The third podcast of our spring season features one of the most influential United Methodists of the 1960s and 70s: Dr. Charles W. Keysor, founder of the Methodist renewal ministry known as Good News.
In a 1986 tribute, published several months after Dr. Keysor’s cancer-related death at age 60, Good News magazine described him as a “minister and journalist who almost single-handedly forged an influential evangelical movement within the United Methodist Church.”
Charles Winchester Keysor was born in Pittsburgh, Penn., in 1925 and was raised in Illinois. After receiving a journalism degree from Northwestern University, he married Margaret (Marge) Wickstrom, the daughter of a Swedish Methodist pastor, and began a career in journalism.
In the 1950s, he served as managing editor for The Kiwanis Magazine and later as managing editor of Together, the now-defunct official magazine of The Methodist Church.
Then, in 1959, he had a profound encounter with Christ at a Billy Graham crusade. Soon, he felt called to leave journalism and enter seminary.
By the mid-1960s, Charles Keysor — known to his colleagues and friends as Chuck — was serving as the pastor of Grace Methodist Church in Elgin, Ill. During a late-1965 lunch meeting with James Wall, then-editor of the Methodist ministers’ magazine, New Christian Advocate, Keysor shared his concerns about the prevailing liberal theology in the denomination, which he saw as a departure from the historic, orthodox Christian faith.
Wall invited him to write an article for the Advocate “describing the central beliefs and convictions” of the evangelical wing of Methodism. That article, “Methodism’s Silent Minority: A Voice For Orthodoxy,” was published in July 1966.
Within The Methodist Church in the United States is a silent minority group…. Its concepts are often abhorrent to Methodist officialdom at annual conference and national levels.
I speak of those Methodists who are variously called “evangelicals” or “conservatives” or “fundamentalists.” A more accurate description is “orthodox,” for these brethren hold a traditional understanding of the Christian faith….
Here lies the challenge: We who are orthodox must become the un-silent minority! Orthodoxy must shed its “poor cousin” inferiority complex and enter forthrightly into the current theological debate….
[W]e must be heard in Nashville, in Evanston, and on Riverside Drive. Most of all, we must be heard in thousands of pulpits, for the people called Methodist will not cease to hunger for the good news of Jesus Christ, incarnate, crucified, risen, and coming again.
“Methodism’s Silent Minority” sparked an overwhelmingly positive reaction from hundreds of Methodist pastors and leaders, several of whom asked why the church couldn’t have a publication that reflected an evangelical understanding of the Christian faith.
Months later, Keysor launched such a publication: Good News magazine. Bishop Gerald Kennedy (Los Angeles Area), the most well-known Methodist bishop of the time, wrote an article for the inaugural issue, which rolled off the press in March 1967.
In 2007’s 40th-anniversary issue of Good News, James Heidinger (who succeeded Keysor as editor) described how the new magazine led quickly to the formation of a full-fledged renewal ministry.
Seeing [an] immediate surge of interest in his magazine, Keysor chose 12 Methodists to serve as board members, and the Good News effort became incorporated as “A Forum for Scriptural Christianity.” The board’s first meeting was in May of 1967, only two months after the appearance of the first issue of the magazine.
Good News was a breath of fresh air for Methodists seeking spiritual renewal, quickly becoming their rallying point. Pastors and laity began organizing clusters of like-minded Methodists who came out of a felt need for fellowship, support, encouragement, and prayer. Soon, they began to map strategies for increasing evangelicalism within their annual conferences.
In 1972, Dr. Dennis Kinlaw, president of Asbury College in Kentucky, asked Charles Keysor to join the Asbury faculty to teach journalism part-time, so the Good News ministry relocated from Elgin, Ill., to Wilmore, Ky., where it remains headquartered today, just a few blocks from Asbury College and Seminary.
In addition to leading Good News, editing Good News magazine, and teaching journalism at Asbury, Dr. Keysor wrote several books — including Our Methodist Heritage (David C. Cook, 1973), Living Unafraid (David C. Cook, 1975), and Come Clean! (Victor Books, 1976). He also edited What You Should Know about Homosexuality (Zondervan, 1979).
In 1982, weary from 16 years in the trenches of renewal ministry, he left the United Methodist Church to become a pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church, a denomination founded by Swedish immigrants to the U.S.
Charles W. Keysor died at his home in Clearwater, Fla., on Oct. 22, 1985, two months after being diagnosed with advanced liver cancer.
The address on this podcast was recorded in August 1970 at the inaugural Good News Convocation, held in Dallas, Texas — an event attended by more than 1,500 pastors and leaders.
To listen, use the audio player below (22 min.) — or right click (Windows users) to download an mp3 (10.5MB).
For previous MethodistThinker Podcasts, click the “podcasts” tab at the top of this page. To subscribe via iTunes or other podcast software, use the “Subscribe to Podcasts” link at the top of the right column.
|•||Podcast: Dr. James Heidinger on ‘United Methodist Renewal’|
|•||A salute to James Heidinger of Good News|
|•||Podcast: Bishop Gerald Kennedy on ‘The Marks of a Methodist’|
Related articles and information
|•||Methodism’s silent minority: A voice for orthodoxy | Charles W. Keysor, New Christian Advocate (July 14, 1966 — via Good News)|
|•||United Methodism in crisis: Scriptural renewal through the Good News Movement | Chapter 4 of Public Pulpits: Methodists and Mainline Churches in the Moral Argument of Public Life by Steven M. Tipton (University of Chicago Press, 2008 — via Google Books)|
|•||Theological orientation and renewal in the United Methodist Church | Riley B. Case (via The Sundry Times) (March 15, 2011)|
|•||40 years of vision for United Methodist Renewal (PDF) | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (November/December 2007)|
|•||From the margin to the mainstream: United Methodism’s renewal movement (PDF) | Riley B. Case, Good News (November/December 2007)|
|•||Lessons from United Methodist renewal (PDF—see pp. 4-8) | An address by James V. Heidinger II to the Presbyterian Coalition Gathering (November 2005)|
|•||A charge to reclaim | W. James Antle III, The American Spectator (Oct. 5, 2005)|
|•||Leader of ‘Good News’ movement leaves Methodism | St. Petersburg Times (June 26, 1982) — via Google Newspapers archive|
|•||The story of Good News: A recollection by Charles W. Keysor (PDF) | Good News (March/April 1981)|
|•||Group shakes up Methodism | George Vecsey, New York Times News Service (April 1979) — via Google Newspapers archive|
|•||The Junaluska Affirmation: Scriptural Christianity for United Methodists (PDF) | Forum for Scriptural Christianity (Good News) (July 20, 1975)|