Friday Five: Godbeat news, Bush 41 funeral, pope on gay priests, megachurch biz, pastor hero

Enjoy the “Walking in Memphis” video.

Speaking of Memphis, there’s good news on the Godbeat in Tennessee’s second-largest city: Katherine Burgess reports on Twitter that religion will now be a part of her coverage responsibilities at the Commercial Appeal.

“Please send religion stories my way,” requests Burgess, who previously did a nice job reporting on religion for Kansas’ Wichita Eagle.

In other Godbeat developments, I learned just recently that religion writer Manya Brachear Pashman has left the Chicago Tribune. Here’s an update from her:

I officially left the Tribune at the end of October to follow my husband's career to New Jersey. I am in the process of figuring out the next chapter, while taking some time to tend to family and staying involved with RNA and RNF. I am optimistic that someone will replace me at the Tribune. But it might take a while, since they're going through a round of buyouts at the moment. But it's hard to imagine the Tribune without someone devoted to covering religion. In Chicago, that's the equivalent of leaving the city hall beat vacant.

Meanwhile, let’s dive into the Friday Five.

1. Religion story of the week: Wednesday’s Washington National Cathedral funeral for former President George H.W. Bush was full of faith, as GetReligion Editor Terry Mattingly highlighted in his roundup of news coverage at The New York Times and the wall-to-wall (and almost totally faith-free) spread at The Washington Post. And yes, Bush was an Episcopalian — that’s a noun — as tmatt noted in a separate post full of Episcopal jokes.

Finally, be sure to check out tmatt’s obits commentary on “The mainstream faith of Bush 41: At what point did 'personal' become 'political'?” And there’s a podcast coming this weekend.

Here’s a key passage from the funeral coverage material, offering a way for readers to study a news report and decide whether the editors thought the state funeral was a political event, only.

First, search the story for this name — “Russell Levenson.”

Then search the story for this name — “Donald Trump.” After all, everything in Beltway land, these days, is ultimately about the Tweeter In Chief.

Now, compare and contrast what you find.

Who is Levenson? He is the rector of the large Houston parish attended by George and Barbara Bush and, thus, their pastor for more than a decade. Since this funeral was a rite of Christian worship, Levenson delivered the sermon at the end. Yes, this was the rare event where a priest spoke AFTER an address by the president, in this case a former president.

2. Most popular GetReligion post: Our most-read post of the week was tmatt’s analysis titled “Once again, Pope Francis fails to make headlines (with conservative words on sex)” and noting the lack of mainstream news coverage of the pope’s words concerning gay priests and celibacy.

That post appeared before Religion News Service published a column Thursday by the Rev. Thomas J. Reese headlined “Pope to gay priests: Be celibate or get out.”

3. Guilt folder fodder (and more): Check out an RNS historical feature by former GetReligion contributor Mark Kellner on how an evangelical retailer named John Wanamaker built a fortune by blending faith with business.

Kellner interviews Nicole C. Kirk, author of  “Wanamaker’s Temple: The Business of Religion in an Iconic Department Store.”

4. Shameless plug: Hamil Harris, former longtime Washington Post writer who often covered matters of faith (and was — for 20 years — a popular Washington Journalism Center speaker for tmatt), remembers his experiences reporting on George H.W. Bush’s administration in a column for The Christian Chronicle.

“George Bush was a Republican who stood for Republican values, but he also was a human being who believed in human dignity,” U.S. Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee, the Democrat who represents the Houston district where Bush lived, tells Harris.

5. Final thought: Bravo to Tom Crow, the hero pastor who came to the rescue of a Tennessean freelance photographer who suffered a heart attack while covering Nashville’s Christmas parade.

Happy Friday, everybody!

Enjoy the weekend!

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