Christian Leaders Will Tell the Media ‘What is an Evangelical?’
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), Christianity Today, and the New York Divinity School are hosting the seminar meant to educate the press in New York City
Evangelical leaders are worried that their diverse group is misrepresented in the media.
“There has been an upset over the portrayal of evangelicals. Some stories are truly accurate and some truly stereotyped,” said Mike Paul, spokesperson for a new seminar titled, “What is an Evangelical?”
To remedy the problem, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), Christianity Today, and the New York Divinity School are hosting the seminar meant to educate the press in New York City on Thursday, Sept. 8.
Although this is the fourth seminar since February, concerns have grown recently after Pat Robertson’s statements suggested that the U.S. should “take out” the Venezuelan president.
“When Pat Robertson spoke, many thought that he spoke for all evangelicals,” said Bob Wenz, V.P. of National Ministries of the NAE and one of the primary organizers of the event.
According to Wenz those who are often associated with the “religious right” (otherwise known as fundamentals), such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, do not fully represent the entire evangelical body.
He said, “They are people who we love to work with, brothers in Christ, but we have a broader constituency than that.”
This is especially the case in New York where the ethnic churches that make up a majority of the evangelical community do not all agree, said Wenz.
“One of the key messages that will come out of this conference is that the evangelical community is not a monolith, no different from the black community, the white community, and the Hispanic community,” he said.
The seminar had its beginnings as early as October 2004, when President Bush was voted for a second term and members of the press were surprised that “moral values” had won the day. Rather than answering all the calls, said Wenz, Christianity Today and Gordon-Conwell Theology Seminary opted for an educational seminar in a handful of cities that had a high concentration of press members.
The event was first held at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Boston in February. Others followed in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. This month the seminar will come to the New York Divinity School in New York City. Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio will host the fifth seminar in October. Up to 40 members of the press attended the three previous seminars.
Eleven notable evangelicals from around the nation as well as the local New York area will explain the evangelical community. With a historical perspective, Wenz will delineate the evangelicals from the fundamental and liberal Christians, and senior writer for Christianity Today, Tony Carnes, will talk about the “changing sociological profile of evangelicals.”
Once the press understands who the evangelicals are, the next logical step, Paul said, is to figure out how to work together.
Editor of Christianity Today, David Neff, will speak from an insider’s perspective of the evangelical media while Paul, an evangelical and president of a leading public relations firm in New York, will speak on how to open up communication between mainstream media and evangelicals.
“If you’re a Christian organization and you want to get stories placed on mainstream media consistently, you need to form a relationship, you need to think from their perspective, not just our own,” he said. “It’s a two-way street.”