Philip Gulley writes about what he knows: a smalltown Quaker pastor who serves and loves imperfectly, but who always points others to God. Sam Gardner, the protagonist in Gulley’s popular Harmony novel series, is back again after a brief hiatus, and with a new publisher. This time he’s making folks mad and moving to a new Friends meeting in Hope, Ind.

“Center Street approached us about continuing the Harmony series,” said Gulley. “I had finished several books on theological issues which I enjoyed, but I continued to get mail from folks wondering what happened to Sam.”

Gulley wanted to move Sam and his wife, Barbara, to a new place for the new series, so he needed to get the beloved pastor fired from the Harmony Friends Meeting. Having him participate in a same-sex marriage ceremony did the trick.

“I hope I get some flack about it so I can engage people and talk to them about the topic,” he says. “The church’s stance on marriage equality has been abysmal. I hope A Place Called Hope is a doorway through which the topic can be discussed.”

Gulley says the discussion is important for the church today. “Throughout history it has been common for a religion to single out a group of people and accord them a lesser amount of rights. As soon as we do that to any group, we are doing great damage to them and their well-being, and we are perpetuating an evil that hardens us. Whenever religions do that, they need to be called on it,” he says.

Gulley calls himself a bi-vocational pastor, which is to say that he is both pastor and writer. He’s been a Quaker pastor for 31 years, and his first book came out in 1996. “I can direct my energy elsewhere, which is part of my longevity as a pastor,” he says. He’s working on the second book in the Hope series, with a third contracted. Additional books in the series are a possibility.

“Every book allows me to speak my mind on issues; Sam Gardner is a great cover,” Gulley says with a laugh. “I want readers to think deeply about what kind of life our faith calls us to. Frankly, if that life is one that leaves others out, is dismissive of millions of people, I want my books to challenge that.”

Gulley will sign copies of A Place Called Hope (Center Street, Sept.) at the Hachette Book Group booth (2819) on today, 3–4 p.m. Tomorrow, 11 a.m.–noon at the booth, Charles Martin will sign advance copies of A Life Interrupted.