From Christian Retailing (links added):
Convergent Books, an imprint of Random House’s Crown Publishing Group, plans to release a pro-gay book the company describes as an “affirmation of both an orthodox faith and sexual diversity.” Releasing April 22, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships was written by homosexual activist Matthew Vines after years of intensive research on what the Bible says about homosexuality.
Stephen W. Cobb, president and publisher of Convergent, also oversees WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, home to Christian imprints WaterBrook Press and Multnomah Books, and Image Books.
The decision to publish the book has brought down the ire of religious right activist and anti-gay obsessive Matt Barber. Barber does not just criticise the decision to publish the book – inevitably, the motive of the publisher must be venal. Writing at Charisma News, under the headline “Deception: Christian Publisher Sells Soul for Mammon“, he thunders:
Convergent is simply WaterBrook Multnomah by another name.
Is it any wonder that the company’s Christian employees are upset? Moreover, is it any wonder that WaterBrook Multnomah allegedly wants them silenced? Convergent’s sole purpose is evidently to both print and make tons of money from counterbiblical books that would otherwise set off a firestorm if printed under the WaterBrook Multnomah banner.
Barber cites an email from a supposed “whistleblower”, which states:
“…An ‘imprint’ in the publishing world is like a mask—the name and logo of the entity may be unique, but the same staff, editors, executives, promoters, are behind the book as are behind those put out by other ‘imprints’ (i.e., directly from Multnomah, and wearing that brand/mask). So Multnomah is now consciously trying to hide from NRB [National Religious Broadcasters] and its members the fact that it is putting out this new project. Insiders are reporting threats should they release any such information outside the company…”
But Barber himself cites press articles about Cobb’s control of various imprints – actually, imprints are “brands” rather than a “masks” – so what exactly is Multnomah supposedly “consciously trying to hide”?
The article is based on piece Barber previously published on his own site, under the title “Christian Publisher Plans Pro-’Gay’ Book, Employees ‘Under Threat’“, although the url suggests this has been modified (“whistleblower-multnomah-hiding-plans-apostate-pro-lgbt-book-threatens-employees-silence”)
Cobb has responded on the Convergent Books website:
It is important to know that WaterBrook, Multnomah, Convergent, and Image each have their own distinct editorial guidelines and missions. Convergent’s mission is to publish nonfiction for less traditional Christians and spiritual seekers who are drawn to an open, inclusive, and culturally engaged exploration of faith. As such, Matthew Vines’ new book is appropriately positioned as a Convergent publication. God and the Gay Christian is not published by WaterBrook or by Multnomah—nor would it be editorially appropriate for either.
…A published report raised the question of whether my colleagues have been pressured to not express privately or publicly any objections they might have to the Convergent publication of God and the Gay Christian. This allegation is as untrue as it is deeply offensive to me.
The issue, it seems to me, is whether a publisher representing a cause exists simply to propagandize, or to facilitate a conversation. There of course has to be debate around how far to go, but why does Barber feel the need to engage in such bad-faith demonization?
But this is hardly a new issue; more than 20 years ago, Giles Semper, a former senior editor at HarperCollins Religious, complained in the UK Bookseller that
…Christian publishers… find themselves in a paradoxical position: while debate in the Church rages over an issue like homosexuality and gay priests, they can only offer one Christian perspective, namely, the conservative one, for fear of alienating Christian booksellers. (1)
Accordingly, Christian Retailing carries a quote from Dightman’s Bible Book Center in Tacoma:
“I would not carry the book and definitely would not promote it… I cannot agree with the premise. Since WaterBrook was acquired by Random House, they have had some books that cross the line. They have classified some books as ‘Christian’ when they don’t have Christian values.”
Charisma News has followed up with a second attack piece, by Michael Brown and entitled “A Shameful Day in Evangelical Christian Publishing“:
The WaterBrook Multnomah group publishes books by authors like John Piper, Chuck Swindoll, Ravi Zacharias, David Jeremiah, Randy Alcorn, David Platt and Bill Gothard, and now its sister publisher is releasing a purported evangelical book defending homosexuality?
Charisma News (like Christian Retailing) is published by a rival Christian publisher: Charisma Media, formerly Strang Communications.
(1) Giles Semper, “Soul Searching in an Age of Alternative Ideologies”, Bookseller, 17 January 1992, p. 130.
Correction: I originally said that Charisma Media had published Heaven Is For Real; that book is actually published by Thomas Nelson.
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