Help wanted: copy editor

No, I’m not talking about 7WD, though I could use a copy editor. Much to my chagrin, I find typos and grammar “issues” too regularly here. I guess I should get in the habit of reading what I’ve written before I hit the “Publish” button. But I digress.

I’m thinking our Presiding Bishop needs a copy editor. She seems to be an even-handed leader, remarkably free of anxiety in her speech and writing. One bishop described her style in the House of Bishops as “dispassionate.” That’s a good thing. So you’d expect someone like this to be carefully balanced in her writing just about all the time.

Her response today to the GAFCON statement has a glaring gaffe. She refers to their statement as an “emission”, as in “Much of the Anglican world must be lamenting the latest emission from GAFCON.” That word choice is regrettable. It needlessly demeans people, and it undermines the rest of her very reasonable statement. Had she simply said “latest statement” from GAFCON, her overall purpose would have been accomplished more effectively. If a good copy editor had seen the text first, this simple mistake might have been corrected.

The tricky thing about respecting the dignity of every person is that we must do that for, well, every person. Even those who have treated us badly. I can imagine that all six of the primates on the FOCA (sigh. another acronym) Primates’ Council were not especially kind to her in Dar es Salaam. But this does not obviate the need to treat them with the utmost dignity.

An apology or correction from Bishop Katharine would be nice — and it would show a compassionate side of ECUSA leadership that might be instructive in this contentious time.

Image from mattwright on flickr.

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24 Responses

  1. Perpetua says:

    Gracious and wise. And I especially loved this:
    “The tricky thing about respecting the dignity of every person is that we must do that for, well, every person. Even those who have treated us badly.”

  2. Scott, intelligent, dear man that you are, listen please to a sister in Christ: Take a deep breath. Take another one.

    Now, say this word: ‘overreacting.’

    There, that about sums up your response to the response of the PB.

    An ’emission’ is simply, an ’emission.’

    Maybe it’s a guy thing. Maybe it’s a sensitive word for guys. Adolescent nightmares, and all that. Girls have other issues. Not that one.

    The PB doesn’t need an editor. Neither does she need any lessons in the baptismal covenant.

    She needs y’all to cut her some slack.

    Here endth the lesson.

  3. Scott Gunn says:

    Now, say this word: ‘overreacting.’

    OK, overreacting. There, I said it. Now, to whom does it apply? 😉

    I’ll take the bits about “guy thing” as humor. Because otherwise, I’d wonder if you would find it amusing for me to dismiss your writing as “girlish.”

    I generally have cut our PB some slack. I think she’s strong enough to handle some criticism from one progressive blogger.


  4. Progressive? Perhaps you are, but this post is hardly progressive. Regressive is more apt.

    You have, flat out, overreacted to one word in the PB’s post, Scott. Obviously and unfortunately, you’ve been spending too much time reading – and inwardly digesting – the criticism from the Bullies on Viagra. Never wise. Bad for the tummy.

    If the PB has handled the over the top overreaction from the neo-Puritan, uber-conservatives (and, she has with more grace and style than either of us has in our baby finger), she can certainly handle this “criticism” from you.

    And, it’s not an overreaction to call you on your overreaction.

    That’s another word. It’s called “honesty.”

    It’s a rare commodity in the church.

    Deal with it.

  5. Ameryx says:

    Wow, indeed. It took exactly 1 (one) reply from you to drive TKW into ad hominem attacks “Bullies on Viagra”) and outright hostility (“Deal with it.”)

    Where’s the love?

    Scott, I agree with you that “emission” was a poor choice of words. Its connotations tend to be in the area of pollution. There may be some strict technical meaning which is acceptable (“e for out, mit for send, hence to send out”). There must nevertheless be a fairly large choice of words not similarly freighted with negative connotations. Missive; message; declaration; statement; communique.

    What do you think of the use of the word “missional”? I found it sufficiently… unusual… to go look it up. (Truth to tell, I was not 100% sure it was a real word.) It appears to be a term of art in some circles, a secret handshake, as it were, to indicate the breadth of one’s inclusiveness. (I am trying very hard here to state it dispassionately.)

    Once having read about “missional” (see here , I was convinced that that word alone exposed the PB’s mindset.

  6. Scott Gunn says:

    Ameryx, “missional” is big in the emerging church movement. This is an interesting movement because it combines some modern idioms (movies interactive sermons/messages) with some ancient notions of liturgy (as in didache-era). Most people would find most emergent folks on the orthodox side of the equation, though they’re usually not strictly evangelical. Brian McLaren would be one example. Rob Bell another. Some more conservative churchs (especially large nondenominational congregations) are experimenting with emergent services.

    Anyway, the notion of “missional” in that context is that the point of church is to (a) build the kingdom and (b) inspire its members to live more holy lives. It transcends mere social justice.

    Not sure if that helps or hurts… I’m 100% OK with missional, but I’ll gladly entertain your criticism if you have other thoughts. 🙂

  7. Modest Mystic says:

    We don’t know the word missional in TEC because TEC’s missions department is a hush-hush endeavor. I had to dig to find out that TEC does in fact send out missionaries… sometimes to some places if you cut the mustard. So, I went alone. We don’t talk about missions enough in TEC, so the word missional is still fairly unknown. The meaning is very simple: to be mission-like, mission-minded, mission-doing as a matter of course through daily life, a habitual missionary. There is no grandiose programmatic meaning to it. It is just to have the mindset of someone who lives in such a way that sharing the gospel is a normal and usual part of life.

    BTW, I was also offended by and disappointed in the PB’s response. I know her to be far more intelligent and articulate than this response makes her out to be. She can do better.

  8. BillyDinPVD says:

    At first I thought that “emission” was kind of funny, but I agree with Fr. Gunn about it’s use. People on both sides tend to denigrate their opponents. When the GAFCONians and their fellow travelers do it, they excuse it as boldly rebuking vice. When progressives do it, they tend to excuse it as speaking truth to power.

    NB, TKW: Nocturnal emissions (which is what I assume you’re referring to) are generally not accompanied by nightmares.

  9. monologistos says:

    “Deal with it”: Hmmm. I’m all for understanding statements made under stress with an extra bit of tolerance. Most have taken the “flatulence” interpretation on the “emission” from KJS. I wondered if this wasn’t a mistake and the interpretation heard here not striking more to the heart of a criticism of a very male dominated event. Perhaps we all need to cut each other some slack. Are men still welcome in TEC? Or only if they keep to their place? I suspect that if some African primate should suggest that KJS has an “issue with the blood” of Jesus, Kaeton would blast into orbit. If that is sexist and a terrible misuse of one of the most beautiful passages of Scripture, what is this “emissions” business and why defend it … unless the defense is to be understood merely as campaign politics.

  10. Ameryx says:

    Better I should confess ignorance… As noted in my initial posting, the term “missional” struck me because I was unfamiliar with it.
    I looked for a definition, and found this at Perhaps it is inaccurate, or inadequate.
    Some highlights from
    the term persists as essentially a postmodern alternative to the ecclesiology and missiology of Evangelical Christians. The practical outworking of emergent, missional living does not coincide with the emphases on propositional evangelism, teaching, and holiness found in historic Christianity. Missional believers are more inclusive than exclusive, refusing to identify boundaries that could be perceived as an “us vs. them” mentality. Within this atmosphere so-called missional believers seek to enhance the lives of all postmoderns regardless of their belief system or lifestyle…
    Their non-traditional methodology and tolerance results from an embrace of postmodern epistemology that changes their theological self-understanding. Any differences in activity result from this difference in identity. This postmodern identity causes missional believers and churches to identify with culture rather than consider themselves alien “prophets” to it.

    What I take away from that is:
    1. Missional churches are less likely to participate in the Great Commission.
    2. Missional churches are more likely to conform to the world, rather than to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 12:2)

    Again, I looked into this because it was new to me. I am reminded of a story told by Whittaker Chambers, of how a member of a particular subset of the Communist Party was identified by her use of the adjective “concrete”. The use of buzz words is certainly a way for a group of people to identify themselves to each other. (Can you say “shibboleth”?)

    If my new-found learning about “missional churches” is off the mark, I would like to know…

  11. Modest Mystic says:

    Ameryx, speaking as someone straddling a liturgical church (TEC) and the post-modern emerging church (different from emergent church[tm]), missional is generally a term used for individuals, but missional churches are churches who take on the same methodology as a group. Those who are missional are very likely to participate in the Great Commission. They may do it as they are going or as traditional missionaries whether domestic or foreign, usually domestic. They are awesome at challenging social wrongs in urban areas in a Christ-like manner. Most emerging church Christians I have met are radically different than both traditional Christians and the world around them. They seek to shake up the status quo and crawl out of the shell of a dying church (their sentiments, not mine). They strive to be culturally sensitive, but are quite prophetic as they rail against the evils of “this present darkness”. They tend to be extremists, but I think the movement is a good refresher for the Church/Body of Christ. I do not believe that traditional church is dead or dying, but it does need a kick in its complacency. So, those mysterious, missional, emerging church Christians are serving their purpose in Church history. I hope that helps to explain it better. I apologize if I was terse before.

    Now, what is “shibboleth”?

  12. BillyDinPVD says:

    “Now, what is “shibboleth”?”

    See Judges 12:5-6

  13. Scott Kammerer says:

    I felt it was not just the word “emission” but the wider tone of Katharine’s statment that failed to remain dispassionate or “respect the dignity of every person.” She could learn to excoriate someone while remaining respectful by studying Rowan Williams’ response to GAFCON.
    Then again, I’m not only a white male, I’m *conservative*, so what do I know?

  14. Hmmm . . . It just occurs to me that this “copy editor” thing may have more to do with Bob Smith’s (The Church Center’s Director of Communication) leaving and less to do with Katharine.

  15. Scott Gunn says:

    TKW, I think you mean Bob Williams. But KJS writes her own stuff, as I understand it.

    If one were to find fault with her word choice (and I understand that not everyone would do so), then it would have had nothing to do with Williams either way.


  16. Ah, I’m understanding this whole dynamic much better. Thank you.

  17. Scott Gunn says:

    TKW, I’d be interested to hear more about your last statement. Really. Do you mean that you understand why I might have raised concern about “emissions”? Or do you mean that you understand how we’re all nuts? I’m curious…


  18. No, I don’t think “you’re all nuts.” Yes, I believe I understand a bit better why you have raised concern about “emissions.”

  19. Um, “emission” is a perfectly good English word, with a perfectly good meaning, which simply means in this context, “that which is put forth or sent out.”

    The 1913 Webster gives as examples, the emission of light from the sun, the emission of heat from a fire, and the emission of bank notes.

    The word doesn’t denigrate or degrade anyone; it doesn’t even have a negative connotation.

  20. BillyDinPVD says:

    And the next time that the Presiding Bishop sends a letter to someone in 1913, there’ll be no understanding.

  21. the word never went away. it still gets used in its original sense. see, for example, the wikipedia disambiguation page for emission, which lists all different kinds of emission.

    it’s just not a dirty word.

  22. Scott Gunn says:

    Thomas, connotation is in the ear of the beholder. If you check out the conservative blogs, you’ll see that the first reaction to the word “emission” was not positive. It might have been technically correct, but it was a poor word choice in that it has become the conversation, rather than the content of the message. It’s a classic communication error — one must avoid distracting from the core message.

    Suppose, for example, I wanted to say something positive about Peter Akinola’s disposition. I could say “Akinola is gay!” In the 1913 sense, it might be correct — Akinola is fully of cheer and gaiety. However, if I were to choose this word, it would be distracting from the intended message.

    I’m still puzzled why people won’t admit any errors by our Presiding Bishop. I’m very grateful that she is our PB, but she is human. As such, she is certain to make mistakes now and then.

  23. BillyDinPVD says:

    OK, I looked at the disambiguation page, from the emission of exhaust gas and pollutants to the emission of noise. None of the meanings there are usually associated with published statements. It’s hard to defend it as a neutral word choice.

    Also, PIMF: misunderstanding

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