissent from the U.S. church's stances on homosexuality and the Bible," which gets the message across that this is about more than sex, but "theology" seems to be a better word to describe the divide.
The money matter comes up quite frequently in the stories, which is nicely summarized in this Times piece by Goodstein and Neela Barnerjee.
For the best source for links and commentary on the schism, check out the blog run by The Times' Ruth Gledhill:
If the wealthy US church, headed by the Communion's first woman Primate, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, is expelled from communion, as now appears increasingly likely, US papers such as the New York Times are reporting that the Anglican Communion worldwide will be plunged into financial crisis because so much of the central administration and overseas aid is bankrolled by the Americans. Although the 2.3 US Episcopalians are few among the 77 million Anglicans worldwide, they finance up to one third of the Communion's total international budget. (Update: that should of course read 2.3 million. That was not prophetic or wishful thinking on my part, just one of those ordinary mistakes ... Cartoon from Dave Walker.)
... So, in effect, TEC are subverting Dr Williams' wider unity plans by playing their own unity card with ruthless clarity. We already know who is holding the queens in this high-stakes ecclesiastical poker game. And I know of at least two pretty major aces that have still to be shown. I just hope Dr Williams has some good cards still close to his chest. Because neither TEC nor Akinola are bluffing.
As a reporter who recently started blogging for his day job, I know what it is like to be freed from the reins of reporting a basic news story. Interjecting some analysis into a news story can only go so far. With a blog, one is free to link, think out loud and correct one's mistakes, as Gledhill does above regarding the 2.3 million. It's refreshing and a great way for a journalist to build her ability to cover a beat.