Meeting Feb. 13-14 at LifeWay offices in downtown Nashville, trustees heard a report from a special task force appointed to follow up on a non-binding resolution approved by the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention that requested LifeWay consider not selling the New International Version (NIV) 2011 Bible in their stores.
Greenway said LifeWay received support for continuing to carry the 2011 NIV from R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Russell Moore of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Jimmy Draper, former president of LifeWay; George Guthrie, professor of Bible at Union University; and Douglas Moo, chairman of the Committee on Bible Translation, which translated the new NIV.
President Thom Rainer listens to trustees at the spring trustee meeting.
Greenway, who serves as senior associate dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at Southern Seminary, also told trustees, “Messengers to the 2011 SBC annual meeting were encouraged to vote for the resolution based on incorrect information.” As an example, Greenway said the 2011 NIV contains no gender-neutral wording for the names of God. The 2011 NIV, Greenway said, “follows translation methodologies that are embraced by the overwhelming majority of Bible translators in the world.”
“It is not that we are endorsing the 2011 NIV,” Greenway said. “We endorse what we publish, and the translation we publish is the Holman Christian Standard Bible. That is the translation that we endorse.” Greenway told trustees, “We do not believe the 2011 NIV rises to the level to where it should be pulled or censored or not carried in our retail chain.”
The task force and the trustee executive committee both unanimously approved the following recommendation: It is recommended that trustees reaffirm the decision of LifeWay to continue to carry the 2011 NIV alongside other versions of the Holy Bible.
After a few minutes of discussion, the motion was unanimously approved by trustees.
Greenway said many of the differences between the 2011 NIV and the 1984 NIV involved such changes as “brothers” to “brothers and sisters.” One example is Luke 17:3, which the 2011 NIV renders, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.”
Greenway did address 1 Timothy 2:12, which has been the most-discussed passage among 2011 NIV critics. The 2011 NIV rendered it, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” The 1984 NIV translated it “have authority.” The verse, some said, takes sides in the debate over female pastors by allowing a female pastor to say, “I’m not assuming authority on my own initiative; it was given to me by the other pastors and elders.”
The committee did examine the passage closely, Greenway said.
“The issue comes down to the Greek, and very conservative inerrantists, Greek scholars [on the Committee on Bible Translation], believe that the more literal translation of the Greek there is the word ‘assume,’ and it is left to the interpretative community to understand what ‘assume’ means,” Greenway said. “Is that a change from some renderings of the past? Yes. But again, our issue should not be merely to maintain traditional translations; it should be to always more fully get to the accuracy and intention of what God originally inspired through those who penned the scripture.”
Greenway added, “We are not giving a stamp of approval. … We are simply saying from a retail perspective, we do not believe that we should cease carrying and make available to the public the 2011 NIV.”
Several “highly respected conservative” scholars have endorsed the 2011 NIV, Greenway said, among them: Darrell Bock, William Mounce, Rod Decker, Daniel Wallace, Timothy George and Tremper Longman. The MacArthur Study Bible – with notes by John MacArthur – also will be available in the 2011 NIV in 2013.
In other news, trustees unanimously elected Eric Geiger as the new vice president of the organization’s church resources division (CRD) which produces a vast array of discipleship materials and training events for Bible studies, Vacation Bible School, leadership development, music and worship, and the family.
Geiger comes to LifeWay from Miami, where he served nine years as executive pastor of Christ Fellowship Miami. During that time, the church grew from a weekend attendance of 1,200 to nearly 8,000 and was recognized as one of the fastest growing churches in America.
Geiger co-wrote the book “Simple Church” with LifeWay president Thom S. Rainer who said he was drawn to Geiger to lead CRD because of his passion for the local church. “Eric Geiger is sold out to the bride of Christ,” Rainer said.
That commitment was evident as Geiger shared his testimony with trustees.
“In the end, the church will endure, not LifeWay,” he said. “I want our people to wake up every morning and think about how best to serve the bride of Christ, not about LifeWay. We do not exist for ourselves, but to serve the churches.”
During his president’s report, Rainer said the state of LifeWay is healthy.
“We are living in a negative time, when our churches are struggling, killing a child in the womb is morally acceptable, and, the American family is under attack,” he said. “But instead of lamenting the times, we should focus on the Source of our strength in the midst of this urgency.”
“The state of LifeWay is healthy, and I don’t know any place I’d rather be than here because we have opportunity to make more of a difference in this time of urgency than perhaps at any time in our nation’s history,” he said. “God has placed us here for such a time as this.”
Rainer said while other Christian publishers no longer exist, “LifeWay continues to move forward by making tough decisions, because if we keep doing the things we have been doing, we will not see the future God has for us.”
Rainer cited several examples of new initiatives and tough decisions including the growing partnership with Sherwood Pictures, producer of the “Courageous” movie; the new curriculum called The Gospel Project that goes deeper into Biblical text and is already being piloted by 2,000 churches; and, LifeWay’s decision to withdraw from a relationship with Susan G. Komen for the Cure because of Komen’s relationship to Planned Parenthood.
Ending that relationship “was the right thing to do,” Rainer said, “even though we may sustain financial losses because of it. I regret the losses, but not the decision. As a result, people know they can trust LifeWay to take a biblical stand.”
Rainer said several options are being reviewed for use of the special pink Bibles that were removed from store shelves earlier this year because they promised a donation to Komen for every Bible sold. He assured trustees the Bibles would be used to bring comfort to those suffering through breast cancer, not destroyed.
In other business, LifeWay trustees:
– Elected new board officers including Greenway as chairman; Mark Dance, senior pastor of Second Baptist Church, Conway, Ark., as vice chairman; and, Rick Geist, a financial advisor and member of First Baptist Church, Seminole, Okla., as recording secretary.
– Approved a report from the board’s audit committee that showed an “unqualified opinion or clean audit” from Ernst & Young accounting firm.
– Discussed and approved responses to eight motions referred to LifeWay by the Southern Baptist Convention during last summer’s meeting. The responses will be reported to the 2012 SBC in New Orleans, June 19-20.
– Heard reports from each of the organization’s vice presidents regarding progress and plans for ministry advance.
– Recognized seven retiring trustees who are ending their board service.