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WaterBrook Multnomah, which has published numerous evangelical bestsellers, has resigned from the National Religious Broadcasters over Matthew Vines' controversial book God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships.
The move comes after it was learned that Christian staff of WaterBrook Multnomah worked on Vines' book, which was published by its imprint, Convergent Books.
A number of conservative commentators have spoken out strongly against Convergent Books' decision to publish the book.
It "is the first step in a larger effort to fundamentally recast long-held, universally acknowledged norms pertaining to sexual ethics," Andrew Walker, director of Policy Studies for the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has said.
Matt Barber, founder and editor-in chief of BarbWire.com, wrote in an article that Convergent has not only the same head as WaterBrook Multnomah – Stephen W. Cobb – but also apparently the same staffers and "the same everything else. Convergent is simply WaterBrook Multnomah by another name."
In his article for Western Journalism, Barber quoted from an email sent to BarbWire.com by an anonymous source with unspecified ties to Multnomah.
"With a little help… I recently followed a few breadcrumbs – connected some dots – and the picture turned out to be pretty disturbing. I know for a fact that there are certain individuals (whistleblowers, if you will) who believe this information should become public, but there is immense pressure from within Multnomah Publishers to keep this under wraps, and not allow entities in the NRB Association/Evangelical orbit to learn about it," the email reads.
"The audience for Convergent Books represents a growing movement of consumers. These readers typically don't see themselves as either liberal or conservative, evangelical or mainline. Yet they frame their spiritual journey in Christian terms, and they're absolutely passionate about what theologian Brian McLaren has called, 'the sacred endeavor of loving God and neighbor, stranger, alien, outsider, outcast and enemy,'" Cobb told Publishers Weekly earlier.
Barber quoted Cobb as telling Christian Retailing that he doesn't see any impact from Convergent Books on WaterBrook Press and Multnomah Books.
The email adds: "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 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 I believe Multnomah authors have a right to see the full picture of the company with whom they're partnering. (Though we should try and protect those who are under threat.)"
It appears that WaterBrook Multnomah and Convergent are "effectively one and the same – same head, same staff, same offices, same printers, and even the same ink," Barber wrote.
"It is a sad and shameful day when a major Christian publisher releases such a book and claims that it is a solid evangelical publication. This is abhorrent, disgraceful, and terribly misleading. And it needs to be addressed and exposed," author Michael Brown, who holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has published his own book on the subject, Can You Be Gay and Christian, wrote in an opinion piece earlier.
Cobb told the CP earlier that criticism over the book is not healthy. "The conversation on who published God and the Gay Christian serves as a distraction to the real issue the book addresses," he said. "Now that the book has hit the marketplace, it looks as if the discourse has turned towards the conclusions set forth by its author Matthew Vines. The author's goal was to start a cultural conversation, and it seems that he has."
Vines drew attention in 2012 when a video of him making the case that homosexuality is not a sin went viral.
In a September 2012 interview with the CP, Vines said he came to that conclusion after taking a leave of absence from Harvard to study the Scriptures and scholarly works on the subject of homosexuality. "The Bible never directly addresses, and it certainly does not condemn, loving, committed same-sex relationships. There is no biblical teaching about sexual orientation, nor is there any call to lifelong celibacy for gay people," he said.
"His arguments are not new, and his predecessors failed to win the day within the Christian community," Dr. Evan Lenow, assistant professor of Ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, earlier said. "Therefore, I doubt he will have significant impact in the long term."