Lauren Markoe

Friday Five: RNS turmoil, Chick-fil-A (again), where would Jesus park and a prayer for OKC Thunder

Friday Five: RNS turmoil, Chick-fil-A (again), where would Jesus park and a prayer for OKC Thunder

I'm fresh back in the United States after a reporting trip to Haiti.

I'm out of the loop on the drama that has engulfed Religion News Service in recent days. However, I'm incredibly sad to learn of respected colleagues such as Jerome Socolovsky, Lauren Markoe and Kimberly Winston Ligocki losing their jobs.

Since March 2017, I've written a number of freelance pieces for RNS. I've always found both Socolovsky, who was editor in chief, and Markoe, the managing editor, to be extremely cordial, professional and helpful in making my stories better. While I don't know enough to assess the complicated inner turmoil at RNS, I can vouch for my positive personal experience with those two talented and experienced journalists/Godbeat pros.

I haven't worked with G. Jeffrey MacDonald, the newly appointed interim editor-in-chief, but I've admired and respected his religion reporting and writing for years. I wish him and the remaining RNS staff all the best. At the same time, I can't help but wonder what the ground will look like after this earthquake in the religion news world finishes shaking.

Let's dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: Obviously, it's the RNS happenings. While GetReligion generally does analysis, not reporting, my colleague Julia Duin delved skillfully into the RNS situation in a must-read piece featuring interviews with key sources on "How America's one religion wire service melted down over a long weekend." That's Part 1 of a two-part package by Duin. Look for Part 2 as soon as later today.

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Inauguration week goodies: Elephants, donkeys and thought-provoking Godbeat stories

Inauguration week goodies: Elephants, donkeys and thought-provoking Godbeat stories

As I've mentioned previously, "One church's vote for Jesus" was the headline on a story I wrote a few years ago on a Washington, D.C.-area congregation that declared itself a "politics-free zone."

This was the lede:

LAUREL, Md. — People of all political persuasions are welcome at the Laurel Church of Christ.
Politics is not.
“Believe it or not, it almost destroyed this church at one time because we’re so close to Washington,” said adult Bible class teacher Stew Highberg, who retired from the Air Force and works for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“The politics of the president and the House and the Senate would creep in,” explained Highberg, a former Laurel church elder. “So we had to put a moratorium on it. You’ll get booted out of here if you start talking politics.”
He was joking about that last part. Mostly.
More than 300 people worship with this fast-growing Maryland church: Roughly three-quarters work for the federal government, the military or a government contractor or have a family member who does.
“We figure we can try to convince people they’re wrong politically, or we can try to persuade them to follow Jesus,” preaching minister Michael Ray said. “We pick Jesus.”

I was reminded of that Maryland congregation when I saw a front-page story in Tuesday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on elephants and donkeys sharing church pews.

The Pittsburgh story was written by Peter Smith, the Post-Gazette's award-winning religion reporter (and a longtime favorite of your GetReligionistas). Given the byline, I knew that I would find the piece fair, interesting and thought-provoking. But just to make sure, I went ahead and read it. 

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