When I think about great magazine features about religion news in the age of GetReligion, some of the first stories that leap into my mind are headlines like "The Jesus War," which probed the roots of Mel Gibson's "Passion" play on film, and "Jesus in the Classroom," which offers an unusually balanced and nuanced account of the battles over religion and American history in the elite public-school classrooms of Cupertino, Calif. Alas, the highly skilled Peter J. Boyer does not have the time to write all of the long-form news pieces about religion that appear in the hallowed pages of The New Yorker.
Which brings us to that elite magazine's recent Reporter at Large feature that ran under the headline, "A Canterbury Tale."
Yes, it's about the Anglican wars.
No, it is not up to the usual standards of The New Yorker. In fact, this piece has put your GetReligionistas in a bit of a bind. We have heard from quite a few people who have spotted errors -- major and minor -- throughout this piece. There are, to be blunt, too many for a single GetReligion critique.
What, you ask, is an example of a minor error? Well, Richard Ostling of Time and Associated Press fame, noted, among a wide variety of problems, one simple issue of grammar in this piece. Like what? Consider this paragraph about the rise of U.S. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori:
Geoffrey Kirk, an unabashedly misogynist London vicar who is the national secretary of Forward in Faith, told me that, for him, the tipping point was the Episcopalian bishops' election of Jefferts Schori as their presiding bishop. He called it "a fundamental scandal" and added, "I think Mrs. Jefferts Schori is a layperson. It's not my doing. They decided."
OK, ignore, please, the reference to Kirk as an "unabashedly misogynist London vicar" because his stance on the ordination of women is the same as many -- "many," but not all -- Anglican evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics around the world. Oh, his stance is the same stance as the two largest Christian bodies in the world, the Catholic Church and the world of Eastern Orthodoxy.
Instead, simply note, along with Ostling, that the word "Episcopalian" is supposed to be a noun, not an adjective.
You get the idea.
What is a major error? To underline one of those, please ponder the following letter that was sent to The New Yorker by the noted author and musician Andy Crouch, known to many as the former editor of a progressive evangelical publication called re:generation quarterly. This is long, but worth the reading:
In her article, "A Canterbury Tale," Jane Kramer states, "Nigeria and Uganda, which together account for twenty-five million of Africa's Anglicans, have been hostage to two radically patriarchal archbishops and have been openly schismatic since the ordination of women began." This statement was incredible to me, having personally met women priests in Uganda (among them, an assistant to the archbishop). So I did a brief Google search. The Church of Uganda's "Position Paper on Scripture, Authority, and Human Sexuality" states:
"When the East African Revival swept through our communities, it called for the equality of women and men, and began the process of restoring women to traditional roles as spiritual leaders in their communities. The Revival movement was a strong contextualising force. In the 1950's and 1960's when African Christians took over leadership, we find a number of women seeking theological training and even aspiring for ordination. And, all of this was happening before women's ordination was approved in the West.
"Women's ordination in Uganda was a movement of the Holy Spirit independent of the West's promotion of women into ordained ministry. Therefore, to say that homosexual unions and ordination is an extension of a so-called biblical principle of liberation is insulting to us. It belittles women and their ministry, and equates a perversion with God's movement toward women's ordination in Uganda."
As for the consecration of women as bishops, the Church of Uganda's "FAQ about Church of Uganda, GAFCON, and the Anglican Communion" addresses it directly and unequivocally: "The canons of the Church of Uganda indicate that anyone who is ordained is eligible to be elected as a Bishop."
My Google search was not as successful in locating the translation of the New Testament in which "Christ called men and women 'equal in my hands.' "
As an evangelical Anglican who supports the ordination and consecration of women, these basic errors give me little confidence that Ms. Kramer's account can be trusted in other respects.
Once again, ignore the editorializing language such as "two radically patriarchal archbishops and have been openly schismatic" since the opening of the era in which women have been ordained in many Anglican churches.
Also, I was not aware that this particular issue has been the major source of discord in the global Anglican Communion in recent years (although major disagreements still exist), since so many charismatic and evangelical Anglicans have embraced the ordination of women. Isn't the ordination of noncelibate gays and lesbians the major issue now, serving as the spear point on fierce debates about biblical authority and church tradition during the past two decades?
So what are your GetReligionistas to do? This is a big challenge, so let's turn it into a game. Since there are too many bases to cover, please use the "comments" pages as a space in which to share with us your favorite errors in this piece. Yes, please try to focus on simple issues of fact, as opposed to the often fierce statements of opinion and bias that are woven throughout. Stick to the facts, if that is possible.
Go for it.