Surprising “Truth Squad” takes down WSJ op-ed

An op-ed in the Wall Street Journal published yesterday was so filled with errors and misleading statements that it brought immediate rebuttal from across the Episcopal spectrum.

The op-ed, “What ails the Episcopalians?” was written by Jay Akasie, who describes himself a “traditional Episcopalian”, wrote:

During the day, legislators in the lower chamber, the House of Deputies, and the upper chamber, the House of Bishops, discussed such weighty topics as whether to develop funeral rites for dogs and cats, and whether to ratify resolutions condemning genetically modified foods. Both were approved by a vote, along with a resolution to “dismantle the effects of the doctrine of discovery,” in effect an apology to Native Americans for exposing them to Christianity.

He claims that the church at once holds an elitist, wasteful and expensive legislative process and is run by elitists who want to end democracy; makes false statements about the Presiding Bishop and her role and makes outlandish statements about the theology of the church…including a charge that we are considering “lay presidency” at the Eucharist!

Three responses appeared fairly quickly: Bishop Kirk Smith of Arizona, Scott Gunn and George Conger.

Conger writes:

(Akasie says) “General Convention is also notable for its sheer ostentation and carnival atmosphere. For seven straight nights, lavish cocktail parties spilled into pricey steakhouses, where bishops could use their diocesan funds to order bottles of the finest wines.”

Alas if this were only true — I was present at the General Convention from start to finish and somehow missed the bacchanalia he describes. Among the nearly 5000 deputies, bishops, guests, exhibitors and members of the press corps some may have had the wherewithal to host “lavish” cocktail parties that moved on to “pricey steakhouses” – but they were not bishops. The era of privately monied bishops ended some time ago.

When Akasie makes fun of the Presiding Bishop for carrying a symbol of her office, Gunn says:

The correct reference is “Bishop Jefferts Schori.” Second, she carries a primatial cross. She is, after all, a Primate….I don’t think anyone complained when that same, exact cross was carried by men. Sigh.

Conger also reminds his readers that the primatial cross has been carried by both Bishops Brownnig and Griswold.

In addition to the author’s apparent ignorance of Episcopal polity, Gunn reminds us:

There was no debate on “developing” such things as “funeral rites” for pets. In fact, the Convention was asked to approval pastoral services for people who are grieving the loss of their pets. Surely Akasie is not so heartless as to think that the church should not care for grieving people? It makes a cute attack point, but the substance of Akasie’s attack is baseless.

The op-ed says that 815 is up for sale. It’s not. Gunn:

On Monday, for example, the church announced that its headquarters at 815 2nd Avenue in midtown Manhattan—which includes a presiding bishop’s full-floor penthouse with wraparound terrace—is up for sale.

No. In point of fact, the House of Deputies passed a resolution calling for a sale. This has less to do with financial issues than with location. The House of Bishops amended the measure, and the amended resolution was later concurred by the Deputies. There is no mention of a sale. You can see the final version of resolution D016 online. It’s simply amazing what a few minutes of research can teach a person!

Then there is biggest howler of all: Akasie makes the claim that “liberals” are driving the church towards lay presidency. This, as Conger says, is “a dead giveaway that this author does not know what he is talking about.”

The assertion that lay celebration of the Eucharist is a “favorite cause of the church’s left wing” is preposterous. It is not the left but the right who has pushed for lay presidency. The chief proponents of this change to the church’s teachings are found in the Diocese of Sydney, Australia and among low churchmen — the most vocal opponents of Bishop Jefferts Schori within the wider Anglican world.

Gunn says

If the Wall Street Journal wants to attack the Episcopal Church, they are welcome to do so. We can handle it. But I do wish they would use actual facts. I would encourage any Wall Street Journal staffer or reader to visit an actual Episcopal Church. I’ll guarantee you two things. First, it won’t be perfect. After all, the church is filled with humans. But note the second thing, and note it well. It won’t be the rancorous caricature that Mr. Akasie loves to write about.

And Conger, who is well-know and frequent critic of the Episcopal Church, says that this op-ed is unhelpful. For Conger, the issue is biblical interpretation and application in the Church, and this kind of attack does not help. So he ends with this faint praise:

While I am sympathetic to much that has been said, the article was a wasted opportunity to explain what really is going on. Reading “What Ails the Episcopalians” will not leave you any the wiser…

Of course, the point of this kind of article is not fact feelings-disguised-as-fact.

Bishop Smith concludes:

We Episcopalians can be hopeful about a church that has the self-awareness to take on its own restructuring, take prophetic positions on the world’s urgent problems, include all people in its sacramental life, and proclaim to the Good News of Jesus in many new and creative ways. And we do it all in a uniquely democratic manner, which is sometimes messy, but always Spirit-filled.

I am at loss to understand how the Journal would permit this kind of article to published in its paper without even checking basic facts. Could it be that the editorial board has connections with some of those groups who seek to discredit “mainline” American churches? In any event, such “reporting” is hardly worthy of such a venerable publication.

I have only one more thing to say to the Wall Street Journal: I am cancelling my subscription.

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