Why We Need an Independent United Methodist Press

Why We Need an Independent United Methodist Press June 3, 2013

This link will take you to a  well done article that summarizes the relevant details of the Bishop Bledsoe episode and also examines the exorbitant costs.

Bishop Bledsoe’s response to the costs? “It is what it is . . . Obviously that money could have been used for other things. I’m not so sure, given the realities of the situation, it could have been any different.”

My first response, “Oh yes, yes it could have.”

My second response: This article is an example of simply superb reporting by journalist Sam Hodges, who was until Thursday, May 31, 2013, the Managing Editor of The United Methodist Reporter.

A storm of forces, including in my opinion, serious short-sightedness by United Methodist Women and by large Annual Conferences who chose to go completely electronic in their communications, led to the closing of this institution. This article in the Dallas Morning News offers a good history of this important and independent voice.

Now it is gone. What’s left? Well, there are a bunch of bloggers connected with the UMC.  This site aggregates many of those blogs and sends out emails to subscribers with the latest posts.  But we, for I am one whose blog is picked up by the Methoblog, are bloggers, after all. We offer opinion pieces, random thoughts, sermon notes, theological labyrinths, and clergy rants and ramblings.

We are not reporters. We are not independent–most of us are appointed clergy, serving at the pleasure (or displeasure) of our respective Bishops. While we can be controversial and ask really important questions, our focus stays with our respective charges.

Opinions are great and can be dashed off fairly quickly while tending to our primary responsibilities–but serious reporting demands full-time attention and a means of financial support.

I do not have a solution here. I do have major concerns. As a nation, the free, independent press has been an important shaping force as we’ve sought to live through this experiment called “democracy.”

Autocratic nations routinely shut down independent voices.

I hope this does not happen to us. But it may be too late.


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Don Wiley

    No time for long stuff this morning… The church is not democratic, fair, rights-based or a guarantor of freedoms of press, speech, assembly or religion – if it were, we would be a theocracy. What we NEED to be as a church is a place where people can speak freely, write openly and meet collectively without fear. That does not mean she/he will not be criticized or questioned. It simply means they will not be losing a job or a place that welcomes their voice.

    We need some professional communicators (for that is what reporters are…) who have license to write critically about what we do. Let’s put this another way: Jim Winkler found a home in this church to do and say things which were not popular with the rank and file of the United Methodist church, nor favor-gathering with much of the structure of the connection. I am full of hope that we will find digital/cloud alternatives to UMR which the connectional church, conferences, groups of churches or private foundations will find a calling – and a way – to fund….

  • Don Wiley

    No time for long stuff this morning… The church is not democratic, fair, rights-based or a guarantor of freedoms of press, speech, assembly or religion – if it were, we would be a theocracy. What we NEED to be as a church is a place where people can speak freely, write openly and meet collectively without fear. That does not mean she/he will not be criticized or questioned. It simply means they will not be losing a job or a place that welcomes their voice.

    We need some professional communicators (for that is what reporters are…) who have license to write critically about what we do. Let’s put this another way: Jim Winkler found a home in this church to do and say things which were not popular with the rank and file of the United Methodist church, nor favor-gathering with much of the structure of the connection. I am full of hope that we will find digital/cloud alternatives to UMR which the connectional church, conferences, groups of churches or private foundations will find a calling – and a way – to fund….

  • John H

    I mourn the loss of the United Methodist Reporter. It introduced me to some really vital voices within the UMC (e.g., Andrew Thompson) and helped me understand a bit of what was going on in “the big church”. The UMNS is sadly a “house organ” for which correct perspective sometimes overrides good reporting. You are certainly correct that we need better communication. I attended my first Annual Conference (as a lay member) in several years and was surprised at how disconnected the Conference leadership and churches seemed to be. There is much that the Annual Conference staff and ministry team are doing to help re-vitalize congregations; but, despite good efforts and wise people, it seems disconnected from the reality of many of our churches. In many cases, the churches don’t know that the Annual Conference staff and ministry team are doing or how to take advantage of it. The UMR was really not a solution there, though we incorporated part of it in the Conference Newsletter and it was our publisher for the newsletter. We need to try to improve communication both ways.

    This Annual Conference (New Mexico) was also an opportunity for me to see Bishop Bledsoe for the first time . I believe (hope) that things here will work out better than they did in North Texas. (I don’t know, is that a “damning with faint praise” sort of statement?) Bishop Bledsoe seemed somewhat chastened by his experience and says he is focusing on getting to know the churches in his episcopacy – a real geographical challenge in New Mexico / Northwest Texas, which is huge with many little churches. The Conference office has been reorganized with the addition of a Provost who serves as a bit of a buffer between the Bishops and the DS’s. The incumbent is a pretty level headed individual who has been a successful pastor and active in the “big church.” The Conference Episcopacy Committee, with the support of the SE Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee, has gotten the bishop a coach and, so far, he appears amenable to using the coach. But things are still early and we will need to see how the situation evolves as Bishop Bledsoe’s leadership style becomes more evident.

    • Don Wiley

      John,

      I am praying for New Mexico/Northwest Texas to have the very best of experiences and inspired, humble servant leadership for your conference…

    • I also am praying for all of you in your Annual Conference. I do so genuinely want it to be well with you. If Bishop Bledsoe is willing to start by actually staying in the Conference and getting to know it, that alone would be an improvement. Please keep us posted as you are able.

      • John H

        Thanks for your prayers. As always, we need them.

  • John H

    I mourn the loss of the United Methodist Reporter. It introduced me to some really vital voices within the UMC (e.g., Andrew Thompson) and helped me understand a bit of what was going on in “the big church”. The UMNS is sadly a “house organ” for which correct perspective sometimes overrides good reporting. You are certainly correct that we need better communication. I attended my first Annual Conference (as a lay member) in several years and was surprised at how disconnected the Conference leadership and churches seemed to be. There is much that the Annual Conference staff and ministry team are doing to help re-vitalize congregations; but, despite good efforts and wise people, it seems disconnected from the reality of many of our churches. In many cases, the churches don’t know that the Annual Conference staff and ministry team are doing or how to take advantage of it. The UMR was really not a solution there, though we incorporated part of it in the Conference Newsletter and it was our publisher for the newsletter. We need to try to improve communication both ways.

    This Annual Conference (New Mexico) was also an opportunity for me to see Bishop Bledsoe for the first time . I believe (hope) that things here will work out better than they did in North Texas. (I don’t know, is that a “damning with faint praise” sort of statement?) Bishop Bledsoe seemed somewhat chastened by his experience and says he is focusing on getting to know the churches in his episcopacy – a real geographical challenge in New Mexico / Northwest Texas, which is huge with many little churches. The Conference office has been reorganized with the addition of a Provost who serves as a bit of a buffer between the Bishops and the DS’s. The incumbent is a pretty level headed individual who has been a successful pastor and active in the “big church.” The Conference Episcopacy Committee, with the support of the SE Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee, has gotten the bishop a coach and, so far, he appears amenable to using the coach. But things are still early and we will need to see how the situation evolves as Bishop Bledsoe’s leadership style becomes more evident.

    • Don Wiley

      John,

      I am praying for New Mexico/Northwest Texas to have the very best of experiences and inspired, humble servant leadership for your conference…

    • I also am praying for all of you in your Annual Conference. I do so genuinely want it to be well with you. If Bishop Bledsoe is willing to start by actually staying in the Conference and getting to know it, that alone would be an improvement. Please keep us posted as you are able.

      • John H

        Thanks for your prayers. As always, we need them.

  • Scott Dornbush

    The free press is not gone…just changing forms. This is not an example of an autocratic nation shutting down free press…rather it demonstrates that if an institution fails to adapt to a changing environment it will die. Annual Conferences and UMW changed to an electronic venue because it is more cost effective and time sensitive. My church is struggling to make these adjustments, but we are struggling and that means we are trying so we will make it.

    The free press, especially the faith-based voice, is needed now. May God grant us wisdom as we learn to proclaim the gospel in the emerging culture.

  • Scott Dornbush

    The free press is not gone…just changing forms. This is not an example of an autocratic nation shutting down free press…rather it demonstrates that if an institution fails to adapt to a changing environment it will die. Annual Conferences and UMW changed to an electronic venue because it is more cost effective and time sensitive. My church is struggling to make these adjustments, but we are struggling and that means we are trying so we will make it.

    The free press, especially the faith-based voice, is needed now. May God grant us wisdom as we learn to proclaim the gospel in the emerging culture.

  • John H

    There may be hope for at least a limited independent voice in communication. The United Methodist Reporter is continuing as a digital resource. See http://www.unitedmethodistreporter.com/2013/06/united-methodist-reporter-to-continue-as-a-digital-resource/.

  • John H

    There may be hope for at least a limited independent voice in communication. The United Methodist Reporter is continuing as a digital resource. See http://www.unitedmethodistreporter.com/2013/06/united-methodist-reporter-to-continue-as-a-digital-resource/.