For those who are interested, Julie "Bible Girl" Lyons of the Dallas Observer has written a follow-up column to her hellish piece last week on the accusations of sexual abuse against Pastor Sherman Allen, a superstar Pentecostal preacher at the Shiloh Institutional Church of God in Fort Worth. The new piece at the alternative newspaper's Unfair Park blog network represents a bit of a journalistic holding action, while Lyons continues to chase some additional leads on the story. By the way, click here if you want to flash back to my original post on this remarkable writer.
Lyons begins with the question that has been bugging me all week. Where are the mainstream newspapers and television stations? Why aren't they covering this story, which has already moved past the rumors stage and into legal actions? It is interesting, for example, that NBC's local Channel 5 has not posted a follow-up to its own short story on the scandal.
So what's going on?
Well, for starters, we are dealing with a massive denomination that -- in my opinion -- receives the least amount of news coverage in comparison to its importance in American religious life. The Memphis-based Church of God in Christ has 5 million members, or thereabouts, yet has always shunned publicity.
Take my word for it, as a reporter who has tried to cover this flock. It is almost impossible to get telephone calls returned or to dig out solid information on COGIC events, even when you are trying to write stories about important events that are totally positive. Email? Forget about it. The result is a gigantic hole in mainstream coverage of religion news in this culture, and I don't know what we can do about it.
Thus, Lyons ties that all together in a GetReligion-esque manner:
The Church of God in Christ -- one of the oldest, most historically significant Pentecostal denominations in the United States -- has flown well under the radar of the media for decades. Why? Probably because it's mostly black. Probably because it's Pentecostals, who many reporters believe to be on the fringe of Christian belief. (Wrong. They're the mainstream of worldwide evangelicalism today.) So even local media seem to be missing the significance of the allegations against Pastor Sherman Allen of Fort Worth's Shiloh Institutional Church of God in Christ.
Lyons is right. This is an important story in an important church. She has pledged to keep talking to the women who are involved in the alleged abuse cases. Stay tuned.