Hope for Tomorrow: Reporting and supporting a topic are two different things
Article Date: Aug 14, 2014
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Eph. 5:15-17
The Atlantic Monthly is widely credited with being the first to say: “Be careful what you wish for in this world, for if you wish hard enough you are sure to get it.”
Historians say the phrase was coined by a writer for the magazine more than 120 years ago.
I have thought a lot about the truth in those words during the two weeks since we published a story about the stand Dean Inserra, lead pastor at City Church in Tallahassee, has taken on alcohol. As we reported, he will not, in his words, make alcohol an issue. His members and even his leaders are allowed to be moderate drinkers.
We published the story as a way to generate conversation on the topic. To a large degree, we were successful. To a very large degree.
Since the July 31 issue came out, I have spent a lot of time talking, tweeting and emailing many of you on both sides of the issue.
Inserra says he has received comments from around the state and across the country. Nicole Kalil, who wrote the story, also has had ample opportunity to interact with readers on the topic.
And, that’s a good thing. We are trying to create a statewide faith-based news organization where readers and leaders feel free to interact with us and dialogue with each other on topics of relevance and, in many cases, deep-seated passion. Hopefully, you’ll see more of these opportunities in the future, with even easier ways to connect after we introduce our redesigned print and digital versions on Nov. 6.
At the same time, the publication of this particular story at this particular time has raised a lot of questions centered around, among other things, my position on the topic. That’s fair. I realize that after only seven months in this chair many of you are still trying to figure out who I am.
The part of my story I have shared in past columns and news accounts goes like this: I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior while still in elementary school, and have been actively involved in Southern Baptist churches in Kansas, Alabama, North Carolina, Texas and Hawaii before moving to Florida.
Beyond that, my theology is conservative, and includes complete support of the doctrines found in the Baptist Faith & Message. On the issue of alcohol, I have abided by a covenant I signed with the board of the Florida Baptist Witness when I was hired that said, among other things, I would refrain from the use of alcohol.
For me, that did not require a lifestyle adjustment because I did not drink prior to taking this job. While Scripture does not say that believers must abstain from alcohol use, for me, personally, there are so many societal factors that made this decision an easy one for me and my wife from the first days of our marriage.
Overriding everything is my opposition to the alcohol industry’s marketing support of a lifestyle that focuses on indulgence, sexual promiscuity and happiness above all else. All of these things are contrary to character traits I want to be associated with as a believer who, on my best days, has died to self. For me, carrying the shoulder support of my own cross is just too much at odds with holding a drink in my hand and practicing the spiritual disciplines of self-control and reputational influence, among other things.
Beyond feeling the need to clarify my own position, the reaction to this story also made me realize how little I have said in this space about the point of view we are taking in our news coverage. Such context is critical for you to be an informed reader of the Florida Baptist Witness.
Here are the standards I try to execute in each piece of content we publish, whether it is in print or online:
► First and foremost, we pray that what we do brings glory and honor to the Father.
► Our reporting of something should not automatically be perceived as our support for the topic. While presenting a Christian worldview in every piece of content is one of our primary responsibilities, we recognize that in some situations there will be honest differences of opinion.
► Our response to cultural issues will not be driven by pride or fear. Instead, we will strive to operate with humility and confidence in God. After all, truth is revealed, not learned, as we see in passages ranging from Daniel 11:2 and John 1:17 to John 8:32 and Eph. 4:21. Since the revelation is God’s work, and not ours, it gives us every reason to be humble yet confident in our approach when communicating it with others.
► Lastly, and it deserves to be last, I have been tasked by my board to come up with a strategy for growing the readership of the Florida Baptist Witness across all platforms. To that end, we will continue to look for topics with high reader interest while doing our very best never to stray from the truths contained in God’s revealed Word.
What do you think?
Share your thoughts by contacting me via email at kbumgarner@goFBW.com, phone at 904.596.3171, on Twitter @FBW_editor, and on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn under my given name.
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