If you think back to the beginning of this Global Anglican Future Conference in Jerusalem, the assumption was that a pack of fundamentalist rebels was getting together to plan and then announce a schism in the global Anglican Communion. Remember that horrific Telegraph headline?
Anglican church schism declared over homosexuality
There were all kinds of assumptions built into that early coverage, including a very sketchy notion that all of these different kinds of traditionalists, charismatics and low-church evangelicals from around the world were all on the same page.
Try to imagine that. Are Anglican liberals all the same? Of course not. Via media is a road to compromise, but not to any one particular place in the middle of the Anglican spectrum. When it comes to answers, the Anglican voices are legion.
Anyway, not the template seems to be that GAFCON -- key documents are coming out in the next day or so -- has failed because the traditionalists did not achieve the schism that many in the press decided was their goal in the here and now. The tone in a Time magazine piece is perfect, starting with the headline, "Threat of Anglican Schism Fizzles."
The would-be Anglican rebels gathered with storm clouds brewing around them. But now, even though the conservative Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFcon) has not concluded its meeting in Jerusalem, the secession it threatened to bring to the 78 million-member Anglican Communion looks like a confused bust.
This all comes as a bit of surprise to the press, which -- with ample encouragement from the Church's right -- had been framing GAFcon as a decisive step toward schism in the Anglican Communion, the third biggest global religious fellowship. GAFcon seems to be falling apart on several fronts.
One crucial change is needed. From SOME on the church's right. I've been covering this story for a quarter century and lived in it for 10 and, believe me, I have never seen even a hint of unity on the conservative side of the Anglican fence. That's part of what makes covering the story so complex.
For you reporters out there, here is the key part:
If I were writing purely a critique of the mainstream media coverage, my central criticism would be that US and UK media outlets keep driving the political side of the story (Will there or won't there be a schism?). But they are by and large missing the faith side of the story. ...
But the media are not the only ones who are misunderstanding GAFCON. Among conservatives, no surprise, I am coming across three different kinds of Anglicans here who often don't understand each other very well. Let me describe them this way:
* The separationists. These individuals wish to create a new Anglican Communion that is global, not centered in Canterbury.
* The reformers. These folks are not yet ready to give up on the existing Anglican Communion and have a movement strategy for redeeming and restoring the Communion.
* The new paradigm. This is the trickiest one to understand. Under a new paradigm, Anglicanism becomes a global network, locally distinctive, church or community-based, and centered on the biblical mission of evangelism and discipleship.
And then there is this comment, including some names worth chasing:
Last night, scholar Lamin Sanneh, Palestinian Christian Salim Munayer, and Messianic pastor Evan Thomas pointed GAFCON Anglicans toward a future that was global, reconciling, and biblical. Years from now, we might find that the only English element left in 21st century Anglicanism is the English language itself.
Keep repeating the GetReligion mantra on this -- local, regional, national and global. You have to find a way to get the story right at all four levels.
And it also pays to keep the following joke in mind, the way that I first heard if almost 20 years ago (thus, the 2010 reference):
The year is 2010 and two graduates of the very conservative Anglo-Catholic seminary called Nashotah House are standing in the back of the Washington National Cathedral as the church's latest presiding bishop and her lesbian partner process down the long center aisle, carrying a statue of the Buddha aloft while surrounded by a cloud of incense.
As they watch this scene unfold, one of the priests leans over and quietly tells the other: "You know, one more thing and I'm out of here."
PERSONAL NOTE: By the way, I am out of here for a week away from my offices. I will touch base now and then, but I'm leaving you in the hands of the Divine Ms. MZ and company. But I still need to write a Scripps Howard column and keep in touch with my students, so I will post a few times.
Sigh. The Internet. Can't live with it. Can't live without it.