I appreciate the Biblical Recorder’s (BR) new editor, Seth Brown, allowing me this final spot to offer a few parting words to our loyal audience.
The date on the forthcoming print issue of the Recorder, June 1, is my first day of retirement as your editor.
The good news is, I now qualify to receive a free copy of the Biblical Recorder! I am now one of 5,600 Baptist churches, entities, retired ministers, missionaries, associational leaders and others that receive the Recorder because our churches support Kingdom ministry through the Cooperative Program (CP).
If you expect me to counter with a “bad news” statement, there is no down side to report today.
It has been the Recorder’s policy to provide all North Carolina Baptist churches with a complimentary copy because published news and information on these pages promotes generosity through the CP. That principle was part of the BR’s vision when it was founded in 1833 – long before CP was birthed in 1925.
When the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) met in 1832 – which was only the third annual meeting – Thomas Meredith proposed the launch of the nation’s fourth Baptist newspaper.
Addressing the messengers at the annual meeting, Samuel Wait said, “It will easily be seen that we have long labored under great and very serious disadvantages from the want of a well conducted religious journal.”
Underscore the words, “… great and very serious disadvantages… .” Wait, who served in a role comparable to the position Milton A. Hollifield Jr. holds as BSC’s executive director-treasurer, said Baptists labored with serious limitations in the absence of an effective tool of communication.
Here is my translation of his comments: People need to know!
“Such a paper we might hope, being adapted to the existing state of our churches, would be productive of the best consequences,” Wait continued. “Much information on important subjects could be imparted to the churches and our congregations at large, many prejudices removed, and the way soon prepared for securing to the Convention annually, a larger amount of aid.”
Do you see the vision they were putting forth? Information that supports the convention’s mission must be effectively communicated to everyone in our Baptist family. Such information serves to remove prejudices and misunderstandings. It also raises support for our missionary causes – local and international – by reporting the great accomplishments of these ministries.
The Recorder was privately owned by a series of individuals and companies for the first 105 years. In 1938, the BSC purchased the BR and all of its assets, because the news journal struggled to survive as a business.
The convention wanted the Recorder to become a successful ministry tool with support from North Carolina churches through the Cooperative Program – which was only a dozen years old at that point.
For 186 years the Biblical Recorder has been telling the story. Through most of that time, the tool of the printing press has been the primary means of communicating to Baptists.
In the last 20 years digital tools have been added. Today the website, the weekly e-newsletter, the digital version of the print edition and multiple social media tools reach a broad Southern Baptist audience.
Although the convention and the Recorder have separate governing boards and operate independently, the BR has been owned by this convention for 81 years.
Both organizations depend on CP support and the support of church leaders across the state. We also mutually supports each other’s purposes.
In my opinion, Baptist state newspapers – and accompanying websites – are the strongest voices for CP support available to Baptists, apart from the influence of local church pastors. Healthy journalism is also Baptists’ strongest voice of accountability and responsibility.
As a former editor, I plan to promote the principles of a free, responsible press that is supported by local churches.
Church leaders need to value responsible journalism. Baptists have the resources to provide excellent journalism if leaders support it.
A quick review of secular journalism’s landscape should teach us the need for fair, responsible journalism.
Without the civility and integrity of Christian journalists, secular media is imploding.
I will be quick to add that the presence of a few Christian journalists in secular media and the biblical “salt” they bring to the table, is possibly the only reason secular media has survived.
Needless to say, journalism is not perfect. CP is not perfect. Baptists are not perfect. There is no perfect system in our fallen world.
But I firmly believe in journalism’s value to our cause. I believe CP is the best model for shared, multi-tiered mission support that exists in Christendom. I believe God is not finished with Baptists.
I encourage you to pray for the ministry of the Biblical Recorder. Pray for Southern Baptists. My prayer is that our Father will constantly remind us that we need Him and we need each other. These are two sides of the coin we call “ministry.”
I leave my post at the Biblical Recorder with much gratitude. I am thankful for the support I received from Milton and the staff he leads at the BSC. From the very beginning, Milton personally affirmed that as the executive director-treasure, he values the mission of the BR. At the same time, he expressed the desire for the Recorder to operate with editorial freedom, without the authority of his office.
With integrity, he lived up to his commitment. Going the second mile, he consistently and passionately promoted the Recorder’s work in churches across the state. I am very grateful for Milton’s leadership and support.
Working with the agencies, entities and ministries of the BSC and the Southern Baptist Convention has been a personal delight. I am extremely grateful for our partners in Kingdom work. It has been an honor to work with the gifted leaders of our Baptist organizations and entities, as well as their communications teams.
Our loyal subscribers, readers and church leaders are awesome. Thank you very much for supporting the BR and sharing our message with Baptists who do not know we exist.
I am grateful for the privilege of serving alongside the BR staff and board of directors. These outstanding women and men have functioned as a team to passionately, responsibly fulfill our mission.
I leave my post at the Biblical Recorder with full support for the BR’s mission and the team that succeeds me.
They are leaders in Southern Baptist journalism. I share their conviction that the voice of free journalism in Baptist life must grow stronger.
It is my prayer that you will add your wholehearted support also.