News Articles

7/28/97 Press association cites errors in handling ethics complaint

CHICAGO (BP)–Two “major errors” occurred in the Evangelical Press Association’s handling of a widely publicized ethics complaint, the association’s board of directors stated in a July 28 news release.
The six-member EPA board met July 22 in Chicago to review an ad hoc ethics committee’s assessment of the complaint, filed by Zondervan Publishing House and the International Bible Society against World magazine for its reporting on Zondervan/IBS intentions to revise the New International Version Bible translation with gender-inclusive language.
The three-member ad hoc committee had issued a report siding with Zondervan/IBS’ allegations against World.
The EPA’s errors, according to its board:
— “First, we violated our own bylaws in appointing an ad hoc ethics committee. Our bylaws require that functioning committees be composed of members of the EPA.”
— “Our second major error was the release of the ad hoc committee’s report before the Board of Directors had an opportunity to formally review the report.”
The board then stated:
“We deeply regret that our improper handling of this situation has complicated the dispute, placed the parties and the members of the ad hoc committee in awkward positions, and delayed a constructive resolution of the parties’ differences. We will make every effort to remedy our errors and properly address these issues as quickly as possible. We have laid out a course of action, and in order to avoid further inflaming the dispute, we intend to work directly with the parties involved toward a mutually satisfactory resolutions. Furthermore, we will begin an internal review to identify and correct the deficiencies in our process for handling ethics complaints.”
The EPA board did not specify any steps to be taken in its “course of action” to resolve the Zondervan/IBS/World dispute or its “internal review” of its process relating to ethics complaints.
Zondervan does not plan to issue a statement responding to the EPA board of directors’ action, corporate affairs director Jonathan Petersen said; nor does the IBS, said communications director Steve Johnson.
World magazine publisher Joel Belz, the EPA’s immediate past president, and editor Marvin Olasky, in a written statement, voiced appreciation that EPA’s board of directors had opted to “distance itself” from the ad hoc committee report. “Now we ask the EPA board, in its continuing efforts to seek resolution of the issues, also to set aside the substance of the initial report. We ask that such efforts be conducted promptly.”
Belz and Olasky pledged their cooperation “in the pursuit of a biblical resolution of these issues … .”
In March, World broke the news to the evangelical world that a “feminist,” gender-neutral revision of the New International Version Bible translation was under way. The NIV, which accounts for 45 percent of all Bibles sold in the United States, quickly became the center of a firestorm in the evangelical community.
Zondervan, the NIV’s U.S. publisher, and the International Bible Society (IBS), the NIV’s copyright holder, called a halt to the NIV revision in late May, but also filed separate, multi-page complaints with the Evangelical Press Association alleging that World’s reporting violated the EPA’s code of ethics. Also cited in World’s reporting was the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT), a 15-member group of scholars with authority over the NIV translation.
The EPA code states:
“Christian publications should be honest and courageous, their presentations characterized by sincerity, truthfulness, accuracy and an avoidance of distortion and sensationalism. Those responsible for the publication must exercise the utmost care that nothing contrary to the truth is published. Whenever substantive mistakes are made, whatever their origin, they should be conscious of their duty to protect the good name and reputation of others. In dealing with controversial matters, opposing views, when presented, should be treated honestly and fairly.”
While the ethics committee largely sided with Zondervan and IBS in such areas as one-sidedness and sensationalism in reporting, World defended its truthfulness.