Thursday, May 1, 2008

Wright's difficulties a mismatch between cultures, formats

For more context on some of the difficulties involving Rev. Jeremiah Wright, I consulted with Raymond Bailey, an expert in homiletics who taught the subject for more than 16 years at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and other universities. Bailey is presently pastor of Seventh and James Baptist Church in Waco, TX, a church with extensive participation in the New Baptist Covenant meetings in late winter.

Bailey said that some of Wright's initial difficulties could be because the original sermon was not intended for the broad national audience it got from the news media. "The pastor always has to interpret both the text and the culture; the text has to speak to the culture," Bailey said. "The media broacast to a different culture."

In Wright's later speeches, he has complained that the press took his remarks out of context.

Bailey explained that "Sermons are not for soundbites." Although the news media is not likely to broadcast entire pastoral works, they are intended to be heard in their entirety, he said. "I think a sermon is work of art, and you have to take the whole thing together."

It doesn't have to be that way, Bailey added, noting that pastors can prepare different sermon forms that are more suitable for excerpting. "When a sermon is designed for the media, one keeps that in mind, and adapts to the media."

For discussion:

When you teach students how to cover speeches, would sermons then be a different example? What would change in the reporter's approach?

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