Anglican schism this weekend? Not quite. Times of London rewrites article following criticism
have written to me about the remarkable news of a schism in the Anglican Communion, as reported
by Ruth Gledhill, religion editor of the London Times
, in a June 28 an article entitled “Anglicans face split.” The article claims that that the “Anglican Communion will be split tomorrow” with the announcement of a “new orthodox body.” But the article does not show any split and does not show any new orthodox body. Gledhill’s article is an example of the the sloppy, sensationalist, misleading, confusing, and unreliable journalism that is common today, as I stated in the below comment that has been posted
at Gledhill’s blog.
However, immediately after posting this entry, I realized there is some further confusion here. The June 28 article that I quoted and criticized in my comment is no longer at the Times website. The first link in this present entry, which had been directed at the June 28 article, goes instead to a new article by Gledhill dated June 29, which seems to be a radically revised version of her earlier article. Fortunately, the text of the original article can be found at VirtueOnLine, which also discusses the confusing nature of Gledhill’s original report. More on this below.
Here is my comment at Gledhill’s blog:
I came to this page after reading Ruth Gledhill’s article in the June 28 Times, “Anglicans face split.” Unfortunately, her article is unclearly and confusingly written and makes statements for which I can find no factual support. Her lead sentence makes this sensational announcement:
“The Anglican Communion will be split tomorrow when conservatives representing more than half its total membership will announce the formation of a new orthodox body to be a stronghold against liberal views. It will be schism in all but name.”
She then refers to a “new global Anglican fellowship.” But what does this fellowship consist of? It all seems terribly vague. She doesn’t even provide a name for this new body. The only name of a new organization referenced in her article—and it doesn’t appear until 500 words into the article—is “Global Anglican Future Conference.” But a conference is not a new church body. It’s a conference. Anglicans have conferences all the time. Where then is the new orthodox body Miss Gledhill had referenced? So I went to the GAFCON website (Global Anglican Future Conference) and to the Wikipedia article on GAFCON and found no reference to a new orthodox body. Rather, GAFCON is a conference. That’s ALL it is. Yes, it represents a significant further step in the agonizingly slow separation within the Anglican Communion, in that, apparently for the first time, all the dissident Anglican groups are getting together and planning to work together. But there is no “orthodox body” being established as separate from the existing Communion. I see nothing of a decisive nature, no formal break, occurring at this Jerusalem conference.
I wonder if Ruth Gledhill will acknowledge that her sensational lead sentence was incorrect and misleading.
Here is Gledhill’s updated, June 29 article
, which is more precise and cautious about the facts than her June 28 article, and is also much shorter and more concise. It is 444 words long, as compared with 1184 words in the June 28 version. This later article says that a new body is indeed being formed, not separate from the Anglican Communion, but within it, called the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. In her earlier article she only referenced some vague “fellowship” that lacked even a name. Perhaps my criticisms had something to do with Gledhill’s rewriting the piece.
In any case, the fact that Gledhill or her editors reaized that her June 28 article was badly flawed is shown by the fact that the June 28 article is no longer at the Times site. It has been replaced by the June 29 article. If it were only a matter of new information coming from the Jerusalem conference that required a new article, the previous article would not have been deleted. I do not remember seeing the website of a major newspaper deleting one article and replacing it by another.
Here is the June 29 article:
Anglicans form ‘new church’ in gay clergy row
The Anglican Church faces what is in effect a schism this weekend after the declaration last night of conservative evangelicals to create a “church within a church”. The new body, called the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, will have its own bishops, clergy and theological colleges.
Details of the fellowship were announced in Jerusalem last night at a summit of conservative Anglicans, the Global Anglican Future Conference.
It follows a protracted battle within the church over gay clergy. Many evangelicals were outraged when it was revealed this month that the civil partnership of two gay priests had been blessed in a London church with a traditional wedding liturgy.
The 300 bishops and archbishops in Jerusalem insist they do not want to split from the 80m-strong Anglican communion. This is partly a recognition that a formal schism would involve protracted legal disputes about ownership of churches and other properties.
However, they last night declared their plans for a new “primates council” made up of the senior bishops and archbishops at the Jerusalem meeting. The new fellowship also represents a direct challenge to the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
In a statement last night they challenged the role of the archbishop as primus inter pares of the bishops of the Anglican communion. “While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury,” it said.
The new fellowship will return to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the 39 articles of religion, train its own priests and insist on more orthodox practices in its churches. Although the instigators claim they are focused on reform from within it is said to represent the worst blow to church unity in the West since the Protestant reformation of the 16th century.
Central to the announcement was a “Jerusalem declaration”, which will form the basis of the new fellowship. In the declaration the archbishops and bishops said: “We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed.” It accused the leaders of the Episcopal Church of the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada of proclaiming a “false gospel”. The fellowship’s first task will be to create a new Anglican body in North America.
Jerusalem was chosen as the location to announce the fellowship because of its precedence over Canterbury in the Christian hierarchy. A fellowship will be seen as a partial victory for Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, who was not at last night’s meeting but who argued for reform from within. Unity, he said, was “a very precious thing”.
Here is Gledhill’s entire the June 28 article, as copied
at VirtueOnLine, the Voice for Global Orthodox Anglicanism:
UK: Anglicans face split
Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
The Sunday Times
June 28, 2008
The Anglican Communion will be split tomorrow when conservatives representing more than half its total membership will announce the formation of a new orthodox body to be a stronghold against liberal views. It will be schism in all but name.
The new global Anglican fellowship will act within the legal boundaries of provinces such the Church of England that make up the existing Communion but, in North America, it will declare its independence from the ultra-liberal Episcopal Church and from the Anglican church in Canada.
The fellowship represents a direct challenge to the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and the Primate of the US Episcopal Church, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.
Millions of Anglicans and entire provinces in the Global South—an Anglican grouping of 20 provinces that embraces India, Africa, the West Indies and the Middle East—want nothing more to do with their former colonial masters who have adopted a theology that they find too liberal.
The new fellowship represents the most severe blow to Church unity in the West since the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.
It will shake up the structures of the Anglican Communion and could force it, in order to survive, to become a federation of provinces—a model that has been fiercely resisted by Dr Williams who is staking his archiepiscopacy on retaining unity under the present worldwide Communion of 38 provinces with him as “primus inter pares”, or first among equals of the primates of each province.
Archbishops and bishops, mainly from the Global South provinces of Africa and Asia, have been meeting in Jerusalem to draw up plans to deal with an unrepentant liberal wing of the Anglican Communion. Jerusalem was chosen for the founding of the new Anglicanism as a place that represents a Christianity older than that of Canterbury.
One province, Nigeria, has already deleted all reference to Canterbury from its constitution.
The 300 bishops and archbishops in Jerusalem, of whom more than 100 are boycotting the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury in July, claim that they do not want to to form a separate church and have no plans to “walk away” from the 80 million-strong Anglican Communion.
Instead, they insist that it is the liberals in the churches of the West who have broken unity by walking away from Biblical truths and the teachings of orthodox Christianity.
Legal structures in provinces such as England, where the Queen is Supreme Governor of the Church, and in Australia, make schism practically impossible. Any parish that chose to leave would sacrifice property and recognition.
So instead fellowship policy is to reform from within, and to attempt a take-over of the Church by evangelicals working inside existing structures.
Significantly, the new fellowship will include many churches that have split from the Anglican Communion in the past over earlier doctrinal disputes.
Those meeting at the Global Anglican Future Conference in Jerusalem include bishops from the Church of England in South Africa and the Reformed Episcopal Church in the US. It also includes bishops such as Martyn Minns and David Anderson, consecrated by the Church in Nigeria to serve conservative US parishes but not invited to the Lambeth Conference by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Ironically, this means that the new fellowship will enhance unity by bringing back into the fold many of those who have left or, as they would see it, been forced out.
Liberal parishes that have embraced the “no-bodily-resurrection and no-Virgin-birth” theology of the late 20th century are failing, while evangelical, Bible-based churches such Holy Trinity Brompton, St Helen’s Bishopsgate and All Souls in Langham Place in London are bursting at the seams. For years they have been engaged in “church planting”—founding new outposts of conservative orthodoxy in the heart of dying liberal parishes. The programme is likely to be stepped up under the new fellowship.
More than 600 Church of England clergy representing almost as many parishes are expected to swear allegiance to the new body when they meet on Tuesday at All Souls, Langham Place, which is regarded as Britain’s evangelical flagship.
The fellowship was given a boost in North America on Friday when a judge ruled that a group of 11 parishes in Virginia could keep their property after breaking away from the Episcopal Church. Lawyers from the Episcopal Church will appeal, but the case is being watched closely by dozens of other parishes and at least three dioceses that also plan to break away.
The trigger for the new movement was the 2003 consecration of an openly gay bishop, the Right Rev Gene Robinson, in New Hampshire and the authorisation of same-sex blessings in the New Westminster diocese in Canada.
But to the conservatives, these events were merely the logical conclusion to years of movement away from the Christianity of the Early Church Fathers—the writers and teachers in the first five centuries of Christianity—the Anglicanism of the Reformation and the enthusiasm of the 19th century revivals of Anglo-Catholicism and evangelicalism.
The prime movers in the new fellowship are the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the Archbishop of Uganda, Henry Orombi, the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen and the Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Rev Benjamin Nzimbi, who led the committee drawing up the final communique in Jerusalem.
Bishop Gregory Venables has also played a leading role. His Southern Cone diocese encompasses six countries in South America and he has already taken one US diocese, San Joaquin, in California, into his province and is in negotiations with Pittsburgh and Forth Worth. Significantly, Bishop Venables is a close friend of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is understood to regard the Jerusalem proceedings with equanimity. Unlike many of the bishops at the Jerusalem conference, Bishop Venables will be at the Lambeth Conference.
Dr Jensen and Archbishop Orombi will be among the new fellowship’s leaders at the All Souls meeting in London on Tuesday to recruit England’s conservatives.
Dr Jensen said:”American revisionists committed an extraordinary strategic blunder in 2003 . They did not think that there would be any consequences.
“Now if they did not believe that there would be consequences, that is an arrogant thing, I have to say. But I don’t know them, so I really cannot say. The consequences have been unfolding over the last five years. Now their church is divided; it looks as though there will be permanent division, one way or the other.
“All around the world the sleeping giant that is evangelical Anglicanism and orthodox Anglicanism has been aroused by what happened in Canada and the United States of America. It was an act of folly.”
The fellowship will draw up its own Book of Common Prayer, devoid of what it sees as the liturgical inanities embraced by many modern Anglican service books. Instead it will be loyal to the original formularies outlined by Thomas Cranmer, the 16th-century Archbishop of Canterbury and incorporated into the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.
The fellowship will also decree an orthodox approach to reading the Bible and will draw up a universal catechism, a feature central to Roman Catholicism but lacking from modern Anglicanism.
Update: I’ve sent this further comment to Ruth Gledhill’s blog, at 6:19 p.m. June 29. We’ll see if she posts it.
The June 28 article by Ruth Gledhill, “Anglicans Face Split,” which I criticized in my comment posted above, has been deleted and replaced by a different article dated June 29, entitled, “Anglicans form ‘new church’ in gay clergy row.” The new version of the article makes up for some of the defects I discussed in my comment about the original version. It does not make unsupported claims about an imminent church “split,” it supplies the name of the new “fellowship,” and is altogether a clearer, more factual, and more cautiously written piece. It is also much shorter, at 444 words instead of the original 1184 words.
I needed to point this out, because anyone reading my earlier comment would think it was completely off-base, since the article I was criticizing has been replaced by a new and more accurate article, without notification that this has been done.
I discuss this further at my website: http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/010908.html
LA writes (June 30):
My comment above has been posted at Ruth Gledhill’s blog, along with other comments. Here is partticularly interesting one, which indirectly challenges my point:
Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 29, 2008 04:38 PM | Send
The most glaring falsehood in the thing is the claim that it is not a split.
In purporting to recognize (ie, create whole cloth) new provinces, it reveals itself as schism pure and simple.
Posted by: Malcolm+ | 30 Jun 2008 17:56:18