Features

'We could not be intimidated'

"'We could not be intimidated'" Continued...

Issue: "Sex, lies, & audiotape," July 27, 2002

Not content merely to quote the FBA statement, IBS added to its press release the names of every FBA member agency, including one mission-New Tribes-that never held FBA membership. But some of the Forum's member agencies were blindsided by the press release, particularly because almost half of the agencies had not even been represented at the meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, where the consensus endorsement purportedly occurred.

Agencies not at the meeting were deeply disturbed at being tied to the controversial TNIV. Unhappiness over IBS's claim of FBA endorsement ran so deep that one Forum member, the Bible League, decided to reassess whether to be a member at all. Other Forum members expressed severe displeasure with IBS for claiming support, particularly because several agencies-including the Bible League-had already decided not to distribute the gender-neutral TNIV.

Two factors, though, increased the difficulties faced by FBA members wishing to distance themselves from the IBS release. First, a majority of the FBA members present in Edinburgh had voted to approve the TNIV's translation guidelines. Second, the internal setup of the FBA, which divides its members into "translation agencies" and "distribution agencies," left many unhappy Forum members outside the loop on the Edinburgh action. FBA translation agencies were heavily represented at the meeting; distribution agencies were mostly absent. Yet it was the Forum's distribution agencies that received the most heat from their constituencies following the IBS release.

At first, FBA agencies responded on an individual basis. Douglas Bright, spokesman for The Bible League, emphasized his organization's lack of translation expertise: "Please note that [the IBS] release implies that the Bible League is among 'the world's leading experts on Bible translation.' To the contrary, the Bible League does not do translation work and claims no expertise in that field."

Displeasure with IBS's release was not limited to distribution agencies, but carried over into the ranks of the translation agencies. Rev. Syvelle Phillips, founder of Evangel Bible Translators and a member of the FBA's translation group, had been unable to attend the Edinburgh meeting due to recent leg surgery. Mr. Phillips told WORLD that after learning of the press release he had told IBS, "I will be coping with the problems you have created for me for many years in the future."

Individual responses by FBA member agencies soon gave way to a unified response crafted by a public-relations firm retained by the FBA. The A. Larry Ross agency issued a press release that said in part, "Contrary to a June 11 news release issued by the International Bible Society (IBS) and Zondervan, the Forum of Bible Agencies (FBA) today announced it has neither approved nor disapproved Today's New International Version (TNIV) of the Bible.... In addition, the FBA emphasized it has never endorsed the TNIV, as strongly implied in the release issued by Forum member IBS in conjunction with Zondervan. Other Forum members are aggrieved by the release because of the confusion it has generated among their constituents, as it is not the policy of the FBA to approve, endorse or support members' translations."

Despite the press release, IBS continued to assert that the Forum had approved the TNIV's translation methods and principles. IBS spokesman Larry Lincoln told WORLD, "The fact of the matter still stands and we stand by the earlier statement that was given to us that the TNIV does indeed fall within [the Forum's] guidelines."

The division between Forum distribution and translation agencies must be seen against the backdrop of the commitment of several Forum translation agencies to gender-neutral language in their own Bible-translation work. The International Bible Society is clearly in favor of gender-neutral language. Nor is there any question where the more liberal American Bible Society stands-its Good News Bible was one of the first American translations to embrace gender-neutral language. The United Bible Societies have not issued a statement on gender language in Scripture, but they are dependent on the American Bible Society for funding.

The position of Wycliffe Bible Translators is murky. Wycliffe depends on contributions from the missions budgets of tens of thousands of evangelical churches. When questioned about the position of Wycliffe and its sister organization, the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), on the recent FBA action, SIL Executive Director John Watters and International Translation Coordinator Freddy Boswell, who represented Wycliffe/SIL at the Edinburgh meeting, refused to comment. They referred WORLD to American Bible Society's Gene Habecker for information on the Forum's statement, but he did not return WORLD's calls. Mr. Watters and Mr. Boswell were also unwilling to divulge Wycliffe/SIL's own stance on gender-neutral language.

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