The History of The Christadelphian Tidings Magazine
Bro. Don Styles (cont’d)
Changes in The Tidings
When Bro. Don Styles became the editor of The Christadelphian Tidings of the Kingdom of God in 1988 it was only the second time in the nearly 50 years the magazine had been in circulation that there was a change in the editor. Bro. Carl Wolfe was the founding editor in 1939 and was followed 19 years later by Bro. Robert Lloyd who 30 years after that turned the reins over to Bro. Styles.
Changing the editor of a magazine often brings many other modifications along with it, and so it wasn’t surprising that Bro. Styles began his editorship in January of 1988 with an editorial explaining some of the changes that were coming to the magazine:
“Because of the change in editors with this issue, and because the new editor lives some 2,400 miles from the old, production and mailing will be handled from Michigan. Accordingly, Bro. Richard Stone, Associate Editor, Bro. Robert Brinkerhoff, Secretary, Bro. Paul Phillips, Treasurer and Sis. Elsie de Caussin, Subscriptions have all graciously sent their records and information to ourselves and have stepped down to allow for the naming of new volunteers for these functions. As Bro. Bob [Lloyd] noted in the last issue, these brethren and Sis. de Caussin deserve a hearty thanks for their work over the years.
“Bro. Troy Haltom has agreed to serve as Associate Editor and Sis. Deborah Bruce has taken over the handling of subscriptions and will, Lord willing, gradually be assuming more of the secretarial functions. Bro. Troy is known in the community through his co-authorship of books on Lamentations and 1 Timothy as well as for extensive labors in providing study days and special lectures. What is not so well known is that he published a monthly magazine for nearly two years. The ability to get ‘The Tidings’ out in case something happens to the editor is obviously a primary qualification for an Associate Editor.”
Bro. Styles went on to explain that there were not only changes in management, but the magazine itself was going to have a new look as well:
“You will notice some changes in this issue. The paper used is not glossy: this has the disadvantage of a poorer reproduction of pictures but the advantages of less glare when reading the articles and the possible use of less expensive printing techniques. We will be experimenting in the production area to save costs so that more pages can be produced without increasing the price. Some of the experiments will work, and some will not, so the patience of the readership is requested in this regard.”
Without a great fanfare, in 1989 the magazine went from bi-monthly to monthly, and the annual number of pages went from around 190 to over 300: the subscription went from $6 per year to $10. (The page count was gradually increased to around 550 over the next few years.)
Bro. Don also announced a new feature in the magazine — exhortations — that continues 30 years later:
“Sections have been added and some long-standing ones have been rearranged…You will note that one of the new sections is entitled ‘Exhortation’. It is planned to produce an exhortation each issue recently given at a North American ecclesia.”
On the other hand, there were some regular features of The Tidings that Don was happy to announce were going to stay the same:
“Before agreeing to take the editorship, I wanted assurance that Bro. Lloyd would continue to write his article [Minute Meditations], that Bro. A.E. MacDougall would continue to write on signs of the times and that Bro. Arthur Bull would continue to solicit ecclesial news. All three have graciously consented to do so.”
While Bro. Styles looked forward to this new “career” as editor, he also hoped that it would be a short one:
“Hopefully the tenure of the new editor will be cut short by the return of our Lord. In the meantime, however, we face times that are perilous for our spiritual welfare. The remarkable technological advances of recent years can bring the world into the sanctuary of our homes. From a worldly point of view, the shows, the videos, the cable networks are inexpensive and of improving quality. From a spiritual standpoint, they are rapidly deteriorating in their moral content and are potentially expensive to the point of costing us everything we had ever hoped to gain in the Truth. Miniaturization has made possible pocket-size cassette players that plug into the ear whatever one wants to hear. They permit us freedom to listen to the sounds of our choice without bothering anybody else and they prevent us from monitoring what our children are pouring into their minds.”1The Christadelphian Tidings, January-February, 1988
Obviously much has changed in the lives of brothers and sisters since 1988 as cassette players have been replaced by CD players and then by iPods and smart phones. One thing didn’t change, however, in Bro. Styles’ life after he became editor. All of the work that was required to run the magazine did not curtail the time that he gave to teaching at Bible schools. The year after he took over as editor, he taught at Rocky Mountain Bible School. In 1992, he was a teacher at the Idyllwild and Midwest Bible Schools and taught at Florida in 1993. In 1996 he spoke at Winfield and at Niagara Falls in 2002.
Don also led a large number of study days and CYC conferences over the years. To give an idea of how active he was in this regard, he once delivered three study days, in three different parts of the country (California, Michigan and Connecticut) in a single month: March 1990. He also continued to teach internationally as well. In 1989 he spoke at an Easter Bible School in Germany. He returned to the U.K. in 1990 and to Australia in 1991. He was in the U.K. to speak again in 1992, 1994, 1995 and 1998. He spoke in Jamaica as well in 1992 and 1995 and the Cayman Islands in 1996.
Don Styles’ impact on The Tidings
Under Don Styles’ leadership, the Christadelphian Tidings continued to grow. The size of the magazine continued to expand and the circulation reached into the thousands for the first time.Bro. Don, who felt that “One of the good purposes that can be served by ‘The Tidings’ is the encouragement of in-depth Bible study on the part of North American brethren and sisters”,2The Christadelphian Tidings, January-February, 1988was well known for his deep understanding of the Bible. In the late 1980’s a controversy arose among Christadelphians concerning whether the Arab nations are prophesied to defeat Israel in the last days. Bro. Don took on the matter in The Tidings magazine, where he authored a number of articles on the subject stating that he believed that Israel would be overwhelmed by Russia, not the Arabs. He also published a booklet on the question entitled “Israel’s Defeat: By Gog or the Arabs?” His strong stand on the subject led to questions on the editorial stance of the magazine. Bro. Styles wrote the following in The Tidings in response to these questions:
“The publishing of articles on various sides of an issue and the editorial position on the Jew — Arab matter have led to several questions respecting the editorial policy of the ‘Tidings’. We like the statement in ‘The Testimony’ magazine and have used it as a guideline for the ‘Tidings’: ‘Publication of articles does not presume editorial endorsement except on matters of fundamental doctrine, as defined in the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith.’
“As with any humanly authored document, over the years, imperfections in wording have been exposed. However, we have been through the BASF phrase by phrase and have looked up every reference in connection with the point it is intended to support. The statement is more than adequate, it is excellent, and should serve us well as a definition of the fundamentals of the faith until Christ comes.
“While agreeing on the first principles, brethren may vary in their understanding of specific passages of scripture (such as Deut 24:1-4 or Gal 3:13) and in their perspective on many non-first principle matters (the identity of Magog and Tubal or home-schooling). We feel they should have opportunity to express such points of view through the magazine. We therefore include articles which differ from our own opinion.
“North American Perspective
“Our objective is to be useful and informative to the Central ecclesias in North America. In doing so, we recognize there are contemporary problems in the practical application of spiritual principles to personal, family and ecclesial situations. These we attempt to see addressed by articles or letters to the editor. We also recognize some are interested in the philosophy of the Truth and we endeavor to serve that need (the series on ‘The Law of the Lord’ is an example in this regard).
“Tradition and the pioneers
“We neither support nor oppose an idea because it is traditional or contained in the pioneer writings. However, we have great respect for Bro. John Thomas as a Biblical genius and for Robert Roberts as a gifted writer who understood the Truth. Our instinctive reaction is that the position taken by them or by other ‘pioneer’ brethren is right until proven wrong. But their writings cannot be used to prove a point, only scripture or established fact can be used as proof. In summary, our objective is to ensure that the magazine contributes to preparing a people for the coming of our Lord.”3The Christadelphian Tidings, June 1991
Under Don Styles’ leadership, the Christadelphian Tidings continued to grow. The size of the magazine continued to expand and the circulation reached into the thousands for the first time. Five years after becoming the editor, Don reflected on the changes that had been made to the magazine while he was editor:
“In the summer of 1987, Bro. Bob Lloyd asked us what we thought about the Tidings magazine. In all innocence, our response was that it filled an essential role for the North American ecclesias. If it were to cease publication, we felt sure something else would be needed to fill its place. He then asked if we would be willing to take over as editor. Since he had done duty for 30 years, he felt he could justifiably ask to be relieved. Having consented to do the job, we have gradually made some changes over the past five years. Publication has gone from semimonthly to monthly, page count from 20 to 48 and circulation from 950 to 3,400. The content has come to include some regular features such as “Letters to the Editor,” “Coming Events,” “Notes on the Daily Readings,” etc. Response has been most encouraging and we continue to feel that the magazine plays a useful role in the life of the community.”
(It might be noted that at least some of the increased circulation resulted from complementary copies, so as to reach most members of the community in North America, an effort largely funded by Bro. Don.)
Bro. Styles also announced in that editorial that another big change was about to occur:
“One thing, however, that has not been done is to form a Tidings committee to advise the editor and generally see to the stability and continuation of the magazine. There has been an informal flow of very useful suggestions from those proof-reading the magazine, but this has been directed mainly to the content of specific articles. And there is some tentative provision for what would happen in the event a personal or financial crisis rendered inoperative the present editor or the current bank account. However, something more than these arrangements are needed. The need is further underscored by the magazine’s service of carrying ecclesial news and announcements. While the editor intends to do nothing more than serve the community, he finds what is printed is viewed as having received a form of official endorsement. That is particularly true when it comes to the delicate matter of the fellowship standing of ecclesias or the recognition of newly-formed ecclesias. Our present policy is to be guided by the will of the nearest local ecclesias. On this and other matters, however, we feel the community is too exposed to the judgment of the editor. Thus the need for an advisory committee. Our idea is to have a 12-member committee that would consult by phone or FAX during the year and meet once a year at a central location at a time convenient to most of the members. We have in mind terms of four years so there would be a natural opportunity for any who wanted to retire. For a start, members would be by invitation of the editor. Once formed, the committee would gradually build up a base of policies as needed. Bro. John Bilello has agreed to act as chairman for the first three years. There were many brethren we felt could serve with distinction on such a committee. A number of considerations were factored in when settling upon those who were invited. One was long-term involvement with The Tidings, another was geographical representation, another was the person’s ecclesial experience and area of interest in addition, of course, to the potential for wise, scripturally-based counsel. The following brethren have graciously accepted invitations and will form the advisory committee of The Tidings.
“Joseph Banta, Austin, TX, John Bilello, Livonia, Ml, Arthur Bull, New Westminster, BC, Clive Drepaul, Brooklyn, NY, Troy Haltom, Novi, Ml, Robert Lloyd, Verdugo Hills, CA, Norman Luff, Brantford, ONT, George Rayner, Toronto, ONT, Ted Sleeper, San Francisco, CA, Phil Snobelen, Vancouver, BC, Ken Sommerville, Mission Hills, CA, Reuben Washington, Echo Lake, NJ.
“Our prayer is for the blessing of our Heavenly Father upon those involved with the magazine that it might be a source of spiritual edification to all who receive it. The primary objective of the Tidings is to provide a vehicle for the communication of information, exhortation and Bible exposition for and by believers in this part of the world who share an understanding of the first principles of Truth as conveniently summarized in the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith. We are fully aware that there is no such thing as an official magazine in Christadelphian circles. All magazines are run by individuals or self-appointed committees with the goal of serving some need in the community. We are also aware, however, of the impact of the printed word and of the traditions that have grown up regarding this and other publications. One of the purposes of the advisory committee is to ensure that The Tidings is representative of the brotherhood in this area. In this regard, we appreciate the suggestions, support and, especially, the prayers of the readership.”4The Christadelphian Tidings, May, 1993
Like any activity in the Truth, being the editor of a magazine has its ups and downs. Bro. Don felt that the most satisfying experiences he had while being editor involved, “Having folks say they were greatly [helped] in their spiritual lives by something they read in the magazine.” He also said he was “surprised at the very willing help offered locally in maintaining a mailing list and in the mailing portion of the job.” On the other hand, there were things that he felt were not as positive about running The Tidings. He said, “We were also surprised at how many folks wanted to control the magazine and its content without contributing articles or information to the magazine. We were also surprised at the difficulty of getting the North American ecclesias to support the magazine by donations.”5Personal email from Don Styles to Ken Sommerville, 2/14/2014
A helper fit for him
While Bro. Troy Haltom was Don Styles’ first Associate editor and his brother-in-law, Bro. Joe Banta was the Associate Editor in 2002, one of Don’s biggest helps with the magazine was his wife, Sis. Ellen. Her unofficial role was essentially that of a “shadow” assistant editor, and she did extensive proof-reading and editing herself, correcting grammar and spelling mistakes as well as commenting on content. One of the reasons her help was so important was because Bro. Don took over The Tidings at a time when aids that we have today such as spelling and grammar checkers were not yet prevalent.6Personal email from Dan Styles to the author, 9/22/17
As would be imagined, Don and Ellen were strong assets to any ecclesia where they were members. Don was a founding member of the Ann Arbor, Michigan Ecclesia. While he was a member of the Livonia Ecclesia for many years, he was also instrumental in the development of the ecclesia at Royal Oak, Michigan. All told, Don and Ellen Styles were members of ecclesias in New York, Texas, Ohio and Michigan over the years.
In 2005 Don Styles informed the Tidings Committee that he wished to retire from the position of editor by 2007. For the first time in the magazine’s history, the committee sent out a notice to its readers that it was conducting a search for a new editor and even asked for suggestions from subscribers.7The Christadelphian Tidings, January, 2005Later that year it was announced that Bro. George Booker would become the assistant editor in preparation to become the new editor. Bro. Don announced it this way:
“We are very pleased to announce that Bro. George Booker, Austin, Texas, has agreed to serve as Assistant Editor of the Tidings/Pioneer with a view to becoming editor within the next year. Bro. George is well-known throughout the community for his writings on a wide range of topics which include books on the Psalms, Lamentations, I Timothy, etc. He has contributed to The Tidings on several occasions and his experience as a Bible School and Study Day speaker both in North America and abroad gives him broad exposure to the Christadelphian community. In addition, his varied activities have brought him into close contact with Caribbean ecclesias. For several years, Bro. George jointly edited and published a periodical so he has significant experience in meeting the challenges of managing and producing a magazine on a regular basis. We look forward to working with Bro. George as he assumes his new and important duties in service to the Christadelphian community.”8The Christadelphian Tidings, October, 2005
Don eased into his retirement from The Tidings in 2006 by moving into the Associate Editor role as Bro. George Booker changed places with him and became the Editor. The committee had the following to say at the time:
“The coming of the June issue of the Christadelphian Tidings marks the occasion of the passing of the baton, as it were, to a new generation of leadership. Brother Don Styles, Ann Arbor, Michigan, steps down as Editor-in-Chief of the magazine after nearly 20 years of labor. Brother George Booker, Austin, Texas, now assumes this position. Brother Don took over the job from Brother Bob Lloyd who had faithfully performed the duties for many years while working fulltime in his own business. Brother Don took early retirement from his workplace and became the first fulltime editor of the magazine since its founding in 1938 [actually 1939]. With his characteristic energy and enthusiasm Brother Don, ably assisted by his loyal and dedicated wife Sister Ellen Styles, set out to expand the scope and breadth of the magazine, a task that only a fulltime editor could possibly undertake. Don inherited a magazine that published bi-monthly and had a subscriber base of around 800, all in North America. The magazine expanded to a monthly format (now 11 months with July/August serving as one issue), added more pages, put in place a detailed calendar of events, and recruited writers of various ages and talents to brighten the pages, among many other changes. In the course of Don’s tenure the Tidings magazine absorbed the Caribbean Pioneer magazine and expanded more recently into serving the community with a companion book publishing organization. With its latest issue the Tidings magazine distributed 2,475 copies, with 725 of these being posted overseas.
“During Don’s tenure an important step was taken to insure the continuity of the magazine and to broaden the support base for its operations: Twelve years ago, Tidings Publishing was incorporated as a not-for-profit religious organization. This corporation runs via a duly appointed operation committee elected according to a charter for religious corporations in the state of Michigan, USA. The magazine editor and the book editor are employees of that corporation and are subject to their advice and consent. It should be noted that currently none of the workers associated with Tidings Publications receives any remuneration. Thus, we are exceedingly grateful for the twenty years of service that Brother Don and Sister Ellen rendered. This was truly a labor of sacrifice and love. Don Styles has set the bar very high and it will be a challenge for future editors to build upon his achievements. The Tidings Publishing Committee expresses its gratitude to Brother Don for his many years of faithful service and prays that he will enjoy his retirement. Brother Don, thank you ‘for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.’ ”
In 2008, 19 years after he became the editor, Bro. Don Styles completely retired from managing the magazine but continued to contribute exhortations, articles, book reviews and letters. He also wrote two series for The Tidings, one on the Koran and the other on Mormonism, and remained active in the Truth, fulfilling several duties at his home ecclesia of Ann Arbor.
A personal glimpse of Brother Don Styles
While the role of editor of a Christadelphian magazine is often highly esteemed in our community, the brother who holds the role is also an individual servant of Christ often doing much more than managing a magazine. This reality was certainly true of Bro. Don Styles and it continued to be so after he retired from The Tidings. His family and his close associates in the Truth believe Don should be remembered most for his generosity, his love for God’s Word and ability to bring it alive for others, his service to the Christadelphian community and his dedication to unity within that body.
Bro. Don’s generosity was well known to those who were close to him. Following the sale of his printing company when he was in his mid-forties, Don “lived a humble life-style but was very generous with multiple hall building projects and missionary activities.”9Personal email from Dan Styles to the author, 9/22/17He “attempted to live what he believed. He was passionate about what he believed was right, and his passion was motivated by Godly principles…he had a good heart, and a passion for selfless service.”10Eulogy by Bro. Glen Anderson at Don’s funeral, 3/11/2017
Don’s generosity was not limited to money, but included his time as wel l. Bro. Glen Anderson remembers that quality:
“Time is often the hardest thing to give in service. Don gave of his time. We asked Don for a favor of some sort, and qualified the request ‘I don’t want to inconvenience you’. Don’s response was that it was an inconvenience, but he wanted to do it.”11Eulogy by Bro. Glen Anderson at Don’s funeral, 3/11/2017
Bro. Styles also wanted to help others understand the Bible. He was well known for his ability to transfer his love for the Word of God to those he taught as was evidenced by the number of Bible schools and study days that he led.
“Don was a very good Bible student and a captivating teacher. He made his presentations interesting, appealing to all ages without any degradation of Bible exposition. His classes usually had practical application and I can still remember to this day some of the points he made in some of those classes. Don’s writing style was direct and easily understood, helpful to the community and well respected. Many Australian and New Zealand brothers and sisters speak fondly of his visits, classes and how much Don and Ellen’s ‘Family Life in the Lord’ influenced their lives and their service.
“Don had a way of encouraging stimulating Bible discussion; he was engaged and interested in what you had to say and used scripture to support his positions. He had respect for the process of conveying Bible knowledge and for those who were on the receiving end. This was especially true of young people.
“On Bible study and the love of God’s word, Don wrote in September 2001: ‘What is critical is a heart that desires to understand the depth of his love and his ways and to apply that understanding in the trenches of everyday life’. Don continues, ‘… instruction in the word of God is good for a start, but we need to go beyond that level if we are to approach ‘the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ’. ”12Eulogy by Bro. Glen Anderson at Don’s funeral, 3/11/2017
Bro. Styles deeply felt the need to be like Christ by serving his brothers and sisters in whatever way he could. One of Don’s passions during his later years was coordinating the Carolynn Andrews Memorial Fund which helped channel funds to allow brethren and sisters being persecuted for their beliefs to escape their circumstances. This work “required quite a bit of ‘real time’ coordination with those closer to the situations and many brethren and sisters were helped by the work.”13Personal email from Dan Styles to the author, 9/22/17
Don was also involved in the reunion process in its various manifestations for at least 40 years.
“He felt strongly that unity was important, that division was wrong and he wrote as much over the years. He worked tirelessly for the reunion process and was disappointed that it had not happened yet. He wrote that ‘the unity of believers in Christ is a first principle of the gospel.’
“In Dec. 2000, in the context of divisions within our community and preaching, Don said, ‘The unity of all believers in a given age is not man’s idea, it is God’s. The sin of fragmentation is not a sin against man, it’s a sin against God. We need to work diligently, as we are able, to observe this critical first principle and to see that there is one body even as there is one faith, and one Lord and one God and Father of us all.’ “14Eulogy by Bro. Glen Anderson at Don’s funeral, 3/11/2017
Asleep in Christ
Not long after he retired from the role of editor of The Tidings, Don was stricken with a heart attack. While this issue with his health did:
“set Bro. Don back, he was still able to stay quite active for the next period of years including frequent trips to the golf course and to their cottage in addition to willingly pitching in on various ‘grand-fatherly’ duties.
“A second heart attack in 2016 was more serious and ultimately led to Bro. Don’s passing in the Lord due to congestive heart failure in March, 2017.”15Personal email from Dan Styles to the author, 9/22/17
When Don fell asleep in Christ, he was 78 years old. His final contribution to The Tidings was an exhortation in the February, 2015 issue entitled “What’s the Point?” In this exhortation he looked at what could be gained from the readings for October 26. The article ended with these words:
“What’s the point of the Scriptures we have read? Instruction, encouragement, and inspiration that we might be equipped unto all good work. It’s a good question to ask ourselves as we read the inspired word. What a blessing that we have it so readily available as we do this day. Amen.”
As we’ve looked back on Bro. Don’s life we can see that it too, was one of instruction, encouragement and inspiration. Bro. Don is now awaiting the resurrection and that day when retirement, and even death itself, will be a thing of the past, and full time work for God and His son will fill every moment.
The History of The Christadelphian Tidings Magazine