‘Engaging the wider community’ on religious topics

By Linda Bloom

David Gibson at New York Chapter meeting (photo by Ryan Koch)

David Gibson, the well-known Religion News Service reporter, recently spoke with members of the Religion Communicators Council’s New York Chapter about his new position as director of the Fordham University Center on Religion and Culture.

He was part of the chapter’s Nov. 21 lunch meeting in the offices of United Methodist Women at the Interchurch Center, 475 Riverside Dr.

According to its website, the center, based at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus, “explores the complex relationship between religion and contemporary life in a manner that advances beyond the caricatures and misapprehensions that often form public perceptions and color media coverage about faith issues.”

The intent of the center, Gibson explained, is to “engage the wider community” on religious topics, through three programs in the fall and three in the spring, along with guided conversations with young adult Catholics.

Gibson said he enjoys the opportunity to “go deeper” on a few topics and ease up a bit from the 24-hour news cycle that makes journalism a very stressful job these days.

Fall topics included “Christianity at the Crossroads: Navigating the Fault Lines of Gender” in October and “Imperfect Union: Has America Lost its Moral Center?” in November. Topics for programs in the spring, he said, may include “religion and resistance” and the role of faith in mobilizing for social change.

This new position also returns Gibson to a focus on Catholicism. He worked at Vatican Radio in Rome, freelanced for national media and for Catholic publications in the U.S. and is the author of The Rule of Benedict: Pope Benedict XVI and His Battle with the Modern World and several other books on the Catholic Church.

As an RNS reporter, Gibson covered the conclave that elected Pope Francis in 2013 as well as the two synods that Francis convened. He’s interested in the Vatican’s upcoming synod on youth in 2018 and particularly in looking at how it relates to the “nones” – those who don’t follow a specific religious tradition.

In preparation for the synod, “he (Pope Francis) has really invited not just Catholic young people but non Catholics, nonbelievers to submit all of their ideas in an online questionnaire,” Gibson said.

Although coverage can seem fragmented, he believes there is some good reporting right now on religious issues. “Look for the bigger concept behind all of the noise,” Gibson advised.

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