The Advocate’s newspaper ministry has helped connect the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church since 1837. Its mission is to connect United Methodists by independently reporting news, engaging readers and providing a forum for dialogue.
The Advocate helps give voice to churches and individuals in every corner of the state, with a commitment to excellent journalism—and making sure all viewpoints are heard in a Christian and prayerful manner. The Advocate is also intentional about ensuring every aspect of The United Methodist Church is represented within its page: local, district, conference, jurisdictional and global.
The last several years have seen fresh, exciting new growth for the Advocate during a time of great revitalization echoed generally in the UMC. Since 2010, the Advocate has won more than 80 awards from the S.C. Press Association, the United Methodist Association of Communicators and the Religion Communicators Council for writing, photography and general excellence.
Founded as the Southern Christian Advocate, the Advocate was first commissioned by the General Conference of 1836 to be published in Charleston, one of three papers authorized by that conference. Others were to be published in Nashville and Richmond. In 1836 the following was written establishing the Southern Christian Advocate:
“That act of the General Conference authorizing these publications was called for by the Southern Delegates … in view of the peculiar political aspect of the time … in connection with the feeling which is known to pervade all classes of men on the subject of our domestic situations. We propose, therefore, to publish at the city of Charleston … a religious paper … devoted to the promotion of good morals and religion – to give expression to the views and feelings of our people, kindly but firmly, on all subjects bearing on the Church.”
At a time when there were more black Methodists in Charleston than white, the Advocate was off to an inauspicious start, espousing the noisy call of Southerners on the issues of slavery and secession. But in most instances since then, it has stood firmly as it faced the challenges of a society that sometimes defied the Christian beliefs of the Methodist Church. There have been courageous and loving editors who were almost a lone voice on difficult issues when needed; its editors have just as eagerly cheered the small and grand work of the church.
While the paper may have begun alongside the Civil War and the political struggle of its region, a later chapter in the Advocate’s history is that which it played in another civil rights debate—the civil rights struggle of South Carolinians, Methodists in particular. The newspaper played a critical role in the 1972 merger of the racially divided 1866 and 1785 Methodist conferences.
The Advocate has had its home in numerous South Carolina cities and at least once in Georgia. The paper has had 28 editors, including 26 men and four women. Its first editor was William Capers, who later became a bishop of the church and whose remains rest beneath the pulpit at Washington Street United Methodist Church, Columbia. All but five editors have been clergy. The current editor, Jessica Brodie, took the helm in 2010. (Click here to learn more about the history of the Advocate by purchasing the Advocate’s history book, “In the World, Not of the World,” available as an eBook or hard copy.)
Initially a weekly publication, the Advocate became a monthly publication with the action of the S.C. Annual Conference of 1995. It is published the last week of each month.
The Advocate is described as “a newspaper ministry,” “a loving critic” and an “independent voice” in the S.C. Conference.
“The propagation of religion by means of the press is next to importance to the preaching of the Gospel. ”—Francis Asbury