Keith Getty, who pioneered "modern hymns" and is based in the United States, was honored Friday as an "Officer of the Order of the British Empire" by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II for his contribution in music and modern hymn writing.
The Nashville, Tennessee-based music artist, who is behind the popular hymn "In Christ Alone," is the first-ever individual in the world of contemporary church music to receive the award, a British order of chivalry to reward contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organizations, and public service outside the Civil Service.
Christian Copyright Licensing International says that Keith, along with his wife, Kristyn, and Christian worship leader and writer of hymns Stuart Townend, has written more than 60 of the most popular 2,000 hymns sung in the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
About the British honor, Keith said in a statement, "When I first received the call, I was shocked. As a Brit living in America it is an incredible gift to receive from home especially given the long history of the award and the legacy of individuals who have received it. It is also wonderful to see hymnody and the great hymn-writing heritage I am from in the U.K. be recognized in this way. I am very grateful to her Majesty the Queen for this honor."
Keith also said he was grateful to his wife and "profoundly thankful for Stuart Townend, whose hymn writing partnership gave us both this opportunity."
"It has been thrilling to see the impact of these hymns around the world. Kristyn and I feel utterly privileged to be able to serve the Church in such a way and will continue to write and lead people in singing as we have breath to," he added.
On June 25, the Gettys will feature their new song, "For the Cause," at their second Global Hymn Sing, with the expectation that "millions of believers worldwide" will teach the song to their church "as a way to focus on the imperative need for the Gospel to go to all nations."
Last year's hymn sing resulted in more than 1.1 million congregants in more than 5,400 churches in 100 countries around the world joining together in song, according to Getty Music.
"Songs have the ability to unite and move us as groups. Frank Houghton understood this and in response to great turmoil in China, turned to writing hymns to encourage those who were witnessing martyrdom around them. 'Facing a Task Unfinished' provided inspiration to a generation of missionaries when it was first written, and it urges us on still," he said at the time.
Keith and his wife live between Portstewart, Northern Ireland and Nashville. They currently reside in Nashville along with their three young daughters.