The time has come to say goodbye—or promise to keep looking for you while praying our paths cross again. After 18 years and seven months as editor of the Baptist Standard, this is my final editorial.
Twenty-two years ago, a Baptist Standard search committee sought a successor to Editor Presnall Wood. The committee wisely chose Toby Druin, the Standard’s associate editor for almost two decades. Then Toby, a lifelong friend and mentor, asked me to come back home to Texas and to work for him. Three years later, the Standard’s board of directors asked me to succeed him, and I became the newspaper’s 13th editor Jan. 1, 1999.
So much change
By the way, it was a newspaper then. That was before digital media proliferated, back when Baptists received their denominational news on paper and ink. So much has happened, and so much has changed:
• Among Baptist newspapers, we pioneered in posting content on the Internet.
• We updated our printed edition—again and again.
• We launched a development program to help pay the bills, particularly since we’re the only Baptist news organization not subsidized by its affiliated convention.
• We led with the Enhanced Electronic Edition—an exact copy of our print edition. God bless you if you tried to read an entire paper on that creaky platform.
• We created New Voice Media, a partnership with Associated Baptist Press, Virginia’s Religious Herald and Missouri’s Word & Way. We teamed up to produce cover packages, operate a joint website platform and share design costs. Mostly, we provided collegiality and moral support.
• We built, launched, operated and eventually closed FaithVillage, a resources website for young adults. It touched tens of thousands of people a month. But we couldn’t cover the costs, and the board and staff previously agreed we would not allow FaithVillage to take down the Standard.
• We considered and eventually decided against merging with Baptist News Global, the news organization created by the merger of Associated Baptist Press and the Religious Herald.
• We made numerous difficult decisions—about selling our building in West Dallas and relocating our office, discontinuing the printed edition of the Standard, publishing only online, launching CommonCall magazine, and adjusting staff size and structure.
• We revamped our marketing program and digital media presence, added the “Texas Baptist Voices” and “Deep in the Hearts of Texans” columns, set our budget in the black and enjoyed an upward trend in readership.
• We redesigned the Standard’s logo and built a new, vastly improved website, both of which will premiere soon. (In a stroke of divine blessing, the staff will learn how to operate the new site the day after my last day on the job.)
“We” is a beautiful word
“We” is the operative word in the previous 10 paragraphs. All that has happened across the past two decades has been a labor of faith and passion that joined the hearts and talents of our board of directors and staff.
The great blessing of serving at the Standard has been the opportunity to walk alongside these women and men. They have been colleagues who became friends; friends who feel like family. Despite fractiousness in society and in the Baptist denomination, our board and staff always worked in harmony, seeking God’s plan for our ministry in a spirit of respect and love.
The other major blessing of this job has been communicating with Texas Baptists, the folks who nurtured me. As a child, I never dreamed a kid growing up in Texas Panhandle Baptist parsonages could become editor of the Baptist Standard. But you welcomed me into your home—and onto your phone and/or laptop—time and again.
And here’s the best part: You welcomed me even when we didn’t agree. Historically, that’s been one of Texas Baptists’ great virtues—the willingness to accept and respect one another despite disagreements and the ability to continue working alongside each other. The board of directors protected editorial freedom, and most readers tolerated it. So, I enjoyed an unparalleled opportunity to write about the most important cultural, moral and religious issues of our day, and readers exercised their right to respond in letters. We’re all better because of the free and faithful conversation.
Late last year, a phone call delivered a bolt out of the blue—an invitation to talk to Suzii Paynter, executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, about launching a new network called Fellowship Southwest.
Since its founding more than a quarter-century ago, I have admired CBF’s commitment to historic Baptist principles that resonate in the hearts of many Texas Baptists—the priesthood of all believers, local-church autonomy, religious liberty, and cooperative missions and ministry. Along the way, I have admired Suzii Paynter, a native Texan and one of Baptists’ great leaders. So, the Holy Spirit did not have to nudge me hard to convince me to say yes to her offer.
Beginning Aug. 1, I will work alongside existing CBF organizations in Oklahoma, Texas and the West. We will seek to advance missions and ministry, promote Baptist identity, and strengthen multicultural and ecumenical relationships. For me, this opportunity sounds like Frederick Buechner’s definition of calling: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Meanwhile, I hope you’ll join me in praying for the Baptist Standard and its next editor. The board is wise and courageous, and the staff is talented and committed. We can expect the next editor to possess those characteristics. But she or he will need your support. So, maintain your subscription and keep reading. The best Baptist is an informed Baptist.
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel …, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:3-6).
Follow Marv on Twitter: @marvknox