Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Dearth (Death?) of Anglican News

For most of the last two decades my daily ritual has included checking the Anglican blogosphere as one of the first things I do when I turn on my computer each day.  Parenthetically, I will mention for those who were probably never aware, that, in 1994, the Rev. Tom Prichard (who was then executive director of SAMS) and I (when I was on faculty at Trinity) founded the now defunct "episcopalian.org" website and hosting service.  We hosted websites and listserv discussion groups including White Horse Tavern, which some will remember, and Virtuosity (which later changed its name to Virtue Online due to a trademark dispute).  I developed my avocation as a web designer and designed websites for many of the  member organizations of PEWSACTION, as well as the original website for the American Anglican Council, which were all hosted on episcopalian.org.  So one might say I was something of a pioneer in the the Anglican online world.

In 2001 I left Trinity to become Dean of Nashotah House. Tom Prichard left SAMS not long afterward.  SAMS and Trinity showed no interest in maintaining episcopalian.org; and, by then, the avenues for hosting websites and discussion groups were so numerous that episcopalian.org was no longer needed.

Having monitored the Anglican news scene for so long, I am noticing a sea change.  Some Anglican news outlets seem to be having trouble finding stories to report.  There have been slow seasons in Anglican news before, and the period following the Episcopal Church's triennial General Convention (which we are now in) is often one of those seasons.

But this time it is different, and I find myself questioning whether the Anglican news scene will ever be the same again.  In July, I wrote a piece entitled,  "Probably My Last Post about General Convention--Ever."  I felt safe in entitling it that because, not only has the Episcopal Church moved beyond my ability to care, it has moved beyond the ability to surprise.  For something to be newsworthy, there has to be a certain "Man Bites Dog" element to it; and, frankly, we will never see that kind of newsworthiness from the Episcopal Church ever again.

Gay bishops--done that.  Gay marriage--done that.  Transgendered clergy--done that.  Panentheist theology--now so much a part of the landscape that orthodoxy is virtually extinct.  Episcopal Church tries to co-opt African churches with its money--entirely predictable.  What is left to surprise us?  Polyamory?  Rewriting the Prayer Book for a gender-neutral or feminine God?  These are just the next stops on the train ride to Perdition.  The track is already laid and the destination is certain.  Any stops along the way are already mapped.  We may even get to the stop where the old canard comes true: "Farmer Marries Cow in Episcopal Ceremony."  (Though it appears the Russians may have us beat in the Bovine Matrimony race.)

Now the focus has shifted to the Anglican Communion, where we see the same pattern the Episcopal Church has followed for decades being played out all over again:  The official structures become increasingly heterodox, and a orthodox resistance movement forms which becomes the foundation for a movement of renewal.

But therein lies room for surprise!  It will make news when the Anglican Church in North America surpasses the Episcopal Church in average Sunday attendance.  It will make news when GAFCON separates from the dying Communion structures to establish structures of its own to which all orthodox Anglicans look.

The focus of our news will change:  We can now turn from the Obituary page to the page announcing new births.  New churches.  New dioceses.  New seminaries.  New mission enterprises.  New efforts to complete Christ's Great Commission and take the Good News to every people, tribe, and language.

Why do I know this is true?   Because Christ has promised that he will return and that his Great Commission to take the Gospel to every people group on earth will be fulfilled before he does so.  As we see events with apocalyptic significance happening in our world, our eyes should be mainly focused on this:  "And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14).  That is good news indeed, and that is where our energies should be focused and our prayers concentrated.  

We may be witnessing a dearth--and a death--of Anglican news.  But for those who are looking for Christ's kingdom, the best news is yet to come.
  

6 comments:

Hershel Don Yancey said...

I resonate with so much here as a retired PCUSA minister. The outlandish is no longer on the cutting edge of odd or weird, and the bounds of what is "Christian" has been extended to encompass the absurd. What's left to say, really? The true Gospel remains true, those who embrace the true Christ and his Church still do, and the mission of Christ's covenant body remains the same. Is there hope? Always! The foundation of the Church remains secure. The joy of faith remains invigorating. And, the future, as outlined by Christ, remains secure. In a world that thrives on constant stimulation from a 3 ring circus, our faith seems to the outside world to be sedate and boring. But, those who know Christ don't need headlines or videoclips. Christ and his Church are more than enough!

Carroll Mitchell said...

Very timely, given the sociological and spiritual climate of our culture. Let us pray for the astonishing works of the Holy Spirit.

LSP said...

Well said -- can I run it in Forward in Christ?

underground pewster said...

Let us pray that the ACNA does not start generating bad news stories and scandals, but humans will be humans, and I guess these will be inevitable. I hope that we remain courageous enough to report the bad when it happens. Until then, no news is good news.

Jeff Walton said...

This is true, from what I've observed: the old outrage-of-the-week or bishop-behaving-badly story still pops up occasionally (e.g. Bishop Heather Cook) but there are two kinds of Anglican stories that get clicks these days: schadenfreude "decline porn" -- chronicling the church closures/departures and membership losses (especially troubles at Episcopal Divinity School and General Theological Seminary) and, more positively, the birth of new churches. Readers love learning about new church plants, new building projects, new Anglican communities forming and doing ministry work in places they had not been before.

Robert S. Munday said...

Jeff, I pray that your last sentence may be true. My experience is that conservative Anglican news readers have had so many years to become addicted to the "decline porn" (as you put it so well) and the schadenfreude that they would rather read about the bad news happening to the liberals than to read about and celebrate the good news of Anglican rebirth and renewal. We may need to retrain our eyes, minds, and hearts.