Christianity Today, the nonprofit media ministry that publishes Church Law & Tax Report, recently unveiled its new cause: Beautiful Orthodoxy. The vision: In a world in desperate need of truth, goodness, and beauty, Christianity Today leads the church by richly communicating the breadth of the true, good, and beautiful gospel.
Matthew Branaugh, Editor of Church Law & Tax Report, recently explained how this cause relates to the publication.
How does Church Law & Tax Report reflect Beautiful Orthodoxy?
We know legal, tax, and risk management matters don't seem too connected to the word "beauty," but we think the vision of Beautiful Orthodoxy fits well with this publication both philosophically and practically.
Philosophically speaking, American culture is collapsing under the weight of its own legal system. The 2013 annual report by the Federal Judiciary underscores this reality: 376,000 filings of civil or criminal cases in federal district courts; another 56,475 federal appellate court filings; and 1.1 million bankruptcy cases. When local court cases are included, some organizations, such as the National Federation of Independent Business, believe 15 million lawsuits are filed each year in America.
And none of this accounts for the hundreds of laws made every year at the federal and state legislatures, or through government-instituted regulatory agencies. The volume of laws and legal precedents to comply with continues to expand at a mind-boggling rate.
What this tells us is that citizens continue to place their faith in a failing system that perpetuates more conflict, more lawsuits, more regulation, and more lawyers. Churches have a lot to say about what true peace and justice mean to every human being. Jesus said he came to fulfill the law, and he said he came that we might have life and have it abundantly. As our society continues on its crash course with judicial chaos, churches have a powerful message to share to a people desperate for something better. We believe the cause of Beautiful Orthodoxy speaks to this.
Practically speaking, the above statistics underscore a sobering reality for church leaders. There are a lot of laws that need to be followed and a lot of liabilities to address.
At times, though, the church's track record on these fronts is underwhelming. For instance, when Senior Editor Richard Hammar categorizes the top reasons churches go to court each year, child abuse allegations consistently rank first. Battles over insurance policies, zoning issues, and property also regularly make the top five.
Church Law & Tax Report consistently strives to help churches do better on these matters, all with the goal of making churches better witnesses to a watching world. Our team's mission to help churches stay safe, legal, and financially sound is clearly connected to the vision of Beautiful Orthodoxy.
How does Beautiful Orthodoxy help separate Church Law & Tax Report from other publications and resources?
Practical help on law, tax, and risk management matters is so essential for local church leaders to do what they can to prevent problems and respond effectively when ones still arise. As we look out across the publishing landscape, we don't really see anyone else doing this work as consistently, objectively, and authoritatively as we do. It's paramount we continue doing it.
We also recognize the posture we take with our coverage fits Beautiful Orthodoxy. Many times with legal, tax, or risk management matters, some will use alarmist language or veiled threats to panic leaders into buying resources or attending conferences. While we will never sugarcoat the truth about the serious nature of the topics we cover, we consistently strive to offer coverage that provides constructive solutions.
In this issue, for instance, we have a Feature Article examining the ongoing tensions between child-abuse reporting laws and clergy-penitent privilege, plus a number of Recent Developments that explain cases of direct relevance to churches. In all instances, we aim to provide the information—even when that information may be ugly for churches—but never to shame anyone or scare someone into a panic. Rather, we desire to shift the focus: "Here are the circumstances, here is what happened, so what can church leaders do now to learn and do better?"
It's our prayer that as others paint a very negative picture of what church leaders face on these subjects, we offer a positive, honest view that encourages leaders and empowers them to act.
How might this direction further help readers in unique ways?
The publishing landscape of the 21st century no longer is about just print, or just digital, but about full engagement with readers.
We must share timely news and updates. We also must engage in two-way conversations with readers. We must speak to their heads, helping them absorb technical material and apply it through continual reading, learning, and discussion. We also must speak to their hearts and the reasons why leaders must engage church legal, tax, and risk management matters.
Church leaders who are trained well on these subjects and passionate about them help their churches operate without blemish. We believe that is a powerful testimony to the world and a compelling counter-narrative to a society torn apart by its overly litigious impulses.