Thinking Out Loud

September 18, 2010

What Canadian Gideons Have in Common With The Catholic Church

Rocky Raccoon checked into his room
Only to find Gideon’s Bible.

-The Beatles

Most of the attention of religious media was focused this week on Pope Benedict XIV’s visit to the U.K., and the oddity of his interaction with a female Anglican cleric, something not permitted within his Roman Catholic world.

So I was surprised to open the online pages of Christian Week today and discover that, within Canada at least, the hotel/hospital/prison Bible people, The Gideons, are in fact officially all men.

Who knew the two organizations shared the similarity of such a patriarchal view of things?

The article begins,

CALGARY, AB—At one of the most significant conventions in Canadian Gideon history, members voting at the Bible distribution ministry’s annual gathering narrowly defeated a wide-ranging set of changes to the agency’s general operating bylaws.

“We lost by 50 votes out of about 2,700,” laments national president Brad Kennedy. “Our members voted 64.5 per cent in favour, but we needed a two-thirds majority.”

If the vote had gone the other way, full membership in The Gideons International in Canada would no longer be restricted to business and professional men, and the agency would be able to distribute a wider variety of Bible versions.

Sadly, the issue of Bible translations — the part of the story I am as a keenly interested in — wasn’t brought up again in the story.   Right now, Canadian Gideons use the NASB (New American Standard Version) which is considered very accurate but not easy to read.   It’s mostly used in Bible Colleges in Seminaries as a reference point or benchmark for checking other translations.

Back to the larger issue…

Women in the organization currently serve under a secondary “auxiliary” status, many exceeding the organization’s official mandate:

For at least the past year, Kennedy and the agency’s national cabinet have been pushing hard to bring Canadian Gideon bylaws in line with some of its current practices and a more culturally relevant model of ministry.

The Gideons face a serious demographic challenge: Nearly half of its members are older than 70, and another 25 per cent are over 60. Only three per cent of members are younger than 40. The average age of a Canadian Gideon is just under 70 years old, compared with 41 back in 1961. The agency is trying to adapt to attract more youthful members.

Indeed, some of the proposed changes have already been incorporated at the local level. Women are serving alongside men in many distribution projects in ways not technically allowable by the existing bylaws. And many active members would not technically qualify as professionals. “We’re trying to correct something that’s lost its relevance in our culture today,” explains Kennedy.

But the history of the organization — unlike the Full Gospel Businessman’s Association, which in most locations is a 50-50 partnership between men and women — is still officially male-dominated:

“A strong component of the Gideon brand is its recognition as a Christian business man’s organization. Unfortunately, if you change from that core value, while you may continue under the banner of Gideons, it will be in name only. It will not be reflective of the Gideon membership worldwide.”

– International Gideons president Perrin T. Prescott in a letter to Canadian Gideons

In other words, the international body is saying if you stop serving Big Macs according to the company recipe, you can’t really call yourself a MacDonald’s restaurant.

My opinion?

Being stuck in the 1940’s culturally and demographically is going to cause a die-off of the organization at a time it is still needed.   In terms of leadership tactics, and in terms of mission, this is an epic fail.

Continue reading Doug Koop’s full article at Christian Week.

Related article:  That other bastion of male headship — the Southern Baptists — caught our attention here exactly two years ago, when the publishing company of female Bible teacher Beth Moore banned distribution of a magazine featuring women pastors.

Related story in USAToday Religion:  An Arizona priest is excommunicated for participating in the ordination of a female priest; although he is now a United Church of Christ minister.



  1. Women, those beautiful creatures, those adorable helpmates, those priceless rubies! Those faithful beings! A gift from heaven,and they create some of our fondest dreams that tempts men to linger in “Shangri-la” ” —-and a virtuous woman excells them all.”Prov. 31, 30.Let us thank God for the treasures they are!! Really now is there any real purpose why they “MUST” balance the gender see-saw of commonplace????JL

    Comment by Joe Lambert — September 18, 2010 @ 11:59 pm

  2. I have HUGE respect for the Gideons after watching a documentary on them.

    Like you, I was very interested in Bible translations and did my own study on the subject which caused some strong beliefs about all versions being corruped other than the KJV. I still read the NRV for ease in reading, but when I really gotta know the Truth line by line, it’s the KJV only.

    This is what finally did it for me – 1Corinthians 1:18. All other Bibles, salvation stands on two legs – Grace and works. When you find there is no mention of the added word, I hope you get as mad as I did when God showed it to me. He knew I was confused, and answered me -where else? – through His uncorrupted Word.

    Comment by Laura — September 20, 2010 @ 4:10 pm

    • Few people realize this, but the KJV actually lapses into what some call ‘paraphrase’ at some points, like Romans 6:1 — “…shall we keep on sinning that grace may increase? God forbid!”

      Excuse me, “God?” Paul would never throw around God’s name in a sentence like that as a Jew, and he equally wouldn’t do it as a Christian.

      Forgive me for this, but it’s the 1611 equivalent of saying, “…shall we keep on sinning that grace may increase? Hell, no!”

      Yeah. Shocking. But that’s exactly what they did. God’s name doesn’t appear anywhere in any manuscripts for that verse. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

      The KJV translators took other liberties, too; but I found that one most offensive.

      The KJV served us for hundreds of years, but now, it’s time to move on to the reliability of better manuscripts, and away from colloquial 17th century British expressions.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — September 20, 2010 @ 5:25 pm

  3. uncorrupted
    lol, that’s “Texan” for incorrupt.

    Comment by Laura — September 20, 2010 @ 4:14 pm

  4. With all due respect, Paul, I didn’t choose 1 Cor. 1:18 lightly, but after much study, as it is foundational to the Gospel. A corrupt Bible that teaches that we can add a single thing to what Christ has done for us is teaching a different Jesus.

    If you care and have the time, please compare the corrupted 1 Cor. 1:18 “being saved” with Ephesians 2:8 “are saved” in Strongs, Parsing, CGTS, CGES id, or AV and tell me if you can see a reason “being” was added other than ideology.

    Comment by Laura — September 21, 2010 @ 11:24 pm

    • John White deals with this controversy:

      The Bible is plain in presenting the “now and the not yet” aspect of salvation. We ARE saved, and yet we are BEING saved, and we WILL BE saved as well. Passages are to be found in any translation which will present the various aspects of this truth in the Christian’s life.

      Defenders of the [KJV] however, find the literal translation of these passages offensive, because they feel the new versions are questioning the certainty of salvation itself. In fact, some use your position on these passages as a test, so to speak, of your orthodoxy. Yet this is a case in which the modern translations are more literal and more correct than the KJV.

      …It is obvious that those who are perishing are in the process of doing so, and have not as yet completed that process. They have not yet “perished” but are on the road that will take them to that destination, unless they are saved by God’s mercy and grace. Paul obviously parallels “those who are being saved” with “those who are perishing” in both I Cor 1:18 and II Cor 2:15. If the process of perishing is ongoing, so is the process of being saved in the same contexts. The KJV rendering of these passages while technically allowable does not do a very good job in expressing the intention of the author at these places, and as far as the theological element of the KJV-Only argument at this point, we must be continually reminded that our theology must be derived FROM the text of scripture, not forced ON TO it. If Paul said “we are being saved” in I Cor 1:18; he also said that we “have been saved” at Eph. 2:5 and that we “shall be saved” at Romans 5:9-10. If our theology can’t handle each of these passages, the problem lies in our theology, not the text of scripture! We dare not allow our theology to determine our translation…

      John White, The King James Only Controversy

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — September 22, 2010 @ 9:45 am

  5. I would have rather heard your opinion than to have read anothers. But since you posted his, I’ll answer that he was being less than honest, to say the least.

    He writes ” We ARE saved, and yet we are BEING saved, and we WILL BE saved as well. Passages are to be found in any translation which will present the various aspects of this truth in the Christian’s life.”

    This is not true. A quick search in the KJV for “being saved” shows “No results found”.

    He then says ‘”Paul obviously parallels “those who are being saved” with “those who are perishing”’,”If the process of perishing is ongoing, so is the process of being saved in the same contexts”… but that’s not what the KJV says, is it? No.

    He then says “If Paul said “we are being saved” in I Cor 1:18…”
    As if he says “being saved” enough will change what the KJV actually says, then accuses the KJV of forcing theology when it is he who is doing the forcing. Sorry, but this guy is a joke.

    “We dare not let our theology change God’s Word”. ~Laura

    Comment by Laura — October 4, 2010 @ 3:09 am

    • I’ll make you a deal. If we’re going to discuss particular passages in the future, let’s use the NASB as the reference point, as do most Evangelical Bible Colleges and Seminaries.

      As for my opinion, I do agree with the sufficiency of Christ to save us. (“Not of works…”) I just didn’t want to go down the road of a James 2:24 type of discussion, since it wasn’t the point of this blog post.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — October 4, 2010 @ 8:40 am

  6. “If we’re going to discuss particular passages in the future, let’s use the NASB as the reference point.”

    NASB = “being” saved.

    It would be like offering me a cup of coffee, but first going out to the sewer and putting a couple drops in the cup. “No, thanks, it’s kind of wrecked” I’d say, and you would say “It’s ok! Most of it is really good coffee”, to which I would say “No, no, no. It is poisoned”.

    I gathered from your original post that you were interested in Bible translations. I shared something important to me and I did not ask you a question, so you could have simply not replied.

    Comment by Laura — October 5, 2010 @ 11:55 pm

  7. Are Jesus’ words more important than all the rest of the Bible?
    Does Jesus have the final say so?
    Are the English translations more accurate than the Greek?
    Are you searching for the truth?
    Do you have a hidden agenda?

    Comment by Samuel Strong — March 1, 2011 @ 6:23 pm

    • What exactly are you responding to??

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — March 1, 2011 @ 6:30 pm

  8. Paul, I just ran into this year-old article and thought you might be interested to know that The Gideon in Canada are in the midst of a rebirth in many areas of their ministry. One of the changes, specifically, is the recent addition of the New Living Translation as a Scripture they distribute, a version that will undoubtedly help many more people understand the message of the Bible in the kind of English spoken today.

    Comment by Kelvin — August 16, 2011 @ 9:44 pm

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