Adapted from a longer article by Doug Trouten
A Brief History of the Evangelical Press Association
The Evangelical Press Association was born out of the Evangelical Movement of the 1940s. This movement provided an alternative to the rapidly growing trends of liberalism and modernism in a number of mainline denominations. Evangelicals emphasized classical Protestant doctrines of salvation, the church and the authority of Scriptures along with a strong emphasis on a personal experience of the grace of God, often referred to as “new birth” or “conversion.”
The movement gained cohesion and identity with the founding of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) in 1942, and the subsequent founding of many other evangelical organizations such as the National Sunday School Association (1943), World Relief (1944), the National Religious Broadcasters (1944), the Evangelical Fellowship of Mission Agencies (1945), and the National Association of Christian Schools (1947).
Birth of the Evangelical Press Association
In the fall of 1947, James DeForest Murch, Ph.D., editor of the NAE magazine United Evangelical Action met with a handful of editors at the National Sunday School Association convention to discuss the possibility of an association of evangelical editors. On May 6, 1948, 35 editors met at Congress Hotel in Chicago to organize the Evangelical Press Association, to adopt a doctrinal statement (crafted by NAE), and to create a statement of purpose. On April 4-6, 1949, the first annual EPA convention met in Chicago.
These founders of EPA had several objectives in mind:
- To promote fellowship and build a sense of camaraderie among evangelical editors.
- To provide a united, professional voice for evangelical publishers that would speak on behalf of members in matters affecting the entire industry.
- To establish a doctrinally united voice for conservative, evangelical periodical publishers who adhere to conservative evangelical beliefs such as justification by faith alone and the inerrancy of Scripture.
- To facilitate the acquisition and adoption of professional journalistic skills, techniques and standards in the changing field of evangelical magazine publishing.
- To provide services for members that would be unduly burdensome for members to secure on their own.
From the beginning, the founders of EPA made it clear that the organization would “promote the cause of evangelical Christianity” and “enhance the influence of Christian journalism” through “Christian fellowship among members of the Association.”
One of the first actions of the founders was the adoption of a Statement of Faith, which expressed fundamental doctrines to which all members would be required to adhere. This statement was organizationally “written in stone” when the approved constitution of the group stated that the doctrinal statement was “not subject to change.”
EPA was established as a forum for the exchange of professional skills and standards. Early leaders sought “to provide a medium for exchange of mechanical and tactical know-how in the publishing field.” To provide an incentive for implementing these newly acquired skills, and in the pursuit of excellence, in 1954, the organization established the annual EPA Awards Contest, honoring the best work done by EPA members. The program began with three awards: Best Editorial Program; Most Thought-provoking Editorial or Article; and Outstanding Circulation Campaign.
In 1952, a “committee on a code of ethics” proposed a document to the convention in 1952. After several revisions, the EPA Code of Ethics was formally adopted in 1954 and dealt with ethical issues common to secular and religious periodicals alike, such as fairness, prompt correction of errors, accuracy, and plagiarism.
After much consideration, and with a desire for editorial independence, EPA decided to separate from NAE. Founder Murch later wrote, “After prayer and thoughtful discussion it was unanimously agreed, however, that the EPA should not be NAE-related. The principles of freedom of the press, freedom of speech, wider evangelical coverage and denominational responsibility were determining factors in the discussion.”
The Evangelical Press Association Today
Today, the Evangelical Press Association (EPA) continues its work as a professional trade organization representing the evangelical periodical publishing industry. It embraces more than 300 members: periodicals, organizations, and individual members. Its publications have a combined readership of more than 20 million readers.
EPA continues to provide a variety of services to its members, including:
- An annual convention with speakers of national stature; the annual awards contest; annual membership meeting and election; workshops and tours designed for editors, writers, graphic artists, designers, web designers and business personnel from beginners to veterans.
- An annual EPA Awards contest that recognizes member publications for outstanding work in some 60 categories/divisions and provides helpful feedback regarding their work each year.
- Person-to-person publication evaluation matches experienced editors with beginners for education and transmission of professional ideals.
- A scholarship program, internships, and campus program designed to provide encouragement and training for students who may be tomorrow’s EPA members.
- Representation in The Postal Counsel, a cooperative venture with other press associations, which lobbies the government and postal service for favorable treatment for non-profit periodical mailers.
Former Executive Director D’Arcy Maher reflects on the rich history of EPA and the bright future for the organization: “EPA members are the fabric of the association; they are vibrant and compelling communicators. While the publishing world faces new and diverse challenges, EPA members face those challenges with exceptional creativity.”