As your GetReligionistas have said many times, reporters do not have to agree with the doctrines and laws of groups that they cover. Journalists must, however, strive to be accurate when covering what religious people and groups believe.
Basic accuracy is a journalistic virtue, even when reporters are writing for advocacy publications that are not committed to balance, fairness and showing respect for believers on both sides of hot-button issues in public life.
So the other day I wrote about the major New York Times piece describing developments in United Methodist Church battles over LGBT rights -- specifically the election of an openly lesbian bishop who is married to her same-sex partner. The Rev. Karen Oliveto of San Francisco was elected in the church's tiny (2 percent of the global church) Western Jurisdictional Conference.
The Times piece did a good job of letting readers hear from leaders on both sides. However, the report also claimed that United Methodist law bans the ordination of all gays, when in reality it rejects the ordination of gays who, in word and deed, openly reject church teachings.
As I said in that post, this is a fine line, but a crucial one -- in doctrine. I requested a correction. United Methodists law forbids the ordination of “self-avowed, practicing” gays and lesbians as clergy. The assumption is that there are also some gays and lesbians who affirm, and follow, church teachings that sex outside of traditional Christian marriage is sin.
This brings me to a follow-up report by Religion News Service -- "United Methodist groups divided after election of first LGBT bishop" -- that demonstrates what some accurate language looks like in practice, when covering this story. It's actually pretty simple, as in:
On Friday (July 15), the Rev. Karen Oliveto, senior pastor of Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco, was elected bishop by the Western Jurisdictional Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., and consecrated the following day.
The election comes despite the denomination’s ban on the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.”
In other words, this policy bans the ordination -- as pastors and then, obviously, bishops -- of gays and lesbians who are sexually active in the context of same-sex relationships.