To the extent that the International Bible Society's (IBS) formal ethics charges with the Evangelical Press Association echo those submitted by Zondervan Publishing House (ZPH), WORLD magazine's response may be repetitive. IBS, however, employs some different arguments to support charges similar to those of ZPH and makes new charges altogether. WORLD first responds principially, then point-by-point:
I) WORLD states once again that its reporting was professional, careful, internally consistent, thoroughly documented, and verified by the fact that 10 weeks after the story was first released, Zondervan, IBS, and CBT-after denying the existence of any firm plans to change the NIV-conspicuously reversed course and abandoned those plans. (See the IBS press release below.) IBS's challenge to the stories is fallacious, poorly stated, and even more inflammatory than what it claims WORLD has been. This controversy highlights the distinction between two types of EPA members, journalists and public-relations officials.
The intense interest in this story by the Christian public is a special reminder that whereas public-relations officials work for their companies or organizations, journalists work for their readers. Many times, as in this case, those loyalties come into conflict. While we regard these ethics charges as baseless, the members of the ethics committee have before them a historic decision: they have the power to promote independent Christian journalism or to stifle it. That these charges are even seriously being entertained by the EPA creates a chilling effect against any future reports that may not please powerful organizations.
II) Portions of this complaint point to the unspecified effects of WORLD's reports on organizations and individuals: reputations damaged, jobs lost, hours wasted, and persons "directly or indirectly threatened." This is classic corporate public-relations practice: shifting the focus from the problem itself and blaming the messenger. WORLD was not the party making decisions that proved highly unpopular with the NIV's traditional audience. Those who made the decisions bear responsibility for any loss of trust, any jobs lost, and any hours wasted. Likewise, those who made direct or indirect threats against persons-assuming such things actually happened-bear responsibility for their own actions.
III) WORLD's coverage does indeed carry an adversarial tone and edge--"courageous," to use the term used in EPA's code of ethics . We were originally persuaded, and continue to be persuaded by all subsequent developments, that the evangelical church was being significantly offended. The tone is not different from dozens of pieces carried by other independent EPA publications through the years (Sojourners, The Other Side, etc.) on other topics. Perhaps the significant difference is that this time multi-million dollar organizations with extensive interests throughout the evangelical world have been offended, and then utilized their powerful public-relations capabilities to speak back.
1. COMPLAINT: The tone and tenor of the article, beginning even with the cover of the magazine are extremely sensationalistic and inflammatory. The nature of the cover title and illustration (The Feminist Seduction of the Evangelical Church) implied that IBS and Zondervan are involved in some sort of plot with radical feminists to pollute the Word of God. We have not, nor will we ever be "seduced" by the feminist agenda, or any other agenda that threatens the integrity of God's divine revelation.
RESPONSE: First, it's important to draw the distinction between something that is implied and something that is inferred. IBS states that WORLD's article "implied ... some sort of plot" when instead that is IBS's inference. What WORLD did imply was that seduction can and does occur as much through carelessness as through devious manipulation. WORLD has never claimed nor meant to imply that the NIV's sponsors identify with a radical feminist agenda. What we do assert is that all of us have been profoundly seduced by cultural feminism. The question is: To what extent do evangelical Christians recognize such seduction and build defenses against it? We believe the NIV's sponsors were neither adequately sensitive to that seduction nor prepared to build defenses against it.
2. COMPLAINT: The author states in the opening paragraph, "The new International Version of the Bible ... is quietly going 'gender neutral.'" There never has been any intention for the NIV to go "gender neutral". The intent of any proposed changes was to increase the accuracy of the text, not neuter gender specific terminology from the original texts. Gender-accuracy and gender-neutrality are opposite ends of a spectrum, and to imply that we intended to neuter the language is false, and seriously damaging to nearly 200 years of uncompromising commitment to integrity. The actual interpretation of the original texts is not at issue-IBS has always been willing to enter into discussion on interpretation. The issue is the unconscionable way in which Ms. Olasky represented the intentions of Zondervan and IBS.
RESPONSE: The question is not intent, but effect; WORLD did not seek to determine whether there has ever "been any intention" for the NIV to go gender-neutral. With respect to the NIV's going gender-neutral, our reports were predicated upon the actual publication of an actual "gender-inclusive" NIV in England, with the actual blessing of IBS. Extensive analysis since publication of the first article, by a variety of scholars, demonstrates unmistakably that dozens, and perhaps hundreds, of changes were made based on stylistic preference rather than textual accuracy. Documentation is readily available. Oddly, this complaint-citing only one article, WORLD's March 29, 1997 cover story-is based on a story that never even mentions the International Bible Society. It is difficult, therefore, to respond to IBS's charge about "the unconscionable way in which Ms. Olasky represented the intentions of ... IBS" in an article that does not name that organization.
3. COMPLAINT: She continues, "... if the 15 member committee for Biblical Translation ... has its way, the 35 percent of American Bible buyers who prefer the NIV will not be able to buy a new copy of the version they trust". The CBT never had any such position. These allegations are blatantly untrue. There was never an agreement to replace the NIV text with a new edition. Furthermore, there is not, nor has there ever been any agreement between ZPH and IBS to publish an inclusive text in North America. Our commitment has always been to maintain the existing NIV text.
RESPONSE: Larry Walker of the CBT stated in WORLD's March 29 story that the consensus on the committee was that the inclusive-language edition should "take the place of the other." By use of the term "other," Mr. Walker was referring to the current (1984) NIV text in North America. Kenneth Barker of the CBT, in the very next sentence of the article, said: "If our committee had its way there would be no separate inclusive-language edition." To say the CBT "never had any such position," is misleading if possibly true technically. Did the CBT as a whole vote to take that position officially? We don't know, but that is not what we reported. And to morph our direct quotation of Mr. Barker into "allegations [that] are blatantly untrue" does not follow from a careful reading of the article. IBS's argument is with Mr. Barker and Mr. Walker-not WORLD.
4. COMPLAINT: The author quotes Larry Walker, a respected member of the CBT, concerning gender treatment. She, through brackets, attributes the phrase "unisex language" (paragraph 3) to Dr. Walker. Neither IBS nor Dr. Walker has espoused the use of unisex language. Again, that clearly implies an intentional neutering of gender specific language from the original text-a practice that IBS does not condone. It must be emphasized that there gender inclusive/accurate are opposite of gender neutral/unisex. These allegations are not only false and damaging, they are emotionally charged. Ms. Olasky, as a journalist, fully understands the impact of her word selection to skew the perception of her audience. This is a practice not only allowed, but encouraged by her editor, Joel Belz, as he personally states in the August 17, 1996 edition in his explanation of World's approach to journalism.
RESPONSE: Actually, it's paragraph four, which quotes Mr. Walker as saying: "Way back yonder when it first came up, no one was for [unisex language]. Now at the present time, almost everyone is for it." The use of brackets was to clarify the meaning of the word "it," so that the reader would know what Mr. Walker was talking about. Such use does not attribute the phrase "unisex language" to Mr. Walker; the brackets attributed the phrase to WORLD. IBS says it "does not condone [the] intentional neutering of gender specific language from the original text." We do not know whether IBS condones such "intentional neutering," but IBS does hold the copyright to it-intentional or not. There is documentation of the NIV Inclusive Language Edition's neutering of gender-specific language that is sufficient to refute IBS's assertion to the contrary. Something is wrong with the sentence, "It must be emphasized that there gender inclusive/accurate are opposite of gender neutral/unisex." WORLD infers that IBS is attempting to make a distinction between the terms "gender inclusive and gender accurate" and "gender neutral and unisex." While there may be a distinction in tone, WORLD rejects the contention that terms such as "gender inclusive" and "unisex" are opposites. Terminology in this area is in flux, and WORLD searched for terms that would make the issues clear to readers. Readers, not public-relations officials, should be the arbiters of what is appropriate. Applying the term "gender accurate" to the NIV Inclusive Language Edition and the New International Reader's Version is particularly problematic in light of IBS's Lars Dunberg's signature on the statement that grew out of a meeting at Focus on the Family repudiating both Bible translations. That would render the 1984 NIV language and the upcoming retranslation of the NIrV (which is supposed to conform to the 1984 language) "gender inaccurate." Finally, IBS's word selection renders the final two sentences of this particular complaint confusing. After pointing out that Susan Olasky "fully understands the impact of her word selection to skew the perception of her audience," IBS states, "This is a practice not only allowed, but encouraged by her editor, Joel Belz." What practice is referred to? The practice of fully understanding the impact of word selection? Or the practice of using word selection to skew readers' perceptions? Again, WORLD is left only to infer, and in this case we infer the latter. Apart from the fact that Joel Belz is publisher, not editor, IBS distorts Mr. Belz's August 17/24, 1996 article. IBS suggests that Mr. Belz encourages word selection designed to skew readers' perceptions. This is a lie. The article is enclosed for the committee's review.
5. COMPLAINT: At no time prior to the release of this article was any representative of IBS or ZPH ever contacted to validate or refute the accuracy of the information. Furthermore, Ms. Olasky quotes only from the NRSV and equates that text with the alleged changes to the NIV. There is no correlation at all between the NRSV and the NIV. Nothing produced in the NRSV would ever have a bearing on any changes ever made to the NIV-it is a grossly fallacious comparison.
RESPONSE: "Alleged changes to the NIV"? WORLD hopes that IBS is not trying to dispute the fact that changes were made to the NIV. In any case, the reason for referencing the NRSV was clearly stated in the story: "... a look at the New Revised Standard Version shows how difficult it is to make changes without tampering with the meaning." To the complaint that WORLD did not call IBS and ZPH for comment for the first article, WORLD points out again that the story was primarily about the translation of the NIV, not its production and marketing. As noted earlier, IBS is not mentioned. Zondervan is mentioned only four brief times in a four-page story. WORLD still stands by all four references.
6. COMPLAINT: In summary, the EPA has established a set of guidelines for journalistic conduct. It is our opinion that these standards were violated in an unprecedented fashion throughout this entire issue. For example, the first standard speaks of "an avoidance of distortion and sensationalism". Further, the code sates (sic) that publications "should be conscious of their duty to protect the good name and reputation of others". But perhaps more disturbing is that the Lord established a set of biblical guidelines for the way we were to address issues within the body. In fact He goes so far as to list those who create dissention (sic) in the body as among those he hates.
RESPONSE: WORLD did not create dissension in the body of Christ; IBS's sanctioning the mistranslation of the Scriptures did. The Lord is also said to hate "a heart that devises wicked plans" and "a false witness who speaks lies." IBS also distorts the EPA ethics code when it quotes selectively that publications "should be conscious of their duty to protect the good name and reputation of others." The full sentence reads: "Whenever substantive mistakes are made, whatever their origin, they [member publications] should be conscious of their duty to protect the good name and reputation of others." This provision of the code turns on the matter of "substantive mistakes." WORLD made no substantive mistakes-and no substantive mistakes are proved in this entire complaint. Therefore, the protection of IBS's "good name and reputation" rests with IBS and its public-relations team. WORLD's commitment is to its readers. While concealment for a short time may have protected the reputations of IBS, ZPH, and the CBT, not to expose the Stealth Bible project would have been a betrayal of our readers and of the body of Christ. WORLD's business is journalism, not public-relations.
7. COMPLAINT: It is with profound pain that we question the motive of World magazine in this unwarranted attack on the integrity and commitment of organizations like IBS, ZPH and the CBT. Many godly people have been significantly impacted by this unbiblical approach. Jobs have been lost, reputations have been damaged, people have been directly and indirectly threatened, and countless hours that normally would have been spent on the work of the kingdom have been lost due to World's irresponsible approach to journalism, and unbiblical approach to conflict resolution.
RESPONSE: As mentioned earlier, those who made decisions that proved highly unpopular with the NIV's traditional audience bear responsibility for any loss of trust, any jobs lost, and any hours wasted. Likewise, those who made direct or indirect threats against persons--assuming such things actually happened-bear responsibility for their own actions. WORLD's approach to journalism, while some may disagree with it, is neither unbiblical nor irresponsible.
8. COMPLAINT: In keeping with the biblical mandate to approach our brothers who have a grievance against us, we have contacted World to discuss the issue. They are unwilling to acknowledge the damage that this article caused. Even had all of the information been accurate, which is was not, the method used to approach the issue was in violation of God's principle. We as believers have a responsibility to love God with all our being, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. This applies to journalism as well. Reporting of information does not release us from our most important obligations as Christians.
RESPONSE: In publishing the first article, WORLD had no "grievance" against IBS, which is not even mentioned in the article. Nevertheless, IBS officials apparently believed WORLD did have a grievance. But this raises a question: In what way is it in conformity with biblical conflict resolution to demand that WORLD-the aggrieved party, according to IBS-"acknowledge the damage that this article caused"? IBS also says WORLD's information was not accurate. That is not established. IBS's disagreement with WORLD's story does not, ipso facto, mean it is inaccurate. A profound difference exists between identifying actual errors and simply disagreeing with the manner in which something was done or the point-of-view of someone else in a disagreement. We continue to say that IBS's complaint consists of the latter, not the former. Citing the believer's responsibility to love God with all his being and to love his neighbor as himself, IBS accuses WORLD of violating "God's principle" by exposing the attack on God's Word. To the contrary, WORLD believes that possessing this knowledge and concealing it would have violated God's principle.
There is one other aspect that we must mention. We certainly agree with IBS's statement that we believers "have a responsibility to love God with all our being, and to love our neighbors as ourselves." Sometimes our responsibility to love God means that we need to disagree with fellow believers. We believe that disagreements should be expressed in a civil way, drawing attention to the substance of the dispute and not stooping to engage in ad hominem attacks. In our reporting and writing, WORLD has kept the focus on substantive disputes and has not engaged in such uncivil attacks.