I was hesitant to write this blog because I was afraid it might come across as bragging. However, I do think it is important to mark, celebrate, and acknowledge achievements. It not only encourages our souls, as an editorial team, but also encourages our readers and supporters that they are supporting a quality magazine.
Therefore, it is with joy and gratitude that I highlight The Banner’s unique achievement of being named the best denominational magazine by both the Evangelical Press Association and the Associated Church Press in the same year! It is certainly a unique achievement for us as never in our history have we won the “double” in the same year. To be judged as the best denominational magazine by both organizations in the same year means we practically beat out every other Christian denominational magazine in North America.
The EPA and the ACP are the two main organizations for Christian publications in North America. The memberships of both organizations essentially represent the Christian publication industry in the continent. The EPA currently has over 200 publication members, ranging from the likes of Answers in Genesis to World Vision Magazine. The ACP, founded in 1916, is the older but currently smaller organization. Although I am not sure of the size of its total membership, 61 publications entered this year’s ACP awards contest.
There is some overlap of members between the two organizations, obviously The Banner for instance. Sojourners magazine is another example. But I suspect there are many publications that only join one or the other. As its name suggests, the EPA’s membership consists of publications that self-identify as broadly evangelical. The ACP’s membership tends to consist of the other remaining Christian denominations and traditions, such as Presbyterians, Mennonites, Catholics, etc. This difference largely aligns with the difference between the National Association of Evangelicals and the National Council of Churches in the USA, or between the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the Canadian Council of Churches in Canada. Hence, the EPA’s and the ACP’s memberships cover the spectrum of conservative to progressive Christian traditions.
Both organizations hold annual contests judged by industry experts, i.e. other Christian editors and writers. In essence, the contests give us snapshots of how our industry peers evaluate us. It is, therefore, an honor to be judged by our industry peers (from across the theological spectrum) as the best in our category. In total, we won seven EPA awards and six ACP awards this year. In addition to the best denominational magazine, we also won first place or top four rankings in various individual categories ranging from meeting news coverage to feature articles to visual designs.
Of course, there is no guarantee that we will win again in the future. Competition is fierce, and I am sure we won by slim margins. But I am glad to say that we have consistently been placed among the top five over the years. In the EPA’s new “Best in Class” contest last year, for instance, we placed fourth in our class of distributing 60,000 print copies or more (the largest class), behind World Vision, Christianity Today (both tied for first) and Israel My Glory (third). In 2016, we won best denominational magazine from the ACP.
All of this shows that we, The Banner staff, have strived every year to provide you, our readers, the best faith-based journalism from a Reformed Christian perspective we can give. Obviously, we are not perfect, but we strive as faithfully as we can.
Winning awards is one form of affirmation. But winning our readers’ approval also means a lot to us. It is one thing to win over the perception of our industry peers. It’s quite another challenge to win over the perception of readers across our denomination.
Speaking honestly, I know that there is a perception among one part of our denomination that The Banner is “liberal.” I get those emails and letters. Recently, in response to our annual fundraising appeal, I received an email that dismissed our award-winning claim by saying that we only get awards from liberal organizations. Well, if the EPA is liberal, then I don’t know what liberal means anymore.
Our industry’s peers, from across the conservative-liberal spectrum, have judged us this year as holding excellent standards in Christian journalism. And maybe holding those high standards means we publish articles that raise questions that many prefer not to be raised, or re-tell stories from unfamiliar perspectives, or focus on upsetting news that many might prefer to remain hidden. We hold these journalistic standards and practices to serve our readers and our denomination, and ultimately to serve God.