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A precarious perch

WORLD’s predecessor publication, The Southern Presbyterian Journal, published its first editorial 80 years ago this spring


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I wrote frequently last year—our 40th anniversary year—about WORLD’s history. Here’s a fact I didn’t mention: Last year, technically, was our 79th year, making this year the 80th anniversary of, well, something.

Specifically, on June 11, 1942, three Asheville, N.C.–area men established the Southern Presbyterian Journal Company. And, according to the North Carolina Secretary of State, that company still exists, albeit with a modified mission and a different name. In about four months, WORLD News Group will be 80 years old.

The three men were the Rev. T.A. Painter, D.D. (that’s how his name is listed on the corporate charter), the Rev. Henry B. Dendy, D.D., and the only non-Rev. among them, L. Nelson Bell, M.D. Painter was the chairman of the board of directors, Dendy is listed as the editor of the very first issue of the Journal, and Bell wrote the opening editorial in that issue.

I reread that initial editorial recently, and it surprised me by its timeliness. Here’s an excerpt:

“The civilization of which we are a part is perched precariously on the edge of an abyss. This is obvious to all, whether in or outside of the Church. The tragedy is that, in part, the Christian Church is to blame.”

The original readers of that paragraph (living, as they were, in the middle of a great global war) wouldn’t have had too much trouble thinking of civilization perched on the edge of an abyss. It’s not all that hard for us to think of civilization that way today.

Bell’s editorial introduced that first issue—24 pages of small-type, black-and-white, illustration-­free content. He ended that first editorial, and many that came later, with a plea that the readers “pray for us.”

Timely, as I said. The magazine you hold in your hands (or view on your computer or phone or tablet) looks a lot different than that first one, but we need your prayers today, as surely as we did almost 80 years ago.

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