There’s a wave coming

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August 5, 2019

Is Barclay Press worth saving?

Early this spring, I heard that Evangelical Friends Church International (EFCI) might be working to start its own publishing house in order to replace the services that Barclay Press historically has offered to evangelical Friends churches. This possibility was confirmed in an email exchange this last month and re-confirmed in a follow-up email late last week. I believe there has always been more need than supply for quality Friends materials, so I’m interested in the success of these efforts. I also know from experience that these same efforts could put even more financial stress on Barclay Press.

You already know about our financial stress. Many of you have given generously to support us. You’ve sent in 162 individual donations in 2019 (up 46 percent over this time last year) for a total of $20,074.

We’ve used your donations to accomplish far more than we otherwise could. This tiny, independent, Quaker publisher has released more than one hundred titles since its inception in 1948 (about 1-1/3 books each year). This year, we’ve already published ten new titles!

In addition, more new books are on their way, including the following:

  • Resisting Empire: The Book of Revelation by C. Wess Daniels (Friends Center Director at Guilford College) will be released as a paperback with a new foreword from Wes Howard-Brook and a new afterword from Rev. Darryl Aaron
  • On Quakers and Pastors by Derek Brown (VP for Graduate Studies and Chair of Pastoral Ministry at Barclay College)
  • Palestine and Israel: A Personal Encounter by Max L. Carter (member of New Garden Meeting and who previously served as the William R. Rogers director of the Friends Center and Quaker studies at Guilford College)
  • Distinct: Quaker Holiness in Everyday Life by Jennifer M. Buck (Assistant Professor in the Department of Practical Theology at Azusa Pacific University School of Theology)

We’ve also hired Cherice Bock to edit our Illuminate Bible study series. A recorded Quaker minister, Bock sees environmental concerns as one of this generation’s most important social justice issues. Her academic work focuses on nonviolent theology, Quakerism, contextual theologies, feminism, environmental justice, and ecotheology.

We’re at a crossroads. Barclay Press is producing more new work than at any time in our history. We’re accomplishing this new work with no full-time staff, a donation-dependent budget, and the potential loss of our traditional supporters from among evangelical Friends.

Is Barclay Press worth saving? Does the work we do matter? Is there a reason for us to continue moving forward as we have for the last 71 years? 

The history of Barclay Press can be traced to 1948, when Ray Carter and Ralph Fletcher each put up an investment of $3,000 for offset printing equipment that they used to print Northwest Friend magazine (later replaced by Evangelical Friend). When Carter died in 1959, Oregon Yearly Meeting (now Northwest Yearly Meeting*) purchased the equipment and renamed the operation Barclay Press.

In February 2001, Northwest Yearly Meeting (NWYM) announced its plans to sell the printing equipment and reorganize Barclay Press as an independent, non-profit publishing ministry with a dual focus on Christian spirituality and social responsibility. Part of that reorganization included a merger with George Fox Press, publishing Adult Friend (replaced in 2011 by Illuminate) and the Fruit of the Vine quarterly devotional reader. Funds from Evangelical Friends Church – North America (EFC-NA) yearly meetings supported the creation and distribution of those curricula through the EFC-NA Christian Education Commission.

“The new Barclay Press is a ministry with an appropriate structure, increased efficiency, and profound vision. This structure retains a mission to serve the church and although some of the ministries receive financial support from the church, the relationship creates no potential liability. The combining of books, curriculum, and periodicals into one organization creates new efficiencies in administration, production, marketing, and in the creative use of new media. The new Barclay Press creates a center where vision for Christian outreach through publishing finds expression and fulfillment.” – Dr. John Williams Jr. (2001)

In the intervening years – under the leadership of publishers Dan McCracken (retired in 2015) and Eric Muhr (2016–present) – Barclay Press redesigned and re-released Adult Friend as Illuminate, established four new imprints, and published nearly sixty new titles (more than doubling the size of its catalog). These new books included collections representing the full spectrum of Quaker theology, polity, and praxis in the United States with a special emphasis on theology and a major investment in poetry.

“It is time for a new generation to take Barclay Press into a new era of communication. It is time to empower a new generation with trust, faith, and by stepping out of the way.” – Dan McCracken (2014)

“Evangelical Friends have a story that the larger church needs to hear. And each of us evangelical Friends has our own story, experiences that – when shared – connect people to Christ, to us and to each other. Barclay Press has weathered nearly six decades of change, sharing these stories. The story of Barclay Press, the stories we’ve been given to share – they still matter.” – Eric Muhr (2015)

In 2017, the EFC-NA Christian Education Commission was laid down, and its members were invited to continue serving in an advisory capacity to Barclay Press. Then in February 2018, the Executive Committee of EFC-NA unanimously approved to respectfully separate from its relationship with Barclay Press.

This decision by EFC-NA put pressure on Barclay Press, as it meant a loss of significant financial support. The decision this year to start a new publishing house potentially puts even more pressure on Barclay Press, so I ask, “Is Barclay Press worth saving?”

I think it is.

Barclay Press is doing a new thing, lifting up new voices and serving new audiences. If Friends testimonies matter, then their value extends beyond Friends (and even beyond the bounds of the church).

Barclay Press has also continued to do all of the old things with small but important improvements such as the introduction of historic Quaker quotations to Illuminate along with more and better questions for facilitating class discussions, engaging with Scripture, and prompting personal reflection and spiritual growth.

Here at Barclay Press it feels like we’ve been caught up in an unexpected undercurrent. We’re working to keep our little boat upright, and we’re paddling. We know there’s a wave coming, so we keep paddling. Wondering. Waiting. Always working with the hope that Paul’s words for the church at Thessalonica might become his words for us:

“We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Thessalonians 1:2–3).

Thank you,
Eric Muhr

P.S. You can support the continuing work of Barclay Press:

  • Make a one-time or monthly donation by clicking on DONATE at
  • Talk to your church or monthly meeting about making support for Barclay Press a part of your budget.
  • Pray for Barclay Press and for the work that we do

*Included churches that are now independent as well as several that have worked together to form a new yearly meeting, Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends (SCYMF)


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