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Mich.-based Family Christian Stores plans to open Sundays

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Family Christian Stores has announced that it will begin opening its outlets on Sunday.

Family Christian’s new policy of Sunday sales is being launched with its 17 Dallas-area stores and will be implemented nationwide this fall, according to the company’s chief executive, Dave Browne, The Dallas Morning News reported Aug. 29. The Dallas stores’ first Sunday for business was Aug. 24 and the policy will move forward on a market-by-market basis, Jeff Lambert, a spokesman for the chain, told Baptist Press Sept. 4.

Family Christian Stores’ Sunday hours will be noon to 5 p.m.

Wayne Grudem, a leading evangelical theologian, conducted a study for Family Christian Stores about the teachings on the Sabbath from the Old and New Testaments, Lambert told Baptist Press. The document has been distributed to employees but not released publicly, Lambert said.

Grudem is research professor of Bible and theology at Phoenix Seminary in Scottsdale, Ariz.; a past president of the Evangelical Theological Society; and former chairman of Trinity Evangelical Theological Seminary’s department of biblical and systematic theology in Deerfield, Ill.

In response to an inquiry to LifeWay Christian Stores about the business move by the privately owned Family Christian Stores, an official of the Southern Baptist-owned retail chain said that LifeWay stores would remain closed on Sunday.

“LifeWay Christian Stores has never had a practice of opening on Sunday and there is no intention of opening on Sunday across the chain,” Bruce Munns, director of retail store operations, said in a statement to Baptist Press Sept. 3. “Even orders which are placed by customers on Sundays through our website (lifewaystores.com) are not processed until Monday. We see Sunday as an important day for our employees to spend in church and with their families.”

LifeWay Christian Stores operates 117 outlets, employing 2,100 people, in 21 states; Family Christian Stores has 325 outlets, with 5,000 employees, in 39 states, making it the nation’s largest Christian-oriented retail chain.

An Aug. 28 news release from the Family Christian Stores chain based in Grand Rapids, Mich., reported that in a customer survey 80 percent reported shopping on Sunday. Of these, 89 percent said they would shop at Family Christian Store on Sunday. And in a Family Christian Store survey of churches with their own bookstores, 96 percent were open on Sunday.

“Customers tell us that they work Monday through Friday, are occupied with soccer and the kids’ activities on Saturday,” Brown told The Dallas Morning News.

Describing the decision as one “that we took very seriously,” Browne noted in the company news release, “After prayer, study and seeking the counsel of others, it became clear to us that the ministry opportunity of opening on Sundays vastly outweighed the operational preference of the status quo.”

“We have a clear calling to provide our customers with Bibles, books and other Christian resources that meet their needs — when their needs arise,” Browne said in the news release. “And opening on Sunday, the day that most Christians attend to their spiritual needs, is a reflection of this calling.”

The news release noted that the chain “is taking a phased approach to its new Sunday hours of operation so [the company] can add staff and coordinate existing employees’ schedules, ensuring a smooth transition.” The news release stated that “the abbreviated Sunday hours reflect [the company’s] desire to support morning worship time for its employees and customers, while still meeting the resource needs of the Christian community.”

One of the best-known companies for being closed on Sunday, Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A fast-food restaurants, states on its website, “Admittedly, closing all of our restaurants every Sunday makes us a rarity in this day and age. But it’s a little habit that has always served us well, so we’re planning to stick with it. Our founder, Truett Cathy, wanted to ensure that every Chick-fil-A employee and restaurant operator had an opportunity to worship, spend time with family and friends or just plain rest from the workweek. Made sense then, still makes sense now.”