Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

Yo, New York Times editors: The Episcopal Church's leader is The Most Rev. Michael Curry

Yo, New York Times editors: The Episcopal Church's leader is The Most Rev. Michael Curry

Needless to say, your GetReligionistas understand that people in the press — on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean — are happy that there is a new baby in England’s Royal Family, and one with a complex and interesting connection to the USA.

Journalists may not be as excited as Prince Harry is, at this moment in time. But that is understandable. Check out the top of this New York Times report about the prince’s informal and very untraditional presser, which — #GASP — broke with the royal norm. I think the key word here is “amazing.”

LONDON — Prince Harry could barely contain himself. Facing a news camera to announce his son’s birth, he rubbed his hands together, bounced on the balls of his feet and seemed unable to stop himself from grinning, even for a second.

“It’s been the most amazing experience I can ever possibly imagine,” he said, standing in front of the stables at Windsor Castle, where two black horses nodded behind him.

“How any woman does what they do is beyond comprehension, and we’re both absolutely thrilled,” he said about his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. The duchess, he said, was “amazing,” and the birth “amazing,” and the love and support from the public “amazing.”

So that’s that. Later on in this Times report there is a passage — caught by an eagle-eyed reader — that draws us into a subject that has been discussed many times over the years at this here weblog.

The question: Why are more and more reporters and copyeditors ignoring Associated Press style rules when it comes to the formal titles of ordained religious leaders? In this case, I will go ahead and add a question that I have asked many times (one example here): Why do formal titles that have existed for decades (or in some cases centuries) seem to vanish when journalists write about (a) African-American clergy and/or (b) ordained women?

Here is the passage in question, in which someone at the Times (I will not assume the reporter) was caught up in informal Meghan-and-Harry fervor and, well, forgot to give a certain American clergy person the R.E.S.P.E.C.T. that he deserves.

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Mirror-image news again: Mother Emanuel hosts historic racial-reconciliation service

Mirror-image news again: Mother Emanuel hosts historic racial-reconciliation service

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I would like to give thanks for a recent event linked to racial reconciliation in the deep South, a worship service held in a highly symbolic sanctuary.

I will get to that in a moment.

But first, let’s engage in another “mirror image” experiment. This is a common GetReligion device in which we create a news story — an upside-down or inside-out version of a real story — and then ask what kind of mainstream news coverage it would have received.

So, let’s imagine that the leader of the Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, had traveled south to preach at the historic Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Readers may recall that Curry delivered a long and spectacular sermon at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. It was quite a scene.

Readers will, of course, remember that Mother Emanuel was the site of the massacre by white supremacist Dylann Roof, who gunned down eight worshippers during an evening Bible study.

So let’s say that Curry comes to this holy ground to preach on racial reconciliation. The church is packed and another 400 people watch the service on closed-circuit video in another sanctuary nearby.

My question: Would this event have received significant coverage in local, regional and even national media?

I am guessing that the answer is “yes.”

Now, the mirror-image question: Was it news when Southern Baptists — led by South Carolina Baptist Convention President Marshall Blalock — filled Mother Emanuel for a “Building Bridges” worship service, praying for racial reconciliation in their state and in America as a whole? Yes, 400 more watched a closed-circuit feed at Citadel Square Baptist Church.

Was it news? As best I can tell, with online searches, the answer is “no.” This surprises me, since Southern Baptists statements on race have made news in recent years. Maybe that’s an old story now?

Anyway, here is some key material from Baptist Press:

"I don't know if we've ever been in a more sacred place," Blalock told messengers and guests. "As we gather in Mother Emanuel Church, the place itself speaks to us of the power of faith in Christ Jesus. We're in a place of safety because, while it's where hearts were broken, it's also the place where the life-saving power of God's grace is."

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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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Episcopal leader cleans house, while reporters ignore that whole 'bugging' thing

Episcopal leader cleans house, while reporters ignore that whole 'bugging' thing

It's time for an update on a "mirror image" post that I wrote a few months ago during the media dead zone that is the days just before Christmas.

That was, when you may recall, the new leader of the Episcopal Church -- Presiding Bishop Michael Curry -- sent out a very interesting letter (in the midst of a personal medical crisis, no less). In said letter he wrote the following, which I argued was very important news if the Episcopal Church remains a highly important institution in American religious life (and, thus, in the news).

The headline on my post was, I thought, pretty sexy: "Zero news coverage? Episcopal Church's new leader cleans house (including a possible spy."

Yes, "spy," as in a corporate spy, as opposed to the Rt. Rev. James Bond, or something. The Curry letter said, in part:

I need to inform you that on Wednesday I placed on administrative leave Bishop Stacy Sauls, Chief Operating Officer, Samuel McDonald, Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Director of Mission, and Alex Baumgarten, Director of Public Engagement. This is a result of concerns that have been raised about possible misconduct in carrying out their duties as members of senior management of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

So what kind of mainstream news coverage did the more controversial elements of this bombshell receive?

(Cue: crickets)

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Journalists must look to the left, as Anglican Communion goes into 'stoppage time'

Journalists must look to the left, as Anglican Communion goes into 'stoppage time'

Over time, mainstream journalists around the world have gradually come to realize that the Archbishop of Canterbury is not the "Anglican pope." In most news coverage these days, he is referred to as the "symbolic" leader of the global Anglican Communion or as the "first among equals" when the Anglican archbishops are doing business.

Let's focus on that second image for a moment, as I point out one or two elements of the flood of news coverage of the "special," as opposed to normal, gathering of the Anglican primates in Canterbury the last few days.

If Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is the first among equals, then it is important for journalists to realize that the other archbishops really do see themselves as, well, equal among the equals. Thus, when you are working through the tsunami of global coverage of the vote by the Anglican primates to "suspend" the U.S. Episcopal Church from many official roles in the Anglican Communion (don't forget Father George "GetReligionista emeritus" Conger at Anglican Ink), it helps to focus on the previous actions taken by the primates on issues linked to the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex unions.

Yes, we are back to that complicated Anglican timeline thing. There is no way to avoid it.

When you look at the current events in the context of an accurate timeline, it's clear that (a) the Episcopal Church has merely been placed in "time out," (b) that the global primates really do think this dispute is about the Bible and marriage, (c) that the state of sacramental Communion among Anglican leaders remains as broken as ever and (d) that all Canterbury has really achieved, with this meeting, is send the contest into extra innings (or perhaps "stoppage time" is a better term among global Anglicans).

So where to start?

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Zero news coverage? Episcopal Church's new leader cleans house (including a possible spy)

Zero news coverage? Episcopal Church's new leader cleans house (including a possible spy)

Let's play a journalism game for a minute, one that we have played before here at GetReligion (for an example, click here). We call it the mirror-image game.

Let's assume, for a second, that the Southern Baptist Convention elected a new president. Then, shortly thereafter, three of the convention's top leaders were purged -- perhaps the phrase would be "placed on administrative leave" -- because of accusations of misconduct while on the job.

Oh, and there were some really strange and shady things in the recent past, like reports of top Southern Baptist leaders spying on each other -- literally.

Do you think that this story would receive any mainstream coverage? Would that draw coverage in The New York Times, the Associated Press and/or regional newspapers?

What if the official Southern Baptist press agency all but ignored the story? Would that serve as a red flag for mainstream coverage, or would that be an effective signal to reporters that there is "nothing to see here, so move along"?

What if this happened at Focus on the Family? Or how about the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops?

Now let's look in the mirror image. Way back on Dec. 11, the new leader of the Episcopal Church -- Presiding Bishop Michael Curry -- released a letter, care of the denomination's official news service, that said in part:

I need to inform you that on Wednesday I placed on administrative leave Bishop Stacy Sauls, Chief Operating Officer, Samuel McDonald, Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Director of Mission, and Alex Baumgarten, Director of Public Engagement. This is a result of concerns that have been raised about possible misconduct in carrying out their duties as members of senior management of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

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