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The Media And the Journalistic Swamp

Tuesday, May 29, 2007 • 11:46 am

Get takes on the issue of media perceptions as it relates to the current Anglican crisis.

Clearly, the Anglican vs. Episcopal warfare is just getting started at the local level here in the United States, which means that more and more religion reporters are going to have to wade into this journalistic swamp in the weeks, months and years ahead.

Those on both sides of this debate would likely admit that keeping up is hard to do.  Andy Figueroa’s Wiki Timeline (duly linked in the article, by the way) makes keeping score a little easier and reporters would do well to consider it required reading.  Possibly it could become an aid for reporters and enable them to avoid words like perceived. 

The most interesting word, journalistically speaking, in Kay’s report is the word “perceived” in the statement that traditionalists are upset about the “perceived liberal direction of the Episcopal Church.” This interests me, because I think we have reached the point where leaders on the Episcopal left are openly and honestly saying that God wants their church to move in a liberal, or progressive, direction.

“Perceived”? Let’s turn that around. If the Anglican right was victorious tomorrow and somehow began to pass and enforce statements, well, that salvation can only be found through Jesus Christ, that clergy must preach that the resurrection literally happened and that sex outside of marriage is a sin, would The Sun write that mainstream Episcopal leaders were upset that their church was swinging in what they “perceived” was a conservative or even, heaven forbid, a “fundamentalist” direction? Would anyone doubt that the facts were clear?

One thing is for certain.  The line that divides us is becoming more deeply defined every day.

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Bishops also engage in this skirting of realistic wording.  How about the oft quoted statement that individuals can leave TEC but not parishes.  When parishes vote by over 90 % to leave the Episcopal Church, I’d have to say parishes can and do indeed leave TEC one after another.

[1] Posted by David+ on 05-29-2007 at 12:58 PM • top

If I may be so bold, I think reporters also need to be aware that the suggested timeline is rather slanted.  There’s another side to this story.

An alternative timeline can be found here.

[2] Posted by FrJake on 05-29-2007 at 02:30 PM • top

How can you slant a timeline? Either it happened at a particular time or it didn’t.

the snarkster

[3] Posted by the snarkster on 05-29-2007 at 02:56 PM • top

Snarkster, I think it may be like an alternative universe.

[4] Posted by oscewicee on 05-29-2007 at 02:58 PM • top

Jake - When I log in to your MSN link, it goes to a blank page.

So are you disputing the dates?  What do you feel is inaccurate on the timeline?  It either happened or it didn’t.

[5] Posted by JackieB on 05-29-2007 at 04:08 PM • top

tmatt’s response to FrJake in the orginal blog post is worth repeating here:

2) tmatt says:
May 29, 2007, at 4:43 pm
I openly note, in the post, that the timeline is from a conservative point of view.

However, the dates are all accurate and so are the references. I am sure there are other events — from both sides — that could be added.

Jake, what would you consider a major liberal defeat IN THE US CONTEXT in the past 25 Episcopal years?

[6] Posted by Justin Martyr on 05-29-2007 at 04:44 PM • top

Here is an alternative view if the original link doesn’t work.

The subtitles, wording, and events that were chosen are quite slanted in what you were offering.

What I’m offering is also slanted, of course.  But now a good reporter can look at both and at least get the full picture.

[7] Posted by FrJake on 05-29-2007 at 04:55 PM • top

Yep, I logged in and was blocked from the content for not being a member of whatever secret society holds the great key to FrJake’s timeline.

However, in the timeline is a link to Spongs 12 thesis, at the bottom of which is another link. To one of my favorite references, that might suggest that a certain Welsh theologian is not quite so taken with modern TEC thinking as some would like to suppose:

It is no great pleasure to write so negatively about a colleague from whom I, like many others, have learned. But I cannot in any way see Bishop Spong’s theses as representing a defensible or even an interesting Christian future. And I want to know whether the Christian past scripture and tradition, really appears to him as empty and sterile as this text suggests.

It could just be that the reason that Welsh theologian is coming to the HoB in September is to say something like that.

[8] Posted by tjmcmahon on 05-29-2007 at 05:02 PM • top

Okay….....Confession time! 
I am not a cradle Epsicopalian and was born in the year of our Lord 1959! I was born and raised in a Pentecostal religion which comprised mostly of family members, two Uncles being the pastors, cousins being the musicians and the remainder of the family in the pews with some other Brothers & Sisters in Christ scattered throughout. I rebelled vigorously against the teachings of “hell & damnation” of certain types of behavior and of dress such as if I wore anything other than a dress and without sleeves was shameful, wore make-up - shameful, played sports - shameful, shaved my legs - shameful, cut my hair -forbidden, and the list goes on it seemed endlessly! But, my upbringing in this religion that taught the Bible (with its thumping) gave me a wonderful base of roots and a foundation of some knowledge of God and His Commandments & Laws! I knew that God was love not all condemnation! I went searching for a religion when I was in my teenage-hood up until I found the Episcopal Church at the age of 39. I tried the Epsicopal church when I was in high school but had no one to help me understand the liturgy and all the “rituals” at that time. Long story short….after trying on many denominations I came to a breaking point in my life and God led me back to the Epsicopal Church in the town I was living in. My life was literally saved! This was in 1998….I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church in 1999. I have come to consider the Epsicopal Church/Anglican Tradition my home. I wish it had been from my childhod, but alas was not! My point to all of this is that not being born Episcopalian, I do love it with all my heart just as a cradle Episcopalian does….I can’t help but look back at this time line posted above and see that we Episcopalians have been on a downward spiral since the early 1940’s!!!!

This life saving gift from God to me of the Epsicopal Church and the Anglican Tradition, as I am sure for many who are much like me in not being cradle Episcopalians, don’t understand how men like Spong could be allowed to be ordained & placed in positions of powerful decision making! Our Christianity and traditions, the Bible & its teachings are a gift from God for a Church that He & His own Apostles & Disciples had a hand in creating has been bent and warped into something I am whole heartedly sure He & they had never intended it in being! What a mess we humans have made of it!

If this sounds emotional, it is because it is! My life was forever changed and saved by God of course! But I know He led me to the Episcopal Church for a reason! And now as I sruggle to hear, see, listen, and speak I see that struggle that has been a major part of my life before becoming an Epsicopalian will continue to be because those things that are from God for us and our salvation must be defended and not abandoned. So I like many will continue to struggle with this downward spiral until God comes to our rescue! But, we must start doing a better job of stewardship in the placement of those that are opposed to the Scriptures handed down to us through the generations. We need better discernment of clergy and laity!

[9] Posted by TLDillon on 05-29-2007 at 05:03 PM • top

Fr. Jake, thanks for fixing the link.  I note that your timeline leaves out B020 of 1991.  An oversight?

[10] Posted by tjmcmahon on 05-29-2007 at 05:13 PM • top

tjmcmahon, a number of revisionist leaders have taken Spong to task.  The former PB Browning, for example, was hardly a conservative yet he was open with his disagreement with Spong. I would not read anything into the ABC’s comments about Spong’s Theses.

[11] Posted by Going Home on 05-29-2007 at 05:18 PM • top

Wow Andy - good job.  Your timeline has really been developed into a comprehensive reference. 

I also appreciate your objectivity in omitting assumptions about political and sociological forces external to the AC as explaining the events cited; of course, that would be outside the scope of such a timeline and highly subjective.

[12] Posted by tired on 05-29-2007 at 05:28 PM • top

Fr. Jake is quite correct.  The events of August 21, 1968 would no doubt have been described very differently on a Soviet rather than a Czech timeline.

[13] Posted by William Witt on 05-29-2007 at 05:29 PM • top

Dear DOK4HS,
I just wanted to let you know how much I loved your post.
Thank you for taking the risk of appearing emotional and submitting that.

[14] Posted by Deja Vu on 05-29-2007 at 07:09 PM • top

I too. Pax

[15] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 05-29-2007 at 07:27 PM • top

Any reporter who consults both timelines should readily <i>perceive<> the difference between documentation of historical events and pure propaganda.

[16] Posted by JackieB on 05-29-2007 at 07:40 PM • top

Very helpful chronology.

[17] Posted by Irenaeus on 05-29-2007 at 10:02 PM • top

I have just looked at the timeline by FrJake.  Surely he is not really asserting that the Episcopal Church (and Church of England) had no Evangelicals until a short time ago? 

Look at standard college histories of the nineteenth century (I’ll recommend one of my standing texts, Richard Altick’s _Victorian People and Ideas_) to see that the Anglican Evangelicals were the LARGEST organized group (secular or otherwise) of that century in England, apparently even larger than Utilitarianism.  They produced the missionaries who evangelized throughout the world (from both England and America), and these people were not anomalies in their times. 

Reform movements of the time were dominated by the Evangelicals (who also existed in America).  The great Wilberforce, Hannah More, John Newton, and all the others of the “Clapham Sect” did of course work tirelessly to end the slave trade of England; other Evangelicals were active against child labor, exploitation of women, and many other abuses of the time.  They were certainly not primarily social activists but orthodox Christians who called themselves “Evangelicals,” explicitly.  We like to claim their secular gains but many distance themselves now from the beliefs and missionary movements that were even closer to their hearts.  (And I may as well name John Wesley, who told his Anglicans they would go to Hell if unrepentant for perpetrating the slave industry.)  In the United States, too, were their representatives—and indeed, Wesley himself was here for a while, of course. 

Furthermore, the nineteenth-century Oxford Movement, while it was of course more ritualist, also had deeply orthodox doctrines and intended to reform the Anglican/Episcopal Church in more than outward show.  In America, both Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics experienced various kinds of marginalization in the church, and thus we see the sadly separate (but doctrinally faithful) “continuing churches” of today.  If they were all combined, we would see where these ardent strains of our faith are now—in addition to their presence among the traditionalists of today, who have such a long and devoted history of sticking with the Episcopal Church, as established, because of our very great love of the best of it.

If anybody doubts that today’s “evangelicals” and “orthodox” or “reasserters” are in a mainstream tradition, go and read some C. S. Lewis or Evelyn Underhill.  Lewis expresses the basic “traditionalist” viewpoints exactly, and he
was well acknowledged, until recently, to be a key centrist of “mere Christianity.”  I observed in a recent class how far many Episcopalians are today from accepting these completely minimal doctrines.  It is also startling to witness the amount of historical denial about our faith, which always had a certain “confessional” aspect, at least until changes in the Prayer Book (relegating much to the unauthorized back of the book) and until so much has come to light about the art of finessing moral and other issues largely
behind the back of the general laity.

These people did not, and do not, represent a “new” departure from our catholic and Anglican background and our founding formularies but congregations of like beliefs can be found in the Church in every period.
I do not mean to confine the numbers to the nineteenth/twentieth centuries.

But it seems as though the Episcopal Church will again be “sloughing off” this presence. Long institutional devotions are now ending, partly because there is not enough truth in the bureaucracies and church leadership.  The silence, disinformation, distortion, ahistoric inventions, PR spin, and open hostility are coming to light in a way they could never have done in the past.  At least, we don’t need to be told that the Church had no Evangelicals until recently.

[18] Posted by Paula on 05-30-2007 at 10:41 AM • top


  How can you slant a timeline? Either it happened at a particular time or it didn’t.

Assuming that your question was not rhetorical, “slanting” can be done in at least two ways that I can think of without any significant pondering:
(1) by leaving out events, and,
(2) by the language used to characterize those events, thereby effectually redefining, in a sense, what the nature of the event was.

The second listed way, above, actually consists of a variety of linguistic and rhetorical devices that fail to report the event in an objective manner, but all are pointed at accomplishing the same sort of result. The news media—print and broadcast—have been engaging in this latter form of reportage since at least the mid-1960s.

Blessings and regards,
Martial Artist

[19] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 05-31-2007 at 12:04 PM • top

Any reporter who consults both timelines should readily perceive the difference between documentation of historical events and pure propaganda.

...unless that reporter has a personal agenda or bias. Then, I submit, he/she will ignore facts, take facts (and comments) out of context to support that personal agenda or bias.

It happens every day in the New York Times and the Washington Post as well as many others.

[20] Posted by Forgiven on 06-01-2007 at 10:37 AM • top

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