Progressive Religious Publishers Foster Change Through Faith

Social justice topics dominate new titles from Chalice Press, Brazos Press, an imprint of Baker Publishing Group, and Church Publishing. These publishers share a progressive vision that incorporates faith as a foundation for powerful social justice movements. These new books showcase authors grounded in their own faith traditions writing for a broad, inclusive audience of religious and secular readers alike.


Since the 1688 Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery, progressive American Christians have played a historic role as advocates for human dignity and social justice. Quaker activists Lucretia Mott and Abby Kelly Foster fought for the abolition of slavery and women’s suffrage. Theologians like James H. Cone and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. drew upon the gospels in their fight for civil rights and racial equality. Progressive Christian publishers are continuing that tradition in the 21 st century by publishing diverse and marginal voices to address contemporary societal issues.

Social justice topics dominate new titles from Chalice Press, Brazos Press, an imprint of Baker Publishing Group, and Church Publishing. These publishers share a progressive vision that incorporates faith as a foundation for powerful social justice movements. These new books showcase authors grounded in their own faith traditions writing for a broad, inclusive audience of religious and secular readers alike.

Contemporary Christian activist authors champion the oppressed by examining history and imagining a more just future. They offer hope and practical steps for making real change in individuals and in large systems. A passion for justice, rooted in scripture, is a common theme during these times of political and social upheaval.

While these titles were selected before the pandemic, readers seeking resources will also find expert advice for coping with the stress of current events. In addition to social justice topics, these new titles focus on issues surrounding mortality, recovery from addiction, community-building techniques, and developing a routine spiritual practice.

Chalice Press

“Our dictum is, ‘You want to change the world. So do we,’” says Brad Lyons, president and publisher of St. Louis–based Chalice Press. Founded in 1911, Chalice Press is focused on publishing emerging voices for a broader, progressive Christian audience. “We [are] committed to publishing authors that speak from direct personal experience,” says Lyons. “After the last four years, we see that there is a ton of work to be done. Faith and social justice can’t be separated.”

One of Chalice Press’s top sellers is The ABC’s of Diversity: Helping Kids (and Ourselves!) Embrace Our Differences , by Carolyn B. Helsel and Y. Joy Harris-Smith, June 2020, ISBN 9780827200937. This secular book gives parents practical tools for talking to their children about the diversity of race, gender, sexual identity, and class. It provides scripts for adults in leadership positions to create dialogue and foster compassion for all people, no matter who they are. “Our dream is that this gets picked up by parent-teacher associations and school libraries to help kids learn the language of difference,” said Marketing and Sales Director Deborah Arca.

Beto O’Rourke provides the foreword for Something in the Water: A 21st Century Civil Rights Odyssey by Michael W. Waters, January 2021, ISBN 9780827235496, a compilation of poems, prayers, sermons, and eulogies written during Waters’ year-long cross-country pilgrimage to American civil rights landmarks. From reflections on the Memphis motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, to the river’s edge where Emmett Till’s body was recovered, to the Charleston church where Black worshipers were massacred, Waters connects past racial violence with current events to offer insight, challenges, hope, and empowerment.

Anxious to Talk About It: Helping White Christians Talk Faithfully about Racism by Carolyn B. Helsel, May 2021, ISBN 9780827200999, is getting a re-release after winning the 2019 Book of the Year Award from the Academy of Parish Clergy. Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary professor Carolyn Helsel grew up in Texas and witnessed racial conflict during her pastoral work in a border community. In this practical guide, she offers tools to explore the anxious feelings that can come up when talking about racism and shares her successful experiences working with white congregations.

With great fervor, Lyons speaks about his vision for Chalice Press: “We want our books to inspire readers to change how they think and act,” he says. “We’re going to be pushing social justice topics for the foreseeable future.”


Brazos Press

Brazos Press, an imprint of Baker Publishing Group, started as a home for scholars to translate their work for a more mainstream audience or to address a particular cultural topic. “We like books that thoughtfully engage issues at the intersection of Christianity, faith, and culture. The harder it is to talk about, the more worthwhile,” says acquisitions manager Katelyn Beaty.

Complex issues of power and abuse are examined in Prey Tell: Why We Silence Women Who Tell the Truth and How Everyone Can Speak Up by Tiffany Bluhm, March 2021, 9781587434785. After a prominent pastor covered up an extramarital affair, a large church had to reckon with the negative impact this transgression had on the congregation. Bluhm gives a detailed account of how church leaders abused their power in hidden ways by forming alliances and manipulating the truth. She suggests ways to set up systems of accountability and transparency.

On the Spectrum: Autism, Faith, and the Gifts of Neurodiversity by Daniel Bowman Jr., August 2021, ISBN 9781587435065, is based on the author’s experience receiving an autism diagnosis at age 35. For Bowman, the diagnosis shed light on his own story in a new, life-affirming way. He describes autism as a special and important part of God’s creation, addresses the stigma attached to autism, and questions the idealization of the neurotypical brain. He also offers tips for welcoming and incorporating people on the spectrum into faith communities.

Abuelita Faith: What Women on the Margins Teach Us about Wisdom, Persistence, and Strength by Kat Armas, August 2021, 9781587435089, is the story of a second-generation Cuban American whose best spiritual teachers were immigrant women who found strength and resilience through faith. She examines biblical women without social power who were rewarded for their obedience to God. Armas observes that people who have suffered the most are are often best equipped to solve difficult problems.

Church Publishing

Church Publishing was established in 1918 by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church to produce liturgical materials like hymnals and the Book of Common Prayer. Now, under imprints like Morehouse, readers will discover a wide range of spiritual subjects.

“As the pandemic continues on, more and more people are beginning to look for material that examines faith, meaning, community, and connection,” says Nancy Bryan, vice president of editorial.

Recovering Benedict: Twelve-Step Living and the Rule of Benedict , by John Edward Crean Jr., October 2020, ISBN 9781640653269, is a daily devotional that ties together the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Rule of St. Benedict. Drawing upon the founding document for monastic spirituality, Crean helps readers grow as individuals while working to be better members of the community. The book emphasizes the values of moderation and stability as fundamental to collective peace.

Mom and Dad in Heaven , by Alf K. Walgermo, November 2020, ISBN 9781640653740, is the story of a young girl whose parents are killed in a car accident. Through her diary entries, we see the protagonist struggle with what it means when adults tell her that her parents are in heaven. This book, intended for third to fifth grade readers, is a co-publication from Norway that features artwork by award-winning illustrator Øyvind Torseter.

Contemplative Knitting , by Julie Secora, March 2021, ISBN 9781640652620, demonstrates simple steps for developing knitting into a spiritual practice. Secora includes brain research showing how knitting, like walking or working a puzzle, can free the human mind from stressful rumination. A knitting practice can also create community through knitting groups that provide meaningful connections.



“Our obligation to the greater good is deeply spiritual, faithful, and theologically grounded,” says Church Publishing’s Nancy Bryan. With this crop of new titles, Christian publishers offer inspiration and concrete guidance from a diverse group of new voices. These authors present a path forward to a more stable, compassionate society after a year of national discord, , for an ever-broadening audience.


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