Stephen Bates, well known author and reporter, is leaving his post as religious affairs correspondent for the The Guardian. He has posted his last article for them from New Orleans. It can be read HERE. Stephen can be an elegant writer, whose feelings about an issue come through and reveal a person with a great heart and a longing for justice done. I hope he will continue to write on a wide variety of social and religious issues.
Stephen is a Roman Catholic married to an evangelical protestant and has spent a good bit of his time trying to makes sense of the strange geography of Anglican-land. His book, A Church at War, is one that I consider required reading. He has done a great deal to make sense out of this strange world we live in.
Today at the news conference with Archbishop Williams, Stephen led off with this questions (gotten from Matt Kennedy's transcript of the news conference) :
" Bates: ABC, have you learned anything new that you did not know before about the TEC?
ABC: yes, I have a clearer understanding of the polity of TEC and some of the assumptions that the bishops of the TEC make about the Church and its polity. Some have spoken to me about the baptismal covenant, as it works here, its importance, and how the concepts they take from the covenant make it easier to come to conclusions here that others cannot come too world-wide.
Question: Why stay together?
ABC: It would be an admission of defeat if we were to break apart. It could happen but God forbid that we cannot work together through these issues. The need we have for each other is very deep. I think the churches elsewhere need the experiences of the older churches and the older churches need the younger churches. We are not yet at the point where we are ready to admit defeat."
(Matt did not indicate that someone else asked that question, so I assume it was still Stephen Bates.)
His question was, I suppose, also his own: "Have you learned anything new that you did not know about TEC?" My sense is that Stephen was continually interested in finding the new learnings, the new understandings that grew from difficult times in the church.
What he found was too often corrosive: "It is time to move on for me professionally, and probably for Anglicans too and this marks a suitable place to stop. There is also no doubting, personally, that writing this story has been too corrosive of what faith I had left: indeed watching the way the gay row has played out in the Anglican Communion has cost me my belief in the essential benignity of too many Christians. For the good of my soul, I need to do something else."
This same corrosive despair hits many of us at one time or another. Fr. Jake scrapped the whole thing for a while and took a rest. I have been found release at one time or another for a week or two and returned refreshed, but also saddened to see the level of unkindness, or perhaps meanness, in this so called Christian community. So for the good of the soul it is sometimes necessary to come up from underground and walk the streets of a better city.
We have not heard the last from Stephen Bates, and until we hear more we will be missing a voice of considerable compassion in a church community that has lacked a sufficiency of words well and kindly written.