By Jessica Brodie
As a journalist for almost three decades—both in secular media and, for the last 13 years, as editor of the Advocate—I know there are times when we need to conceal information. For example, if there is a matter of national security that could threaten people’s lives, such as where one nation plans to bomb another during wartime. If someone has died and the family hasn’t yet been informed.
But one of the most important aspects about journalism is bringing to light important information that can ultimately help people. Sometimes, sharing “bad news” can be helpful, even in the church. For example, when a pastor or other church leader is arrested on sexual abuse charges or other criminal activity, we think this information should come to light. Here at the Advocate during my tenure, we have covered a number of articles of this nature. While as a staff of two, we don’t find out about every single lawsuit or charge against someone in the church, but when we do find out about it, we feel an obligation to let our readers know. And if the person is ultimately found not guilty, we run that, too.
We think the conference’s decision—not to release the names of those churches who have voted to separate from The United Methodist Church, or the number of churches that have chosen to separate—is in error.
People need to know what’s happening in the church, even if it’s not good, in order to pray well or to make important decisions. The churches who have voted to separate have already held their votes in accordance with the Local Church Discernment Process. The process, at least for these churches who voted, is essentially finished, and now they await a decision by the annual conference itself, who will vote on this. Rumors are circulating that a very large number of churches have voted to separate, and there is no way to substantiate the information.
We think it does more harm than good to keep the information secret, as it fosters more speculation and rumor-mongering.
We hope and pray the information will be made available soon, both so people can lift it to the Lord in prayer—and so the voting members of Annual Conference have all the information they need to make appropriate decisions for our conference and the denomination.