SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (BP)–Michael Leathers has resigned as editor of the Illinois Baptist, having served the newsjournal from November 1999 through mid-June of this year.
Joe Scott, a St. Louis-area journalist, has been named interim editor.
Leathers’ resignation was announced by Glenn Akins, the Illinois Baptist State Association’s interim executive director. According to an article in the newsjournal, Akins and Leathers “came to a mutually agreeable decision” which was supported by the state association’s advisory committee.
The newsjournal reported that Leathers had won awards for his work but that he “also came under heavy complaint from many Illinois Baptist leaders for the tone and contents of an article published in the Illinois Baptist in January concerning a pastor accused of molestation. The highly emotional response to the article was a major reason behind the formation of an ad hoc panel created to study the purpose and role of the Illinois Baptist.”
Leathers told Baptist Press July 24, “I have enjoyed my time at the Illinois Baptist. I’m proud of all that we were able to do there, especially in reporting what goes on in the local churches and how they’re ministering. … I grew up in Illinois and it was encouraging to meet Southern Baptists throughout the state rather than just the corner I grew up in.
“I would appreciate people’s prayers that my family and I will see what opportunities God is going to open up,” Leathers said.
Akins, in the Illinois Baptist stated, “There’s no question that the Illinois Baptist is a better newsjournal because Michael was here, but it is time to build on the changes and improvements that came during Michael’s tenure as editor. This is one of those situations where God’s will and calling was for a man with certain skills and gifts to serve in a specific position for a specific term rather than permanently.”
During his term as editor, Leathers received three Wilmer C. Fields awards from the Baptist Communicators Association. He was honored in 2001 for best newspaper redesign and in 2002 for feature writing and interpretive reporting.
“The Lord has a place of service for Michael where he can be more fulfilled and challenged while also making a big spiritual difference,” Akins said.
Akins noted allegations concerning anti-Christian bias in the secular media, and specifically to a recent incident when a television station bleeped out the word “Jesus” when a TV personality said, “Thank you Jesus.” “Obviously, the secular press and media need the impact and influence of Christians like Michael Leathers,” Akins said. “We know he can have a godly impact serving the Lord in the secular press. We speak for all Illinois Baptists in wishing him the best and praying for him as he serves the Lord in a new direction.”
Scott, the interim editor, currently is an editor for St. Louis Suburban Journals and a former writer for the Missouri Baptist journal Word & Way. Scott holds a journalism degree from the University of Missouri in Columbia. His earlier experience in writing includes six years as a staff writer and associate editor of Missouri Resource magazine for the Missouri State Department of Natural Resources and one year as a reporter for the The Standard in Booneville, Mo.
“Joe graciously accepted the role as interim editor on short notice,” Akins said. “I am grateful that a kingdom servant was available to assist us during this interim period. Not only does he bring editorial experience to this role, but also a history in Baptist journalism. He has already demonstrated that he can meet the demands associated with a regular production schedule and still deliver a quality piece. I am very appreciative of the sacrifice he and his family are willing to make during this transition time for the paper. Joe likely will be serving in this role through the summer.”
Scott said he is “looking forward to the challenge of continuing the high standards set by previous Illinois Baptist editors. Already other IBSA and Illinois Baptist staff have taken on more responsibilities for the paper. Everyone has been extremely helpful.”
The June 26 issue of the Illinois Baptist was the first issue Scott edited.