World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) has established an “independent” review to audit Wycliffe Bible Translators and Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) Bible translations geared toward Muslims that have been in dispute. The Orlando Sentinel reports “about 200 translations” will be audited.
WEA appointed Dr. Robert E. Cooley on May 9 to lead this global review. I had suspected Dr. Cooley would be on the review board because a Wycliffe/SIL internal document posted in March that I obtained on March 28 shows, “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.” A source within Wycliffe had identified Dr. Cooley among other AG academics. (I have a list of the rest of the names.)
I emailed WEA on April 11—copied the email to Wycliffe—asking if it was true that Wycliffe/SIL had recommended AG academics supportive of their position to the panel. I was concerned Wycliffe/SIL would be “stacking the deck”—contrary to what their leaderships had claimed—by recruiting experts in agreement with their position. WEA declined to respond to my questions.
My email to WEA clearly showed Dr. Cooley’s relationship—without naming him—to SIL Executive Director, Freddy Boswell, Jr. I mentioned how they had both served on the board at Oral Roberts University. Also, sources within Wycliffe/SIL say SIL had approached Dr. Cooley to help with the AG situation, especially because AG had given Wycliffe/SIL a May 15 deadline.
As respected as Dr. Cooley is, it is suspect how neutral this review board would be, considering he has been helping Wycliffe and SIL all along with the AG situation, and according to Wycliffe/SIL internal document, he is “supportive” of Wycliffe/SIL position.
In the meantime, we need to pray for the whole truth to come out. I have other information that shows Wycliffe/SIL would be using what appears to be a lopsided review as a stamp of approval for their Bible translations that have caused grave concern by the national churches of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Turkey.
AG has already made its position very clear. Apparently, even Wycliffe and SIL enlisting Dr. Cooley did not help with the AG situation. AG has delayed its decision to break off partnership with Wycliffe until at the end of the year, all out of respect for the WEA global review. It seems, however, that the break off is bound to happen because Wycliffe still officially insists “Son of God” cannot be translated accurately in “certain Muslim” contexts because it carries a sexual connotation. Also, WEA review has no bearing on AG if WEA’s “independent” review contradicts AG position. You can read AG’s official position HERE.
This translation controversy is not going away soon, especially when there are serious ethical questions about how it is being conducted. Why would a cash-strapped WEA spend its limited resources on a global review when all critics asked for is for Wycliffe and SIL to commit in writing that “Father,” “Son” and “Son of God” should always be translated accurately?
WEA deliberately agreeing to do this lopsided review has opened up a lot of questions about the process. It is clear from Wycliffe/SIL internal document Wycliffe and SIL have worked behind the scenes to get people supportive of their approach on the panel and that WEA is not being transparent in responding to questions.
WEA claims to speak for 600 million evangelical Christians worldwide. (There are about 800 million evangelicals in total.) There is evidence that suggests that WEA has hitched itself to one particular source of funding that calls into question its claim to represent the global church.