By Kirk Petersen
Episcopal Journal & Café, which was formed by a merger of two publications in 2022, announced August 15 that it has suspended operations, effective immediately.
“The economics of online publications, and a former print one, are challenging and the decision has been made to stop updating the site and ultimately archive it,” Editor Solange De Santis announced on the site. The closure marks the end of one of the few independent sources of news about the Episcopal Church.
“The Journal covered this very big church as an independent publication,” De Santis told TLC. “It is not easy for a religious publication to be unsubsidized by a denomination, for instance. So we had a small staff, all freelancers. We didn’t have actual employees. And it’s a difficult job to cover this church with a small staff.” She declined to provide specific information about the publication’s sources of income.
Episcopal Journal emerged as a print publication in 2010 from the ashes of Episcopal Life, an official publication of the church launched in 1990. Episcopal Life was shuttered in 2009 in a dramatic wave of cost-cutting that saw 40 positions eliminated at the church headquarters. The Journal was launched by Jerry Hames, a former editor of EL. De Santis, who was editor of EL at the time of its closure, joined the Journal and took over from Hames in 2012.
The print Journal was marketed to dioceses for use as a supplement to diocesan print publications. “However, in the intervening years, fewer and fewer dioceses were maintaining print publications in newspaper format,” De Santis wrote in an email to Episcopal Communicators, an independent organization of communicators for dioceses, congregations, and parishes throughout the Episcopal Church.
Episcopal Café, always an online publication, was launched in 2007 by Jim Naughton, who at the time was canon for communications for the Diocese of Washington. The Café was an advocate for progressive causes at a time when many conservatives were leaving the church in the wake of the 2003 consecration of Gene Robinson as an openly gay bishop. “It was a period where those issues needed to be fought out in public,” Naughton told TLC. He left his unpaid position at Episcopal Café in 2014, and has not been involved in its operation since then.
The two publications merged in May 2022, and the combined publication transitioned to exclusively online after its September 2022 issue. With the closure, the two main remaining sources of news and information about the Episcopal Church are the Episcopal News Service and The Living Church.
ENS, staffed by professional journalists who are employed by the Episcopal Church, has produced a robust stream of online news and features for decades. ENS enjoys broad distribution of its content through church and diocesan publications and websites, and occasionally in TLC.
TLC, founded in 1878 as a weekly newspaper, transitioned to monthly magazine publication at the beginning of 2023, and provides timely news and information through its website. The organization is independent of the Church Center, but is generously supported by partners including numerous dioceses, congregations, and organizations. The Living Church Foundation, Inc., is sustained by print and online advertising and other revenue streams, notably sales of the Episcopal Musician’s Handbook, which just published its 67th edition.