Friday, February 17, 2017
A new editor. . . surprising choice. . .
With the new year, “L'Osservatore Romano” will be turning over a new leaf. It seems that Pope Francis was not at all satisfied with the weekly Spanish edition edited by the Argentine Silvina Pérez. So the Pope has prevailed with a new edition just for Argentina and a new editor, Marcelo Figueroa.The big news here is that Figueroa is not Roman Catholic but Protestant, specifically a pastor of the Presbyterian Church. He has also been the director of the Argentine Biblical Society for some 25 years. But his chief qualification seems to be that he has been a longstanding friend of Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis).
So what does it mean that the editor of the unofficial, semi-official, daily newspaper for the Vatican published for Argentina, will be a Presbyterian? Now that is the question. While it is certainly usual for leaders to place into positions of influence people of their own viewpoint and to reward friends, what stands out here is that this man is not Roman Catholic. How will it work that the almost official organ of Roman Catholics will be edited by a Protestant? For that, we will wait to see.
It does bring up a question and an issue with which nearly all church journals or periodicals have been forced to wrestle. Is this press objective or is this a house organ that speaks on behalf of the church's leaders?
While The Living Lutheran, for example, is the official periodical of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, its history has been to agitate and advocate for things under debate and not yet fully settled for the ELCA. So in preparation for the CWA that would adopt sweeping changes for the ELCA in the way it dealt with same sex marriage and homosexuality among the clergy, the official organ of the ELCA was out in front championing the cause with pieces friendly to the change. It has taken the official stance of minimizing the troubles the church has experienced since that eventful choice -- even when those repercussions threatened the very life of the ELCA (both in membership and finances!).
On the other hand, The Lutheran Witness has been much more in line with the official doctrinal stance of the LCMS and as an advocate of the practice that doctrine expects. It has unfailingly tackled difficult subjects in order to speak what the LCMS has said, consistent with Synod resolution and our doctrinal confession. It has done so with an unapologetic stance to defend the stance of the LCMS and to explain it for members as well as those outside the church body. I cannot recall an article in which The Lutheran Witness advocated for something not already part of our convention resolutions or consistent with who we are and what we have taught as the LCMS. That is not to say, however, that it has not also mirrored the particular emphases of the Synod President and administration. But the LCMS does not expect that the two would be different.
I for one believe that the official periodical of the church should reflect what that churches believes, teaches, and confesses. I further believe the function of this official organ is to teach the faithful every bit as much as it is to witness this doctrine to the world. So I would suggest that there is a catechetical dimension to the work of an editor and the authors employed. While I cannot speak for Rome, I find it hard to believe that the best editor for a church's media (official or unofficial) would be someone who believes and confesses differently than that church. We have had a long run with a very successful editor of The Lutheran Witness, Adriane Dorr Heins, and our official periodical has shone brightly under her stewardship. She will soon be replaced (at her own request) and the new person will have big shoes to fill. I have no idea who that person will be but I know that person will be LCMS, fully committed to the doctrine of our Confessions, to the stance of the LCMS, and to its faithful practice. I can conceive of no other possibility. Though it may not be politic to say so, no Presbyterians need apply -- no matter what our fearless leader might think or who his friends might be.