Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Youngest editor of The Christian Recorder plans to build on the legacy of his predecessor

John Thomas III was elected the 21st editor of The Christian Recorder on the first ballot with 78 percent of the vote. He is the youngest elected general officer to head one of nine departments in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The election was held July 11 at the denomination’s 50th Quadrennial Session of the General Conference in Philadelphia, Pa., while celebrating its Bicentennial. Delegates near and far converged at the conference.
“I’m the first non-clergy person, the first lay person to hold this office,” said Thomas, 34, a member of St. John A.M.E. Church in North Nashville. He succeeds Dr. Calvin H. Sydnor III, who was first elected editor in 2004.
John Thomas III
After all the votes were counted, Thomas was victorious with 1,192 votes. His opponent, Velma E. Grant, came in a distant second with 191 votes, followed by Glenn V. Gordon III, who trailed with 141 votes.
The Christian Recorder is the nation’s oldest black newspaper in the United States, which pre-dates the Civil War. The inaugural issue was published and distributed on July 1, 1852, following the General Conference that year in New York.
The newspaper is located at 512 8th Avenue South in Nashville. It is published bi-weekly by the A.M.E.C. Sunday School Union, the publishing house for the A.M.E. Church. The Rev. Dr. Johnny Barbour Jr. is the president/publisher.
After winning the election, Thomas hit the ground running on Aug. 1, his first day on the job. He had worked under Sydnor as his assistant and now he’s looking for ways to build upon his predecessor’s legacy.
“I’m looking for a better way to express the voice of African Methodism,” said Thomas. “I’m working on a theme: ‘News First.’ I’m trying to get people to understand the A.M.E. Church is doing a lot of ministry.”
Like any campaign for elected office, issues are explored and platforms announced. I ran on the platform of Coverage, Concept and Compassion,” said Thomas, who plans to recruit columnists, writers, and develop fresh content.
The Christian Recorder generally covers major meetings, church anniversaries and homecomings throughout the denomination. But there’s more to the newspaper than just church news. “There will be columns dealing with social justice issues,” he said.
Aside from addressing biblical and moral issues, the newspaper was the voice for secular issues during its heyday when racism, slavery and classism topped the pages of the paper. It was a strong and vocal opponent to slavery as well.
“I will be broadening our reach beyond our traditional audiences and integrating the print content and the online content,” said Thomas, calling it a privilege to follow in Sydnor’s footsteps and to live up to his example.
The example that Sydnor set during his tenure shouldn’t be too difficult for Thomas, who worked with him for a number of years. He considers his predecessor a mentor, friend, and “the paragon of a Christian gentleman.”
The A.M.E. Church is rooted in 39 different nations, 20 different regions. “I want to make sure that every region has an opportunity to have its voice heard,” said Thomas. “I want to make sure the regions are represented in the paper.”
Thomas is a Ph.D. candidate studying political science at the University of Chicago.
“My dissertation is on Black Politics in Latin America,” he said. “I’ve studied black movements in Peru and Ecuador. I’m passionate about my research. I’m passionate about black folks. I’m passionate about the African diaspora. I’m passionate about who we are and what we’re doing.”
Although the new editor is back and forth between Nashville and Chicago, he’s never too far from the church. My work in the church is a calling, a full time ministry,” he said.

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