Old people on the religion beat (my hand is raised) will remember the 1980s, back when the mainline Protestant doctrinal wars over sexuality started breaking into elite headlines -- big time.
Year after year, some kind of mainline fight over gender and sexuality would score high in the annual Religion Newswriters Association poll to determine the Top 10 stories. More often than not, the Episcopal Church led the way in the fight for feminism and eventually gay rights.
These national headlines would, of course, inspire news coverage at the regional and local levels. Some Episcopal shepherds went along and some didn't. All of that produced lots of news copy, no matter what Episcopalians ended up doing.
At one point, while at the Rocky Mountain News, I told Colorado's Episcopal leader -- the always quotable former radio pro Bishop William C. Frey -- that a few local religious leaders were asking me why the Episcopal Church kept getting so much media attention.
Frey laughed, with a grimace, and said that was a strange thought, something like "envying another man's root canal."
Eventually, however, the progressive wins in Episcopal sanctuaries stopped being news, at least in mainstream news outlets.
Take, for example, that recent leap into gender-neutral theology in the District of Columbia, an interesting story that drew little or no attention in the mainstream press. Thus, here is the top of the main story from the Episcopal News Service:
The Diocese of Washington is calling on the Episcopal Church’s General Convention to consider expanding the use of gender-neutral language for God in the Book of Common Prayer, if and when the prayer book is slated for a revision.