John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, and now at

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A limit to Anglican tolerance

Anglicans, taking one with another, are a broad-minded and tolerant sort — a colleague once congratulated me on our magnanimity in not resenting the pope and his followers for having broken away from the Church of England. But I cringed this morning on my way to church as I heard a news reader on NPR refer to reaction to a previous story about conservative “Episcopals.”

Please, dear people at NPR and journalists elsewhere, keep always in mind that if you report on religion you must master the lingo. And each branch you encounter will have its own distinctive nomenclature, fatally easy to get wrong.

For purposes of the U.S. Episcopal Church, one branch of the Anglican Communion:

Episcopal (adj.)

Episcopalian (n.)

Episcopalians are members of Episcopal congregations, NOT Episcopals are members of Episcopalian congregations. The Episcopal Church — not the Episcopalian Church — is an episcopal polity (with authority given to bishops).

Do say it over to yourselves two or three times.

Then go and sin no more.

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