What ails the Wall Street Journal: Error-laden opinion on Episcopalians

This blog has been dormant because I’ve been a bit busy at General Convention. My intention was to post a few commentary pieces and a wrap-up tomorrow and the next few days. But then I noticed that Friday’s Wall Street Journal includes a blistering attack on the Episcopal Church. My friend Bishop Kirk Smith has already replied, but I think it’s worth adding a few more corrections to the WSJ’s careless and error-ridden attack.

fact or fictionTo be clear: if someone wants to attack a church, I’m fine with that. But it’s at least worth getting the facts right, especially in what used to be a respectable publication like the WSJ. Maybe they should have followed the lead of other Rupert Murdoch-owned publications and tapped a few phones of bishops or hacked email accounts of deputies. Or perhaps Googled “The Episcopal Church” or visited www.episcopalchurch.org. They might have gotten a few things right.

The author, Jay Akasie, identifies himself as an Episcopalian. The byline is from Indianapolis. Based on what’s in the article, it’s hard to believe that Mr. Akasie has attended either an Episcopal Church or its General Convention. Perhaps if he sends me his address, I can at least mail him a few pamphlets about the Episcopal Church and its polity, which might bolster the accuracy of his next hatchet job.

Just for grins and giggles, I thought it would be fun to walk through some of Jay Akasie’s assertions.

General Convention is also notable for its sheer ostentation and carnival atmosphere. For seven straight nights, lavish cocktail parties spilled into pricey steakhouses, where bishops could use their diocesan funds to order bottles of the finest wines.

I wonder where these parties were. And many dioceses expressly forbid the purchase of alcohol with diocesan funds. As for me, I had lunch at such wantonly lavish places as Noodles & Company, where my entree cost as much as $7.00. Dinner was taken in places such as the opulent California Pizza Kitchen (note to Mr. Akasie, this does not mean I flew to California on a private jet).

During the day, legislators in the lower chamber, the House of Deputies, and the upper chamber, the House of Bishops, discussed such weighty topics as whether to develop funeral rites for dogs and cats, and whether to ratify resolutions condemning genetically modified foods.

Neither House is above the other. This is but one of many subtleties of polity missed by the author. There was no debate on “developing” such things as “funeral rites” for pets. In fact, the Convention was asked to approval pastoral services for people who are grieving the loss of their pets. Surely Akasie is not so heartless as to think that the church should not care for grieving people? It makes a cute attack point, but the substance of Akasie’s attack is baseless.

But the party may be over for the Episcopal Church, and so, probably, its experiment with democratic governance. Among the pieces of legislation that came before their convention was a resolution calling for a task force to study transforming the event into a unicameral—that is, a one-house—body.

Mr. Akasie might like to look around the world. There are plenty of examples of unicameral democracy, both ecclesiastical and governmental. Also, I’m not sure that a body which has been meeting since the 1780s counts as an “experiment” any more.

On Wednesday, a resolution to “re-imagine” the church’s governing body passed unanimously.

Yes, which would seem to suggest that far from ending, the Episcopal Church is simply turning the page to a new chapter.

Formally changing the structure of General Convention will most likely formalize the reality that many Episcopalians already know: a church in the grip of executive committees under the direct supervision of the church’s secretive and authoritarian presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori.

There are, I suppose, plenty of things for which one might criticize our Presiding Bishop. “Secretive” would not make any careful observer’s Top 100 list. And based on what I have heard of committee meetings, I do not think Bishop Katharine qualifies as “authoritarian” in any real sense, though she might be counted as a “strong leader>” Sadly, there are some men who do not like to see women who are strong leaders.

Bishop Schori is known for brazenly carrying a metropolitan cross during church processions.

First of all, know the person you are attacking. The correct reference is “Bishop Jefferts Schori.” Second, she carries a primatial cross. She is, after all, a Primate. (Note to WSJ editors: make sure you read this Wikipedia article, not this one. You seem to be easily confused.) Third, Bishop Katharine is widely known for “brazenly” asking people to address her by her first name. That’s hardly the behavior of a power-mad potentate.

With its double horizontal bars, the metropolitan cross is a liturgical accouterment that’s typically reserved for Old World bishops.

I don’t think anyone complained when that same, exact cross was carried by men. Sigh.

In the week before this summer’s convention, Bishop Schori sent shock waves through the church by putting forth her own national budget without consulting the convention’s budget committee—consisting partly of laymen—which until now has traditionally drafted the document.

Oddly enough, the committee (supposedly run by cowering “laymen” but co-chaired by a bishop and a lay woman) adopted a budget that looked much like the “shocking” budget from Bishop Katharine. And while I know that a few people were surprised by her move, a number of us were grateful for her careful work which helped us have a better budget.

On Monday, for example, the church announced that its headquarters at 815 2nd Avenue in midtown Manhattan—which includes a presiding bishop’s full-floor penthouse with wraparound terrace—is up for sale.

No. In point of fact, the House of Deputies passed a resolution calling for a sale. This has less to do with financial issues than with location. The House of Bishops amended the measure, and the amended resolution was later concurred by the Deputies. There is no mention of a sale. You can see the final version of resolution D016 online. It’s simply amazing what a few minutes of research can teach a person!

And yet there are important issues at stake if laymen are further squeezed out of what was once a transparent legislative process. A long-standing quest by laymen to celebrate the Eucharist—even taking on functions of ordained ministers to consecrate bread and wine for Holy Communion, which is a favorite cause of the church’s left wing—would likely be snuffed out in a unicameral convention in which senior clergy held sway.

This is nonsense. Literally. I’ve never heard a serious call for lay presidency at the Eucharist from an actual Episcopalian, but only from fringe Anglicans in Sydney. There is no reason to suppose a unicameral assembly would be less or more liberal than a bicameral assembly. Also, I’m not sure how the deputies could have a more transparent process (though this cannot be said for the twitter-hating, secret-meeting-loving bishops). OK, even the bishops do all their business in the light of day.

Also in jeopardy would be the ability of ordinary laymen to stop the rewriting, in blunt modern language and with politically correct intent, of the church’s historic Book of Common Prayer.

Again, this is completely and utterly baseless. Anyone who has talked about sitting in a unicameral body has also talked about preserving votes by orders, which would allow bishops, lay people, or deacons/presbyters to scuttle legislation. Please note that Mr. Akasie has referred to the 1979 prayer book as “historic” so that next time when he rants about our prayer book, we can ask him about his expressed views about the “historic” book.

For some, the writing on the wall is already clear. On Wednesday, the entire delegation from the diocese of South Carolina—among the very last of the traditionalist holdouts—stormed out of the convention.

Ridiculous. In fact, members of the South Carolina deputation (not delegation) remained behind, and they behaved well and were treated respectfully. There was no storming out. Here Mr. Akasie must be conflating reality with the rules of “Bonnie Ball” (points can be awarded for shaking the dust off your sandals). One the deputies from South Carolina and I began a friendship when I met him at a consultation at same-sex blessings. He made it quite clear he opposed the idea, but he was there to listen and to share. Respectful conversation ensued. Alas, since Episcopalians didn’t provide any rude behavior for the media, the media need to try to invent some retroactively. You’ll never see a WSJ headline, “Episcopalians experience grace in listening” or “Christians practice their faith by treating one another well.” Pity.

If the Wall Street Journal wants to attack the Episcopal Church, they are welcome to do so. We can handle it. But I do wish they would use actual facts. I would encourage any Wall Street Journal staffer or reader to visit an actual Episcopal Church. I’ll guarantee you two things. First, it won’t be perfect. After all, the church is filled with humans. But note the second thing, and note it well. It won’t be the rancorous caricature that Mr. Akasie loves to write about.

The Episcopal Church welcomes you! Even error-prone reporters from the Wall Street Journal.

85 Comments so far

  1. Louis Weil on July 14th, 2012

    Thanks for writing this up, Scott. I had not yet heard about it — but I am sure I shall. This is, of course, not the first time that the various media seem virtually incapable of simply getting the facts right. Years ago there were articles in both ‘Time’ and ‘Newsweek’ for the same week in which, again, their “spin” completely distorted the facts — at that time it had to do with Prayer Book revision. It really is frustrating, so I hope people who were at the Convention will find a way to respond.

  2. Cathy Stevens on July 14th, 2012

    Double check on the gender of Jay Akaskie. Somewhere I read that Akaskie was female.

  3. Rob Skirving on July 14th, 2012

    Great job, Scott … and very useful. I’ll be passing your response along to those who have already asked for my reaction to the WSJ article.

  4. Laurie Atwater on July 14th, 2012

    Well done! Did you post this to WSJ.com?

  5. Marguerite on July 14th, 2012

    Thank you SO MUCH!! Being far from GC77 (except for on-line information like Twitter) it was very hard to read Akasie’s editorial in any proper frame of mind. Appreciate the thoroughness of your reply and hope other shell-shocked Episcopalians get to read it.

  6. Rob Skirving on July 14th, 2012

    Scott, thanks for providing us with such a carefully written response to Mr. Akasie’s article about General Convention. I have already passed it on to one parishioner who asked for a response to the WSJ article and I shall likely do so again. Good to see you at #GC77 … look forward to being a part of what grows out of our experience there.

  7. C Eric Funston on July 14th, 2012

    I’m really not sure the WSJ was worth the time and effort, Scott, but this was well done. I’ve been either attending or observing the General Convention and the coverage of it by the secular press since 1973 (Louisville, KY, where I went as a very young 21-year-old youth minister). Every year there seems to be at least one article of this sort and someone like yourself attempts to set the record straight. In honor of Bastille Day, let me say, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!”

  8. George Werner on July 14th, 2012

    Thanks Scott…you and Kirk have done a wonderful job of speaking the truth to “power”- actually not power…the rankings of an ideologue or poisoned party spirit…my 14General Conventions could provide wonderful and humorous articles about our idiosyncrasies and fallibilities…but the examples of true wit in journalism grow more scarce each year…keep your sense of humor and keep using it to flail such targets…

  9. Kathleen on July 14th, 2012

    This is sadly not the first attack on the Episcopal Church Akasie has made.

    1. http://www.nysun.com/opinion/closed-doors-at-episcopal-church/86576/
    2. http://www.nysun.com/opinion/losses-at-lambeth/83118/
    3. http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=7753

    It seems Akasie is some kind of pro-Anglican (i.e. Pro ACNA) “Episcopalian” and is out to destroy our church with slander and misrepresentation to the rest of the world. The fact that that last article is from Virtue Online (a VERY “orthodox anglican” publication) says it all. If we learned anything from the tornado of crazy that was Glenn Beck, it’s that people love drama and conspiracy–especially when it involves religion–and facts tend to fall by the wayside. Hopefully enough people will speak up (dare I hope for a rebuttle and/or apology/correction in the WSJ?) and temper the conversation with facts.

    PS it was great to meet you at GC!!

  10. Ed Zelley on July 14th, 2012

    Since Mr. Askie is also a frequent contributor to David Virtue’s “news site” there is really no doubt what would be said and the tone in which it would be said.

  11. Scott Gunn on July 14th, 2012

    Cathy, as we should have learned from Jay, not everything we read on the internet is true. This is Jay: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Authors/A/Jay-Akasie.aspx

    Not a woman. I checked carefully before i wrote, because I had also read that bit of info.

  12. Cathy Stevens on July 14th, 2012

    Thank you for your follow up on that!

  13. John B. Chilton on July 14th, 2012

    Very fine job, Scott.

    One detail. When Jay Akasie writes about the historic Book of Common Prayer I conjecture he is talking about the 1928 BCP. He lists himself as a board member

    http://www.zoominfo.com/#!search/profile/person?personId=1322330674&targetid=profile

    of

    Episcopalian for a Traditional Faith
    http://www.etf1928.org/

    “Episcopalians for Traditional Faith (ETF) was founded in New York City on February 6, 2002. The organization, a nonprofit corporation, was formed to maintain traditional faith and worship within the Episcopal Church through worship with the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.”

  14. Jay Sidebotham on July 14th, 2012

    Thank you, Scott for your thoughtful and gracious response. Good work.

  15. Michael Russell on July 14th, 2012

    Nice job, Scott. Good to have met you at GC77. The great shame of this article is what a yellow rag the WSJ has become under Murdoch.

  16. margaret on July 14th, 2012

    Thanks, Scott, for correcting the record with grace and wit.

  17. Ann Lees on July 14th, 2012

    Thank you for your response!

  18. Rick Smith on July 14th, 2012

    I am a practicing Episcopalian, a lay Eucharistic minister, but I am that dreaded obstacle to what seems to be the Church’s new agenda……a moderate Republican who is not in awe of Obama and in fact have witnessed the adoration of Obama that is threatening the destruction of our parish.
    President Thomas Jefferson who (if my history is accurate) so disliked the Anglican church after living with a bishop that he worked very hard to separate church and state in this country has apparently been forgotten.
    Kathleen with her childish comments about the “…tornado of crazy that is Glenn Beck” and you, Scott, with your equally childish slam at “….Rupert Murdoch’s publications…” with the assumption that they are less “worthy” than your NPR’s and Huffington Presses.
    Politics do NOT belong in the church and in my mind, this issue could sink the church if it does not wise up.
    Not all of us in TEC are ready to turn our lives over to “our leader” as in the book “1984”
    Beck, Hannity,and the other talking heads at your beloved NPR are entertainers.
    One would hope that we covet our precious freedom to listen to all sides without throwing stones at one another.
    I am not gay but I staunchly defend those who are. I also staunchly defend a women’s rights as well as the right to defend my home from invasion.
    How have we become so polarized in this great country? I have some ideas but I try to stay on higher ground than Scott and Kathleen.
    WWJD is much ridiculed but worth considering. I doubt that he would condone the polarization and radicalization that the modern Episcopal Church has endorsed.

  19. Bob Williams on July 14th, 2012

    Great job, Scott. Thanks especially for taking this up after all your hard work in Indianapolis. Wishing you a restful weekend.

  20. Casey Rousseau on July 14th, 2012

    To be fair to the WSJ, it seems like they properly categorized Mr. Akasie’s vitriol as opinion, not an article. It was still a stupid decision to publish it.

  21. […] folks than me have responded already. You can read their replies here, here, and here.. All are brilliant, and say the things I was thinking calmly, and reasonably, […]

  22. Paul Bryant-Smith on July 14th, 2012

    Thank you for writing this.

    Though I am not Episcopalian, many of my friends and colleagues are and I have been following GC fairly closely. Unfortunately, the type of article that Akasie wrote is increasingly typical. My denomination, the United Church of Christ, is often the target for similar attacks written by people who claim to be part of our faith tradition, yet who are simply schismatics.

    Ultimately, love wins. Keep writing. Keep telling the truth.

  23. […] The Rev. Scott Gunn, one of the bloggers whose writings helped to create The Acts 8 Moment and the Executive Director of Forward Movement Publications writes an excellent response to Mr. Akasie’s article here. […]

  24. Anna Cushman on July 14th, 2012

    When I read the WSJ opinion of General convention I wondered if the author had been there. This certainly was not the convention I watched on Live Stream and followed on FB and Twitter and wished I was there. The civility and grace was powerful in both Houses. Thanks, Scott, for setting the record straight, but somehow I doubt we have heard the last from Virtue — you would think he would be tired of saying how terrible we are!

  25. Kirk Smith on July 14th, 2012

    Thanks Scott, your article is much more complete than mine. I was pretty tired when I wrote yesterday!

  26. Grace Matthews on July 14th, 2012

    Kudos for an excellent response to the WSJ! Looking forward to your comments re GC.

  27. Susan Hardaway on July 14th, 2012

    Thank you, Scott, for your comments. Very well written.

  28. guyer on July 14th, 2012

    When reading persons such as Mr. Akasie, it might be more worthwhile to ask where they are right, and not just where they are wrong. Besides, there are lots of very frustrated Episcopalians across the United States, and quite possibly an even greater number of very frustrated ‘Ex-copalians’ (as I have heard them called). What drives Akasie’s anger? Misinformation is certainly part of it, but I don’t think that it is fair to assume that misinformation is all of it.

    Akasie’s article points to frustration with:

    – rapidly declining membership (although as I wrote at WSJ, I don’t think he gets his numbers quite correct, and the national church has been quite clear about membership decline for some time)

    – the ridiculousness of some of General Convention resolutions, and the unnecessarily pointed politics of other resolutions (when it comes to making political demands of the laity, the USCCB has nothing on our General Convention)

    – the number of lawsuits and their cost, the latter of which the national church has been silent about

    One need not agree with Akasie. One might want to try, however, to find the source(s) of his evident frustration and pain. A knee-jerk reaction against his article is just as unhelpful as his own knee-jerk reaction against the Episcopal Church. Sometimes, defensiveness points to a sublimated insecurity; it rarely signifies a willingness to listen, or the maturity necessary to sustain serious dialogue. Cultured defenders and cultured despisers may both wish to take note.

  29. […] followed swiftly from Kirk Smith, Bishop of Arizona; Scott Gunn, deputy from Rhode Island; and George Conger, senior correspondent at te Church of England […]

  30. Rie Linton on July 14th, 2012

    Thank you. I usually view criticism as a growth opportunity but when it is based on fiction, then it is merely a waste of time.

  31. Janet Fisher on July 14th, 2012

    Thank you for your careful and nuanced response to the disturbing WSJ. Me thinks Mr. Akasie may have his own women issues.

  32. John Fritschner on July 14th, 2012

    I was there. This is quite a clear and honest response to a poorly written WSJ article. I took the journal for years and was delighted to see one delivered to my hotel door during convention. Sorry this was just not a good piece at all.

  33. Small Farmer in Frisco on July 14th, 2012

    Thank you for your response, Scott! Enjoyed your tweets from the GC. I agree with guyer that we need to listen to those who have an axe to grind against TEC whether we agree with their critique or not. At best we may find that we can develop some sort of rapport and a respectful understanding of one another and work to better meet everyone’s needs; at worst we can say that we did our best to be faithful listeners and companions to those disaffected among us.

    And Rick…we’re in a terrible mess in this country where we make assumptions about a person’s theology or values or prejudices by their politics. I am sorry if you have been mislabeled – I have been in that place at times in my life and I didn’t like or appreciate it either. For those who think they “know” what evangelicals think I’d heartily recommend you read this from Tony Campolo’s Red Letter Christian website (www.redletterchristians.org) at http://www.redletterchristians.org/history/

    All of us in TEC are pilgrims together and we need every voice and heart as we uncover the Kingdom of God….thoughts?

  34. Marcy Cerra on July 14th, 2012

    Thank you so much for this rebuttal to the disturbing article. I was quite outdone by what was extravagant spending by the bishops in light of the financial circumstance and struggle that many parishes are experiencing. Yet after you addressed what was written in a comment by comment fashion, my spirit was stilled. Thank you for a different perspective and the comfort and consolation that it brought. Thanks also for clarifying the pet funeral issue.

  35. Ken Harper on July 14th, 2012

    Thank you for the article. I have long respected the WSJ, but today I wonder. My heart was crushed when I read the article. I love my Church. Thank you again for setting the record straight.

  36. Charles Scott May on July 14th, 2012

    Growing up in the Episcopal Church in the 30’s & early 40’s (tenth generation Episcopalian) we still used the 1928 Prayer Book, had no women priests, women wore hats in church, were not able to be on Vestries etc. etc. etc……we were dull old fashioned Episcopalians and no one with an name like Akasie would have then been received into the best families and certainly not into the Church where we all had good solid Anglo-Saxon names. I for one am grateful that we have become progressive and welcome people from a multitude of backgrounds – all of God’s Children – even someone by the name of Akasie.

  37. Dann Brown on July 14th, 2012

    Following guyer’s invitation I’m inclined to address the complaint about “lavish cocktail parties.” I can imagine that there were a few pretty remarkable events, some with cash bars, some with free drinks. Most of those in attendance did not have the luxury to stay late or repeat the performance. They were just too busy.
    I can also admit better than imagine that there was more than one bishop who hosted the people of his or her diocese for at least one meal together while in Indy. Some understood it as a chance to visit, relax and share some time to check in with each other, just like we saw in the picture from the Dio. of Arizona’s lunch. Others hosted dinners in some of Indy’s better restaurants for the same reasons but also to say thank you for all the “above and beyond” work, largely voluntarily, done by those invited and all the expense, especially to those who paid their own way to Indy. I attended one of those bigger dinners. My bishop was careful to be generous so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings by leaving them out. The food, fellowship and celebration were special. Everyone should have felt recognized and rewarded.
    One night together and we all were back in our rooms before dark. Mr. Akasie miscalculates and overstates it when he says “seven straight nights, lavish cocktail parties spilled into pricey steakhouses, where bishops could use their diocesan funds to order bottles of the finest wines.”
    Lots of us thought about the expense and our bishop did, too. But here’s the reason and payoff in my calculation. Most of us will be inclined to return to representing our Diocese at a future gathering. Not because we ate a great meal and drank a glass or two of wine but because our bishop had the mind to recognize us and our efforts one night during a event that happens once every three years in the life of a church we dearly love.

  38. Rick Smith on July 14th, 2012

    guyer and Small Farmer have made the points that I hoped to make but much more eloquently than I made them.
    If we “knee jerk” negatively to what is perhaps a general public sense of our beloved TEC, how far have we come?
    Why not listen intelligently to criticisms be they biased or factual and examine then as Episcopalians have done for centuries. We have been a church that “questions”, with parishioners who refuse to accept mere dogma. That is what has made us strong, attractive to open minded people, and “alive” Why throw that away?
    guyer makes an excellent point: Why do we debate absurdities such as outlawing SUV’s, governmental and economic policies and other silly issues that ought not to concern our church or any church. These are secular issues.
    In addition, is refusing to allow a parish to buy back it’s building for worship and selling it at a much lower cost to anyone but those who have loved it and maintained the building for years anything but childish, immature revenge?
    As I mentioned earlier, I am a moderate. I am proud that we have been a “welcoming church” free of the dogmatic approach that has hampered other religious traditions.
    If we consider ourselves thoughtful, “thinking” people who thrive on healthy discussions, why do we revert to simplistic bullying simply because we are saddled with ultra-progressive leaders?
    Can we at least entertain tand discuss intelligently the idea that these leaders are leading those of us who love our EC down the wrong path?

  39. Bob Williams on July 15th, 2012

    Note to Rick Smith: While some will resonate with much of your helpful advocacy for humility, it is the WSJ that has reverted to bullying and hubris writ large, and certainly it is complicit with other advocacy organizations whose brief is the compromise of U.S. mainline denominations. The reality is that these nay-saying organizations, including the WSJ under Murdoch (read privacy-incursion litigation in the UK) seem to be in “last-gasp/hot-air mode, in the view of many. As to Wall Street itself, never forget that the Episcopal Churdh is what it is today thanks to the insight, integrity and generosity of numerous New York financiers; J.P. Morgan built various churches close to many and to me — and saw to the formation of the Church Pension Fund, among other initiatives. I mention this only because times har changed so radically, and the Journal is teetering not only on irresponsibility but also irrelevance in its critique of Episcopalians and the Church’s legacy. Let us not be deceived: the WSJ at present is not a clear mirror into which we should look. That would be only to take the bait of those who do not wish TEC well.

  40. Kelley Renz on July 15th, 2012

    Was wearing a broad smile as I reached the end of this commentary. Well done!

  41. Rick Smith on July 15th, 2012

    With all due respect, Mr Williams, you reverted yet again to the bullying tactics of the “new” EC calling Murdoch and the WSJ out for not following the “party” line that our Presiding Bishop has dictated, while ignoring my detailed criticisms of those bullying tactics.
    My sense is that my time with TEC will be ending soon as well unless TEC can step up and admit that it is not meeting the needs of its people but simply reaching out to the small minority who would turn the church to their way of thinking.
    What sort of statistics will it take to convince you?
    We flirted with mission status in our small church because TEC would not concede to the will of the parish.
    Our parish was being held captive by a strong willed priest. We were not out to hurt him but just wanted him to follow the will of the congregation and move on. The diocese said in so many words “tough luck for you”
    I have seen it happen, but thankfully less stubborn heads prevailed and we saved our parish. The parish was saved from dismantlement and the priest eventually moved on to a parish where he has been very happy. The diocese offered no help to us that I could determine. It makes their 10% demand take on a bitter taste when they do not support their flock.
    The future does not look bright when TEC takes the attitude of our current presidential administration and says “Our way or the highway”….
    Many will choose the latter and it will be too late. It is already very, very late for our nation as a whole. I pray that TEC will not be one more casualty of telling people “WE know what is best for you”

  42. Barbara Harber on July 15th, 2012

    Probably you sat next to many of the Arizona deputies and alternates at Noodles. There are more serious errors the WSJ makes, but I know about this one first hand.

  43. John L. Myers on July 15th, 2012

    I was going to keep quiet but sorry – I’m just having a Matthew 23 moment.

    >>(…)and admit that it is not meeting the needs of its people but simply reaching out to the small minority who would turn the church to their way of thinking (….)<<

    Putting on my logic biretta, my first thought is, "Pot, meet Kettle. Kettle, say hi to Pot."

    I suppose it comes down to casting lots over which "small minority" we wish to embrace: the ones who are trying to move a church into a relevant necessity of spiritual growth for the current century, or the ones who are so inflexible to any amount of change that to do so is sure to "kill the church."

    Why are the congregational churches' growth outpacing all mainline denominations? Because they are *Relevant* to the needs of their communities (not "beloved," not "membership," but their community.) These growing, thriving congregations have fully embraced the concept that "Church" is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.

    The point goes back to the central belief we have in the Bible: that it contains *everything* we need for salvation. The part that seems to be the most bitter for some to swallow is that what I need for salvation differs greatly from You. And thus is built the Kingdom of Heaven.

    Keep the faith!

  44. Vern Barnet on July 15th, 2012

    The Dean of Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral (Kansas City) mentioned the WSJ article in his sermon today. As a newspaper columnist myself, I was astonished at the WSJ piece which did not ring true even before I saw the detailed errors. Thank you for taking the trouble to prepare this blog. After a career in the Unitarian Universalist ministry, I am now blessed to be an Episcopalian. There is indeed an extraordinarily wide scope of opinion among us about all manner of things — within a spirit of humility, unity and mutual respect, a spirit that should be celebrated, not maligned as the WSJ does. Again, thanks for your response.

  45. […]  I lament Douthat’s column, and have had to engage it with my congregation today (along with that ridiculously flawed WSJ attack piece, too).  Douthat is surely right about many things in his column – the parts having to do […]

  46. william sloan on July 15th, 2012

    guyer and rick smith to me make eminent sense, rather than those who effusively praise the condescending response to Akasie’s article. Who cares about the trees in the forest if the forest is shrinking? Who cares about the shrinking TEC, I do. Liberals and traditionalists are like the Congress of the US, incapable of listening to the other side, incapable of statesmanship and, therefore, destroying an organization(community) that could make such a difference but, is being marginalized.
    Mr Akasie may have his facts wrong; but from a long time membership in the church ie. my whole life, I know the tone is not too different from his rant. The church like the Inquisition has its targets and depending where you are it doesn’t matter what your philosophy is; it could be you. If you’re liberal in Pittsburgh wow, if you’re conservative in DC too bad. That’s not right if we’re supposed to be tolerant. Now there is a novel thought.

  47. william sloan on July 15th, 2012

    Father Uffman, A very interesting reply to Ross Douthat’s article. I must take exception, however, to some of your points. I am fatigued, as you are, with the dichotomy of conservative or liberal, mainly because I believe it exists in spades; rather than a community working toward shared goals. I used the analogy in another reply of our disfunctional US Congress.
    My take on Mr Douthat’s article is that discipline is a word that is no longer in the Episcopal Church dictionary, and from a careful reading of your post I think you would agree. Relativism quite frankly doesn’t cut it.
    I’m not as well read or as intellectual as you are, but I know that existentialism is an excuse for laziness.

  48. Barrington Bates on July 15th, 2012

    The PB’s apartment at 815 Second Avenue (I’ve been in it) is more like a dilapidated generic “suites” hotel room than any kind of swanky penthouse. It is on the top floor, but hardly breathtaking.

  49. Polly McMahon on July 15th, 2012

    Thank you for this excellent review. This can help all of the laity to respond to similar attacks.

  50. tpaine on July 16th, 2012

    No, TEC is NOT Christian, that is, if you believe in Christ’s teachings.
    Where does it say there is NOT “one holy Catholic and Apostolic church (?)” and you can operate unilaterally at the whim of the presiding bishop?
    Where does Christ say we are to praise and laud unhealthy and unnatural behavior to our children?
    Where does it say we are to steal churches away from our fellow Christians?
    Where does it say we are ordain those in self-confessed sin or to perform rites over pets?
    TEC has taken Episcopalians about as far away from the Bible as you can get.

  51. Small Farmer in Frisco on July 16th, 2012

    TPaine:

    I note that the Churches of Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, and Moscow have operated unilaterally for centuries – and since Vatican I the Roman Pope’s infallibility could easily be characterized as whim susceptible…

    Of course inasmuch as TEC is not operating on the whims of the Presiding Bishop makes your point moot. You make the assumption that two same gendered folks who live together and want to spend their lives together have sex as their main objective or even a very small component of their lives. You read sin into an entire class relationships where it may not be present – I was unaware that Jesus did this or commanded this.

    I do know he said to tear out your eye rather than allow it to cause you to sin – perhaps he was talking about seeing evil in others where it does not exist?

    Further a person cannot testify against himself it takes two witnesses and unless you are a peeping tom….but even IF you want to make this about sin, what does he say about forgiving others – something about forgiving seventy times seven? And if that applies to human beings, how much more forgiving has God proven to be over the millenia? Yet you seem to be sin sick – you only see sin where two people wish to celebrate the love they share with a community they love.

    And as for rites over pets? I would laugh but you don’t get it – which is sad. The rites are not for the pets, they are a pastoral response for the grieving owners – do you really believe that our burial rites are for the dead and not those who are left behind?

    My friend, TEC may not be what you consider to be Christian, but we are most assuredly walking in the way of the Fisherman of Galilee…

  52. Bad Coverage of Good News | on July 16th, 2012

    […] read these two thoughtful responses from people with much greater knowledge of the subject matter, Scott Gunn and Diana Butler Bass. I also encourage you to read this one, written by a known conservative who […]

  53. Janice Schattman on July 16th, 2012

    Years ago a family transferred into my Fort Worth parish from another state–a couple, two children and the man’s elderly mother. The mother was so withdrawn, depressed and dim the most voluble Texan could not keep her in conversation. The prior year she had lost her husband, moved in with her son and been bundled off to another state where she had no connection to her past life–except a 20 year old cat. The old cat died and her son approached our priest to “say a few words” while they interred far more than a beloved pet. But what to say? Calls flew back and forth with the bishop. Our assistant priest threatened to write his own liturgy. They settled on the St. Francis Day blessing of the pets, vested, processed, potlucked and ministered to the family without heresy. We wrapped that family, young and old, in community and spiritual comfort. That is not frippery.

  54. Br. John Ryan, O.C.P. on July 16th, 2012

    Scott – many thanks for the responses to the WSJ article.
    It is too bad those involved in “reporting the truth” business miss
    all of the work being done by members of the church; lay, religious,
    and cleric. The Gospel is alive and well in our church, it is at the
    grass roots, day to day level we experience the Living Gospel. It seems the Episcopal Church has always been a leader in that way of living. I think the church should make a greater effort to toot its own horn in the public arena, let the public know there is a Church that takes the Sermon on the Mount as a way of life!

  55. Bob Gross on July 16th, 2012

    Scott- thank you for your clear and accurate response to Ross Douthat’s article in the WSJ. There are several members of the parish where I serve who are waiting for my comments on the WSJ article. I intend to share your response as well as Diane Butler-Bass’ response.

  56. Mark on July 16th, 2012

    keep avoiding reality. Dig in your heals. The writing’s on the wall.

    Why get so angry at the truth? TEC has bled members by following a political agenda.

    It’s safe to say, literally, that St. Paul could not be ordained in “Bishop” Schori’s EC. And if he were, he’d be kicked out.

    I strongly suspect the ultimate goal of Schori and friends is drive out the members, sell of the properties and turn it into a social activist foundation like the Ford F.

    She certainly doesn’t seem to be concerned with losing parishioners and refuses to even admit its a problem.

  57. Mark on July 16th, 2012

    “In addition, is refusing to allow a parish to buy back it’s building for worship and selling it at a much lower cost to anyone but those who have loved it and maintained the building for years anything but childish, immature revenge?”
    Exactly Rick, in one case they refused to sell it to the congregation and sold it to muslims, below value.

    Why? (and for any of you who will harp on about ‘diversity’ i suggest you visit a muslim country and see how women are treated.

  58. Small Farmer in Frisco on July 16th, 2012

    Mark,

    One could easily say that the folks leaving TEC are also following a political agenda, so kindly give us a break. And inasmuch as Paul never was a bishop of the Church (you’re thinking Peter) you’re right, he wouldn’t be a bishop – he never took the GOEs or was a member of TEC…laughing

    You seem to confuse quantity with quality…they aren’t one and the same necessarily. And if flks find their best spiritual progress in another communion, why should I begrudge them? I celebrate that they have found a better place for themselves.

    As for buying back buildings, you might want to speak with the relevant bishops and their Standing Committees: it would be a breach of fiduciary duty to sell property beneath market value…and to impute base motives to the bishops is singularly unchristian, ya know?

  59. Mary Wilson on July 16th, 2012

    When I read the WSJ article, I knew it was wrong- but I could not refute it as you could, because I was not present in Indianapolis. I thank you for taking the time to speak the truth in the face of a powerful publication that obviously is not concerned with facts. Even an editorial piece, that is stating opinion, should not print lies just to further the authors agenda. This is exactly the type of behavior that keeps the church from moving forward and following the call of Christ.

  60. william sloan on July 16th, 2012

    Well folks , I’m departing from this blog. Emotion as always seems to have won. Where is a rational discussion of what is happening to our church?
    Warm and fuzzy is not the answer, nor is, we must be evangelical. Doesn’t anyone want to find a middle ground?

  61. Small Farmer in Frisco on July 16th, 2012

    Actually most folks would be quite happy with a Via Media, William, and if you go into most parishes that is precisely what you’ll find – reasonable people who recognize each other’s views and values but put them aside to worship and serve together and one another – and that is the ultimate genius of TEC …

    As for wanting to discuss what is happening to our church: I’m perfectly happy to have that sane and reasonable discussion with you or anyone else who’d care to jump in….

    Thoughts?

  62. Mary on July 16th, 2012

    When Bishop Jefferts-Schori was consecrated there were a couple of small articles about the primatial cross she was given by Bishop Griswold. One said that during his Visitation to the Diocese of Oregon in September, 2003, he asked an artist named DeSpain if he would craft a primatial staff for him after admiring the crozier that DeSpain had made for Bishop Gregg (who was Bishop of Oregon at the time.

    If you go back and look at pictures of previous PBs you see that there are a variety of primatial staffs in the collection. Some have been carried by more than one bishop but this one originated with Bp Griswold.

  63. mark on July 16th, 2012

    One could easily say that the folks leaving TEC are also following a political agenda, so kindly give us a break.
    One could ‘easily say’ a lot of things, that does not make them true. We have plenty examples of ‘your sides’ political agenda- please show me some examples of people leaving for a ‘political agenda’.

    I personally feel that politics of either side does not belong in church. As with Jesus’s message, church should be a place for people to connect with God both personally and as a community. Schori has shown no interest in either.

    And inasmuch as Paul never was a bishop
    you can continue with this sort of smug silly non-argument, or you can address my point- Paul’s writings on sexual immorality would get him ousted by Schori.

    You seem to confuse quantity with quality
    No I don’t, i wouldn’t call Schori or her ilk, ‘quality’ – you guys don’t want to even begin to admit your agendas have pushed the TEC to the brink of oblivion. In fact, you seem to take a perverse (no doubt a ‘virtue’ to you) ‘pride’ in it.

  64. mark on July 16th, 2012

    I am truly curious. Do any of you who are hostile to to this article recognize the seriousness of TEC’s situation?
    Do any of you care that the numbers are shrinking.

    Do you even acknowledge that they are? If so, what do you think are the reasons for declining numbers.

    You can claim simple demographics, but for example, the North American Anglican communion is growing rapidly, as are many non-denominational churches. Are any of you willing to even ADMIT that agenda is causing a membership crisis?

  65. […] sample of fine Episcopal bloggers, who were actually there, is availablehere, here, here and […]

  66. Gerry Vander-Lyn on July 16th, 2012

    Scott,

    Having read both the WSJ article and your blog I confess that I find both parties guilty of the same rhetoric. I sigh with regret over the caustic tone in both articles. If your blog is an example of “Episcoplians experiencing grace in listening” then I missed it. Also, as for rancor, I am sad to say that every Episcopal parish I have attended has had at least one rancorous event. If we don’t fight over the music, then we fight over the building. One of my rectors had to pay for a firm to run a “slippery test” on the new hard would floor in the Nave to stop the fights. The new floor in the Nave was actually LESS slippery than the floor in the parish hall that no one was complaining about. As far as General Convention 2012 goes, I am more than grieved that “transgendered” individuals will not be barred from ordination. Why the deputies at General Convention think that the laity will be comfortable receiving pastoral care from someone who cannot accept the gender God made them to be is a matter beyond my comprehension. I do understand that we all experience a lack of faith in our lives, but why we need to bless it and then ordain is truly beyond my capacity to understand.

  67. Becki on July 17th, 2012

    Thank you, Scott. You have very succinctly articulated every feeling I had as I read this article. While I was not in attendance I knew it was inaccurate on so many levels. Thanks for your response.

  68. Referred by S VA diocese on July 18th, 2012

    I always find liberal outrage at media “inaccuracy” amusing. It seems that liberal Christians are frequently content to watch conservatives twist at the strident misrepresentations and outright lies perpetrated against them by leftwing media, left wing politicians and left wing presidents – as long as it’s not their particular brand of Christianity in the lion’s den or the gas chamber…Perhaps this will make you think a little the next time you read an unfavorable report about your “enemies.”

  69. Small Farmer in Frisco on July 18th, 2012

    Hmmm S Va Diocese: so you’re saying two wrongs do make the Right?

    I think you’re somewhat over the top in your comments. When folks are factually incorrect as a matter of doing a hatchet job, irrespective of their political affiliation, they ought to expect to be corrected. To have mass media perpetrate intentional misrepresentation is abhorrent no matter who is the target; and if you feel you have not received reasonable support when you’ve been the victim, I apologize to you.

    I do not see traditionalists as enemies – on the contrary, they are the guardians of custom and tradition and should be respected for these gifts. At the same time, traditionalists should recognize that much of what they hold as essential has not always been thus and there have always been exceptions – it is the nature of human institutions.

    I’d be cautious about conflating politics and theology: I know a number of Republican Episcopalians who are gay and lesbian and they resent presumptions as to the nature of their relationships and their politics – rightfully so, I’d say!

    May I offer the thought that less snark and more listening with humility is in order on all sides?

  70. Small Farmer in Frisco on July 18th, 2012

    Btw, Gerry, it is entirely possible you come in contact with Gay, Lesbian,Bisexual and Transgendered folks every day – you may even have them among your family and friends – and simply are unaware of it.

    You could of course make inquiries on a person by person basis and keep away from those who are unacceptable, or you could simply accept that it is the person’s competence and commitment which is most important not their mode of dress and appearance – the choice is yours.

    In light of our baptismal covenant, how a person presents themselves is not my concern; how I choose to receive them is. Thoughts?

  71. A Parishioner from Texas on July 19th, 2012

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we all agree that part of what makes us christians is to know to operate by faith (belief) when our reasoning (logic) can no longer take us any further? Facts have been stated here that have either been corroborated or could be double-checked (one person mentioned Matt 23, at least).  I  feel like I have learned some practical things I can use. I have heard someone remind us that the church is rightly a place (hospital) for sinners.  That is a fact: He is a holy God who came to save the lost (All of us, as sheep, have strayed and wandered away from home).  The bottom line is that the WSJ writer has certainly given us a feedback that we could perhaps benefit from. Liberal sentiments and traditional sentiments apart, it is never too early to panic (that TEC is becoming too politicized), and it is never too late to (retrace our steps to) get it right.   In fact, there is no easy answer to some of the contentious issues that tend to divide us. However, He created us as rational beings, with a will to choose and make decisions. So when, as an example, we make our decision of who to be with, that choice has its consequences (call it opportunity cost). That may include the consequence of being disqualified from ordination as some people who feel that TEC has gone too far state.  But what if they purge themselves tomorrow, some may ask.  
    Surely the way people respond and react to change is absolutely up to them (and their God).  But their faith can still be restored in the Episcopal  Church if it purges itself in the future.  
    Just my take.  A parishioner from TX

  72. […] What ails the Wall Street Journal: Error-laden opinion on Episcopalians Scott Gunn, Seven Whole Days, July 13, 2012 […]

  73. […] What ails the Wall Street Journal: Error-laden opinion on Episcopalians by the Rev. Scott Gunn http://www.sevenwholedays.org/2012/07/13/errors-wsj/ […]

  74. Miss Jan on July 19th, 2012

    Um, I live in one of the Texaan dioceses now, but I lived in the Diocese of Oregon in 2003 and was a member of the cathedral parish. I never knew of a “Bishop Gregg” in Dio. Oregon. We did change Bishops in 2003. The VIIIth Bishop of Oregon was The Rt. Rev. Rob’t Ladehoff and the IXth Bishop of Oregon was The Right Rev. Johncy Itty. Maybe he was in Dio. Eastern Oregon?

  75. Miss Jan on July 19th, 2012

    . . . Texan dioceses . . .

  76. Small Farmer in Frisco on July 20th, 2012

    We’ve had a right good time of the old Celtic pastime of “contradict a wee” – throwing points of view at one another – but sometimes clearness can be found in neighbors’ words?

    http://lambswar.blogspot.com/2012/07/discovering-our-common-purpose.html

  77. […] response, “What ails The Wall Street Journal,” comes from Scott Gunn, an Episcopal priest with leanings on certain topics that are decidedly more […]

  78. […] What ails the Wall Street Journal: Error-laden opinion on Episcopalians […]

  79. Gerry Vander-Lyn on July 21st, 2012

    Dear Small Farmer in Frisco,

    Of course I know gay people. I also know a man who murdered several people. I also know people who have sold illegal drugs. I know people who have been convicted of theft, assault with a deadly weapon, and burglary of a motor vehicle. I know people who don’t pay their taxes or their parking fines. I know people who let their pets mess up their neighbors yards. Knowing people who sin is easy. You have to have been a hermit from birth to avoid knowing sinners. I still see no reason to bless the sin and ordain it. As far as the Baptismal Covenant goes, I am supposed to resist evil and repent of sin. I am also supposed to love my neighbor as myself. When I repent of sin I am loving myself. I certainly do not want to deny my neighbor the freedom that comes from repentence. Blessing sin and ordaining keeps someone trapped in the sin. That seems horribly lacking in compassion to me.

  80. Small Farmer in Frisco on July 22nd, 2012

    I believe we’re talking past one another, Gerry…if you wish to condemn another’s sinning, just as you condemn your own, fine. To presume that a person is sinning because they live with someone of the same gender or love someone of the same gender isn’t Christian (or perhaps it is in the minds of many folks which is why we’re in a post-Christendom world these days).

    As for resisting evil and repenting of sin: for a faith which washes us free of sin it appears some of its adherents either don’t believe it because they continue to throw sin up in others’ faces, or perhaps they have never quite thought through what that radical proposition means.

    Perhaps we are all misreading what Jesus taught?

  81. Paul Hinson on July 22nd, 2012

    Absolutely wonderful rebuttal. One wonders if the editorial Board of the WSJ fact checks editorial pieces. There is opinion, respectfully or not respectfully expressed, and then there are facts. Facts can never be in dispute.

  82. PAUL GEIGER on July 23rd, 2012

    Big errors folks! The WSJ allows OpEd pieces that have nothing to do with their (WSJ) editorials.
    They should not be castigated for a slanted OpEd piece. I have it on good faith that Murdoch doesn’t influence the truth and accuracy of the real editorial board and writers.

  83. PAUL GEIGER on July 23rd, 2012

    OpEd is not Editorial, Mr. Hinson.

  84. […] Smith, Bishop of Arizona Scott Gunn, deputy from Rhode Island George Conger, senior correspondent at the Church of England newspaper […]

  85. […] What Ails the Wall Street Journal – A dismantling of Akasie’s article, exposing the most blatant errors. […]