​'TMA’ has won two Gold awards at the annual conference of the Australasian Religious Press Association (ARPA) in Wellington, New Zealand.

The monthly newspaper of the Diocese of Melbourne won the top award for Best Theological Reflection for an interview by its Editor, Roland Ashby, with Oxford Professor John Lennox, published in September and October last year. It is the third year in a row ‘TMA’ has taken out the top award in the category.

And journalist Beryl Rule received the top award for Best Humorous Item – the 10th time she has been recognised in the category – for “In ancient times when I was young”, published last October.

The judges described Mr Ashby’s interview with Professor Lennox as wide-ranging, saying, “this piece is thorough while engaging issues such as the New Atheism and evolution at a level that allows a wide readership to digest”.

“Well-prepared questions result in a conversation that is both devotional and meaty. There was some question as to whether a transcribed interview qualifies as an ‘article’, but of all the material submitted it contained the clearest level of theological reflection.”

The former Dean of Bendigo, the Revd Dr Peta Sherlock, won the Silver award in the category for her article on Mary Magdalene, published in the diocesan monthly magazine, ‘The Spirit’, in August 2011.

Mrs Rule’s winning article, published in her Little Leaven column, was described as “A nicely crafted piece—dialogue well-written and easy to read”.

“An engaging column that retained my interest from start to finish,” the judge’s citation read. (“Our nine-year-old read the piece from start to finish and loved it.”)

New Zealand writer Julie Belding received ARPA’s top honour, the Gutenberg Award, from the association’s President, Mr Errol Pike.

Ms Belding has been a member of ARPA for 20 years and her citation said that during that time, she had contributed immeasurably to both the profession of Christian journalism and to the growth, governance and good health of the association.

“Julie’s service to, and practical involvement in, our profession preceded her years in ARPA when she joined the New Zealand Christian Writers Guild in 1987 and then served as its President from 1993 to 2003,” the citation said. “A constant encourager and mentor, Julie has organised and presented at many workshops and retreats for Christian writers in New Zealand in recent decades and is currently working on producing a distance education course for Christian writers.”

Ms Belding has edited the ‘New Zealand Baptist’, ‘Daystar’, ‘LiFT Magazine’, her current role, as well as numerous other Christian publications, notably for the Asia Theological Association.

“Her professionalism and consistently high standards are evidenced throughout publications for which she has had responsibility, having won at least two ARPA awards and been highly commended in another two,” Mr Pike said.

Melbourne is to host the ARPA Conference in 2013.