Skip to comments.Crisis? Which crisis?
Posted on 07/04/2006 6:55:37 PM PDT by sionnsar
When I started out in journalism, "crisis" was one of the overused nouns, some would say cliches, that we students at the London College of Printing were instructed to under use. Or not use at all. But the only one of my tutors who had worked on the staff of a national paper had only worked for the Guardian, and that was subbing not reporting, and he is now living in France. (Winford Hicks, in case anybody recalls him.) It's a bit like TS Eliot says, '"That was in another country, and besides the wench is dead." It was certainly another era, the fag-end of the hippy era, and none of us challenged the injunction against crises, except me, and Winford always marked me down. But I passed the course and landed up on the Daily Mail and discovered a whole new world of superlative. "Astonished", "Extraordinary", "Amazing". It was all of those and more, and I began to forget Winford.
Now that we appear to be at the fag end of Anglicanism (to risk a possibly tasteless joke), I find myself almost wishing that Winford would return from France and somehow acquire the power to indict against the word "crisis". Or not so much the word, as the phenomenon itself. Admittedly, it is difficult to see how my profession would survive were there no more crises, but there comes a point when any observer must wonder just how many more crises the Anglican Church can survive intact. "Of schism they were made, and to schism they will return," was the other title I considered for this post.
Anyway, Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria, and his bishops have resolved the problem, though not in a way that Winford would approve I think. Instead of crisis, they are speaking of a "cancerous lump". Opposing a suggestion put by the Archbishop of Canterbury that the Anglican Communion be divided into associated and constituent provinces, the Nigerian bishops have issued a statement posted on the Global South website. They praise Dr Williams for his lucid analysis of the situation in his recent letter to primates and add that his suggestions are brilliant as the heartbeat of a leader who wants to preserve the unity of the church by accommodating every shred of opinion - all because we want to make everyone feel at home. Referring to the liberals, in other words The Episcopal Church, they continue: One would have expected that those who had embarked on this religious misadventure would be encouraged to judge their actions against our well-established historic tradition. A cancerous lump in the body should be excised if it has defied every known cure. To attempt to condition the whole body to accommodate it will lead to the avoidable death of the patient. We encourage the Archbishop of Canterbury to persuade those who have chosen to walk apart to return to the path chosen by successive generations of our forebears. The Nigerians have also posted this on their own website, along with a synod communique in which they appear to challenge the need even to hold a Lambeth Conference in 2008. The discussions are continuing on all this, along with links and more analysis, on TitusOneNine, Anglican Mainstream and Thinking Anglicans. It all seems so far removed from the cordiality evident in the picture above, where Akinola is among those chatting to the US primate after a retreat he led for the Nigerian bishops.
Quite apart from all the doctrinal issues, I have a theory that one reason the Africans, and in particular Dr Akinola, are creating such an impact in this is because they actually understand the inherent power of the Anglo-Saxon tongue much better than the Americans and even some of the English themselves, for whom it is supposedly their native language. I challenge anyone to read a sermon by Frank Griswold and one by Peter Akinola and deny that Akinola's is the more gripping, the more powerful in its use of drama, the more thrilling in its eschatology. I personally found his chosen metaphor in this context obnoxious and offensive and the Nigerians have gone too far, as Akinola also did in previous comments about homosexuality and bestiality. But he certainly grabbed my attention. It is not difficult to imagine which one would write for the Guardian and which the Mail, given the opportunity. "The Word" is after all what Christianity is about, and until they understand how to use words with power, the liberals will continue to struggle.
Through all this, one organisation that must be experiencing a sense of schadenfreude from the Anglican difficulties is the Roman Catholic Church. The world has moved on from the paedophile crisis and with no schism pending, the Catholics seem beacons of unity and eirenicism. But all is not as jolly as it appears. In Tuesday's paper I reported two studies out in the last few days, both written in terms of "crisis" and one, from the Pastoral Research Centre in Somerset, claiming the Church is facing its "greatest pastoral and demographic catastrophe since the 16th century." This study is the longest but is mainly collections of tables and statistics collected by parishes and dioceses since 1911.
Shorter but consisting of useful analysis and interpretation on top of statistics, is Tom Horwood's book, The Future of the Catholic Church in Britain. Tom, who worked for six years in the Catholic Media Office, wrote this book in response to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor's plea for "a lot more lay people to speak out." I'm not sure this was quite what the Cardinal had in mind. Tom accuses his former employers of a "reactionary, defensive approach" that he says has failed. He says there is an "inability to set a clear direction" and that the bishops are ill-equipped by their backgrounds and careers to do their jobs properly.
He addresses of course the child abuse scandal. I said earlier the world had moved on. I suppose it is my world that has moved on, the media world. Thousands of others are still learning about what really happened. In WH Smith at lunchtime today, I picked up the number three bestseller in paperback, Kathy O'Beirne's "Don't Ever Tell". From the cover and inside, I learn that this is a story of a destroyed childhood. Kathy describes her incarceration in a series of Catholic homes in Ireland and how she was sexually abused and had a baby at 13 in a Magdalen laundry. She has led the campaign for justice for Magdalen girls for the past 11 years. Given how this book is selling, hundreds and thousands of people are learning the truth of the suffering of children at the hands of the Church. How can the Church survive this, and does it deserve to?
The world still seems to want a good, strong Church. The reaction to some recent stories I did, both sadly published before The Times gifted me with this astonishing new medium in which to discuss the issues they raised, indicated the strength of the passions still aroused by religion. One of the stories was about some US research that purported to prove that religion did more harm than good. The other was about a document from the Catholic bishops of England and Wales that challenged the literal truth of some passages of the Bible. So people still care. They want a godly church, and they get terribly upset when journalists appear to challenge it in any way.
But just how the Catholics and Anglicans resolve their "issues" to bring about such a godly body as a Church should be I have no idea. Describing other Christians as "cancerous lumps" cannot be the answer. I am just glad it is Rowan Williams and the Pope who have got to sort it all out, and not me.
(Note to readers: some people have been complaining they cannot access the links in my posts. That is because I post them as pop-ups so as not to direct people away from the TimesOnline site. You can override your pop-up blocker by pressing the 'ctrl' button when you click on the link. rg)
I challenge anyone to read one whole sermon by Griswold and come out with uncrossed eyes. Heck, just try reading some of his interviews or quotes. excerpt:
Bishop Frank Griswold is quoted as having said that limiting salvation exclusively to Christ is "Jesusolatry."
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