About the Ad in USA Today

An ad was taken out by the Communications Office of The Episcopal Church on Friday's USA Today, "weekend" edition. There have been a number of comments mostly suggesting the ad is verbose and kind of dull. Still, I'm glad to see "The Episcopal Church welcomes you" back in full use and glad to see something being done.

At the same time it is a joy to see that other more quirky and lively ads are also being experimented with. As usual Susan Russell has done a remarkable job getting to the bottom of this quirky creativeness and has contributed an ad of her own. Here it is, to the right.

There is a challenge out to produce new and fresh ads that tell US as we are, and with joy. Here is the Ad-o-rama challenge. Take it or weep. Among the offerings already in place is this one to the left.

Now after those rather spirited efforts the ad from the Church Center seemed rather less useful. The problem I think is that it tries to do too much. The good news is that the Church Center is seeing the need to try to reach the unreached. Anne Rudig, Director of Communications, explained it this way "Our goal is to herald and share our message of "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You", and the copy delves into our identity, our core beliefs, and our heritage."

The operant words here are "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You" and "the copy delves..."

It is the "delving" that is the problematic here.

Here is the copy of the text from the USA Today ad. I have inserted comments in RED reflecting on the dangers of delving.The font is not produced here, but can be retrieved as a PDF file HERE. It is nicely proper.


As Episcopalians, we are followers of Jesus Christ, our Lord, and believe in
the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It would have been helpful to use perhaps a few more words here, as in "believe in One God, Father..." Not that that helps in some quarters, the doctrine of the Trinity being what it is, but at least we would be less open to the charge of worshiping three gods.

The Episcopal Church has members in the United States, as well as in Colombia,
the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy,
Switzerland, Haiti, Honduras, Micronesia, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Venezuela,
and the Virgin Islands.

That is true, but we also have members, I suspect in almost every country in the world. It issue is not members. It is congregations and / or dioceses in those countries.

We strive to love our neighbors as ourselves and respect the dignity of every person.

The Episcopal Church is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and traces
its heritage to the beginnings of Christianity.

Our liturgy retains ancient structure and traditions, and is celebrated in
many languages.

We welcome men and women, married or celibate, to be ordained as bishops,
priests, and deacons.

This one is oddly phrased. The choice "married or celibate" is not correct. The choice is between in community or solitary, or something like that. Marriage, being part of a religious order, partnered, in a holy union, etc are all variations on community. Being "single" can be an accident or on purpose. I like the word "solitary" to describe a vocation to a life without the vows that accompany joining a community or being partnered. At any rate here it might have been better to leave out "married or celibate," and make it about "men and women" without further limitations.

We believe in amendment of life, the forgiveness of sin, and life everlasting.

Lay people exercise a vital role in the governance and ministry of our Church.

Holy Communion may be received by all baptized Christians, not only members
of the Episcopal Church.

We uphold the Bible and worship with the Book of Common Prayer.

Here "uphold the Bible" seems odd. "We are informed by the witness and words of the Holy Scriptures, the Bible...." might work better.

We affirm that committed relationships are lifelong and monogamous.

This is just plain silly. I have many committed relationships. In most there is no expectation that the commitment is lifelong and the relationship is exclusive. This one needs radical reworking or needs to be dropped altogether.

Episcopalians also recognize that there is grace after divorce and do not deny
the sacraments to those who have been divorced.

We affirm that issues such as birth control are matters of personal
informed conscience.

We celebrate our unity in Christ while honoring our differences, always putting
the work of love before uniformity of opinion.

This makes it sound as if we are more willing to put up with people who do injustice from a principled position than we are to take them to task for bad principles. Come to think of it perhaps we are.

All are welcome to find a spiritual home in the Episcopal Church.

All in all not a bad list. Needs some work. Informative without being too concentrated on theological or ecclesiastical niceties. Still, as I have said on other occasions, it might be nice to add in closing,

We live in hope that when you know us you will welcome us into your home, for where you live is also the spiritual home of the God whose blessings are on us all.


  1. I guess that all of the really creative types were the ones who were laid off in the money crunch. This is kind of horrible. No one left to write decent copy.

  2. Fr. Mark,

    I had almost the same exact quibbles with the text as you-- and I am from the traditionalist/"orthodox" end of the Episcopal Church. I guess that even if our BCP praying doesn't shape our believing to the same end it should shape our prose (and copy).

    God bless your editing.

    Fr. Bill

  3. I'm afraid this kind of blah, blah, blah isn't going to attract many folks. The acronym KISS would seem to apply here!

  4. I'm afraid this kind of blah, blah, blah isn't going to attract many folks. The acronym KISS would seem to apply here!

  5. Quibbles with the text strike me as beside the point. This is an ad, not a doctoral thesis. When I think of quality print advertisements, I think of ads for Apple, the original VW bug, Absolut Vodka and perhaps a handful of others which have become icons of graphic excellence. While I don't really expect the folks at 815 to rise to this standard, a few words of advice come to mind:

    Don't be afraid of white space.

    Any text should be short and memorable.

    One ad should leave the reader with a single message. No more.

    This is a visual medium. Treat it accordingly.

    If this is the best that 815 can do, then I can identify some additional opportunities for cutting costs. Let's run an open internet competition. The winner is whatever succeeds in going viral. Until we can achieve that, it isn't good enough.

  6. My take away on this is that the words were designed to give the least offense to those who accuse TEC of being ungodly and heretical, hence the repeated emphasis on celibacy, monogamy, repentance, marriage, etc.

    If the purpose was to draw in the unchurched (as do the competing ads you share) it is a massive fail. It deviates little from the standards "these are the hurdles you must cross before you dare approach our holy place" and has little in the way of "Welcome!"

    As a proudly liberal member with one foot out the door already due to being trapped in an all-conservative all the time diocese it did nothing to make we feel that I should stay let alone invite others to come see what it's all about.

    Better luck next time. (I like the other ads far more!)

  7. The ad is way too verbose. Don't TELL me about the Episcopal Church welcoming me. I'm from Missouri. SHOW ME!

    I don't think making it differently verbose is going to help. People respond viscerally to imagery in a way that they almost never do to text (something Protestants and evangelicals have learned the hard way, and that Catholics and Eastern Orthodox have always known).

    If you want people to know about the Episcopal Church, then you have to show it to them.

  8. While I rejoice in our trying to get the message of our welcome out there, I agree with the critiques. Fewer words, more graphics. We want to catch the eye and fire the imagination. We could do so much better.

  9. It seems to me that you could format this copy into a table, five rows by five columns, and create a lovely game of "Buzzword Bingo." I'm not sure who is being invited and what they are being invited to do. Notice that these items are statements, not invitations. It's a manifesto of theological abstractions.

    Where is the poetry here? Where is the invitation? Where is the music?

  10. Why are they wasting our money on print media? Who reads newspapers today? Not the people Jesus tells us to bring in. A newspaper ad will never "reach the unreached." All it does is make us feel good for going through the motions. Why wasn't this money spent on internet/online advertising? More people could have been reached for less money? Why wasn't this money used to buy Mandarin and Spanish ads? If we think newspaper ads will grow the church, then we might as well give up now.

  11. it is not an ad it is a thesis and boring - who cares about all those things when looking for a church -- sounds mostly defensive not open and welcoming.
    and where is the room for transgender people?

  12. I will always remember the first ad campaigns,,, which stated "He came to take away your sins not your mind" and "There's a difference between being baptized and brainwashed"
    From these ads I came to know not a church of the elite and elitists as it is so often disparaged but a church of critical thinking adulthood (now if only the adults would show up, we'd really have something.)

  13. Seamus, Exactly. "He had his doubts, why can't you?" (Christ on his knees in Gethsemane) "What do women wear in the Episcopal Church today?" (It had a very large graphic of a stole and a clerical collar if I remember correctly.) These ads reached out and grabbed the person viewing them. They were very simple and very effective. We had posters of them lining the walls leading into our Parish Hall.

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OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.