100 leaders register opposition to gender-neutral TNIV for church use

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--A statement issued by 100 Christian leaders May 28 urges against the gender-neutral Today's New International Version's use in preaching or Bible study.

The TNIV, a revision of the widely used 1984 New International Version Bible translation, was introduced in January by the International Bible Society and Zondervan publishing house.

The May 28 statement, coordinated by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, states that the TNIV "makes significant changes" in the gender language in the NIV. "The TNIV raises more concern in this regard than previous Bible versions because, riding on the reputation of the NIV, the TNIV may vie for a place as the church's commonly accepted Bible. We believe that any commonly accepted Bible of the church should be more faithful to the language of the original."

Describing the TNIV as having gone "beyond acceptable translation standards in several important respects," the statement signed by the 100 leaders declares, "Because of these and other misgivings, we cannot endorse the TNIV as sufficiently trustworthy to commend to the church. We do not believe it is a translation suitable for use as a normal preaching and teaching text of the church or for a common memorizing, study, and reading Bible of the Christian community."

Signers of the nine-paragraph statement include the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, James Merritt, an Atlanta-area pastor; his likely successor in June, Jack Graham, a Dallas-area pastor; and three former SBC presidents, Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina; Tom Elliff, an Oklahoma City-area pastor; and Adrian Rogers, a Memphis, Tenn.,-area pastor.

Among about 15 other Southern Baptist leaders signing the statement are Robert E. Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board; and three other SBC seminary presidents, R. Albert Mohler Jr. of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Chuck Kelley of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; and Ken Hemphill of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas.

Among other Christian leaders signing the statement are Charles Colson of Prison Fellowship; author and speaker Joni Eareckson Tada; James Dobson of Focus on the Family; Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network; Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission; finance authors Larry Burkett and Ron Blue; Bill McCartney, president of Promise Keepers; Dal Shealy, president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes; William Pugh, national director of Athletes in Action; talk show host Janet Parshall; Dennis Rainey, executive director of FamilyLife; Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association; radio speaker Chuck Swindoll; and Jack Hayford, pastor of The Church on the Way, Van Nuys, Calif.

The May 28 statement differs from a February statement coordinated by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and signed by nearly 40 scholars stating, "In light of troubling translation inaccuracies -- primarily (but not exclusively) in relation to gender language -- that introduce distortions of the meanings that were conveyed better by the original NIV, we cannot endorse the TNIV translation as sufficiently accurate to commend to the church."

The TNIV's New Testament, which was published this spring, will be followed by the complete Bible, "expected in 2005," according to IBS/Zondervan news releases, which also noted that the NIV will continue to be published.

Neither IBS nor Zondervan representatives returned Baptist Press' calls for comment May 29.

The statement with 100 signatories "is meant to reflect how deep and broad the evangelical concern is" about the TNIV, Randy Stinson, executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, based in Louisville, Ky., told Baptist Press May 28.

In a CBMW news release May 28, Stinson stated, "These leaders represent various types of ministries, denominations, and theological persuasions, but all have a passionate concern about the Bible and the translation process."

The TNIV, Stinson said in the news release, "has plunged the evangelical world into a crucial decision-making process that will now affect the future direction of Bible translation in the English speaking world and will determine for years to come what kinds of Bibles will be commonly accepted as the preaching, teaching, devotional, memorizing Bibles of the church."

Stinson noted that the statement's signers hope the International Bible Society and Zondervan "will reconsider and make the necessary changes so that the TNIV will conform to the Colorado Springs Guidelines which were designed to govern the translation of gender-related language."

The guidelines were drafted amid a 1997 controversy sparked by news reports that IBS and Zondervan were undertaking a gender-neutral NIV revision. A firestorm within the evangelical community, however, prompted the agencies to drop their plans and to assure that the NIV would not become gender-neutral. On Jan. 28 of this year, however, IBS/Zondervan announced that their work on a gender-neutral translation had continued, resulting in the TNIV, and that they were withdrawing their endorsement of the Colorado Springs Guidelines. The guidelines were framed in a meeting of 12 evangelicals, including representatives of the IBS and Zondervan, convened by Focus on the Family's James Dobson in Colorado Springs, Colo.

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