In the March 29, 1944 edition of The Presbyterian of the South, editors E.T. Thompson and Aubrey Brown announced that the magazine was changing its name to The Presbyterian Outlook. They explained:
We choose this name because it describes our purpose and hope–to give the Presbyterian outlook on evangelism, stewardship, missions (at home and abroad), education, worship, morals and life; the Presbyterian outlook on the problems of the individual, the home, the Church, the nation (especially our problems here in the South), and the world; the Presbyterian outlook on things past, things present, and on the things which are still to come.
We have been and we shall remain Presbyterian.
We shall endeavor, with God’s help, to present a helpful, constructive, Presbyterian, thoroughly Christian outlook on all matters which properly concern us–as Christians and as Presbyterians.
Those lofty words provoke questions: What IS the Presbyterian outlook on evangelism, missions, education, morals, church, the nation, and all those other things? Argumentative as we are, have we ever had one Presbyterian outlook on such matters? Were E.T. and Aubrey simply spouting platitudes or were they pointing to something bigger and deeper?
Through their years of editorial leadership they often challenged the common assumptions of their day. At a time when most churches looked askance at ordaining women, they pressed us to see one another as equals. At a time when segregation was an accepted reality, they envisioned a church and community where such divisions would give way to the wide embrace of grace. No, E.T. and Aubrey were not promising to rehash to the church its own present thinking. The Presbyterian outlook is one always to be questioned, challenged and amended.
One aspect of their thinking and ours does stand secure, and it provides an outlook that shapes all convictions. The one non-negotiable, foundational bedrock for Reformed faith and practice–the most essential tenet–is the proclamation of the persistent, persevering, and prevailing sovereignty of our loving God.
Foundational as it is, we need to be reminded about it again and again. In the heat of conflict, in the pain of suffering, and in the stress of power struggles, we easily lose sight of God. We quickly forget that the hand of God is at work.
Fortunately, the word is proclaimed every Sunday. On Easter Sunday the message rings out from sunrise to midnight, from rocky hillsides to Gothic cathedrals–to be heard by all ears willing to listen. In Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, God won. God wins today. God will win tomorrow. Yes, the Presbyterian outlook on things past, things present, and on the things which are still to come is one that declares that God has the whole world–from the itty bitty baby to the conflicted church–in his hands.
The first edition of the newly-named Presbyterian Outlook finds E.T. and Aubrey reflecting again on the new name: “The dictionary, in defining ‘outlook,’ uses such terms as prospect, distance of vision, hence, foresight, vigilance. Its gaze is forward, not fearful. Its symbol is that of the watchman, the lookout, not focusing upon dereliction or defection, but penetrating the mist as an eager herald of the dawn of hope and the promise of faith …”
That was then. May it be so now.