2017 Convention: March 30 - April 1 in Chicago, Illinois

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Public Relations and the President

By Tom McAnally, retired director United Methodist News Service and former national president of RCC

In his one-hour “Dateline NBC” special interview with Lester Holt aired January 13, President Obama said his administration had accomplished its goals and fulfilled many of the desires of those who elected him but had failed in the “PR” field. His comment reminded me of a basic assertion in a classic textbook on public relations I studied in college in the 1960s: It is not enough that good be done but that people perceive that good is done.

On that premise the profession of Public Relations emerged earlier in the 20th century.


Special Symposium: Religious Literacy in Humanitarian Action

When: Thursday and Friday, January 19-20, 2017; see schedule of sessions.

What: The symposium on religious literacy in humanitarian action will generate new insights about the role of religious literacy in humanitarian action, the importance of local leadership, and the challenges posed by engaging religion in this field

Questions to be explored will include the following:

  • What knowledge and assumptions about religion do faith-based and secular international humanitarian agencies have?
  • How do these assumptions impact their work?
  • When the focus is on supporting the implementation of the local humanitarian leadership agenda, what kind of knowledge about religion is most useful?

Who: David Hempton, Bruce McEver, Diane Moore, Stephen Prothero, Alastair Ager, Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, Azza Karam, and many more. View the list of speakers with bios.

Case study topics include conflict and refugee crisis, HIV-AIDS and Ebola, resource distribution in Sudan, and others; see case studies details.


  • In person: Harvard Divinity School, 45 Francis Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138; see registration form
  • Online: view the live stream
  • Twitter: participate via Twitter by using #RLPIHumanAction

The symposium is part of the inaugural Religious Literacy and the Professions Initiative, which is dedicated to enhancing religious literacy within the professions through a symposium series featuring collaborations among professionals, scholars of the profession, and religious studies scholars in the following four fields: journalism, global health, government, and business.

Americans — not just liberals — have a religious literacy problem

By Alan Levinovitz, Vox

The idea that liberals and cultural elites suffer from religious illiteracy is now widely accepted, by both the accusers and the accused. New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet confessed to NPR’s Terry Gross that “media powerhouses don't quite get religion.” Former Obama White House staffer and evangelical Christian Michael Wear went further, arguing that liberals are “disdainful” of religion and that there's a “religious illiteracy problem in the Democratic Party.” Nicholas Kristof, also of the Times, suggested last May that universities, otherwise bastions of tolerance, are intolerant of religious diversity, choosing “liberal arrogance” over “fairness” to evangelical Christian perspectives.

Read more on Vox...

Sr. Elizabeth Thoman altered the course of my life

Tribute to Sr. Thoman, founder of Media & Values and former RCC member, by Sr. Rose Pacatte, current RCC member

Sr. Elizabeth Thoman, a member of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary and a woman religious who changed my life, died December 22 at Bishop Drumm Retirement Center in Johnston, Iowa. She was 73.

I first met Liz in 1990 in Portland, Oregon, at a meeting of Unda-USA (now SIGNIS), the Catholic association for radio and television. Liz gave a presentation on the magazine she had founded and published, Media & Values, and she spoke about media literacy: the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms.

I had never heard of media literacy before. As a Daughter of St. Paul, I was intrigued, since part of our mission of evangelization is to practice and teach critical thinking about media. The challenge was that no one in the congregation had yet figured out how to do that in an organized, systematic way.

Read full tribute on Global Sisters Report website...

Huston Smith, Author of ‘The World’s Religions’ and Wilbur Award Winner, Dies at 97


January 1, 2017 — Huston Smith, a renowned scholar of religion who pursued his own enlightenment in Methodist churches, Zen monasteries and even Timothy Leary’s living room, died on Friday at his home in Berkeley, Calif. He was 97.

His wife, Kendra, confirmed his death.

Professor Smith was best known for “The Religions of Man” (1958), which has been a standard textbook in college-level comparative religion classes for half a century. In 1991, it was abridged and given the gender-neutral title “The World’s Religions.” The two versions together have sold more than three million copies.

Huston Smith was the recipient of a 1996 Wilbur Award for his part in "The Wisdom of Faith with Huston Smith" by Bill Moyers & Pamela Mason Wagner for PBS and again in 2002 for his book "Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief."

Read the full story in the New York Times...

Academics and Journalists Unite Against Fake News

How bad journalism is hurting people of faith.

"Journalists don't know the difference between an archbishop and a cardinal; they think Catholics worship Mary; they think the pope controls what every bishop and priest says and does" said New York Times religion correspondent Laurie Goodstein in drawing attention to misunderstandings that highlight the need for better religious literacy during the Religious Literacy in Journalism Symposium at Harvard Divinity School.

Read more on America: The National Catholic Review web site...

Methodist church eases post-election fears for Muslim, minority artists

By Manya Brachear Pashman, Chicago Tribune

Malik GillaniMalik Gillani remembers the first day his world turned upside down. It was Sept. 11, 2001, the day terrorist attacks cast a cloud of suspicion on his entire Muslim community.

When the Indian-born Muslim woke up the day after the 2016 presidential election, his world was shaken again. Donald Trump had won the White House. The country's next leader had proposed barring Muslim immigrants from coming to the U.S. and, early in his campaign, had made vague references to the possible registration of those who already live here.

While many Muslims sought solace at their mosques after Trump's election, Gillani found comfort in the same church that welcomed him nearly 15 years ago.

Read full story on the Chicago Tribune site...

Jamil KhouryConvention connection

Malik Gillani, Founding Executive Director of Silk Road Rising and Jamil Khoury, Founding Artistic Director of Silk Road Rising will be speaking at the #RCC2017Chicago convention in a special arts feature titled "Theater as a Communicator: The Silk Road Rising Story."

Entry period opens for 2017 Wilbur Awards

Religion Communicators Council to accept submissions until Feb. 6.

Wilbur Award trophyThe Religion Communicators Council (RCC) is accepting entries for the 2017 Wilbur Awards. Secular communicators have until Feb. 6, 2017 to submit work produced during 2016 for consideration in one of the oldest recognition programs in religion communication.

The council has presented Wilbur Awards annually since 1949. They honor excellence by individuals in secular media – print and online journalism, book publishing, broadcasting, and motion pictures – in communicating religious issues, positive values and themes.


Newtown movie highly recommended

By Bud Heckman

Make your way to a showing of the new documentary Newtown or host one in your community, if there isn't one nearby. See http://newtownfilm.com.

I was privileged to see on Nov. 2 the nationwide early screening and post show conversation with Chris Cuomo, director, & producers.

A very moving conversation about gun violence and our communities. Comes to PBS' Independent Lens in Spring 2017.

A few ditties:

  • 40% of gun sales are *still* done without background checks.
  • 90% of Americans support common sense restrictions, like a waiting period.
  • At least 7 children die every day as a result of gun violence, and 40 are shot and survive.
  • Every day 90 people die from gun violence: 31 are murdered & 56 kill themselves.
  • For every one justifiable homicide in the United States involving a gun, guns were used in 44 criminal homicides.

There has been a more than 20-year Congressional restriction on funding firearms studies (until last week when National Institute of Justice (NIJ) awarded more than $3.3 million to five private institutions for firearms research.

It's hard to craft common sense mental health provisions which still honor full parameters of personal and privacy rights granted every person, sane or not.

RCC members Nick Stuart and CarolAnne Dolan are executive producers.

Religion Communicators Convention to explore faith communications and presence

Religion communicators to gather March 30-April 1, 2017 in Chicago

CHICAGO, Ill. — The omnipresence of faith communications “here, there and everywhere” and mastering the channels for communicating those messages will serve as the theme of the Religion Communicators Council’s (RCC) annual convention, March 30-April 1, 2017 in Chicago.

The three-day event, “Virtually Here, There and Everywhere: Faith Communications and Presence,” will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Chicago O’Hare. The convention is a multi-faith forum intended to enrich, engage, educate and empower professional communicators of religion and faith-based issues.

Plenary presentations will include a discussion of violence and the role of faith communities; tips for covering Christianity and using theatre as a communicator. Workshops include podcast and Facebook techniques; creating materials by and for children and adolescents; communications lessons from hosting the Pope in the U.S.; crisis communications; and advancing ministry through Accreditation in Public Relations.

Among the featured speakers, panelists and workshop leaders confirmed:


Tips when covering Islam and Muslims

Wajahat AliTop 30 do's and don'ts when covering Islam and Muslims — Tips from Wajahat Ali, co-host of Al Jazeera America’s The Stream to the 2015 RCC National Convention.

The first three are:

  • Do diversify your portfolio of token Muslims. Different Muslim super heroes have different superpowers.
  • Do not assume Arabs = Muslims and Muslims = Arab. Do not use them interchangeably.
  • Do seek out Muslims who are black and/or white and or other colors. They exist, not all are brown.


51 things I’ve learned after 50 years in the editor’s chair

By Rich Peck

Photo of Rich Peck and cover of Speaking Faith

Rick Peck is editor of the 7th edition of RCC handbook, Speaking Faith: the Essential Handbook for Religion Communicators.

Photo of Rich Peck: A UMNS photo by Kathleen Barry.

  • Avoid unnecessary alphabet gumbo.
  • The use of a dateline saves space and adds clarity. Some editors say the use of a dateline misleads readers to believe the author was in that city. Readers are smart enough to know by the context whether the author was actually in the city or only writing about an event in that city. There is no need to repeat the name of the city in the article.
  • Adding adjectives frequently clutters sentences and they are often subjective; use sparingly.
  • Use precise descriptions: Avoid: “The young child.” Instead: “The five-year-old boy.”
  • Avoid using the same words in a single paragraph but don’t search the Thesaurus for a seldom used word.



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