Curation and Reputation

By Jonathan Puddle
on December 09, 2014

We were recently asked by our leadership to remove a certain product by a certain minister, because of some concerns about the soundness of a particular teaching. It happens every little while, and always brings about interesting discussion. This typically begins with an email to me or one of my team saying "Please remove x" with not much more detail. We do our best to dig into this, and ask for some explanation and background on where this concern is coming from, who voiced it, what might be the root cause, etc.

In this particular case, the product was in the deliverance and healing section, and some folks we consider to be leaders in this sphere had a concern about a certain teaching, more specifically that there was no Biblical precedent, nor was the teaching actually necessary to expand the existing toolkit available for deliverance ministry. This concern was passed onto our own leaders (through their relationship), which made it's way to us in the form of "Pull this product".

I only learned all this because I dug a little deeper, but now we're equipped to answer customers questions on why we don't carry this product if and when they ask. Which is important, because we have sold many of this product in the past, and we do anticipate questions.

Now... of interest to some is that neither myself nor our buyer actually agreed with the decision, nor with the judgement made about the product.

At Attwell Books we pride ourselves on a highly curated selection of products. We do not view ourselves as the gatekeepers of all theology, and so are willing to carry products that we or others may disagree with... but we do only select those products that we believe are truly useful for expanding the Kingdom. We have a bias towards charismatic products and empowering people's spiritual life, and bring in those products we know produce good fruit, whether we agree with every statement or not. This is one of the big reasons people shop with us, not because we are the gatekeepers of sound theology, but because the products we carry do bring transformation. Part of that transformation is often learning to the hear the voice of the Holy Spirit for ourselves. The same Holy Spirit who can guide us in how to apply what we read in a book, and whether or not it's sound doctrine.

But since Attwell Books is a ministry of Catch The Fire, we are mindful of leadership decisions made by our parents; we don't exist in a vaccuum. We may feel we have a particular identity as a store, but we must also work-out how that fits into Catch The Fire's God-given mission, and sometimes the man-made working out of that vision. So, it's always interesting when these kinds of product bans come up. It's something I know most Christian bookstores deal with in some shape or form, and I know stores who take no interest at all in product controversy and others who take a very hard line (no scandals, no imorality, nothing weird, etc. or at least, no products from people embroiled in such things). I've seen bookstores remove Mark Driscoll's products recently around his bestseller controversy. 

It is a struggle to honour one's leadership, to honour one's customers, and to try and retain your store's individual identity and uniqueness all at the same time, but it is a good struggle, and one that often produces great fruit in the hearts of those involved in these kinds of discussions. It's good to dig deeper. It's good to curate a little bit. While I do view the removal of this product as unncessary, one of the outcomes of this discussion was building a deeper rapport with my own leaders and of their colleagues in ministry. Who knows what dividends this strengthened relationship may result in down the road, both for our own lives, as well as for the health of our store and for access to the products our customers are looking for.

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