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NY Times branches into fiction

I groaned as soon as I saw it on my RSS reader: "Man of the Flesh to Man of the Cloth." The New York Times has this story about Ronald Boyer, who as late as January of this year was making pornographic movies, and now is at the Church of the Epiphany, which writer Sharon Waxman claims "is guiding his transformation from pornography star to preacher." While Waxman says that "the process to priesthood will take several years," she reports that Boyer "is undergoing training to become a deacon," and that he met "with his priest and with the second-ranking official of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, Bishop Suffragan Chester L. Talton, to gain approval to establish a ministry among sex workers." "To become a priest," Waxman writes, "he must study in a seminary for approximately two years and his candidacy must be approved by the diocesan bishop."

The Diocese of Los Angeles was my home for over twenty-five years. I know what the discernment process for ordination is like there, and I know +Chet Talton. I also know that it generally takes people with no prior graduate theological education at least three years to finish an M.Div., the degree required under most circumstances for ordination. And so I didn't believe Waxman's story for a minute. It didn't take long before a friend confirmed that Boyer is not in the ordination process in the Diocese of Los Angeles or anywhere else. The Times story is fiction.

And now the always-sharp Jan Nunley has talked with Boyer's rector, Hank Mitchel -- "which is more than reporter Waxman managed to do," she writes. "No one is training [Boyer] for ministry at any level," Mitchel said, and as for the supposed meeting Boyer had with Mitchel and Bishop Talton: "No way!" Mitchel said. Talton "never met with Ron. Couldn't pick him out of a crowd ... he was confirmed with about 150 others by Bishop Talton in May." And Boyer "has a long, long way to travel and a lot of spiritual growing to do before we can even think about thinking about a leadership role," his rector said.

Read the whole story at epiScope. Boyer may be interested in becoming a priest someday. I don't know whether he had any chance last week of becoming one, but as of now, I'd have to say that he's got less chance of becoming a priest than the Times' Sharon Waxman has of being a responsible reporter.

UPDATE 15 July 3:43 p.m. -- looks like StandFirm and TitusOneNine have both fallen for the story. I've got to wonder whether the whole thing was a hoax Mr. Boyer launched to generate publicity for his "Internet ministry." His rector had explained the discernment process for ordination, after all, and while Sharon Waxman should be held accountable for her failure to fact-check in any case, I don't know why she would have invented these particular facts ex nihilo. Bloggers, I understand that fact-checking may not seem like a worthy activity for "Roistering Episcopal Adventurers," but it's important if you want people to take you seriously as a reliable source for information.

UPDATE 15 July 11:09 p.m. -- The TitusOneNine "elves" have posted an excerpt from Jan Nunley's post on epiScope and a comment indicating that they "took the story at face value because it was in the NY Times, and "most of us would assume that the Times did some fact checking."

July 14, 2007 in Current Affairs, Diocese of Los Angeles | Permalink

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