Friday, July 12, 2019
Journalistic independence. . .
It would be good to be reminded that the actual structure of our church body was adopted against the advice of the current Synod President -- a structure that puts just about everything under the office of Synod President. So if it were a structural problem, it was not one of the current SP's making. That said, it does bring up an interesting question of the journalistic independence for official church periodicals.
While I do not think church periodicals should be the press office for the current occupant, who else but the Synod President is ultimately responsible for the communications that go out under the stamp of the Synod and under its doctrinal imprimatur? While clearly his role as ecclesiastical supervisor does not mean that the press of our church body functions as a public relations office designed to make him look good, it would be impossible for him not be the center of our communications since the Synod President is the focus of our identity as a church body apart from the time when we are assembled in convention. Even then, he chairs that convention and can certainly appear to be prominent no matter what.
Why do we have church periodicals? We do not have them to serve as agents of dissent or investigative bodies to sniff out corruption or scandal or as objective voices to evaluate our leaders, our structure, or our programs. We have church periodicals to promote our church, who we are and what we are doing. We have church periodicals to promote what it is that we believe, confess, and teach before the world. We have church periodicals to present our doctrinal stance and to promote our doctrinal unity -- even to promote unity of practice that flows from doctrine and witness. We have church periodicals to raise the level of awareness of those in the pews and pulpits of our church body as to what it is that we believe, what we confess in witness before the world, and what we are doing as congregations walking together.
Far from having a lack of eyes looking over the shoulders of our leaders and structures, we live at a time when everyone is a critic and everyone has access to the wider world through the means of the internet and social media. Our leaders and offices and programs are under constant scrutiny by those who have different ideas, different agendas, and different confessions. This does not merely happen during the silly season of electing a Synod President and in the form of electoral politics but all the time. The Missouri Synod has a history of inventing means of agitating for one side or another, from the old warhorse Christian News to its competitor in Missouri in Perspective to modern day forums like Facebook groups, blogs (yes, even mine), and user forums like the ALPB Forum Online or its nemesis LutherQuest. For pete's sake, how many second guessers and naysayers and opponents can we survive?
I find our church periodicals to be informative and faithful, graphically appealing and relevant, not political (in American or church politics) or sectarian and certainly not PR offices for any one person. I wish they had more reach and more people were informed by them (The Lutheran Witness, The Reporter, Engage, etc...). We have email and online sources to supplement the snail mail versions and they are staffed by faithful, gifted, talented, and earnest individuals who are doing a mighty fine job. To task them with being watchdogs would put them at odds with their purpose as resources for the church and spokespeople for LCMS faith, practice, and work would neither inform us any better or equip us any more about our church. I have always found them to be people of integrity and believe them to have the highest of motives -- not perfect nor do they claim to be but more than competent and doing a bang up job for the sake of the Kingdom.