An Episcopal priest's interfaith stand has provided an unexpected platform for his debut book—and an opportunity for him to personally demonstrate its Oprah Winfrey-approved message.
Sales of Rev. Ed Bacon's 8 Habits of Love: Open Your Heart, Open Your Mind spiked after All Saints Church in Pasadena, where he has been rector for almost 20 years, agreed to host the Muslim Public Affairs Council's (MPAC) annual convention. Published in September by Hachette Book Group's Grand Central Life & Style imprint, the book explores ways to stop what Bacon says is fear's capacity for “taking over the driver's seat of our lives.”
Police and private security guards were on hand for the Dec. 15 event, which had prompted a barrage of “vile, mean-spirited” e-mails, according to Bacon. He rejected suggestions he wear a bullet-proof vest, and went over to personally greet the few protestors outside, who were outnumbered by members of an interfaith group standing in silent support.
When one of the protestors took a copy of Bacon's book, threw it on the ground and stamped on it, the author thought “wow, what a great endorsement, to have someone who is so negative be so critical of my book,” he told PW. Bacon also signed copies of 8 Habits for some of the 600 or so attendees, and took part in a panel discussion during the daylong program at the neo-gothic Episcopal church.
A long-time leader in interfaith circles, Bacon was surprised when All Saints' hosting of the MPAC event—the first time it has been held in a church—came under fire The Clarion Fund's Web site Radicalislam.org, which monitors what it calls “the global threat posed by radical Islam,” said that Islamists were “taking advantage of naïve Christians with a desire to show off their tolerance.”
National media coverage of the controversy generated several thousand new Twitter followers and Facebook fans for Bacon, said Kenneth Gillett, founder and principal of Target Marketing, which has been handling the book's social media campaign. He pitched an op-ed piece by Bacon responding to the dispute, drawing on the book's principles, that was picked up by several online publications. As a result, Bacon's Amazon ranking went from 18,546 to a peak of 1,896, a “terrific response which resulted in sales,” Gillett added.
Linda Duggins, director of multicultural publicity at Hachette, said that sales—now totaling 13,500—had improved since the controversy arose, especially on the West coast.
Bacon, aged 64, has led the progressive 4,000-member Pasadena congregation—one of the first to bless same-sex marriages—since 1995. He has been a guest on Oprah Winfrey's Oprah's Soul Series radio show and appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, which led to his writing 8 Habits. Encouraging the development of qualities like generosity, stillness, candor, and forgiveness, the book has been endorsed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu
“Perhaps the deepest impulse is that in my own journey I have been a fan and a student of courageous leaders who had some transformative effect on the course of history,” Bacon said. “I have always been interested in what it took in terms of their own interior life to be able to both be courageous and also creative and visionary.”