Phoenix

Thinking about the past: CNN reporter follows his own roots into SBC's Russell Moore wars

Thinking about the past: CNN reporter follows his own roots into SBC's Russell Moore wars

Let's flash back about a month to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Phoenix. You may recall that the hot story turned out to be the mishandling of a stirring resolution on politics and race that, for America's largest Protestant flock, attempted to drive a stake into the heart of the alt-right.

In terms of the religion beat, it was interesting to watch major news operations scramble to cover the story, since -- in this age when few Godbeat reporters are granted even minimum travel budgets -- hardly anyone had boots on the ground in Arizona.

However, to the surprise of your GetReligionistas, CNN was there -- in the person of multimedia specialist Chris Moody of the network's political team.

Now, let me stress right here that I have long ties to Moody and to his family. For starters, he was one of my best students at Palm Beach Atlantic University and then in the first, very experimental semester of the Washington Journalism Center. Decades earlier, Moody's grandfather -- a legendary Southern Baptist preacher, the Rev. Jess Moody -- was a good friend of my late father.

Chris Moody headed to Phoenix while reporting a background feature on what everyone expected to be the hot story at the 2017 SBC meetings -- the battle over the future of the Rev. Russell Moore, the outspoken (and very #NeverTrump #NeverHillary) leader of the convention's Washington, D.C., office.

Apparently, Moore to more than survive in Arizona. He also played a high-profile role in the alt-right drama, contributing a 5-star soundbite on that front. That quote made it into a new Moody feature about Moore, that is now online. Moore said this, concerning the revised SBC resolution. The opening image sounds like something from a Johnny Cash song.

“This resolution has a number on it. It’s Resolution Number 10. The white supremacy it opposes also has a number on it. It’s 666,” [Moore] said, referring to the biblical number representing the devil.

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A sign of the times? Opinion writers outnumber news reporters on Southern Baptist alt-right story

A sign of the times? Opinion writers outnumber news reporters on Southern Baptist alt-right story

Bonnie Tyler needed a hero.

Me? I'm holding out for a news reporter.

I hope you'll forgive my blending of 1980s pop and 21st century news media criticism. But I really am feeling a bit nostalgic for the days of journalists who focused on reporting facts — say, from a headline-worthy event such as this week's Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix.

Instead, as I'm reading today's print edition of The Dallas Morning News, I come across this headline and subhead on the Viewpoints page (an opinion page):

An abrupt about-face for Southern Baptists
Resolution condemning alt-right looks like face-saving, says Sharon Grigsby

It's a negative opinion on Southern Baptists' actions concerning the alt-right debate that GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly highlighted earlier this week (here and here). The writer, Grigsby, is a member of the newspaper's editorial board. It's her job to tell readers what she thinks. My role is not to agree or disagree with what she says.

But here's what concerns — even frustrates — me: Unless I somehow missed it, The Dallas Morning News print edition (to which I subscribe) didn't bother to publish a news story on the controversy. The paper did put a wire story wrap-up on its website. But for print readers (and yes, I realize that's a diminishing audience), the only lens through which to view this week's convention comes on an editorial page.

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NPR puff piece on transgender church leaves lots and lots of predictable gaps

NPR puff piece on transgender church leaves lots and lots of predictable gaps

Recently, I wrote about one unusual congregation (Mark Driscoll's Trinity Church) starting up in Phoenix and now here's another, at the opposite end of the theological pole. The United Church of Christ is one of the country’s most liberal Protestant denominations and one of their clergy seems to have found a way to minister to transsexual youth. This NPR piece is on the church he started back in 2009 that has, to one degree or another, taken off.

I think it’s fine to spotlight unusual ministries. What I have a problem with is when the presentation is totally uncritical. That is, the people who attend this church are always loving. The families they come from -- and other Christians -- are always hateful. There are no complex details.

It starts thus:

Some churches have become inclusive of gays and lesbians, but for transgender people, church can still feel extremely unwelcoming. A congregation in Phoenix is working to change that by focusing on the everyday needs of its members — many of whom are homeless trans youth.
It starts with a free dinner every Sunday night with donated homemade and store-bought dishes.

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Oh no he di-int! Major city's council shocked by prayer mentioning Jesus and the devil

Oh no he di-int! Major city's council shocked by prayer mentioning Jesus and the devil

Government-sanctioned prayers at the beginning of public meetings don't typically draw a lot of attention. Generally, journalists sleep right through them. 

As you might imagine, it takes a humdinger of a prayer to grab the attention of a major newspaper like the San Antonio Express-News.

So, give Theo Wolmarans credit for that.

Wolmarans' secret for making headlines with his prayer? Hold onto your britches: He mentioned Jesus and the devil.

Stop the presses!

A local pastor who prayed Thursday at the start of the City Council meeting declared only two types of people exist on Earth — those who work for God and those who work for the devil.
The invocation, the standard kickoff to all Thursday council meetings, typically is an inclusive prayer.
Religious leaders from various denominations and religions are invited by individual council members and the mayor. The pastors, rabbis, imams and others mostly invoke God for his wisdom. Some mention Jesus in passing.
Rarely do they offer prayer that excludes entire groups of people. But Pastor Theo Wolmarans from Christian Family Church of San Antonio seemed to do just that in his brief invocation.
“Father, we thank you for the privilege we have for being your children. We know that there are many different races and colors and creeds and languages in our world, of which you are the creator of all of these,” he said during the brief invocation. “But even so, out of all of your creation are your children because only those who accept Jesus as their lord and savior are born into your family.
“And so, when you look down upon us today, you see two kinds of people only — those who believe in you and those who don’t know you. Those who believe in you are your children, and you work through your children to bring peace and love and blessing to the earth,” he said. “And the devil works through those who don’t know you to bring confusion and strife and division, the work of the enemy, because he came to steal, to kill and to destroy.”

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