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Bible society reiterates commitment to original NIV gender-specific style

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (BP)–The International Bible Society, after a critical article in the Nov. 21 issue of WORLD magazine, has reaffirmed its 1997 commitment to “forgo all plans” to revise the New International Version of the Bible into gender-neutral language.
According to WORLD, the International Bible Society ordered a reprinting of 20,000 copies of a paperback edition of the gender-neutral New International Reader’s Version (NIrV) New Testament for children, called New Beginnings.
That September order would violate a May 1997 agreement by IBS, the copyright holder of the 1984 NIV and the NIrV, and Zondervan Publishing House, the NIV’s U.S. publisher, to discontinue NIV-related gender-neutral, or “inclusive,” revisions and to revise the NIrV into a gender-specific style.
In its statement, dated Nov. 19, the IBS noted that since completing the NirV revision “to reflect the same treatment of gender as in the existing NIV” in the fall of 1997, the society has “printed more than 340,000 Scriptures using the new text.”
According to IBS’ statement, “Allegations stemmed from a September reprint of Bright Beginnings, IBS’ only evangelistic New Testament for young children. IBS Vice-president and Publisher Dean Merrill made a decision to reprint Bright Beginnings to meet a short-term need pending the release of new children’s Scriptures that use the revised text.”
The IBS statement quoted Merrill as saying, “We were phasing that particular product out of our children’s line, so we didn’t want to invest $20,000 in typesetting charges for a piece we no longer planned to print.”
The new NirV gender-specific revision, Merrill said, has been “very well received.” and, according to the IBS statement, consistently ranks in the top 10 of best selling English-language translations.
Victor Oliver, chairman of IBS’ board of directors, echoed IBS commitment to the 1984 NIV text, in the society’s statement. “It has served the Church for more than 20 years and is recognized as one of the most accurate, reliable translations in existence. God has used it mightily,” Oliver said.
The one-page IBS release did not recount the detail reported in WORLD’s four-page Internet posting of its story.
WORLD, in its article, reported, “IBS vice president and publisher Dean Merrill, interviewed twice by WORLD, said timing and format were key. He said supplies of the children’s NIrV ran out in August, and orders — an average of 1,200-1,500 copies per month — were beginning to pile up. He said he planned a new children’s edition, one that would be in a single-column format rather than the double-column format of other editions, and would include new artwork. But since that edition was not close to ready,
Mr. Merrill said it would have cost $20,000 to make an interim typesetting of the revised NIrV so that it would fit the single-column Bright Beginnings — and he said he unilaterally decided to reprint the gender-neutral version instead.”
WORLD responded in its article, “A bunch of questions pop up. Why didn’t IBS simply borrow the typesetting from Zondervan? It ‘was not immediately available,’ Mr. Merrill said. Why, given his reputation for careful planning and organization, had not preparations for the replacement New Testament begun much earlier? Even though sales of the existing versions were fairly predictable, Mr. Merrill said he had only 60 days’ notice before the old-edition stock ran out. Why was the new project still not on the IBS publishing schedule as of early this month?
Mr. Merrill said there were delays in obtaining typesetting film.”
WORLD also noted, “Although the board had said publicly, ‘IBS is directing the licensees who publish the current NIrV to publish only the revised NIrV as soon as it is ready,’ Mr. Merill said there was nothing in the board’s instructions to staff forbidding his actions. … ‘Under the circumstances, I think I’ve done the responsible thing,’ Mr. Merrill said, adding that he acted on his own without consulting the IBS board or CEO. ‘No one here is intending to extend the old NIrV,’ he said.”
WORLD also raised a number of question in its article about the permanence of IBS’ commitment to gender-specific translation and claimed, “No one on the board seems willing, or able, to elaborate.”
In the spring of 1997, the NIV controversy erupted when WORLD reported on plans for a gender-inclusive NIV revision to be introduced into the U.S. market by Zondervan in several years.
After a story of controversy, IBS and Zondervan announced they were canceling the NIV revision, after several deliberations by IBS directors.
Several Southern Baptist Convention leaders lauded the IBS decision at the time. Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee, for example, said, “The sensitivity of the IBS to the concerns of the evangelical public is commendable, and we believe very wise. I expect the decision to be applauded by all those who hold a high view of Scripture. The NIV has enjoyed a very high level of confidence and acceptance among evangelical Christians, and this decision should serve to bolster that confidence.”
For numerous years, the NIV has accounted for 45 percent of all Bibles sold in the United States. The NIV is used in many resources published by the SBC’s LifeWay Christian Resources, based in Nashville, Tenn.
WORLD is a weekly Christian newsmagazine based in Asheville, N.C., with an Internet site titled, worldmag.com.