2015 Convention: Faith-Based Communications: Connecting Locally, Reaching Globally

Wilbur Awards banquet: April 11, 2015

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United Methodist communications leader and long time RCC member dies at 87

By Thomas McAnally

Roger Burgess, general secretary of United Methodist Communications and long time member of RCC, died on May 10. Photo courtesy of his family.

Roger L. Burgess, a layman who had a distinguished career as leader in several international agencies of the United Methodist Church over a period of nearly 50 years, died May 10 at St. Thomas West Hospital in Nashville. He was 87.

He retired from United Methodist Communications in 1994 after serving 10 years as its top executive. He previously worked for the denomination’s social service agencies and the publishing house.

“From his early years as a preacher’s kid, Roger strived for little else than to serve God and his beloved church,” said Robert Feaster, retired president of the United Methodist Publishing House.

“This he did, and he accomplished his task with great commitment and good humor for his entire life. I am sure The United Methodist Church is grateful, as I am, to have known Roger as colleague in the work of the general church.”

Read more on UMC site...

State Department official describes impact of understanding role of religion on foreign affairs

By Katherine Kerr

Shaun CaseyALEXANDRIA, Va. (April 11) — The theme of “religious literacy” was described at a high level during the April 11 keynote speech by Shaun Casey, special representative to Secretary of State John Kerry for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

The professor of Christian ethics on leave from Wesley Theological Seminary talked about how his department within the State Department is building a repository of knowledge about the impact of faith and religion in foreign affairs.


Religious freedom re-emerges as timely topic

Melissa Rogers

Ken Bedell and Shaun Casey

By Linda Bloom
April 13, 2015 | WASHINGTON (UMNS)

From fervent debates over U.S. state laws to shocking global reports about terrorists targeting the faithful, religious freedom once again is a topic of public discussion.

So, when the 2015 Religion Communicators Council convention met April 9-11 in the Washington area, the intersection of religion and government was part of the focus on local and global communications.

Communicators heard from two U.S. government officials who work each day where ministry and governance intersect — Melissa Rogers, who leads the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and Shaun Casey, who leads the U.S. State Department’s Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives.

The Rev. Ken Bedell, an RCC member and United Methodist from the West Ohio Conference, pointed to the hiring of Casey, a fellow United Methodist and professor from Wesley Theological Seminary, as a sign that the U.S. government is taking religion seriously as a part of its global engagement.

Read more on United Methodist News site...

Panel of religion writers discusses changes in their industry

By Leigh Rogers

 ALEXANDRIA, Va. (April 10) — At the Religion Communicators Council annual convention in Alexandria, Virginia, Adelle M. Banks of the Religion News Service led a panel discussion with religion reporters for participants.

Michelle Boorstein of The Washington Post and Eric Marrapodi of the CNN Belief Blog and the Jake Tapper Show offered insight into the world of religion reporting as well as tips for how faith communicators can best reach out to reporters for pitching stories and to serve as sources.


Waj's top 30 do's and don'ts when covering Islam and Muslims

By Wajahat Ali, co-host of Al Jazeera America’s The Stream

Wajahat Ali[Wajahat Ali was scheduled to participate in the Media Panel at the RCC 2015 Convention. Pressing deadlines prevented his appearance and he sent these tips to Bud Heckman who read them during the Medial Panel discussion. They are posted here by popular request.]

First, I will quote the greatest Sufi Shaikh of all time, Yoda: “Do or do not, there is no try.”

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.

Do not assume bearded men or covered women are religious Muslims.


Subway Posters Brilliantly Use Humor to Combat Major Muslim Stereotypes

The Muslims are coming, and they're bringing with them hugs so fierce you may be inspired to call your grandma.

It's one of the satirical messages plastered on posters set to roll out in 140 New York City Subway stations this week. The project, intended to subvert damaging stereotypes about Muslims, comes in response to a proposed series of $100,000 ads on MTA buses that feature text and images likening Muslims to Hitler.

Read more on Yahoo! News...

RCC awards excellence in religion communication at D.C.-area ceremony

By Jeff Huett, APR

Joyce Litoff and Jay RollinsALEXANDRIA, Va. (April 10) — The Religion Communicators Council handed out awards recognizing excellence in more than 50 categories of communications and public relations Friday at its annual conference just outside of Washington, D.C.

The annual DeRose-Hinkhouse Memorial Awards, given to active members of RCC, are named in honor of the late Victor DeRose and the late Paul M. Hinkhouse, leading lithographers in New York City, and longtime friends of the RCC. Both men shared a strong interest in, and concern for, excellence in communications.

This year RCC received 214 entries. Each entry was judged on overall quality, including concept, writing, design, creativity, style, use of color, appropriateness of material for intended audience, creative use of resources, and effectiveness in achieving its purpose.


Presidential adviser explains mission of White House faith-based office, principles of interaction between religion and government

Melissa RogersWASHINGTON, D.C. (April 10) — Melissa Rogers, special assistant to the president and executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, discussed faith and President Barack Obama’s White House at the Religion Communicators Council’s annual convention in Washington, D.C.

The official web site states the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships forms partnerships between government and nonprofit organizations, both secular and faith-based, to more effectively serve Americans in need. The office does so in ways that are consistent with the guarantees of the U.S. Constitution and other laws.


RCC workshop leader offers tips for effective media placement

By Casey Parrett

Jonathan AikenALEXANDRIA, Va. (April 11) — Jonathan Aiken presented a workshop on effective media placement at the 2015 Religion Communicators Council’s Convention in Alexandria, Virginia.

“It’s a different world out there,” Aiken said. In the constantly changing media environment we live in, it’s a challenge for organizations to attract their audiences and keep them engaged.

“Your audience is only interested in something that is parochial to them,” Aiken said.

He explained that for organizations to effectively communicate, they must research what medium its audience frequents. He explained that audiences today are online and, more specifically, on mobile devices.


Religion reporter offers advice for getting coverage

By Katherine Kerr

Adelle M. BanksALEXANDRIA, Va. (April 10) — In a workshop at the Religion Communicators Council’s annual convention, Adelle M. Banks, a reporter for the Religion News Service, offered specific tips for faith communicators seeking to get coverage from the wire service and religion reporters.

  • Know who the reporters are with the organization that covers your organization’s faith or focus of interest. She directed RCC members to the Religion News Service staff page to identify the appropriate reporter to contact.

  • Think about visuals and multimedia opportunities for a particular story.

  • Be accessible and responsive when you get a call from a reporter.

  • If you have a spokesperson who is well-spoken, provide a short video to promote that person’s ability to articulate your organization’s cause.


Communications professionals need a ‘seat at the table,’ Steigman tells RCC convention

By Jim Cullumber

Daria SteigmanALEXANDRIA, Va. (April 10) — Communications needs to be a core business function if an organization wants to succeed, said Daria Steigman of Steigman Communications LLC., Friday at a workshop in conjunction with the Religion Communicators Council’s annual meeting outside Washington, D.C.

In her presentation, titled “From Strategy to Storytelling,” Steigman emphasized the need for communication professional s to have a seat at the table as questions are asked and decisions made.

“You need to move from reactive to proactive; to move from ‘do this’ to the why,” she said.

Steigman admitted communications strategy is “unsexy,” but it is an important part of the communication professional’s job. “Strategy sets you up better and puts you in the process.”


Workshop teaches how to research and evaluate well and on a budget

By Deb Christian

Douglas CannonALEXANDRIA, Va. (April 10) — Research. We talk about it, know it is valuable, believe it will help us, but often don’t do it, is the conclusion of Dr. Douglas Cannon, assistant professor of communication at Virginia Tech University and a former national president of RCC, that opened his workshop titled, “Research and Evaluation on a Dime.”

Cannon began the session by asking participants questions – research – to show that information can be gathered cheaply and quickly. For the next 75 minutes, he explained principles of the Public Relations process, offered numerous simple, inexpensive sources, tools and insights into gathering and evaluating information to assist in any communications task.


RCC elects Casey Tom president at annual business meeting

By Nadine Monn

Casey TomALEXANDRIA, Va. (April 10) — At 8:05 a.m., on Friday, April 10, James “Jay” Rollins called to order his final business meeting as RCC President at the Westin Hotel in Alexandria, Virginia. After recognizing RCC members who died since the 2014 convention in Nashville, Rollins also recognized the contributions of the following Board of Governors members completing their terms.


Former Obama adviser, experts on religion discuss importance of religious literacy

By Casey Tom

Joshua DuBoisWASHINGTON, D.C. (April 9) — The 2015 Religion Communicators Convention kicked off at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., with Joshua DuBois, author of The President’s Devotional: The Daily Readings that Inspired President Obama; Stephen Prothero, professor in the Department of Religion at Boston University; and Charles Haynes, Director of the Religious Freedom Center and Senior Scholar at the First Amendment Center.

DuBois opened by discussing why communicating religion matters. Dubois spoke about his time working with President Barack Obama and about the speeches that Obama made concerning religion during his campaign and presidency. While doing research for Obama, DuBois was tasked with finding what the most important religious question was among various faith groups. With this, in Obama’s Call to Renewal address in 2006, he stated that America is no longer just a Christian nation, but a nation of many religions.

With America being a nation of many religions, it is essential that religion be communicated. This led to the discussion on religious literacy with Prothero and Haynes.


CBS leads list of 2015 Wilbur Award winners

Religion Communicators Council honors 22 for work during 2014

Wilbur Award stained glass trophyNEW YORK — CBS-TV has won three, and a freelance journalist has won two 2015 Wilbur Awards.

The Religion Communicators Council announced 22 Wilbur Awards March 9. The awards honor excellence by individuals in secular media – print and online journalism, book publishing, broadcasting, and motion pictures – in communicating religious issues, values and themes during 2014.

Other winners include the Oprah Winfrey Network, BuzzFeed, Religion News Service, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Huffington Post, a Miami radio station, and a Knoxville, Tennessee, television station.


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