By Margaret Colson
Meeting virtually for the first time in the organization’s 125-year history, approximately 25 members of the Association of State Baptist Publications (ASBP) elected a president-elect and honored two retiring state Baptist editors in a business meeting convened by 2020–21 ASBP President Jennifer Davis Rash.
ASBP members typically would have met in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention scheduled to have been held in Orlando, Fla., in early June. After the annual meeting was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rash, editor of The Alabama Baptist, led ASBP members to gather virtually.
“We all adapted quickly to virtual meetings at all levels when the pandemic hit, so I knew our members would embrace the idea,” Rash said. “Plus, it would allow us to catch up and check on each other. We have a special bond through our common roles and callings, and having time together truly does help provide that needed encouragement to do what we do. We even got to catch up with some who had not been able to attend in person in a few years so that made the virtual meeting extra special.”
In the June 23 meeting, association members unanimously elected Brian Hobbs, editor of Oklahoma’s Baptist Messenger, to serve as president-elect, beginning his one-year term of service as president in February 2021.
Hobbs “has the kind of skill, experience and character that will serve this organization well,” said Seth Brown, editor of North Carolina’s Biblical Recorder and chair of ASBP’s nominating committee. Serving with Brown on the nominating committee were Cameron Crabtree, editor of the Northwest Baptist Witness, and Eric Reed, editor of the Illinois Baptist.
Association members also unanimously affirmed resolutions commending Tim Boyd, who served as editor of the Kansas-Nebraska Baptist Digest from 2004 until his retirement in 2019, and Debbie Shelton, editor of the Canadian National Baptist Convention’s Horizon Weekly, from January 2007 until her upcoming retirement on June 30. Brandon Pickett, editor of Virginia’s Proclaimer and chair of ASBP’s resolutions committee, virtually presented the two resolutions.
During his tenure, Boyd led the Kansas-Nebraska publication to expand its digital and social media presence. Boyd, who served as ASBP president 2018-19, continues to consult with the Kansas-Nebraska state convention in the area of media production.
Shelton led CNBC Horizon Weekly to publish its first French translation in 2009, and more recently she led the publication to move into a fully online digital magazine and finally an interactive weekly online news service.
Serving with Pickett on the resolutions committee were Shannon Baker, editor of Pennsylvania/South Jersey’s BRN United, and Gary Ledbetter, editor of the Southern Baptist Texan.
Two editors explained recent significant changes for their publications. David Williams, editor of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist, said that his paper, with the April 2020 edition, ceased print production and moved to become a digital publication distributed by email or as a download from the state convention website. Rather than being printed quarterly, the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist will now be produced digitally every two months. Williams said that the change is a cost-effective move that will deliver timely news to potentially more readers.
Terry Barone, editor of the California Southern Baptist, said that, after close to 80 years of publication, the official newspaper of the California Southern Baptist Convention discontinued its print and digital publications with the April 2020 issue. Even with decreasing print circulations and financial deficits for the publication, Barone said, “This was not a decision that was made lightly.” The state convention’s website will now publish news and feature articles about California Baptists, he noted.
Rash informed ASBP members that the pandemic disrupted original plans for the February 2021 annual meeting with state executive directors, and alternative plans are currently being discussed, although no details are available at this time.