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The Genesis of a Non-Story

A screen grab of the headline from the Mail on Sunday

The other day I received an email from the Comms Unit at Church House. A journalist from the Mail on Sunday had been to church (at All Souls, Langham Place for a family event) and was intrigued to see the church used projector screens and also had flat screens on pillars. She wanted to write an article about its use in church.

The journalist spoke to the Comms Unit. The Comms Unit spoke to Publishing. Spotting the chance for a bit of free promotion, the staff at CHP talked about the days of Visual Liturgy, their current work and the (relatively less complex) development of a couple of new iPad apps to help clergy with the lectionary. Finally, they said, if she wanted to know about projection, she really needed to talk to me. Read more

We have a ‘Simplification’ Group?

A caption that reads 'Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication' Leonardo da Vinci

The earth was trembling with anticipation a couple of days ago when the Church of England announced that the Church Representation Rules are to go online, free of charge, for the first time. Church Rep Rules, for the uninitiated, is a vital but dull publication that tells PCCs and Synods how they are to function.

As a side point, because it’s vital, it was also a good regular seller for Church House Publishing. Decisions like this one (giving good sellers away for free) were amongst the reasons why CHP always found it hard to make money – and why the decision to outsource their function was so poor. Anyone seen anything like Mission-shaped Church recently?

Anyway, I digress. What grabbed me in this momentous news was Read more

More casualties in Christian Publishing, stateside

Church Publishing website screengrab

I heard more sad news over the weekend as the Christian publishing industry continues to face extremely serious struggles.

This time, the news comes from the United States, and my old employer’s ‘equivalent’ company in the USA. As Church House Publishing is (or rather was) to the Church of England, so too Church Publishing is to the Episcopal Church.

Church Publishing has announced cuts of 40% in their workforce and the entire closure of their Denver office. I think they had acquired the Denver office when they bought up Morehouse in 2005 and so this looks like, essentially, a drawing back in of operations to their central hub in New York rather than running two separate bases.

What I thought was interesting in the announcement is that CPI’s overseers clearly still see that Church Publishing is, in their words, a ‘mission-critical’ service. How different to the Church of England’s treatment of Church House Publishing.

However, regardless of strategic perspective, it is still a tragedy to see people losing their jobs and the Christian publishing industry in the doldrums.

More casualties in Christian publishing, this time in Scotland

Saint Andrew Press website logo

For the last week or two, I’ve been tracking a developing story in Scotland where yet another company that publishes Christian material is facing the axe.

The first I heard was when the Bookseller magazine covered stories north of the border where the Scotsman was reporting that The Saint Andrew Press was under threat from the Church of Scotland’s mission and discipleship council, which is trying to address a £1.2 million budget deficit.

Hmm, that sounds familiar, where have I heard a story like this before where a publishing arm of a central church organisation was an easy target in cost-cutting measures?

What I find particularly interesting is the differing reaction north of the border to this news, when one compares it to the situation that faced the Church of England recently with Church House Publishing. Read more

End of an era for CHP

CHP Leaving do

This afternoon I attended the ‘Leaving do’ for all those who’ve been made redundant at Church House Publishing. I’d call it a ‘closing down’ party but, of course, the plan is that the publishing will continue under the new outsourcing arrangements so that’s not technically correct. It just felt like it… sort of.

At the same time, it has been confirmed by the CofE that the outsourcing deal is now signed. Just as well really since if it wasn’t, they’d have a problem staffing the place since everyone just got released.

The piccy is not from the party but from the more select gathering of employees and former employees who went for a meal afterwards.

I hope I’m wrong and that this isn’t a horrible mistake.The general feeling in most of the room from all sorts of people both inside the Church and outside was that they’re going to live to regret this. Read more

Apparently Synod won’t get a say in CHP

Church House Publishing

As I understand it from people inside CHP, the deal relating to the outsourcing of CHP’s publishing function is due to be signed today.

It seems that General Synod won’t get a chance to have their say. While I’m aware of a couple of questions regarding CHP that have been submitted for the July Group of Sessions, it seems that it will all be pretty academic by then.

With the exception of a couple of people transferring to Hymns Ancient & Modern and a couple of people who will be the in-house publishing department of the Archbishops’ Council (i.e. the CHP command structure), the rest will be made redundant and by July, when Synod meet, it seems very feasible that some of them will already be gone.

Now, for some readers, that may not seem out of the ordinary. Read more

First CofE response to letter about CHP

I understand that the CEN has published a letter today from Peter Crumpler, Director of Communications for the Archbishops’ Council and my former boss’ boss, in response to my letter of last week. It reads:

Sir, The Rev David Green is wrong to assert that the Archbishops’ Council’s proposed outsourcing of its publishing operation to Hymns Ancient & Modern – an Anglican charity with an excellent track record of publishing – will mean that ‘commercial concerns will trump all others’.
The intention is that the Council would continue to publish a range of titles to support the ministry and mission of the Church under its Church House Publishing imprint, with HA&M acting as its production and marketing arm. Under the proposed arrangements, which are still subject to contract, the Council would retain control over what is published and agree the terms with HA&M.
The Council’s belief is that its long-term commitment to publishing liturgy, key reference titles and other resources for the Church can be better and more cost-effectively secured in partnership with Hymns Ancient & Modern than by an in-house arrangement which, over the last few years, has required considerably more annual subsidy from the Council than the figure that David Green quotes.

I love Peter’s emphasis that Hymns Ancient & Modern are an Anglican charity with an excellent track record. As if that was ever in doubt.

Nevertheless, it’s helpful as far as it goes. It does leave some key questions unanswered (particularly about the new media operation) but just as I was limited in how much I could write or ask about in the original letter so Peter’s response is limited by the same constraints. Comments?

Letters to the editor

Church of England Newspaper banner

Well, I think I’ve nearly done about all I can do to raise the issue with the wider Church of England of the proposed outsourcing of CHP. Last week, I wrote a letter to the Editor of the Church of England Newspaper and I sent the same letter to the Editor of the Church Times.

The letter borrowed heavily from the language on this blog that I’ve used to try and highlight this issue and to express dissatisfaction with the potential future for the Church of England’s publishing output, should it become subject to purely commercial concerns.

The Church of England Newspaper published my letter (they even made it the central letter on the page, which was nice of them). The Church Times did not. However, it’s worth noting that the CT did contact me to say that they needed to run it past one or two people before they published because CT’s owners, Hymns Ancient & Modern, are the company involved in the negotations for the outsourcing of CHP.

I think that’s fair enough although I will be very disappointed if they conclude they can’t publish this week. As Phil Groom has said elsewhere, the ownership of the CT should not, surely, be a barrier to open and honest reporting. We’ll have to wait and see I suppose.

I’ve also raised the issue on the Visual Liturgy discussion email list and there’s a fair old discussion now going on over there about the future of VL.

I think the last I can do (and will do) is contact my diocesan representatives on General Synod. Here’s hoping that these things get properly considered and that Synod and the Archbishops’ Council consider properly the question as to what they want from an official publisher and whether they’re prepared to subsidise that by a small amount each year (if necessary) in order to achieve their larger goals in communication, resourcing and mission.

Questions Synod should be asking

Church House Publishing

If you are a member of General Synod or you know someone who is on General Synod, can I encourage you to point them to this website and these key questions relating to the outsourcing of much of the publishing services that CHP provide to the Archbishops’ Council.

I’m not going to blog ad-infinitum about this issue but I think it’s important to note that, as things stand, I’m not sure if General Synod will get a say on the outsourcing of CHP. However, I think they ought to be given the chance to comment and debate this move.

The recent Archbishop’s Council Financial Review (PDF) didn’t cover it. It just said in paragraph 43: Read more

Where did the Common Worship profits go?

Church House Publishing

This is just a brief addendum to my two much longer posts about the future of CHP’s book and new media work respectively.

With the publication of the Common Worship library between 2000 and 2007, there was tremendous potential of course for CHP to turn a nice tidy profit. Indeed, one of the reasons that the Archbishops’ Council stated back in the mid-nineties for awarding the publishing contract to its own in-house publisher was to ensure that those funds didn’t go elsewhere to a commercial publisher but instead were used to benefit the Church of England.

Now that I’m standing on the outside, I can’t tell you exactly how much money CHP made for the Archbishops’ Council from the publication and sale of the various books in the Common Worship library. I don’t have access to the records anymore. I tried to dig back Read more