Religious Studies faculty member John Schmalzbauer was quoted extensively in the July 10, 2013 issue of the Christian Century. With a circulation of 36,000, the Century has long been the unofficial voice of mainline Protestantism in the United States.
In his Editor’s Desk column, Christian Century publisher John Buchanan referenced Schmalzbauer’s article on the importance of magazines in American Christianity:
A few years ago an article on the Faith and Leadership website caught my eye: “Editors More Important than Bishops.” John Schmalzbauer, a sociologist who teaches at Missouri State University, was recalling an old saying in the Disciples of Christ denomination: “Disciples don’t have bishops; they have editors.” He went on to cite theologian William Placher, who described Protestant magazines as a key resource in the theological development of clergy and lay leaders.
Schmalzbauer said that it’s impossible to imagine the world of mainline Protestantism without the Christian Century. He referred to Elesha Coffman’s recent work (published as The Christian Century and the Rise of the Protestant Mainline), in which she argues that the Century united moderate-to-liberal Protestants and gave them a common identity.
But today, Schmalzbauer wrote, there is a chance that the Century and other Christian periodicals will not survive. He wanted to “call attention to the religious press in the same way that environmentalists call attention to clean air and water. Though Christian publishing remains a renewable resource, it must never be taken for granted.”
The Blanche Gorman Strong Chair in Protestant Studies at Missouri State, Schmalzbauer originally published his article on Duke Divinity School’s Faith and Leadership blog. In “Editors More Important Than Bishops,” he highlighted the role of religious magazines in American Catholicism, American evangelicalism, and the Protestant mainline. Noting the challenges of the internet for religious publishing, he argued that American churches must “find an ecclesiology and a business model for the digital age.”