NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Christian Examiner) – Legendary Christian artist Amy Grant —the woman who was credited with putting contemporary Christian music on the map—is known for firsts.
Now in her early fifties, she can claim being the first contemporary Christian artist to have a platinum record. She was the first contemporary Christian artist to perform at the Grammy's — she now has six — and she has an impressive 22 Gospel Music Association (GMA) Dove Awards.
Bursting into the music scene over three decades ago as a teenager, Grant, from a solid Christian family rooted in the Nashville community, made her mark in Christian music in the 1980's but became one of the first gospel artists to cross into mainstream pop with songs like her hit single, "Baby-Baby."
But she has never strayed far from the Christian music label that first found her.
Grant saw another first recently when she learned LifeWay Christian Stores, the old Baptist Bookstore and another legendary Nashville mainstay, declined to carry her latest album, "Amy Grant: Tennessee Christmas."
In a Facebook post Grant noted the slight. Still she has taken the high road.
"Let's all move on from that decision without arguing about it," Grant told her fans.
Urging there's a lesson learned, Grant continued, "But let's not stop asking the questions about what it means to live in faith and reflect love to the world around us."
LifeWay has no explanation for why they have had such a change of heart despite currently offering more than 100 Amy Grant products in their online store.
LifeWay spokesperson Marty King confirmed with the Nashville Tennessean the Christian bookstore chain headquartered in Music City U.S.A., will not be carrying Grant's new album.
"I wish I had more to share with you, but we don't discuss the reasons we carry the few thousand items we sell nor the reasons we don't carry the hundreds of thousands of products we don't sell," King told Christian Examiner last week.
The album is Grant's first new Christmas album in a nearly two decades and features favorites like "O Come All Ye Faithful," "Joy to the World," and "White Christmas," along with one song in particular, "Melancholy Christmas," Grant said she wrote after connecting with people who are alone during the holidays.
Favorites like "Tennessee Christmas" and "Baby It's Cold Outside," mix in with new songs, "Christmas Don't Be Late," "Still Can't Sleep," and "Christmas For You and Me."
With over 100 products online that already carry Grant's name — from downloadable audio files to sheet music, soundtracks and CD's — the slight can't be more obvious.
Even Grant's 2013 album "How Mercy Looks From Here," made the cut just a few years back, with a glowing promotion on LifeWay's website: "Amy Grant is back after more than 10 years with her latest release, How Mercy Looks from Here. Amy has been an artist for over 30 years and continues to connect with fans through her heartfelt singer-songwriter style."
The album was released 14 years after her divorce from Christian musician Gary Chapman and 13 years after she married country singer-songwriter, Vince Gill.
LifeWay Christian Resources online lists more than 80 Christmas albums, including the new Michael W. Smith "The Spirit of Christmas" album featuring Christian artist greats such as Grant and her husband, Gill.
Grant is joining Smith for a nationwide Christmas tour along with Jordan Smith from NBC's "The Voice." The tour begins Nov. 11 in Hollywood, with live steaming via spotify which began Nov. 4.
Is Amy Grant's Album Christian enough?
Grant's manager, Jennifer Cooke, in an opinion piece for the Washington Post, questioned LifeWay's decision not to carry the acclaimed artist's album and suggested it reignites a debate about how "Christian" a product should be in order to be stocked by a Christian retailer.
"There is an odd question and reality in the Christian music business: What is a 'Christian enough' song or project recorded by someone who is 'Christian enough' that deems it worthy of exposure and commercial viability via Christian radio and Christian retail?" Cooke wrote.
Pointing out that LifeWay is a large Southern Baptist retailer, Cooke said, "It's their choice, and it's okay," but went on to talk about the human experience Grant sings about in the album, quoting one song in particular, "Melancholy Christmas," which is about a woman sitting all alone in her wheelchair in a nursing home on Christmas.
"Is it wrong to celebrate Christmas in ways that are human — love, loss, nostalgia, family, romance, fun and grief — all with the backdrop of the birth of our savior that gives meaning to it all?" Cooke asks.
Citing the words to the classic "Joy to the World," Cooke asks if that is enough to sing, or is it enough to sing:
"Mary's in a nursing home
She puts her favorite records on
Reminds her of the years long gone
Another Merry Christmas
Billy's home from overseas
The pride of his whole family
Still fights a war that no one sees
Another Merry Christmas
It's happy and sad
The good and the bad
Someone's up and someone's barely hanging on
It's everything all at once
And if we're honest enough
Everybody wants to be loved
Every year on Christmas Eve
Jill hangs four stockings, now just three
Wonders if there'll ever be
Another Merry Christmas
Our painted old nativity is fragile like the lives we lead
Silently reminding me God is with us
Another Merry Christmas"
Cooke answers her own rhetorical question: "It is not enough for LifeWay. But it is more than enough for me."
On Facebook, Grant continues to earn the sympapthy of those who have learned about LifeWay's decision.