Church House Publishing: There’s certainly a future but is there any hope? #CHP

Hope for the people involved, that is: the official announcement of the proposed handover of Church House Publishing to Hymns Ancient & Modern (tweeted out by the “Unofficial CofE Spokesperson” Daily Prayer back on May 8th) simply closes by saying:

Consultations involving Church House Publishing staff are ongoing

That can’t be a comfortable place for anyone to be in: my thoughts and prayers are with everyone caught up in this — please believe me when I say I think I know how you’re feeling!

The full statement (minus notes) reads as follows:

The Archbishops’ Council is in discussion with Hymns Ancient & Modern with a view to outsourcing the Council’s publishing services. The proposed agreement would maintain the Council’s long-term commitment to publishing liturgy, key reference titles and other resources for the Church.

Subject to contract, 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 Hymns Ancient & Modern (HA&M) acting as its production and marketing arm. HA&M already provide customer service and distribution services to Church House Publishing and act as agents for the sale of advertising space in Crockford’s Clerical Directory and The Church of England Year Book.

HA&M have provided a similar range of services to the Methodist Church for their Epworth imprint for more than 25 years. In 2006, HA&M took over Church House Bookshop, Great Smith Street, London, from the Archbishops’ Council.

Consultations involving Church House Publishing staff are ongoing

A number of important questions have already been asked by wannabepriest, with Bishop Nick Baines joining in the conversation but Dave Walker, unfortunately, finding it “difficult to comment” — no C&D this time but read between the lines: as the Church Times blogger Dave is an employee of works closely with Hymns and Ancient and Modern [1]. As Dave says, however:

the debate around this needs to happen.

Given the sale of Church House Bookshop to Hymns Ancient & Modern back in 2006 and the financial pressures Church House Publishing and the Church of England as a whole faces, this development hardly comes as a massive surprise. But as wannabepriest asks,

Who decides now what will be published?

Here’s my three penny worth:

  • Does the Church of England need an independent voice for its publishing division?
  • Is it right to concede so much control of the Church’s voice to the owners of the Church Times?
  • What provision — pastoral as well as financial — is being made for staff who now face the very real possibility of redundancy?

My Lord Bishops: the Church’s voice and their future is your hands: please ensure that it is a future with a hope and with freedom to speak.

Update, May 17, 2009
Since posting the above, I’m pleased to say that Dave Walker has commented further to clarify his own position:

I’m freelance rather than an employee. No-one is telling me what I can or cannot comment on.

Having said that Hymns Ancient and Modern is a major client of mine. In the same way that a bookshop manager (for instance) would not blog about one of their customers, or a member of the clergy about one of their parishioners I tend not to blog about my clients. Hence my ‘difficult to comment’ remark. If I had things to say to Hymns A&M on the topic (which I don’t at the moment) I’d do so by some other means than via blog comments.