Writing About Death

| , |

Something you can reliably expect to find in just about every edition of The Banner is an In Memoriam column—likely two or three of them, in most issues, and, further on, in the classifieds section, a collection of obituaries. These are two of the places where The Banner takes note of deaths among our pastors and members. A third is the occasional news story when someone who has served the denomination in the role of a director of a ministry has died.

I frequently field questions about The Banner’s varying ways of writing about death, so here’s the scoop...

In Memoriam

The Banner publishes memoriams, in the news section, for deceased ministers of the Christian Reformed Church who are in active or retired status with the denomination (not withdrawn or deposed). The distinction to do this for ministers of the Word and not for commissioned pastors isn’t meant to reflect a distinction of honor for one office and not for the other, but is in place more because of the scope of the two roles and the amount of space we have.

Ministers of the Word are ordained by the denomination to the office to serve the denomination for life unless they leave their office by way of one of the Articles of Church Order (the kind of details we report in Classis Watch stories). Commissioned pastors are ordained by a classis (regional group of churches) to serve a specific role in the classis, often for a specified period of time.

We are grateful for our regular Banner contributor, Janet Greidanus, who has written this column for us since 2015. Occasionally you might see Jonathan Kim as the byline for an In Memoriam. Kim has written In Memoriam columns for The Banner for Korean-speaking pastors. Neither Greidanus nor Kim writes these columns in a vacuum—they talk to family members, and sometimes past colleagues, to learn of the pastor’s life, and they share details from the pastor’s ministry, professional, and family life.

Typically we are notified of the death of a minister through the CRC's pension office, and then the news editor assigns the column to our regular writer, passing along the contact of a family member.

If a family member has news of a deceased pastor who they believe is eligible for a memoriam but they have not been contacted by The Banner, they can check with our news editor by emailing news@thebanner.org.

Obituaries

Placing an obituary for a loved one, in the classifieds section of The Banner, is open to anyone wishing to do that. Visit this webpage to submit your classified ad, selecting "Obituaries," and going through the steps you find there.

In The News

The Banner has developed policies of what constitutes news for the magazine over many years. Here’s what we’ve recorded about death, as a guideline to news correspondents: “We will do  stories of deaths only if they are directly connected to a CRC event, such as youths in a car crash on the way to a convention, or something else highly unusual. We don’t typically do stories about tragic deaths or diseases in a local congregation, nor do we generally do stories about how a congregation rallies around a family after such a tragedy.”

Additionally: “We note appointments, resignations, retirements, and deaths of the top two tiers of denominational personnel, which includes directors or presidents of institutions or agencies, and sometimes those one level down (directors of divisions within an agency or vice president at an institution). We will note retirements and appointments (or resignations or deaths) of presidents of CRC-related colleges.”

About the Author

Alissa Vernon is the news editor for The Banner.

X