As I mentioned the other day, it was great getting to spend part of Saturday hanging out at the Religion Newswriters Association meetings here in Washington, D.C. I mean, check out the names on the program! Also, there's some material on the official RNA weblog of the event (and I hope that will be updated and refreshed). Then there is the inevitable YouTube fest from some of the panel discussions. Yes, I'm in there defending what we do here at GetReligion.org to an audience of (gulp) religion-news professionals.
It was great to see lots of old friends and talk shop. And in the midst of that, I ran into a veteran Godbeat reporter your GetReligionistas have often hailed as one of the best when it comes to covering highly complex stories, especially those linked to the local, regional, national and global -- keep repeating that mantra -- Anglican wars.
That reporter is Ann Rodgers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and her work often shows the value of experience on this oh-so-complex beat. Right now, she has a major flare-up of the Anglican wars taking place in her backyard -- that 88-35 vote by some of the nation's Episcopal bishops to depose Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan. At the heart of the battle is the planned vote by his diocese to exit the U.S. Episcopal Church and to align with conservative Anglicans in South America.
Rodgers faces a wide array of challenges in a relatively short, hard-news story about this fight, a report that ran with the headline: "Some expected to resist split from Episcopal Church -- Reorganized diocese could come in vote on secession Oct. 4."
But note this background passage:
Local Episcopalians who want to remain in the U.S. Church have said that one member of the diocesan Standing Committee -- which governs in the absence of a bishop -- is opposed to secession and will immediately begin to reconstitute a reorganized Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh that would choose its own leadership.
The 2.2 million-member Episcopal Church is the U.S. province of the 77 million-member Anglican Communion. Bishop Duncan and others believe that the U.S. church no longer firmly upholds classic Christian doctrines on the mission and identity of Jesus, the authority of the Bible and sexual ethics.
Decades of contention came to a crisis in 2003, when the U.S. church accepted a partnered gay bishop. This increased what had been a smaller movement among conservatives to realign with more theologically conservative provinces in the global South. The vote to depose Bishop Duncan was because the bishops deemed that his plan to realign violated the discipline of the Episcopal Church.
Can you see all the layers of this complex conflict? Check.
Does the story demonstrate that there is more to the war than picky fights about sexuality? Check.
Does the story note that this fighting has been going on for decades, while building to the crisis of election and consecration of that famous partnered gay bishop? Check.
There is much more to this story, of course. I merely wanted to underline the fact that it is possible to handle these kinds of complex subjects in a few crisp, yet accurate lines of type. I also must confess that I loved the final quote, which, after plenty of details about the national and regional aspects of this conflict, pointed toward a larger, more universal frame of reference. Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun.
Archbishop Mouneer Anis, leader of the Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East hailed Bishop Duncan as a martyr.
"It is with great joy that I welcome you alongside the ranks of St. Athanasius, who, as Bishop of Alexandria, was deposed and exiled from his see. St. Athanasius did not waver and stood firm. History proved that his stance for orthodoxy was not in vain. I trust it will do the same for you! So please count it as honor my brother," he wrote to Bishop Duncan.