February 10, 2005

Diversity in Cokesbury

Awhile back I sent an email to the customer service address at Cokesbury.com (the Methodist online retail store). I asked them about their product base and pointed out the "diversity" in their product mix, wondering if they did any screening of authors or titles. Their marketing director responded and after I provided a few examples and exchanged a few observations her ultimate position was that they like to offer variety and let their customers "make up their own mind."

With diversity like this: Jesus Seminar, Benny Hinn, Atheism, Islam, Mormonism, I don't think you can imply that they are advocating for any view of God at all! Their supported product base goes from flaky Christianity to classical Christianity to liberal Christianity to non-Christianity to raw Atheism. As long as they are affirming, redefining, obscuring, or denying God, then it's all good.

They are not only not distinguising themselves from other denominations (or religions), they are really not demarcating themselves from any other source of products. Someone may just as well go to Amazon or B&N to get their books at a better price. At least LifeWaystores.com does some pre-screening to weed out those things that fall clearly outside the pale of orthodoxy (with reasonable success). Even so, there is much diversity within this; it is not all just "Baptist" material.

Please note their mission statement: "our Mission is to provide quality resources and services that help people know God through Jesus Christ, love God, and choose to serve God and neighbor." In light of this statement, how do they justify offering products that are counter to the knowlege of "God through Jesus Christ." Exactly how is it that atheism, among other things, is to instruct us in these matters? On their philosophy of diversity I'd be inclined to ask them, "Why be a Methodist?" if there is no particular doctrine to which they passionately adhere and commend to their customer base. And if Christ be not raised, I'm sleeping in on Sunday morning.

Please note that I understand that the denomination as a whole does not share this view of theological diversity -- there is much grass-roots evangelicalism among the Methodist rank-and-file -- I am just judging the leadership and this retail outlet for its rejection of its historic theology and its noncompliance with its own mission statement.


At 3/04/2005 12:17 PM, Blogger Jim said...

Comment on LifeWay: It's my understanding that about 30% of the products offered in LifeWay bookstores are created and published by LifeWay. This includes VBS materials, Broadman and Holman books and commentaries, and the new B&H Christian Standard Bible (developed by diverse yet conservative scholars). This commitment to produce biblical materials is one unique aspect of LifeWay's stores in comparison to other bookstore chains that I know about.

At 9/22/2005 12:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just from a pure business standpoint, you'd think that pointing out that their product offerings are in direct violation with their mission statement would elicit an active change. Perhaps the issue should be raised to a higher level. Who is at the top of that organization? Who is the one responsible for the mission statement?

At 9/22/2005 8:15 PM, Blogger Paul said...

I don't think they care. I'm sure that in their current perspective, "knowing God through Jesus" simply means moral guidance, which may be obtained in equal measures through other means.


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