FaithWorld

Lambeth Conference: News or Not?

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, 22 Feb 2008/Darren StaplesIt has been spoken of as a setting for schism. But could the Lambeth Conference — the worldwide Anglican Communion‘s once-a-decade global meeting beginning July 16 in England — be a bust when it comes to headline-making news?

That’s the way leaders of the U.S. Episcopal Church see it. There will be no grand pronouncements made or resolutions voted on, they say. The traditional Western parliamentary idea that produces winners and losers on debated issues has been scrapped for face-to-face meetings. Some of them have been baptized ”Indaba groups,” which Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has described as a Zulu term denoting “a meeting for purposeful discussion among equals.”

The Rev. Ian Douglas, a professor of World Christianity at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts who helped plan the meeting, recently told reporters at a briefing:

“I appreciate that it’s going to be a hard job for the media because there isn’t a focal point of up-down decison making, and that (much) of what’s really happening … is going to be happening in very small, very close one-on-one relationships and deep conversation.

“I  don’t envy your job. It’s going to be difficult to get ‘the story’ out of Lambeth unless you want to tell the story that as leaders come together to be better equipped in their service to God’s mission in the wider world,  not only is the Anglican Communion strengthened but God’s purposes are better fulfilled in the wider world. It’s a tough story to tell but I think it’s a story.”

Rowan’s response to Anglican crisis has something for everyone

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, 25 Feb. 2005Reporters are often accused of “pack journalism” when they essentially write the same story from an event. So what should we call it when they write different reports about the same thing? That happened on Friday when Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams issued his Advent message. This was the long-awaited statement of his views on the crisis tearing away at the Anglican Communion. It turned out to be a grab-bag with something for everyone.

Jim Naughton over at The Lead blog on Episcopal Café noticed the problem and highlighted it in a quick review of the stories about the Advent message. The list shows how the same text can spawn different articles. For example, our story’s lead went for a broad overview, the AP story stressed a U.S. angle and the British papers highlighted details of the Anglican disputes.

“Reporters had their hands full yesterday trying to figure out how to pull a “lede” out of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s letter about the state of the Anglican Communion,” Naughton wrote. “He dumped cold water on everybody, so how to determine which side was wetter?”

Burnout on the God beat – second top religion writer calls it quits

Covering religion may be harmful to your faith. Two leading religion journalists — one in Britain, one in the United States — have quit the beat in recent months, saying they had acquired such a close look at such scandalous behaviour by Christians that they lost their faith and had to leave.

Bates article in New HumanistStephen Bates, who recently stepped down as religious affairs writer for the London Guardian, has just published an account of his seven years on the beat in an article entitled “Demob Happy” for the New Humanist magazine. Bates followed the crisis in the Anglican Communion for several years and even wrote a book on it, A Church At War: Anglicans and Homosexuality.

“Now I am moving on,” his article concludes. “It was time to go. What faith I had, I’ve lost, I am afraid – I’ve seen too much, too close. A young Methodist press officer once asked me earnestly whether I saw it as my job to spread the Good News of Jesus. No, I said, that’s the last thing I am here to do.”

Episcopal Church likely to pass over lesbian candidate for bishop

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts SchoriIs there a straw that will break the Anglican Communion’s back? One move that, like the gay bishop consecration that started the current crisis, can trigger a landslide that finally pushes the Communion into schism? Religion reporters are now watching each and every conference and bishop’s election to see if it will hit the tripwire.

The next flashpoint in the Anglican Communion’s struggle with gay issues looked like it could come from Chicago, where the Episcopal (U.S. Anglican) diocese on November 10 will pick a new bishop from among eight candidates, one of them an openly gay woman. The Episcopal Church promised last month to “exercise restraint” in naming further homosexual prelates. In an interview this month, its Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori (in picture at right) stressed there would be “no outcasts in this Church.

Judging from how things look now, the lesbian Rev. Tracey Lind, who is now the dean of Cleveland’s Trinity Cathedral, may not be among the favorites vying for the post, Chicago Tribune religion reporter Manya Brachear reported on Monday.

Ball in Vatican’s court after Muslim dialogue appeal

Pope Benedict prays with Muslim clerics in IstanbulAn unprecedented call from 138 Muslim scholars for better Christian-Muslim understanding had a Warholesque 15-minutes-of- fame in most media last week. Their letter to world Christian leaders got covered widely in English-speaking media (including by Reuters) and much less so in many European countries, possibly because the news conferences presenting it were in London and Washington. Some reactions from Christian leaders were included in the reporting that day. The following day, the reaction from the Vatican — the main addressee of the letter that represents more than half of Christianity — made for another story (here is our report and the original Vatican Radio report in Italian).

The story has now faded from the headlines but it’s one of those developments that cry out for a next step. The Muslim scholars invited their Christian counterparts to a dialogue, so the ball is in the Christians’ court. More specifically, it’s in the Vatican’s court. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest and most centralised branch of the Christian family. The Muslims also have a bone to pick with Pope Benedict, who just over a year ago gave his famous Regensburg speech that implied Islam was violent and irrational. That sparked off violent protests in the Muslim world and, in turn, inspired 38 Muslim scholars to write a first letter in October 2006 that denounced that violence, asked for a dialogue (which Benedict had suggested in Regensburg) and questioned his understanding of Islam.

The latest letter is a follow-up, with a far larger group of signatories and the more ambitious goal of engaging in a theological dialogue with Christians. The wealth of Koran and Bible quotes cited and the argument that Islam agrees with the heart of Christian teaching — to love God and neighbour — showed these scholars want a long and serious theological discussion with Christianity.