Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Orthodox Church mentioned in article about media and churches

Churches Make Pitch On TV, Net
Some Efforts Controversial

Wisconsin State Journal :: LOCAL :: D1
Sunday, April 16, 2006
PATRICIA SIMMS 608-252-6492

Media-savvy Methodist ministers at Asbury and Sugar River United Methodist
churches have been trolling for souls on cable television this Easter
The national headquarters of the United Methodist Church gave the two Dane
County sister churches a matching $12,000 grant to pay for local TV ads to
accompany a $1.7 million national advertising campaign on 18 cable networks
that started March 29.

"We feel like people have a heightened sensitivity and desire to connect
with a faith community at such a high religious day as Easter," said Asbury
Senior Pastor Harold Zimmick. "For those who aren't presently connected, we
would like to invite them to connect with us."

Reaching out to potential church members through electronic and
untraditional media is catching on here.

For the first time, First Congregational United Church of Christ posted a
welcoming Easter banner on the catwalk that stretches across Campus Drive,
paying the city of Madison for two weeks of exposure. The banner says, "God
is still speaking ..."
"We are definitely doing more in the media ... than what was done," said
interim Associate Minister Ree Hale.

And the Rev. John Brian Paprock of Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission in
Madison started putting audio of his sermons on a blog last month. Cassette
tapes proved hard to duplicate and distribute, he said. "Audioblogging
really has made our effort easier."

The first audio sermon was posted March 17. "There have been over 500 hits
on the audio in its first three weeks of public operation," he said.

The mission has had a long-standing Web site. "But the Web has changed, and
blogs are now a good, simple way to produce quality Web presence," Paprock

'Ejector' ad ejected

Still, issues surrounding church marketing on commercial TV have become
somewhat heated. This Easter season, several TV networks, both broadcast and
cable, refused to sell air time to the 1.3-million-member United Church of
Christ for its "ejector" ad because the network found it too controversial
and too political.

The ad shows a gay couple, a single mother, a disabled man and others flying
out of their pews as a wrinkled hand pushes a red button. The intended
message: some churches don't welcome everyone, but the UCC does.

A similar ad by the UCC in 2004 in which bouncers stopped gay couples,
racial minorities and others from entering a church was also rejected by the

CBS spokeswoman Shannon Jacobs said the network has "a long-standing and
well-documented policy of not accepting advocacy advertising." And Kathy
Kelly-Brown, a spokeswoman for NBC, said the ad violates the network's
policy against airing commercials "that deal with issues of public

Roger Howard, assistant professor in the UW-Madison department of
communication arts, said he suspects the ad was judged too controversial
because "it portrayed a liberal Christianity that is open to everyone --
including, specifically, homosexual people. While it may be that the
majority of Christians ... would agree with the doctrine behind the
commercial -- that Jesus Christ offers grace to everyone as a result of his
divine compassion -- a very well-organized and vocal political network of
conservative Protestant Christians has developed the ability to mobilize
against the TV networks."

"Fearing that bad publicity could lead to a loss in ad revenues, the
networks seem to have taken the safer decision to not air the commercial at

Howard said that's troubling. "It is a case where a well-organized and vocal
minority can really exert more influence that its numbers might warrant and,
in this case, that influence is one that shuts down a public discussion even
before that discussion is able to begin."


Network policy doesn't necessarily reflect the views of Madison's

Bob Smith, general manager of NBC affiliate WMTV-15, said the decision to
reject the UCC ads was made by the network, not by the affiliate and its
owner, Gray Communications.

"We have and would in the future accept church advertising," Smith said. "We
pretty much, unless something is illegal or can be proved illegal, will
accept most advertising, and certainly, we have accepted it in the past."

The United Methodist Church ads running in the Madison area feature a woman
who might be searching or in need of something.

Hale said the ads and other similar marketing efforts are effective at
letting people know there are options. "It brings people in," Hale said.
"Then they determine whether we really are what we say we are."

Zimmick said he doesn't view the phenomenon as competition among churches.
"It's more a competition for people's time and priorities. There's plenty of
opportunity for all of us. The challenge is to make ourselves, or any
church, visible and known so people will see it as a viable option in their
search for meaning and purpose."

  • Holy Transfiguration Publications: books by Fr John Brian

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