Sunday, January 24, 2010

Editors and Bishops -- the Future of Religious Journalism

Late in 2009 came the word that Disciples World, the freestanding journal or the Disciples was folding for economic reasons.  Despite the fact that the journal had won numerous awards, it simply could no longer sustain itself financially.  Now, we're trying to figure out what to do next.  Already one blog ([D]mergent) has emerged to try to carry on the message.  That the Disciples are without a standard bearing journal is a bit odd, for we were founded by enterprising editor-bishops.  What does this mean for us? 

As John Schmalzbauer notes in a posting at Duke's Call & Response blog, the times-are- a-changin' for religious publications.  A number have folded and others are in danger -- though a few (Christian Century being among these) are seeing growth in subscribers.   The point of the essay is that editors -- and not just in the Stone-Campbell movement -- have provided leadership in the various faith communities, that often exceed that of bishops.  But what happens to the church when this leadership begins to fray?  Yes, there are emerging digital forms of communication, but what does this mean for the transition?

That is the question that Schmalzbauer puts forth as he closes the essay with this statement:

Until American Christians find an ecclesiology and a business model for the digital age, they risk becoming a people without editors or bishops.
As noted in earlier posts, I'm participating in the Theology after Google conference.  The principle of this conference is a democratizing of the church's conversations.  But, can we sustain this conversation without professional theologians and professional journalists?

2 comments:

tripp fuller said...

Yo Bob. I know we will get to talk about this in person, but I would say that the issue isn't if there will be professional theologians or not. I imagine the way the church is moving numerically there will be fewer just because of job openings. Any way, I think the more difficult and serious question is what the vocation of a theologian will entail in the future. This brings up all kinds of issues of access, authority, and such. Well we will chat soon enough. Hopefully you won't talk me into dropping out of the phd program. If I wasn't here who would have got you out of the cold for a few days to talk about God?

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Tripp,

Don't worry, I won't talk you out of the PhD program, even if, like me, you end up pastoring a church rather than sitting in the so-called "ivory tower."

I wonder, though, whether the church is willing and able to abide pastors who serve as pastor/scholars/theologians. Niebuhr, for instance, was able to bring all three together, as was Bonhoeffer. Barth, though, apparently struggled with keeping them together!

I do look forward to getting out of the cold and having the conversation!