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A heritage of service

CEO NOTES | Our coverage of the fight for freedom and Biblical fidelity began decades ago

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I love that this issue of WORLD has a Veterans Day and World War II theme because I’ve been combing through the archives of WORLD’s parent publication, The Southern Presbyterian Journal. Eighty years ago, in the October 1942 ­edition, we devoted several pages to the war in the Pacific and in Europe.

For readers of the Journal, there was another important battle underway: the ecclesiastical battle within southern Presbyterianism over the “Federal Council.” And so our editors devoted several pages to whether the denomination should join it.

The whole magazine was only 20 pages long (the print was tiny), so we can assume that those two issues—the fight for freedom and the fight for Biblical fidelity—were important to readers, almost all of whom were members of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS).

Skipping ahead 30 years to October 1972, our publication, by then a 20-page weekly magazine known as The Presbyterian Journal, didn’t focus on war in Vietnam or elsewhere, but still devoted many pages to battles within the Church.

That October, the battle was over a proposed new confession of faith for the denomination that would, the Journal decried, likely replace the Westminster Confession of Faith. The Journal critiqued the proposed confession in nine long editorials, each one tackling problems in each of the nine chapters of the confession.

Those October 1972 issues marked the beginning of a tumultuous year in the denomination and at the magazine. A year later, hundreds of churches would pull out of the PCUS to form new denominations. Of course, those months were tumultuous beyond the PCUS. The Journal covered in January 1973 the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, and today we report and comment on the Dobbs decision that reversed it.

Joel Belz is WORLD’s founder, even though our journalistic heritage reaches beyond Joel’s years here. One of Joel’s great contributions was to turn our reporting focus outward, toward the world, instead of inward, toward the Church. It was Joel’s singular vision and energy that allowed WORLD to survive for its first decade and thrive in the decades beyond.

Still, our journalistic service to the Church began long before WORLD came along. And so I hope occasionally in the next year to highlight some of the Journal’s reporting and commentary from those months, a half century ago, and how that time shaped our organization, the Church, and the world.

Kevin Martin

Kevin Martin is the CEO of WORLD News Group.


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