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Wycliffe No Longer Faces Boycott by 12,700 Churches

(UPDATED) Controversy over 'Son of God' Bible translations for Muslims partially resolves, as new changes mollify Wycliffe's biggest critic.

After threatening to withdraw support from Wycliffe Bible Translators last year over its "Son of God" translation policies, the World Missions committee of the 3-million-member Assemblies of God (AG) has announced that it will continue working with Wycliffe after all.

In the wake of changes made to Wycliffe's translation policies (covered by CT below), the AG announced:

"The unanimous decision of the AG World Missions Executive Committee was made June 7 after Wycliffe and its sister organization, Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), accepted recommendations by a subcommittee of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) regarding the use of familial terms in Scripture translations."
On behalf of the AG World Missions Executive Committee, Executive Director Greg Mundis said, "We greatly appreciate the WEA subcommittee and its chairman, Dr. Robert Cooley, for their many hours of diligent work in reviewing this important issue. We are thankful that a resolution to this process has been reached and that AG World Missions can continue its longstanding working relationship with Wycliffe Bible Translators, as so many millions wait for the Word of God in their languages."

"We highly value our partnership with the Assemblies of God, and are grateful to them for reaffirming support for Wycliffe's work," said Bob Creson, president and CEO of Wycliffe USA, in response. "We praise God for the continued support of the global Church during the WEA review and our implementation of its recommendations."


Editor's note: The below post originally appeared April 29, 2013, under the headline "Will WEA Report Resolve Debate over Wycliffe Bible Translations for Muslims?"


Update: According to a statement from Wycliffe Bible Translators president and CEO Bob Creson, Wycliffe and SIL plan to implement the WEA's recommendations "as soon as possible."

"Wycliffe USA is committed to maintaining the integrity of God's Word through accurate, clear, and natural translation," Creson said. "We are driven by a single passion: providing access to the Word for every person on earth in the language they understand best."


Bible translations that avoid the phrase "Son of God" have proven successful among Muslims. But dismay by some missionaries and scholars recently led at least two denominations–including the three-million-member Assemblies of God–to threaten boycotts of Wycliffe Bible Translators unless it ended the practice.

In hopes of ending the controversy, Wycliffe asked the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) to referee the debate. Today, the WEA's panel of experts released 10 recommendations.

Bible translations aimed at Muslim audiences have tended to omit terms like "God the Father" and "Son of God" in order to avoid sexualized misreadings that would cause offense. But according to the WEA report, Bible translators should use the words "father" and "son" to refer to the distinct persons of the Trinity whenever possible. However, the WEA also recommends choosing "the most suitable words in light of the

semantics of the target language."

The panel's 10 recommendations–which both Wycliffe and SIL are expected to implement within the coming months–also include advice on including "qualifying words" that accurately convey the contextual "nuances." The report states:

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.

Trouble over Wycliffe's and SIL's translation practices arose in 2011, following the popularity of Bible translations that replaced the term "Son of God" with "Christ" in order to avoid confusing–and driving away–Muslim readers, CT noted the controversy over such translations in its cover story, "The Son and the Crescent."

Several months later, Wycliffe and SILboth released best-practices policies saying that divine familial language should be retained whenever possible. However, these best practices were challenged by the Assemblies of God and the Presbyterian Church in America.

As a result, WEA was asked to review these best-practices policies last March, and SIL and Wycliffe agreed to "abide by all the recommendations."

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