Believe it or not, your GetReligionistas are busy people who do have lives and other jobs. You can tell this from time to time when typos slip into print and we are slow to fix them. You can tell when huge stories break and it takes us a day or so to get our act together and wade through oceans of digital ink in search of a ghost or two. Is that a mixed metaphor, or what?
In that spirit, let me shamelessly offer you three links to religion-news-related work by members of the team. We start with the Rev. Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans trying to explain — in a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed — the true-blue American nature of that recent Episcopal Church General Convention.
The headline was, “A church divided by belief — Pledges of unity are ringing false as Episcopalians in America drift away.” Here’s EEE, getting to the heart of the matter:
The move to further liberalize the American church seemed strangely defiant, especially amid membership and budgetary troubles. It may now be more difficult for President Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori to defend her opposition to the Anglican Church in North America’s bid for full-fledged membership in the Anglican Communion.
Yet, in many ways, the decisions made at the convention were classically American, reflecting both Episcopal history and an ecclesiastical culture favoring majority rule. Since its formation on the heels of the American Revolution, the denomination has mirrored both the country’s profoundly individualistic spirit and its efforts to subsume multiple beliefs into a coherent whole.
The Episcopal Church has often been called “small but influential,” comprising the cultural elite at prayer. Now the denomination of so many senators and presidents is again attempting to set the cultural course for mainstream Protestantism under the flag of inclusiveness
But what does inclusiveness look like in a denomination of two million that has already lost most of its dissenters?
I had this question after reading her piece: Is the concept of doctrine now officially anti-American? I’m serious.
Meanwhile, a few comments on my recent GetReligion post about New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the New York Times and some strange church statistics inspired me to jump into the wayback machine and revisit a topic that I wrote about long ago for a quirky editor named Doug LeBlanc. The original is here (sorry about the green type and formatting issues) and the new column, “Why journalists (heart) the Episcopal Church” is here.
To cut to the chase, here are a few of my attempts to answer this seemingly timeless question: “Why does the Episcopal Church get some much news coverage?”
That’s a good question, since the Episcopal Church — with a mere 2 million members — often draws more attention than the Southern Baptist Convention, the Assemblies of God and several other major denominations combined. What’s going on? After 30 years on the religion beat, I have decided that several factors are at work.
* Many of the Episcopal Church’s most vocal leaders — such as Robinson — work in the Northeast near elite media institutions. The church’s national offices are in New York City. Meanwhile, Episcopal cathedrals elsewhere are usually in urban centers that dominate regional media. For journalists, the Episcopalians are nearby.
* Conservatives have, for decades, been on the outside looking in when the Episcopal establishment made crucial decisions, in part because many conservative dioceses are in the Sunbelt far from the action. But in the Internet age, even conservatives are seeking, and getting, more media attention.
* Colorful photographs and video clips are crucial and it’s hard to offer compelling coverage of convention centers and churches full of clergy in dull business suits. Episcopalians, however, know how to dress up. In fact, their bishops even look like the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church — the biggest religion-news game in town.
* The true religion of journalism is politics and Episcopalians love to talk politics — from global warming to feminism, from multiculturalism to military spending, from national health care to gay rights. And in recent decades the denomination’s stands on controversial social issues have meshed nicely with the editorial stands taken by America’s most powerful media corporations.
Make sure you read to the end to catch a classic soundbite from the very media savvy Bishop William C. Frey, now of the Diocese of the Rio Grande and formerly of Colorado and the Trinity Episcopal School of Ministry. What he wants to know is why other religious leaders would want the amount of coverage that Episcopalians get year after year.
That’s a good question, too.
Meanwhile, here is my bottom line on this issue:
… Episcopalians wear religious garb, work in convenient urban sanctuaries and speak the lingo of progressive politics. Their leaders look like Catholics and think like journalists.
To get away from the Episcopalians for a minute, let me note that young master Brad A. Greenberg continues his transition into the next stage of his career, which is part of what brings him to us at GetReligion. However, he is continuing his work at the Godblog, as well. Sort of. However, he recently wrote an farewell memo of sorts to his readers at The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.
You really need to click here and read the whole thing, because he has all kinds of hyperlinks in it (I will not attempt to transfer them) to interesting stories and info. I mean, it’s a blog post. It’s bloggy and, as we all know, the medium is the message.
But here’s a taste of what Brad has to say there as he goes halfway out the exit door.
The beginning of Shabbat will bring to a close my two years of wandering in the Jewish community. But this has been no desert.
Since joining The Jewish Journal in May 2007, I’ve had some amazing experiences — grilling the Israeli prime minister, interviewing my journalistic hero, going to Yom Kippur services, sitting down with Hollywood CEOs, walking the Holy Land, digging into the history of Jewish hoops.
Really, it’s been a blast. I’ve also learned a lot more about what it means to be a Christian named Greenberg and saw many of my notions of Jewish life in L.A. smashed. I’ll be reflecting on the latter in a first-person piece for The Journal next week.
When the digital version of that story goes live, we’ll ask Greenberg to shamelessly promote it here at GetReligion. Of course.
Photos: No, the top picture is not of Brad and the bottom picture is not of EEE.