A national newspaper that many once predicted would fail for want of readership is now well into its ninth year and has just published its 50th edition. Second Stone, an ecumenical Christian newspaper for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals, not only survived its launch in 1988 but went on to develop a loyal subscriber base with a renewal rate of over 80 percent – almost unheard of in publishing.
According to publisher and editor Jim Bailey, Second Stone succeeded because it arrived in the community at a time when the need for such a voice was critical and was able to shift roles as the needs changed during the years that followed.
“We printed our first issue during a time when a lot of people, including gays and lesbians, were asking ‘can you really be gay and Christian?,'” said Bailey. “Today gay and lesbian Christians are much more reconciled and their concerns tend to focus on discovering how they can live out their faith in ways that somehow improve themselves and their community and also finding ways to make a Christian testimony to the larger, oftentimes homophobic, Christian community.”
Bailey said the concern he once felt that the need for Second Stone would be diminished over time as gay and lesbian Christians became more reconciled in their faith was erased with the rise of anti-gay activity and rhetoric on the part of the religious right.
“That’s another important role we have, maybe our most important,” said Bailey. “The rhetoric that spews forth from the large religious right organizations needs to be countered by someone on the other side who can speak of Christ’s love and compassion for all. We speak in a language they can recognize, and I believe that shakes them a little.”
In eight years Second Stone has gone from seeking out sometimes scarce news and information of interest to gay and lesbian Christians to sifting through an overwhelming amount of material and publishing what is relevant and meaningful to an audience that includes readers in every state in the country.
Although many readers are members of churches or religious organizations, many live in rural areas and do not have such resources. To them, Bailey said, Second Stone is church.
Bailey takes little credit for transforming Second Stone from a four-page newsletter into a 28-page newspaper. “Our readers are responsible for every step of growth Second Stone has experienced,” he said. “They saw in this newspaper something that was important to them and something they wanted to support for our community. And they do support us.”