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N. Illinois Evangelicals Try To Reconcile Grievances Related To Liberal Bias In UM News Reporting


Feb. 9, 2000

Contact: Rev. Kent L. Svendsen (815)453-2513

NORTHERN ILLINOIS CONFERENCE (This item was sent to the UMNS for consideration) - On Tuesday, February 8th, a meeting was held at the Northern Illinois Conference office between a representative of the United Methodist Reporter along with a member of the conference staff and a concerned conference Ordained Elder along with a member of the conference laity. The discussion centered around the issue of reporting practices and articles which have been printed over the last year.

The concerns raised were over what was seen as the exclusion of articles concerning organizations such as the Confessing Movement, which proclaims to have over 600,145 supports among which there are at least 3212 Pastors. Also lacking were any references to organizations such as Good News and a list of other growing ministries within the denomination. In addition, concerns were raised over the disproportionate reporting which seemed to take place referring to other ministries of similar status both national and within the conference.

The discussion was friendly and cordial with opportunities taken for sharing and reconciliation. Misunderstandings were discussed and the Reporter's policy for accepting and printing news items explained along with their guidelines for establishing priorities. Much needed advise was given as to how to go about gaining both conference support and reporting coverage for events and organizational activities. Both sides seemed ready to find common ground and listen to each other's concerns.

Also raised were concerns as to the type of language which was being used in reporting the news and what some consider as distasteful and questionable quotes which were allowed to stand unchallenged. In this context, the issue of inclusiveness was raised and a request was made to provide more opportunities for the evangelical / evangelical conservative voices to be heard.

One of the main points of discussion was the ongoing reporting concerning the Des Plaines Campground situation. Concerns were raised that the United Methodist Reporter had repeatedly stated as fact that the campground was guilty of discrimination when in fact no such accusation has ever been proven. Also discussed were the absence of attempts which had been made to defend the campground. One such attempt was a minority report which was presented to the conference by a campground representative (written by a conference Elder) which the bishop refused to receive. Apparently the report did not qualify, since the author and the campground were not on the Board Of Church and Society. When asked why others are allowed to make accusations and have them printed, it was discovered that if you have a direct contact with the situation, such as being a lawyer for the litigants, accusations were newsworthy. However, if one did not have that connection it was only considered opinion and not newsworthy. The fact that other clergy, having no connection with the campground, have made attacking and insulting remarks and were quoted was not raised at the time of the meeting.

The meeting ended on a high note with promises of future cooperation and improved relationships.

Rev. Kent L. Svendsen
Ordained Elder
Northern Illinois Conference

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