"As the church more and more reflects the culture ... I think some Christian publishers will begin to also reflect that."
-- David Shepherd, a literary agent
NASHVILLE (BP) -- Two recent Christian books arguing that not all homosexual acts are sinful have left industry observers wondering whether evangelical publishers -- especially those owned by secular corporations -- will produce more material outside the bounds of traditional orthodoxy.
"Publishing houses are going to have to wrestle with what their starting point is," Selma Wilson, vice president of the B&H Publishing Group at LifeWay Christian Resources, told Baptist Press. "If your starting point is to make money or your starting point is to be a New York Times bestseller, you're going to do different things" than publishers focused on faithfulness to Christ.
In April the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group's sister imprint Convergent Books released Matthew Vines' "God and the Gay Christian," a book arguing that the Bible permits monogamous same-sex relationships. In October Howard Books is scheduled to release Christian singer Jennifer Knapp's book "Facing the Music," a memoir recounting, among other things, her coming out as a lesbian.
WaterBrook Multnomah and Howard are among the Christian publishing houses owned by secular companies, with WaterBrook Multnomah falling under the Penguin Random House umbrella and Howard under Simon and Schuster. Both the Thomas Nelson Publishing Group and Zondervan are owned by HarperCollins Publishers.
Among the independent Christian publishers are B&H, Moody Publishers, Tyndale House Publishers, Harvest House Publishers and the Baker Publishing Group.
In response to "God and the Gay Christian," the National Religious Broadcasters -- an association for Christian broadcasters and communicators -- confronted WaterBrook Multnomah, resulting in the publisher's resignation from NRB membership. NRB President Jerry Johnson said it made little difference that the book was published under the Convergent label because "this issue comes down to NRB members producing unbiblical material, regardless of the label under which they do it."
A 'marketplace of ideas'
Mark Kuyper, president of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, told BP that ECPA will not take action against WaterBrook Multnomah because the Convergent imprint is not an ECPA member and therefore not subject to the organization’s guidelines. He added that he considers arguments for homosexuality a matter of varying biblical interpretation rather than a departure from orthodoxy that should provoke ECPA action.
Kuyper said Christian books representing non-traditional theological positions likely will increase as the culture explores those positions.
ECPA is a trade organization for groups that publish various types of Christian content. All member organizations agree to only publish materials that align with the ECPA statement of faith, which expresses belief in the inspiration of Scripture, the Trinity and the bodily resurrection of Christ among other doctrines. Read More