Friday, July 17, 2015

Media and the Great Commission

At the ICCA, a series of sessions featured examined topics of specific interest to Anglo-Catholics. One is the church planting workshop that I helped support. Another was a session on how traditional Anglican must deal with (confront? ignore? respond to?) the 21st century mass and niche media.

The session featured perhaps the two best-known American Anglican journalists (in the decade since tmatt went Orthodox):
David Virtue
Photo by J. West
I have traded emails with Virtue off and on for the past decade. I had never met Kallsen before, but a friend (from my final TEC days) was a regular correspondent for AnglicanTV before “swimming the Tiber.”

I wasn’t able to attend the entire session because I was on a competing (and very informative) session on church music. However, I caught the end of Kallsen’s talk (and stayed for the Q&A), when he made some provocative points.

One is that churches need to learn from great consumer companies (notably Apple). While packaging counts — such as approachability — it’s also essential to be genuine.

The other was that technology has changed society “and there’s no going back”. He showed the famous photos of the crowd in St. Peter’s square for Benedict (in 2005) and Francis (2013) — in less than 10 years, the idea of a smartphone (with camera) has become ubiquitous. (There were lots of cellphone cameras during the ICCA sessions and services as well).

Conversely, Virtue said that
Technology is a tool — not God. Technology has been give a godlike status. We need to see through the lens of the Gospel.
At the same time, Luther’s success — in disseminating his critique of the Church and launching what became Lutheranism — depending on cutting edge technology: the printing press. (In other words, it’s hard to image his having such an impact if the 95 Theses had to be hand-copied for distribution to the peasants.)  Virtue also reminded everyone of the old saw: “there are no new heresies, just old heresies dressed up in new form.”

The two differ on the core marketing problem facing traditional Anglicans:
  • Kallsen: many frustrated with TEC (and other Protestant revisionists) don’t know about traditional Anglican alternatives and so are going to Rome and the Ordinariate; we need to do a better job of getting our visibility and message out there.
  • Virtue: “People don’t want to know” because they want their existing routines, facilities, the familiar. They are deluding themselves that because their rector is traditional, they won’t be affected by the changes in the national church. (To this I would add that some dioceses — such as Dallas 30 miles east of here — are pretending that they can stand up to the national church while that option became moot almost a decade ago.)
Clearly reaching the Millennials will require using modern technology and messages. But my interpretation of both men (plus my recent travels regarding church planting) suggest it is essential to preserve the substance and sincerity of what we believe and are offering to future (or returning) Christians.

PS: At the Congress I met blogger Mark Marshall, who was also blogging the conference.

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