Beyond the L-word? Ask questions

As you would expect, the Baltimore Sun is in full celebration mode when it comes to the consecration of the Rev. Canon Mary Douglas Glasspool of Annapolis as a new assistant bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. This makes sense for all kinds of reasons, in terms of the newspaper's views of the changes that must be made to help build a better and more enlightened world. The story, as you would expect, openly admits that this local story about the rise of the Episcopal Church's first openly lesbian, partnered bishop has national and global elements. Here is the section of the story that makes this clear, while stressing the racial diversity of her new home diocese and its power base of progressive parishes.

"The Diocese of Los Angeles is tremendously exciting to me," said Glasspool, who spoke of the "very creative ways in which the church there does its mission and ministry," and the fact that on any given Sunday across the diocese, the liturgy is being celebrated in some 40 languages.

Glasspool's election by the Diocese of Los Angeles in December and her confirmation by the rest of the Episcopal Church in March have further strained relations with the Anglican Communion, which were already were complicated by the consecration in 2003 of The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as the first openly gay bishop and the election in 2006 of the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori as the first woman to head a national branch of Anglicanism.

After Glasspool's election, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has labored to prevent a schism in the word's third-largest Christian denomination, issued an unusually direct statement, warning that the decision raised "very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole."

As always, the direct parallel is made between sexual orientation and race -- through the voice of the current leader of the tiny Diocese of Maryland.

Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton of Maryland said the communion is in the midst of a fight, and "it's a fight worth having. ... Whenever the church has tried to limit leadership based on a person's biology, in most cases they have had to admit that was a mistake."

Sutton, who in 2008 became the first African-American to lead the Diocese of Maryland, offers himself as an example. As recently as 50 years ago, Sutton said, he probably would not have been welcome to worship in most of the parishes he now oversees.

Does the story note the irony that the global opposition to her consecration is led by Africans, Asians and other leaders from the giant, growing churches of the Global South? No. That would be too complicated.

So what is the battle really about? How does her church fit into the larger, global Anglican Communion? Glasspool argues that the fight is essentially about authority and power in a loose network of churches.

A creature of the American Revolution, the Episcopal Church of the United States now rattles the whole communion in matters of sexuality, although Glasspool argues that's not the issue.

"It has to do not with issues of sexuality but of power and authority," said Glasspool. "You don't hear an outcry about ordaining lesbians and gay people. But once they attain more authority and leadership there's an outcry. There have been gay and lesbian people throughout history, and there have been gay and lesbian people in the church throughout history."

Is any other point of view offered on this issue? Of course not. That would be too complicated.

Does the story even mention any other doctrinal issues facing the Anglican Communion, issues that have been given some ink in -- to cite one prime setting -- The New York Times? No, that would be too complicated.

The point of the story, after all, is that this woman should not be defined by her sexuality. That is a great and appropriate journalistic goal. So, what is her stance on other crucial issues, doctrinal issues, that are causing cracks in the Anglican Communion? How would she describe her Christology, her view of the Virgin Birth, the historical reality of the Resurrection, the question of whether salvation can only be found through belief in Jesus, the nature of biblical authority? Issues of gender and liturgy? Or is her sexuality all that matters?

Has she written or said anything on these issues? What about during the selection process in Los Angeles? Are there critics in Maryland or California -- or in other parts of the world, like England -- who have studied her life and work and might be able to offer insights, as part of a journalistic process in which the views of both sides are quoted accurately and with empathy?

Critics? Another side of the issue? You must be kidding, we're talking about the Baltimore Sun. There was one paragraph of commentary from Anglican traditionalists in the story that ran when she was elected. That'll do.

Come on. Why does anyone need to ask journalistic questions? There is only one side to this issue, to this story.

Controversy? What controversy?

Journalism? What journalism?

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