Church Publishing Incorporated (CPI), founded in 1918 in New York City, is celebrating its first century this year. Born out of a pension fund established to prevent retired Episcopal clergymen from going into poverty, the press publishes liturgical and musical resources for the Episcopal Church, and its first publication, Hymnal 1918, is still in print today.
Over the years, CPI has broadened its publishing program to include books on church leadership, pastoral care, and Christian formation, as well as more distinctly trade titles. In 2003, the publisher began expanding to reach an audience beyond the church, adding religious books with wider appeal such as The Gospel According to Sam: Animal Stories for the Soul by William Miller and We are Theologians: Strengthening the People of God by Fredrica Harris Thompsett. And in 2005, CPI acquired Morehouse Publishing, its largest competitor at the time and a publisher of trade titles for the religion market.
Among its backlist bestsellers are A Failure of Nerve (2007) by Edwin Friedman, My Faith, My Life (2014) by Jennifer Gamber, and Crazy Christians (2013) by Michael Curry, whose sermon during British royal Prince Harry's wedding attracted international attention in May.
Today, CPI publishes between 60-70 titles a year, and among them are trade books for both children and adults. Many are geared toward “the none, done, the searching and the seeking,” according to Mark Dazzo, senior v-p and publisher, referring to religiously unaffiliated readers as well as those who are curious about religion.
As an example of its broad approach, Nancy Bryan, v-p editorial at CPI, points to a March release, Beyond a Binary God by Tara K. Soughers, a priest and the mother of a transgender young adult. “We decided to publish Beyond a Binary God because it reminds us that all of us are made in God’s image: trans people, like all people, reflect something of God both in the ways in which we share human commonalities and in the ways in which they are different,” says Bryan.
Another March release, Christ on the Psych Ward by David Finnegan-Hossey, describes how he suffered from mental illness while he was in the seminary. In September, CPI will publish Today Is a Baptism Day, a children’s book depicting diverse characters by Anna V. Ostenso Moore, illustrated by Peter Krueger. And next year, the publisher will continue its In Conversation series, which features discussions between Christian leaders on issues believers face. The second book in the series will feature former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and author Greg Garrett who will discuss the significance of faith and the writing of good fiction.
In addition to publishing for an evolving audience, Church Publishing is the official publisher for the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.—the governing body of the church that meets every three years. CPI publishes new liturgical materials based on resolutions reached during the conventions, the next of which is taking place from July 5 to July 13 in Austin, Tex. this year.
Looking ahead, publisher Dazzo predicts even more expansion in CPI’s publishing program. “I see Church Publishing growing in areas that start with our core and expand out to address the needs and concerns of the broader Christian market,” he said, referring to “books and resources [on] environmental and LGBTQ concerns, racial reconciliation, evangelism, faith, and wellness that engage progressive and thoughtful Christians.”
A version of this story appeared in PW's Show Daily on May 31, 2018.