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July 16, 2012
In response to the Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal, like every newspaper, has a bias. But this bias has never been so pronounced as in its coverage of The Episcopal Church. Perhaps the Journal dislikes Roman Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans and Methodists equally, but it appears to have saved its deepest animosity for Episcopalians. Our church, centered on knowing God and making God known, increasingly has found itself in the newspaper’s cross hairs.
Following an unflattering broadside last October, the Wall Street Journal has doubled down on its diatribe against The Episcopal Church by substituting informed and unbiased coverage of the recently completed 77th General Convention with a snide and inaccurate hit piece by Jay Akasie. Even commentary needs to find its basis in fact, and if the writer at the WSJ was uninformed, his fact checker apparently was nonexistent.
I find it ironic that a writer for the Wall Street Journal would comment on the choice of dining establishments made by those attending General Convention. Most deputies used their vacation time to spend eight long days in Indianapolis, where temperatures regularly exceeded 100 degrees, and many meals featured plastic cutlery and paper plates. On rare occasions they and the bishops might have found time for a proper dinner. Ostentatious it was not.
How could anyone attend General Convention, where soaring worship, beautiful music and uplifting preaching marked daily worship, and note only the size of the Presiding Bishop’s crozier? And to pick two pieces of legislation out of more than 400 pieces presented (and then to mischaracterize one of them) is grossly unfair.
At this convention we decided to embark upon significant changes in our Church’s structure, agreed to trial use of a same-sex blessing policy and passed substantive resolutions in a variety of areas of our common life. Failing to address any of these key topics is to have missed the lede.
The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council (not Committee) is elected from across the Church and is made up of independent-minded people who are not under the “direct supervision” of the Presiding Bishop. Resolutions proposed to General Convention come from a variety of commissions and committees, as well as bishops, deputies and dioceses. Neither the President of the House of Deputies nor the Presiding Bishop autocratically determines what legislation comes before the bishops and lay and clergy deputies.
Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori (not Schori) works collaboratively with the President of the House of Deputies and is a capable, wise and compassionate leader who has earned the respect of Episcopalians across the theo-political spectrum.
Six members (not eight) of the deputation (not delegation) from the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina quietly left the General Convention after the vote on same-sex blessings. They did not leave the Episcopal Church and went to great pains to say so.
A newspaper that covers financial matters should know that organizations undertake restructuring for a variety of reasons. It also should know that selling an asset like a headquarters building to better accomplish the organization’s mission can be a wise thing to do and not de facto evidence of disintegration.
Our Presiding Bishop is appropriately discreet when it comes to talking about the amounts spent in defending church properties from schismatics who seek to abscond with parish properties on their way out. It is not wise to grant legal opponents information helpful to them. And secular courts have decided overwhelmingly in favor of The Episcopal Church in these unfortunate confrontations.
The totally untrue accusation that “bank accounts are running dry” would be libelous had it been leveled at a for-profit business. The Episcopal Church has ample resources to do its work, and the $111 million balanced budget passed at this Convention for the next three years is only one indicator of the financial health of the Church.
There certainly are fair criticisms to be made of our beloved Church. We do not do enough to help the poor or feed the hungry. We have not done enough to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with a world desperate to hear it. We do spend too much time addressing internal difficulties and not nearly enough time offering the world the transformational love of God.
That being said, ours is a Church with a record of being a reliable moral voice in society. We were at the forefront of advocating for labor laws that restricted the number of hours children could work. We were at the forefront of the civil rights movement, seeking to ensure that all God’s children would be treated equally. And more recently, we have been at the forefront of the movement to respect the dignity of every human being in the authorization of trial rites for same-sex blessings.
It is not political correctness that brings us to these positions but a desire to follow the loving, merciful and inclusive imperatives of Christ.
The 77th General Convention was an inspirational and newsworthy gathering of The Episcopal Church. Unfortunately, readers of The Wall Street Journal will have to look elsewhere to find out what actually happened.
The Right Reverend Dean E. Wolfe, D.D.
Vice President, House of Bishops, The Episcopal Church
Ninth Bishop, The Episcopal Diocese of Kansas