The Associated Press moved a story last night by Rachel Zoll about the “tone” of the debate in the Episcopal Church over human sexuality, and whether new communications technology has contributed to a general decline in civility. You can find it here.
A few excerpts:
“Kendall Harmon has to monitor his blog these days, so he can delete insults and offensive language from the comments section.
His topic: the Episcopal Church, a member of the worldwide Anglican communion.
As a critical church meeting nears over homosexuality, the debate online and in public comments has grown so intense that one publication has dubbed it “blood sport.”
‘I think people are dreading possible outcomes and when you’re dealing with the unknown, fear kicks in in a big way,” said Harmon, a minister and conservative leader in the diocese of South Carolina. ‘And I do think things are more polarized now.’ ” …
Here is my favorite part:
‘A conservative group called Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion is pressing for a church trial of Robinson and the dozens of bishops who consecrated him. A spokesman for the advocates, James Ince, said his group was engaged in ‘a fight to the death of our church.’ ‘ The debate is becoming more direct and truthful, not harsh, he said.
“You can expect the liberals not to appreciate the clear, straight language from lay organizations because they’re used to this goody goody two-shoes pantywaist stuff,” Ince said.
(I want to thank Mr. Ince for making folks on his side of the debate in our Church sound more extreme than I could ever hope to.)
“Perhaps the most inflammatory commentary can be found on the website virtueonline, where founder David Virtue offers his own and others’ traditionalist views in ways that even some fellow conservatives find offensive. For example, Virtue refers to one of the church’s first openly gay priests as the `irst Sodomite.’ Virtue caused an uproar at the 2003 general convention when he published last-minute claims of impropriety against Robinson that bishops quickly deemed baseless.”
One last editorial comment: I don’t think, and the story doesn’t imply, that Kendall Harmon indulges in the rheotrical self-indulgence dear to Ince, Virtue and lately, Dean Paul Zahl of the Trinity School of Ministry, whom one assumed would know better. Few people work as hard as he does to keep the debate civil.
I guess while I am on this topic I should say that I think argument–vigorous, respectful argument–is an essential tool in finding our way forward as a Church. I don’t think we should shy away from that sort of “fight” for lack of a better word. I just wish there was a referee who could help us keep it clean. I should also mention that I am also quoted in this story, but if you visit the blog much you already know what I think, so I didn’t reproduce those parts.