One of the odder things I do is to write a column on religion in the media for the _Church Times_ and one of the odder difficulties with that is I feel I ought to try not to say too many cruel things about Ruth Gledhill. So I will vent here instead.
This week she is rushing to catch up with someone else’s scoop, a position that always brings out journalistic vices. After all, our livelihoods as well as our self-esteems depend on being better and more quickly informed than the competition, and last week her competition, in the shape of Jonathan Petre of the _Daily Telegraph,_ got a genuine and important story about whole dioceses from the Episcopal Church of the USA attempting to transfer their allegiance to another province of the Anglican Communion so as not to -catch gay cooties- imperil their orthodoxy.
At this point the innocent reader will be asking what is a province? What is the Anglican Communion? Well the AC is about 50m Christians all around the world in churches descended from the Church of England. Large countries are provinces in themselves; England actually has two; smaller countries where there are a sprinkling of Anglican congregations get bundled up into larger provinces. The sparsest of all, is the so-called “Province of the Southern Cone”, which covers the whole southern half of South America, five countries in which there are a total of 32,000 Anglicans. It is the head of this operation who has announced that he will accept any North American dioceses who would like to join him. So naturally, the Gledhill version of the story starts:
bq. %(loony)One of the largest provinces% in the Anglican Church is offering itself as a safe haven for traditionalist US dioceses that wish to secede in the argument about the acceptance of gay clergy, including bishops.
The province of the Southern Cone, which includes Argentina, Peru and Chile and is headed by the expatriate British Bishop Greg Venables, has voted to extend its jurisdiction to cover the whole of the US.
Why not claim that the bishop with the longest name is the most important, while you’re about it? But it’s the next paragraph which is completely beyond parody:
bq. The decision marks the formal start of a %(loony)realignment% of the Anglican Communion in the row over gays and %(loony)could help to stave off a schism.%
But “realignment” *is* schism. That’s what “realignment” _means_ when Anglicans use the word now. You can no more stave off a schism with realignment than you stave off a war by mounting an invasion. If the bishop of Pittsburgh anounces that he is no longer part of The Episcopal Church (in America) but still claims to be the Anglican bishop in Pittsburgh, then the Episcopal Church is going to depose him and elect another bishop of Pittsburgh in his place. The lawyers will feast on all this for years, and in the meantime there will be two people believing themselves to be the Anglican bishop of Pittsburgh (there may well be others, but we will imagine them safely medicated and locked away). That is the definition of schism. You couldn’t possibly have a clearer case of it than two bishops laying claim to one cathedral. What Ruth has written here makes no possible sense. It’s not even untrue. It’s just totally incoherent. It’s what happens when you have to follow up someone else’s story and you have nothing whatever to add to it.
One part of me rather admires the crazed dervish skills with which Ruth gives the impression that her story is newer and bigger than the one which appeared in the Telegraph four days ago; but another part wonders whether it is entirely fair on the readers. Oh well, anyone still reading the _Times_ knows what they get these days.
fn1. I know people say there are 80m. If you believe that, you must also believe there are 25m Anglicans in England — rather more than 25 times as many as go to church on any Sunday. The Nigerian church claims 18m members, and you are free to believe their figures, too.