United Methodist ReporterA little after lunch this past Thursday, May 16th, I received word from my editor Sam Hodges that the United Methodist Reporter is about to cease publication.

You can read an announcement about the Board of Directors’ decision to cease operations on the Reporter’s website. The decision affects both the United Methodist Reporter newspaper and its parent company, UMR Communications.

In addition to the official announcement by the company, I want to add a personal word.

I’ve written a column for the United Methodist Reporter since 2005. For most of its history, that column was called “Gen-X Rising” and in it I examined issues of church and culture through a generational lens. I found over time that my own theological interests were moving ever more toward a deep appreciation for the Wesleyan tradition. So in the last few years, the column has been as much about articulating a Wesleyan theology of discipleship as it has anything else. (In late 2011, my recognition that the nature of the column had changed led me to drop the “Gen-X” moniker from it.)

My column has been a significant part of my ministry over all the years I’ve written it. It has put me in touch with people all over the Methodist connection I wouldn’t have known otherwise. In my years of doctoral study, the discipline of writing it was a constant reminder that the academic work I was doing needed to have relevance for the lived reality of Christian discipleship. And the process of writing the column has been a continual spur to creativity in my thinking, speaking, and writing elsewhere.

A lot has happened in my life in the time since I first began writing for the Reporter: marriage, two major moves, a couple of pastoral appointments, doctoral study, and the arrival of three children. Through it all was my work for the Reporter. My bi-weekly column was a regular part of my ministry and, indeed, my life. I’ve written well over 150 individual columns, as well as a number of book reviews and a couple of feature pieces. I even managed to win an award from the Associated Church Press back in the early days of Gen-X Rising.

It goes without saying that I am profoundly sad that the Reporter is ceasing publication. I am, of course, grateful to UMR Communications for providing me a platform (in print and online) from which to write. But I’m mostly grateful to the people at UMR who kept the newspaper going in a tough environment and who embodied the highest standards of journalism in the process. I can’t say enough about the three editors under whom I wrote: Cynthia Astle, Robin Russell, and Sam Hodges. Other people past and present on the Reporter staff were equally wonderful to work with, even if it was always from afar — Bill Fentum, Mary Jacobs, Amy Forbus, and many more.

Eight years ago, the Reporter took a chance on an associate pastor in a little town in Arkansas with barely a writing credit to his name. I honestly don’t believe many of the writing opportunities that have opened up for me since that time would have occurred without the Reporter believing in me first. I will be forever grateful for that, even as I grieve the demise of a company with a long history, a proud legacy, and a record of journalistic excellence.

“My harp is turned to mourning, and my pipe to the voice of those who weep”  — Job 30:31