There have been days that were, well, a nightmare. Angry readers calling to cancel their subscriptions and tyrants demanding I be terminated. There were nights I went home, laid my head on my late wife’s shoulder and cried like a baby.
Sound familiar, pastors?
In its wisdom, the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Board determined that The Pathway would remain under its influence because they represented the churches. After all, the churches established The Pathway, so it belongs to the churches. Editing stories and determining content are easy. The greatest challenge is dealing with people who want to control The Pathway. A newspaper can be a powerful tool. An editor must understand there are those who thirst for power and influence and think they can get it by controlling the content of a widely distributed, printed publication. It can become intoxicating. You don’t believe me? Just read the cesspool posts on Twitter and Facebook, much less the fight between billionaires over control of Twitter.
Conservatives, who saved the MBC from theological liberalism at the turn of the millennia, understood the threat. They had been victimized by it through the liberal direction of their state convention newspaper, much less the secular media. It is still happening as those who hate the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) run to the liberal claptrap like Religion News Service (a lapdog of the Associated Press) and Baptist Global (where the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship propaganda is on life support). These liberal entities are used as their garbage dumps. This must be understood in order to understand The Pathway.
In The Pathway’s early years, the MBC Executive Board was faced with a challenge: How much freedom do we give our state newspaper and what is that supposed to look like? There were non-negotiables: it had to affirm the inerrancy, infallibility and sufficiency of Scripture; it had to be pro-SBC/MBC; it had to tell the story of what God was doing through His people in Missouri, thus promoting unity and Cooperative Program giving; and it needed to advocate a biblical worldview in the midst of a culture caught in the vortex of postmodern chaos.
None of that could be accomplished until they settled the issue over control. The determination was made that the MBC Executive Board would hire an editor to start a new newspaper that would fulfill the criteria. The board understood they were taking some risk, trying something that had never been done in Southern Baptist life: give editorial control to the editor (not an easy decision for a denomination run by its pastors).
For decades state convention newspapers have been largely controlled by state executive directors. As in the case with anything, some were good, some were awful. But, at least for the MBC Executive Board, the threat of a liberal drift was too great to ignore, and they felt they wanted more control.
It should be noted that this all occurred at a time when the MBC was without an executive director. That made it a bit easier for the Executive Board to reach its decision about editorial control. The Pathway was created and given its marching orders before a new executive director was hired. Editorial freedom was given to The Pathway the day it was created. We affirm Scripture, the SBC and the MBC. You cannot work at The Pathway unless you affirm The Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
But what about the convention executive director? He is, after all, the publisher, since he serves as the treasurer of the state convention. He has every right to expect the newspaper to support the work of the state convention.
Again, the Executive Board stepped in.
The diminutive, irrepressible Jay Scribner, long-time pastor of First Baptist, Branson, and former MBC president, once pointed his finger in my face with this warning: “You work with – and support – our executive director or we will be looking for a new editor.” That is called leadership.
The Pathway is the product of so many people. From the Executive Board editor search committee that recommended my hiring to the late Cindy Province, who gave The Pathway its name, based on Jer. 6:16. Then there was the welder from Troy – Roger Moran. The architect of the “conservative resurgence” in Missouri known as Project 1000 (it took its name from the goal of reaching 1000 votes for conservative presidential candidates at the MBC annual meeting in an effort to steer the convention away from liberalism). It is hard to imagine there being a Pathway without Roger Moran.
The Pathway would not be possible without the hard work of a dedicated staff. Many thanks to Associate Editor Ben Hawkins and my assistant, Beth Peeper. I want to mention the late Bob Baysinger, Jim McCullen and Andree Zeimer, all of whom are with Jesus, but not forgotten. I have had some wonderful assistants through the years including Rose Credel, Judy Warson and Cindy Reichard. Also thanks to Allen Palmeri, Brian Koonce and Dr. Andy Chambers for their voluminously important contributions and to dozens of freelance writers, columnists and photographers who have contributed through the years. Also a big thanks to long-time friend, David Krueger, pastor of First Baptist, Linn, who helped me get the first Pathway edition online in June 2002 and to Angie Hurd (now on the MBC Executive Board) and former MBC graphic artist Jim Thorne, who helped design the first edition.
Finally, I want to thank you for your support. And most of all, I thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for giving me the opportunity to serve Him in this capacity.