An endless quest for excellence has marked the 65-year history of The Christian Chronicle. Last month’s issue reported, without fanfare, that this newspaper for Churches of Christ earned nine national awards in a contest sponsored by the Associated Church Press.
That accomplishment was reported 65 years after the first issue of the Chronicle was published on June 2, 1943. The paper was the dream of Olan Hicks, a preacher and writer, who wanted to report the growth of Churches of Christ and to encourage an evangelistic spirit among Christians. The paper began in one of the darkest years of U.S. history. The nation was at war with the Nazis and the powerful Japanese military.
Olan Hicks was devoted to churches and their evangelism, and the early days of the Chronicle established a focus on missionaries that has never diminished. He relied heavily on a network of preachers, friends and missionaries for news. Hicks provided a product that had church members across the country reading his newspaper to learn about church plantings and mission work.
In 1948 The Christian Chronicle was incorporated under a board that in 1954 gave the editor’s position to James Walter Nichols, a preacher and a businessman, who relied on Lane Cubstead to report and edit the news. Cubstead, an outstanding journalist who went on to a career in public service, observed in 2003, “We had a vision to create a professionally edited journalistic product for the brotherhood of churches of Christ. … it would actually cover the news of churches … on topics that were on the brotherhood’s radar screen.”
From 1967 to 1972 Ralph Sweet managed the Chronicle, employing a series of editors who sought to cover the issues of a difficult period in church history. A conservative readership was unprepared for the controversial nature of editorials and reporting in a paper known for its positive news without controversy.
Economic problems led to chaos from 1972 to 1980 with several people attempting to sustain the Chronicle.
Eventually John and Dottie Beckloff, longtime missionaries in Nigeria, bought the paper hoping to revive it.
Late in 1978 the Beckloffs approached James O. Baird, chancellor of Oklahoma Christian, and offered the Chronicle to the college. Baird, Terry Johnson, president of OC, and Howard Norton, professor of Bible, began preparing a proposal for the OC trustees to assume ownership. The trustees approved the plan, and Johnson named Baird publisher and Norton editor. Since 1981, the Chronicle has enjoyed the security of OC’s support and leadership.
The first issue under Norton’s watch appeared in the fall of 1981. In 1983 Joy McMillon became the managing editor and brought along Scott LaMascus as a reporter. Norton reestablished the Chronicle as a trustworthy newspaper that was true to the mission of informing, inspiring and uniting churches.
In 1996 Norton accepted an early retirement offer. OC’s president, Kevin Jacobs, appointed me editor. My goal was to continue the Chronicle’s mission, working with Lynn McMillon, first as business manager and later as president and CEO. Glover Shipp and Lindy Adams were editors. The church had changed since 1943 — or even 1981. Churches of Christ in the U.S. were not growing, but churches in Africa and India were booming.
Accurately reporting news of international churches became an imperative. The Internet was a reality.
The recent awards are the result of having faithful Christian journalists on staff with a visionary man of God at the helm. Lynn McMillon, named editor when I stepped down in 2006, had been structuring and inspiring the staff for outstanding reporting in the newspaper and on the Web. Bobby Ross Jr., managing editor, knows news and leads effectively to be sure the paper is excellent and balanced. Erik Tryggestad, assistant managing editor, has a love for international churches and their amazing stories. His enthusiasm shines in his work. Tamie Ross, online editor, is a technology genius and a powerful writer. These reporters are supported by many others who serve the paper.
As editor emeritus and mere spectator, I know The Christian Chronicle serves the kingdom by informing, inspiring and uniting churches in and out of the U.S. Amazing people deserve the credit for an award-winning enterprise.