I have done a lot of writing for Religion News Service over the years. I hope to continue writing for the site. I am also a big fan of their reporting. When the names Yonat Shimron, Adelle Banks, Emily McFarland Miller, or Kimberly Winston come across my feeds, I take notice.
But it appears that the syndicated news service has been facing some difficult challenges of late. It’s a complicated story and Julia Duin’s piece at Get Religion unpacks it well. I was most interested in the part of the story dealing Richard Mouw, the evangelical theologian and former president of Fuller Theological Seminary. Here is a taste:
Last summer, Mouw was growing increasingly disenchanted with President Trump and wondered how he should confront his fellow evangelicals about the unqualified support many were still offering the chief executive. The most obvious editorial vehicle he could use was “Civil Evangelicalism,” Mouw’s regular column for RNS. But how to do so?
Mouw remembered a time back in 1980 when the senior Falwell had echoed the words of Southern Baptist Convention President Bailey Smith, who said that “God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.” Falwell later said he agreed with Smith (Read this Washington Post story for details of who said exactly what) but seemed to modify his tune after a trip to New York, where he met with Jewish leaders.
However, it’s important to note that Mouw’s column said the following, concerning Falwell’s actions (without mentioning Smith):
… Then there was the time when [Falwell] said in a speech that God does not hear the prayers of Jews. This comment provoked an outcry from Jewish leaders. Your father’s immediate response was to call the folks who had criticized him and ask for a meeting. He flew to New York and spent several hours in discussion with these religious leaders. A rabbi friend who was present told me that your father was sincerely humble in his apologies. And when the meeting was over, your dad issued a statement asking Jews for forgiveness for what he had said.
Recalling this incident nearly 40 years later, Mouw, decided to post an open letter to Jerry Falwell Jr., one of the most visible evangelical supporters of the president.
“I said, ‘Look, isn’t it time to admit you were wrong about Trump?’ ” Mouw told me Wednesday. “I said, ‘Look, your dad was willing to admit he made a mistake.’ ”
RNS posted Mouw’s open letter on Aug. 9. You can read it on the website of The Colorado Springs Gazette, since this opinion piece has been deleted from the RNS home page.
It didn’t take long for Mouw to hear back from the younger Falwell.
“Within a day,” he said, “I get an email from the legal department of Liberty University saying I had defamed the character of Jerry Falwell, Sr.; that he’d never said that and I had to publish a retraction or they’d take legal proceedings against me.
Read the rest here.