The Presbyterian Publishing Corporation (PPC) has distanced itself from a controversial book about the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks three months after they published it.
Christian Faith and the Truth behind 9/11: A Call to Reflection and Action, which claims the attacks were orchestrated by the Bush administration so the United States would have a reason to attack Afghanistan and Iraq, will remain on shelves despite the condemnation.
The board of directors of the PPC, which is the official denominational publisher of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), decided that the book is not up to the editorial standards of Westminster John Knox Press (WJK), the division of PPC that published the book.
Although the decision by the board does not overrule previous statements from WJK that defended the book, it emphasizes the autonomy between the PPC and the PC(USA).
Kenneth Godshall, chair of the board, explained the decision in a November 11 press release, in which he said the theological reflections of author David Ray Griffin are "helpful and timely," but that the "conspiracy theory is spurious and based on questionable research."
Griffin is a professor emeritus of theology at Claremont School of Theology and a prominent process theologian who has published dozens of books with WJK since 1975. He has published three other books about the terrorist attacks with Olive Branch Press, and a fourth, tentatively titled Debunking 9/11 Debunking, is due to be released in 2007.
"We believe that the research he produced is primarily taken from other Internet conspiracy theorists, and the author and our own editors did not take the time to consult other information that debunks 9/11 conspiracy theories," Godshall told CT.
Even though the board is not directly responsible for editorial decisions, Godshall said the PPC chose to formulate a response in light of the recent controversy surrounding the book, which produced a considerable amount of press coverage after its August release.
Davis Perkins, the president and publisher of the PPC, said the book will continue to be offered as a backlist title and is not being treated any differently than other WJK books.
"We will continue to promote and sell the bookas we do all our WJK titles," Perkins told CT. "I don't have any plans to address the controversy any further."
Despite the official condemnation by the board, the book remained available for sale on the PPC website and was still listed as a "bestseller."
Perkins had previously defended the decision to publish the book in a rationale for publication that was posted on the PPC website but has since been removed.
"Professor Griffin employs established principles of intellectual argument in a book with 192 pages of carefully researched text and 49 pages of extensive scholarly notes," Perkins said. "This book is not an off-the-wall polemic but rather a considered work that deserves to have a place in the public forum of discourse about Christian faith and U.S. policy."
Griffin told CT he is glad his book was not pulled by the PPC, but he did not understand how the board is qualified to make the statement that it is based on questionable research.
"The only people who could do that is people themselves who have done considerable research on 9/11," Griffin said. "And I frankly doubt that any of them have."
The members of the PPC board of directors are nominated by the general assembly nominating committee and elected by the general assembly of the PC(USA), which has no editorial oversight and does not provide funding to the organization.
Books printed by the PPC either belong to the Geneva Press division, which reaches a "specifically Presbyterian audience," or the WJK division, which "cover the spectrum of modern religious thought," according to the PPC website.
James Berkley, the director of Presbyterian Action for Faith and Freedom, commended the decision by the PPC board of directors to correct what he called a mistake by the editors. He said the image of Presbyterians was damaged when the book was released.
"I know that this book has hit the national and secular press so Presbyterians everywhere got painted with the same brush as Griffin," Berkley said. "I know that pastors have had people in their congregations say, 'What is going on with our denomination?'"
Copyright © 2006 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
See our earlier article on the book, published July 31, "."
At press time, the PPC's press release did not appear on its website. Presbyterian News Service has an earlier article about the PPC defending the book, and a Religion News Service story about the controversy, but does not have the PPC's new statement.
Westminster John Knox has more information about the book.
Some of Griffin's free writings on 9/11 include:
9/11, American Empire, and Christian Faith (911Truth.org)
9/11: The Myth and the Reality (Mindfully.org)
Popular Mechanics has one of the more popular conspiracy debunking articles.
Science and Theology News examined Griffin's "naturalistic theism" argument, that God never interrupts "the world's most fundamental patter of causal relations."