There's an old hymn that contains the lyrics "I love to tell the story; 'twill be my theme in glory, to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love."
For over 80 years now, that has been the goal of United Methodist Communications and its predecessors — to tell the story of the church globally, therefore, telling the story of the good news of Jesus Christ. One of the ways the agency achieves this is through the United Methodist News team, as they shine a spotlight on the impact the church is having for good in the world, living the Gospel of Jesus Christ in so many powerful ways.
Tim Tanton, Chief News Officer, says: "We often say that we are a church with 13 million stories to tell, so getting to lift up some of those stories is a wonderful opportunity. The world needs to hear these stories, especially now."
The UM News staff comprises a team of dedicated professionals — storytellers, videographers, photographers, journalists, social media experts, and more. With reporters across the globe — reporting in five languages — the team is uniquely positioned to tell the global story of how the UMC is giving the hope of Jesus throughout the world.
This focus has resulted in a rising number of readers across multiple platforms, but Tanton sees room for expansion. "Our team focuses on providing news and information in English, Spanish, Korean, French and Portuguese, and through our web portal at Umnews.org, we provide links for people to access content in a growing number of additional languages, including German and Russian," Tanton states. "Our readership numbers have grown in our five focus languages, but there are so many more members as well as seekers in those contexts that we could be reaching."
One of these global reporters is the Rev. João Sambo, who works on contract as coordinator of Lusophone news, based in Maputo, Mozambique. Rev. Sambo says it’s rewarding to let people know what God is doing with his people in a given context. “I think I can offer a little of what happens in this context to those who are not based here. I can offer a little bit of what I see, hear, sense, and touch to the rest of the world. I can offer the joys and frustrations of the people of Mozambique and from the Lusophone community, their life experiences … ” he says.
This holistic approach to reporting benefits the church in a myriad of ways. Tanton states, "A global church needs a news agency with a global focus. To tell the stories of the church authentically, we take a holistic approach that we hope reflects and respects the denomination’s rich diversity of cultures, contexts, theological perspectives, historical experiences, and languages."
United Methodist News’ coverage has a tangible impact on people in many ways, says Tanton. “In times of disaster, people respond to our news coverage by giving to UMCOR or taking other actions to help those affected. During times of uncertainty or conflict, news coverage has given people a better understanding about the issues at hand and helped them make informed decisions. Our news coverage also has been used as a way to share ideas for doing ministry and building dialogue, and it has been used in classroom settings and discussion groups. People have been moved at times by our coverage to reach out and connect with others."
Many stories, as you can imagine, are challenging and emotional. Tanton says the team is excellent at telling the story with facts and heart. "We report and photograph our stories with a heart for the people we are covering. A great deal of sensitivity goes into considering how the people we are covering will be affected by a piece of information or image that we might include," he said.
Tanton believes that having a news service – one that is balanced and unbiased — is essential for the church. Tanton says, "Balance is an essential value of our work. With news that deals with conflict or multiple perspectives on an issue, we strive to include voices that represent different views. That is an important part of being fair and providing the full picture that people need to have in order to understand not only the story but its context."
Rev. Sambo agrees. "Keeping people connected, having a news service for the church is essential because although the church may seem scattered globally, we´ll be globally connected and on the same platform,” he says. “When communication is weak, the church will also be weak. When information and news does not flow, church members will never know how their church is moving, growing, or suffering."
For 80 years, United Methodist Communications has been leading the church in telling inspirational stories of God’s work in the world through The United Methodist Church, reaching new people, supporting local churches in vibrant communications ministry, equipping leaders and delivering messages of hope and healing. This essential work requires financial support. If you believe in our mission, consider a tax-deductible donation of $8-$80-$800 to the work of United Methodist Communications through its Foundation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.