Editor: Oct 1965–Feb 1980
The popularity of Buzz grew quickly; people just grabbed it avidly. People would go to Christian youth events and see someone walking down the line selling it, and [they] would be besieged. There was no other place you could get this information. The major Christian publications were dull and denominational. The only youth magazine at the time thought Christian music was of the devil and they paid the price, bless them.
In the end, following becoming independent, we got in some very good writers. It was almost certainly the largest circulation [for an] independent non-denominational publication since the Welsh revival.
We wanted to look at things that would be helpful for the church to understand. When the Hillsborough tragedy happened Steve Goddard went there instantly. It was about being on the pulse of what was happening.
In the 1960s, the evangelical church particularly was so narrow. It’s hard to believe how pious and separatist it was. The world was bad. You became a Christian by the renewal of your wardrobe and record collection rather than mind. It was suits and ties on Sundays. It was very dominated by lovely movements by Scripture Union but you read your Bible every day or you believed God would smite you at the bus stop.
You had that narrow, insular, not engaging with the world and occasionally dashing out of your little rabbit hole to attack the world quickly then coming back. Gradually that’s changed where the acceptance of arts, culture, life, fun and even alcohol is now allowed.
Editor: Mar 1982–Mar 1987
I first picked up a copy of Buzz when I was 17. So when I ended up becoming editor it was a big thing. I saw Buzz as a terrific opportunity to expand the discussion about how a Christian engages with the world.
We published the ‘20th Century Sex’ series where we called a sperm a sperm…We had 300 copies sent back from Faith Mission Belfast because we were far too explicit, as far as they were concerned. We just wanted to talk about genuine issues of sexuality, which had not been covered at all within Christian publishing. We mentioned oral sex, for example, which at the time was considered something you should not talk about. But people wrote to us and thanked us.
Editor: Nov 1990–Feb 1996
Steve Goddard had said to me that it was sometimes hard to get the readership to be serious about serious things. He had run an article about the coalminer’s strike in the middle of the strike and got three letters. He ran a spoof April Fool’s advert for charismatic arm-rests and got 365 responses. I occasionally got into trouble for making flippant remarks. After an aside about the Bishop of Durham [the ‘unbelieving bishop’, March 1991], I received a hailstorm of criticism.
When Roy Clements and Kevin Prosche both had sexual failures, we wrote on it. I stood back and waited for the backlash, but we wrote on it in a fairly responsible way and said ‘we hate to talk about these things, but they’re in the public domain, how can we make sense of it all?’
I occasionally got into trouble for making flippant remarks. The aside about the Bishop of Durham [the ‘unbelieving bishop’, March 1991], our readers went nuts. They were all over us like a rash. I was in a hailstorm of criticism for making this remark.
The most controversial thing I ever did was critique a Disney film. The sky fell in! I said the Aladdin film was sexist, racist and misogynistic. The letters poured in.
Editor: Jan 2000–Dec 2010
We had the strapline ‘Real life, real faith, in the real world’. We wanted it to be quite gritty and real and have articles that made people feel a little bit uncomfortable.
In particular evangelical Christians are notorious for wanting to be with people like them. They’re impoverished at times if they don’t have the opportunity to be enriched by other Christian traditions. Happily in recent years, I don’t think we can necessarily take any credit for it, evangelicals have woken up to the fact we are a wide, diverse family and we can learn so much from different traditions.
One of the most memorable interviewees was Nicky Gumbel. There is a man who genuinely loves the broad family of God, and respects and gives platform to men and women from all sorts of styles of churchmanship. It’s not, I think, because he’s a diplomat; it’s because he genuinely loves the Church. Interviewing him, I was struck by his gentleness and yet his authority. Those two things rarely go together.
Editor: Jan 2011–May 2014
I wanted to broaden Christianity magazine out to look at issues going on in the real world rather than just the subculture, and provide Christian thinking and response. We also did a huge redesign. When I took it on there were still luminous greens, drop shadows and other sins of 90s publishing. We hired an amazing designer called Malky Currie and took risks with the covers.
We had fun with an interview with Mark Driscoll in 2012. He said something completely unsolicited… about the state of the UK Church – there being no good preachers, and ‘guys in dresses preaching to grandmas’. Obviously every Bible teacher, pastor and guy in a dress in England went absolutely nuts.