Banner editors don’t just get to say, do, or publish what they want. True, they don’t answer directly to denominational leadership for editorial content. They answer to our widest assembly, the synod of the Christian Reformed Church. That way the magazine stays free from undue influence and is free to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).
Banner policy has been spelled out by synods past. The mechanisms used to keep the editor accountable on that score are
- an editorial council of Board of Trustees and Faith Alive board members,
- the Faith Alive board (now dissolved; temporarily the Board of Trustees),
- synod itself.
The highest level of scrutiny at synod comes in my meeting with the advisory committee, where synodical delegates ask questions, raise concerns, and give counsel. I enjoy those sessions. They include voices and perspectives from across the continent.
This year, as they do most years, some delegates asked why The Banner had published some very controversial articles. Why not play it safe and avoid stirring up trouble in our denomination? The committee was satisfied with my answer, but they wisely encouraged me to share it with you, our readers, as well.
The Banner is mandated by synod to do four things: inform, inspire, educate, and challenge its readers. The first three usually don’t raise many eyebrows. However, articles that challenge sometimes do. That’s because readers may mistakenly believe that such articles represent the official views of the magazine, the editor, or the denomination. But that’s not necessarily so.
Since The Banner became an every-household magazine in 2005, the metaphor for its editorial policy remains a kitchen table—the place where family and friends freely converse about significant matters and where all reasonable voices are heard. This means that The Banner publishes articles (submitted or solicited) that represent different points of view. Those voices must contribute to the conversation by providing new information, perspective, argument, or insight (in a respectful, concise manner). The aim is not to push editorial agendas or positions, but to provide a place where important issues facing our denomination can be openly and honestly discussed. So we provide lots of avenues for reader response—especially at thebanner.org, where readers are free to comment and have their say.
The place where the editor shares his personal perspective is here on the editorial page. And there’s also one place where readers get to be provocative and “pop off” soap-box style. That’s in the IMHO column. Beyond that, our editorial policy allows for articles from a diversity of views and opinions—provided they are within the bounds of Scripture, don’t directly advocate against the doctrines taught in the creeds and confessions, and remain reasonable and respectful.
So reader beware: do not take every article in The Banner for gospel truth. Use your discretion. Always. Especially around our kitchen table.
Scary? Perhaps. But isn’t that what we’re called to do together: test the spirits even as we maintain the unity of the body in the bonds of love? How else will we “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph. 4:15)?