Is there anything new to say, at this point, about the Rev. Jordan Brown, his Church of Open Doors and the mysterious case of the alleged Whole Foods hate cake?
The short answer is, "no." Of course, that tells us something about these viral, digital media storms that blow up on Twitter and then fade away. At some point, there is real reporting that needs to get done.
The key, is this point, is that there is little evidence that the same mainstream media that ran with the story early on -- The Austin America Statesman, for example -- are interested in exploring the next stage of the drama. In a post the other day, and in our "Crossroads" podcast this week, I suggested that it would be important to find out more about Brown's congregation -- such as whether it's alive and viable. (I just noticed that it's last schedule worship service was at noon on April 3 -- the week after Western Easter).
So what happens this Sunday?
Now, a GetReligion reader went online and dug out some basic, very helpful information that would have added some depth to the tsunami of early online items about this alleged hate crime:
I am not a journalist but I did do some checking on the Church of Open Doors. The "congregation" meets in the community room/area of an apartment complex. The official mailing address is a post office box at an establishment named "Drive Thru Postal". On the "church" website, there is no mention of governance or oversight.
According to Facebook link, the "church" utilizes MailChimp, I went to MailChimp and found the archive of emails for the "church" and the majority of them are pleas for money. This is the most recent:
"May starts a NEW chapter -- We found a new permanent location to rent!
We can't do this without your financial support! (The gospel is always free, but can be expensive to get out!) One of our other goals is to take our services live via webcast to reach anyone seeking the gospel outside of Austin. To support the outreach of your community, we depend solely on donations of any size!
So the congregation needs money, as it tries to find a home. Where will it be in May?
As it turns out, the pastor needs money, too. As an NBC affiliate, KXAN, dug out the following useful information.
AUSTIN (KXAN) -- The openly gay pastor who filed a lawsuit against Whole Foods over a gay slur on a cake was sued himself a few weeks earlier.
Wednesday, KXAN obtained a copy of the lawsuit from the Travis County Clerk’s Office claiming Brown defaulted on a $27,000 student loan.
The petition was filed March 11, 2016 by a student loan trust, and said Brown stopped paying on the student loan issued for the 2007-2008 school year at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania.
Numerous calls and emails to Brown and his attorney have not been returned. KXAN has not seen or heard from either of them since Monday when they called a press conference, and said an employee in the bakery wrote a derogatory word below the phrase “Love Wins.”
And concerning the church itself, this same short news report added:
Wednesday, KXAN went by Brown’s address listed on the student loan lawsuit which is the AMLI apartment complex on East Riverside. It is also the address Brown lists on his church website. The page says the Church of Open Doors meets in the AMLI social hub.
A manager at the complex told KXAN Brown’s church does not meet there.
So this nondenominational church is in transition? In light of the counter lawsuit by Whole Foods against Pastor Brown, I would think that there is some chance he may not be allowed near a pulpit -- certainly not to discuss the hate-cake business. By the way, the YouTube that I referenced the other day -- with Brown preaching to a congregation that remains unseen -- has been taken down, apparently by Brown.
So what can we learn from this?
Reporters can continue to cover this story as political, culture-wars story. If that is the case, all that really matters are the lawsuits. See you in court.
But if this is a story about Brown and his alleged flock, then journalists have work to do -- right now. See you in church, wherever and whenever that is. I suggest that, if Brown's flock remains missing, reporters pay a visit to this church and ask some questions.
Meanwhile, enjoy the podcast.