UPDATE: Right on time! Here's Bishop Schori's speech to the National Press Club today, thanks to Minnesota Public Radio. You can scroll down this post for the speech.
Yep, Katharine Jefferts Schori has gotten rid of the traditional church communications team at her offices in Manhattan and is now - as we write this - hitting the public relations trail (keep those tithes and offerings coming!). She's here in Washington today and speaking to the National Press Club, which is, of course, Flak Heaven. We see one article has all ready hit the LA Times (which is teetering on bankruptcy by the way) that shows us the spin that 815 (ah, your church contributions at work!) is giving the media with their rather innovative interpretation of church history.
Kendall Harmon of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina writes about this reimagined history Bishop Schori is pushing:
"Sorry to say that I regard this article as an embarrassment in lopsided reporting. First, the history itself is flawed, since Anglicanism itself came as a result of a break in the 16th century, and there is also no mention of Methodism, or more of the details of the near split of TEC during the civl war, or the Reformed Episcopal Church split in 1873. Also, could we at least have quotes from people on both sides of an argument. Why could not even one reasserter be quoted in this piece?"The answer, Kendall, is that Schori has launched a public relations tour and not a history lesson. It's about lawsuits and a public image that is so tarnished with members fleeing its churches (and it's not just about theology or social innovations, it's about a ruined public square marquee that should trouble us all - the Episcopal brand is smashed - no wonder her title of her road tour is Religion in the Public Square).
Heaven's to Betsy, it's not about getting both sides, but about attempting to repair a smashed public image in the public square as TEC continues it's march to sue and depose, sue and depose, sue and depose (who thought up this strategy anyway - Wall Street?). With the most serious journalists all fired from TEC's headquarters in New York, it is clear now that they have been replaced with public relations personnel instead. Same thing has happened on the other side of the Big Pond, as we've seen in the recent and rather dramatic change in strategy for the Archbishop of Canterbury and his media. The Episcopal/Anglican crisis is at hand.
We saw early signs of this reinvention in the reorganizational charts presented last year at the New Orleans House of Bishops meeting, only then the communications effort was divided into forks - one fork was the traditional church journalism and the other fork was for the flaks. The central focus of 815's communication efforts is to repair their image on the national stage. Schori took put a fork in the journalists, the flaks, however, remain.
At any moment we are about to hear the final ruling from the Fairfax Circuit Court on the properties of the Virginia churches that voted overwhelmingly to separate from The Episcopal Church. It makes a lot of sense to attempt to take some ground before the press is inundated with news stories regarding the Virginia ruling. The Episcopal Church has all ready announced, even before Judge Randy Bellows has issued his final judgement, that it will appeal his decision to the Virginia Supreme Court. So here we have Bishop Schori in Washington just as we expect that ruling at any time.
Alas, could not get away from the office today to catch her lunchtime remarks, but Cafe regulars are there. I did submit a question to the National Press Club though:
In Virginia alone the estimates for legal fees already top $5 million, money that could have surely been used for missionary work, helping the needy or reaching out to bring in new members. Looking back, would it have not been better to let the Virginia churches come to a settlement, which they were negotiating, instead of stepping in and forcing a protracted legal battle?Stay tuned to find out what was really on the menu.
LATER: Here is Bishop Schori's amazingly sophomoric speech (which she lectures the press to be nicer and stop writing about schism and sex) to the National Press Club today. You may need Flash Player plugins to listen to the speech:
The first questions are as if the TEC flaks wrote the questions. ??? What did you as a woman feel like?" Can anyone be more patronizing - imagine asking a male bishop, "What do you think, as man?" Oh get real. Conscience raising? Conscience raising? Oh great, and now we're going to talk about those greedy churches. Of course, TEC isn't one of those. Who are the people asking these questions? Were they in the bus with Bishop Schori? Ah, Episcopalians are broad-minded. Ah - by learning about Islam we learn about our own faith. Really. SHALOM? Shalom? Ah, it's clear that she wants to be the spokesperson for the Liberalism-dominated churches. Just makes the heart feel warm, doesn't it? "If we understand the enemy, they soon become table mates." Did she really just say that?
How do you do that PR, she's asked. Yep - it's all about PR. And Bishop Schori says the way to do it is to tell a "broader story" rather than the "conflict story." Wow, at least she's honest that she's on a PR Tour.
What are the pros and cons of two provinces? What a boring answer. She has no passion, no conviction. "It's an ecumenical relationship," she said. She says that it's separate - which is of course, not true. It's also what the lawyers are telling her to say. Uh - we're all Anglican - and some of us are actually still Episcopalian. It's TEC that went off the rail and is being held accountable for its actions. Oops, she doesn't say that. And now she has to explain to why TEC is in decline. More people die? That's why TEC is in decline - because more people die? Oh my God.
So TEC is in decline because people keep dying. Oh my God.
WHAT? "We tried for a very long time - " wait. PANTS ON FIRE! Let me get this quote exactly right:
"We tried for a very long time to negotiate and came to a place where there was no willingness to negotiate so at that point you ask the courts to enforce the laws of the land."This is so incredibly false - as we all know, the Virginia Churches were following the Diocese of Virginia's Protocol and with a Standstill Agreement in place following the voting and the recording of the votes (nothing was done to the status of the property - as was agreed in the Protocol), the actual negotiations were set to begin with the institution of what Bishop Peter James Lee called the Property Committee. Each church was to elect two representatives to join his committee and begin to work through the details on the settlement of all the properties. Truro had elected its two representatives on a Sunday and the next day, the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's chancellor David Booth Beers had a meeting with the Diocese of Virginia Standing Committee and the result of that meeting was on Wednesday the Standstill Agreement was abandoned, the Protocol was smashed, and both Bishop Schori and Bishop Lee separately filed lawsuits against nearly 200 lay volunteers and their rectors.
We were left at the table, a table hosted by Bishop Lee himself. Pants on Fire, Bishop Schori.
Bishop Schori's statement regarding Virginia - which is what Judge Randy Bellows may rule on this Friday - is so false, it is a major Pants on Fire event. Do we have to put this up yet again?
When asked about all the lawsuits - which of course are costing the Episcopal Church millions, she says, "I think we're past the worst of it ..." and then goes on to point out that the Virginia case is going to be appealed (the final ruling should be this Friday - how nice to announce the appeal before the final ruling, but she's not worried, oh no) and oh by the way, it's all based on slavery (which of course, the law is post-Civil War and was actually based on finding a way in a war-weary devastated nation to avoid more litigation and acrimony and more conflict and settle peacefully to build a road to reconciliation, which, in the case of the Methodist Church, actually did happen).
LATER: I just got off the phone with a friend and I told him about the statement that The Episcopal Church is in decline because people keep dying. He said he'd been at a holiday party filled with Emergency Room personnel and one of the ER personnel told him his philosophy of working in an ER, which of course you see the worst of the worst which one can only imagine. How do these people continue to serve, day in and day out - to see people at their worst? To which this particular ER worker said rather wryly to my friend, "Well, eventually, all bleeding stops."
Eventually all bleeding does stop. One way or the other.
She calls the loss a "significant departure." But all she can say is she'll leave the light on for ya. But she's not angry, oh no. She makes these sweeping statements - and they are just based on her PR Talking Points drawn up by the lawyers. She's got lots and lots of talking points - just like the talking points that were handed out by her office to the Episcopal bishops at the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury. It's just sad.
Live recording from last month's performance in New York City.
WEDNESDAY PM UPDATE: VirtueOnline now has a transcript of the press conference here. The video is here.