"Megachurch wants choir to sign anti-gay covenant," blared the headline USAToday.com gave a March 16 Associated Press (AP) story today.
But the story itself reveals the document in question -- Crystal Cathedral Worship Choir and Worship Team Covenant -- simply states traditional, biblically-based Christian doctrine on marriage and sexual ethics.
Here's the offending passage, according to the AP:
"I understand that in an era where images of family relationship and personal sexuality are often confused, Crystal Cathedral Ministries believes that it is important to teach and model the biblical view," the covenant reads. "I understand that Crystal Cathedral Ministries teaches that sexual intimacy is intended by God to only be within the bonds of marriage, between one man and one woman."
Yes. That's it. It's hardly an "anti-gay covenant."
Indeed, according to a church official, it's somewhat of a toothless document as it doesn't bind choir members to behave a certain way, just to acknowledge they understand the church's teachings (emphasis mine):
John Charles, a spokesman for the cathedral, said this does not mean gays are banned from the choir.
"This contract is to educate choir members about what our church believes in," he said.
The AP picked up on this story following original reporting on the matter on Tuesday by the Orange County [Calif.] Register.
As to that original report, Bobby Ross Jr. at the Get Religion blog has an excellent take-down of the loaded, biased reporting of the Register.
Here's an excerpt:
Question: How many named sources does it take to ignite a full-blown national controversy over a church choir?
At least that appears to be the case if the choir involved is tied to the “financially troubled Crystal Cathedral.”
The Orange County Register reports in a 1,000-word news story:
GARDEN GROVE — Choir members at the financially troubled Crystal Cathedral say they are upset by a covenant they have been asked to sign that places a strong emphasis on them being heterosexual and Christian.
The “Crystal Cathedral Worship Choir and Worship Team Covenant,” recently handed out to members, states that members should commit to being Christians by following the Bible in every way.
Former and current choir members say they are particularly offended by a statement in the document that refers to homosexuality. Long-time church members say this is the first time they have seen the cathedral take a firm stand against homosexuality and are disturbed by it.
The covenant states: “I understand that in an era where images of family relationship and personal sexuality are often confused, Crystal Cathedral Ministries believes that it is important to teach and model the biblical view. I understand that Crystal Cathedral Ministries teaches that sexual intimacy is intended by God to only be within the bonds of marriage, between one man and one woman.”
The lede gives the impression that the entire choir is upset by the covenant, although the story leaves unclear exactly how many members comprise the group.
But guess how many current choir members are quoted — by name — in the story? I think we already answered that question.
About 700 words into the story, an anonymous choir member is quoted:
A church member who has been with the Crystal Cathedral choir for the last 19 years said she will quit if she is required to sign the covenant.
“I have already told them I won’t sign it,” said the choir member, who asked not to be identified. “We have had gays in the choir before. I’m not gay. But I don’t believe in what they’re saying.”
The choir member says she doesn’t agree with the statement that choir members should be “Christian” either.
For the full Get Religion post, click here.