Beth Moore, a best-selling Christian writer and speaker — who made religion and publishing headlines in 2021 by breaking from the Southern Baptist Convention last year and leaving the SBC’s Lifeway publishing arm —has written a memoir for Tyndale Momentum, the author and publisher told PW Monday.
All My Knotted-Up Life will be published in April 2023 with a “strong six-figure commitment” for the first printing,” backed with a “significant” marketing budget, says publisher Karen Watson. And, Watson says, everyone who’s seen it so far calls it “unexpected.” The main idea is no surprise: The millions of readers of her Bible studies and ancillary devotionals, who’ve attended events at her Living Proof Live ministry over 24 years, and who follow her on massively popular social media accounts, know she is all about Jesus. “I am definitely an evangelist,” Moore told PW in an exclusive interview.
Her memoir of “the most bizarre life!” says Moore, 64, is her therapeutic effort to come to terms with the complex characters, traumatic moments, and rude awakenings that have led her to proclaim Jesus to one and all. Before there was #ChurchToo and #MeToo, she says, she endured sexual abuse as a child in a “tremendously unstable home” surrounded by complicated people who hurt her, who loved her, and who took her to church whenever its doors were open. “My home was the unsafe place, and my church was the safe place.”
By 18, she knew she wanted to minister, but the path seemed obscure. She majored in political science in college and then spent 12 years teaching aerobics at a Houston megachurch Family Life Center. “It was the early ‘80s-- the peak of the aerobics era. I hate to miss a good era so give me some leg warmers! I loved it,” she recalled. Bit by bit, she moved toward her other great love, writing. She was leading some Bible study classes for women when they asked for “homework.” Those lessons evolved into writing church curricula and 25 Bible studies that over 26 years made millions for Lifeway. In 1994, she launched her speaking ministry with events under the banner of Living Proof Live, which has reached an estimated 2 million women.
But in recent years, she felt like, “I am one tweet, one statement, away from blowing up the entire ministry,” Moore says. The memoir details how she found herself increasingly at odds with denominational leadership’s public political stances, limitations on women’s roles, lack of action for racial justice, and failure to care for abuse victims. “The fundamentalist far right went way too far for me. I started pushing back. I got to a point of doubting strongly their motives,” including views that were "more about power than about Scripture," she said.
Even so, Moore spoke of cherishing and respecting many people within the SBC. The break is still so freshly painful, she says, that speaking about it with PW "brought tears to her eyes.” She’s still grateful for much the SBC gave her: “I was taught to love missions, to love the scriptures, to share my faith, to share that Jesus is my life.”
Moore now publishes church curricula through her ministry, which initially suffered from the blowback from the SBC break and with the Covid pandemic lockdown shutting down public events. However, the first publication, Now That Faith Has Come, A Study of Galatians, written with Melissa Moore, “is doing well,” she says, and is a finalist for an ECPA award in the Bible Study category.
Watson says Moore’s earlier work with Tyndale included nearly a million in sales for So Long, Insecurity and its accompanying devotionals and study guides (2010); Moore’s debut novel, The Undoing of Saint Silvanus, in 2016 which has sold more than 125,000 copies, and last year’s Chasing Vines, which is approaching 200,000 units.
A Literary Reflection
Tyndale publisher Karen Watson says that while Beth Moore’s memoir does deal with contemporary controversies, All My Knotted Up Life “is not a slick contemporary tell-all by any measure. This is a southern literary reflection on an unlikely and winsomely remarkable life.”
Consider one character from Moore’s Arkansas childhood, her great grandmother, Miss Ruthie, who chewed tobacco incessantly and “held onto her spit-can like an old country preacher hanging onto his King James,” Moore writes. Every night, Miss Ruthie took the pins out of her topknot and floor-length silky white hair spilled down, Moore writes.
“My whole family—well, for the most part—is like this. Spitting in a can, all spool-headed, one minute. Sleek and lovely and mesmerizing the next.
“All my knotted-up life I’ve longed for the sanity and simplicity of knowing who’s good and who’s bad. I’ve wanted to know this about myself as much as anyone. I needed God to clean up the mess, divide the room, sort the mail so all of us can just get on with it and be who we are. Go where we’re bent. This was not theological. It was strictly relational. God could do what He wanted with eternity. I was just trying to make it here in the meantime, and it would have helped me if people were one thing or the other, good or bad. Keep it simple. As benevolent as He has been in a myriad of ways, God has remained aloof on this uncomplicated request…”