The Chrysostom Society: A History

In 1986 Quaker author Richard Foster asked three fellow writers—Calvin Miller, Luci Shaw, and Karen Burton Mains—to meet with him to reflect on the state of writing and publishing by people of faith. Their common concern was the desire to uphold standards of excellence and integrity in the realm of Christian publishing, grounded in their shared belief that there is a vital link between excellence in the craft of writing and the spiritual content that writing articulates.

Out of that initial meeting came the idea of a national guild of professional writers whose literary work would be informed by their Christian worldview. Invitations to a gathering the following year were sent out to about a dozen writers, representing a range of literary genres and faith traditions.

Chrysostom’s first meeting took place at Christ Haven in Colorado Springs. The group soon jelled around some shared goals. They committed themselves to:

  • Producing the highest quality Christian literature possible.
  • Encouraging and challenging one another’s work.
  • Using their annual meetings to discuss urgent issues relating to writing and publishing, including having guest speakers who could address such topics from their areas of expertise.
  • Generating collaborative books that would uphold the highest literary and spiritual standards.
  • Mentoring emerging writers.
  • Lecturing and reading in various public venues.

When the Society eventually incorporated on January 19, 1996 as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit, these shared commitments formed the core of their mission statement.

Over the years, the Society has met at a variety of locations around the country; for the past sixteen, it has convened at Laity Lodge in Texas. By now, some of the original group have passed away or are no longer able to travel. Yet even the emeriti remain strongly connected.

The Chrysostom Society can rightfully feel proud of its many achievements over the course of three decades. In addition to the many books they have published both individually and collaboratively, Society members have lectured and served as artistic ambassadors in countries around the world, edited prestigious journals, and been reviewers and critics in a variety of Christian and secular publications. They have also taught at writers’ conferences and offered retreats, mentored students in graduate writing programs, and continue to teach on campuses around the country. They have been interviewed extensively on radio and television, been short-listed for the National Book Award, become National Endowment of the Arts Fellows in Creative Writing, won Guggenheim grants, and received honorary doctorates.

In the beginning, Chrysostom supported itself through occasional grants from publishers and foundations. As the Society began to produce its own collaborative projects, book royalties became its major source of income. Recent wide-ranging changes in the publishing industry have had a significant impact on Chrysostom’s income stream. These changes, however, offer a chance for Chrysostom to re-envision and remake itself for a new generation.