It’s been four years since the magazine for my denomination shut down. DisciplesWorld was an effort to create an independent magazine that would replace The Disciple, the in-house magazine which shut down in 2002. For seven years, DisciplesWorld did a valiant effort in trying to tell the story of our denomination. One of the best things they did was ran an issue that focused on Jim Jones and the Jonestown massacre. (Jim Jones was a Disciples pastor and the story show the efforts and the shortcomings of the Regions where he was a member to confront Jones.)
During the closure of the Disciples in 2002 and its successor seven years later the mood from a number of Disciples I knew was a collective shrug. This is what colleague Dan Mayes said back in 2010:
I think the demise of DisciplesWorld also has something to do with larger issues facing the Church today, also. Being part of a denomination means less and less to people than it used to. People are more concerned with being a part of a particular local church where they fit than they are about that congregation’s denominational affiliation. This means our editorial outlets have less of a captive audience than ever before. With a wane in denominational interest the publications are sure to suffer.
I have been a faithful subscriber to DisciplesWorld, so I must confess a bit of sadness. But I have to admit that in recent years my magazine subscription has served as little more than a novelty. I, personally, find sources of theological reflection and information through trusted bloggers more than anywhere else. And I’m venturing to guess that more and more people are doing the same.
Perhaps someone else will pick up where DisciplesWorld left off one day. Or perhaps no one will ever need to. This old world keeps on changing. So changing is what we’re going to have to do.
Things have changed, but I don’t think they were for the better. We still don’t have a pan-Disciple outlet. Some blogs have come in to fill in the gap, like D-Mergent. But the problem there is that D-Mergent tends to provide the progressive/left voice in the denomination. For those of us who are more moderate, there is…nothing.
I think D-Mergent has its place. As I’ve said before, I do need to be stretched at times. The problem is, that I’m only hearing the progressive voice. I’d like to hear someone that has views closer to mine every so often. A denominational magazine would provides that wider view.
Disciples News Service has become more consistent with their weekly emails. A look at their webpage shows some interesting stories. But I don’t think it does a complete job of telling the Disciple story.
Back in 2010, I wrote why we need some kind of denominational news source. They are:
- To stregthen and uphold the bonds of “brotherhood” and be aware of God’s mission in the world. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is not like other denominations. Unlike Lutherans or Presbyterians, we don’t have creeds that bind us together. Being non creedal means we have had to find other means of upholding the ties that bond us together. A denominational news source that is telling the story of what is going on in the wider church, to talk about what ministries are taking place in California or Kentucky or Florida is keeping us bound together and helps congregations know they are not alone. Maybe the best example of this is the work the Presbyterian Church (USA) is doing through Presbyterian News Service called “Growing God’s Church Deep and Wide.” Over the last year, a number of stories have been written about mission taking place within local Presbyterian churches around the nation (including my hometown of Flint, MI). Disciplesworld did a good job of telling those stories. Who will tell them now?
- To Give Us a Wide Viewpoint. Yeah, I know, we can read blogs to get a wide range of opinions. But the thing is, I can decide to read only the sources I want to read and ignore the rest. What was great about Disciplesworld is that it presented views and opinions that not every would agree with. While I don’t agree at times with folks like Jan Linn or Rita Nakashima Brock, I did appreciate reading a different opinion. The loss of a news source leaves us without a forum where we can be intellectually and spiritually stretched. Without a vital gathering place, we won’t have a place where we can make reasoned arguments and be able to discern the vital issues of the day like gay ordination or war.
I think there is the beginnings of a good magazine that is already being produced by Home Missions. The Disciples Advocate is published a few times a year and tells what’s going on around the church. The drawback at this point is that it isn’t well-publicized and it would need to spiff up its look. But the bones of a good magazine are there.
I still think there is a way telling the story of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Maybe it’s an even stronger Disciple News Service. Maybe it’s an online magazine. I don’t know. What I do know is that we need to have something that is greater than the parts that exist now.
The Disciples of Christ Historical Society has an online archive of past issues of DisciplesWorld, from 2002 until 2009. You can access it here.