March 27, 2009

Oh, that Pittsburgh!

I ran into a friend in the parish office the other day. He was reading the March 22, 2009, issue of The Living Church, and he pointed out a disturbing item he had just found. In the “People & Places” feature at the back of the magazine was this entry under “Ordinations/Priests”:
Pittsburgh — Aaron Carpenter, Keith Pozzuto, Aaron Zimmerman.
The item followed similar listings from Maine, Newark, and elsewhere, and it was followed by listings from Rio Grande, West Virginia, and other dioceses.

What troubled my friend was that the ordinations in Pittsburgh were not ordinations in the Diocese of Pittsburgh in The Episcopal Church. They were instead ordinations performed by Robert Duncan, deposed Episcopal bishop who now claims to head the “Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican),” which is allegedly part of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

Sandwiched as it was among notices from 11 dioceses of The Episcopal Church, most readers would not have known that the ordinations listed for Pittsburgh had nothing to do with The Episcopal Church.1 Surely, the staff of the magazine knew this. Why was the jurisdiction of the ordinations left ambiguous? Why, in fact, were these ordinations noted at all? The magazine has not been in the habit of noting ordinations in, say, the Reformed Episcopal Church.

The masthead characterizes The Living Church as “An independent weekly serving Episcopalians since 1878.” Magazine covers used to carry the tag line “An independent weekly serving Episcopalians,” but this has been changed recently to “An independent weekly supporting catholic Anglicanism.” (Perhaps that’s “Catholic Anglicanism.” The tag line is in all caps on the front of the magazine.)2 The magazine’s editorial policy has been sharply critical of The Episcopal Church in recent years, and its editor-designate, Christopher Wells, is a person of strong Anglo-Catholic leanings who would like to see church doctrine dictated by an Anglican Communion body outside The Episcopal Church.

What is going on at the magazine that for so long has been the best source of news for Episcopalians about The Episcopal Church? Is it broadening its scope? Is it hedging its bets? I believe that the shift in the tag line from “Episcopalians” to “catholic Anglicanism,” as well as the shift from “serving” to “supporting” are both significant. I fear that The Living Church is increasingly viewing its mission as one of advocacy, rather than journalism, and many Episcopalians are not very happy about what it seems to be advocating. I hope I am wrong about this, and I have to admit that I have no idea what purpose was served by not indicating clearly what “Pittsburgh” referred to in its March 22 ordination listings. Perhaps it was something of a trial balloon or a way of subtly expanding its coverage to those groups forming the new Anglican Church in North America. I do know that friends who have read The Living Church regularly now seem pretty much fed up with it.

1 The ordinations are all listed on the calendar of the breakaway group led by Duncan. Aaron Carpenter’s ordination took place on December 9, 2008, at St. Philip’s, Moon Township. That of Keith Pozzuto took place at Christ Church, Brownsville, on December 12, 2008. The ordination of Aaron Zimmerman was held at St. Stephen’s, Sewickley, on January 24, 2009.

2 After this post was written, it was pointed out to me that The Living Church Foundation, Inc., the publisher of The Living Church, has its mission statement on the Web. That mission statement begins: “The historic mission of The Living Church Foundation is to promote and support Catholic Anglicanism within the Episcopal Church.” Notice the capital “C.” Reading this page also made we aware that the banner of the Web site of the foundation has changed. It used to read (I reproduce the case use this time): “THE LIVING CHURCH FOUNDATION[:] SERVING EPISCOPALIANS since 1878.” The banner now reads: “THE LIVING CHURCH NEWS SERVICE OF THE LIVING CHURCH FOUNDATION, INC.[:] REACHING OUT TO ANGLICANS EVERYWHERE.” Apparently Bob Duncan still qualifies as “Anglican.”

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