Christian Denominations Turn Up Heat on Wycliffe Bible Translators

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ANALYSIS | The Presbyterian Church in America's General Assembly on Thursday approved resolutions that criticize Wycliffe Bible Translators new Bible translations geared toward Muslims that omit "Father" and "Son" from the Trinity. PCA delegate Rev. Travis Hutchinson reports the resolutions "passed almost unanimously."

Not even Wycliffe's move to submit to a World Evangelical Alliance's review could stop PCA from expressing its concern over Wycliffe's translation practices. At issue is Wycliffe's contention that in certain "Muslim contexts" where "a literal translation of 'Son of God' would communicate wrong meaning, an alternative form with equivalent meaning may be used."

PCA joins the Assemblies of God, which also has expressed serious reservations in its document about Wycliffe's translation philosophy. The Assemblies of God World Missions has threatened to sever ties if "Father" and "Son" are not translated literally.

Wycliffe has had a long and respected history of Bible translation, but the public rebuke from these denominations could have serious financial implications. The PCA resolutions recommend churches to cut funding not only for questionable Wycliffe translation projects but also for "persons advocating problematic approaches to translation."

When reached for comment, Charlene Perryman of AGWM said, "Out of the respect for WEA review panel, AGWM has put on hold its decision on Wycliffe until the end of 2012." She directed further questions to the official document.

In a comment to the Charisma News after the unveiling of AG position paper, AGWM Executive Director Greg Mundis was charitable, but there was no mistaking the implication of his words. He said, "We have given much thought and prayer in this process, and we continue to trust the Lord for a mutually acceptable resolution with Wycliffe." He added, "If, after the WEA panel review is complete, Wycliffe's position concerning familial language is compatible with AGWM's, we will gratefully continue what has been a long-standing and effective partnership."

It is clear AGWM would break off relations with Wycliffe if the review panel recommendation disagrees with AG's position paper on translating "Father" and "Son" literally.

These denominations' decisions follow WEA's appointment of the Assemblies of God academic Robert Cooley to lead the review board. It is doubtful Cooley's appointment is accidental. An internal memo from Wycliffe stated, "Several Assemblies of God academics have been recommended for the global review panel and are seeking to participate from a position supportive of SIL's Best Practices," which allows removing "Father" and "Son" in some new Bible translations. Some critics have taken this as evidence Wycliffe was explicitly stacking the deck in its favor. WEA declined to comment. Calls made to Wycliffe were not immediately returned.

Wycliffe did not need WEA's "independent external audit" to handle this controversy, especially when all Biblical Missiology's online petition had asked for was "a written commitment not to remove Father, Son or Son of God from the text of Scripture."

PCA and AG have made their positions clear. It remains to be seen if Wycliffe acts soon to resolve this controversy.
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