Word&Way's trustees have given their blessing to an effort to further the news operation's scope both geographically and among the wider family of Baptists. This action, adopted unanimously on Feb. 28, helps define Word&Way's particular niche as a Baptist print and online publication.
Geographically, we plan to add news coverage of churches and events traditionally not covered by the Baptist state papers in adjacent states. For instance, each of these border states has Cooperative Baptist Fellowship or Mainstream Baptist organizations or churches, groups we have experience covering in Missouri.
While we will continue the scope of our coverage in Missouri, we have no intent to compete with other Baptist state papers in their coverage of their own church, state convention and Southern Baptist Convention news.
Word&Way also has some experience in covering goings-on among groups like American Baptist Churches-USA and various National Baptist groups. These opportunities have come our way for a couple of reasons.
One, we have several Missouri churches that have claimed dual alignment with both American Baptist and Southern Baptist national conventions. Historically and practically, both relationships have been important to them. In addition, we have had at least one church dually aligned with Southern Baptists and one of the National Baptist conventions.
Two, we have cultivated some broadened Baptist relationships already through staff initiative and through collaborative efforts that have sprung from New Baptist Covenant national and regional meetings. The New Baptist Covenant — initiated as Baptists celebrated their 400th anniversary — has had as its goal to increase Baptist fellowship, cooperation and unity among all Baptists. Such efforts have spawned such relationships at the national, regional and local levels.
We have neither sought nor gained formal endorsement from denominational entities like American and National Baptists. Like our New Voice Media partner Associated Baptist Press, we seek to report news from these groups. While ABP's scope is national, ours will be regional and will include stories from area churches.
Naturally, we hope current and potential readers will embrace this approach to regional Baptist news. We hope one byproduct of our efforts will be the addition of subscribers. We also believe we will be adding value to our current and potential advertisers, too.
Too often, Baptists have left their mark in the form of divisiveness and rancor. They have tended to draw back from each other, often choosing to be more exclusive and not inclusive, less cooperative than more cooperative, and less unified rather than more unified. Like most Baptists, we at Word&Way are weary of conflict.
Baptist unity is worth pursuing; it is easy to make a case for doing so. The principles and convictions that most Baptists hold dear make various Baptist groups more alike than different. Virtually every group is deeply committed to missions and evangelism. As a result of the New Baptist Covenant movement, different flavors of Baptists are already collaborating on issues of human need and justice, particularly at local, state and regional levels. We know because we have been lending news coverage to such efforts.
Most Baptists groups have been relating under the banner of the Baptist World Alliance and its regional bodies for generations. We already have a lot of points of common interest. We share an interest in the work of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Shawnee, Kan., which for years and years trained the ministers that filled pulpits of Missouri Baptist Convention churches and today continues its affiliation with American Baptists and its relationship with National Baptists in the Midwest.
Word&Way staff and trustees have discussed deliberate expansion of news coverage for some time. We are particularly indebted to Associate Editor Vicki Brown, who did the legwork of study, research and development of a plan as a project in a Missouri University School of Journalism graduate course. She also has made significant contacts with leaders of various Baptist groups.
Our goal is to increase our effectiveness to the Baptists we serve, just as others have done in Word&Way's 116 years of service. Stretching our staff will not be easy. This effort will require wise use of existing resources and an increase in those resources. But we believe this is what we should do.
We welcome feedback but especially value the prayers of our constituents.
Bill Webb is editor of Word&Way.