RCA drops Church Herald as subscriptions fall off: An online successor to come

July 14, 2009

Just as major mainstream print publications are struggling to forge a new path in the digital age, so will the flagship magazine of the 166,000-member Reformed Church in America.

Two years after scrapping a denominational subsidy for the Church Herald, the RCA General Synod, which met in Holland, Michigan, through June 9, voted 171-56 to cease publishing the monthly magazine, whose subscriptions have declined sharply.

Church and magazine leaders now will work within an existing $240,000 budget to create a new publication that could be primarily online. An open blog and increased online social networking figure to be prominent aspects.

The Herald, prized by supporters for its editorial independence, in 1992 was given a subsidy to fund distribution to every RCA member household. But the denomination ended the subsidy to cut costs and used some of the money saved to start RCA Today, a new magazine published three times per year to promote the church’s growth goals.

Since the Herald lost the subsidy, subscriptions have fallen below 20,000, and the magazine was forecast to go broke by the end of the year.

“The subscriptions tell a very powerful story that it’s time to move forward,” said Joel Plantinga, a pastor from California.

Also at the synod, the RCA voted to adopt provisionally the Belhar Con fession as a “standard of unity,” after 24 years of considering the measure. Two-thirds of the RCA’s regional church groups must now ratify the General Synod vote. Written during apartheid in 1982 by the Dutch Reformed Mission Church, a black denomination in South Africa, the confession “affirms the truth of the gospel in the face of terrible oppression.” –Religion News Service