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Baptists Today Launching Edition in North Carolina

Baptists Today, founded in 1983 as a national newspaper for moderate Baptists, will launch its first state edition January in North Carolina, the paper’s editor announced this week.

Editing the North Carolina edition will be Tony Cartledge, former editor of the Biblical Recorder, official news journal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Cartledge has been working part-time for Baptists Today as a contributing editor since becoming associate professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School this fall.

The edition will be published in a partnership with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina that was announced at a dinner meeting of the group Nov. 13 in Greensboro, N.C., Editor John Pierce said in a Tuesday blog.

“With the current shifts in North Carolina Baptist life, we feel it is a crucial time for church leaders to be well informed of the broader issues and partnership opportunities for churches,” Pierce said.

Pierce said the CBF group will support the ministry of the news journal based in Macon, Ga., while respecting its editorial freedom and responsibility.

Larry Hovis, CBF North Carolina coordinator, told EthicsDaily.com the organization made a financial gift for start-up costs and will provide ongoing financial support through its annual budget plus encouraging designated gifts through a Mission Resource Plan that allows churches to support both CBF and other causes.

Hovis said Baptists Today already receives money through the plan (editor’s note: so does Baptist Center for Ethics, which publishes EthicsDaily.com), but leaders are studying the possibility of increasing the newspaper’s allocation.

“We believe this will be a mutually beneficial relationship to CBFNC and Baptists Today,” Hovis said, “and that the ultimate winners will be the churches, their members and the cause of Christ in North Carolina and beyond.”

A third factor making the venture possible, Pierce said, is “building support” from churches and individuals in North Carolina in the form of start-up gifts and group subscriptions.

Cartledge will edit pages for North Carolina readers, which will be integrated into the publication rather than inserted or wrapped. He will also continue alternating with Pierce to write a Baptists Today blog.

“The best location for a new hamburger joint is on the opposite corner from an established hamburger joint,” said Norman Jameson, who replaced Cartledge as editor of the Biblical Recorder. “If there is an audience in North Carolina Baptist life hungry for another flavor, I feel confident that Tony Cartledge and Baptists Today can cook up something palatable. Would you like fries with that?”

Cartledge, a former pastor who was editor of the Baptist state newspaper for nine years, said his purpose is not to compete with the Biblical Recorder.

“I hope we add a lot of North Carolina readers, but I have no desire to take even one subscription from the Biblical Recorder,” he said.

Cartledge said the two publications are “looking at two different audiences, with some overlap.”

“The Biblical Recorder’s primary mission is to serve the churches of the Baptist state convention,” Cartledge said in an e-mail. “My goal with Baptists Today will be to offer features relative to moderate interests that don’t fit as naturally in the Biblical Recorder. And, as the number of moderates actively supporting the Baptist state convention (or allowed to participate) continues to decline, it will become more and more difficult for the Biblical Recorder to justify giving much attention to CBF and such.”

Cartledge said the primary focus of Baptist Today’s North Carolina edition will not be the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, “though we can’t ignore it,” but more on the North Carolina CBF and affiliated churches.

Cartledge said he will do some news in his blog, but the print version will probably be more features and commentary. Most readers who will be interested in the North Carolina edition of Baptists Today, Cartledge said, are disengaging from the state convention.

“Those who are most interested in Baptists Today’s North Carolina edition will be those who have decreasing interest in the Baptist state convention,” he said.

Though not trained as a journalist, Cartledge said he developed “enough ink in my veins” at the Biblical Recorder to want to keep a hand in Baptist journalism.

Cartledge wrote Sunday school lesson commentary for Baptists Today six years before becoming Biblical Recorder editor in 1998. Pierce, a long-time friend, had said informally if Cartledge ever decided to do something other than edit the North Carolina Baptist paper, he hoped that “something” would include Baptists Today.

Cartledge said he and Pierce “talked seriously about some sort of partnership” shortly after he started leaning toward leaving the newspaper to teach at Campbell. “I’ve known for years that I wanted to spend at least part of my career in teaching,” he explained.

Hovis said the Baptists Today board approached CBF North Carolina about a possible partnership through two members from North Carolina, Mike Queen and Charlotte Smith.

“Our council voted to endorse the North Carolina edition because we believe it will be a valuable source of news and information for Baptists in North Carolina about the Baptist movement in North Carolina and beyond,” Hovis said. “CBFNC will be granted space in the North Carolina edition to publicize our ministries and events, and the Baptists Today staff will provide coverage of CBFNC news, as well as other items of interest to free and faithful North Carolina Baptists.”

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.