Jonathan Merritt, who has had one foot in the closet since at least 2012 when a homosexual man outed Merritt as his one-night-stand lover, is a press ally of the left-wing of evangelicalism that has been slowly but surely taking over the Southern Baptist Convention and other evangelical institutions. The son of a one-time president of the Southern Baptist Convention, James Merritt, has thrust himself to the center of most of the controversies that have plagued the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. Merritt has maintained close allegiances with the Evangelical Intelligentsia, the Deep State of the evangelical industrialized complex that has repeatedly driven American evangelicalism leftward, like Ed Stetzer, Russell Moore, and the Social Justice Warriors at the Gospel Coalition. Merritt has written consistently leftist-slanted and progressive propaganda for Religion News Service (RNS) since 2013. He has now been fired from RNS over a contract dispute.
Because Jonathan Merritt has been a key figure in the queering of evangelicalism and softening its tone on Same Sex Attraction (SSA), being a willing accomplice in the press for the Evangelical Intelligentsia, I have kept an eager eye on his career. When it was announced that Merritt was leavings RNS, one of the platforms from which he would publish his subversive ideologies (ostensibly and dubiously as a fellow evangelical), I began to wonder why.
At first, I presumed that there was a difference of opinion regarding how far RNS wanted to go in normalizing Same Sex Attraction (SSA) and how far Merritt wanted to go in normalizing SSA. RNS is actually one of the oldest – if not the oldest – exclusively Christian newswire in the country, being founded in 1934. It was founded by Louis Minsky in cooperation with an organization called, The National Conference of Christians and Jews, and from the beginning set about to be a non-denominational, non-biased news source. The news company holds to no explicit faith, religion, or creed. It was bought by the United Methodist Report in 1983 and in 1994 was purchased by Newhouse News Service, finally being purchased by the Religion Newswriters Association (RNA). RNA is an LLC associated with the University of Missouri.
RNS has not been without controversy. In 2015, RNS received a 150 thousand dollar grant from an LGBT-rights organization called the Arcus Foundation. The goal of that organization is “to recruit and equip LGBT supportive leaders and advocates to counter rejection and antagonism within traditionally conservative Christian churches.” RNS reportedly accepted the grant cheerfully and said that there was no pro-LGBT quid-pro-quo expected, except that RNS was to report on how issues affected the LGBT Christian community.
Most recently, however, various sources have made many the claim that RNS is in a death-spiral. After being purchased by RNA, numerous changes to its editorial staff and departures by popular writers or correspondents have not bode well for the company. Jeffry MacDonald, a 20 year veteran of RNS, recently replaced Jerome Socolovsky, and became the interim editor of the publication. Socolovsky had only been the editor since 2015, when he replaced Kevin Eckstrom, who had been the editor from 2006 to 2015. In the personnel shakeups, writers resigned, including Kimberly Winston and now Lauren Markoe. So then, Merritt’s departure from RNS certainly hasn’t happened in a vacuum.
Merritt has spoken out about his departure from RNS in detail, although he did not at first. Speaking out now because he claims that the new editor, Jeffry MacDonald, had lied about the nature of his departure being “mundane” (Merritt says it was more dramatic than that), Merritt claims that his leaving has little to do with ideology or concerns over journalism and instead about contract negotiation, pay, and editorial control.
Merritt told Rewire News:
Merritt continued emailing Gallagher throughout April trying to get a contract. At this point, MacDonald had been hired and Merritt told him and Gallagher “I’m not going to be able to write for you anymore until I get a contract.” This resulted in “finally getting an email” from Gallagher who told Merritt to “check with your assistant” for a contract. According to Merritt, the contract he finally received was dated June 1, a one-year contract “like what I’ve had for the longest time.”
After Merritt had signed the contract, MacDonald informed him that, not only had RNS formed a partnership with WNET, but that Merritt would be expected to write three additional articles for WNET and that they would have to be pitched to MacDonald, who would edit them. In addition to being more work, Merritt notes that it fell “outside the bounds of our long-standing agreement” about Merritt having editorial control of his blog posts.
Additionally, MacDonald did not want Merritt to write Question-and-Answer interviews on his blog portion of RNS (because RNS was forming an agreement with the Associated Press, which does not like the Q&A content), and Merritt objected to the prohibition because the format was well-read.
Then, according to Merritt, MacDonald sent him a long series of questions, inquiring of his journalistic integrity. Merrit fired back a series to MacDonald about his integrity, and Merritt received an email from MacDonald on June 28th, saying that he had been terminated, effective immediately.
Merritt, who still holds a nebulous and constantly evolving position on homosexual behavior, is one of the many evangelical leaders desiring to normalize Same Sex Attraction (SSA), a condition with which Merrit himself struggles. Interestingly, Merritt is dropping clues that he may be involved in creating a new, competing news network.
Asked what he plans next, Merritt says that given the disarray at RNS, “perhaps it’s time for a new religion news outlet.” There are “plenty of competent religion writers” who could work for “an organization built for the 21st century.” For now, Merritt says, he is “thinking very seriously about whether that needs to happen and whether I need to be one of the people who would be a part of that.”
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