Anglican Book Centre alive and well in Lutheran partnership

A Bach cantata plays quietly as customers stroll through the bookstore, looking for clergy shirts, commentaries, or that last book in their Sunday school series. For over 100 years, the Anglican Book Centre has provided these material accessories to ministry, and now thanks to Lutheran booksellers Augsburg Fortress, the service continues.

The Christmas displays are up at the Anglican Book Centre, 80 Hayden Street, Toronto.
The Christmas displays are up at the Anglican Book Centre, 80 Hayden Street, Toronto.

In June 2007, the not-for-profit Augsburg Fortress took over management of the Anglican Book Centre. The store had run deficits for many years and become a financial burden to General Synod. General Synod considered closing the institution for good, but the opportunity then arose of a partnership with the Lutherans. Augsburg Fortress is the publishing arm of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, which is in a full communion with the Anglican Church of Canada. The two churches share similar histories, church structures, and increasingly, joint ministries.

The partnership has been a success. “When we took [the Anglican Book Centre] over we deemed we would try to get it in a position where it was self-sustaining, and we have managed to do that,” said Andy Seal, director of Augsburg Fortress Canada and the Anglican Book Centre. He said the store has even turned a small profit.

“We’re an organization where everything we make in terms of profit gets turned back into ministry,” said Mr. Seal. “So we’re happy as long as we can spend a little bit less than what we received. That’s the model we’re called to deliver.”

Plans are now in place for Augsburg Fortress to renew its lease on both the Anglican Book Centre’s name and space, a bright lower-level unit at General Synod’s offices, 80 Hayden Street, Toronto.

So what was the secret to success? Mr. Seal said he and his team improved business at the Anglican Book Centre by centralizing the call centre and distribution with the other Augsburg Fortress store in Kitchener, Ont.  They also reassessed the store’s merchandise and eliminated product that was not religious.

Anglican customers also remained loyal through the transition. “I would say there’s been tremendous support,” said Mr. Seal. “I’ve travelled a fair bit in Canada into a number of the different dioceses, and as I’ve introduced myself and met many bishops there’s been a great warmth and great appreciation for our efforts to continue this ministry.”

The store’s three-year turnaround happened despite an economic downturn and the overall decline in the religious publishing business.

After these first trial years, Mr. Seal is optimistic about the Anglican Book Centre’s future: “Of course it’s our hope that we can continue the tradition and it can be around for more than 100 more years to come.”

Based in Minneapolis, Minn. Augsburg Fortress is the publishing house of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. It operates two Canadian stores—in Toronto and Kitchener—as well as web- and phone-based order desks. Augsburg Fortress welcomes feedback on their services through their website.

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