Great Divide

Executive editor S.C. Gwynne on the controversy among Episcopal leaders and the future of the Anglican Church.

texasmonthly.com: Why did you decide to write a story about the Episcopal Church at this time?

S.C. Gwynne: When I started reporting the story, about four and a half months had passed since the church’s leaders had voted to install a gay man as bishop of New Hampshire. It seemed like a good time to take stock of what was really happening within the church.

texasmonthly.com: Why is the Metroplex such a fascinating region in which to explore this controversy?

SCG: In many ways, Texas is the spiritual ground zero for the conservative rebellion inside the church. It was Reverend Canon David Roseberry of Christ Church, in Plano, who held the two meetings, in October 2003 and January 2004, that led to the formalization of the dissident “Network” of churches and dioceses. Texas is, of course, one of the most conservative parts of the national church. Many Episcopalians here were not comfortable with the consecration of a gay bishop. All five Texas bishops voted against it.

texasmonthly.com: How difficult was it getting access to the key figures in your story? How open were they about discussing their views?

SCG: Priests and bishops are, on the whole, extremely nice, friendly, and sincere people, just as you might imagine. Almost everyone I contacted agreed to speak with me. I think most of the people I spoke with were quite open. Obviously, though, priests are somewhat reluctant to be critical of bishops—their bosses.

texasmonthly.com: What were your impressions of Father Roseberry?

SCG: As anyone at Christ Church will tell you, he is an extremely charismatic person and an excellent speaker. He is also a force within the church, having founded the most successful start-up in its history.

texasmonthly.com: Were you able to speak with Gene Robinson, the homosexual bishop in New Hampshire whose installation escalated this debate?

SCG: I did not request an interview with Robinson because my story was focused on Texas. But I did speak with a number of people who support him, including gay clergy and vestry here in Texas.

texasmonthly.com: How did you deal with the moral issues in trying to present this story fairly and objectively?

SCG: I don’t see any moral issues here for me as a reporter. My job, as always, is to be fair to both sides and present their views. That is what I tried to do.

texasmonthly.com: Does it seem like there are two unyielding groups within the Episcopal Church, or is there a blurring between the conservative and liberal positions?

SCG: Yes, there are very distinct groups at both extremes. But my feeling is that the majority of Episcopalians are somewhere in the middle and quite torn about this issue.

texasmonthly.com: How much does the controversy affect the everyday churchgoer?

SCG: A good deal. It has been impossible to avoid it. The controversy has been on the front page of newspapers for the past six months.

texasmonthly.com: What was the most interesting thing you learned while reporting on this topic?

SCG: How powerful Episcopal bishops are. The church in America is really just a loose confederation of dioceses. That is one of the main power dynamics here: the power of bishops to do what they want inside their own dioceses.

texasmonthly.com: Do you foresee a resolution between the conservatives and the liberals? Can you forecast an outcome to the conflict?

SCG: It is hard to speculate, at least until the Eames Commission delivers its report. But if I had to guess, I would say that within the next few years, we will see in effect two churches in America, each reporting to a different presiding bishop (or “moderator” as the conservatives now call the leader of the Network). Both churches would be fully within the Anglican communion and would have traditional relationships with Canterbury and with primates [church leaders] in the 37 other provinces of the church.

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