Open Communication

I suspect the world's typical perception of church communications is secretive and unwilling to acknowledge wrongdoing.  This perception existed long before the scandals in the Catholic Church, and long before prominant evangelists were brought down by charges, but clearly events in the past 15-20 years have done it no good.

It was refreshing, then, to see the head of United Methodist Communications blog about transparency in the UMC.  One of the greatest hacks for a system is establishing integrity and reforming secretive processes.

That said, there's been some tensions lately between the news and the leadership.

  • The UMComm and the Bishops had a row over whether to report on the UM Amendments defeat before the international conferences had taken place.  This blog wrestled with some of that and continues to wonder about the line between openness and empowerment.
  • And apparently there's some foo-wah (a technical term) over reporting allegations of misconduct against a former bishop and outgoing head of a bureaucratic agency.  When rumors swirl, one can choose to ignore their lack of substance or to acknowledge the truths of the matter.  I applaud Bishop Stanovsky  (whose area is dealing with the allegations) for her openness in her pastoral letter to the area.
The important part of the church communications is trust.  When allegations and rumors swirl, it is a responsibility of  (a) a news service to report trustworthy facts, (b) the leadership to establish and encourage trust in the process and (c) faithful legislative persons to watch and correct problems in the process at appropriate venues.  Only when those three are in line will we strike a new journey for the church with openness and integrity.  I hope the UMC (and all denominational systems) can put those words into action.



cspogue September 29, 2009 at 10:04 PM  

We've already had our "foo-wah" about the reporting of the constitutional amendments results and the "necessity" of waiting until Serbia voted before telling all of us what we already know.

But, the situation with Bishop Stanovsky reopening a previously closed matter and disclosing that she had done that a year ago but without either any resolution or even naming the accusers is really off-putting. Saying that she got "new information" is problematic especially when a year has now gone by. Bringing the issue up when the person in question is NOT currently under appointment and IS on medical leave does not seem to be respectful much less Christ-like.

I say this knowing that I know nothing about the allegations, much less their validity or lack thereof. But, we should all be asking ourselves, if this was any of us and we hadn't done anything wrong where do we go to get our reputation back at the end of the day?

There have been plenty of situations that would have benefitted from more questions like Cokebury's repeated statements that everything was fine while they were paying the $1 million pension distribution out of reserves. Now, that story is more complicated, but Rev. Hollon deciding that (so far) unsubstantiated, unknown and unproven allegations ARE worthy of reporting is not an example of good journalistic choices.

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