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Illinois Pastor To Protest Anti-evangelical Bias Of Official UM News Source


From: Rev. Kent Svendsen godrilla@accessus.net
To: jwarrene@ucmpage.org
Sent: Thursday, January 06, 2000 3:43 PM
Subject: DISPUTE WITH THE UMR [United Methodist Reporter]

For years now there have been "letters to the editor" written, phone calls made, and e-mails sent to the United Methodist Reporter complaining about their biased reporting. At times, articles are written which make outrageous statements and are allowed to stand unchallenged. There used to be a time, after you sent a letter to editor of the Reporter, they would send back a card saying your viewpoints would be expressed one way or another even if your letter wasn't printed. Unfortunately that often didn't happen. At least they have become more honest in their approach, I believe that the newest postcards acknowledge that the letter was received, but makes no promise that your viewpoint would be expressed. After constantly receiving those cards and not seeing either my letters printed nor my viewpoint expressed I stopped writing to the paper and took more strenuous actions. First, I wrote to my bishop complaining about the situation and then I began actively challenging both the local and national UMR. Needless to say, the UMR is not very happy with my complaining. They feel they are balanced and fair, so I guess I am an embarrassment to them. Regardless, at least they have to acknowledge that there is at least one person out here who feels strongly enough about this to stand up publicly and challenge them. My new step up will be a public protest at the Religious Communications Congress which is being held in Chicago the end of March.

Rev. Kent L. Svendsen
NIC [Northern Illinois Conference] Coordinator
Confessing Movement Within The United Methodist Church.

UMR Response to the planned protest in Chicago at the Religious Communications Congress the end of March 2000:

Cynthia B. Astle [News Director, United Methodist Reporter] :

As I have told you countless times before, what is published on the Northern Illinois Conference page is the product of the annual conference, not the national news staff based in Dallas. If you want to stage a protest regarding what you perceive as news bias in the Northern Illinois edition, you need to be protesting at the annual conference office.

Rev. Kent L. Svendsen:

This situation has gone way past the local conference stage. A protest at the conference office is something I have considered in addition to our other protest, however, since this has become publicly displayed for all to see (both religious communications and the secular media) it needs to be presented publicly. The world needs to know that the public releases coming from UM news sources, along with other announcements in the news media by church leaders, do not represent the viewpoints and opinions of a significant number of United Methodists. You obviously believe you are presenting all sides. You are not. I am part of a group of well over 600,000 United Methodists (The Confessing Movement) many of whom would agree with me on that viewpoint. (By the way, how many times have you announced the Reconciling Congregation's membership numbers over the past years compared to the Confessing Movement membership numbers. Have you mentioned the CM numbers at all?)

Cynthia B. Astle [News Director United Methodist Reporter]:

Bringing pressure on UMR's national news staff will not solve your problems with your conference leadership.

Rev. Kent L. Svendsen:

I am not only thinking about this on a conference level, this is a denominational issue and your publication plays a large part in that respect. Since you are telling everyone how you support the 1st amendment and are fairly presenting both views, people need to know that there are many of us who disagree with that statement. If you don't want us to protest what we believe is biased reporting and censorship, then offer a voice of conscience on a regular basis to denominational evangelicals. Give as much space to representatives from Aldersgate Renewal Ministries, Good News, The Confessing Movement, The Mission Society, Transforming Congregations and Evangelical Caucuses as you do to the Reconciling cause, MSFA and other such organizations. I would suggest that if you compare those two different categories, you will see how off balance your news source has really become.

Cynthia B. Astle [News Director United Methodist Reporter]:

Just be aware that, as UMR's News Director, I am fully prepared to refute your claims with two nationally circulated newspaper pages of reports that clearly delineate both sides of the dispute, as well as the implications for United Methodists beyond Northern Illinois.

Rev. Kent L. Svendsen"

Great! Does that mean that you will actually print my claims? That would be wonderful. Up until this point all I have usually received are notes questioning my integrity and refusals. That is what I meant by censorship.

Remember this quote from you on October 2nd, 1999?:

"Frankly, Kent, after years of hearing you complain, I have come to the conclusion that we will never satisfy you until we have exactly the same conservative position you take to the exclusion of all else and support exactly the same political efforts that you do. As News Director my job is to see that the Reporter remains a free and open forum available to all members of The United Methodist Church."

Do you remember what I was complaining about? I was complaining about the fact that the Reporter is not a "free and open forum available to all members of the United Methodist Church". All I have ever wanted is for you to allow the evangelical voice to be heard and be allowed to respond to some of the things that are stated as facts in your publication, but which are hotly disputed by others. What fired me up concerning this was something that happened by accident. I became aware of others like myself who were writing to you. Like myself, they were trying to offer counterpoints and were being rejected. Clear back then, I asked if I could re-print the articles and then print replies to be distributed to other United Methodists. I was told that I would have to pay a large fee for each piece that I reprinted. Is that still the case? If I want to reprint and respond to articles in order to allow a more inclusive set of views to be presented, will I have to pay the UMR large fees? Now that's what I call 1st amendment freedom? You won't print the responses and you make is cost prohibitive for us to reprint them ourselves and respond to them.

I have never asked you to censor what "those with whom I disagree" have to say. All I want is for an equal voice to be offered to those who disagree with them. Evidently the way you have decided to uphold the 1st amendment (and allow an open forum) is by closing it to people like myself. Then to assure that freedom, you are going to use the power of your pages to "refute" my "claims". Does that mean "if" you are in disagreement with my conclusions or will you just refute anything I have to say in general. Please believe me, I'm not trying to be cute here, in all honesty that issue is not clear to me.

In all honesty, you really can't blame me for acting like a typical "justice for all" United Methodist. You really don't know me or my ministry and yet "in my opinion" you have judged me and my viewpoints. You suggest that I want to force my views on others, which I don't, yet can you in all honestly say you really know the substance of those views? We have both become somewhat hostile and defensive in all of this. I am willing to believe that you are a person of integrity and sincerely seek to be a voice for all the people. So show me that I am right and do just that.

Rev. Kent L. Svendsen
Elder Northern Illinois Conference

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