Detecting Counterfeit Copies of Liturgy of the Ordinary

Friends, I mentioned this morning that approximately 15,000 counterfeit copies of my book Liturgy of the Ordinary have been sold on Amazon. Please click here to find out more details about what happened and how to respond. And here is CT’s great story on it.

Additionally, here are some photos that my publisher at IVP just sent me to help you to discern if the copy you purchased is an original or a counterfeit. Please note that not all counterfeit copies have these errors! You could have a counterfeit copy that does not have all of the errors listed here or that has other errors that are not listed here. It appears that counterfeiters corrected certain mistakes over time. But these photos will hopefully be a guide. Seeing the books side by side helps me see the differences. In addition to these photos, more ways to spot counterfeit books are listed in my earlier post.

Update: IVP issued this statement with a direct link to photos showing real vs. fake copies of my book.


Liturgy of the Ordinary Counterfeited--And how to respond!

I recently learned from my publisher, InterVarsity Press, that my book Liturgy of the Ordinary has been counterfeited and sold illegally.  Christianity Today released a thorough, helpful story about this today, reported by Kate Shellnutt.

Someone (or a group of people) has made high-quality, fake copies of Liturgy of the Ordinary, and taken over the “buy button “on Amazon under a fake name; when Amazon customers purchased my book, counterfeit books—not ones from IVP’s warehouse—were sold and delivered. When this happens, IVP gets no money from or record of the purchase, and I get no royalties. Counterfeiting books and selling counterfeit books are crimes. (This is a NYT story on Amazon and the surge of counterfeit books. This helps explain what happened with my book.)

We don’t know how long this has been happening, but IVP estimates that it’s been happening for around 9 months (though we can’t be sure without a more thorough investigation) with a loss of around $240,000 in retail sales. Suffice it to say, this represents a significant loss of profits, and shrinks my counted sales numbers, which may affect future contracts and advances.

So, readers, I need your help.

What can you do?

A). Please check your copies of Liturgy of the Ordinary to see if you possibly have a counterfeit book. There are thousands of counterfeit copies out there so you may have one.
The counterfeit books are generally high quality, but there are some noticeable differences that make them identifiable.
Here is what an IVP representative said about identifying counterfeit books: “It is very difficult to discern which books are legitimate copies, printed by IVP, and which ones are counterfeit. Some of the signs can include but are not limited to: lower quality paper, letters missing parts of their glyphs, and distorted colors on the book cover.”

None of these things are a hard and fast rule, but here are some differences that I have noticed:

I. The cover colors are slightly different. The green is less vibrant. The jelly colors look darker. The bread looks like slightly burnt toast.

II. So far, none of the counterfeits have the CT Book of the Year Medallion on the front cover. IVP put this medallion on the cover in January 2018. (Granted, there are legitimate older copies still being sold that do not have this medallion, and/or the counterfeiters could add this feature in the future.)

III. The counterfeit books also often (though not always) come shrink-wrapped.

B) If you have a counterfeit book, you possess stolen merchandise. This is not your fault! This is hard to prevent with Amazon’s current purchasing systems, and, if you are like me, you likely did not know that counterfeit books were anything to look out for!

[[[ I’m editing this post with this update from IVP that gives a few more details about counterfeits.
Update from my publisher IVP:
I do think the characteristics you already outlined are very helpful, so you could just continue to direct people there. Also very important: some of the counterfeit copies might have none of these issues and still be counterfeit.

Other issues:

-Annotation numbers throughout the book being in full size font, not superscript. This is not consistent—the copy I’m looking at has a large 1 on page 18, followed by superscript 2 and 3 later on the page.

-Condensing of words—the best example of this is Greg Jao’s name on the endorsements page. It looks like GregJao without the space. I can also see it on the subtitle at the start of chapter 2 on page 25.

-Incorrect running headers: The left page should always have the chapter title, the right page should always have the chapter subtitle. The copy I’m looking at has the previous chapter’s subtitle on the left page (p. 26)

-Missing character glyphs—the best example of this is on page 74 in the chapter title. The Y in “my” (Fighting with My Husband) is missing the lower part of the letter

-Darker section breaks (the little graphics throughout the chapters) are darker, like nearly black. In one of our copies, they should be a pale gray.

Some things that COULD indicate that the book is counterfeit, but are NOT definitive:

-8th print run. All of the copies we have are in the eighth print run, which is the last run before we added the CT Award. You can see that on the bottom of the copyright page.

-Score mark on the cover—I’ve been told that it’s possible that this happens on our own copies, but it’s less likely (as in, the printer could add it without us asking for it). That being said, all the copies we’ve got that are counterfeit have the score mark.

-Purchased from Amazon in the last 9 months (it’s possible there were counterfeits outside this window, but we think it’s less likely)]]]

To see photos comparing real and counterfeit copies of my book, go here.

Here is what you should do if you suspect your book is a counterfeit copy:

1.   If you believe you have received a counterfeit edition, please return the book to Amazon and ask for full credit.

2.     Please note the seller from whom you purchased the counterfeit edition and send that information to We are attempting to stop the sales of these editions through Amazon's marketplace re-sellers.

3.     Please rate the seller experience low on Amazon. This will help decrease the visibility of the re-sellers who have made counterfeit editions available.

4.     If you desire to ensure you are buying authentic editions, visit the following URL: This will allow you to buy from InterVarsity Press at 40% off     plus free shipping for all addresses in the U.S.

5.     If Amazon refuses to grant a full refund for the purchase of the counterfeit edition, please email and IVP will be in touch with you on a special price for us to replace the counterfeit editions at the best possible price.

Also, if you bought a counterfeit book, can you let me know through twitter or the comments section of this post and tell me when you purchased your copy (and, if you remember, the name listed as “sold by” on Amazon).

Additionally, if you have an illegal book, consider re-purchasing a legitimate legal book for yourself or a friend. If you enjoyed Liturgy of the Ordinary, I’d invite you to purchase a copy or copies directly from IV Press ( or from Hearts and Minds Bookstore ( or a brick-and-mortar store. Purchasing this way ensures that you don’t have a stolen book and that the author (me) and publisher are paid for their work.

C. UPDATE: Earlier, I posted that the Amazon site said, “Sold by and ships from Amazon” [or similar wording] that this is a way to ensure that you will not get a fake copy.

However, we have just learned that some customers received counterfeits from Amazon directly (not 3rd party sellers). IVP is inquiring about why that may be the case.

If you have received a fake copy, follow the steps listed above. You can return the copy to Amazon. If you have any questions, contact IVP at

[[[Update on July 11, 2019:
In a meeting with an Amazon representative on Wednesday, July 10, Amazon confirmed that some counterfeit copies were shipped directly from Amazon. This was the result of a now-discontinued co-mingling program that Amazon used for some of its books. Fake editions were inadvertently mixed in with our good inventory. Upon discovering this, Amazon “quarantined” and then destroyed those counterfeit copies.

In that same meeting, the Amazon representative promised to provide a full refund to any customer who bought a counterfeit copy, no matter how long ago they were purchased. This includes fakes from re-sellers as well as those that were inadvertently mixed in with Amazon’s good inventory. All the customers need to do is present the order number, note the reason, and request a refund.]]]

D). If you pray, I’d ask that you pray in a couple of ways.

I. Pray for the “bad guys.” Our two kids overheard my husband and I talking about this situation last week, so we had to explain to them about how some “bad guys” stole from our family. They were full of good questions. And we talked to them about how we need to pray for and forgive the people who committed this crime. We prayed together for their blessing and for their repentance, and my six year old—whose heart is 97% gold and 3 % cotton candy—prayed that the “bad guys” would “read Mama’s book and become Christians.” I would love for all of us to join her in her good, kind prayer and ask God for a redemption story out of this. Maybe it will be a dramatic—a Jean Valjean “I have bought your soul for God” with these candle sticks situation. Crazier things have happened in the kingdom of God. Maybe it is a more subtle story of redemption. Either way, pray for God to use this situation for good and for His glory. It would make it worth it.

II. Pray for wisdom for IVPress, Amazon, and me. We each have decisions to make about how best to proceed now that we know that there are counterfeit books out there. This is a situation that IVP has never faced before and they in particular need prayer for wisdom about how to respond.
I also have never faced this before and need wisdom about how to most wisely respond moving forward.
Amazon executives and decision-makers also need wisdom and motivation about how to respond to improve their systems. Please pray for all involved.

On a final, personal note, I wrote in Liturgy of the Ordinary, “Today is the proving ground of what I believe and of whom I worship.” This latest situation, as much as it sucks and is disappointing, is another chance to know God more deeply and see his kindness, love, and redemption. If nothing else, it’s been a very palpable, gritty reminder to “not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…where thieves break in and steal. But to store up treasures in heaven….where thieves do not break in and steal.”

I want to thank each and every one of you readers for reading and sharing my book—whether your copy was legitimate or not. I’m grateful for you and for the work this book has done and continues to do in the world.

Update: IVP released a statement, which includes photos comparing real v. counterfeit copies:

Service of Memorial and Lament

In January 2018, my husband and I planned a Service of Memorial and Lament for our church. We invited all those who have experienced the loss of children in utero through a miscarriage or a regretted abortion, the loss of children through stillbirth, or the long ache of infertility (and anyone else who wanted to come to worship with us and walk alongside these in grief). 

I mentioned this service on Twitter and Facebook, and I have never had so many requests for resources, the liturgy we used, or a sermon recording, so I decided to post this here for easy access for the many of you who have asked us for help or resources in making this kind of service. Our final service also included music (but that's not listed below).

 Unfortunately, we did not record my sermon in the service (it was an oversight--this is what happens when the priests are doing set up). Below are my general notes, but I went substantially off script and 'riffed' in my actual sermon, so that part won't be captured here. (I'm sad I didn't record it--Sorry!) 

Also, this liturgy is drawn from the ACNA's Eucharistic Liturgy and an alternative service book called Common Worship from the Church of England.  My husband Jonathan assembled this order of worship. 

Service of Memorial and Lament

Word of Welcome and Introduction

Opening Sentences


For he has not despised or abhorred
    the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
    but has heard, when he cried to him (Psa. 22:24)

I will comfort you, says the Lord, as a mother comforts her child and you shall be comforted. (Isaiah 66:13a)

Celebrant:       The Lord be with you.

People:            And with your spirit.

Celebrant:       Let us pray.


God of all mercies, you make nothing in vain and love all that you have made.

Teach us to lament what we have lost and call upon your name, comfort us in our grief, renew our hopes for the future, and console us by the knowledge of your unfailing love, for only you have the words of life. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Silence follows.

The Lessons

The people stand. 

Celebrant: We will pray Psalm 88 responsively by half verse.

Psalm 88


Celebrant: The Holy Gospel of our Lord according to John.

People: Glory to you, Lord Christ.

John 11:17-27

After the reading,

Celebrant: The Holy Gospel of our Lord.

People: Thanks be to God.


Silence follows.


The Lord Jesus is the lover of his people and our only sure hope. Let us ask him to deepen our faith and sustain us in this dark hour. Jesus, you became a little child for our sake, sharing our human life, our frailties, and our vulnerabilities. To you we pray:

All: Bless us and keep us, O Lord.

You welcomed children, promising them your kingdom. We commend to you the children we have lost and ask that they would grow to full stature and be eternally joyful with you in the great day of your Resurrection. To you we pray:

All: Bless us and keep us, O Lord.

You comforted those who mourned the loss of children and friends. Comfort us who live with great sorrows and restore our hopes for the future. To you we pray:

All: Bless and keep us, O Lord.

O God, with your gospel you bring good news to the barren. Comfort those who cry out to you in the midst of infertility, and give us assurance that with you nothing is wasted or will remain incomplete, and uphold them with your love. To you we pray:

All: Bless and keep us, O Lord.

You promised to raise up those who believe in you, just as you were raised up in glory by the Father. May we and the children that have gone before us through miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, and untimely death also rise with you at the last day. Let us hold before the throne of grace those children by name, whom we have committed to the care of God. And let us remember now those who are dear to us who need healing in body, mind, and spirit.

To you we pray:

All: Bless and keep us, O Lord.

Loving Father, your servant Mary, the mother of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, stood by the cross while her Son was dying. May that same Jesus, victorious over death, risen and ascended, give comfort to grieving parents, and strengthen their faith you, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

Silence follows.

The Confession

Celebrant: We pray to you also for the forgiveness of our sins.


Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed. We have not loved you with our whole hearts. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry, and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us, that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Amen.

The Absolution


Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who in his great mercy has promised forgiveness of sins to all those who sincerely repent and with true faith turn to him, have mercy upon you, pardon and deliver you from all your sins, confirm and strengthen you in all goodness, and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Peace

Celebrant:       The peace of the Lord be always with you.

People:            And with your spirit.

The Holy Eucharist

The Great Thanksgiving

The People Stand. The Celebrant faces them and says

The Lord be with you.

People:            And with your spirit.

Celebrant:       Lift up your hearts.

People:            We lift them to the Lord.

Celebrant:       Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

People:            It is just and right so to do.

The Celebrant continues

It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, through Jesus Christ our Lord: For he is your living Word from before time and for all ages; by him you created all things, and by him you make all things new. Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who forever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your Name:

The Sanctus

Celebrant and People:

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

The Prayer of Consecration

The People stand or kneel. The Celebrant continues

Lord God our Father: When we had sinned against you and become subject to evil and death, you sent your only Son into the world for our salvation; by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary he became flesh and dwelt among us. On the cross he offered himself once for all as our Redeemer, that by his suffering and death we might be saved. By his resurrection he broke the bonds of death, trampling Hell and Satan under his feet. After he ascended to your right hand in glory, you sent your Holy Spirit, that we might become your holy people.

On the night that he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks, he broke it,* and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take, eat; this is my Body which is given for you: Do this in remembrance of me.” After supper, Jesus took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink this, all of you; for this is my Blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for you, and for many, for the forgiveness of sins: Whenever you drink it, do this in remembrance of me.”

Now sanctify these gifts that they may become for us the Body and Blood of your Son, Jesus Christ. Sanctify us also, that we may be filled with your Holy Spirit and manifest your presence and power in the world. Therefore, heavenly Father, as we joyfully proclaim our Lord’s life, death, and resurrection, we offer ourselves, our souls and bodies, as a living sacrifice. Grant that we who partake of this Holy Communion may receive the Body and Blood of your Son Jesus Christ, and be made one body with him, that he may dwell in us, and we in him. At the last day bring us with all your saints into the fullness of your heavenly kingdom, where we shall see our Lord face to face.

By him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and forever. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

The Celebrant then says

And now as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to pray:


Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, 8 Holy Communion, Ancient Text as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

The Fraction

Celebrant:       Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, once for all upon the cross.

People:            Therefore let us keep the feast.

The Ministration of Communion

The congregation is invited to come forward to receive the Eucharist and receive anointing with oil and healing prayer.

Prayer after Communion


The Almighty Lord, who is a strong tower to all who put their trust in him, to whom all things in heaven, on earth, and under the earth bow and obey: Be now and evermore your defense, and make you know and feel that the only Name under heaven given for health and salvation is the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.



Officiant:         Let us go in peace.

People:            Thanks be to God.


My Homily (in part): 

Mary Allerton, a poet and a puritan who sailed to America on the Mayflower, wrote a poem after she birthed a stillborn child with these lines:
“There is no time to grieve now, there is no time.

There is only time for the labor in the cold.”

Nearly 400 years later, I sat with a woman speaking  about her own sorrow, and she said (something like), “I am grieving but I don’t have time for grief. There is so much  work to do.” The similarity struck me. Here are two women in completely different circumstances, four centuries apart, and, without knowing it, they spoke nearly the exact same words. They shared the same ache.

When we face deep grief in our culture, there can be a deep pressure to move on, to look at the bright side, to be productive, to get over it.

And I want to just acknowledge as a woman that we carry this grief in our very body. That our very cells seem to remember children we’ve lost or those we have longed for and could not have. We cannot move on without our very bodies reminding us and carrying us back to grief, sometimes when we least expect it.

The way women can bring forth life is amazing, it’s miraculous, but the loss of that life is a pain that is deep and real and often unspoken.

And especially in the face of such grief, there is pressure in our culture to move on quickly—you can hear trite phrases about God needing another angel, or that if you have more faith maybe you could have children, or that ‘there’s always next time.’

But we are gathering together now to say: There is time to grieve. There is time.

And when you  grieve, you do not grieve alone. We grieve together as a church.

This year, I lost two children to miscarriage, one was a late miscarriage and our baby’s ashes are interred here in this sanctuary. And I often wonder, daily, weekly, who this child would have been, we would have had a son, and I miss him.  And I weep.

Soon after I began the process of ordination, a close friend came to me and before she was really walking with God in relationship with Christ, she had had two abortions and she regretted it everyday. And she began to cry as she told me how she kept the ages of her children in her head, and when she met kids that age, she’d think about the children she would have had. And she wept.

This year, we have friends who lost a child to stillbirth. And the pain and disappointment and horrible emptiness they are facing is relentless. And they weep.

And I do not know this pain fully but we have walked closely with friends who are grieving infertility and asking ‘Why God? Why have you—the God who opens so many wombs in scripture—not opened mine?’ And my friends have wept.

There are other losses that may have drawn you here tonight, losses I don’t know or cannot name. But we are grieving with you.

But it is not only your church that grieves with you. God, the lover of our souls, grieves with you, with us. 

Our God is the God who sees us.

Psalm 139 tells us that God saw us—and our lost children, for those who’ve lost children—when we were not even yet formed (You saw my unformed substance)

And we find Hagar, an Egyptian slave, weeping in Genesis 16, weeping in grief, and God speaks to her and she says to him, “You are the God who sees me.”

Isn’t that what we want? To know that God sees us in our pain.

In Psalm 88, our Psalm tonight, we hear the deep lament, the deep sense of rejection that the Psalmist feels as he asks, why do you reject me? Why do you hide your face? Why Lord, do you not see me?

And then in this remarkable story of Jesus. When Jesus declares that He is the Resurrection and the Life…He doesn’t just say that he gives resurrection and life but that He himself is the Resurrection and the life.

And this goes just past our gospel reading for today but Mary, Martha’s sister, runs to Jesus and she weeps with him. And scripture tells us that “Jesus saw her weeping.” He saw her weeping. And those with her. And he didn’t tell her to cheer up, look at the bright side, get over it, or get back to work. But the scriptures say that he was “Deeply-- in his depths-- moved and troubled.” This is the God who sees us. And this is the God who sees you, in your grief.

And then they tell the Lord, “Come and see” where Lazarus lay. And scripture tells us that Jesus, the eternal son of God, wept.

Why did he weep? He had just called himself the resurrection and life.

This is the resurrection and life weeping at the site of death and the grave.

He must have known what he was about to do, he must have known that  he was about to raise his friend from the dead. He wasn’t weeping because his friend was lost. Richard Lints, a professor of mine in seminary, said that in this moment Jesus looked into death, he looked and saw—peered into the depths-- the brutal reality of death, and pain, and grief that humans face. And he hated it.

If the very Resurrection and Life can we weep, we can weep. And we can know—without a doubt—that he weeps with us.

Why does God allow loss of children? Why does he allow disappointment? And infertility? And death? And broken dreams? And these sad, sad things that happen to us?

I do not know.

But I know that God has wept. And I know that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.

The invitation tonight is to look into your losses and see them, just as Jesus did. See the horror of death. And you can hate it. Jesus did. I hate it.

But we weep as those with hope. Because we know the Resurrection and the Life.

Women in this room, we bear grief in  our very bodies, and so did Jesus, on the cross, he took all human sin, all human loss, on his very body. But he bore the Resurrection in His very body. And because of that, we will too. We will too. And our children will too.

Wherever you are tonight-- sad, angry, confused, hopeful, not feeling much at all-- God sees you, God knows you, God welcomes you. And you can invite God into wherever you are. He sees the depths of you. And in that deep place of grief and loss, He is the Resurrection and the Life.



While I Was Out--a bunch of stuff you may have missed

It's s snow-covered day here. Being from central Texas, this still always feels like a miracle, even as the Pittsburghers go about their day as any other. All I want to do is watch the snow fall and drink hot tea. But, alas, the city has not gotten the memo that snow is some kind of otherworldly eucatastrophe, so I am pulled along in its busy wake. 

Since I didn't update this site for many months, there was quite a bit of work that never made it here. I have updated the essays and interviews site with some (not all) of the works of the past many months, but wanted to mention here a bit of what I failed to post. 

First, the book. End-of-the-year lists are coming out these days and though my book was technically a 2016 release, it released so late in the year (December of 2016) that many count it as a 2017 book. I am very grateful and honored for LoTO to be included on Missio Alliance's Top 15 Essential Reads of 2017. And In All Things 2017 Top Book List. I am also so honored that it won an IVP Reader's Choice Award. (Also, IVP is offering discounts on all winning books so check that out.) If you haven't bought the book yet, please do. If you have, it makes a great Christmas gift. Give it to a friend with a loaf of bread or homemade jam. And there shall be much rejoicing and revelry and frolicking and ballyhoo. 

On this year anniversary of the book release, I want to thank all those who have read, shared, reviewed, and supported the book. I am very grateful to you. 

In March, I got to review The Perils of "Privilege" for CT Magazine (my review is called Check Your Privilege Obsession). I had not heard of this book until CT asked me to review it, and I was wary that it might be a kind of anti-privilege (over) reaction. But it was a really important take on a conversation that we really must (but often aren't) having. It adds important complexity to the ways we use and misuse this evolving, and increasingly weaponized, term. Check out my review and the book.  As a side note, I was stopped by more strangers when reading this book than any other I've ever read. People on airplanes, at coffeeshops, at the park would lean over to me and say, "Hey, excuse me, what are you reading?  What is it about?". They glimpsed the title and were intrigued. Suffice it to say, this is a topic people are hungry to talk (and read) about. 

I was also grateful to get to write this little piece on home (with a cameo by Lyle Lovett) for Jen Pollock Michel's site. Check it out and her new book Keeping Place.  In April, I published a piece at The Well called An Open Letter to Men Who Broke the Billy Graham Rule, as a way of thanking men who have invested in me. And in October I wrote a piece for IVP and the Apprentice Gathering (which I spoke at in October) called Imagining Orthodoxy. In it, I explore the relationship between beauty and truth. I really like this piece, even though I think about seven people read it, mostly my ever-loyal friends. In general, I'm interested in the relationship between orthodoxy and the imagination, in doctrine and desire. So if you missed it, check it out. 

Lastly, I get asked often why I am for women's ordination. It's a completely valid question, but also requires quite a lot of explanation and exegesis...and is a rather long story. I wanted to get the basic ideas in one place and accessible to people without having to write a book. So my friend Shane Blackshear was kind enough to host my husband and I on his podcast Seminary Dropout so we could tell our story and present some of our argument. Find it here: A Biblical, Historical, and Pastoral Defense of Women In Ministry

(Also, my husband and I --stupidly-- did this together in the same room, as opposed to both on skype with headphones, so the sound was a bit off. I'm sorry for that. You still mostly get it all; it's just choppy). 


The Women, Internet, and Authority Trilogy (if you will)

Talking over ideas about bloggers and church history with a friend in a coffeeshop, I had no idea what trouble that conversation would get me in.  I essentially said, "You know, if people care about orthodoxy, they should actually seek to empower women institutionally." (But it was an hour long conversation, so I  suppose there was more to say than that.) My friend, who is an excellent editor, said "Hey, you should write on that for us," at which point, if either of us had any sense at all, we should have run screaming from the building in terror. But we didn't. I wrote the piece.  We worried it may get some push back from complementarian men, who might think I was trying to trick them into ordaining women through the back door. And it did. A little. The piece provoked an expectedly large response. It resonated with many people. Most of the pushback came from female bloggers and some progressives, which honestly caught me a bit off guard.  Anyway, I think I got more negative (and at times, vitriolic) responses to this (original) piece than most anything I've written, but it did indeed start a long, needed, broad, and ongoing conversation about women, church authority, ecclesiology, celebrity, "personal branding," and evangelicalism, and, for that, I am very thankful (And, as I said, it also got a lot of very positive responses, and in some cases, motivated institutional change and debate, for which I am also very grateful) . 

As a word of caution, my argument in the original piece was unfortunately misrepresented and twisted by some (even if unintentionally), so please don't take someone else's word about what I've argued here.  I will post the original piece and two follow up pieces together. I do not plan on writing on this again (if I can help it), but if you want further information on this argument, I'd point you to the interview section of this site, where there are several podcasts where I address the topic. 
My desire in all of this is that the church is served and strengthened and that she have female leaders that are every bit as institutionally and ecclesially vetted, credentialed, trained, equipped, celebrated, sent, accountable, and empowered as men.  
The original piece in CT Women: Who's In Charge of the Christian Blogosphere? 
The follow-up (a few days later) on my site: A Response
And finally, months later, this on the In All Things site (Thank you to In All Things for devoting a series to this topic and to Katelyn Beaty for helping me edit and shape this piece): A Response to the Responses: On Women, Celebrity, Institutions, and Authority

New CT Piece on Authority in the Church and Social Media: A Response to Critics

I had a piece come out in CT Women last week. You can find it here.

This piece began months ago as a conversation with a friend over coffee and was written with a great deal of hemming and hawing over the last several months. 

When it finally came out, it created quite a splash and not a little controversy. The reaction was far more vitriolic and far more widespread than anyone had expected.  I expected folks to disagree (especially about ecclesiology). I did not expect the sorts of criticism I got, nor the wide-ranging reactions or wide-reach of this piece.  To say the least, it seems to have hit a nerve. 

Though I rarely write on my site and mainly use it to post articles in edited venues, the response to this particular piece has been so overwhelming that I want to address a few things here.  

First, there have been hundreds of positive responses to this essay, and I deeply appreciate the tweets, emails, and messages I’ve received from both friends and strangers about this piece. The responses I’ve heard of from pastors, denominational leaders, fellow writers, and readers to my piece have been profoundly encouraging to me. This piece helped spark conversations in denominations about “more ecclesially located avenues in our church for gifted and trained women teachers and leaders”  (in the words of one pastor who wrote me) and, for that, I am deeply grateful.  (Also, if you have written me and I have not gotten back to you, I’m sorry. I have gotten a lot of messages and have been offline a lot. I do appreciate the encouragement!) 

There has also been quite a lot of criticism of the piece, mainly on twitter.  I am not going to address every bit of criticism here (which would be impossible). Some of the criticism has seemed unfair or disengaged from the actual text of the article. Some questioned why I wrote primarily about women (even though the piece was commissioned by CT Women for women.) Others seemed to ignore important qualifications and nuances I included (or at least tried to include) in the piece.

That said, some critics have provided helpful criticism and questions that I think are really important to acknowledge and address. The thoughtful criticism I’ve received from careful readers is a welcomed and, indeed, needed part of this conversation. There are three objections in particular that I think are worth addressing: 

1. Many have pointed out that the problem I’m addressing of public teachers being disembedded from larger institutions and accountability is not a new problem for evangelicalism or for Protestantism more generally.

This is most certainly true. I am under no illusions that the “crisis of authority” I describe is a product of social media, even if the advent of the internet yields its most recent iteration.

My original draft for this piece was something like 3,500 words long. Most web essays are 800-1200 words. I was committed to keeping this piece under 2,000 words, but because of that-- and because the piece was specifically in a series addressing women’s discipleship-- I couldn’t address the longstanding cultural and theological trends that have brought us here. 

In the original drafts, I had much more about the printing press and crisis over authority we saw in the Protestant Reformation. However, in this final version all that remained was one sentence: “Just as the invention of the printing press helped spark the Protestant Reformation and created a crisis of authority, the advent of social media has catalyzed a new crisis in the church.”

In the original draft I wrote:
“Most scholars agree that part of the sociological impetus behind the Protestant Reformation was the invention of the printing press. Changing ideas about church authority coupled with the ability to disseminate these new ideas en masse created a crisis of authority: Who gets to speak on behalf of the church? Who decides what is true Christian orthodoxy? 

These questions loomed large, yet even in this new world of Protestantism, there remained a belief that teachers and pastors need accountability, hierarchy, and church governance. Though they rejected their contemporary Roman Catholicism, Calvin and Luther often reached back to earlier church councils in their teaching; Calvin proclaimed “no one can have God as father without the church as mother;” and Luther saw church discipline as one of the marks of the “true church.” In other words, the Reformers still believed that authority came from the church and from the scriptures. They still maintained boundaries on what leaders could and could not teach if they were to be considered Christian leaders. They also required teachers to be trained theological scholars….Even among the Reformed, there remained a deep conviction that orthodoxy was to be protected by the church and that the church itself could confer or revoke authority.”

Just this week I came upon this quote from an early 20th century Jesuit priest named Alban Goodier, commenting on the challenges presented by the printing press:

“The multiplication of books, with almost no supervision, the opportunity given to anyone to teach what he liked, the leaving of the simple and uneducated at the mercy of any clever sophist, has so added to the spiritual confusion that even the spiritually-minded has often been compelled to ask: What is truth'?”

He’s essentially wrestling (with old media) with the same tensions I find myself wrestling with about new media. There is nothing new under the sun. 

Yet, even after advent of the printing press and the Reformation, there was still a notion that public Christian teachers were held to higher standards of accountability and that the church was a protector and preserver of orthodoxy or “the deposit of faith.” 

However, crucial questions remained about church governance but were compounded by revivalism, American individualism, anti-institutionalism, and what Nathan Hatch calls the “democratization of American religion.”  (I touch on this a bit in the piece by naming my concern about one iteration of this, megachurch pastors. However, all of these trends pre-date the rise of megachurches.)

The current evangelical resistance to church authority was certainly gotten honestly and did not emerge out of nowhere.

Given the response I have received, I now wish I’d included more about these broader themes (even if it made the essay longer and more boring to those who, unlike me, don’t find 4000 words on the printing press irresistible :-)).

Still, it’s worth noting that these latent trends in evangelicalism are accelerated and more potent combined with the radical individualism and democratizing forces of new media, mass-marketing, and “personal branding.”  

An early draft of the piece asked the question: "Does every Christian with a computer hold equal authority to teach and lead others in the doctrines and practices of the church?" This is certainly not a question that applies only to women. I'd love readers of this article to wrestle with this question and, if the answer is no, ask how we faithfully draw lines when determining who is a teacher and church leader, and how we draw on the truth of scripture and the wisdom of church practice to do so. 

There is so much more to be said about all of this—literally volumes and volumes can be and have been written on this. I hope this is just the beginning of a broader conversation. 

2. Some have felt that my piece is disempowering of lay people. If I communicated that in any way, I apologize. 

I have benefitted immensely from the writing and teaching of lay people. If you read my book, you may have noticed that I quote many, many lay people. I named my daughter after Flannery O’Connor and Dorothy Day, both of whom were lay writers and are heroes of mine. My life has been quite honestly changed by the teaching and ministry of lay Christians. 

I tried to acknowledge lay writers in my piece, saying, “To be clear, I am not suggesting that a woman must be ordained in order to blog, publish, or speak. A formal recognition of authority and accountability can be called commissioning, endorsement, partnership, or something else.” This part of the essay is focused on women, but I have benefitted from the writing of both women and men who are not ordained. 

Yet, this new technology gives some lay people such broad reach and influence that they essentially function as public teachers and preachers for the church. This reality coupled with a low-church ecclesiology of many evangelicals may mean that lay leaders with tremendous influence as public teachers are in no church, a church that does not practice church discipline or oversight in any meaningful way, or that simply has no standards of belief or practice whatsoever.

The greater the influence and power a person yields, the more explicit, public, and formal structures of accountability and transparency need to be.

I would love to see creative ways that these teachers who wield broad influence can have more overt authority and accountability in ecclesial institutions, while remaining lay leaders. I am not precisely sure, nor is it my place to say for other traditions, what this will look like. It could look like theological writing and/or lay speakers guilds affiliated with denominations; it could look like denominations “commissioning” writers for ministry, it could look like parachurch organizations (with clear statements and standards of belief and practice) that form among lay writers and teachers; it could look like something else altogether (that is far better than anything I can now imagine).  It could simply mean that writers commit themselves to being parts of denominations or parachurch groups that have clearly defined and public statements of faith and practice that they uphold. There is also a conversation to be had here about the role of publishing houses and editors in conferring both authority and accountability (I hope someone will write on that).

I am frankly not equipped to say how each tradition and ecclesial group ought to respond to new technology and the questions about teaching authority, accountability, and church governance that it raises. But I do know that the church cannot just passively say, “It’ll probably work itself out.” There needs to be an active and creative conversation about what it means to respond responsibly, faithfully, and institutionally to the proliferation of teachings and teachers brought to us through social media. Otherwise, the tail of new technology will inevitably end up wagging the dog of church authority (and, consequently, orthodoxy). 

Some critics have said that because we have new, radically democratic technology, we need to throw out old notions of church governance all together. But I’m saying we need to take the old wisdom of the church over millennia and creatively apply it to this new technological age. We need to recognize and embrace the real good this technology provides without letting go of 2000 years of wise church practice. 

3. Some have criticized the piece for not acknowledging the way the institutional church has silenced and oppressed women and persons of color. In my mind, this criticism is the most important one I have received. 

And it is very legitimate.  Although I do mention how women have been “marginalized or silenced in the church for far too long,” I wish I’d spent more time explaining how I can invite others to submit to an institutional church that has done much damage and waged much violence, even in the name of the Prince of Peace.  I am sorry I did not.

(If you are interested in how I hold together the need for and goodness of the visible, institutional church with its many sins, I write about this more extensively in Chapter 9 of Liturgy of the Ordinary). 

The church has been and is, undeniably, a remarkably sinful and broken institution. Yet, it remains, certainly mysteriously and in spite of herself, the beloved bride of Christ and an agent of redemption on earth. If we want the church to be more of the holy, faithful body she is called to be, we must never give up on Christ’s reforming work within the church. And we have to work institutionally. 

I recognize my privilege as a white woman who is ordained (even in a denomination divided over whether women should be ordained). Not all women have that option or experience. While I am wary of some of the ways that term is weaponized online (more on that here), I do agree that it is a profound privilege to be ordained. But whatever privilege I have I want to use, in part, to help women and people of color into places of overt authority in church institutions. This is why the entire section addressing the church calls for more overt places of institutional authority for women (whether in complementarian or egalitarian places). But if we are to step into greater institutional authority, we have to be willing to take on the mantle of institutional accountability. We cannot have one without the other. 

Misogyny and racism still very much exist in the church. But I think change has to come institutionally. Recently, there's been lots of needed conversation about and concern over how consumerism and mass-marketing affects women's discipleship and the demands and malformation-–and often unexamined systemic sexism and racism--inherent in “personal branding” in the Christian publishing and speaking world (I share this concern). 

I believe that if we don’t find ways to work institutionally and to build institutions larger than ourselves, all we will have left is personal branding-- we’ll have a few big names of female leaders, which is good, but the church will not be better for our grandchildren or their grandchildren. I know this kind of institutional engagement is difficult in places where women are marginalized, which is why my piece calls the church (institution) to make space for female voices and to formally recognize the authority female teachers currently wield. 

At the end of the day, here I stand: The church, in so many ways, is a sinful mess and tragically responsible for all manner of evil and oppression, yet still each Sunday I stand up before my congregation and proclaim that I believe in “one, holy catholic and apostolic church.’ I do not think that Jesus has given up on his church—visible or invisible. I want the church to preserve the “deposit of faith” that we’ve inherited and to live out that faith lovingly as an “alternative polis” and a faithful, loving people. And I feel a responsibility to work toward that institutionally and call others to do the same.

In conclusion, I am sure this does not adequately address all my critics or these particular criticisms, but I offer these responses humbly, knowing that my piece was certainly not perfect. Though I’ve been saddened about the vitriolic nature that some of these conversations have assumed, I am very grateful for a great many of the conversations that it is spawning. 

I hope it and the conversations it has sparked helps us in some small way to live more faithfully as Christ's beloved bride. For the ways it fails to do so, I am truly sorry. 

Note: for the sake of my own emotional and spiritual health and the needs of my family and my local congregation, I cannot meaningfully engage this conversation on twitter. Over the weekend, I had hundreds of responses to my pieces and to reply thoughtfully to all of them would require more time than I am able to give.  I will mostly be unable to further engage online.

My book has a cover!

A lovely cover. Big thanks to InterVarsity Press (IVP)! 

This releases in December...why don't you go ahead and plan on getting it for everyone for Christmas. With a jar of jam. To match the lovely cover. 

Lots of Interviews and a piece about chronic pain

Hello to you faithful friends or strangers who happen on this site!

So in November, I finished the first draft of my first book (Woohoo!) and then, quite intentionally, took a break from writing for a bit. And also, quite unintentionally, didn't update this site at all.

So a lot was published in the meantime. 

First, interviews. The amazing Andie Roeder Moody interviewed me for Christianity Today about pluralism and writing for Christianity Today. You can read that interview (which was very fun to do because Andie is great and asks great questions) here

Oh, also, in this interview I talked for the first time publicly about my upcoming book so check that out!

Then, I interviewed some other people.

First, I talked with friends of mine from the band Rain for Roots about their project Waiting Songs and helping kids in to Lent. See that here at the Anglican Pastor: Tish's interview with Rain for Roots.

Then, I talked to my friend Laura Waters Hinson on her newest documentary on the life of Lilias Trotter, Many Beautiful Things. Check it out here at the Well: Tish's interview with Laura Waters Hinson.

Also, somewhere in there, I wrote a piece about migraines and my struggle with chronic pain. Interestingly, I got more letters and feedback on this piece than almost any I've written. A lot of folks out there either struggle deeply with chronic pain or want to offer remedies to those who do. If you wrote me about this piece and I haven't yet responded, I am sorry! There was a lot of emails. I do appreciate the notes though! See the piece, here

The Problem of a Mixed History and a Happy Announcement

I am grateful to be in Christianity Today this month. This piece emerged during the controversy over flying the confederate flag (which I argued should be taken down). But it deals with a larger question: How do we contend with evil in history--in our families, culture, and in the church? How can we be honest, gracious, humble, and repentant together? How do we avoid pitfalls of traditionalism (on one hand) and progressivism (on the other)? 
Check it out here. And tell me your thoughts.

(Also, I must gush that the print version's graphic design is gorgeous. Those CT graphic designers captured the tone of the piece beautifully and creatively. Thank God for good graphic designers, right? They are amazing).

Also, this piece is locked for now and only open to subscribers. When I crack the code (which is not hard except for Luddites like me), I'll post an unlocked version.

Lastly, in my bio in this piece there is announcement: I'm writing a book. It will be published with IVP.  It will be out sometime next year or possibly early 2017. There is more to say (and I will, in fact, say more) on that but for now, "HEY GUYS, I have a book coming out." I hope you read it. (I hope I finish writing it :-)). More to come...