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LifeWay Christian Stores, the Southern Baptist-owned U.S. retailer, plans to drop its controversial "Read with Discernment" program.

The program, which began in 2007, listed popular authors such as Rob Bell, Donald Miller, Brian McLaren, and William Young, who the chain said "may have espoused thoughts, ideas, or concepts that could be considered inconsistent with historical evangelical theology." Such books, LifeWay said, are relevant "strictly for critical study or research to … understand and develop responses to the diversity of religious thought in today's postmodern world."

At the LifeWay store in Franklin, Tennessee, the shelf featuring Young's The Shack had a warning label, while Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years had a bookmark in it telling buyers to ask for more information at the checkout desk. (LifeWay representatives declined to tell a reporter why Miller's book was included in the program.)

Only a handful of titles received the warnings. Chris Rodgers, LifeWay's director of product standards and customer relations, said the retailer was trying to help buyers make good decisions. But the labels became more trouble than they were worth.

"We have been thinking about doing away with them for some time," he said. "They have kind of become irrelevant. We thought it would be helpful and it wasn't."

The program became an ongoing target of criticism. The most recent round was sparked by an October blog post by Shaun Groves, a Christian musician and speaker. Groves got so annoyed by the warning he found on Miller's book in a LifeWay store that he walked out and bought the book at a nearby Barnes & Noble instead.

"LifeWay warns Miller's readers to exercise discernment because it believes his books to be inconsistent ...

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February 2011

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