CHARLOTTE, N.C. (ABP) – The editor of North Carolina Baptists' newspaper has agreed to resign his post to prevent a threatened motion to defund the publication from being made at the upcoming Baptist State Convention of North Carolina annual meeting.
Norman Jameson offered to resign his post at the Biblical Recorder prior to a regularly scheduled board meeting in Charlotte Oct. 21. Board members expected their meeting to include discussion about an announced challenge to the newspaper’s funding through the state convention when the organization holds its annual meeting Nov. 8-10.
Jameson, editor of the Recorder for just over three years, called his resignation “not required, but necessary.”
“Nobody asked me to resign,” Jameson said in a telephone interview Oct. 22. “Nobody threatened to fire me.”
Sandy Beck, director of missions in the Hendersonville-based Carolina Baptist Association, recently wrote convention leaders warning that if Jameson were not removed as editor, there would be a motion from the floor of the convention to amend the Cooperative Program unified budget to defund the Recorder.
“It seems that Mr. Jameson does not know the mindset of this predominantly biblically conservative state,” Beck wrote. “Enough is enough. If his board of directors cannot influence his lack of sensitivity, perhaps the conservative pastors and laity of this state can.”
Cooperative Program funding accounts for about 45 percent of the Biblical Recorder’s $726,500 budget in 2010.
Jameson, a Baptist journalist since 1977, said he was confident until just hours before his board meeting that the Recorder would survive such a challenge if it were to materialize. But with no such confidence expressed by the board, he offered to resign.
“It was necessary because I came to the conclusion eventually that the threat to the Recorder was real, and in the grand scheme of things I’m a pretty small fish,” he said.
Jameson, 56, has been criticized recently for continuing to cover North Carolina Woman’s Missionary Union, which is no longer recognized by the state convention but still is active in most of the convention’s churches. The paper has also continued to include stories about the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a moderate breakaway group that was included in one of the state convention’s multiple budget options before they were eliminated in favor of a single plan that excluded CBF, but kept giving to the Southern Baptist Convention.
Bill Flowe, chairman of the Recorder’s board of directors, affirmed Jameson’s “many positive personal qualities and his excellent work for and dedication to the Biblical Recorder and to North Carolina Baptists.”
“The editor’s job is not only to report but also to challenge readers to think in ways they otherwise might not think,” said Flowe, a lawyer and member of First Baptist Church in Liberty, N.C. “This duty makes the job precarious. The perception that Mr. Jameson is not a good fit as editor with the current direction of the convention resulted in the painful decision to make a change.”
News of Jameson’s resignation spread as directors and friends of Associated Baptist Press celebrated the 20th anniversary of the independent news service’s founding in reaction to censorship concerns related to the Southern Baptist Convention’s official news service, Baptist Press.
Meeting Oct. 22 in Nashville, Tenn., ABP directors unanimously went on record noting sadness about Jameson’s resignation and affirming his professionalism as a journalist.
“We believe the health and vitality of the Baptist movement and the integrity of the Baptist witness are best served by a free and unfettered flow of information,” the statement said in part. “As champions of truth and freedom, Baptists must be ever diligent to guard the role of a free and unfettered press as an essential corollary to our historic Baptist principles of religious liberty, freedom of conscience and priesthood of the believer.”
ABP directors said Jameson’s ministry “has been marked by the utmost integrity and the highest standards of journalistic excellence” and pledged admiration and support for him and his family as he seeks new employment.
Jameson said the paper’s directors asked him to work through the end of the December and “were kind” in their severance offer.
“There is no animosity in my heart and no anger toward any person,” he said. “The meeting ended on a very positive note. The board members seemed genuinely appreciative of my work and of me as a person. It just felt that I was not part of the tribe.”
Jameson worked as executive leader for public relations for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina before moving to the editorship of the Biblical Recorder in August 2007. He succeeded Tony Cartledge, 55, who resigned to become a professor at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, N.C.
Cartledge cited discord in the state convention and threats to the paper’s independence as factors in his departure. In 2006 North Carolina Baptists defeated a bylaw change that would have given convention-related institutions such as the Biblical Recorder more influence over the appointment of trustees and directors.
Raised in a small Wisconsin farming community, Jameson graduated from Oklahoma Baptist University and worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph before being named feature editor of Baptist Press in 1977.
He entered Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1982, where he finished his degree while working as associate editor of the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger. He then became communications director for Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina in 1987, a position he held for 12 years.
Jameson and his wife, Sue Ellen, have three adult children and are members of Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C.
–Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.
Full text of statement from Associated Baptist Press follows.
The Board of Directors of Associated Baptist Press, at its semi-annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn., Oct. 22, adopted the following statement:
We are dismayed to learn of the resignation of Norman Jameson as editor of the Biblical Recorder of North Carolina, one of Baptists’ historic and most respected newspapers.
Ironically, this news came to us on the same day that the Board of Directors gathered with other friends of ABP to honor those Baptist state paper editors and founding board members who stepped forward 20 years ago to establish and lead ABP as a free and autonomous news service for Baptists and other Christians worldwide.
We believe the health and vitality of the Baptist movement and the integrity of the Baptist witness are best served by a free and unfettered flow of information. As champions of truth and freedom, Baptists must be ever diligent to guard the role of a free and unfettered press as an essential corollary to our historic Baptist principles of religious liberty, freedom of conscience and priesthood of the believer.
Norman Jameson’s ministry among Baptists has been marked by the utmost integrity and the highest standards of journalistic excellence. We are grateful for Norman’s principled leadership of the Biblical Recorder, his commitment to providing accurate and reliable information to North Carolina Baptists, and his fair-minded and insightful editorials on matters of faith and current issues.
For Norman, serving as editor of the Biblical Recorder was the fulfillment of a dream and a glad response to the calling of God. Now, at this unfortunate and unanticipated juncture in their lives, we wish to assure Norman and his wife Sue Ellen of our prayers, our admiration and our continued support as they prayerfully contemplate a new direction in life and ministry.