Following the death of Ann Fontaine, Episcopal Cafe chose new editors. Those editors did not engage with readers, ignored submissions, and ousted at least one contributor because he was not sufficiently politically correct.
In addition, moderation was mercurial and irrational. And unfortunately, editor Amy Haynie suppressed anything critical of the church, leading to the Cafe becoming nothing more than an alternative to Episcopal News Service. In short, while it claimed to be inclusive, that notion only applied to those who never made waves. Thus, Ann Fontaine, an advocate for the marginalized and disenfranchised and a fierce friend, would have herself been unwelcome.
Comments and interaction plummeted, and the Cafe merged with Episcopal Journal.
The merger did little to slow the decline, and the combined publication today announced it is suspending publication.
While we lament the passing of the publications and the lively interaction of the old days, we believe the failure to engage with stakeholders ultimately killed the publication.
Also worth noting is that this publication got its start with Ann Fontaine. Once she realized that the Episcopal Church was not interested in addressing the abuse Anglican Watch editor Eric Bonetti and his family were experiencing — and even Michael Curry would ignore the situation — she urged Bonetti to take to social media.
This site, initially nothing more than an online repository for documentation, quickly expanded. Today, the site gets more than 400,000 visits a year, and readership is rapidly growing.
And Ann’s faith was strong enough to welcome and embrace criticism of the church.
The debacle of the publications’ closure is a lesson for the larger church: don’t forget to engage. Built and they will come is not guaranteed.
And don’t forget the positive impact even a single person, like Ann Fontaine, can bring to the church.
Nor should we forget that true inclusion extends to those with views different than ours, even when that includes criticism of the church and its conduct.
We’re also saddened that the demise of the publication shutters a progressive voice in the church.
We also welcome anyone from the publications who would like to be part of things at Anglican Watch. Yes, we ARE a platform for advocacy. But we will sincerely welcome you and treat you with respect.
Disclosure: Anglican Watch editor Eric Bonetti regularly contributed to Episcopal Cafe. He removed his content from the publication due to dissatisfaction with the direction of things under the new editor, the Rev. Amy Haynie.
We lovingly remember Ann Fontaine, a force of nature and friend to all; and the much-loved Episcopal Cafe. May they rest in peace and rise in glory. And may their memories be a blessing to all who knew them.