Marking 60 years of the Chronicle
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Lindy Adams |

Marking sixty years of The Christian Chronicle and its coverage of changing realities in churches of Christ

1943-54

p18_Hicks_sOLAN HICKS (left) founded The Christian Chronicle in June 1943 in Dallas “to stir up missionary zeal” and give to all a “broad vision of the opportunities and responsibilities of the church today.” Hicks’ aim was producing a paper which gave the church “direction and unity” not connected with special interests and factions. Hicks was an involved, hands-on editor. Riding the tide of VJ day, the Chronicle followed and encouraged the rise of postwar evangelism led by Otis Gatewood in Germany, Cline and Harold Paden in Italy and O.D. Bixler and E.W. McMillan in Japan.

‘... the mailing room was our front porch ... . I was five years old and all I can remember, clearly, is that there were bowls of wheat paste and brushes, papers, addressing labels and a half-dozen people scattered around there once a week. ”

Mark Hicks
Son of Olan Hicks

DURING THE HICKS YEARS:
• FREQUENCY: weekly.
• Paper SIZE: typically 8 pages.
• MORE THAN 2,800 missions stories reported and printed.*
• OFFICES moved from Dallas to Abilene, Texas, in the first year.
• LEON RAMSEY AND JIM PRATT led the paper from March to November, 1954.

IN THE NEWS:
• BROADWAY CHURCH Lubbock, Texas, takes the lead in planning for post-war missions in Europe (July 14, 1943).
• GROUP SAILS for Italy,
drawing Catholic ire and resulting in arrests and trials of missionaries (April 20, 1949, Dec. 14, 1949).

1954-67

p18_JamesWNichols_sA PREACHER AND BUSINESSMAN, James Walter Nichols (left) viewed the editor’s role as that of a publisher. He relied on journalist Lane Cubstead to provide hands-on leadership of the paper from 1958-66. The paper reported such milestones as the non-institutional controversy and the construction boom which moved churches to the “right side of the tracks.” Cubstead developed the Chronicle News Service, a network of correspondents, and published 11 monthly regional editions plus a weekly international edition — a “logistical nightmare for the printers” Cubstead said.

‘James’ goal in managing The Christian Chronicle was to share the good news of mission work here and abroad.’

Bettye Nichols
wife of James Nichols;
Former editor of Christian Woman

‘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 worldwide (and) seek out stories ... on topics that were on the brotherhood’s radar screen ... .’
Lane Cubstead
Editor
1961-66
DURING THE NICHOLS YEARS:
• CIRCULATION grew to 40,000.
• FREQUENCY: weekly.
• REGIONAL EDITIONS , using correspondents for reporting, were published monthly for Oklahoma, North Central, High Plains, Midwest, Tennessee Valley, Georgia, Mid-South, West Coast, Ohio Valley, Northwest and Florida.
• PAPER SIZE: typically 16-20 pages, depending on the regional editions included.
• MORE THAN 6,000 missions stories reported and printed.*

IN THE NEWS:
• HERALD OF TRUTH broadcasts to begin in February (Jan. 23, 1952). This step and requests for children’s home aid eventually result in the debate of the anti-institutional movement.
• MANHATTAN CHURCH contracts for building site (Nov. 16, 1955). This strategic location in mid-New York City is the first stage of the growth plan “A Million for Manhattan.”

1967-72

p18_RalphSweetmug_sMIRRORING the cross-currents of national thought in the late 1960s and early 70s, the Chronicle under Ralph Sweet (left), who primarily viewed himself as a publisher, grappled with issues in the church from racial tolerance and integration to the work of Campus Evangelism. Sweet assembled a group of young intellectuals to edit the paper — Harold Straughn, Paul Easley, Dudley Lynch and John Allen Chalk. Each editorship brought a distinct tone and look to the paper. The Sweet years strove to bring a broader
perspective of thought to a still monolithic fellowship.

‘... I welcomed the opportunity Ralph Sweet gave me as editor of the Chronicle in June of 1971. ... I saw the Chronicle as an effective way to raise awareness and increase participation in urban and world missions. I wanted to affirm believers who were hearing the call to greater service
and outreach but often not encouraged by local church leaders. I wanted the Chronicle to feature what the real servants were doing.'
John Allen Chalk
Editor
1971-72

DURING THE SWEET YEARS:
• FREQUENCY: weekly.
• PAPER SIZE: from 8 to as many as 24 pages in the Straughn term when regional editions were continued.
• MOVED all the Sweet operations including Teenage Christian and Christian Woman magazines from Abilene, Texas, to Austin.
• MORE THAN 2,600 missions stories reported and printed.*

IN THE NEWS:
• BANOWSKY DEBATES PLAYBOY religion/philosophy editor (Oct. 19, 1967). Debates between Bill Banowsky and Anson Mount create nationwide attention.
• AS VIETNAM INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL CLOSES, Ralph Burcham and Howard Horton families flee for children’s safety (March 1, 1968.)

1972-80

p18_HChesshir_sON Dec. 26, 1972, a group of church leaders from Tennessee and Kentucky including Olan Hicks’ son Clark banded together to buy the Chronicle. Haskell Chesshir (left), a missionary and preacher, was named editor. Chesshir returned to Olan Hicks’ model as a hands-on editor. Clark Hicks took the editorship for one year in 1975-76, but by February 1976 all options were exhausted. Dottie and John Beckloff took over the paper and together produced it for three and one-half years. Chesshir, Hicks and the Beckloffs’ service was characterized by marked financial sacrifice.

‘We put the paper out twice a month. I wondered how Olan Hicks could get it together every week! It was an interesting work, but a lot of work, too. We spent many nights working all night putting out this newspaper. We are glad to see it continuing to put out the brotherhood news, keeping the brotherhood more informed of what is going on in the world.’
Dottie Beckloff
Co-producer of the Chronicle
1976-80
DURING THE CHESSHIR YEARS:
• FREQUENCY: twice monthly
• PAPER SIZE: typically eight pages.
• CHESSHIR MOVED the operation to Nashville, Tenn. The Beckloffs moved it to Oklahoma City in 1977.
• MORE THAN 1,900 missions stories reported and printed.*

IN THE NEWS:
•EXISTENCE OF GOD debated by Thomas B. Warren and Antony Flew, University of Reading, England (Nov. 18, 1975).
• BRAZIL/BREAKTHROUGH, concentrated effort to place teams in all major cities on one continent, recruits teams (April 5, 1977). This effort became the Continent of Great Cities.
• EASTERN EUROPEAN MISSION, Vienna, is overseen by Bammel Road church, Houston (Nov. 29, 1977). The ministry will concentrate on publishing Bibles and study tracts for Eastern Europe.

1981-96

In 1980 THE Beckloffs asked the Board of Trustees of Oklahoma Christian to assume ownership of the paper, which they did. James O. Baird became publisher with Howard Norton as editor. Esteemed journalism professor Charlie Marler, Abilene Christian University, designed the paper and mentored the staff. After several brief staff tenures, the paper grew journalistically under the leadership of Joy McMillon, managing editor, and Scott LaMascus, staff writer. McMillon was followed as managing editor by Glover Shipp, a writer, artist and former missionary.

‘In 1980, John Beckloff asked his longtime friend and mentor, James O. Baird, to request that Oklahoma Christian University assume ownership of The Christian Chronicle. J. Terry Johnson, president of OC, and the university’s Board of Trustees decided to accept this enormous responsibility. (As editor) my constant goal was to inform, inspire, and unite churches of Christ.’

Howard Norton
Editor
1981-1996

DURING THE NORTON YEARS:
• CIRCULATION: began at about 50,000 and ended at 100,000.
• FREQUENCY: monthly.
• PAPER SIZE: ranging from 12 pages in the early years to 32 pages in the latter.
• OFFICES on the campus of Oklahoma Christian University.
• MORE THAN 3,400 missions stories reported and printed from September 1981-1993.*

IN THE NEWS:
•MASSIVE AID TO POLAND (October 1981) becomes model for subsequent relief efforts in Ethiopia, Croatia, Nigeria and elsewhere.
•AMI INVESTMENT COMPANY is taken to court (October 1989) ending months of uncertainty over the fate of church bonds held by Christian investors.

1996-2003
BAILEY McBRIDE’S choice as editor capped 15 years of continued involvement with the Chronicle. Joining him in leadership was Lynn McMillon, general manager. Glover Shipp retired in 2001 leaving a larger and more colorful paper than he inherited in 1989. Scott LaMascus rejoined the paper as managing editor and led in a series of initiatives including a total print redesign and initiation of a Chronicle Web site. He and Lindy Adams developed two 2001 commemorative series, “Challenges and Realities” and “Restoration Retrospective.” The latter is a soon-to-be-released book.

‘Eager to provide current, unbiased information, the Chronicle worked to serve as a journal of record in the era after it came to Oklahoma Christian. Stories tracked the Crossroads/Boston movement and the growing polarization between mainstream churches. U.S. churches raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to assist Eastern Europe and Africa. When Communism fell in 1989, political changes called for bold new evangelistic plans for Europe.’

Joy McMillon
Managing Editor,
1983-1989, Associate
Editor 2000-2001

DURING THE McBride YEARS:

• CIRCULATION: 105,000
• FREQUENCY: monthly.
• PAPER SIZE: 36 pages
• The CHRONICLE WEB SITE (www.christianchronicle.org) averages 33,000 users per month.
• A READERSHIP SURVEY in 2003 showed that 90 percent of Chronicle readers agree or strongly agree with the statement “I trust what I read in The Christian Chronicle”
• A MINISTERS’ SURVEY by Abilene Christian University (June 1996) showed 67.9 percent of ministers read the Chronicle, and 87.6 of those agreed with the contents.

IN THE NEWS:
•9/11 AFFECTS CHURCH MEMBERS (Sept. 2001-Sept. 2002) Continual coverage of the tragedy in New York City included interviews with church leaders, features and news accounts.

*According to Roger Massey’s master’s thesis, “A Historical Study of The Christian Chronicle’s Coverage and Promotion of Foreign Missions among Churches of Christ,” Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas, March, 1995.

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