On Thursday, February 25, the EPA board of directors voted to pivot from an in-person convention in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to a virtual event. Despite efforts to keep the annual meeting in-person, it became increasingly clear that it was both impractical and impossible to do so.
Pennsylvania restrictions related to COVID-19 are among the tightest in the nation with meeting spaces limited to 10% capacity and negative COVID-19 tests required within 72 hours of travel into the state. With the acceleration of vaccinations and the decrease of new cases, we were hopeful things would open up in time, but that was not guaranteed. Polling of a number of members who typically attend the convention showed that many organizations still had travel restrictions in place and registrations were projected to fall well below necessary levels.
Plans are now underway to move to an online event that will include a combination of live streaming and on-demand sessions for a full convention program. It will be expanded to four days (April 27-30) to limit the number of hours each day to a reasonable amount of time watching a screen. The convention will utilize Whova, a single sign-on virtual event platform, where attendees can conveniently access both live and recorded sessions, set an agenda, interact through networking and community discussion boards and meetups, and where sponsors and exhibitors can be prominently showcased with interactive engagement with attendees. It is the same platform used for last fall’s Digital Media Con.
Registration rates have been reduced to $129 per person with a maximum amount of paid registrations capped at five people per organization. Large organizations can register up to 15 staffers or more for the flat rate of $645 (the cost of five registrations).
While last year’s business meeting with the election of officers and a vote on a bylaw change was canceled when the 2020 convention was canceled, the annual business meeting will be held this year as part of the virtual convention. Voting will be done separately through a secure online voting platform.
While many are greatly disappointed to miss out on traveling to Lancaster, especially with the added features of a live performance of “Queen Esther” at Sight & Sound Theatre and the media bus trip to Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., these activities are expected to be rescheduled with another attempt at a Lancaster convention already scheduled for April 12-14, 2023. The 2022 convention will be held April 10-12, 2022, in Colorado Springs.
Learn more about EPA 2021 and register at epaconvention.com.
Trillia Newbell, Walter Kim, and Kay Warren will be the keynote speakers for the 2021 convention returning to Lancaster, PA, in April.
Trillia Newbell is the author of several books including A Great Cloud of Witnesses, Sacred Endurance, If God Is For Us, Fear and Faith, and the children’s books, Creative God, Colorful Us and God’s Very Good Idea. Her writings on issues of faith, family, and diversity have been published in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Desiring God, True Woman, Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, and more. She is also a commentator for World Radio (a sister platform for World Magazine). She has served as the Director of Community Outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention. When she isn’t writing, she’s encouraging and supporting other writers as an Acquisitions Editor at Moody Publishers.
Kay Warren cofounded Saddleback Church with her husband, Rick Warren, in Lake Forest, California in 1980. After the death of her son, Matthew, who lived with serious mental illness for most of his life, she founded Saddleback’s Hope for Mental Health Initiative as a way to support individuals and family members of loved ones with mental illness and suicidal ideation. The Initiative also trains others in the faith community how to launch or expand existing mental health ministries. Kay is a board member of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and is active in mental health/suicide prevention efforts in Orange County, Ca. Kay is the author of Sacred Privilege: Your Life and Ministry as a Pastor’s Wife, Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn’t Enough, Say Yes to God: A Call to Courageous Surrender, and coauthor of Foundations, a popular systematic theology course used by churches worldwide.
Focusing on the 2021 EPA Cause of the Year, Kay will share from her own life and family experience the challenge of mental illness and how the church can follow Jesus’ example to care for and support people living with mental illness. By looking at God’s heart for people who are suffering, Kay will explain the Biblical basis for mental health ministries and practical steps for how every faith community can be part of the solution.
Walter Kim became the president of the National Association of Evangelicals in January 2020. He also serves as pastor for leadership at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, after ministering for 15 years at Boston’s historic Park Street Church. He is a pastor, scholar, and thought leader with a passion to see the Gospel impact lives, transform communities, and change culture. His speaking and writing bring Biblical wisdom to significant intellectual, cultural, and social issues of the day. He is an inspirational and collaborative team leader who has been making and empowering disciples of Christ in diverse settings. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University.
The 2021 convention will be held April 28-30 in Lancaster, PA. Registration will open on Dec. 15. Learn more at epaconvention.com.
During the April meeting of the Board of Directors, the board voted to bestow honorary membership to two individuals who have contributed to Christian journalism in extraordinary ways.
Mark Galli retired as editor-in-chief of Christianity Today early this year. He had spent 30 years as an editor with Christianity Today International, including Leadership Journal and Christian History. He has been published in many other publications including The Upper Room, New York Times and Books & Culture.
Galli has also written or co-written nine books, his most recent being “When Did We Start Forgetting God?” He continues to publish a digital newsletter, The Galli Report, at markgalli.com.
Sharon Mumper founded Magazine Training International in 1989. For 30 years, through this organization, she has been providing training and resources to Christian magazine publishers in the developing world of Asia, Eastern Europe and, most recently, Africa. She has worked in the field of journalism since 1967, including stints with Evangelical Missions Quarterly, Pulse, Christianity Today and others.
Mumper has been a seminar and conference teacher, organizer, and director for conferences in dozens of countries. She is the editor/publisher of two DVD courses, multiple training manuals in 12 languages and a book on magazine publishing. She has developed curriculum for four publishing courses.
Like journalists across the globe, Jeff Finley, executive editor of Light+Life, was plotting the best way for his Indiana-based publication to cover the escalating coronavirus pandemic.
Then things turned personal.
One of his sources, a Louisiana pastor and community leader, died after contracting COVID-19.
“That was just a real shock to me,” Finley said. “I’m guessing as things progress that will, unfortunately, be the case for not just me, but other editors as we start to know people who are affected.”
In the soup of suffering, however, God is ever present. Christians in China, the nexus for coronavirus, are discovering new hope—and a new freedom—as they boldly share their faith, according to Cheryl Odden, executive editor of Voice of the Martyrs, which is headquartered in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Odden said VOM, an international nonprofit that advocates for persecuted Christians around the world, recently sent an email to its constituents highlighting unique, and unlikely, ministry opportunities that have emerged in the wake of the pandemic.
“China’s oppressive facial-recognition cameras are less likely to identify them when they are wearing masks,” the ministry noted.
In the face of shelter-in-place orders across the country, Christian media are navigating through unfamiliar territory, seeking truth in a sea of uncertainty and rumors, while balancing reality and hope for readers. Unlike many Americans, journalists are still able to work from home, but rhythms and patterns have shifted as they maneuver through new obstacles: shuffled deadlines, obsolete stories, preoccupied sources, travel restrictions and new learning curves for technology. Homeschooling, for many, adds another complicating equation.
“It’s been a juggling act to decide how much time should we invest in this, putting things online while also trying to make sure we have the content for our print magazine,” said Connie Faber, editor of Christian Leader magazine, located in Hillsboro, Kansas.
Without a home office, or even a desk, she’s converted her dining room table into a temporary workstation and struggles to tune out household demands.
“I think mentally it’s just hard to stay productive,” said Faber, one of two-part time editorial employees.
John Kennedy, news editor for the online AG News in Springfield, Missouri, said he is also dealing with boundary issues now that he’s homebound.
“The big temptation is you know the computer’s sitting there in the corner,” he said. “The work is always there if I choose to go do it rather than just leaving it behind at the end of the day.”
In many ways, the technology that allows writers and editors the freedom to work remotely has lessened the demands of decentralized newsgathering. The advent of wireless networking, social media, video conferencing and collaborative software has helped eased a scenario that just a decade ago would have seemed unfathomable.
At Finley’s Light+Life, for instance, the communications department decided, just a week shy from printing 13,000 magazines, to temporarily shelve its print edition, which is distributed through Free Methodist USA congregations across the country. Instead, the magazine was published digitally, offering readers the option of an online flipbook or downloadable PDF.
“It’s something we’re feeling like we need to do,” he said, “because of the distribution (issues).”
Finley said they are hoping the move will increase the publication’s exposure by reaching “people who don’t normally see the magazine and might be more shareable for other people to be introduced to the magazine.”
Danny Conn, director of editorial and strategic projects for Randall House Publications that publishes the quarterly Fusion magazine and six other EPA member publications, said his company decided to upload all of its most recent devotional resources to help parents in their discipleship efforts at home. The Nashville-based publisher, the publishing arm of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, specializes in family discipleship curriculum used by many denominations.
“The timeline of this actually has fallen into a good window for us because everyone had already ordered their spring curriculum,” he said.
As part of its normal operations, Randall House relies heavily on its website, Facebook, Twitter and their own D6 Family app.
“Being a small company, we can move pretty quickly,” Conn said, adding that initiatives can be implemented within days. “We can adjust and do things we need to do.”
Melody Copenny, managing editor of Cru Storylines in Orlando, Florida, said her team was able to swap out several stories within a 5-day window, a speedy switch up for a publication that plans its editions three months out.
“(We were) able to respond to what our readers are experiencing—and what the world is experiencing right now—because of the coronavirus,” she said.
Ongoing travel restrictions idling photographers is one factor driving content change at Cru. Anticipating similar issues in the coming months, Copenny’s team will conduct a creative session to develop novel ideas on newsgathering.
“God’s stories of what He’s doing in the world and how He’s reaching people with the gospel isn’t halted because of this virus,” Copenny said. “He’s very active and continues to touch the hearts and lives of people, as many are open to Jesus because of what’s happening with coronavirus.”
Kristy Glaspie, publications manager for World Vision’s storytelling team, said the print edition of its tri-annual magazine, due to be published this summer, has been canceled and will be published digitally instead. In addition to the magazine, the Washington state-based ministry also maintains an active online news site.
“We are looking at retooling some of the content that we’re going to have in our summer magazine just to be able to include more on COVID,” Glaspie said.
She’s also keeping a watchful eye out for their newly modified production system.
“The big question will be when we start getting into production for the magazine,” she said. “It’s a little bit different when you’re trying to go through an entire proof of a magazine collectively as a group, virtually.”
In Nashville, Lindsay Nicolet, managing editor of content for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s website, said the immediacy of its online platform has allowed her editorial department to keep pace with rapid-fire coronavirus coverage.
“If anything, it’s sped things up because everyone is kind of working in overdrive,” Nicolet said, adding that ERLC’s Washington, D.C. bureau continues to monitor public policy.
Each of the editors interviewed for this story said they are focused on maintaining an appropriate balance between covering the pandemic and highlighting day-to-day stories that promote their mission and vision.
“Early on, it felt like we were doing too much,” Nicolet said. “But as the days have gone on, the weeks have gone on, I think that it’s necessary because it continues to invade and change and transform every aspect of our lives.”
Kennedy, the AG News editor, wonders if the coverage is reaching its zenith.
“There’s going to be a point where (it reaches) saturation and people want to read something else,” he said. “Maybe we’re already there. I don’t know.”
Shiao Chong, editor-in-chief of Grand Rapids, Michigan-based The Banner, said in a blog post provided to Liaison that his team has been concerned with the tenor of stories that were written months before the pandemic emerged.
“We worry if a number of our articles, especially in print, which is less nimble for change, might appear tone-deaf to our readers at this time,” he said.
Job losses a reality
Perhaps the biggest unknown is the financial ramification of the economic shutdown. Since a good number of EPA publications are supported by denominations, editors are carefully monitoring church giving, which is expected to plummet because of the one-two punch of nationwide layoffs and shuttered churches.
All of those interviewed said layoffs had not yet materialized, although World Vision is placing all of its U.S. employees on a one-week furlough in May. Their benefits will not be impacted.
One EPA member publication, which declined to be interviewed for this story, furloughed its entire editorial staff for an indefinite time.
Odden, of VOM, said ministry President Cole Richards “made a firm commitment” to employees that layoffs or terminations were not on the horizon.
The picture is not as clear at Christian Leader, its editor, Faber, said.
“We’ve been told to anticipate budget reductions,” she said.
Reductions there could come in the form of pay cuts or elimination of the print edition.
“When you have such a small denominational staff, there’s not a lot to cut,” she said, later adding, “I don’t even know how to think about the implications of some of what’s happening.”
Lori Arnold is a freelance journalist and associate member of EPA. She is a veteran news reporter covering community journalism with the Daily Californian first as a reporter, community, and features editor and eventually the news editor. For sixteen years she served as managing editor for the Christian Examiner newspaper network and Refreshed magazine. Learn more at storylorimedia.com.
The Evangelical Press Association board of directors has agreed to add EPA’s name as a cooperating organization for the 2020 Religion Communication Congress.
Since 1970, the Religion Communication Congress has been a once-a-decade gathering of professional religion communicators from a wide range of faith traditions. The Congress was established “to provide a forum to expand the experience and broaden the perspective of professional communicators in faith-based settings beyond their specialized work area.”
The conference will take place March 17-21, 2020, in Washington, D.C. This is believed to be the first time that EPA has signed on as a cooperating group.
The list of cooperating organizations spans the interfaith religious world. While EPA’s participation is not an endorsement of other religious faiths that are part of the Congress, it is an effort to join the conversation with cooperative, constructive and positive interaction.
The EPA board desires EPA to be more intentional about “having a seat at the table” with those outside the evangelical community.
For more information on RCCongress 2020, visit rccongress2020.org.
Established in 2015, the Legacy Council is made up of select past presidents with members serving three-year terms in an advisory and mentoring role to the board and staff.
Diane J. McDougall has lived and breathed magazines since 1985 and believes that the best articles are the result of a trusting partnership between creator and editor. Her work has ranged from EPA pubs (EFCA Today, Worldwide Challenge, World Vision and World Relief) to projects for various higher-ed publications and the International Justice Mission. Not to mention airline magazines (Ethiopian Airline’s Selamta).
Diane has served on EPA’s board as secretary from 1994 to 1997 and president from 2009 to 2011. She has participated as a mentor in the Person-to-Person program and as a frequent presenter at EPA conventions, which she has attended since 1990.
After more than 20 years as editorial director at the creative agency Journey Group, she’s now serving as senior editor for Virginia Magazine (the University of Virginia’s alumni magazine).
Dean Merrill was EPA’s president from 1985 to 1987. Throughout the years, he served variously as a convention chairman, seminar presenter, awards contest judge, and board member.
His first participation in EPA began in the late 1960s at Campus Life magazine, then onward to David C. Cook Publishing Co., Leadership Journal (CTi), Christian Herald, and the Focus on the Family magazine group, winning a number of awards along the way.
He is the published author of 10 solo books plus another 35 collaborations, including one ECPA Christian Book of the Year and two Gold Medallion winners. Now an independent writer, he works from his home in Colorado Springs.
Appointed to his second term on the council, Roger Palms was the editor of Decision magazine from 1976 to 1998 and president of EPA from 1991 to 1993. He served in other board roles prior to that. He currently serves as a contest judge.
In 2004 he received the Joseph Bayly Lifetime Achievement Award from EPA for his distinguished service to EPA and the field of journalism.
Though retired and living in Florida, Roger continues to write and to teach writers around the world, most recently in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. He is the author of 16 books and hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles.
Dean Ridings’ impact in EPA has been felt for a long time, beginning when he was a scholarship recipient in 1986 as a student at Wheaton Graduate School.
Dean has served EPA in many roles, including multiple convention planning committees, Convention Committee chair, Scholarship Committee, Awards Committee, contest judge, and multiple stints on the board. He was president of EPA from 2011 to 2013.
Over the years he has been on staff with Jubilee (Prison Fellowship), Journal of Christian Camping (Christian Camp & Conference Association), One-to-One (The Navigators), and Thriving Family (Focus on the Family). He is the author of hundreds of articles for a variety of EPA publications.
He is the author of The Pray! Prayer Journal and co-author of the three-book Mighty Men of Valor series of Bible studies. Dean currently serves with The Navigators as communication director at Navigators Headquarters in Colorado Springs.
EPA has added another benefit partner with the recent offer by the National Association of Evangelicals to extend NAE membership to EPA and, with it, free access to NAE’s quarterly webinarsfor all EPA members. While the NAE’s magazine, Evangelicals, has already been a publication member of EPA, the NAE as an organization is now an affiliate member of EPA. Sarah Kropp Brown, the NAE’s director of communications and editor of Evangelicals, is a current member of the EPA board of directors.
The NAE played a significant role in the founding of EPA. In the fall of 1947, James DeForest Murch, editor of the NAE magazine United Evangelical Action met with a handful of editors at the National Sunday School Association convention to discuss the possibility of an association of evangelical editors. On May 6, 1948, 35 editors met at Congress Hotel in Chicago to organize the Evangelical Press Association, to adopt a doctrinal statement (crafted by NAE), and to create a statement of purpose. Murch was named the first president of the new association.
“Considering our shared history and complementary missions, we would be pleased to enter into a greater relationship with the Evangelical Press Association,” said Heather Gonzales, vice president and chief operations officer for the NAE.
The NAE offers quarterly webinars on subjects such as technology, trends, management and communications. The registration cost will be waived when EPA members register for the webinars using a custom link that will be made available through official email notices sent out by EPA.
Learn more about all of EPA’s business and ministry partners here.