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Don Hinkle.

Don Hinkle, longtime editor of Missouri’s Baptist newspaper, dies at age 68

Don Hinkle, founding editor of The Pathway, the Missouri Baptist Convention’s newspaper, died last week at age 68. “Don was one of the smartest journalists in the industry today and brought a level of integrity that is a model for how it should be done,” Dwight Widaman, editor of the the regional Metro Voice Christian newspaper said.

The newspaper was founded in 2002 amid a feud between conservatives and moderates in the state. Conservative leaders hired Hinkle, a former newspaper editor turned seminarian and Christian journalist, to lead the new publication. Hinkle recently announced plans to step down at the end of the year to focus on public policy work for the state convention.

“Whenever we would visit, we would talk about everything from Jesus, politics, sports, bowties and the state of journalism among other things,” said the Rev. Jon Nelson, president of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

Born Sept. 14, 1954, Hinkle grew up in Springfield, Tenn., near Nashville. He went to work in 1975 at his hometown radio station, then as a reporter and editor in the Air Force for 10 years before working at several metropolitan newspapers, including the Tennessean in Nashville. Before becoming editor of The Pathway, he was editor of the Columbia Journal, south of Nashville, and a national correspondent for Baptist Press, the SBC’s official news outlet.

He earned master’s degrees in Christian education and theology from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The early years as editor of The Pathway were difficult, because the state convention was involved in a long-running legal battle over control of a major conference center, Word&Way, a Baptist foundation and other entities.

Those lawsuits and controversy in the Missouri convention led to staff restructuring and leadership turnover, Hinkle recalled in reflecting on his 20 years as editor. “There were many nights I went home, shedding tears in frustration,” Hinkle wrote. “It felt like the MBC was on the brink.”

Hinkle was a champion of Christian journalism, saying there was a need for journalists who pursue truth because of their faith. “They do not lie or play ‘gotcha’ journalism but relentlessly search for truth and report it with the goal of glorifying Jesus,” he wrote. In addition to brining The Pathway into the Evangelical Press Association, Hinkle was a mentor to many young writers.

Southern Baptist Convention president Bart Barber said he first got to know Hinkle when the editor published a piece he had written about SBC history — one of the first times his writings had appeared in a denominational publication. The two also shared a commitment to religious liberty.

Hinkle, he said, was a successful editor of a Baptist newspaper at a time when religious journalism, like all journalism, faces steep obstacles. That’s no small matter, he said.

“What Don was trying to do was not just make his newspaper go but to improve the health of Southern Baptists in Missouri and across the country,” Barber said. “I never doubted that he was trying to do what he thought was the right thing.”

His colleagues at the Missouri Baptist Convention praised Hinkle’s devotion to his calling.

“Don fought the good fight, kept the faith and finished the race,” The Pathway said in a social media post. “With hope in Christ, we heartily believe he has now received the Lord’s commendation, ‘Well, done, good and faithful servant.’”

Hinkle partnered with Metro Voice over twenty years ago to make sure Missourians of all denominations were receiving important news. The two news outlets had a reciprocal publishing arrangement that readers of both newspapers found helpful.

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice