WaterBrook Multnomah, a Christian publisher, has resigned its membership in the National Religious Broadcasters following controversy over "God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships," a book affirming homosexuality.
The move follows frustrations voiced by conservative Christians who were angry over Convergent Books' decision to publish the book; Covergent and WaterBrook Multnomah are sister imprints associated with Penguin Random House.
According to Christianity Today, the membership decision came after the National Religious Broadcasters essentially forced the publisher out. The Christian organization's president and CEO Jerry Johnson explained the situation in an email to board members.
"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 said. "Most notably, Steven W. Cobb serves as the chief publishing executive for both groups. … This issue comes down to NRB members producing unbiblical material, regardless of the label under which they do it."
A screen shot from Covergent Books explaining why the company published "God and the Gay Christian" (Image credit: Covergent Books)
The debate centers around the fact that "God and the Gay Christian," by author Matthew Vines, essentially makes the claim that gay relationships are not sinful -- a notion that conservatives and most evangelical churches do not embrace.
Johnson went on to explain that he asked the publisher to cease having Christians work on Covergent projects at the publishing house and when the company declined to do so, he gave them an ultimatum.
"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," he said. "They agreed to resign immediately."
In a statement issued to Christianity Today, Cobb said that the tone of conversations with Johnson was respectful, despite the parties' disagreement. Johnson's assessment, as outlined in his internal report, reflected these same sentiments.
"You should know that the conversations were Christ-honoring and professional in tone; there was no bitterness on either side," Johnson wrote. "We and they expressed a desire to revisit the issue of their membership if they separate the staff of WaterBrook Multnomah from the work of Convergent in the future."
Potentially realizing that there would be debate over the publication of "God and the Gay Christian," Cobb put out a statement in April explaining why the company chose to publish the book.
"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," he said.
There's no telling whether WaterBrook Multnomah will have a future relationship with National Religious Broadcasters, but for now that relationship is officially severed.
(H/T: Christian Post)