An old friend, Arnold, put me on to a new book co-authored by a friend of his, Gene Roberts. The book is The Race Beat: the press, the civil rights struggle and the awakening of a nation, published by Alfred Knopf in 2006. As I am reading it odd questions come up regarding the struggles within the Church to awaken it to its own struggles, and the part played by both the formal press and the opinions of the blogsphere. Much of the struggle on the ground was lived out in symbiotic relation to the opinion columns and reporting done regarding those efforts.
How much of what is going on in the church’s struggles is first known on the ground, and how much is in the eyes of the beholding press and bloggers and only later taken to the pew? How much is the “crisis” an invention of those who need a crisis if they are to become the saving and continuing church, or the true voice of Anglicanism in the
The role of the press, religious and otherwise, in the unfolding of scripts, agendas, party strifes, incompatible belief systems, etc of the various communities of believers is as yet unclear. It is pretty certain that the press fans the fires of contention and we bloggers spray lighter on the coals. It is less clear that the contentions were not headed towards a conflagration anyway, or that it was time to sound the alarm.
All good questions, and we in the blogsphere need to attentive to the role we play in the unfolding drama in Anglicanism. There have been several critical remarks made about the dangers of irresponsible quasi-journalism in the blogsphere. These have some foundation. At the same time the lack of transparency and evenhandedness on the part of various officials, parties and organizations in the various churches in the Anglican Communion has been well documented and confronted in both the press and in the blogs. All of which is to say we need to critique the press and opinion blogs every bit as much as we do the churches which are our focus.
The second book, recommended by the Rector of all Lewes, is The
In the long run it may be that Anglicanism’s greatest gift to the larger Christian community will be its notion that the community is ordered in faith and practice by the round of daily prayer and the celebration of Eucharist done more or less decently and in order. In all the seeming chaos of Anglican church relations these days it is the consistent return to the cycle and round of prayer and thanksgiving that keeps us sane. Perhaps in an odd way we do indeed rest in Jesus.
I cheated a bit and read the last essay in this volume after reading the first three. It is titled “The Future of Common Prayer” and written by Bishop Pierre W. Whalon. It is a highly readable and commendable short essay in which the continuing issues of Prayer Book development and change are outlined. At the close he quotes most of the third statement of the “little quadrilateral,” which in the Chicago House of Bishops version of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral precedes the big four, the Quadrilateral itself. It states, “That in all things of human ordering or human choice, relating to modes of worship and discipline (or to traditional customs,) this Church is ready in the spirit of love and humility to forgo all preferences of her own.” I don't know why he left out the matter of traditional customs, but I put it back in.
Bishop Whalon then writes,
“As Michael Ramsey argued in The Gospel and the Catholic Church, such a willingness arises from a clear perception by Anglicans of our brokenness.
And that perception itself arises from the shared, regular experience of Prayer Book liturgy. In the same experience there is to be encountered not only brokenness, but also God’s remedy and plan for it, through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. This more than anything else is what the Anglican churches must bring to the future, carrying it forward in the Book of Common Prayer.” (p. 556, Oxford Guide)
If the Anglican Communion and Anglicanism itself were to dissolve into the great pool of Christian living, for which it would be willing to “forgo all preferences of her own,” it is hoped that future Christian communities would look back and give thanks for this experiment in Common prayer so much identified with the Anglican churches. The Oxford Guide is a witness to this great experiment, so well conducted.