If an industry makes the decision to call itself Christian, should that imply certain behavioral standards among its members?
With CCM, the answer seems to depend on the artist.
Gospel star Michael English was banished from the Christian music scene in 1994 after confessing to an extramarital affair just days after collecting three Dove awards, including artist of the year. His record label, Warner Alliance, formally disassociated itself from Mr. English. A month later, the artist voluntarily returned all 12 of his Dove awards.
A similar case involved Sandi Patty, whose extramarital affair shook the CCM world in 1995. According to Pastor Jim Lyon of the North Anderson Church of God (Anderson, Ind.), Word postponed the release of Ms. Patty's 1995 Christmas album after consulting church elders, who later produced a public letter verifying Ms. Patty's repentance.
Recently, a loosening seems to be evident. Last year's high-profile divorce between Christian singers Amy Grant and Gary Chapman was not even a speed bump in their careers. Meanwhile Susan Ashton remains posted on the Sparrow Records website despite her desertion of Christian music for a country music career and subsequent divorce from J.D. Cunningham.
Industry executives were loath to talk about Ms. Grant's divorce not just to WORLD but also to CCM retailers and broadcasters, some of whom said that there appears to be a contradiction between the way the industry handled Ms. Grant, who released a Christmas album shortly after her divorce, and its handling of Ms. Patty.
"We are not trying to judge Amy Grant, we are trying to be responsible and make the best decisions we can for our chain and our customers, and make the best decisions we can for the Lord," said Berean Bookstore buyer Rick Anderson. "We just felt that here this product was presented to us but the situation had never really been explained ... has there been repentance? Has there been restoration? Where is this person with the Lord?" Berean, which generates $50 million in annual sales, decided to carry but not promote Ms. Grant's album.
KSBJ, a Houston nonprofit radio station, faced a similar situation. "We tried to contact her label, and the response we heard was, 'It's none of your business what's going on,'" said the station's manager, Tim McDermott. "Ours is a ministry platform," he said. "When they get wounded we really think it's best for them to go off the frontlines and let the healing take place before they resume that platform."
Asked if the label had communicated directly with Ms. Grant's pastor, Myrrh vice president Jim Chaffee told WORLD that it had not, though he said the now-divorced couple was "in counseling with the pastor through the whole process."
"I would never say that anybody getting a divorce is right, but I think our job was to step up to the line and be supportive of both of them," said Word president Roland Lundy. "And eventually after all that part is done, you have to make business decisions. And this is a business no matter what you want to say, because if we don't make money, we don't make a profit, and then we have no ministry."
Meanwhile, Pastor Scotty Smith of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tenn., the former church of Ms. Grant, Mr. Chapman, and Ms. Ashton, said that while Ms. Ashton's divorce was unbiblical and that Mr. Cunningham was an "innocent victim," the Grant-Chapman divorce was biblical. Without being specific, he told WORLD that "as we understand Scripture, the covenant was broken. It's my conviction that both Gary and Amy are free to remarry."
The two wasted no time. Less than a year after their divorce was finalized, Ms. Grant married country music star Vince Gill and Mr. Chapman announced his engagement to animal trainer Jennifer Pittman. Both Ms. Grant and Mr. Chapman refused WORLD requests for interviews.