CEDARMORE, Ky. (BP)–Trennis Henderson was elected unanimously May 3 by the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s executive board to become the next editor of the Western Recorder newsjournal.
Editor of the Arkansas Baptist Newsjournal since 1992, Henderson, 40, was managing editor at the Word & Way in Missouri from 1985-92, and associate managing editor there from 1982-85.
He is a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with a master’s degree in religious education. While attending seminary, he worked at the Western Recorder as a staff writer and an advertising representative.
He succeeds Mark Wingfield, now managing editor of the Baptist Standard in Texas.
Henderson, a former president of the Baptist Communicators Association, told the board he is committed to embody the term “Christian journalist.”
“Both words are very important to me,” he told the executive board, meeting at Cedarmore Baptist Assembly.
“What I would seek to bring to the Recorder would be accuracy, balance and … to communicate with clarity what we’re about,” he added.
In his address before he was elected, Henderson said he would want the Western Recorder to be a publication for all Kentucky Baptists from throughout the spectrum. “For the Western Recorder to effectively serve any Kentucky Baptist, it must fairly serve all Kentucky Baptists.”
Western Recorder search committee chairman Bill Thurman said Henderson met all of the committee’s criteria.
“I think ultimately one of the things we were looking for was a Christian journalist. Not one or the other, but both,” said Thurman, a layman from Lexington. He said the committee also wanted someone with a multifaceted experience in communications. “And we were ultimately looking for someone that we thought would best represent all Kentucky Baptists.”
The committee received resumes from several qualified candidates, Thurman said, but “Trennis just stood out above the others.” After interviewing candidates, the committee unanimously agreed in their selection of Henderson, Thurman said.
Henderson said that his philosophy of Christian journalism at the Arkansas paper is to “inform, inspire, involve.”
He said the Bible verse that has guided him has been Ephesians 4:29. “My version of that from a journalistic perspective is, ‘Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your word processor, but that which is good for the use of edifying that it may minister grace unto the reader.’”
He said he recognizes many Baptists today would want a label to identify him. “If you chose to put any label on me, the only one I’m really interested in is Christian,” he said. “We can talk about fundamentalist and conservative and moderate and every shade in between. But I think if we’re talking about anything other than seeking to glorify the one for whom we’re here in the first place, we’ve already gotten off track.”
Describing himself further, Henderson said, “I perceive myself as a traditional, mainline Southern Baptist,” committed to the principles of the priesthood of the believer, the autonomy of the local church and the separation of church and state.
He said he also believes in missions, evangelism and cooperation. “My desire is to seek God’s will together.”
News of Henderson’s election was not received as well among some Arkansas Baptist leaders.
“I’m sick that he’s leaving,” said Greg Kirksey, president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. “To me, he has such journalistic integrity. Unfortunately, that’s rare.”
He noted one of Henderson’s chief contributions to Arkansas Baptists has been fairness. “One of my concerns when we hired him was the strife and the political conflict in the state. I didn’t want somebody coming in to escalate that, but quell that with integrity. He was well-balanced and treated people with Christian respect. Trennis far surpassed our greatest expectations.”
Arkansas Baptist State Convention Executive Director Emil Turner also praised Henderson’s leadership and fairness. “Some people are driven by goals, some by politics, others by relationships,” Turner said. “He was driven by having a ministry. I’m going to miss his sense of humor a lot, but what I’ll miss the most is his biblical commitment to journalism.”
Henderson will begin his work at the Kentucky journal in mid-July.
At 174 years old, the Western Recorder is the second-oldest Baptist newspaper in the country. In addition to producing the weekly newspaper, it also helps five state Baptist conventions produce monthly papers. The agency also produces Real Life magazine, a quarterly publication for churches.
Russell N. Dilday contributed to this article.