Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Case for a Denominational News Source

I've been thinking lately about the demise of Disciplesworld, my denomination's news source. For me, this is a big deal, but for others- while it is sad, it is not the end of the world and might just be a sign of the times.

When the predecessor to Disciplesworld shuttered in 2002, the line that I heard over and over was that denomination magazines were a thing of the past and that we could get our news on the web. A recent post by blogger and pastor Dan Mayes repeats this rhetoric:

I think the demise of DisciplesWorld also has something to do with larger issues facing the Church today, also. Being part of a denomination means less and less to people than it used to. People are more concerned with being a part of a particular local church where they fit than they are about that congregation's denominational affiliation. This means our editorial outlets have less of a captive audience than ever before. With a wane in denominational interest the publications are sure to suffer.

I have been a faithful subscriber to DisciplesWorld, so I must confess a bit of sadness. But I have to admit that in recent years my magazine subscription has served as little more than a novelty. I, personally, find sources of theological reflection and information through trusted bloggers more than anywhere else. And I'm venturing to guess that more and more people are doing the same.

Perhaps someone else will pick up where DisciplesWorld left off one day. Or perhaps no one will ever need to. This old world keeps on changing. So changing is what we're going to have to do.

There is a lot to unpack here but I think the nugget of Dan's thoughts is simply that the old ways of religious newsgathering are done and it's time for the new media to pick up the slack if they so desire. The point of the matter: religious journalism isn't important.

Maybe that's not what Dan was trying to say, but to someone trained in the "old media" it surely feels that way. Some argue that we don't need something like Disciplesworld since denominations aren't as powerful and people are more concerned with their local church.

I'd like to make the argument that we do need a denominational news source. Maybe the old magazine style subscription passe, but we still need people telling the story for the following reasons:

  • To stregthen and uphold the bonds of "brotherhood" and be aware of God's mission in the world. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is not like other denominations.  Unlike Lutherans or Presbyterians, we don't have creeds that bind us together.  Being non creedal means we have had to find other means of upholding the ties that bond us together.  A denominational news source that is telling the story of what is going on in the wider church, to talk about what ministries are taking place in California or Kentucky or Florida is keeping us bound together and helps congregations know they are not alone.  Maybe the best example of this is the work the Presbyterian Church (USA) is doing through Presbyterian News Service called "Growing God's Church Deep and Wide."  Over the last year, a number of stories have been written about mission taking place within local Presbyterian churches around the nation (including my hometown of Flint, MI).  Disciplesworld did a good job of telling those stories.  Who will tell them now?
  • To Give Us a Wide Viewpoint.  Yeah, I know, we can read blogs to get a wide range of opinions.  But the thing is, I can decide to read only the sources I want to read and ignore the rest.  What was great about Disciplesworld is that it presented views and opinions that not every would agree with.  While I don't agree at times with folks like Jan Linn or Rita Nakashima Brock, I did appreciate reading a different opinion.  The loss of a news source leaves us without a forum where we can be intellectually and spiritually stretched.  Without a vital gathering place, we won't have a place where we can make reasoned arguments and be able to discern the vital issues of the day like gay ordination or war.
There are other reasons to have something in mind to replace Disciplesworld and I will get to them in later posts.  But I can say we need to have some sort of denominational news source.  I do have some ideas, which I will share in my next post.

No comments: