Doing that Episcopal media thang

defaultI think Episcopalians get a lot of ink because: (a) there are a lot of Episcopalians in the newsrooms, (b) they tend to be urbanites and well-educated (c) the opposing camps are incredibly well-funded with huge PR machines, and (d) Americans tend to have Anglo-envy. Posted by Michael at 11:08 am on June 13, 2006

With the annual mainline Summer of Sex rites upon us, I thought it might be fun if I dredged back into my past and shared a bit of an essay that I wrote in 1994 for the Rt. Rev. Doug LeBlanc during one of his earlier turns as an editor on the conservative side of the Anglican aisle.

I must confess that I was, at the time, an evangelical who was already struggling to stay, with his family, in the Episcopal Church while living in the mountains of East Tennessee. I was teaching at the college level and, since I was a columnist and no longer in a newsroom, I was free to write this rather snarky little essay. I apologize for the condition of this inside page of my Tmatt.net homepage. I am a total loss when it comes to fixing technical glitches of this kind, which is why there are many changes to GetReligion that are a year or more overdue.

Anyway, I called the essay "Why Journalists Love the Episcopal Church: Sex, Politics, Vestments, Urban Addresses -- We've Got It All!" I offer a link to it here since this precise topic always comes up when Episcopalians gather for their General Convention under the microscope of a rapt national press. So here is the start of the essay:

People phrase the question in many different ways.

Some do not mince words. "Why in the world,'' they say, "does the Episcopal Church get so much media coverage?''

In major media, the nation's 2 million or so Episcopalians often receive just as much, and sometimes much more, attention than the members of major denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention, the United Methodist Church or the Assemblies of God.

I've heard a few leaders of other churches and religious groups ask variations on this question with a slightly anxious, or even jealous, sound in their voices. What they are really asking is this: Why doesn't my church get as much press coverage as those Episcopalians?

With good reason, many Episcopalians are amused by this question. It is difficult to conceive of a reason why any sane religious leader would welcome the media attention that is given, year after year, to the Episcopal Church. Who would covet someone else's root canal?

Thus, when many Episcopalians ask about the waves of coverage that the media give their church, the question that they are actually asking is: Why are the secular media always picking on us?

ENS Lambeth98 Bp women walk MedI suggest a number of reasons for this press attention, reasons that are very similar to those suggested by Michael in the opening comment. You can read all of that for yourself, if you wish.

I would add the fact that the urban nature of the Episcopal heritage and the facilities that result also make them convenient for the press and for photo ops. Yes, it is crucial that Episcopalians photograph well when it comes to religious seasons and public events. This is true, even if the number of people in many of the pews is in decline (brace yourself for a storm of comments debating the statistics [PDF] on this issue).

Episcopal clergy look like Roman Catholics, only without -- in the blue zip codes that really matter -- carrying with them many or even all of those messy ancient doctrines that bug many reporters so much.

This leads to the final statement of my thesis.

I believe the Episcopal Church draws more than its share of media attention because its leaders wear religious garb, work in conveniently located buildings, speak fluent politics and promote a mystical brand of moral liberalism. Episcopalians look like Roman Catholics and act like liberal politicians.

Clearly, this is a flock that will continue to merit the attention of America's media elite. The Episcopal Church's buildings will photograph well, even if the only people in them are behind the altars.

Please respect our Commenting Policy