Art Toalston has announced after more than 27 years of service, he will retire from the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) official news service, Baptist Press (BP), effective Sept. 30.
Toalston, senior editor of BP, notified Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, Aug. 14. Toalston said he was looking forward to his new role as a “journalistic adventurer.”
Toalston transitioned from editor after 23 years to senior editor in 2015 when Shawn Hendricks began directing daily BP operations and was named editor a year later.
Toalston’s decision to retire, he wrote to Floyd, “comes at a providential time when I can help make room for a new future for Baptist Press as you set forth new vision for the Executive Committee and its ministries.
“Certainly I will be glad to assist you, Baptist Press, the Executive Committee, fellow Southern Baptists and their ministries, and the body of Christ in the days ahead as the Lord leads,” he said.
Toalston noted, “Although it is commonly called retirement, I don’t see it that way. Upon leaving the Executive Committee, I intend to continue following God’s call in Christian journalism in whatever pathways the Lord leads.”
Roger “Sing” Oldham, vice president for convention communications and relations, described Toalston as “Southern Baptists’ lead journalist” since January 1, 1992, having served as editor or senior editor of Baptist Press under four of the Executive Committee’s seven presidents.
“His writing credits are legendary,” Oldham added, “with thousands of news articles, interviews, and op-ed pieces published in Baptist Press and other venues.” Toalston is also an active churchman, family man, and devoted follower of Christ, Oldham said.
“He has a passionate devotional life of prayer, meditation, witnessing and Scripture memory,” Oldham said. “Seldom does a week go by that he does not share a witnessing testimony or cite a passage of Scripture he is memorizing. We anticipate he will continue to write for Baptist Press on a regular basis in his retirement and wish the best for him and his wife Karen in the years to come.”
Hendricks expressed his appreciation for Toalston’s commitment to Baptist Press and what he has meant to him and other Southern Baptist communicators both personally and professionally.
“Art is known for that kind smile, enthusiastic greeting and humbleness, but make no mistake, he also is a fierce journalist who loves sniffing out a good story,” he said. “He has been a mentor and friend to me – and so many others – for many years, and I will miss seeing him on a daily basis in the newsroom. But I look forward to seeing his byline in Baptist Press and many other outlets in the days ahead as he begins this new journey.”
Laura Erlanson, BP’s operations coordinator, has worked with Toalston for 16 years – longer than anyone else in the newsroom – and noted the nine characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit hanging on his office wall.
“There could be no better description of him than that,” she said. “He exemplifies those traits more than anyone I know. In 16 years of working with him, I’ve never seen him raise his voice or lose his temper. I have seen him commit long passages of scripture to memory using the notecards that are always in his pocket. He is always funny, always kind, always calm and always completely dedicated to doing the best possible work. I am so thankful to the Lord for allowing me the privilege of working with and learning from Art Toalston.”
Toalston is a native of Alliance, Ohio, who holds a master of arts in journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and an undergraduate speech and journalism degree from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. He also has studied at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; the Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, Va.; and Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, Miss.
Prior to joining Baptist Press, Toalston worked seven years as a staff writer at the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) and one year as a writer at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Before that, he worked as a religion writer at the Jackson Daily News/The Clarion Ledger in Jackson, Miss., and at newspapers in Middletown, Fostoria and Findlay, Ohio.
Toalston began at BP when it was sending out daily mailings of stories to state Baptist papers and helped launch BP’s website (bpnews.net ) in 1996. Through the years, he also has helped BP achieve top Evangelical Press Association and Baptist Communicator Association awards of excellence.
Among his many contributions, Toalston has spearheaded BP coverage of numerous natural disaster responses including Hurricane Katrina; Baptist Faith & Message revisions in 2000 and 1998; the SBC’s Covenant for a New Century restructuring in the mid-1990s; the deaths of noted Baptist leaders W.A. Criswell, Adrian Rogers and Herschel Hobbs; and the SBC’s 1995 racial reconciliation resolution.
Toalston has authored five books: When I Meditate: Reclaiming a Key Facet of Prayer and Meditation & Morality: Praying for a Better Way in e-book format at Amazon; Pray – And Live – As Never Before: Toward an Invigorating, Inexhaustible Faith and Your Soul on Scripture at arttoalston.com; and Lamp Unto My Feet: A Verse-A-Day Devotional, 365 Christian Leaders Share the Scriptures That Have Guided Their Lives (HarperSanFrancisco).
Toalston and his wife Karen and have an adult daughter, Kaeli.