Gulley, Philip 1961–
GULLEY, Philip 1961–
PERSONAL: Born February, 1961, in Camby, IN; married Joan Apple, June 2, 1984; children: Spencer, Sam. Education: Marian College, B.A.; Christian Theological Seminary, degree (with honors). Religion: Society of Friends (Quaker).
ADDRESSES: Home—Danville, IN. Office—Fairfield Friends Meeting, 7040 South County Road E., 1050, Camby, IN 46113. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Writer and pastor. Irvington Friends Meeting, Indianapolis, IN, pastor; Fairfield Friends Meeting, Camby, IN, part-time pastor, c. 1999–.
AWARDS, HONORS: Christy Award, 2001, for Home to Harmony.
Front Porch Tales, Multnomah Books (Sisters, OR), 1997, published as Front Porch Tales: Warm-hearted Stories of Family, Faith, Laughter, and Love, 2001.
Home Town Tales, Multnomah Publishers (Sisters, OR), 1998, published as Hometown Tales: Recollections of Kindness, Peace, and Joy, HarperSan-Francisco (San Francisco, CA), 2001.
For Everything a Season: Simple Musings on Living Well, Multnomah Publishers (Sisters, OR), 1999.
(With James Mulholland) If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 2003.
(With James Mulholland) If God Is Love: Rediscovering Grace in an Ungracious World, HarperSan-Francisco (San Francisco, CA), 2004.
Contributor to books, including Traci Mullins, editor, A Grandmother's Touch: Heart-warming Stories of Love across Generations, Vine Books (Ann Arbor, MI), 2001.
Home to Harmony, Multnomah Publishers (Sisters, OR), 2000.
Just Shy of Harmony, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 2002.
Christmas in Harmony, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 2002.
Signs and Wonders, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 2003.
Life Goes On, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 2004.
A Change of Heart, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 2005.
The Scrapbook: A Christmas in Harmony Novella, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 2005.
ADAPTATIONS: Home Town Tales was recorded by Multnomah Publishers (Sisters, OR), 1998.
SIDELIGHTS: Philip Gulley is a Quaker minister, and both his fiction and nonfiction writings reflect his pastoral background. Gulley offers spiritual guidance in nonfiction books such as If God Is Love: Rediscovering Grace in an Ungracious World and If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person. In his fiction he has created a world with many similarities to the one he inhabits. His novels and short stories—Home to Harmony, Just Shy of Harmony, Signs and Wonders and others in the "Harmony" series—are set in the imaginary town of Harmony, Indiana. By turns humorous and heartwarming, they reveal the human foibles of the congregation led by Sam Gardner, who, like his creator, serves as a pastor to the Quaker congregation in the town where he was born.
Gulley collaborated with theologian James Mulholland on If Grace Is True and If God Is Love. In the first book, the coauthors explain how they each progressed from a belief that eternal life with God requires acceptance of his saving grace to a belief that God will draw everyone into heaven, with or without their assent. "The authors did not always feel this way, and their little meditation on Christian universalism is as much autobiographical confession as theological treatise," commented a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. The chapters are devoted to each of the words in the phrase "why God will save every person," and the authors use anecdotal material from their own lives and ministries to illustrate their points. Their stance is theologically controversial, but the authors "stick to their guns," noted June Sawyers in Booklist. John Wilson, a reviewer for Christianity Today, found the book's premise appealing but ultimately flawed, noting that, as "in their desire to emphasize the power of God's grace, they end up trivializing human freedom." Still, Wilson praised Gulley and Mulholland for doing "what many evangelicals and orthodox Christians more generally have failed to do: they have honestly faced the church's traditional doctrines of salvation and eternal justice, even if only to reject them."
In If God Is Love, Gulley and Mulholland give a brief recap of the concept of universal salvation outlined in the previous book, then suggest ways of living that belief. They call upon Christians to put less emphasis on "saving" others and to strive instead to treat everyone as members of God's family. A Publishers Weekly writer stated that while this book may not convince everyone of the authors' theological convictions, it "details well Christ's command to love others and how to live that out."
Gulley has won a loyal audience for his "Harmony" series, beginning with Home to Harmony. In that book, Gulley's alter ego Sam Gardner is called to take up the pastorship of the Harmony Friends Meeting in his home town. Fresh from the seminary, the young minister has to reconcile the theology he has just studied with the humanity of his flock. As he struggles through his first year, his "journey in faith teaches through the shared medium of laughter," reported Melanie C. Duncan in Library Journal.
In addition to their humor, the "Harmony" books have drawn praise for their sensitive portrayal of Sam's struggles with his own doubts and difficulties. Just Shy of Harmony, for example, shows the young clergyman reading an article about the ten warning signs of depression, and realizing that he has seven of them. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called it a "refreshingly candid novel" enlivened by the author's "characteristic wry humor."
In an interview with Jana Riess for Publishers Weekly, Gulley commented, "I get a lot of letters from people who like the human insights of my books. My books tell them that it's okay to be broken. That being human is not a sin, and that there is grace for people. I get frustrated sometimes when I read Christian fiction. It seems unreal to me. Going to church and having the right beliefs doesn't always change your life immediately. You still struggle. And it just seems to me that somebody ought to write about that."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 16, 2002, Don O'Briant, review of Home to Harmony, p. 4.
Booklist, March 1, 1997, John Mort, review of Front Porch Tales, p. 1111; February 15, 1999, Ray Olson, review of For Everything a Season: Simple Musings on Living Well, p. 1006; October 1, 2000, John Mort, review of Home to Harmony, p. 304; July, 2003, June Sawyers, review of If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person, p. 1848; October 1, 2004, Donna Chavez, review of If God Is Love: Rediscovering Grace in an Ungracious World, p. 304.
Christianity Today, September, 2003, John Wilson, review of If Grace Is True, p. 73.
Library Journal, September 1, 2000, Melanie C. Duncan, review of Home to Harmony, p. 184; November 1, 2002, Shawna Saavedra Thorup, review of Christmas in Harmony, p. 72; April 1, 2003, Wilda Williams, review of Signs and Wonders, p. 84; July, 2003, Mary Prokop, review of If Grace Is True, p. 87; April 1, 2004, Tamara Butler, review of Life Goes On, p. 80; November 1, 2004, Nancy Pearl, review of Life Goes On, p. 135.
Publishers Weekly, August 21, 2000, Jana Riess, review of Home to Harmony, p. S19; February 25, 2002, review of Just Shy of Harmony, p. 40, Jana Riess, interview with Gulley, p. 41; September 30, 2002, review of Christmas in Harmony, p. 50; June 16, 2003, review of If Grace Is True, p. 67; March 24, 2003, review of Signs and Wonders, p. 59; March 1, 2004, review of Life Goes On, p. 50; October 25, 2004, review of If God Is Love, p. 44.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), December 23, 2002, Nancy Pate, review of Christmas in Harmony, p. 4.
AmericanProfile.com, http://www.americanprofile.com/ (February 8, 2004), Jackie Sheckler Finch, "Hometown Humorist."
BookPage.com, http://www.bookpage.com/ (April 10, 2005), Lynn Green, interview with Gulley.
Philip Gulley Home Page, http://www.philipgulleybooks.com (April 27, 2005).