In 2005, Synod decided to send The Banner to every household in the Christian Reformed Church in North America rather than just to those who subscribed. In the process, it provided editorial guidelines for this “every household” Banner, which added further layers and nuance to the existing mandate.
With this change, Synod 2005 wanted The Banner to “serve as a unifying force within the denomination” but still “honor our differences.” It wrote, “Unity does not mean papering over differences or failing to note the diversity and variety of our denomination.” I hope readers see the inherent tensions in that guideline.
These 2005 guidelines also note that The Banner needs to “be easily read” yet “be challenging” and be consistently of high quality. We are also required to reach children and teens.
Therefore, we are not a niche genre magazine that caters to specific tastes, such as all theology all the time. There are reasons why we have the Discover column that focuses on children’s learning, why we have Cross Examination apologetics-type articles that wrestle with questions youth ask, and why we have music and movie reviews. Because we have to appeal to all ages and to various segments of our denomination, we have a mixed bag of contents.
We are also not an academic publication but a popular one. We won’t be publishing heavy duty in-depth theological pieces anytime soon. Hence, even though we are required to engage controversial but relevant issues, we have to deal with them in a non-academic and easily readable way. Obviously, not everyone will be pleased with this approach.
Let me offer an imperfect analogy to illustrate this. My go-to radio station in Toronto, when I am in the car, is a mainstream pop variety music station that has a mix of old favorites from the 1980s on to some of the latest current hits, with a non-repeat of songs during work hours. Although it has a wide variety of music genres ranging from country music to rock and everything in between, it rarely, if ever, plays anything genuinely classical or operatic nor anything heavy metal. There are other radio stations for those genres—classical music, rap and hip hop, heavy metal, hard rock, all country music all the time, oldies, only the current hits station, etc. There are even talk radio stations or all-news stations. And I understand that not everyone would like my go-to pop variety station.
In my humble opinion, the Banner, given these editorial guidelines from Synod 2005, is closer to the pop variety music station than any of those other ones. We try to provide a wide range of articles and topics in a popular, lay-person, style to appeal to a wide range of readers including ages. This is another balancing act that we need to do in addition to the synodical mandate (explored in part one). We know we won’t be able to appeal to everyone all the time. But we hope that some of our content will appeal to some of our readers, some of the time.