It is time to say in an official public statement what has been in the planning for some time. At the end of this calendar year I will retire as editor of The Alabama Baptist after leading this ministry for 23 years and five months.
My intention to retire was shared with the board of directors in October 2017 but a public announcement was delayed so attention could be focused on the 175th anniversary of The Alabama Baptist. Now that the yearlong celebration is completed, it is time for this public announcement.
Some have anticipated my retirement ever since it was announced that Executive Editor Jennifer Davis Rash had been named editor-elect to succeed me at the time of my retirement. That announcement was made back in October 2016 so few are surprised by my approaching retirement.
Personally, I appreciate the board’s wisdom in acting to ensure the state Baptist paper will have a seamless change of leadership. There is no better person to lead this ministry onward than Jennifer Rash as her 22 years of service here have demonstrated.
This year — 2018 — is historic for The Alabama Baptist in more than one way. Along with the 175th anniversary of the ministry’s founding (Feb. 4, 1843), this year also marks the 100th year of The Alabama Baptist as an entity of the Alabama Baptist State Convention.
In the Nov. 11, 1935, edition of The Alabama Baptist, L.L. Gwaltney, then editor, wrote a column titled “A Brief History of This Paper” which appeared on page 3. He wrote, “On December 1st, 1918, it (The Alabama Baptist) was purchased from Dr. Barnett by the Alabama Baptist State Convention. The deal was initiated and perfected by Dr. W.F. Yarborough, then secretary of missions in Alabama.”
The minutes of the Alabama Baptist State Convention recorded that on Dec. 12, 1918, Yarborough offered the paper to the state convention executive board and that the executive board voted to purchase the paper for the convention.
A flu epidemic postponed the 1918 Alabama Baptist annual meeting until Jan. 7, 1919, when the executive board action was ratified but the convention had owned the paper since Yarborough’s purchase on Dec. 1 and the subsequent executive board action.
A four-person committee was established to oversee the paper. That soon expanded to a seven-person commission. Still later, governance was provided by a board of directors. But The Alabama Baptist began an organic relationship with the Alabama Baptist State Convention 100 years ago this coming December.
During that 100 years only four people will have served as editor of The Alabama Baptist — L.L. Gwaltney (1918–1950), Leon Macon (1950–1965), Hudson Baggett (1966–1994) and myself. Four editors in 100 years will be an unusual record.
That means 2019 will begin a new century of service as an Alabama Baptist entity and new leadership will be in place to help write the next chapter of the state Baptist paper’s illustrious history.
This year also will mark a personal anniversary in ministry for me. On Aug. 19, 1968, I began serving as assistant editor of Western Recorder, the state Baptist paper for Kentucky. I envisioned the position as a short-lived experience which would help me learn more about my denomination from the inside. In turn, that would make me a better pastor which I thought was my calling.
Obviously, God had other things in mind. This coming Aug. 19, I will complete 50 years in state Baptist papers — seven years in Kentucky, 20 years as editor of Word & Way in Missouri and 23 years as editor of The Alabama Baptist.
Thankfully, God also has allowed me to do extensive work as an interim pastor through the years. That has helped keep the paper tied to the needs of the local church.
With the 175th anniversary of the paper’s founding, the 100th anniversary of the paper becoming a convention entity, with being one of only four editors to serve during that century and my 50th year in state Baptist papers all occurring in 2018, it is a special year for me. As the year ends, it will be time to draw this phase of ministry to a close and make way for new leadership for a new century of service.
This year marks another personal anniversary. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the death of my late wife, Eleanor, who died from injuries suffered in South Africa as we were returning from a Baptist World Alliance meeting.
For all of those 20 years I have tried to support people walking the grief journey as I was supported in that crisis time.
In 1998 and 1999, I shared a few initial thoughts from that experience through this column. However, it is only in the last few months that I have been able to write something I can share with others about the many crises of that experience and what I learned about God in the midst of grief. Beginning in the April 5 issue, I will indulge your good graces and share six pieces about God’s provision in the midst of my personal crisis. The first installment will be published in this column. The others will be shared as articles elsewhere in the paper.
I pray they will be helpful to others walking the grief journey.
This is not goodbye. My race is not yet over. I have not completed my course, to use the Apostle Paul’s analogy in 2 Timothy 4:7. There are nine more months in 2018 and I plan to run the race to the end.
Please pray for me. Pray that I will finish my course faithfully; that I will prepare for whatever follows in retirement.
And please pray for editor-elect Jennifer Rash as she prepares to lead this important ministry. Pray that under her leadership the ministry will increase as an instrument God uses to grow Christian disciples and strengthen His churches.
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