The WEA Cover-up for Wycliffe/SIL is Complete-Report Mirrors Current Translation Policy

The World Evangelical Alliance (the WEA) panel of experts report on Wycliffe Bible Translators and Summer Institute of Linguistics is out. The report only covers Wycliffe/SIL Bible translation policy and does not touch on Bible translations in the current controversy as Wycliffe/SIL had initially promised. You can read the report HERE.

First, Wycliffe USA President Bob Creson told Tom Breen of the Associated Press last spring the WEA global review was “to determine whether Wycliffe and affiliated groups are improperly replacing the terms “Son of God” and “God the Father.” Unfortunately, the WEA report did not address this. There are questions Wycliffe/SIL must answer. Mere denials when Wycliffe/SIL have defended these translations to the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and the Assemblies of God don’t address the issue. It is time for Wycliffe/SIL to come clean.

Second, the report claims:

These candidates represented the diversity of needed scholars and included persons from diverse global contexts, with a mix of men and women, and with none who had any working relationship with Wycliffe and SIL International at present or in the past. The Panel formation was completed by September 30, 2012 with 12 outstanding members prepared to undertake the review process.

It fails to mention Dr. Robert E. Cooley and SIL Executive Director, Freddy Boswell, Jr., served on the board of Oral Roberts University together. Also, Wycliffe/SIL had approached Dr. Cooley to help Wycliffe/SIL with the standoff with the Assemblies of God prior to Wycliffe/SIL recommending him to the WEA. Wycliffe/SIL internal memo shows Wycliffe/SIL recommended him to participate in the review process “from a position supportive of SIL’s Best Practices,” the document the panel just reviewed. I notified the WEA of this serious integrity issues several weeks before the WEA appointed Dr. Cooley. The WEA thanked me for my concerns and did nothing.

Third, the report also claims:

Panel had free access to Wycliffe and SIL International resources needed to complete its mandate, and the Panel wishes to express its appreciation to Wycliffe and SIL International for supplying all requested data and resources.

On the contrary, the panel did not have “free access” to Wycliffe/SIL members who were opposed Wycliffe/SIL translation practices. The panel only heard from those supporting Wycliffe/SIL translation practices.

Fourth, the WEA panel report pretty affirms Wycliffe/SIL translation policy, SIL Best Practices, which Dr. Cooley was “supportive” of prior to the WEA review panel being established. The SIL Best Practices allowed wiggle room and the WEA panel recommendation just followed suit. On page 6:

For example, as the biblical context allows, the word for “father” might be rendered with the equivalent of “heavenly Father” when referring to God, and the word for “son” might be rendered with the equivalent of “divine Son,” “eternal Son,” or “heavenly Son” when referring to Jesus.

Wycliffe/SIL betrayed the church universal by translating, consulting and producing Bible translations that were heretical when they had a wiggle room. This report is no different.

Fifth, the WEA global panel mad a glaring error in arriving at the above conclusion. Here is a major oops which even native Arabic speakers on the panel could not catch. The panel report, on page 18 and 19, quotes a verse from the Qur’an to show how “translating” “Son” accurately in Muslim content might be problematic. The Qur’an verse that they think “illustrate the depth of the Muslim abhorrence to the idea of God possessing a son” does not refer to what they had in mind. The Arabic word used in this verse “waladan” for “son” has sexual connotation but “ibn,” another Arabic word for “son” does not. I have addressed this issue in two posts HERE and HERE. Wycliffe experts had confused “ibn” with “waladan” [derived from “walad”],  and now the WEA panel of experts has followed suit as if Wycliffe/SIL experts supporting Wycliffe/SIL translation policy were advising the panel. Here is the Qur’an quote:

19:88-92 argues, “They say: ‘(God) Most Gracious has begotten a son!’ Indeed ye have put forth a thing most monstrous! At it the skies are ready to burst, the earth to split asunder, and the mountains to fall down in utter ruin, That they should invoke a son for (God) Most Gracious. For it is not consonant with the majesty of (God) Most Gracious that He should beget a son.”

In conclusion, Creson told Jeff Kunerth of the Orlando Sentinel last summer, “In dispute are about 200 of the 1,500 Bible translations completed by Wycliffe since it started in 1917.” Wycliffe USA Chief Operating Officer, Russ Hersman, talked with Emily Belz of the World Magazine. She wrote an article stating:

Such terms, Hersman said, are “outside the borders.” Hersman estimated that of 200 translation projects Wycliffe/SIL linguists have undertaken in Muslim contexts, about 30 or 40 “employ some alternate renderings” for the divine familial terms. One example Hersman gave of an alternate rendering would be translated in English as “beloved son of God” or “beloved one from God.”

Wycliffe/SIL can’t fool Christians with the WEA panel report which essentially endorses their current translation policy. These organizations need to come clean. Relying on the corrupt WEA—not necessarily panel members—to come up with a document that essentially mirrors their current translation policy is not a solution, but the beginning of their downfall.

  • Samuel Bonaya Buya

    A spiritual and spirit led translator knows that above everything he is accountable to God not to add to or diminish the words of God. He has spiritual discernment to judge all things and to compare spiritual things with spiritual. He has the mind of Christ to judge and prove that which is acceptible in the sight of God. He has a deep search of all the words of God and by his Holy spirit. His exegesis foundation is based not in the words which human theology or wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teaches. He has inner court experience. The Holy Spirit that has positionally placed him for the work of the season is his inside teacher. Something like Daniel was a God sent man : an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding and wisdom of the gods was found in him. You will say that is a heathen statement. That is scripture with the inspiration of God. Jesus refering to psalms called them gods to whom the word of God came and then said scripture cannot be broken. The Spirit of Christ in David says this with reference to the the Messiah Son of David: the LORD hath said unto me, thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Jesus teaches us God that God is a Spirit. In Mathew 1:18 the scriptures refers Jesus as Child of the Holy Ghost. The Bible refers the Holy Spirit as He (Masculine) and that Children of God are those born of the Spirit. The Spirit and the Father is the self same Person because there is one God and Father of all, one Spirit, one Lord one baptism, and God is a Spirit even as it says again in the scripture by the hand of Paul: the Lord is that Spirit, againt it says God (who is a spirit) was manifested in the flesh , again it says the Word was God and the word was made flesh and dwelt among us; again it says looking for the blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the Great God and our saviour Jesus Christ; again in acts 20: 28 God purchased his church with his own blood, again it says in Isaiah 9:6 – unto us a Child is born, unto us a son is given: and his name (not names) shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The might God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace. You see his name is all those titles or offices for he is those titles. God suffered in Jesus Christ, God Prayed to the Father in Jesus Christ, God became Abrahams seed in Jesus Christ, God became the high priest of our confession in Jesus Christ, God became a sacrifice and atonement for sin in Jesus Christ, God became our kinsman redeemer in Jesus Christ, God became a son of man, a prophet like unto Moses in Jesus Christ, God became us in Jesus Christ, God bore our iniquities in Jesus Christ. God became a fulfilment of all the shadows and types of the law, psalms and the prophet. God became the brass altar at the outer court in Jesus Christ, God became the sacrifices offered at the brass altar in Jesus Christ. God became the the Laver and the water for washing the priest in Jesus Christ. God became the table of the shewbread and the shewbread in Jesus Christ, God became the Golden candlestick with the seven branches of his redeemed church in Jesus Christ, God became the Golden altar and the incense and the sacrifices thereon in Jesus Christ, God became the ark of the testament upon which the mercy seat sat and the cherubims overshadom in which also were the tablets of the law, Aarons budded rod in Jesus. God became The Jerusalem Temple in Jesus Christ. God became the Abrahamic covenant in Jesus Christ, God became Grace to usward in Jesus Christ. He became the fulfilment of all the types and shadows of the old testament in Jesus Christ. God became a revelation of the the mystery hidden from before the foundation of the world (and sealed in the scriptures of his the commandments of the everlasting God) in Jesus Christ and His true church is the mystery of Himself revealed. At the baptism the voice of the father spake this is my beloved son and the Spirit descend upon Him as a dove. What is it? It is the mystery of the same person. For the voice of the father that spoke is the voice of dove that descended on him and is the voice of the same father that spake in Jesus for he says: the works that I do its the father that dwelleth in me and again its not ye that speak, but the spirit of your father that speaketh in you. Hussein some two decades ago we shared a fold of these things

  • Samuel Bonaya Buya

    The bible is the mind of God. The types , shadows in the law the kings, the prophets and the psalms hold the mystery of God in the face of Christ. God used vessels he inspired to bring his word through the ages. Satan over the ages has attempted to corrupt the word mininterpratation, false translations etc. God has however watched over his word and protected it by sending His Holy Spirit to the sons of men. When God wanted to do the work of building the tabernacle of congregation, its vessels, altars, sacred garments etc, he placed, annointed and called Bezaleel and others who were with him and filled them with his spirit of wisdom and put in their hearts to do according to his will and mind. God does not change from His pattern of doing things. Jesus after his ressurection backed the whole word on meeting some going to Emmaus and rebuking them: you fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken, for they spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Just as in preaching the gospel: how can they preach unless they are sent? And if any man preaches any other gospel other than that which they preached let him be accursed; and he that is sent of God speaks the words of God. When he sent them he told them it is not you that will speak but the Holy Ghost; that was why it was a must that they had to be baptised by the Holy Spirit in order for them to do according to the blueprint of the one that commissioned them. Today many are preaching another gospel because in the first place they were not sent. In the same note there have been many bible translators/directors not in the Spirit of the Author (God). As a result they have confused the multitudes. Another point, Hussein, with all due respect, we cannot grasp God through theology. For is made kown upon the foundation of spiritual revelation: for in Mathew it says now one knows who the father is save the son and he whom he choose to reveal him to; to Peter he said flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father who is in heaven. In another place he said: and this is eternal life that they may know you the only true God and Jesus whom though has sent. It take God rich in mercy through the act of his love to quicken us from death in sin and trespasses and to raised in heavenly place, a redemptive work of grace through the atoment in his blood; that henceforth we may live the rest of our lives for him, observing to do all that he commanded us. What world needs today is the love concern and care that Jesus showed when he was here on earth, for living he loved me, dying he saved me, burried he carried my sins far away, rising he justified freely forever, one day he is coming oh glorious. All what he was he poured to his beloved church the bride through the redemption that is in his blood

  • Janedoe

    Dear Rita,

    Please re-read my comment. I at no point accused your husband of being anti- Muslim. I merely stated I felt that a lot of the American animosity towards how Wycliffe works in order to address issues surrounding translating within Muslim states has come around from the anti-Muslim agenda in America at present. Something that can hardly be denied. We see Americans attacking the president of whether he is a Muslim on the basis of him having the name Hussein. We saw a witch hunt on the Internet for Muslims after the recent Boston bombing.

    I am glad your husband has spent some time with Wycliffe translators, has any of it been with the team in question? The team your comment still defames? How do you assume to know their practices?

    My point about sharing his evidence is valid, if you publish articles defaming a group and claim to have evidence that backs up your claims surely the Christian thing to do is share your evidence so that they may explain and defend themselves. To say you have evidence of a transgression but refuse to discuss what it is can be perceived as a very destructive act.

    I understand your desire to protect your husband, he has willingly involved himself in a debate that has vast reaching consequences not just for the missionaries involved but for the Christian communities they work along side. I am simply asking your husband to provide more context for his comments in the spirit of openness that Christians should be willing to address these issues with.
    My final thought for you Rita is – imagine how the families of the missionaries in question are feeling. These families have made huge sacrifices in order for these translations to occur. Then other Christians have taken to the Internet to criticise and defame them. You have jumped to your husbands defence over what you felt I said ( I did not call him anti- Muslim) are you aware that the missionaries and their families at the heart of this argument have been told not to discuss their feelings and to remain silent in the face of some terribly hurtful statements ( at least your husband has had the grace and wisdom not to call them heretics, a charge levelled at them by Christians who have little or no idea of what is really occurring.). That is why as someone who has worked alongside them in the past I feel I have to speak up for them.

    • Hussein


      I spoke with Wycliffe USA Chief Operations Officer (then Senior VP) last February about this issue. In fact he admitted to me Wycliffe USA was misled in defending these mistranslations. He can’t deny that, can he? I quoted him in a Yahoo! News article when he refused to acknowledge it publicly. Where is Wycliffe/SIL’s public admission and repentance?
      Hersman told the World Magazine in 2011, there are “30-40″ Wycliffe translations that use “alternative renderings.”
      Wycliffe USA President and CEO Bob Creson told the Orlando Sentinel, about 200 translations are involved. I don’t understand how you can defend Wycliffe/SIL when officials who are not even sure to what extent these translation malpractices, funded by Wycliffe USA, are in existence.
      I was with Rick Brown, one of the masterminds behind these translations, in September and he told me these allegations “are based on misinformation.”
      Just so you know, I have sent most evidence I have to Wycliffe USA and SIL. I have more sensitive information and will bring it to the public’s attention with time. Internal emails, internal documents, etc.
      It seems like you have quite a connection with Wycliffe/SIL. May I ask, do you know there was an internal petition, within Wycliffe/SIL, that was orchestrated by Wycliffe/SIL personnel, who knew these accusations against Wycliffe/SIL were not unfounded? I have information about this as well. I know Wycliffe/SIL leadership squashed this group’s effort at Wycliffe/SIL meeting in Thailand last May, perhaps you should ask Wycliffe/SIL why the motion opposing the translations did not even get a chance to make it to the floor. You don’t see there is an issue of integrity here?

    • Rita

      Thanks for responding. Unless I’m misunderstanding your English, feeling that “the argument against Wycliffe is fueled by a hatred of Muslims” is making a clear assumption that those who oppose Wycliffe’s practices are probably Muslim haters, and that would obviously include Hussein. So how can you say that you did not call him “anti-Muslim?” And if that’s not what you meant, then you fall into another dangerous category, which is stereotyping based on unsupported evidence. Correlating controversy within Muslim evangelism with Islamophobia is something you need to back up with more than just your feelings…you can’t just go about categorizing people because of a feeling.
      Contrary to what you may think about our relationship, I don’t feel compelled to defend Hussein in the content of what he writes…he is a researcher and reporter, so he always examines the evidence before he writes. But when you attack his character and his mode of rebuke on baseless information, and then continue to make false assumptions about a situation which you are misinformed on, then I may choose to say something. If it pacifies you at all, you can be assured that I regularly question Hussein on what he writes to verify facts, and in this case, we constantly emphasize caution in upholding Wycliffe’s overall reputation as a committed Christian organization. I have seen and heard a lot of the “evidence” you are looking for, but at this time Hussein chooses not to share it publicly, and that is not an unethical decision. He is applying pressure to them, so that they realizes that he knows what they are doing, and they have an opportunity to come clean with their supporters before it’s too late.
      Also, I appreciate your empathy for those working in the foreign fields, and I don’t doubt that it has become a difficult situation for them. But does that justify Wycliffe’s actions? If anything, that should make them more seriously consider the situation at hand, because they are jeopardizing the work and reputation of many missionaries based on the manipulation of a few people who aren’t even missionaries themselves.
      I understand your frustration with having little information, but it’s the best decision for now.
      Best regards.

  • Rita


    I’m afraid that you are doing nearly the same thing that you accuse Hussein of doing…making false assumptions. You are assuming that he does not know anyone in the Wycliffe field (which is false); you assume that he has not engaged in dialogue with both sides (also false), and you radically assume that you know his ulterior motive…that as a former Muslim he now has an irrevocable hatred towards all Muslims because of 9-11. All of these accusations are so far from the truth that they are ridiculous. You may not like the tone of the articles, which is a fair argument. But to say that the content of the articles is motivated by hatred of Muslims and Bible translators just goes to show your lack of understanding toward the man who wrote the articles, and sadly, the misinformation to the public about the whole situation.

    You say that the evidence is nothing but scandalous if he does not share it publicly. Yet if he is more than the man that you think him to be, then he will withhold the damaging evidence to save what credibility is left of the reputable organization. Perhaps he is waiting for them to be honest about what they have done with their translations, rather than unveil all their deception to the public. By the way, he is not castigating the entire organization or undermining the sacrifice of the majority translators in these organizations. He is addressing a tiny percent of Wycliffe’s translators who are embracing new lingual practices as experiments among Muslims, and who have the support of Wycliffe leadership, despite the opposition from Muslim background believers in those regions.

  • jane doe

    I am in no way new to the debate. Nor am I new to the region that will be affected. I have worked for an NGO who work alongside members of Wycliffe/SIL since the 1990′s.

    I think the quote from D.A. Carson is highly inaccurate. All members of Wycliffe attend Bible College where they study the scriptures in depth. Not holding an academic qualification does not mean that they know nothing. In fact the members of Wycliffe I have met have an astoundingly deep knowledge of the Bible. D.A. Carson has his own agenda and is happy to make wildly inaccurate statements. Perhaps you both would benefit with spending time with those involved before you slander their good names.

    You say you have benefited from the work of Wycliffe but now you are supporting an argument that would see Wycliffe members withdrawing from the field in most of Asia and the middle east, leaving thousands without the Bible in their own language. The fact that you have benefited from their work and now seek to undermine them is very upsetting. You have directly benefited from the scripture in your own language and now seek to prevent others having the same privilege.

    The Wycliffe members I have met have made huge personal sacrifices in order to serve God. They have sacrificed careers, comfortable living, their families and personal safety in order to bring the bible to minorities who are otherwise ignored.

    I’m interested to know if you are aware of the origin of the phrase “son of God.” Do you know the history of the phrase and its context? I suggest you look at you history of the Roman emperors to broaden your perspective.

    Members of SIL and Wycliffe are not changing the meaning of the Bible, they work alongside members of the communities they serve to make sure the translation make sense and doesn’t cause offense in the wider community.

    I am curious to know how long you lived in your home country as a Christian convert before you left? Mainly because I am trying to understand your knowledge of the real issues at stake. The missionaries you are so quick to disparage are risking everything to spread the word of God, they do it with humility and grace. They spend years learning the culture, studying the language and building up an immense knowledge of the Bible. The quote you chose to use shows a real naivety in your and Carson’s understanding of Bible translation. Bible translators spend decades pouring over the meaning of each verse, making sure that its meaning is conveyed as accurately as possible. The notion that they don’t have an in-depth knowledge of the Bible is ridiculous. I’d love to see Carson engaging in religious debate with the missionaries I have had the pleasure of meeting.

    My understanding of the debate is that Wycliffe have never denied supporting local translators in making the decisions they feel best in their own culture. So your evidence is nothing scandalous at all. If you have important evidence pertinent the debate why are you not sharing it?

    May I make the suggestion that before writing articles like this you spend time with people on both sides of the argument and make sure you understand the issues that are up for discussion. You refer to the results as a white wash and imply that the report backs up the wishes of SIL and Wycliffe. Anyone with more than a passing understanding of the debate can see how catastrophic the proposals are and the damage they could do to many of the translations already in progress.

    I can’t help but feel that the argument against Wycliffe is fueled by a hatred of Muslims which has been prevalent since 9-11. Too many ‘Christians’ with no understanding of the issues at the heart of the debate are jumping up and down accusing Wycliffe of changing the word of God to suit Muslims. this is a dangerous fallacy. The debate appears to be fueled by gung-ho middle class American Christians who are jumping on a bandwagon without getting a proper grasp of the details

  • Jane for

    I would like to know what your relationship to Wyclife and SIL is? Are you someone who was turned down and bares a grudge? Your article shows a woeful lack of understanding of how mission societies work.
    (no I am not a Wycliffe or an SIL member, in fact I don’t think highly of either on many issues) however I have an interest in linguistics and your post shows a poor understanding of how mission societies complete a translation. The translation work is not done by the missionaries but by the people the translations are for. The people who know how best to translate the bible within their own dialects so that it retains its meaning.
    I would be interested to know what languages you have read the bible in? Please tell me you have read the bible in its original languages, this is what translators do. They dont just translate from the English or the Latin. Unless you are a biblical scholar, with an I depth knowledge of several ancient languages I imagine your views are formed on your understanding of a translated text.
    I would also like to know how you feel you have a better knowledge of the complexities of translation than those who have dedicated their lives to providing the word of god to people in their native languages. Last time I checked this was something asked of Christians in the bible, whereas attacking one another and making sweeping generalisations is in no way acceptable Christian behaviour. The phrases “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” or “remove the plank from your own eye before you mention the spec in your brothers eye” come to mind.

    Furthermore, looked at carefully this report is actually harmful to everything Wycliffe has achieved. Hardly the favourable white wash you mention. There are many areas where Wycliffe could legitimately face scrutiny, particularly in their lack of support of families. The issue of translation is not one such area. I am all for reasoned debate but the recent trashing of Wyclife and your article show no sign of reasoning at all. In fact your article appears to stoop to mudslinging and mistruths neither of which belong within Christianity.

    • Hussein

      Thank you for your comment.
      I am a concerned Christian who Wycliffe/SIL missionaries have helped tremendously in translating the Bible into my language. If it weren’t Wycliffe/SIL missionaries, I wouldn’t have been able to read and write in my native language today.
      The WEA report is just an affirmation of Wycliffe/SIL Best Practices, the translation policy of Wycliffe/SIL.
      In case you are new to this debate, Wycliffe/SIL personnel were involved in Bible translations that removed “Father,” “Son” and “Son of God” from the context of Scripture. They consulted on these projects. Wycliffe USA leadership had acknowledged it. I have also Wycliffe internal emails and documents as proof Wycliffe/SIL were involved.
      I would like to leave you with a quote from New Testament scholar D.A. Carson’s new book on this controversy, Jesus the Son of God:

      I have had the privilege of working with SIL/Wycliffe personnel on three continents. I am a huge admirer of their work, some of it undertaken in highly challenging circumstances. Some of them are linguistically well trained. But I have to say that rather few of them are trained in exegesis, biblical theology, or systematic theology. Very few of them have an MDiv, let alone more advanced training. With rare exception, I have not found them to be deep readers of Scripture, with the result that their approaches to translation challenges tend to be atomistic.