Joel Belz, Trailblazer in Christian Journalism, Is Dead at 82


In 1977, he became managing editor of The Presbyterian Journal, a struggling publication in Asheville founded in 1942 by L. Nelson Bell (the Rev. Billy Graham’s father-in-law). Mr. Belz later proposed that the organization start a children’s magazine much like the Weekly Reader he had devoured growing up before moving on to Time magazine.

It did, and the magazine, It’s God’s World, was a hit.

When some parents suggested an adult version, Mr. Belz gave it a try with World. The magazine didn’t catch on as fast as the children’s magazine, but it eventually did, and the organization’s board discontinued The Presbyterian Journal to put its resources into World. Mr. Belz served as editor until the early 1990s, when he stepped away to work on the business side and write a column.

His first marriage, in 1967, to Diana Ewing ended in divorce. In 1975, he married Carol Esther Jackson, who survives him.

In addition to her and his brother Andrew, his survivors include two children from his first marriage, Jenny Gienapp and Katrina Costello; three children from his second marriage, Alice Tucker, Elizabeth Odegard and Esther Morrison; his siblings Julie Lutz, Mary Kaufmann, Sara Drexler and Mark and Tim Belz; 16 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Another brother, Nathaniel, died in 2023.

Mr. Belz was a mentor to countless Christian journalists.

In 1999, he helped start the World Journalism Institute to train college students to write “biblically objective” articles. Even as he was ailing, Mr. Belz welcomed journalists to his home for advice and prayer. His brother Andrew recalled a large group of World staff members who dropped by last year.

“I hope you all break a big story,” he said Mr. Belz told them. “I hope it’s as big as Watergate.”

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