The ongoing conflict between Zondervan Publishing House and Worldintensified in July when a three-member Evangelical Press Association(EPA) ad hoc panel scolded the magazine for poor journalism.
Asked by Zondervan Publishing House and the International Bible Society(IBS) to investigate the dispute, EPAimpaneled the special committee.
The ethics panel said the magazine engaged in a one-sided "set-up job" whenit reported on moves to revise the New International Version(NIV) Bible using "inclusive language." The committee's reportwas unofficial until the EPA board considered the findingsat a meeting in late July(www.ChristianityToday.com/ct/archives).
World's March 29 cover story by Susan Olasky reported thatNIV translators are quietly conspiring to sneak feministideology into evangelical churches by toying with pronouns and other genderreferences in Scripture. World's continuing coverage sparked a firestorm,prompting Zondervan and the Colorado Springs-based IBS, whichowns the copyright to the version, to scrap plans to introduce a new,"gender-neutral" NIV in the United States. An inclusiveNIV is already in circulation in England(CT, June 16, 1997, p. 52).
PANEL'S REPORT: The EPA asks its members toadhere to a four-point code of ethics. Magazines are urged to avoid "distortionand sensationalism" and to "be conscious of their duty to protect the goodname and reputation of others."
The three members of the ad-hoc EPA ethics committee—Wheaton College journalismprofessor Mark Fackler, Washington, D.C.-based author Beth Spring, and Universityof Missouri-Columbia, Washington Reporting Program director WesPippert—chastised Olasky for using "inflammatory language" and "slanted,first-person editorializing" to suggest that translators are distorting biblicaltexts.
The panelists rebuked World for failing to contact Zondervanbefore the story was printed, and they concluded that the article malignedthe reputations of Zondervan, IBS, and the Committee for BibleTranslation.
The committee commended World for its sincerity and couragein tackling the issue, but said the magazine "falls seriously short of upholdingthe EPA code" because accuracy is "gravely incomplete."The panel criticized World's use of "inflammatory" terminologysuch as feminist seduction, unisex language, and stealthBible as detracting from "a reasoned discussion of an importantissue."
MAGAZINE RESPONDS: After the panel announced its decision July 1,executives at Zondervan and IBS said they felt vindicated. ButWorld editor Marvin Olasky, Susan's husband, reacted by threateningto pull his publication out of the EPA if its boardof directors does not repudiate the ethics report.
"The committee dodged the central question: Was World tellingthe truth about the changing of the NIV?" Marvin Olasky says."We do not believe that misquoting God is a responsible alternative. We believethat changing God's words is an activity that the Bible itself condemns,and that Christians should oppose."
Jonathan Peterson, Zondervan's director of corporate affairs, saysNIV sales have not slowed since World'sreports, but a "handful" of bookstores notified Zondervan that the versionwill no longer be stocked on their shelves. The NIV isthe best-selling English translation of the Bible.
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