So is she a priest or not?

As I have mentioned many times in GetReligion posts, the Baltimore Sun is the newspaper that lands in my front yard every morning (I get the Washington Post at work) and, as you would expect, the former copy desk man in me has learned a few things about my local newspaper. The Sun is a liberal paper on many issues and, certainly, on all issues that have anything to do with religion. Suffice it to say that the churches of liberal Protestantism can do no wrong and the Catholic Church is praised whenever it acts like, well, the Episcopal Church.

Trust me when I say this: The last thing that Sun folks would want to do is mishandle a style issue in a manner that would, in any way, slight a female Episcopal priest. Heck the Sun editors wouldn't want to do anything to slight female Roman Catholic priests and they don't exist.

So what are we to make of the top of this recent police-and-crime story?

She's known simply as Pastor Alice, and the last time she saw Keith Ray Jr. alive was in early September 2007. He was lying in a gutter on a Remington Street, struggling with a Baltimore officer who was trying to put handcuffs on his wrists.

Ray kept screaming at the officer, calling him a "punk." His friend, 22-year-old John Mooney, pleaded with Ray to shut his mouth: "Just be quiet, be calm, be calm."

The pastor was walking home with groceries, and she paused at the scene unfolding before her eyes. Another day on another street in Baltimore, where the struggles of a neighborhood, its people and its police officers collide in a gutter in front of an Episcopal priest.

A few days later, Ray's decomposing body was found off Wyman Park Drive, hidden under a pile of logs and brush, a bullet wound to the back of his head. And soon, the victim's best friend, who had talked him through his arrest days earlier, was charged with killing him.

They had argued over $1,000 that Mooney said Ray had stolen. ...

Alice M. Jellema, the vicar of the Church of the Guardian Angel on Huntingdon Avenue in Remington, knew both Ray and Mooney. She saw them regularly on the streets, and she knew Ray's four children, one of whom she had gotten into a summer camp and a homework club.

Now, I have no doubt that Jellema is, in fact, known as "Pastor Alice" to members of her flock. However, in journalism terms, the word "pastor" is not a formal title in the Episcopal Church -- as opposed to the way that Lutherans use "pastor" as a formal title.

But ordained women in the Episcopal Church face a problem. Obviously, they cannot be called "father." So what should they be called?

I have noticed, in recent years, that fewer newspapers are referring to Catholic and Orthodox priests as "father," using the term as a title. Two decades ago, when I was on the beat in Denver, I know that the problem of what to call ordained women became entangled with this issue. In other words, if there is no similar title for women, then the "father" title should vanish for men. So there.

So what saith the gods of Associated Press style?

This is what struck me about this Sun story. Note the formal reference to this priest, as opposed to the "Pastor Alice" nod in the lede. Here is that reference again:

Alice M. Jellema, the vicar of the Church of the Guardian Angel on Huntingdon Avenue in Remington, knew both Ray and Mooney.

Simply stated, this is a mistake. That should say, "The Rev. Alice M. Jellema." She is a priest. She should have the same formal title as a male who has been ordained into this oldline Protestant body. Right?

So, hey, Sun editors. If she is a priest, you need to run a correction.

Please respect our Commenting Policy