Friday, June 23, 2006

The Press Tour Continues

Good morning again from Washington.... Suffice it to say, this place is beginning to grow on me. Even though it's muggier than hell. Being from where I'm from, though, I'm used to that.

The other day, while sitting by the bay at the Jersey Shore (working at procrastinating my departure), I got a call from the Raleigh News & Observer's Yonat Shimron.

Apparently, the Southern Baptists elected a new president last week largely on the influence of a blog which implored delegates to ditch the endorsed candidate. In light of that -- the Southern Baptists are, of course, huge in Raleigh -- the paper ran a story on the rising tide of religion blogs across denominations....

The Rev. Wade Burleson of Enid, Okla., led the blogging charge. He has found in blogs an effective tool for grassroots organizing. Increasingly, he is being joined by others.

"In the past, if you disagreed they squashed you," Burleson said, speaking of the Southern Baptist leadership. "They can't do that anymore."

There are at least 45 million bloggers, according to the San Francisco-based blog search engine It's unknown how many of those write about religion, but over the past 30 days, an average of 5,000 posts a day contained the word "religion."

Many of those blogs that routinely write about faith are giving religious leaders heartburn.

"The old ways of ordering church life are breaking down," said Bill Leonard, the dean of the divinity school at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. Few people read denominational newspapers, Leonard said, and church leaders are no longer able to shape the message the way they did in the past. one who gets flack immeasurable for the latter point, I know that all too well.