The United Methodist Publishing House will close its distribution center at the MetroCenter business park in March, a move that will idle roughly 40 employees.

Exiting distribution is the latest transition for the United Methodist denomination’s self-supporting publishing agency, which three years ago closed its last Cokesbury retail bookstores nationwide to focus on selling online, over the telephone and through community resource consultants in 38 U.S. markets.

“Dramatic changes in the publishing and distribution industries require that we focus on our essential core competencies and partner with others for supporting functions that they can provide more efficiently and economically,” said Tammy Gaines, chief financial officer of the United Methodist Publishing House. “Our retail customers will receive outstanding service through this partnership.”

LSC Communications, which was recently spun off from printing giant R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. for print and digital product distribution, will handle the work after the publishing house closes its only distribution center at 341 Great Circle Road.

Currently, the United Methodist Publishing House has roughly 400 employees, including the mostly warehouse associates —who performed pick, pack and ship tasks — that will be let go. The affected workers will receive severance packages and job search service, officials said.

As part of the transition to LSC Communications, a few positions will be brought over from the distribution center to the United Methodist Publishing House’s nearby headquarters at 2222 Rosa L. Parks Blvd.

Through its Cokesbury retail division and Abingdon Press publishing arm, the publishing house produces resources for congregations, church leaders, seminaries, study groups and individuals.

“With advances in just-in-time inventory management, partnering with LSC for product distribution will increase flexibility, reduce costs, and help UMPH maintain the highest quality and speed of service for customers,” the publishing house said in a statement.

Reach Getahn Ward at 615-726-5968 and on Twitter @getahn.