Episcopalians in the Media

By Alex Andujar

When taking an in depth look at how Episcopalians are portrayed in the media I found something interesting. Society has often set an image of certain religions and Christian denominations, good representation or damaging parody, that evolves over time. In the case of Episcopalians I've come to see that it is Episcopalians who are determining how they are viewed.

Amidst the conflicts and controversies over hot button issues, Episcopalians have been making greater use of traditional media as well as social media. The result is a schizophrenic image of Episcopalians in mainstream society. Episcopalians are either progressive and seeking the equity of civil rights for all, as told from one perspective, or destroying the church and everything it stands for, as told from the opposing perspective.

Respectively, Episcopalians are either conservatives who are resistant to change that is perceived to endanger traditions, as told from one perspective, or stodgy old, established, white men who are sexist and bigoted, as told from the other perspective. It doesn't matter if the majority of Episcopalians do not fall into these groups or label each other in this way, the voices that are crying the loudest are the ones being heard.

The damage to the image of the Episcopal Church has been worsened by the constant report of litigation over the ownership of parishes and the departure of Episcopal parishes. Every time these events make the news they reinforce within the reader or listener one of the two loud voices and completely ignore the discussions taking place in the middle.

For years the Episcopal Church has struggled against stereotypes about its membership being homogenous and uninterested in reaching out to its communities in the hopes of attracting young families. My experience has been that more and more Episcopal parishes are seeing the importance of breaking that stereotypical image. What will be interesting to see is how the Episcopal Church will deal with the image its members are creating in blog posts and YouTube videos. Will the Episcopal Church step away, if just momentarily, from labels? Can it retreat from its perceived image of endless conflict and embrace an image of Christ-like love and service to one's neighbor? As important as these questions are to answer, the most important thing the Episcopal Church can do is pay closer attention to the church it should be rather than a church created from an image.

One excellent and recent example of this action was seen in the quick response from the 2012 General Convention deputies and attendees. Two major media sources printed editorial pieces that misrepresented the facts about what took place in Indianapolis. In response, they used social media, blogs, and direct comments to those writers to present in positive tones their more factual accounts of the Episcopal Church conducting its business. This large and quick response from the majority of the Church’s members is not the norm, and hopefully it will not be the last time they make their voices heard.

What do you think? Let us know.