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Hallo again to all.

The 2008 Lambeth Conference is fast approaching. We suspect that it will share with the Paris Peace Talks of 1973 the characteristic that all of the drama was in the run-up to the event and not the event itself, but we shall have to wait and see.

Starbox CoffeeWe planned to write in this space about the Lambeth Conference. We began by typing into our web browser. What appeared was startling. See for yourself. It took us a few seconds to realize that what we were looking at was not at all the authentic Lambeth Conference website (the architecture of the bell tower was the biggest clue). The people who made the Lambeth Conference website did it incorrectly, and so in order to get the real thing, you have to explicitly type the "www." in front of it: This is not a rare mistake; for example, the websites of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Dioceses of Birmingham and Chelmsford and Coventry (and half a dozen others) also get it wrong. Try navigating to or and see what you get.

We stumbled across a big tangle of identity failures. We wouldn't say 'identity theft', because with the exception of the fake Lambeth Conference site we don't think anything fraudulent has occurred, but we're comfortable with 'identity morass' or 'identity mess'. You've probably seen many warnings about the need to be careful that you have reached the true internet site for your bank, but who knew that you needed to be just as careful that you have reached the true internet site for your church?

This would only be a small giggle were it not for the identity breakdown on the other end of all of these names. If you start researching the ownership of the domain names we've been discussing, you'll find mention of the Anglican Communion Office on Tavistock Crescent, the Anglican Consultative Council on Waterloo Road, the Society of Archbishop Justus in California and St Albans, and the Council on Forest Engineering. Then there are multiple Primates Councils, there are Archbishop's Councils and an Archbishops' Council. Not only is it hard to tell which name connects to which organization, it's hard to tell one organization from another. For the nonce, no one seems to have set up a competing Anglican Communion Office that claims to be the only legitimate one, but, if they did, the hapless online visitor would first have to figure out what exactly the Anglican Communion Office might be, then figure out whether or not the web address was correct, and finally figure out whether or not the Anglican Communion Office thereby reached was the old one or the new one. It reminds us of the emotional trauma of trying to find a taxicab in Kabul: 'Is this taxi driver a legitimate taxi driver, or is he a criminal preying on Western tourists who can't read or speak Dari or Pashto?'

Channel 55 perfrume from PragueNow add the intentional FUD that has been cropping up around the Anglican World as part of the ongoing global power struggle. Some cities have two churches with the same name, each claiming to be the 'real' church and accusing the other of schism. Every week we read of a public statement by an Anglican authority that he and he alone can vouch for authenticity in things Anglican.

It has already become a brand-management problem. Anglicans Online gets letters quite regularly from people who are in effect asking

'I want to find an Anglican church to attend, but it has to be the real church and not one of the shams. None of the church websites actually tell you whether they are part of the Real Anglican Church™. Can you help me find a Real church? I would so hate to get all dressed up on Sunday morning only to find that I went to the wrong kind of Anglican church.'

We know that none of these modern-day Seekers began their quest by looking for the Lambeth Conference website and failing to find the Real one. We try to respond by helping them figure out what they mean by Real, and then guiding them towards someone who shares that perception who can help them further.

Brand management in consumer goods is a never-ending struggle. While the laws vary from country to country, a trademark holder is usually expected to defend their mark aggressively or risk losing it. The legal battles over trademark infringement often hinge on arguments that 'the consumer will be confused'. That confusion results in sentences like 'Where can I find a real Thermos brand thermos?'

Right now the Anglican world is in a state of intense consumer confusion. There are so many associations, fellowships, networks, and other groupings that few but the combatants are paying attention any more. The public has it boiled down to distinguishing 'the Anglican church that supports women and homosexuals as clergy' and 'the Anglican church that forbids women or homosexuals from becoming clergy', and no matter what we say, advertise, publish, press-release, argue, or pray, that's how we've been taxonomized.

Only in Zimbabwe do they send troops to the church to beat the occupants and close the doors if it's the wrong sort. In other countries people just stay home or shop or watch football instead of attending. Apathy is more effective than violence. If we could only figure out who the right authorities were, why, we'd tell them that they need to become the right sort; set them straight. But we can't figure out if we should be talking to the People's Front of Judea or to the Judean Peoples' Front.

See you next week. The Real Anglicans Online, at since 1999.

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Last updated: 6 July 2008

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