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A letter to our readers about the future of Episcopal Café

A letter to our readers about the future of Episcopal Café

Dear friends and readers,

After almost nine years of blogging at the Episcopal Café and its predecessors, I have decided to pursue a new project. I will be stepping down as the editor of the Café by the end of the year. I have loved bringing you the news each day and participating in the debates and conversations about what God is calling our church to do, but I am eager to devote my energy to a different kind of writing.

The news blogging team and I haven’t determined whether it is time to close the Café, and we’d like to hear from some of you before we make that decision.

In its eight year of operation, the Cafe draws more than 330,000 visitors per year, and it is flourishing on Facebook, where it has more than 11,600 followers, and on Twitter, where it has more than 10,600 followers. Yet several key news bloggers, including Ann Fontaine, who not only works on The Lead each Tuesday, but who also manages the Daily Episcopalian and Speaking to the Soul blogs, are ready for a break from the rigors of keeping the Café running. Additionally, the Café is still running on the same now-outdated software on which it was launched in April of 2007, and Bill Joseph, our ingenious web master, can only keep us afloat for so long.

To remain viable, the Café needs a significant infusion of cash and a new content management system. It also needs to be redesigned, not just to give it a fresh look, but also to reflect the tremendous growth of social media that has taken place since the Café was founded. (The Video blog, for instance, is obsolete thanks to the proliferation of content on YouTube and Vimeo.) I’ve explored a few partnerships and sources of funding over the last few years, but, in the end, it is difficult to get large institutions to give you money without trading away some editorial independence, and I thought that was a bad idea.

What we are wondering is whether there is anyone, or, more likely, any ones, who have an interest in keep the Café going. Most of the news team is at ease with the decision to cease publication before the end of the year. But if there are folks out there who have the interest, energy and expertise to keep the Café going, I’d be willing to listen to your ideas. I wouldn’t want to hand the Café over to a person or group that wasn’t entirely committed to the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the church, or who had any doubts about the ordination of women to all orders of ministry. I am not interested in having the Café become a platform for people who want either to diminish the authority of lay people in the church, or diminish the role of the General Convention in shaping the social justice policies of the church. It is also important to me that the Café continue to be good at what it does. I’d like to know that a group of conscientious and committed people with at least a modicum of experience in curating news stories and catalyzing online conversation was going to be at the controls.

I would be delighted if the work of the Café could continue. The Episcopal Church needs an independent news source. It needs an outlet at which new ideas can be raised and evaluated. It needs a website and social media presence that can call attention to the good work being done by independent bloggers with whom much of the church is not yet familiar. But after almost nine years as a church blogger and church news editor, I’ve done that particular kind of work long enough, and most of the news team, including original cast members John Chilton, Ann Fontaine and Andrew Gerns are also ready to give up what can be a time intensive weekly commitment.

If you are interested in attempting to sustain the Café, please contact me or leave your name in the comments.

We will keep everyone posted if there are developments.

With gratitude for this great ride,

Jim Naughton

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Kate McKey-Dunar

I really like Episcopal Cafe and would like to learn more about what it would take for someone to take it over. I am an Episcopal Communicator and run my own blog right now. I would love to learn more. You can contact me at kate@beadigitaldisciple.com.

Thanks for all you have done Jim!

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Don Reed

I have been in awe for years at the breadth and quality of this resource for news and opinion. I don't know how you've done it, but I am deeply grateful for your presence during these past nine years. Thank you.

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Vic Mansfield

I'm an avid fan and would hate to see you go. I know that we, in the Church, don't like to let go of things. I trust you all to discern what seems best. But, I will miss you if you go.

If I win the lottery, i'll call.

Of course, I have to buy a ticket, don't I.

Hope you can stay around.

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Bill Ghrist

I must add my heartfelt thanks for all of you who have made this site the single most important source of information about the Episcopal Church and related religious news. I certainly can understand your desire to move on to new pastures, but I hope some way can be found for the Café to continue. I am not capable of taking on the task myself, but I would certainly be willing to help some financially. My prayers go with you in whatever new paths you pursue.

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Murdoch Matthew

I wonder how you count the 330,000 visitors a year. Are those 330,000 different individuals, or are they the number of hits? In other words, should 330,000 be divided by 365 on the theory that Café fans check in at least once a day, as my husband and I do? The Café provides a valuable service, and is an attractive public face for the church. Without it, we'd be left with Mark Harris's Preludium and his sidebar of links for general information about TEC. (Especially after Jan Nunley was forced out at ENS)

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The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

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