Written by W. Evan Golder
In March, the Christian Board of Publication published the last issue of The Disciple magazine, before killing it off because of "long diminishing readership."
But by the end of April, its spirit will have risen in the form of a new magazine, DisciplesWorld. Serving respectively as publisher and editor will be James C. Suggs and Robert L. Friedly, respectively publisher and editor in the 1990s of The Disciple.
"The new publication will fill a communication void left in the denomination when The Disciple magazine, last in the succession of publications unbroken since the mid-19th century, ceased publication," said Suggs in a news release.
Both he and Friedly emphasized that the magazine's release this month "will continue unbroken the church's tradition of having a forum for the free exchange of news and opinion." But its independent editorial policy does not mean it will be independent of the denomination.
"This magazine probably has involved more church entities in its creation than any of the dozens of institutions in the church that have been created during nearly two centuries," Friedly said in a telephone interview.
DisciplesWorld will be sponsored by the Disciples Historical Society for "related organization" status in the denomination. A nine-member board representative of the denomination will offer guidance for both the print publication and its online electronic supplement.
Although DisciplesWorld has received a $100,000 start-up grant from an individual, Suggs and Friedly, both retired, will serve without compensation until handing over the reins to a permanent staff later this year.
Finances were given as one of the main reasons for closing down The Disciple magazine. At the time, Suggs and Friedly disagreed with that assessment, alleging that The Disciple, based in Indianapolis, earned more than it spent for its own operation, if one did not figure in its bill for the overhead of its parent body, the Christian Board of Publication, based in St. Louis.
The duo tried to get all assets of The Disciple, including a half-million dollar endowment, turned over to the General Assembly of the church. However, at an Administrative Committee meeting of the denomination's General Board, The Disciple's then-publisher, Cyrus N. "Russ" White, acknowledged that all of the $530,000 endowment is encumbered; that is, loans have been taken out against it for various other needs of the Christian Board of Publication.
In a pastoral letter to the denomination, the Rev. Richard L. Hamm, Disciples General Minister and President, wrote that he "is looking forward to seeing the first issue" of DisciplesWorld and encouraged church members "to have a look at it as well."
In January, the Administrative Committee called on Hamm and moderator the Rev. Alvin Jackson to convene a task force to determine the denomination's overall communication needs and provide recommendations by July 2002. That task force approved of DisciplesWorld.
"We welcome this sincere work and hope that it will fulfill a part of the communication needs of members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)," said Frank Caperton, task force chair and retired executive editor of the Indianapolis Star.
Subscriptions are $22 per year. Quantity discounts will be available for educational and evangelical programs. To subscribe, mail a check to DisciplesWorld, P.O. Box 11469, Indianapolis, IN 46201- 0469; 317-375-8846; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; web www.disciplesworld.com.