A leading Christian book publisher has resigned its membership in the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) after a dispute over "God and the Gay Christian," a new book published by the same company under a different name.
NRB president and CEO Jerry Johnson wrote a letter to board members, revealing that employees of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, the evangelical division of Penguin Random House, worked on the book which claims that homosexuality is not a sin. The book was published by Convergent Books, a recently formed Penguin Random House line that describes itself as "publishing books for progressive and mainline Christians who demand an open, inclusive, and culturally engaged exploration of faith."
"Unfortunately, while the Multnomah Publishing Group is separate from Convergent, as a legal and business entity, the staff of the Multnomah and Convergent operations are substantially the same," Johnson wrote. "Most notably, Steven W. Cobb serves as the chief publishing executive for both groups. ... Other Christian workers do so as well. ... This issue comes down to NRB members producing unbiblical material, regardless of the label under which they do it."
WaterBrook Multnomah and NRB split after NRB President and CEO Jerry Johnson confronted the publishing group about the content of the "God and the Gay Christian" by Matthew Vines.
"I asked them to reconsider and end the practice of having Christian workers from their publishing house work on Convergent projects," Johnson wrote. "They declined to do so at this time and asked how we would respond. I told them that if they wanted to remain NRB associate members, I would have to refer the matter to our Ethics Committee for review, or they could agree to resign their membership. They agreed to resign immediately."
Matthew Vines's book has sparked a flurry of responses from the evangelical world, including a full-length book from Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
"I believe that Multnomah is in serious danger of crashing its brand in terms of evangelical trust," he told Christianity Today. "I am quite certain that a host of evangelical authors share this deep concern."
Cobb said in an online statement released before the NRB letter that Convergent published the book "because we believe it offers a thoughtful examination of Scripture on the topic of same-sex relationships from a bold, young, evangelical writer whose first calling is to promote a civil, loving, and biblically based conversation on the subject." No Multnomah staff were forced to work on the book, he said. "I met with our entire staff, in small groups, to discuss it-and to emphasize to everyone my long-standing policy: No colleague of ours is ever expected to work on any book we acquire that violates their personal beliefs. Indeed, I did have a few staff members who came to me for further private discussion, and asked to opt out of working on this title."
Cobb sent a brief statement to WORLD saying NRB and his publishing group share mutual respect: "Our organization has discussed our publishing programs in private with leadership of the National Religious Broadcasters. These conversations with NRB have been characterized by one senior official at NRB as 'professional and Christ-honoring.' I couldn't agree more."