Church House Publishing: More Questions

Church House Publishing - The Archbishops’ Council is in discussion with Hymns Ancient & Modern with a view to outsourcing the Council’s publishing services...

Church House Publishing, 8 May 2009 - The Archbishops’ Council is in discussion with Hymns Ancient & Modern...

To start this week, I’d like to once again draw attention to the proposed handover of Church House Publishing to Hymns Ancient & Modern.

The Revd David Green — a former Church House Publishing employee — has highlighted this issue several times now on his blog but, as far as I’m aware, there has not yet been any response from the Archbishops’ Council and, as I write, the story has dropped off the bottom of the official C of E News Page. Unfortunately the C of E website doesn’t allow comments: unless the C of E news editor chooses to tell us what feedback has been received on any given story, we’re left in the dark. That, however, is another story. David’s latest questions deserve a wider hearing:

  • Under the terms of the agreement to outsource CHP’s publishing function to Hymns Ancient & Modern, will the Archbishops’ Council retain the right to publish any product that it considers important to publish, even if it is expected that such a product will not be commercially viable?
  • If the Archbishops’ Council future publishing output is now subject singly to commercial concerns following the outsourcing of its publishing function to Hymns Ancient & Modern, can the Archbishops’ Council confirm which titles and genres of title stand to be lost to the Church of England in the future?
  • Is the Archbishops’ Council able to confirm that, with the outsourcing of CHP’s publishing function to Hymns Ancient & Modern, the new-media work of CHP (including Visual Liturgy) may be discontinued?
  • Under the terms of the agreement to outsource CHP’s publishing function to Hymns Ancient & Modern, can the Archbishops’ Council confirm that technical support will continue to be provided to CHP’s existing portfolio of new media products including Visual Liturgy?
  • What provision — pastoral as well as financial — is being made for staff who now face the very real possibility of redundancy? (ht: Phil)

The following two questions are not quite as important as the others, I think… but are still good questions.

  • Can the Archbishops’ Council give an indication of how much money it receives in refunded VAT each year as a result of having Church House Publishing in-house and how does it expect that arrangement to continue once CHP’s publishing function is mostly outsourced to Hymns Ancient & Modern?
  • To the Ministry Division. Is the Ministry Division able to say how many ordinands currently in training and curates currently serving title posts cited the publication of Mission-shaped Church as a significant factor in offering for ordination? (ht: Sheridan)

To David’s questions, I’d like to add some thoughts of my own:

If sales have dropped to the point where CHP is no longer sustainable as a publisher in its own right, I wonder to what extent the loss of the former SPCK bookshops as a sales outlet has been a contributing factor to that? I suspect there’s a long way to go yet before we see the damage done by the Brewer brothers to the UK Christian book trade finally play itself out.

Whatever the eventual outcome of this situation, I think it no exaggeration to describe Church House Publishing’s output as an essential resource not only for the Church of England itself but also for the wider Christian community. I hope that whoever takes on ultimate responsibility for marketing CHP’s output will recognise that and the excellent work currently being done by Josie Gunn and her colleagues in promoting CHP to the general Christian retail trade. This is an area that needs to be built upon, not cut back.

Finally, I am surprised that (unless I’ve missed it: I stand ready to be corrected) we have yet to see this story reported in the Church Times. Is the proposed transfer of the Church of England’s in-house publishing company to a third party simply deemed not newsworthy? There is, undoubtedly, a conflict of interest here, given that the Church Times is also owned by Hymns Ancient & Modern; but this should not, surely, be a barrier to open and honest reporting? It would be a sad day for the Church of England if the first thing Church Times readers hear of this development proves to be an announcement of a done deal. See comment from Dave Walker.

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4 thoughts on “Church House Publishing: More Questions

  1. I also recall that CHP was working with MPH (Methodist Publishing House) on some items eg sharing Visual Liturgy expertise,so there are ecumenical considerations also especially as I gather MPH are having problems also.

  2. Pingback: Church House Publishing: End of an Era or a New Beginning? « UKCBD: The Christian Bookshops Blog

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