A new book surfaces allegations that Wycliffe Bible Translators founder W. Cameron Townsend and former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller left a wake of death and destruction during decades of activity in the Third World.

In "Thy Will Be Done" (HarperCollins), Gerard Colby and Charlotte Dennett accuse the pair of courting right-wing dictators, aiding the Central Intelligence Agency, destroying indigenous cultures, and ignoring genocide. The 900-page book traces 70 years of intrigue involving oil, big business, politics, ecology, Bible translation, and evangelism.

The work focuses on Rockefeller's efforts at political and economic influence in Latin America and Townsend's goal of translating the Bible into every tongue. The authors claim that Wycliffe's related organization, the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), was repeatedly used to "pacify" Indian tribes and help pave the way for commercial exploitation of resources, thus threatening the Amazon rain forest. The authors allege SIL, by introducing the Bible and Christianity, destroyed tribal beliefs and customs, often leading to "degradation, ethnocide, and even extinction." Colby and Dennett strongly imply CIA-SIL connections in Latin America, but admit the charges lack proof.

Cameron Townsend (1896-1982) founded Wycliffe and SIL in 1934. Now with more than 5,000 active members, Wycliffe handles personnel and financial development while SIL conducts field translation projects. Wycliffe spokesperson Arthur Lightbody says the claims made against Townsend and SIL are "without foundation." "Research supplied by Wycliffe historians shows that there was no association between Rockefeller and Townsend." He also contends that where SIL sends teams, "The cultural groups have a better chance of survival as they become literate, learn proper health techniques, and receive moral insight from Scripture."

Townsend's practice—and still SIL's policy—was to enter nations as guests of governments under contracts to place indigenous languages into written form and enhance literacy. Governments often provide logistical support for SIL.


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