Joel Belz, founder of World News Group, dies at 82

Joel Belz, the founder of World Magazine, speaks in an interview shared on YouTube in August 2020.
Joel Belz, the founder of World Magazine, speaks in an interview shared on YouTube in August 2020. | Screengrab: YouTube/WORLD Watch News

Joel Belz, a former moderator of the Presbyterian Church in America and founder of the prominent Evangelical news organization World News Group, has died at the age of 82, following complications from Parkinson’s disease.

In a press release issued Sunday, World announced that Belz had passed away, leaving behind his wife of 49 years, Carol Esther, as well as five daughters, 16 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

John Weiss, chairman of the WNG board, was quoted in the press release as describing Belz as a “leader, a publisher, a visionary, a faithful servant of his Lord and a friend and mentor to all of us.”

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“His ever-ready words of encouragement to all will be sorely missed. But we know the One in whom Joel placed his faith has now called him home to his glorious reward. For Joel the battle is over and the victory won,” stated Weiss.

Belz was born in Marshalltown, Iowa, in 1941, the second of eight children. He went on to graduate from Cono Christian School, Covenant College and the University of Iowa.

In 1977, Belz moved to Asheville, North Carolina, and began working for the theologically conservative news publication The Presbyterian Journal, eventually becoming interim editor.

During the 1980s, while still with the Journal, Belz founded a middle school news publication called It’s God’s World, later called God’s World News, which would be praised by prison ministry leader Chuck Colson for its influence on a rising generation of Christians.

“Almost 28 years since its founding, the staff is beginning to see a generation of young adults who've been raised on God's World News. One young lady, currently a student at the University of Virginia, wrote them to say, ‘I'd always enjoyed [the publication], but now I realize that you were teaching me to think like a Christian,’” wrote Colson in 2009.

“It thrills me to hear that because my greatest worry at this point is the lack of worldview training for youngsters. When they go off to college or enter the workplace, the studies show that most of them lose their faith. So I've got a great idea for you for a Christmas gift for your children or grandchildren — give them a subscription to God's World News.”

As the student newspaper expanded its interest, Belz was reportedly encouraged to found an adult version. As a result, in March 1986, Belz launched World magazine.

Belz was active in the PCA, regularly attending annual meetings of the denomination, and serving as moderator for the Presbyterian body when it held its General Assembly in 2003.

In 2005, after stepping down as chief executive officer of World, Belz continued in other capacities, such as the writing of approximately 1,000 columns, including a 2010 piece that was recently republished titled “When politics is cover for coveting.”

“We sit and stew all day and wish we were as rich as our neighbor—and at the end of the day, even if the tax law gets changed so that rich people have to pay 40 percent of their income instead of just 30 percent, the coveters end up with virtually none of that difference,” Belz wrote.

“We’ve gotten to the point that it doesn’t matter much anymore how we change things. All the taxpayers together haven’t got enough money now to change the fact that we’ve spent ourselves into oblivion. There’s not a whole lot left to covet.”   

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