Faithful GetReligion readers will know that I moved from the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area this past summer, returning to the hills of East Tennessee. It was a wonderful move on so many levels, yet it has raised a few challenges.
One of them is that I no longer see The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post in dead-tree-pulp form, which, frankly, made it much easier to cruise through them looking for stories relevant to our work here at GetReligion. Well, the Sun rarely took long to scan, since it is a ghost of its former self, but the Post was worth spending time with each day.
All of this is to say that I need to wrote a second Anglican timeline disease post today, for the simple reason that -- since I no longer see the actual newspaper -- I didn't bump into the Post coverage of that issue online until after I had written my early-morning offering that focused on The New York Times. If you missed that earlier piece, then please click here for context.
We need a second piece in this case, because the Post story demonstrates that it is possible -- with a few specific words and phrases -- to let readers know that the Anglican wars have been going on for a long time and didn't start in 2003 with the election of a noncelibate gay bishop in a tiny New England diocese. There's even a hint right there in the lede.
The world’s third-largest Christian denomination appears to be in serious reflection about how -- and whether -- to stay unified amid divisions about human sexuality and other issues.
Note (a) there are "other issues" and (b) that the fights concern "human sexuality" in general, as opposed to debates about the moral status of homosexual acts, alone.
A few lines later, readers learn more:
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby announced Wednesday that he had summoned Anglican leaders to a special meeting that will be held in January, including a review of the structure of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
The Communion has been divided globally and in the United States for years over issues from gay rights to women’s ordination to how to read scripture. The two sides have been mostly meeting in court during multimillion-dollar lawsuits over who has the right to church properties.
Globally, the split among Anglicans is similar to that among other Christian groups that spread from the more liberal West to the developing world, where conservative Christianity is booming and liberal sexual mores are totally unaccepted.
The 2003 consecration of the openly gay bishop Gene Robinson as the bishop of New Hampshire served as a flash point in the many debates over whether the church body should remain one. In late 2014, the Church of England approved female bishops.
“We have no Anglican Pope. Our authority as a church is dispersed, and is ultimately found in Scripture, properly interpreted,” Welby said in his statement.
While Anglican and Episcopal insiders could probably note a few things they would want to edit, there is only one word in that chunk of the story that I would change. Instead of saying that the conflicts have been going on "for years over issues from gay rights to women’s ordination to how to read scripture," I would have said "for decades" -- since the conflict has been building, including debates about homosexuality, since the mid-1970s. So '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s and whatever adds up to decades, in my book. Also, I liked the "flash point" reference to the 2003 election of Bishop V. Gene Robinson.
Toward the end of the story, the Post team found a very interesting and authoritative source to provide some additional historical context:
Leadership in the Anglican Communion has changed since some of the hot button debates of previous decades, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church and the archbishop of the Anglican Church of North America. The more conservative parts of the Communion are fast-growing and pushing back harder against recognizing the credentials of their more liberal clergy counterparts.
“For any institution that tries to be a global church,” this will be an issue, said Baylor University religious history professor Philip Jenkins. In a sense the idea that the Communion could loosen or even break up might not feel like news, Jenkins said.
“In some ways it’s just giving up the attempt to square the circle. They’re going in such different ways,” Jenkins said of the more liberal and more conservative parts of Anglicanism.
Yes, we are talking about that Philip Jenkins, the author of "The Lost History of Christianity," "The Jesus Wars," "The New Faces of Christianity" and, most of all, "The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity."
So, the scribes at this here website get to offer a thumbs up for this one, which was written by two Godbeat veterans, as in Michelle Boorstein and (this is the awkward part) former GetReligionista Sarah Pulliam Bailey.