A Statement of Principlescomment (0)
January 4, 2004
By Bob Terry
The Alabama Baptist, like every other organization, follows certain principles in making decisions impacting the mission committed to it. Some of those principles are outlined in the Statement of Principles adopted by the Association of State Baptist Papers (ASBP), the umbrella organization of publications serving state Baptist conventions.
The first paragraph of the preamble to the Statement of Principles reads:
“Members of the Association of State Baptist Papers believe the free flow of thoughtful information is vital to the health and well-being of Baptist individuals, congregations, associations and state and national conventions. Our publications exist to provide Baptists with accurate, timely and relevant information, balanced interpretation, and insightful and courageous editorials, thereby inspiring them and involving them in Baptist life.”
Several phrases of the paragraph merit attention. The contention that “the free flow of truthful information is vital” is based on a cardinal theological commitment of Baptists — the priesthood of believers. The state Baptist paper stands as a Baptist expression that every born-again believer is responsible before God; that every born-again believer has a stewardship of resources and influence that encompasses Baptist corporate life as well as individual life.
Baptists, at our best, reject the notion that it is all right for some Baptists to have access to information but not all Baptists. Experience has taught us that information is power. We have seen the manipulation resulting from some Baptists having information and some not having information.
Baptists believe the ground is level at the foot of the cross. The time-honored statement of “tell the truth and trust the people” is a shorthand way Baptists across the years have affirmed that “the free flow of truthful information is vital. ...”
In addition to the theological necessity for “the free flow of truthful information,” there is a practical necessity, as well. The discipline of political science discovered that every voluntary organization depends on a common base of reliable information in order to work together on common causes.
The common base of information provides the foundation, practically speaking, for members of a volunteer organization to talk together about concerns, to understand one another and to work together for mutual benefit.
The Alabama Baptist plays a key role in providing that common base of reliable information for members of Baptist churches in Alabama. Thus, reading the state Baptist paper is vital to the corporate expression of Baptist life whether it be in the church, the association or the state or national convention.
Reliable information must be accurate, timely, relevant and balanced. That is one reason why The Alabama Baptist subscribes to a number of news sources. Our commitment is to the truth, not to a news source. That is one reason why only professionally trained journalists are hired as news writers. That is one reason why only Baptists active in cooperating Alabama Baptist churches report the news and events of Baptist life.
Still, mistakes occur. All of us are fallible human beings, but that does not prevent us from striving for perfection as we serve our Lord Jesus Christ through the ministry of the state Baptist paper.
The last time a count was done, only one story in 15 received by The Alabama Baptist made it into print. Obviously, errors in judgment occur in selecting which stories get printed, where the stories appear in the paper and how they are displayed. But our goal remains to be timely and relevant in what appears in the state Baptist paper each week. Alabama Baptist news remains our primary focus with 70 percent of the news and editorial space devoted to state news.
The Statement of Principles encourages “insightful and courageous editorials.” That is a challenging goal. The editorials are the place where the editor shares personal insights and understandings. Baptists have honored the freedom to write editorials just as Baptists have honored the freedom of the pulpit.
But the editor must always write in a way that maintains a hearing for the next editorial just as the pastor is always mindful of continued ministry to those within the congregation.
That does not mean that the editor nor the pastor do not find those moments when they must declare, “Here I stand. I can do no other” and accept the consequences. But, the wise editor knows such a conclusion is not reached every week. Relationships between the editor and the readers are important, just as they are for a pastor and people.
The board of directors of The Alabama Baptist examined this Statement of Principles in their last meeting and embraced guides for this publication. As a new year begins, this editor and staff members join in reaffirming commitment to the goals set forth in the first paragraph of the ASBP’s Statement of Principles.