Anglican Communion

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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Anglican ordinariates: Crux explains it well; the Houston Chronicle, not so much

Anglican ordinariates: Crux explains it well; the Houston Chronicle, not so much

For those of us who follow the ins and outs of Episcopalians, Anglicans and Catholics, there was an interesting development recently when the Vatican appointed a bishop to oversee 42 Anglican-rite North American churches. They had converted as congregations to Catholicism but retained some of their Anglican liturgies and customs, such as married clergy.

This group of Anglican churches is called an ordinariate and a system of bringing them into the Catholic fold was created in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI. The priest he originally tapped to head it up was the Rev. Jeffrey Steenson, the former Episcopal bishop of the Albuquerque-based Rio Grande diocese (which is New Mexico and a corner of far west Texas).

Steenson was elected bishop in October 2004 and consecrated in January 2005. Then less then two years later in September 2007, he shocked his diocese by announcing he was turning Catholic and resigning his position. More on Steenson in a bit, but first see how the Houston Chronicle covered the new bishop:

Days before the Catholic Church announced Steven Lopes’ impending appointment as bishop, the 40-year-old cleric had a brief conversation with Pope Francis.
Lopes reminded the pontiff of the instructions he had given to new bishops, urging them to “tend to the flock of God that is in your charge” and not become “airport bishops.”
“I asked for a little exception,” Lopes said Tuesday, as about 50 people gathered in the sunlit Great Hall of Our Lady of Walsingham burst into laughter. “I imagine I’ll be on the road a lot.”

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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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