There's a glaring error in a 1A story from the Washington Post

Can you spot the mistake? It’s in this story about parishes and dioceses that have split from the Episcopal Church since the ordination of a practicing homosexual as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003:

“They say the Episcopal leadership defines Scripture on modern rather than eternal standards, and they take exception to the ordination of female clergy, the full acceptance of gays and lesbians and what they see as reduced importance in the role of Jesus for a believer’s redemption.”

One could debate the squishy language about the “full acceptance of gays and lesbians.” Arguably, one can fully accept gays and lesbians and still uphold traditional Christian teachings about fidelity in marriage and chastity in singleness — for heterosexuals and homosexuals alike.

But the indisputable problem with the story, I think involves the claim that “they” (breakaway Episcopalians) “take exception to the ordination of female clergy.” That will come as a surprise to the ordained Episcopal women who have left the Episcopal Church in the past five years to protest its policies.

Yes, some of the people leaving the Episcopal Church oppose women’s ordination. But many (perhaps a majority of those exiting) actually support women’s ordination.

You won’t see this error, I’m guessing, in any of the stories by The Washington Times’ Julia Duin.
(Click here to read the rest of the story from today’s Post.)

Updated: October 15, 2008 — 12:21 pm


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  1. This points out a detail that’s often left out of this story, that this is actually the second modern schism from the Episcopal Church. Back in the ’70s, when the church first began ordaining women, a number of parishes split with the church over that issue, and over the related issue of the adoption of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, which contains modern language prayers as well as the originals that were written in the 1500s. These parishes didn’t run to other branches of the Anglican Communion, but rather formed their own independent denomination, or perhaps more than one of them.

    As far as I can tell, Lexington now has three separate groups of Anglicans: the parishes of our local Episcopal diocese, an “Anglican” parish that split off from that Diocese, and another parish that calls itself “Anglican Catholic,” and stresses in its newspaper ads that it uses the old 1928 Book of Common Prayer. Though the ads don’t say so, I suspect that this parish doesn’t believe in the ordination of women. My only friend among the new schismatics is a woman who is studying to be a priest, so Frank is quite correct that many in the current breakaway movement do support the ordination of women — presumably so long as they are not lesbian — to the priesthood.

    Amidst all the claims that the Episcopal Church is dying, it’s nice to know that even folks who disagree with us still want to be Anglican.

  2. They say the Episcopal leadership defines Scripture on modern rather than eternal standards,

    This is what I would call a huge mistake. Obviously, modern standards are definitely not equivalent to eternal standards or destinations.

  3. The dirty little secret, Peach, is that every church defines and interprets scripture according to its own beliefs. We look at scripture exactly like the early church looked at it, as a guide and an important source for inspiration, but not as the be all and end all of theology. Our theology, as I’ve written before, is a blend of scripture, church teaching, and a third component made up of reason or experience. This three legged stool has served us well for over 500 years, a period longer than most protestant churches have been in existence. The idea of sola scriptura, that scripture is the sole source of inspiration and doctrine, is a very new concept, first derived during the Protestant Reformation, and is not the church’s traditional teaching on the subject. We believe that our theological beliefs are far more in line with the long tradition of Christianity than those that espouse a scripture-only approach.

  4. Caleb: Frank said there was a glaring mistake in the 1A story. So what would you call eternal standards in the story, or does it mean something different than what I take it for? The first line I wrote was in the story which states: They say the Episcopal leadership defines Scripture on modern rather than eternal standards.

  5. “They say the Episcopal leadership defines Scripture on modern rather than eternal standards…”

    Peach, in the excerpt that you cite, “They” are the conservative Episcopalians who want to break away. “They” are expressing their perception of the mainstream ECUSA church, which might not agree with this description. If you really want to know the official stand of the ECUSA regarding scriptural authority, ask the official representatives of the ECUSA rather than dissidents who are conducting a PR battle in the public forum.

    As in all politics, be wary of what “They” say about the other side. “They” might be misleading and self-serving.

  6. Both you guys are talking about something that is way off course. Frank asked what the glaring error was in the story. I am not asking about “they” or what side the political spectrum your on. I am asking about moral standards and Eternal standards.

    If I wrote this article, I do not believe I would have used the term “eternal” standard.
    liberal standard, conservative standard, maybe even ancient standards, or archaic standards; but eternal standard–who is in charge of ‘setting’ the “eternal” standard?

  7. Peach, the glaring error that Frank pointed out was that most of the schismatics, who oppose the ordination of gays and lesbians, do not also oppose the ordination of women, as the first round of schismatics, in the ’70s, did. Most of the modern group of schismatics are fine with ordaining women, just not gays or lesbians.

    As far as the quote about eternal, as opposed to presumably non-eternal, standards, as I said above, my view is that the standards adopted by the orthodox church are eternal. The schismatics have a very narrow view of scripture, one that is not a traditionally Anglican or Catholic approach to scripture, and that is more closely aligned with the views of evangelical protestants than that of the Episcopal Church as a whole.

    Everyone wants to take all the good words for his own argument. What the schismatics meant was that their views are more conservative than ours, but instead used the word “eternal,” because it sounds more church-like than conservative. In fact, their view is narrow, based on modern, not ancient, theological ideas, and is in no way eternal.

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