LifeWay stores will not be carrying Amy Grant’s new Christmas album Tennessee Christmas.

LifeWay, the non-profit Christian store of the Southern Baptist Convention, is refusing to sell Amy Grant’s latest album for allegedly not being Christian enough. This is not the only headline LifeWay has made in recent times, since it stopped carrying Jen Hatmaker’s books in its 185 stores and online following reports that Hatmaker supports same-sex marriage. The decision to decline Amy Grant’s Christmas album has ignited a public conversation on the relevance of brick and mortar stores in a digital world, as well as what makes a Christian song “Christian enough.”

Tennessee Christmas -Oct. 21, 2016

Tennessee Christmas -Oct. 21, 2016

Amy Grant is a six-time Grammy Award winner whose latest album, released on October 21, is her first album in almost 20 years. The album is called Tennessee Christmas and features 13 new songs with a mixture of original recordings and Grant’s remake of popular Yuletide classics. Grant has sold over six million Christmas records and all her previous holiday albums have been certified gold or platinum by the RIAA.

LifeWay has carried Grant’s albums in the past, but it refused to have Tennessee Christmas in its stores. Marty King, the spokesman for LifeWay commented, “We don’t discuss why we make product decisions. We’re presented every week with thousands of new products that we can carry. There are hundreds of thousands of products that we could carry online or in our stores. We’re only able to carry a few thousand."

LifeWay’s decision led to the publishing of an opinion piece on the Washington Post by Grant’s manager, Jennifer Cooke. In the opinion piece, Cooke remarks, “There is an odd question and reality in the Christian music business: What is a ‘Christian enough’ song or project recorded by someone who is ‘Christian enough’ that deems it worthy of exposure and commercial viability via Christian radio and Christian retail?” She further goes on to state, “It was perplexing to me as a Christian to realize that to be promoted on the radio and in retail, each song really needed to be able to be neatly wrapped up in a ‘Jesus is the answer’ bow. Of course, I believe Jesus is the answer, but I also find him to be engaged in the midst of our humanity and that there is also something beautiful and holy to be explored in our humanness. But I wasn’t a gatekeeper and my opinion carried no weight (and still doesn’t).”

LifeWay’s competitor, Family Christian Stores is currently selling the Tennessee Christmas album. Grant responded to the opinion piece written by Cooke by saying:

“Having Jennifer Cooke in my life has helped me to look at the bigger picture of faith and love differently…time and time again. I appreciate her brain, her perspective and her heart.
Asking questions opens all of us up to the possibility of being willing to consider how we might live differently.
“We” is an important perspective to have.
“We” are in this life together.
“We” learn from each other.
“We” are all in process.
“We” are all loved by God…all of us.
How we communicate that experience is unique to each of us.
Unity is not about everybody being the same…it’s about all of us coming together…with our differences.
And with those differences, asking ourselves…
How will I show love today?

We respectfully accept Lifeway’s decision that my new Christmas album didn’t meet their criteria. Let’s all move on from that decision without arguing about it. But let’s not stop asking the questions about what it means to live in faith and reflect love to the world around us…”

Hatmaker has also suffered the same fate, with LifeWay claiming her statements in support for same sex marriage “contradict LifeWay’s doctrinal guidelines,” and have thus effectively removed her resources from the shelves of LifeWay’s stores.

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