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Self censorship and the New York Times: Get Religion, December 5, 2012 December 5, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Al Qaeda, Free Speech, Get Religion, Islam, Persecution.
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An International Herald Tribune report about Pakistan seems a bit confused as to what constitutes sectarian violence. Written under the title “Christian Aid Worker Is Shot in Pakistan” the article from the New York Times’ international edition ties together three different stories in one article. But it does not want to say why.

This story with a dateline of Hong Kong is a compilation of Pakistani press reports and wire service bulletins. As per its ethical reporting standards, the Times‘ man acknowledges his debt to these sources, though he did make a few phone calls to provide some original material to the stories. As this is a first report on the incidents I am not that concerned with how complete it is or if all the facts are properly nailed down. My interest in in how the reporter laid out his story given what he had in hand.

And it is the construction of the article and the unwillingness to state the obvious that leads me to say the Times has lost the plot.

The shooting of Swedish missionary, an attack on a Ahmadiya graveyard, and the kidnapping of a Jewish-American aid worker all have something in common (it is called militant Islam) but the Times’ reporter appears at a loss as to how to put the pieces together. Last month the New York Times brought on board as its CEO Mark Thompson, the former Director General of the BBC. It also appears to have taken on board Thompson’s policy of treating Islam with kid gloves.

Here is the lede:

HONG KONG — A Swedish woman doing charity work through her evangelical church was shot outside her home in Lahore on Monday, according to news reports from Pakistan. A gunman riding a motorcycle fired at the 72-year-old woman as she got out of her car in the upscale Model Town neighborhood.

It was not immediately clear whether the attack was sectarian in nature or was perhaps linked to another event Monday in Model Town in which masked gunmen vandalized a cemetery.

The article then goes into the details as they were known of the attack and then links to the second subject with this transitional sentence:

But early Monday morning in Model Town, gunmen tied up the caretakers of an Ahmadi cemetery and desecrated more than a hundred grave markers, the Express Tribune newspaper reported.

The Times gives details of the attack on the graveyard, notes that Ahmadiya Muslims are “considered heretical by mainstream Muslims”, and recounts past terror attacks and government fostered discrimination against the Ahmadiyas.

The story closes with the tale of a kidnapped American aid worker Warren Weinstein seized by al Qaeda last year. Details of Mr. Weinstein’s plight are offered and a quote from an earlier Times story is offered.

Mr. Weinstein, now 71, also appeared in a video in September, embedded below, in which he appeals for U.S. acceptance of the Qaeda demands. At one point he addresses Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, saying:

Therefore, as a Jew, I’m appealing to you, Prime Minister Netanyahu, the head of the Jewish state of Israel, one Jew to another, to please intervene on my behalf. To work with the mujahideen and to accept their demands so that I can be released and returned to my family.

These three stories share the common theme of extremist Muslim violence against religious minorities in Lahore: Christians, Ahmadiyas and Jews. What then is the problem I have with this article, you might ask?

Look at the second sentence of the story.

It was not immediately clear whether the attack was sectarian in nature or was perhaps linked to another event Monday in Model Town in which masked gunmen vandalized a cemetery.

The choices the Times is offering the reader are: a) the shooting of the Christian missionary was a sectarian act; or b) it was not a sectarian act but somehow linked to the attack by Salafist Muslims against an Ahmadiya graveyard. Perhaps I am thick but I do not see the distinction between a and b. Are they not both sectarian attacks?

And by adding in Mr. Weinstein’s case, which also took place in Lahore and also has a religious element — an American Jew being held captive by Muslim extremists who is forced to make a plea to the Israeli prime minister for his life — the militant Islam links are all there. But the Times does not want to connect the dots.

Why? Maybe the author was in a rush to get something into print quickly and mangled his syntax. Or is this an example of the Times‘ stifling political correctness? Is the Times heading the way of the BBC and self-censoring its stories?

In March 2012 the Daily Telegraph carried a short item reporting on Mark Thompson’s decision not to broadcast a show that might be offensive to Muslims.

Although the BBC was willing to disregard protests from Christians who considered its decision to broadcast Jerry Springer: The Opera as an affront, Mark Thompson, its outgoing director-general, is more wary of giving airtime to Can We Talk About This?, the National Theatre’s examination of how Islam is curtailing freedom of speech.

Lloyd Newson, the director of the DV8 physical theatre company which staged the new work, challenged Thompson to screen his production during a platform discussion at the theatre.

He pointed out that Jerry Springer: The Opera was a lot more controversial because it was a “satire”, whereas his work, consisting of a series of comments and factual statements set to dance, is “a factual piece”.

Thompson’s spokesman tells me: “We are currently working with the National on various ideas. There are currently no plans to broadcast Can We Talk About This?, but this is not due to the play’s content or themes.”

In the past, Thompson has conceded that there is “a growing nervousness about discussion about Islam”. He claimed that because Muslims were a religious minority in Britain, and also often from ethnic minorities, their faith should be given different coverage to that of more established groups.

Has more than Mark Thompson crossed the Atlantic from London? While the Times has long been a bastion of PC reporting, its aping of the BBC’s supine stance on Islam is disappointing. The hiring of Mark Thompson did not cause the New York Times to engage in self-censorship on Islam — but I suspect courage will not be one of the strengths he will bring to his new post.

First posted in GetReligion.

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Overseas Anglican plaudits for the next Archbishop of Canterbury: The Church of England Newspaper, November 18, 2012 p 5. November 21, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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Anglican leaders have welcomed the news of the appointment of Justin Welby as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.  The plaudits for the Bishop of Durham, however, have been mixed with advice and pleas for leadership from Canterbury for the factious Anglican Communion.

The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Bishop David Chillingworth welcomed the appointment writing that Justin Welby  and added that he hoped the new archbishop would support the Indaba process – a conversation project between liberals and conservatives in the communion backed by the Anglican Consultative Council.  Bishop Chillingworth said he “enjoyed and valued my contacts with [Bishop Welby].  In the early stages of what has become Continuing Indaba – a movement of honest conversation across difference – his wide knowledge of the Anglican Communion, particularly in Africa, was of great importance.”

The leader of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala also praised the appointment, but noted that for Anglicans in the developing world, a common faith was more important than a common ecclesiastical structure.

The Kenyan archbishop said he hoped the new archbishop would rethink the current structures of the common and accept the African church’s view that “the chair of the Primates Meeting should be elected by the Primates themselves” and not go to the Archbishop of Canterbury by right.

“Our proposal, while not intended to deny the honour due to Canterbury as an historic see, is an expression of the truth we hold as vital, that our identity as Anglicans stems first and foremost from adherence to the faith we confess. It is this which gives substance and integrity to our bonds of affection and our efforts to relieve poverty and promote development.”

The new archbishop may have won over the Church of Uganda, which has withdrawn from inter-Anglican affairs since the 2008 Lambeth Conference..

“We are pleased to hear that he is an evangelical and will pray for him to lift up Jesus as “the way, the truth, and the life,” and to set the Word of God written as the authority for our common faith and morality,” Ugandan provincial secretary Canon George Bagamuhunda wrote.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the USA, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said she was “delighted” with the news, but added she expected Bishop Welby would have rough going as archbishop. “I give thanks for his appointment and his willingness to accept this work, in which I know his gifts of reconciliation and discernment will be abundantly tested.  May God bless his ministry, shelter his family, and bring comfort in the midst of difficult and lonely discernment and decisions.”

Conservative American pressure groups like the American Anglican Council have urged the new archbishop to hold the line on gay blessings and clergy, but liberal American groups have asked the new archbishop to listen to them instead.

The Chicago Consultation, a politically influential liberal pressure group, welcomed the news noting the new archbishop was “known for his pragmatic approach to conflict resolution and his personal courage as an agent of reconciliation.”

They added they were “heartened that Archbishop-elect Welby decried homophobia in his opening press conference, and we hope that he will listen with an open heart to the voices of the millions of faithful lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians across the Anglican Communion.”

The leader of the Anglican Church League in Sydney, Dr. Mark Thompson, wrote that “conservative Evangelicals could see a “great deal that is wonderfully hopeful in this appointment. Bishop Welby self-identifies as an evangelical. He is able to communicate clearly and winsomely.”

However, Dr. Thompson said the test would come in the new archbishop’s actions, not through is words.  As Bishop Welby “prepares to take up this challenging role at a very challenging time, one characteristic that has not been attributed to him is ‘courage’.”

Will Bishop Welby “stand up” to the Episcopal Church? Will he “call to account” Anglicans who have moved away from a Scriptural faith? Will he “stand” with the Global South “in the task of proclaiming Christ to a lost world?” Will he fire “Canon Kenneth Kearon and the others in the Anglican Communion Office who have manipulated the ACC agenda over the past decade in extraordinarily unhelpful ways?”

Will he “challenge” the British government over gay marriage? Will he support evangelicals in the Church of Scotland, in Canada and in the U.S. as well as Christians in the Muslim majority world who are being “persecuted” because of their faith.  And will he stand with members of the Church of England who in good conscience cannot accept the oversight of a woman bishop?”

“With such courage, and by God’s grace, respect for his office and health for the Church of England and the Anglican Communion might indeed return,” Dr. Thompson said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Sydney rejects Anglican Covenant: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 21 2011 p 7. October 25, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Covenant, Church of England Newspaper.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Sydney has rejected the Anglican Covenant. The 11 October vote by the 49th meeting of the Diocese of Sydney Synod likely spells the death knell for Dr Rowan Williams’ plan for a global agreement to set the parameters of doctrine and discipline for the Anglican Communion.

Support for the Covenant peaked in the run-up to the 2009 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Kingston, however, Dr Williams’ untimely intervention into the Covenant debate and changes made to the document have alienated both left and right.

Liberal dioceses in New Zealand, Australia and the US have rejected the plan as un-Anglican, while the Global South Primates last year stated that “while we acknowledge that the efforts to heal our brokenness through the introduction of an Anglican Covenant were well intentioned, we have come to the conclusion the current text is fatally flawed and so support for this initiative is no longer appropriate.”

The Sydney motion was moved by Dr Mark Thompson of Moore College, and assistant chancellor Robert Tong, and followed a September recommendation by the diocesan standing committee to reject the Covenant.

In his report to Synod, Dr Thompson said the Covenant was “the wrong approach to the crisis in the Communion; the proposed Covenant has serious theological flaws; and it just won’t work: it won’t solve the crisis.”

The difficulties in the Anglican Communion “ought to have been addressed in terms of the New Testament patterns of fellowship rather than with a fresh appeal to law or regulation,” Dr Thompson said.

He added that “fellowship is nourished by our common commitment to truth and so faithfulness to the teaching of Scripture; it is undone by a refusal to submit to the teaching of God’s word.”

Creating a Covenant that establishes a “new legal structure that is incapable of distinguishing between the betrayal of biblical principle on the one hand, and unpopular but faithful adherence to biblical principles on the other” will not work, he argued.

Dr Thompson cited five theological flaws in the proposed agreement. “It fails to give sufficient attention to historic Anglican formularies; It embodies a confused ecclesiology; It expresses an inflated view of the Anglican bishop; It gives formal expression to an accrual of inordinate power and authority by the Archbishop of Canterbury; and the Covenant fails to give due weight to the teaching of Scripture.”

The Anglican Communion Covenant as it has been drafted is “fundamentally concerned with maintaining structural and institutional unity rather than with biblical faithfulness,” Dr Thompson argued.

“Those who have created the problem won’t sign it; and if they did without repenting of the departures from the teaching of Scripture it would only demonstrate the uselessness of the Covenant itself. What is more, a number of orthodox Anglican provinces throughout the world have already indicated they won’t sign it for various other reasons,” he noted.

“It’s the wrong way of dealing with the problem; the draft given to us has serious theological flaws; and in the end it just won’t work,” Dr Thompson said.

Synod adopted the motion by an overwhelming majority.