It was with great sadness that I read yesterday’s post by the Rev. Peter Ould on his Exercise in the Fundamentals of Orthodoxy blog. Peter has announced that after eight years he will be shutting down the website.
This is a significant loss to the Christian blogging community in the UK. Peter’s is one of the biggest and most influential Christian bloggers in this country, writing with great intelligence and wisdom on issues relating to Christianity, politics, the Church of England, occasionally Doctor Who and in particular sexual identity. Peter describes himself as post-gay and his extensive thinking and application of the Bible to the whole area of homosexuality from a conservative Christian perspective has been incredibly helpful for me in gaining a better understanding of how all Christians and churches can be more affirming and loving of all people irrespective of their sexuality whilst staying obedient to God.
Since I began blogging two and a half years ago we have said goodbye to The Church Mouse, Stuart James at eChurch and now Peter Ould; three of the most consistently high quality, prolific and widely read Christian bloggers. Each provided a valuable contribution to the online presence of Christians and even though some excellent new blogs have sprung up in the meantime (Law & Religion UK and Psephizo), their absence still is and will be felt
If you look across the pond to America there is a vibrant Christian blogging community. The most well known bloggers such as Ann Voskamp, Tim Challies and Rachel Held Evans are pretty much able to write full time and earn a living in the process. They are just as influential as famous US Church pastors and some have a growing following in the UK too.
Of course the Christian population in the US is considerably larger than here in the UK and churches and ministries are vastly better funded. The contrast though is stark. For example, Rend Collective who are arguably the best and biggest Christian band hailing from the UK have been living on peanuts until recently struggling to get by, despite touring extensively. For the small number of serious Christian bloggers here the thought of earning a living through your work is fantasy. Instead it’s the opposite. Most bloggers have full time jobs and families. The blogging has to fit round these and the expense of keeping a website going comes out of your own pocket. Like the Apostle Paul, who made tents to fund his own ministry, so writing a blog, even one as widely read as Archbishop Cranmer’s which will have over 100,000 views a month, can come at a great personal cost in terms of time, money and energy.
It’s no surprise writers who have so much to bring to the table get exhausted and reach the point of having had enough.
I suppose the point of this post is to ask the question, ‘Do we care?’ Is the online presence of Christians through blogs and social media of any great value? Would it make any difference if Christian comment was reduced back to The Church Times, the Catholic Herald and Christianity Magazine plus one or two other publications as it was pre-internet? Are these new forms of Christian witness worth investing in?
In an age where we have 24-hour news and religion is regularly hitting the headlines, who is going to provide a voice when Christianity is misrepresented or belittled? Who can provide intelligent analysis from a Christian perspective and occasionally set the agenda rather than just reacting to it? Peter Ould, through his blog and also his media work has been able to do this and it is more than a shame to lose his contribution.
I’m not doing this as a request for donations. No one is forcing me or others to do what we do and I expect nothing in return, but I am also thinking about the direction that social media, alongside the traditional forms of media are heading and how the Church engages with them and provides a presence that will allow our faith to be in the mix rather than edged to the sidelines. I believe there is much potential for Christianity to influence and impact our society in this way, but when the pioneers and prophets struggle to keep going it makes that job all the more harder.