Anglican Church in North America

Wait just a minute: Fading Lutherans (ELCA) in Waco sold their lovely building to Anglicans?

Wait just a minute: Fading Lutherans (ELCA) in Waco sold their lovely building to Anglicans?

I think leaders of The Waco Tribune-Herald team had an interesting religion-beat story on their hands the other day, but it appears that they may not have known that.

It's easy to see the some predictable news trends looming over the recent headline: "Dwindling congregation forces sale of 133-year-old Waco Lutheran church."

There are several valid news angles here, the first of which is that lots of fading urban churches are being squeezed by similar financial and demographic issues. You can see that in this recent story from The Nashville Tennessean that was picked up for further distribution by Religion News Service.

If you visit the core streets and neighborhoods of almost any American city you will find lots of churches -- often from the old "Seven Sisters" flocks of liberal mainline Protestantism -- sitting on what is now prime real estate for re-developers appealing to the gentrification and young singles Millennial crowds. Many of these churches now face a tornado of red statistics, with aging members, low birthrates and declining numbers of converts.

Yes, there are doctrinal issues linked to some of those issues, especially in the American heartland and Bible Belt (think Waco, Texas). However, the Tribune-Herald team isn't very interested in these issues.

Hold that thought, while we look at some summary material near the top of this report. The symbolic voice is that of 94-year-old church member Joyce Heckmann:

Through the years, there were countless Christmas celebrations, church-wide smorgasbord dinners, Sunday school classes, Vacation Bible Schools and more.
But while the years have been kind to Heckmann, they have taken their toll on the aging church building and congregation, members say. The once-vibrant church family boasted 450 members, requiring an extensive expansion project that more than doubled the size of the building in 1958.
Now, members say, they are lucky to have 40 worshipers on Sunday morning. Members recently came to the painful but practical realization that their smallish group could no longer support such a large building.
So they voted to sell the property -- Texas Historical Commission landmark medallion and all -- to Christ Church Waco, an up-and-coming Anglican congregation that has met in least 10 temporary locations since it was formed in 2009.

Now stop the train right there for a minute.

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Major news events among Episcopalians and American Anglicans: Still worth covering?

Major news events among Episcopalians and American Anglicans: Still worth covering?

It’s been more than 10 years since the conservative portions of various Episcopal dioceses began the Great Split-Off. That is, they left dioceses -- some of which had been around since the 18th century -- to form a new entity, the Anglican Church in North America, that billed itself as the truest representation of Anglicanism on the North American continent.

This didn’t go over too well with The Episcopal Church (TEC), as you may imagine, and many were the lawsuits filed by TEC leaders to keep their property, most of which they won. I covered churches in northern Virginia that lost everything in this battle. One church lost property they had already bought on which to build a new sanctuary. Another church lost millions of dollars in property that dated back to colonial times.

This was a big, big story year after year -- receiving major coverage from many major newspapers and wire services.

Take, 2007 for example. I was able to cover one of the ACNA’s formative sessions in Pittsburgh in 2008 and their inaugural assembly in 2009 in Bedford, Texas. As the two sides have drifted further apart and the Episcopal Church has continued losing membership, the secular media has almost stopped covering this story. Religion News Service is the one exception.

This is a shame, in that there’s still news going on.

The conservative Anglican journalist David Virtue, who has followed this story since the beginning, chronicled what happened at a recent gathering at Wheaton College near Chicago.

The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is planting one new church a week, Archbishop Foley Beach told delegates to the triennial gathering of some 1400 Anglicans, at Wheaton College, in the heartland of America's Bible belt. The ACNA also officially received The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina as the newest diocese with some 9,000 members -- the largest of 31 dioceses in the orthodox Anglican body. The diocese broke away from the Episcopal Church over the authority of Scripture and TEC's embrace of homosexuality and gay marriage in defiance of Lambeth resolution 1.10. ...

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Click, click: Tough calls journalists must make, when facing good news and dumb news

Click, click: Tough calls journalists must make, when facing good news and dumb news

What we have here is the kind of laugh-to-keep-from-crying conversation that journalists have had for ages and ages. Amen.

However, the topic discussed in the YouTube located at the top of this post -- offering us a chance to touch base with former GetReligionista George Conger (in clericals) -- has become even more common in the digital news era. You know, this current age in which the journalistic temptation to seek out cat videos and "You won't believe what happens next" listicles continues to grow.

Yes, "Anglican Unscripted" is not a mainstream news product. It's an Anglican affairs video podcast with a conservative point of view.

Still, about two minutes in, Conger and co-host Kevin Kallsen (with guitar) start discussing a very important editorial matter, which is why it makes little sense in the internet news era to cover "good" stories that everyone already knows about and "dumb news" that may be humorous or somewhat ironic, but it's so predictable that no one needs to pays attention.

As George states: "Consistently good news, and consistently dumb stories, eventually do not sell."

Let's just say that a key phrase in this discussion is, rather than, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism" is "One Lord, one faith, one toilet."

The key question: Why didn't the following press release -- a letter from the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church and other leads in the denomination -- generate mainstream news coverage, even in liberal settings that would logically support this action? Here's the key passage:

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How aggregating: The Atlantic goes halfway in reporting on Anglican primates meeting

How aggregating: The Atlantic goes halfway in reporting on Anglican primates meeting

I’ve been happy to see more religion pieces in The Atlantic in recent years, as such coverage was not occurring in that publication during my 16 years in Washington, D.C. I’m not sure what led to a change in heart among editors there, but it’s nice to see articles like last week’s piece on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s last-ditch attempt to hold the Anglican Communion together. That’s the good part.

The bad part is the piece is aggregated, in that it’s a patchwork of quotes from three British media outlets along with segments from the archbishop’s press release about a gathering of Anglican primates in January 2016. And there were some gaping holes. The article starts thus:

Justin Welby was named archbishop of Canterbury with high hopes that he was the man who could save the Anglican Communion. Now it appears he may oversee its breakup—a calculated destruction intended, paradoxically, to save it.

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Here’s a hot story many have missed: Cost of those 91 Episcopal Church lawsuits

Here’s a hot story many have missed: Cost of those 91 Episcopal Church lawsuits

Sometimes a news story drags on bit by bit, piece by piece, over the years and becomes so tedious that reporters miss the dramatic cumulative impact. It also doesn't help that long, slow-developing, nuanced religion stories have been known to turn secular editors into pillars of salt.

So it seems with the lawsuits against conservative congregations and regional dioceses that have been quitting the Episcopal Church, mostly to join the Anglican Church in North America, especially since consecration of the first openly partnered gay bishop in 2003.

The Religion Guy confesses he totally missed the eye-popping claim last year that the denomination has spent more than $40 million on lawsuits to win ownership of the dropouts’ buildings, properties, and liquid assets. If that’s anywhere near accurate it surely sets the all-time record for American schisms. And that doesn’t even count the millions come-outers have spent on lawyers. For more info, click here.

Note immediately that these elaborate data were pieced together by an obviously partisan if qualified source, “Anglican Curmudgeon” blogger A.S. Haley. He’s an attorney who specializes in church property law and represents the departing Diocese of San Joaquin in central California.  No reporter should simply accept Haley’s say-so and recycle his data unchecked. But a full accounting, working through his numbers with Episcopal officials, would make a good piece.

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Timing is everything: Especially with 'Anglican' (and 'Episcopal') war stats

Timing is everything: Especially with 'Anglican' (and 'Episcopal') war stats

Timing is everything.

The maxim is as true in acting as it is in writing.

What set Jack Benny (pictured) or Groucho Marx apart from their peers was not the quality of their material, but their delivery. Great comedians, as well as actors, singers, writers and other performers are masters of rhythm and tempo – delivering their lines at the right moment, with the right emphasis that conveys the external and internal meaning of their lines.
 
Timing is also important in journalism. One of the marks of superior journalism is its auricular qualities: It sounds as good as it reads. And there is also the timing of sources and material in constructing a story.  This gratification of eye and ear is what sets the great above the commonplace reporters.

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