Bad news for Augsburg Fortress, from Mollie

Sometimes we focus on things that aren’t managed well at Synodical headquarters. But we should also note things that are done well. I am thinking of our wonderful Concordia Publishing House. I doubt people have any idea how much the product offerings there have improved over the last few decades. And they manage their operations so well that they actually help subsidize Synod.

I was thinking about this I read a press release from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The ELCA, which is much larger than the LCMS, runs Augsburg Fortress as its publishing house. And things aren’t going well:

They’re only going to publish group-use materials for congregations, such as faith formation and worship materials, and textbooks and monographs for higher education.

They’re axing over 20 percent of their 242 full- and part-time staff.

They will neither accept nor sell new titles in consumer-oriented books.

They will close nine bookstores by April of next year.

They will no longer sell goods at synod assemblies, youth gatherings or women’s gatherings.

They will still sell envelopes and communion wafers and candles, but items that don’t sell well will be dropped.

I’m sorry to see that things aren’t going well at Augsburg. I have a few of their consumer-oriented books.

But we should not forget to be thankful for CPH and the good work it’s done for many years here. Kudos!


Comments

Bad news for Augsburg Fortress, from Mollie — 12 Comments

  1. Perhaps if they actually offered Christian material relevant to the whole church instead of their sub-grouped focuses on such things as liberation theology and feminism.

  2. CPH has been doing a wonderful job in the last few years and I thank God for the leadership He has given that organization.

    It is sad, if not disturbing, to read that someone may comment to the effect that Augsburg is getting what they deserve.(Not the article, the following comment)

    One should be very careful in this line of thinking. This site very accurately reflects that all who are in the LC-MS are not of one mind either. Abraham did not condone the sin of Sodom yet he still recognized that there may be righteous people there. I have compassion for the people who have lost their jobs, but I do not accept the ELCA doctrine nor leadership.

    When any church group accepts and defines themselves by business models then they are subject to business rules. It is the same downfall as contemporary worship or synodical programatic campaigns. It is largely defined by emotion not substance. So the market rule that they(contemporary worship and campaigns) ultimately succumb to, is the lack of market differentiation. It should not be a surprise, yet they wonder why their people are at their church one week and the Baptist the next, no difference in style or substance. So next week they need a new band or the campaign needs more money to develop new ways to sell that old idea. That is how business works. Church is not a business.

    Contemporary worship purveyors and Synodical campaigners will continually seek new ways to connect to emotion because they have no biblical grounding. If they don’t find the right business formula people who have not been grounded in sound biblical doctrine move on to whatever is latest and greatest. It should be the marks of the church which are central, not how many market metrics are achieved.

    Maybe that is what happened to Augsburg too, maybe not.

    Whatever the case I do not revel in their failure, but I will take time to pray for them.

  3. My aunt sells for Augsburg Fortress on the west coast. I have not heard any news of her being axed yet, though I know she did very well with it last year. She loved her job, and I hope she is able to keep it. Could this have to do with the national economy perhaps?

  4. Less than 10 years ago I was looking through material from CPH for my high school age class. The study I was thumbing through had teenagers cutting out blue drops of water from construction paper and placing them on a bulletin board so that they could see a symbol of their baptism. I wouldn’t do this with third graders much less seniors in high school.
    CHP, is light years ahead of those days where all children were treated as if they were incapable of grasping even the basics of the faith. Are they perfect, no, but they really have the best stuff out there.
    I would hope that Augsburg Fortress finds a way to turn it around and right that ship.

  5. PHW Wrote:

    Perhaps if they actually offered Christian material relevant to the whole church instead of their sub-grouped focuses on such things as liberation theology and feminism.

    and Rev. Larry Wright responded:

    It is sad, if not disturbing, to read that someone may comment to the effect that Augsburg is getting what they deserve.(Not the article, the following comment)

    Whatever the case I do not revel in their failure, but I will take time to pray for them.

    It is even more disturbing that a pastor would twist PHW’s comment on the often worthless offerings of Augsburg-Fortress and how such could lead to their demise into a “sad” and “disturbing” comment that amounts to “revel[ing] in their failure.”

    The commenter did no such thing; he simply–and rightly opined that producing niche market books that contradict God’s Word is not going to attract many readers who actually want products faithful to God’s Word.

    OTOH, as to “deserving” a downfall: if deliberate contradiction of God’s Word doesn’t invite such, what does? With this sort of thinking, one must conclude that Adam and Eve—not to mention us, their descendants (not to mention it, because it’s not a necessary doctrine for ELCA/Augsburg-Fortress)—surely didn’t deserve banishment from the Garden, much less eternal damnation for doing the very same thing.

    Saying this in no way compromises anyone’s compassion for those losing their jobs—especially for those who are not in charge of content. Nor does it indicate a lack of prayer for them; indeed, as we pray for the physical well-being of those employees, we also ought to be praying for the restoration of the ELCA and the decision-makers of AF to the true confession of God’s Word.

    I am, as usual, mystified by this ‘new love’ among Missourians, where a simple (and correct, as far as it went) comment by someone like PHW is jumped on as unloving, in spite of the need to read all sorts of things into his/her brief comments to come to such a conclusion. Perhaps if you guys would quit supposing that one another’s words and intents were hateful, you would actually stop being hateful to one another and stop being seen as hateful by others.

    I think PHW would agree with Frank Gillespie, as I do, in saying, “I would hope that Augsburg Fortress finds a way to turn it around and right that ship.” Righting it is not only returning to profitability, but returning to faithfulness; if they do not do the latter, then God’s Kingdom is more profited by their also not doing the former—whether anyone thinks that hateful, or not.

    EJG

  6. To all…

    With all due respect, if in fact, I took a leap of logic to arrive at the conclusion I did, I apologize.

    However, I believe that the comment made in response to mine leaps much farther.

    I agree that the response by Mr. Frank Gillespie was most appropriate and possibly more accurate. I too would agree that CPH was in a similar position years ago. I am very pleased to see that they have turned the ship around with the guidance of a very good group of managers there now. It is amazing what they are doing if one ponders what kind of backroom pressures may be applied to their work. In spite of everything, CPH has undertaken many projects (in recent years) that probably would have projected a loss, which they went ahead and published and were ultimately well received.

    I would like to ask what group that you have unequivocally stated, “I have joined?” (my interpretation of your words) You know the one,

    Rev. Eric Stefanski wrote, “you guys”

    If closely, or at all, my comments to the effect that Augsburg had taken on a business model strategy was in agreement with PHW. In fact, I spent a very long paragraph making the analogy why they might have failed. Yet somehow, a jump was made from a general comment on the downfall of what I would label “business theology.” And just to repeat my point so that all may understand…”business theology” is bad, it is bad in publishing and it is bad in Synodical campaigns. Biblical theology can not be compromised.

    Yet with all that said I somehow I deserve this leap of (ill)logic?

    “With this sort of thinking, one must conclude that Adam and Eve—not to mention us, their descendants (not to mention it, because it’s not a necessary doctrine for ELCA/Augsburg-Fortress)—surely didn’t deserve banishment from the Garden, much less eternal damnation for doing the very same thing.”[Rev. Stefanski]

    One “must conclude” this?

    Wow! And I am being accused of making a jump? I am being hateful? Please re-read the second paragraph of what I wrote.

    Quite frankly, the most disturbing conclusion which could be drawn from PHW’s comments is that those words could very well fit some of the churches in our own Synod and that is sad indeed. It is even more sad that these congregations are not being held to any biblical standards, let alone Synodical ones either.

    As a summary, please define these terms…

    1) Who are “you guys?”
    2) Without knowing me and having only met me once… Why should I be lumped into this group entitled “you guys?”
    3) Why “must” one conclude that my logic would put Adam and Eve back in the garden?

    I apologize that my words have been so amazingly misconstrued that such a lengthy diatribe could be leveled against me. It is obvious that I do not meet the standards of perfection required here, but then I am just a sinful beggar…

  7. With a simple linkage of two portions of your post, Rev. Wright—

    1) Who are “you guys?”

    I apologize that my words have been so amazingly misconstrued that such a lengthy diatribe could be leveled against me. It is obvious that I do not meet the standards of perfection required here, but then I am just a sinful beggar…

    you place yourself squarely in the “you guys” known as “you guys I probably shouldn’t bother answering,” aka, self-justifiers who nit-pick others to death. That is what you did to PHW, and it is what you seek to do now. Indeed, you start your reply with a great example of this:

    With all due respect, if in fact, I took a leap of logic to arrive at the conclusion I did, I apologize.

    However, I believe that the comment made in response to mine leaps much farther.

    I.e., “Your response to me justifies my preceding wrong action.”

    I would like to ask what group that you have unequivocally stated, “I have joined?” (my interpretation of your words) You know the one,

    Rev. Eric Stefanski wrote, “you guys”

    It’s nice and ‘Christian’ how you tear something out of context in order to make it seem ever so sinister. The “you guys” that was mentioned is clear from the paragraph: “Missourians who constantly criticize other Missourians of the same general theological position.” PHW said nothing that was “sad” or “disturbing”; if you read it that way, it is because you read it into what he/she wrote, as it was not in the words themselves.

    If closely, or at all, my comments to the effect that Augsburg had taken on a business model strategy was in agreement with PHW. In fact, I spent a very long paragraph making the analogy why they might have failed. Yet somehow, a jump was made from a general comment on the downfall of what I would label “business theology.”

    No, it was not. A statement was made wrt to your mischaracterizing PHW’s comments. And, cf. above, here you confess that you agreed with PHW, yet found PHW’s comments worthy of the labels “sad” and “disturbing.” And why were they such? Because PHW seemed to be saying that Augsburg-Fortress–publisher of much garbage–deserves to fail for publishing false doctrine for niche markets.

    Yet with all that said I somehow I deserve this leap of (ill)logic?

    I’m sorry that you don’t understand. In fact, I find it sad and disturbing.

    “With this sort of thinking, one must conclude that Adam and Eve—not to mention us, their descendants (not to mention it, because it’s not a necessary doctrine for ELCA/Augsburg-Fortress)—surely didn’t deserve banishment from the Garden, much less eternal damnation for doing the very same thing.”[Rev. Stefanski]

    One “must conclude” this?

    Yes, that is precisely where your argument leads. You say that A-F doesn’t deserve to fail because it is publishing false doctrine–it is “disturbing” and “sad” that “someone may comment to [that] effect.” If they do not deserve to fail for this reason, neither did Adam and Eve deserve to fail for their contradiction of God’s Word.

    Quite frankly, the most disturbing conclusion which could be drawn from PHW’s comments is that those words could very well fit some of the churches in our own Synod and that is sad indeed.

    I agree…but that is not what you said.

    1) Who are “you guys?”

    This has been clarified, I think, above.

    2) Without knowing me and having only met me once… Why should I be lumped into this group entitled “you guys?”

    Because you are doing what “you guys” do. Now I’ve seen you post twice and I’m saddened to see that you are demonstrating the very trend in Missouri that is so disturbing (‘trend’ is a bad word, really…it has been going on for decades, if not generations…it’s just become more pronounced in the past 15 years or so).

    3) Why “must” one conclude that my logic would put Adam and Eve back in the garden?

    You stated that it is disturbing and said to think that a commenter might say that A-F was getting what it deserves. A-F deserves to collapse entirely because it is deep in violation of the Second Commandment. (Whether it violated the 2nd Commandment because of its business model or it developed its business in response to its violation of the 2nd Commandment really doesn’t matter.) If wish to publish false teaching, they do, indeed, “deserve to fail,” just like a pornographer deserves to fail, and just like Adam and Eve decided to be evicted. If they don’t deserve to fail for disobedience to God and His Word, neither does the pornographer and neither did Adam and Eve.

    I apologize that my words have been so amazingly misconstrued

    Holy krap, you do belong in the LCMS, don’t you? “I apologize that you sinned”!

    It is obvious that I do not meet the standards of perfection required here, but then I am just a sinful beggar…

    First of all, sinful beggars beg; you lecture and self-justify and accuse.

    Indeed, second, while you take umbrage at being an individual who is ‘lumped in’ with other Missourians that I see doing what you did with PHW’s comments, you manage to accuse a whole group (not only the Board of BJS, but everyone who posts here) based on the single post of one man–and, at that, of a man who is neither on the BJS board nor in any other way affiliated with BJS or the LCMS. Your having a problem with what I wrote should have no bearing on anything else on this site; in all likelihood, no one else will ever call you on such words and the attitudes that they seem to display. That, too, is “sad” and “disturbing.”

    Third, if you think that was a “diatribe”…

    Fourth, the proper response to a pondering of whether A-F is getting what it deserves is to hear Jesus saying reminding you that in spite of A-F’s sin, “unless you repent you will all likewise perish,” not a denial of the deservedness of their condition.

    To return to the first thought, I reckoned from the outset that I would have probably wasted my time in responding, but since I’d like to think that such is not the case, I have responded in the hope that you will back away from these ridiculous false apologies—which are either conditional and self-justifying or even bringing an accusation—and actually confess that PHW did and said nothing wrong, i.e., that you’ll take back what you said about PHW’s post (that it was sad and disturbing that someone might say that AF was getting what it deserved). A-F has not only practiced bad business, but has sinned grossly; I feel sorry for those who are hurt by these closures, etc., but if this means that less false doctrine will be making it into people’s hands, I have to consider that a good thing. May those who remain at A-F turn her towards faithfulness.

    EJG

  8. I work for Augsburg Fortress, and I appreciate the prayers offered by some on the site.

    To be sure, the decisions made recently are BUSINESS decisions and not MISSION decisions. And they are certainly not GOSPEL decisions. They are left-hand kingdom decisions – only a pietist would demand that a business be run according to a specific set of religious rules.

    Finally, with Lutheran friends like Rev. Eric, we certainly don’t need any enemies. We may have disagreements about theology, but tossing out a casual condemnation of AF based on the 2nd commandment seems a little dangerous to me.

    I look forward to the day when the ELCA and LCMS can return to cordial relationships centered in Christ’s grace.

    Howie

  9. Howie, I’m glad you wrote, because what you write demonstrates how far off base you (and your employer) are.

    To be sure, the decisions made recently are BUSINESS decisions and not MISSION decisions. And they are certainly not GOSPEL decisions. They are left-hand kingdom decisions – only a pietist would demand that a business be run according to a specific set of religious rules.

    “Yeah, Pr. Rossow—so take that, you stinkin’ pietist, with your demands that Concordia Chicago should operate like Lutheran school just because it claims to be a Lutheran school!”

    It is a CHURCH PUBLISHING HOUSE. ALL of its business decisions, therefore, should fall UNDER its “specific set of religious rules”—namely, not abusing God’s name by publishing false doctrine. This is really not that hard. If you have to publish false doctrine to stay in business, I would suggest that not staying in business is a better idea.

    Finally, with Lutheran friends like Rev. Eric, we certainly don’t need any enemies. We may have disagreements about theology, but tossing out a casual condemnation of AF based on the 2nd commandment seems a little dangerous to me.

    Sir, that condemnation based on the 2nd Commandment was anything but “casual.” Your company has printed volume after volume of false teaching with zero remorse and no sign of ceasing. Actually, the only thing you got right in your post was labeling me as a friend—in spite of your sarcasm. Yes, unlike others, I am being a friend to you, because I am willing to tell you what is wrong and for what there’d ought to be repentance. I am definitely a better friend to you than you are to yourself, as you simply retreat into defensiveness when confronted with the truth.

    I look forward to the day when the ELCA and LCMS can return to cordial relationships centered in Christ’s grace.

    The day of ELCA and LCMS engaging in a cordial relationship is just around the corner…but it will not be centered in Christ’s grace, because the ELCA runs away from that, preferring to deny sin instead of being washed clean from it. No, it will be centered in ELCA’s and LCMS’s mutual unfaithfulness.

    EJG

  10. Eric,

    Thank you for the thoughtful response. I’m curious – how do you understand Luther’s Two Kingdoms in relation to how a business (and a church) should conduct its work in the world?

    This is an honest question, because I can respect your belief that AF publishes what you consider to be false doctrine. How does this relate to our success or failure as a business, or to the successes and failures of businesses outside the “religious” world?

    Do you believe that Google and other non-religious companies will also be successful or unsuccessful based on their faithfulness to God’s Word?

    This is an honest question. I’ll await your thoughts on Two Kingdom thinking.

    Howie

  11. Howie asks:

    How does this relate to our success or failure as a business, or to the successes and failures of businesses outside the “religious” world?

    Do you believe that Google and other non-religious companies will also be successful or unsuccessful based on their faithfulness to God’s Word?

    First, I made no statement whatsoever as to whether a business will be successful, but whether it should be.

    Second, I specifically spoke of a church publishing company, whose ‘business’ is to publish God’s Word and the teaching thereof.

    As to Google, etc., they will profit—for awhile—if they provide a service that enough people want. Thus, pornographers profit for awhile, too. So do those who, in effect, steal from their customers, their employers, or whomever. To those who make their money contrary to what God commands, what Luther writes in the Large Catechism in explanation of the Seventh Commandment applies:

    233] Therefore let every one know that it is his duty, at the risk of God’s displeasure, not only to do no injury to his neighbor, nor to deprive him of gain, nor to perpetrate any act of unfaithfulness or malice in any bargain or trade, but faithfully to preserve his property for him, to secure and promote his advantage, especially when one accepts money, wages, and one’s livelihood for such service.

    234] He now who wantonly despises this may indeed pass along and escape the hangman, but he shall not escape the wrath and punishment of God; and when he has long practised his defiance and arrogance, he shall yet remain a tramp and beggar, and, in addition, have all plagues and misfortune.

    As to the distinction of realms, both in the left and in the right one is to act in accord with righteousness, because both realms are still under God. While He rules in one through the Ministry of the Word and in the other through the conduct of men in their various vocations, He still rules. Indeed, He rules in the left hand realm even when men seek to exclude Him; He accomplished His purposes even through Nero and through the Soviets and so forth, even through those who sought to kill His people and extinguish all memory of Him. That, however, does not instruct us to forget Him in our left hand privileges and duties.

    Does that mean that if we, say, have a tee shirt shop we must only print ‘Christian’ tee shirts? Not at all. Does it say that we ought not print anti-Christian tee shirts? I wonder how we could, in good conscience do such a thing. I suppose we could do that every bit as much as we could run a very ethical brothel.

    In short, faithfulness to God’s Word does not determine earthly success; indeed, it often seems to eliminate it. When it comes to a Christian book publisher, though, it can make a difference, simply because the liberal fringe false teaching markets tend not to have as many book buyers as, say, the conservative fringe false teaching market (e.g., pentecostalism). A Christian, however, remains a Christian whether his vocation is in the Church or in the ‘secular world’. That doesn’t mean that he has to do ‘Christian things’ and produce ‘Christian products’, but he is to conduct his business in accord with God’s Word, just as the non-Christian ought to be conducting himself according to natural law (which is simply the law God has written on Man’s heart). Thus, if he is a shoemaker, he is to be a good shoemaker who doesn’t cheat his customers or employees, and if he is a U.S. politician he is to follow the laws of his land–even as he seeks to change those that contradict natural law–not because in either case so doing will give “success,” but because such is his duty and privilege as one who has been made God’s own through the blood of Christ.

    Being tired, I’ll leave it go for tonight/this morning with the above rambling.

    EJG

  12. BTW, in the above #11, I’m not sure that I made it clear that I do not know of Google being engaged in any wrongdoing; as far as I know, Google is operating ethically. Thus, while it is not ‘evangelizing’, it is operating as a left hand realm/First Article of the Creed company ought to operate, as far as I know. The only problem I have, therefore, with Google profiting is that I didn’t buy a large portion of their stock when it was originally offered!

    EJG

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