Archbishop of Canterbury

Inquiring minds still want to know: Was Meghan the wrong kind of 'Protestant,' or what?

Inquiring minds still want to know: Was Meghan the wrong kind of 'Protestant,' or what?

No matter that happens today (the big US news is tragic), for millions of people the force of gravity in global news will pull toward St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

We are talking about a wedding rite in the Church of England, so royal wedding coverage has included all kinds of dishy details about liturgical issues rarely seen in the press. That has been the case for several months now for one simple reason: American actress Meghan Markle was raised as a Protestant by her mother Doria Ragland, while her father is an Episcopalian (and, thus, part of the global Anglican Communion).

Thus, an unanswered question still hovers in the background, because of silence from Kensington Palace: Precisely what kind of Protestantism are we talking about, in Markle's case? For a refresher on this drama, see my earlier post: "Royal wedding quiz: Must a 'Protestant' be baptized in order to become an Anglican?" In that post, I noted:

... The Church of England split off from the Church of Rome. For most people, especially low-church Anglicans, this (a) makes it part of the wider world of Protestantism. However, it should be noted that some people argue that (b) the Anglican via media -- a "middle way" between Protestantism and Catholicism -- is its own unique form of faith. The odds are good that some Anglican readers will be offended by my description of (a), (b) or (a) and (b). This is complicated stuff.

There continue to be clues that Markle was the "wrong kind" of Protestant, since she was baptized -- Again? -- before being confirmed by the Archbishop of Canterbury as an Anglican. How does that theological question affect the royal rite?

Read carefully this passage from an explainer piece in The Washington Post, that ran with the headline: "Why Meghan Markle, raised a Christian, still got baptized before her royal wedding."

“Miss Markle did not need to become an Anglican in order to marry Harry in church, but at the time of their engagement last November she made clear she had chosen to be baptised and confirmed out of respect for the Queen’s role as the head of the Church of England,” the Daily Mail wrote.

The Church of England recommends that couples either include a Communion service during their wedding or take Communion shortly after getting married. That means that Markle, if she wants to take Communion with Harry (italics added by tmatt), did need to be confirmed in the Church of England or in another Anglican church, such as the Episcopal Church, which the Church of England welcomes to take Communion at its services.

Wait a minute.

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Does no one in the Church of England dare oppose top cleric? Britain's Independent suggests so

Does no one in the Church of England dare oppose top cleric? Britain's Independent suggests so

The Church of England and its leader, the Rt. Hon. and Most Rev. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, whom I've observed close up, command a sizeable presence in the global Christian world. Welby is front and center in a new controversy, guidelines for Church of England schools on how to treat transgender children.

But if one recent news story is to be taken at face value, no one in the Church of England could be found to go on record as disagreeing with some of these new pronouncements.

The journalism question is: How far did the newspaper in question go -- or, perhaps, NOT go -- to find an opposing voice.

Atop a large photo of Welby, we see how The Independent headlined the story: "Church of England tells schools to let children 'explore gender identity.'" Let's dive in:

Children should be able to try out “the many cloaks of identity” without being labelled or bullied, the Church of England has said in new advice issued to its 5,000 schools.
The Church said youngsters should be free to “explore the possibilities of who they might be” -- including gender identity -- and says that Christian teaching should not be used to make children feel ashamed of who they are. ...
Guidance for Church of England schools on homophobic bullying was first published three years ago, and has now being updated to cover "transphobic and biphobic bullying" – which means bullying people who consider themselves to be either transgender or gender fluid.

However, as we'll see in a moment, there are Christians in England, and, presumably, elsewhere, who might disagree with Welby's endorsement, as reported. He condemned bullying, but then went further:

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Need a new religion-related angle for Earth Day? Here's how to get started

Need a new religion-related angle for Earth Day? Here's how to get started

If you pay attention to news about climate change you're undoubtedly aware that the warnings about the potential catastrophes facing human civilization are increasingly dire. I pay close attention to the subject and its clear to me that the warnings are coming in greater volume and getting ever-more threatening.

I'm crawling toward my mid-70s so I'm probably too old for the worst of the predictions to manifest fully during my lifetime. But I can't help but think that my children and certainly my grandchildren will experience climate events that could upend human life as we know it.

Just last week, for example, saw coverage that the massive ice sheets covering Antarctica appear to be collapsing faster than previously thought. That means a steeper rise in sea levels, which is terrible news for coastal populations worldwide. Click here to read how The New York Times covered the story.

Of course I'm aware that not everyone agrees about the reality of climate change or to what degree, if any, it's human-caused. But this post is not about arguing the issue's merits.

Like the preponderance of scientists who study the issue, I believe that climate change is a real threat and that the increased levels of atmospheric heat-trapping gases result directly from humanity's continued reliance on fossil fuels, in particular coal and petroleum.

Disagree? Think liberal media has blown the issue out of proportion? Say so in the comment section below. Give us some mainstream URLs for your facts and claims.

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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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Concerning the Church of England, the Lord's Prayer and the Star (culture) Wars

Concerning the Church of England, the Lord's Prayer and the Star (culture) Wars

It was a question that nagged defenders of the English monarchy for years: If and when he ever became king, would Prince Charles declare himself to be the "Defender of Faith," as opposed to "Defender of the Faith"?

In a way, the chance that the crucial "the" would go missing was the perfect symbol for decades of tense "multiculturalism" debates in Britain. Drop the "the" and the implication was that Christianity, and the Church of England in particular, would have lost its status as a foundation for English life and culture. The monarch would henceforth defend the IDEA of faith, as opposed to a particular faith. Theological pluralism would be the new norm.

It didn't help, of course, that the Church of England was on the decline, in terms of worship attendance, baptisms, marriages and just about any other statistic that could be cited. Meanwhile, Islam was on the rise. Wasn't dropping this telltale "the" simply a nod to the new reality?

Prince Charles has, fairly recently, stated that his title would remain "Defender of the Faith." However, the cultural identity debates roll on, as witnessed in the stark message of the new report by the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life entitled "Living with Difference: Community, Diversity and the Common Good (click for .pdf)." Its bottom line: England isn't Christian. Get over it. Reactions? Click here for commentary from veteran religion-beat specialist Ruth Gledhill and here for analysis by Jenny Taylor of the Lapido Media religious literacy project.

These painful debates loomed in the background during this week's "Crossroads" podcast. This time around, host Todd Wilken and I discussed the many implications of the decision -- by the principalities and powers of the movie theater business -- to reject the use of that Church of England ad featuring the Lord's Prayer before screenings of the new Star Wars epic. Click here to tune in our discussion of all of this.

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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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See? Washington Post shows that handling complex Anglican timeline isn't that hard

See? Washington Post shows that handling complex Anglican timeline isn't that hard

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:

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Rumors of the death of the Anglican Communion are premature, but relevant?

Rumors of the death of the Anglican Communion are premature, but relevant?

Once again we return to the media myth that the doctrinal wars in the Anglican Communion were caused by the 2003 election of the first openly gay and noncelibate bishop in the U.S. Episcopal Church, the tiny Diocese of New Hampshire, to be specific.

Yes, it would make religion writers' lives much easier if that were true. 

However, sometimes professionals who write about complicated news events have to wrestle with complicated information that may require -- brace yourselves -- the addition of an entire sentence or two of background in a news story. It may even require talking about doctrinal issues other than those directly linked to sexuality.

So, once again, let us return to what your GetReligionistas have long called "Anglican timeline disease." The latest episode is linked to the announcement by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby that he is inviting 37 archbishops -- note the specific number -- to a January meeting that he will host to "discuss key issues face to face, including a review of the structures of the Anglican Communion."

This news led to waves of speculation, followed by a truly fascinating tweet from the Lambeth Palace press office. The following was not taken from The Onion:

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Got news? Shocker in Anglican Communion is news, other than in North America

Got news? Shocker in Anglican Communion is news, other than in North America

There is this old saying that wits have long used to describe life in the modern Anglican Communion: "The Africans pray, the Americans pay and the British write the resolutions." Readers will also see variations on that final clause such as, "the British make/set (all) the rules."

But you get the point. Of course, the archbishop of Canterbury is also supposed to be the person -- as the first among equals -- who gets to call the most important meetings (while setting the rules for what goes on).

But what if (a) the Americans were to face an incredible budget crunch, in an age of imploding membership demographics, and (b) the Africans were no longer willing to pray (or more importantly, share the Sacraments) with Western progressives who have an evolving view of key elements of the Creed and centuries of Christian moral theology? 

At that point, there could be a big -- actually, "historic" is the operative word -- story in the world's third largest Christian communion.

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