Allan Turner

Splitsville in Houston: What's right (and wrong) with front-page story on Presbyterian 'divorce'

Splitsville in Houston: What's right (and wrong) with front-page story on Presbyterian 'divorce'

Maybe you remember the Presbyterian Chihuahua episode.

If you don't, here's the Reader's Digest version: A major congregation affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) closed in the Atlanta area. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution devoted only 233 words (in the Living Section) to the news.

That prompted the GetReligion reader who tipped us to the coverage to quip:

I believe I've seen an obit for a Chihuahua that was longer.

Fast forward a few months to present day, and in Houston, two churches — including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s eighth-largest congregation — are seeking to leave the denomination for a more conservative body.

That sounds like news, right? But will the Houston Chronicle give it more attention than a Chihuahua's obit?

Yes indeed! It's an above-the-fold, Page A1 story in today's Chronicle:

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God and guns: Open carry debated deep in the heart of Texas

God and guns: Open carry debated deep in the heart of Texas

The new year brought a new law to the Lone Star State.

As of Jan. 1, licensed firearms owners can openly carry a handgun in most places in Texas, as The Wall Street Journal reported.

However, the law lets places of worship decide whether to allow guns, as the Journal noted before the measure took effect:

First Baptist Church of Arlington, near Dallas, which typically sees some 2,500 worshipers each Sunday, will allow open carry.
Senior Pastor Dennis Wiles said the church came to its decision after discussing the matter with its legal team—in addition to congregants, including police officers who already carry concealed guns.
“We decided it was best to allow responsible people to do this if they choose,” Mr. Wiles said. “We will probably assess the situation in a couple of months to see how it goes. When it comes to a church, I don’t think we’re going to see that much difference.”
In contrast, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas decided to ban open carry in its 75 churches in North Texas, and it is erecting signs explaining the restrictions as required by state law for places of worship, a spokeswoman said.

I've been looking for media coverage of churches wrestling with the issue.

Religion News Service referenced the debate last week — but in a report tilted heavily toward the anti-gun side.

Image via Shutterstock

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Most U.S. Christians believe Muslim values are out of sync with America, but why?

Most U.S. Christians believe Muslim values are out of sync with America, but why?

In recent weeks, I've started reading the Houston Chronicle on my iPad — via an e-replica app that affords me all the joys of the print edition but leaves no ink stains on my fingers.

For the record, I'm totally fine with no ink stains, although I do miss the sweet smell of newsprint! 

Even though I'm a relatively new Chronicle subscriber, I'm already becoming a bigger fan of religion writer Allan Turner. I had, of course, praised some of his stories in the past. But I didn't follow his work on a regular basis (in part because of the Houston newspaper's paywall.)

In today's City-State section, the lead item is a commentary by the Chronicle's Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Lisa Falkenberg (with whom I worked at The Associated Press in Texas in the early 2000s) suggesting that banning Syrian refugees plays into terrorists' hands. My thanks, by the way, both to Falkenberg and Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy for retweeting the link to my post yesterday concerning media coverage of the refugee issue (Kennedy even quoted me in a column).

To be clear, I wasn't calling out the Texas lieutenant governor. I was making the journalistic point that reporters should dig deeper when a politician such as Patrick cites "Judeo-Christian values." 

But I digress: Back to Turner and the reason for this post.

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