When we were constructing the community center here in Chatham, our local newspapers would call periodically with questions about costs and construction progress. My policy was to always answer all of their questions with clarity and candor. I wanted our project to be completely transparent to their subscribers. I also found there are few resources to guide churches in dealing with the press.
An interesting side note to the selection of Sarah Palin by John McCain has been the scrutiny and response of the churches the Palins attend in Alaska. The Wasilla Assembly of God took down its website, wasillaag.net, and created a new site, wasillaag.org. On both sites they posted an official church statement regarding Sarah Palin’s affiliation with their church. The church has also posted a video of the pastor reading the statement to the congregation — although you do not see the congregation, you do hear applause and laughter from them during the statement.
Which brings us to an interesting question: How should churches handle the press? Do you stonewall with a “no comment?” Do you let the press talk to anyone on the staff or in the membership? Do you issue a statement, and if so, who writes it and what does it say? Wasilla AG’s statement covers a lot of interesting terrritory:
- They acknowledge that Governor Palin was a member until 2002.
- They acknowledge that she continues her relationship with the church.
- They acknowledge that she spoke at the church at a commissioning service. (The church took down the video of her speaking, but it is available at several sites.)
- They express their pride as Alaskans and Wasillans that Governor Palin was selected as the VP running mate.
- They refer questions about Governor Palin’s beliefs to the Governor.
- They state “that as a church” it would be inappropriate to endorse any candidate, and wish well to both the Republican and Democratic tickets.