Westar Institute is celebrating a landmark year. In 2013 the organization both acquired Polebridge Press and retired the debt this acquisition incurred, thanks to the generosity of Westar supporters. The news articles below, which first appeared in The Fourth R, provide a glimpse of the major events of the past year.
January 2013—Westar acquires Polebridge Press
In a move to consolidate Bob Funk's vision for a combined research, educational, and publication enterprise under one umbrella, Westar acquires Polebridge Press and its assets, including intellectual properties such as the Scholars Version translation, and assumes its debts.
March 2013—Westar receives challenge grant to retire acquisition debt
The Fourth R 26-3, May–June 2013
Westar’s Spring meeting concluded with a bang. As Art Dewey was striking the final conference notes, longtime Westar supporters sent a message to the podium offering an $80,000 dollar-for-dollar challenge to pay Westar’s debts. This consists largely of debts that came with the recently-concluded acquisition of Polebridge Press that were subsequently consolidated into one loan by Glenn Downing of the Board of Directors. The donors’ $80,000 challenge will retire the debt, and the $80,000 to be raised in matching gifts will be used primarily to fund new research and publication projects. The donors, who choose to remain anonymous, also intend the gift to pay tribute to scholars who played an integral role in Westar’s groundbreaking work and have died in the last seven years—Dick Arthur, Ed Beutner, Marvin Meyer, Daryl Schmidt and Walter Wink. The matching period began with the Spring meeting and will end with the 2014 Spring meeting.
October 2013—Westar meets the challenge
The Fourth R 26-6, Nov–Dec 2013
At Westar’s Spring 2013 meeting, two supporters announced a $80,000 dollar-for-dollar challenge in honor of Westar scholars who died over recent years. The matching period was to run from March 2013 to the March 2014 meeting. But due to a tremendous response from Westar donors, we not only met the challenge six months early, we surpassed it!
November 2013—Polebridge publishes 100th book
The Fourth R 27-2, Mar–Apr 2014
Did you know that Acts and Christian Beginnings: The Acts Seminar Report is the 100th book published by Polebridge Press?
Well it is! Think of us as the little press that did, and on our own terms. Through some very difficult times, we stuck to our mission to disseminate the results of critical scholarship on religion, especially in the area of early Christian history, to the interested public, and to establish Westar Institute and its associated Seminars as a major force in the renewed quest for the historical Jesus.
The Complete Gospels, first published in 1992, has sold over 100,000 copies and is now in its fourth edition. Among the many major books published by Polebridge since then, The Five Gospels, originally published in 1993 as a Polebridge Press Book by Macmillan, was the landmark publication of the Jesus Seminar. The Gospel of Mary of Magdala (2003), which has sold over 70,000 copies, brought to life the earliest Christian gospel written in the name of a woman. The Authentic Letters of Paul (2010) offered a fresh translation of Paul’s voice, based on the work of the Paul Seminar. Acts and Christian Beginnings: The Acts Seminar Report (2013) challenged us to rethink our reliance on Acts for a story of Christian origins—a project that continues today with Westar’s Christianity Seminar
“Polebridge Press has returned to the roots of book production by directly linking scholars and the publication of their research,” said Lane McGaughy, who with Robert W. Funk, Char Matejovsky, Karen King, and others founded the press in 1981. “Polebridge initiated and sponsored the Jesus Seminar to support cutting-edge research on the historical Jesus. The results of the seminars’ work were, in turn, published by Polebridge in cooperation with other publishing houses or solely as Polebridge imprints. Polebridge’s organizational model has thus generated new knowledge about Christian origins through research projects like the Jesus Seminar and disseminated it to the larger culture through its publications. The shelf-list of Polebridge titles published during the last three decades is truly impressive and has helped to move the historical figure of Jesus onto the agendas of both popular and high culture.”