Friday, October 03, 2014

RIP: Nazarene Publishing House

News is slowly trickling out about the shocking demise of Nazarene Publishing House (NPH) yesterday. Here are some articles:
At the center of the controversy seems to be a "gift" to NPH by the previous president of the publishing house elected in 2012. He did not seek re-election earlier this year in February, but the strong impression I get is that this was polite speak for "don't even think of seeking re-election because you don't stand a chance."

It looks like this "gift" in particular involved about 1.4 million dollars of debt and a commitment to pay $36,000 a month for the "gift" property. So the Kansas City Star compares the gift to the Trojan horse of Homeric fame.

The rumor is that all the employees were given a month's notice and varied severance packages. VERY sad for them by all appearances. I hope the Nazarenes will rally around these individuals. The ones I know are really good people.

1. I'm reminded of something said to me in relation to academic institutions about a year ago. In this climate, one false move can take a solid institution and tank it. NPH was not on good financial ground anyway but this seems to illustrate the point. The money apparently runs out by the beginning of next year.

2. Everyone knows that the traditional way of doing publishing business is pretty much over. Church publishers need to shift to a print-on-demand model with mostly outsourced editing. I sense that drastic measures were needed to turn NPH around anyway, even if they hadn't been torpedoed. Now this is REALLY drastic. The new model is, "has to break even with only one copy."

1. First, a lament. NPH has been the flagship for resources in the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition. The Beacon Hill commentary series is the most significant commentary series for the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition by far, indeed practically the only one. The Nazarenes are the ones who produced the Wileys and their most significant successors in theology. They are pretty much the last man standing with Wesleyan-Arminian Sunday School literature.

Although I've always hated to admit it, NPH is really the only Wesleyan-Arminian contender against the Calvinist hegemony of Christian publishing. They are about the only ones putting out serious Wesleyan-Arminian scholarship. [However, I might add that I am involved with a project that seems likely to happen and will be dedicated to publishing scholarship in the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition and to resourcing Wesleyan-Arminians in areas like theology, Bible, and church history. I have jokingly said that it will be dedicated only to publishing the irrelevant.]

2. Second, I firmly believe that a phoenix will rise from the ashes. I have no doubt that the General Board of the Nazarene Church will maintain key pieces of NPH. But they will re-establish them on a basis that gives them a long term sustainability. In the meantime, I doubt there will be any break in our ability to purchase books from the Nazarenes. I actually received Romans 1-8 in the mail yesterday from NPH. But I fully believe that I will still be able to purchase Romans 9-16 whenever I'm ready.

I hope they will finish this series. It is really the only thing we have in the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition that is a serious alternative to the sea of Calvinist-leaning evangelical commentaries out there on the market.


George Baldwin said...

What is really sad, as a former NPH employee and the former Creative Director, is that this "financial crisis" was not just brought on by the "gift". It came after 7-10 years of over $7,000,0000 of loss in earnings. By the way, the KC Star reported that the NPH board chair stated that this "gift" deal was unanimously signed off on by the NPH board and by the General Board! So no one was hiding anything or doing anything illeagel. The General Board could have said no. The former president made them a business offer. They accepted it and could not support their commitment because of the weight of the past. MANY people, for the last 10 years, have lost their lively hoods because of poor stewardship and mismanagement! This is something that is seen before God and that should be confessed and asked forgiveness for!

Ken Schenck said...

Official Statement

Anonymous said...

I had a short business relationship with Smith over 20 yrs ago. I found him to be selfish, self-serving and the type of person to take advantage of you if it meant a few extra $$ for himself. I'm sad at what has happened, but not at all surprised.

Anonymous said...

I don't even live in your area, but because my daughter and I were stiffed, pretty much by Mr. Smith and his company, I am now reading all about this mess. And what a mess it is. Makes me think twice about considering a local Nazarene college for my daughter, if this is the type of dealings they agree to. I can't even imagine what some of the former employees must be going through. Premier Studios, owned by Smith at the time, published a magazine for teen girls. Even though it was pricey, I subscribed because it provided guidance for my teen daughter. She really liked the magazine. It was expiring in October and she kept reminding me to renew it. $28 is not in our budget right now as my husband lost his job and I had a job change. But I scraped together the $$ to renew in September. They took my money in late September, knowing they were going under. And they kept sending out renewal notices reminding me to renew. I got a receipt that said nothing about the place going belly up. We had no idea until last week, when an email arrived saying they were going out of business and that we would get a "formal announcement from the parent company" (nothing about a refund). I wrote to them asking about it and received NO reply. They took my $28 and we only received 1 issue. I looked into the woman who ran the magazine -- apparently she was not told until the last minute either. But Smith's wife felt the need to "correct" something on that woman's facebook page, and it sounded fishy to me, so as I read more, I found this huge mess. So....I guess all of us moms/teens are out of luck? I don't have $28 to spare -- I suppose it is going to pay for Dianna Smith and family's upkeep. And they claim to be "followers of Jesus". No wonder people claim so many of us in the church are hypocrites -- because of people like these. I compare them to Paul/Jan Crouch and Jim Bakker. It is not nice to prey on teenage girls and their families who are just trying to make ends meet. It is frankly, disgusting.