Big foreign datelines: London (think Canterbury) next week, Moscow long-term ...

Big foreign datelines: London (think Canterbury) next week, Moscow long-term ...

Though U.S. media often downplay foreign news, astute religion writers will be closely watching London next week and Moscow in the longer term.

London:  Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has called a Jan. 11–16 meeting with 37 fellow “primates” who head the national branches in the Anglican Communion.

Some analysts consider it a make-or-break moment on whether this global body of as many as 85 million adherents can hang together. Most stateside journalists won’t make the trek to England but will want to develop Yankee angles with the assistance of  The AP, Reuters, YouTube, British news dailies and Anglican websites, official and otherwise.

This is the latest and possibly the culminating event after years -- decades really -- of wrangling over biblical authority and interpretation, especially whether to accept partnered same-sex priests and bishops, and gay marriages. The fight pits the liberal Episcopal Church in the U.S., led by brand-new Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, and Archbishop Fred Hiltz’s Anglican Church in Canada, over against large and growing national churches in Africa and the “Global South.” Welby’s own Church of England is stuck somewhere in between.

Welby hopes he can maintain some titular leadership as the “Communion” evolves into a looser federation to allow leeway on faith disputes. But doctrinal conservatives seem prepared to reject such schemes and walk away. Already they have formed the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (“GAFCON”) as an alternative international body that claims to represent the majority of world Anglicanism’s membership, especially in terms of believers currently active in pews.

GAFCON is chaired by the archbishop of Kenya along with primates from the provinces of Congo, Nigeria, Rwanda, South America, Sudan, and Uganda, plus Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America -- a schism from the U.S. and Canadian denominations -- who’s supposed to be present for at least some of the London discussions.

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African simony assertions from Religion News Service

As a good Protestant (in an Anglican context, of course), I reject the doctrine of purgatory — that intermediate state after death where those destined for paradise “undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” I am not as courageous, however, as the author of a recent piece in The Federalist. Denoucing the cult of saints as un-Scriptural and un-Christian on the day before Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII were celebrated as saints by the Vatican was a turn worthy of Ian Paisley in his prime. But I digress.

I am, nevertheless, tempted by the doctrine of purgatory for I have just spent 24 hours at the Atlanta airport — the intermediate state for all travelers destined for the paradise of Florida.

Sanity was preserved, however, through application to my writing coupled with meditations on the devotional book I had packed for the journey: P.G. Wodehouse’s Leave it to Psmith (1924). Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin, Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby joined the Earl of Emsworth, Psmith and the dastardly Rupert Baxter as companions on my journey.

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The BBC and the perils of press releases

The BBC’s internet news division stumbled badly this week in its initial report on a major meeting of Anglican church leaders in Africa. The 20 October 2013 story entitled “Archbishop of Canterbury makes Kenya detour on way to Iceland” has already had one correction and substantial alteration but the underlying premise of the story remains flawed.

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Unforced Anglican errors from The Telegraph

The Telegraph has waded into the waters of international Anglican affairs — and I’m afraid someone should toss a life line as it is about to go under. The article on the forthcoming meeting in Nairobi of Anglican leaders entitled “Challenge to Welby as traditionalist Anglicans stage ‘fragmentation’ summit” is not up to the newspaper’s usual standard. It has the story backwards.

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