Holy Books, Chicago!

CBR_Logo2For more than 150 years, Chicago has been a welcoming center for myriad religions, home to a variety of religious centers, cultural enclaves, and gathering centers. Whether Evangelical, Jewish, Methodist, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, or any other persuasion, Chicago is a world-class religious center that has long served as a base for many faiths.

And, of course, Chicago is home to (how many?) more than 125 publishers, from mainstream houses that focus on general trade publishing to niche players that cater to a specific audience.

Add those two things together, and you get a city that is rich with religious publishers. In fact, Chicago has long been a mecca for religious publishers, and today we’ll take a look at a few of them in a religious publishing round-up.

moody 9780802454522It seems natural to start our tour with a look at Moody Publishers, an industry stalwart with humble beginnings, and one of Chicago’s first religious publishers. In 1894, Dwight L. Moody formed the Bible Institute Colportage Association (BICA) with the goal of promoting Christian books and providing an introduction to the gospel. Moody institutionalized large print runs, common trim sizes and bindings, and inexpensive paper to produce affordable books. His first title, All of Grace by Charles Spurgeon, is still in print—125 years after it was first published. BICA became Moody Publishers in 1941, and by that time nearly 34 million copies of sermons, doctrinal books, and other religious materials had been published, according to the company’s website.

Moody Publishers played a substantial role in the formation of the Christian Booksellers Association, which held its first convention in Chicago and originally incorporated in Illinois (the CBA is now headquartered in Colorado). Since its founding in 1950, the CBA has welcomed more than 1,700 Christian booksellers and other retailers as well as more than 500 Christian publishers. The CBA market is estimated to be more than $4.6 billion.

Today, Moody is home to five imprints, which together produce books, videos, DVDs, and other materials. Through its various products, Moody strives “to educate and edify the Christian and to evangelize the non-Christian by ethically publishing conservative, evangelical Christian literature and other media for all ages around the world.”

loyola 402690_LARGENearly two decades after Dwight Moody launched his eponymous publishing house, Loyola Press was founded. The Jesuit ministry publishes “resources that support children’s faith formation, language arts education, whole community catechesis, and the ongoing spiritual growth of adults through books and resources on a wide variety of topics including prayer, Catholic life, history, and Ignatian spirituality,” according to its website.

Loyola Press’s colorful series for children include “Voyages in English,” “Exercises in English,” “Bridges to Faith,” and “Confirmed in the Spirit.” The house publishes books, e-books, magazines, and mobile apps. In addition to learning materials for children, Loyola also publishes in the areas of fiction, history, and spirituality. Since 1912, Loyola has published books to support Catholic life. Today, the house has hundreds of titles in print, from curricular materials for children to ministry resources to sacraments.

acta 9780879464318Like Loyola, ACTA Publications has long focused on publishing books and resources for Catholic religious education. Founded in 1957, the house also has long published resources for marriage preparation and over the years has “broadened its editorial scope to include a wide variety of materials for those attempting to live out the Christian faith in their daily lives, on their jobs, with their families, and in their communities,” according to its website.

Over the years, ACTA has racked up a number of award-winning titles, including Seeking the Truth of Things by Al Gini, The Divine Dynamic by John Surette, and A Planet of Grace by Bernadette McCarver Snyder. The house continues to publish material that is specifically Catholic in nature, but in recent years has turned to a more ecumenical audience and branched out to publishing in the areas of community organizing and social justice.

Not long after ACTA got its start in Chicago, Tyndale House Publishers launched operations in the western suburbs. Founded in 1962 by Dr. Kenneth N. Tyndale, the house—originally located in Tyndale’s basement—initially was established to publish The Living Bible. The house’s early titles include Living Letters, which launched with a print run of 2,000 copies and later was used by Billy Graham as part of a wildly successful television promotion.

tyndale 978-1-4143-6641-8Today the Carol Stream-based house publishes a variety of titles and materials in a number of genres, including fiction, nonfiction, and children’s. Many readers are familiar with Tyndale’s best-selling authors, a number of whom have garnered wide crossover appeal. Some of the house’s key authors include Gina Holmes, Karen Kingsbury, Francine Rivers, and Joel C. Rosenberg.

From Carol Stream to Wheaton to Downers Grove to Chicago, a number of religious publishers have found a home here. Moody, Loyola, ACTA, and Tyndale are but a few of them. Others include Good News Publishers, InterVarsity Press, and Urban Ministries. (The list goes on and on; check out the “publishers” section of the blogroll for related links.) For those publishers whose missions include sharing the word of God, Chicago is a place they have faith in.

—Kelli Christiansen

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