COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (BP) -- A publishing group known until now for its evangelical worldview will release a book arguing for gay-Christian compatibility under a new imprint intended to avoid alienating its evangelical market.
Convergent Books, a publishing imprint under the same corporate umbrella and leadership as the evangelical WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, is scheduled to release "God and the Gay Christian" by Matthew Vines on Tuesday (April 22). Vines, a 24-year-old former Harvard student, attempts in the book to refute biblical passages that declare homosexuality a sin.
WaterBrook Multnomah, known for its best-selling Christian titles such as John Piper's "Desiring God" and books by evangelical authors David Jeremiah and Kay Arthur, began as the printing arm of Multnomah Bible College in Portland, Ore. But mainstream secular publisher Penguin Random House now owns the imprint and groups it under the same corporate umbrella, Crown Publishing Group, as Convergent.
Stephen W. Cobb, who heads up both WaterBrook Multnomah and Convergent from the publishing group's Colorado Springs offices, said Convergent's audience is "actively exploring and practicing faith and framing that faith in Christian terms, but they're very open in their approach to issues that face the church today, and they really defy conventional labels."
The most visible link between WaterBrook Multnomah and Convergent is Cobb himself, who said he makes the final decision to publish each imprint's books, including God and the Gay Christian.
"Books will publish in the Convergent imprint that I could not have considered for publication prior to [the new imprint's] creation because [the books] would just not have been appropriate for the established audience of Multnomah or WaterBrook," Cobb said.
Cobb attempted to put an imaginary cushion between evangelical Christians -- including some of WaterBrook Multnomah's authors -- and others who would give credence to Vines' justification of homosexuality.
"Generally speaking, I wouldn't expect a Multnomah reader to be drawn to a Convergent title," Cobb said, pointing out that books published under the WaterBrook Multnomah imprint, such as "Out of a Far Country" by Christopher and Angela Yuan, offer contrary "points of view" that defend a straightforward interpretation of the Bible's teaching against homosexuality.
Cobb acknowledged that God and the Gay Christian contradicts the teachings of WaterBrook Multnomah books published in the past. To his knowledge, he said, Vines' book will be the first published by the four imprints he oversees that arrives at the conclusion that a person can practice homosexuality with the acceptance and approval of God.
"Matthew [Vines] believes in the inerrancy and the divinity and the correctness of Scripture," Cobb said. "He believes it is God's inspired Word. … [P]roposals have crossed my desk that the author does not have that core belief. … I want to believe that every book that publishes on my watch, whichever imprint it publishes in, is biblically based and developed credibly."
Though Cobb insisted he has no agenda to change the way the church views homosexuality, his outlook harkens to World Vision U.S. President Richard Stearns' argument when he announced a change in his company's hiring policy to include employees in same-sex marriages. Stearns insisted World Vision was not taking a stand for or against gay marriage, but rather striving for unity on a divisive issue. Evangelical leaders didn't accept his position, and World Vision's board of directors rescinded the change.
"Don't say, 'Hath God said?' and then tell us you're doing it to advance the gospel and the unity of the church," wrote Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, in response to World Vision's change.
An extended review of Matthew Vines' book "God and the Gay Christian" has been posted at the Canon and Culture website of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The review by Andrew Walker, managing editor of Canon and Culture and director of policy studies for the ERLC, can be accessed here
Adapted from WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine (www.worldmag.com). Baptist Press editor Art Toalston also contributed to this article.