Wycliffe/SIL’s Gamble with Integrity Grieves Me

I am grateful for Wycliffe/SIL, two “reputable” Christian organizations, which have done a lot for me, as a Christian from one of the unreached people groups, the Orma people of Kenya. I am especially thankful for Wycliffe/SIL missionaries George and Wendy. Had it not been for their meticulous and diligent work, my native language, Orma, would not have been written and I wouldn’t be reading portions of the Word in Orma today.

I was a member of a literacy team that met in February 1995 for a literacy conference that was hosted by World Vision (Tana River District), Wycliffe/SIL missionaries, Literary and Evangelism Fellowship and Literacy and Evangelism International. The conference was held at PCEA Makupa Guest House, in Mombasa, Kenya. It was at this conference my native Orma language was written for the first time. If it weren’t for the Wycliffe/SIL missionaries and missionaries from other agencies, I wouldn’t be writing in Orma today.

Having said that, there is a problem right now. A gargantuan one. And these two organizations, which have meant so much to me, have not taken any concrete steps toward remedying issue of mistranslations of Scripture geared toward Muslims. There is a plethora of evidence to show Wycliffe/SIL linguists, missiologists and translators pandered to Muslims and removed “Father” and “Son” from new Bible of translations. These supposedly reputable Christian organizations are dangling off a cliff. Their personnel responsible for this fiasco need to be rescued from God’s Wrath.

A staff member of these organizations, Moses Gingerich, contacted me yesterday. He wrote, “It seems that if you have such a good relationship with SIL/Wycliffe perhaps you should have read what is posted on their website at (SIL link). If you are indeed a Christian I applaud you. But please check with the source first for articles that could be misconstrued.” [Emphasis mine.]

Mr. Gingerich is fully convinced a 300-word statement released yesterday from SIL/Wycliffe debunks damaging allegations that abound. The 300-word release has two problems. First, it does not answer a single question from the 16-page Fact Check from Biblical Missiology. Second, it does not address any allegations mentioned in the petition, WND article or my Yahoo! News article. The release essentially reiterated Wycliffe/SIL’s position on translations. Nothing was new other than the question in the opening statement. Wycliffe/SIL posed its own question and answered it then copied and pasted its mission statement.

I have evidence of Wycliffe/SIL editing materials online, expurgating damaging information and even expunging at least one document. Here are a few changes Wycliffe/SIL have made, most recently, since the publication of news articles:

  • The statement on filial terms has changed numerous terms, which even has caught the eye of a Yahoo! News reader, Bbabel, who quipped, “I think you got it backwards, the date on this article is Jan 27th, the date on the two internet blogs that I can find say Jan 29th. It seems those other locations are using this as their source material. But perhaps I’m missing something.” Where is the integrity? Even Yahoo! News can verify I never edited the article once it was published. It grieves me an organization as reputable as Wycliffe/SIL take integrity lightly.
  • Wycliffe Global Alliance issued a statement on contextualization in 2011 which originally stated, “Our [Wycliffe] goal is not to “convert people” from one religion to another or to “make people understand.”” You are reading that correctly. I posted a link of that statement on my Facebook page on October 25, 2011 found HERE and also discussed it on a private forum with more than 200 other Christians who are in active ministry to Muslims in North America. Some of them teach in colleges and seminaries. Within weeks of our discussion, the part where it stated it wasn’t Wycliffe’s goal “to make people understand” disappeared. An organization, which prides itself to reach the unreached in the world with the Word God in their own language did not have a goal to translate the Word of God in a way it is understandable. What an oxymoron. In fact, Wycliffe defended this position when it was initially challenged and only relented when it became very clear that statement was problematic.

Why is this issue so important to me? First, these organizations helped me and my people group have access to God’s Word. The stakes are too high for them to fail. Second, Muslims already use the Jehovah’s Witness’ New World Translation, attempting to attack the divinity of Jesus Christ. In these Wycliffe/SIL and Frontier’s translations, Jesus is Messiah—which means a created being in Islam. To a Muslim he is not the Son of God. Can you believe what would happen if a Muslim apologist shows up on Al-Jazeera with a copy of these erroneous translations of the Bible? It wouldn’t be much of an argument because he would invoke the Bible as Wycliff/SIL and or Frontiers produced and Christian apologists would have no answer.

Folks, doing nothing is not an option. Pray for Wycliff/SIL and Frontiers leaders to come to their senses. Join this coalition. We will not rest until these organizations retract the Bible already in print and jettison the plan to have further translations that oust “Father” and “Son” from the Trinity.

I am waiting on more evidence that shows yesterday’s statement is a mere red herring and it amounts to naught. I will contact Wycliffe and SIL for their comments on discrepancies on their statements. God bless you!

  • http://Wycliffe,SIL&FrontiersControversyintheMedia|BiblicalMissiology Joanna

    Thank you Hussein for your clear summation of the “Father,Son Muslim translation” issue
    May truth be proclaimed because Jesus said it is in knowing the truth that we will be made free.(John 14) May God have mercy and blind eyes be opened.

  • http://Wycliffe,SIL&FrontiersControversyintheMedia|BiblicalMissiology Joanna

    Thank you Hussein for your clear summation of the Muslim/Father,Son,translation issue..May God have mercy on us in this and unenlightened eyes be opened for His Glory and for His sake and the salvation of lost souls. We “shall know the truth and the truth shall make us free.” John 14

  • Eileen

    Perhaps you do not fully understand the translation process if you keep insisting that they have “left out” the words for God and Son of God. Perhaps you do not personally know the nuances of the particular language translated, whereas the words they chose might having the meaning of God and Son of God. I personally don’t get your argument. The Messiah WAS the son of God, Jesus, so it is impossible to say that by translating the word as Messiah that you think it no longer conveys the English word “Son of God” when that is exactly who the Messiah was and is. You do not achieve correct meaning when you try to use the same words Son in English and the same Son word in another language. Maybe that language says “Messiah” and it conveys the meaning “Son”. Like another person answering you on here, I feel that you and some of the other people who have been quoted by BiblicalMissiology.org and others need to step back and stop trashing these great Mission organizations. They have reiterated their aims and beliefs well. They obviously know more about the language and translation process than anyone else.

    • http://www.cracksinthecrescent.com Hussein


      The only reason Wycliffe and SIL have given for not translating “Father” and “Son” literally in Muslim contexts is because they claim such translations have some “sexual connotation,” which is not true. Muslims have an issue with the divinity of Jesus Christ and not how he was conceived. I am a former Muslim and I struggled with Jesus Christ’s divinity and was eventually convinced He is divine. Wycliffe and SIL are trying to remove all the obstacles with these mistranslations. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, who is the Only one who can teach us all Truth, to make the Word clear to us and those who don’t believe, which include Muslims. They shouldn’t play the Holy Spirit.

  • L

    Regarding this statement your argument about the statement : “Our [Wycliffe] goal is not to “convert people” from one religion to another or to “make people understand.”

    I’ve gone to the article.

    What I see is this: “Our goal is not to “convert people” from one religion to another.” Which is followed by this sentence, “The goal is to convey hope from God’s heart to theirs in a language they can clearly understand.”

    It doesn’t have the phrase “make people understand” from the first sentence (as you suggested it had), but the next sentence clearly covers that. To me that just looks like the document was edited because it was redundant. What’s clear is that they want to convey that they don’t “force” people and that they are interested in people having the choice to have relationship with God (as you had).

    The Wycliffe response is posted here:

    • http://www.cracksinthecrescent.com Hussein

      Wycliffe deleted that statement. I have more than 200 people who do Muslim ministry in North America who can confirm that it was on Wycliffe Global Alliance’s website in October because we had an email discussion about it. I have no doubt it has been expurgated.

  • J

    I can understand why each organization would feel like they needed to change electronic content–when someone who has been brought up within their organization is now trying to take them down from the inside. Please consider the full impact of what you are doing when you are championing the validity of your position.

    Whether or not I agree with leaving “Father” and “Son” in all translations, I would say that you appear to be trying to wreck two groups who have helped you to faith, guided you, welcomed you, and trained you. Let the Spirit go before you, rather than your own anger or grief!

    Thank you brother for your service, please keep God’s bigger plan in mind as you spearhead the cause He has called you to.

    • http://www.cracksinthecrescent.com Hussein

      I was never an employee of Wycliffe or SIL. I did translation work for George and Wendy but that was under Orma Language Project, which was under the auspices of Bible Translation and Literacy.
      You wrote, “Whether or not I agree with leaving “Father” and “Son” in all translations.” Are you acknowledging Wycliffe/SIL at one point removed these terms from new Bible translations geared toward Muslims? Wycliffe denies it has ever done any substitution for “Son of God” but its own Doctrinal Beliefs and Translation Standards http://www.wycliffe.org/TranslationStandards.aspx (#9) says otherwise.

  • http://www.pray-ap.info Mert Hershberger

    How did they translate Father and Son into your the Orma language? Please share a little about a success story in translation so we can see how it is possible for someone from a Muslim background to comprehend the biblical theology with faith and accurate translation. Thanks!!

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