Trying to figure out why a tiny Christian school's financial problems are front-page news in Dallas


As we at GetReligion frequently lament, the Dallas Morning News — which once boasted a team of religion writers — no longer has anyone covering the Godbeat.

That lack of focus and expertise shows up often in the Dallas newspaper's coverage of stories with religion angles.

I can't help but think that the Morning News — in its religion-writing heyday — would have offered a much more insightful treatment of a story on today's front page.

Actually, I'm not sure I can explain exactly why this particular story is Page 1 news in a major daily.

The basic story is that a small Christian school in the Dallas area is experiencing serious financial problems:

The somewhat opinionated lede:

Carrollton Christian Academy may soon need another miracle.
After struggling financially for years, officials at the tiny, faith-based school scrambled in December to raise $400,000 they said they needed to keep the doors open through the end of the school year.
In a matter of weeks, donors were able to raise enough money to keep the school afloat, and Carrollton Christian officials now say they believe they can complete the school term.
But court records, interviews and statements from school officials over the past few months cast a wide shadow of doubt about whether that confidence is merited.
"It is our plan to move forward, finish the year, re-enroll for next year," Principal Elaine Marchant said in an email Thursday. "But we are still working on financial planning."
It seems, though, that Carrollton Christian is always walking a financial tightrope, relying on crowdsourcing and even pleas through the media to help meet its basic obligations such as payroll for its 17 teachers, rent and insurance.

Readers learn that the academy began in cooperation with a United Methodist congregation: Church leaders — including pastors — were a part of the board, and buildings were constructed and financial arrangements made.

Over the years, however, the school and the church got crossways with each other. The church sued the school. Accusations and counterclaims flew. The church decided to offer its building to a charter school. The Christian academy got an eviction notice. 

Really, to attempt to understand the legal back and forth, I recommend you read the story.

Even then, don't be surprised if you're still confused as to exactly what's going on. The story offers a lot of facts but not a lot of insight. As I mentioned up top, I'm really not sure why this situation is front-page news, especially given the sketchy background on the underlying tension. I mean, it's a Monday, often one of the slowest news days of the week. So maybe that has something to do with it.

But I can't help but think that there's a deeper, more compelling back story here that doesn't show up in what actually got printed. At some point, the school and church — who started out like newlyweds — had issues that resulted in this ugly divorce. 

What was the reason for the breakup? Is this reason about money? The story mentions that the school enrollment has fallen. What about the church's attendance? Is the church itself having trouble keeping members or paying its bills? Might that be the reason for seeking a more stable tenant?

Or could doctrinal differences possibly be involved? The school website describes the academy as evangelical and interdenominational in nature. Did school leaders' theology align with the United Methodist church's? 

Was it a simple matter of personalities? Did a school president get into it with a pastor — both of whom wanted to be in charge? Church fights are the worst fights, don't you know.

What exactly happened? That's what I want to know, and I don't think the story on today's front page story gets anywhere close to telling me. Feel free to disagree with me in the comments section.

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