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.

August 4, 2010

Wednesday Link List

There you go.   We’re number one.   Because e-mail is now mostly a mobile thing; social networks and blogs currently dominate online computer time.   Click the image to read the full report.

…I’m not exactly sure about this, but I think I am:  I got an e-mail this week from someone I’ve been e-mailing  for many years, who perhaps didn’t realize that when I send her something and it appears on her screen in blue with a line underneath, that’s a LINK and she’s supposed to click on it.   So just in case anybody here is missing the point, these little bullet points are not an end in themselves.   They are LINKS and it’s expected that you’re clicking on the ones that interest you.

  • The producers of the movies Fireproof and Facing The Giants have a 5-minute documentary on the website for their new movie, Courageous.
  • Can you handle another Bible translation?   Coming soon to a bookstore near you:  The Common English Bible.
  • John Ortberg asks the musical question, “Who speaks for Evangelicals?”  Or to make it more personal, “These days, who speaks for you?”  [Related on this blog, see trend # 10 for 2009]
  • Self-styled “pastor of the nerds,” Tony Kim provides a rundown of his visit to Comic Con.
  • Here’s the video for the book trailer of Peter Hitchens’ book (the brother of atheist Christopher Hitchens) The Rage Against God:  How Atheism Led Me To Faith (Zondervan).
  • The church that markets coffee mugs proclaiming “Islam is of the Devil” has a Quran burning ceremony scheduled for September 11th, though not every Christian group agrees with their tactics.
  • Time for some time-travel with David Fisher:  If you could spend a summer afternoon with any of the saints who are no longer with us, who would make your short list?   Check out his sixteen saints.
  • Another video link, this is a beautiful worship song; check out Keith & Kristyn Getty’s  Creation Sings the Father’s Song.
  • Talbot Davis suggests a different reason for introducing change in our local churches:  Because it creates muscle confusion.
  • Should an Anglican priest have slipped a communion wafer to a dog who went forward?   An interim priest in Toronto did just that, and now the Bishop isn’t very happy.
  • Megan Hyatt Miller — daughter of Thomas Nelson’s Michael Hyatt — comes face to face with her inability to embrace the current social justice movement because she just doesn’t like the poor.
  • Many of you know this story, but for those who don’t here’s an interview Mark Driscoll did with Randy Alcorn explaining why Randy doesn’t keep his book royalties, and why he works for minimum wage.
  • Matt at The Church of No People blog suggests, “…when Christians can’t find the words to share Jesus, a much easier method of evangelism is available.  All you have to do is become a walking billboard.”  Check out Christian socks.
  • This has been up for over a year, but I found it interesting that the people from xtranormal.com (the text-to-movie site) took a script from Lifeline Productions (those little comedy moments you hear on Christian radio) about trying to earn salvation, and turned it into a video.   Watch 1,000 Points.
  • Is she in or she is out?   Vampire author Anne Rice is either out or simply challenging some definitions of  ‘Christian.’  Another author, John Shore, tries to sort it all out.  (No, she writes about vampires, she isn’t one herself…)  As does the Christian Q&A guy, Russell D. Moore who sees this as a definite leave of absence from the faith.
  • Piper gets asked if it’s okay for a guy to listen to Beth Moore, or female speakers in general.   His answer is somewhat conditional.
  • Speaking of women in ministry, Pam Hogeweide has an interesting perspective in Happy Christian Women, which Kathy Escobar then picked up as a natural lead-in to three(1) more(2) posts(3) which deal with “Spiritual Refugees;” people who have been displaced from the church.  Each post includes a 12-minute video.
  • On the topic of links, if you have a blog, consider adding Thinking Out Loud to your blogroll.
  • Hoping to save marine life after the BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a 67-year old man has modeled his rescue project on Noah’s Ark.
  • Our cartoon this week is from Rev. Fun.  You see these on various websites and blogs rather frequently, but there’s also a print version that went on sale this summer.   For that person who isn’t internet connected, check out Rev. Fun … Offline from Zondervan.

September 23, 2008

Lifeway Publishing Reveals Its Total Hypocrisy

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:44 am

I am in no way a fan of Lifeway Publishing.   The Southern Baptist curriculum publisher is, in my humble opinion, a giant money-making machine.  They buy up the rights to produce curriculum for many top selling Christian books and brand-name Christian authors, in many ways capitalizing on those authors’ concepts.   They then sell those books through the trade as “short discount” items, giving stores less than half of their usual margin.   Huh?  When is a book publisher not a book publisher?  (And they aren’t the only one, David C. Cook invented the term “programmatic curriculum” so they could short-discount their non-dated curriculum in a similar manner.)

The sales on this stuff are so brisk that when we visited the Lifeway store in Nashville, they had a sales clerk somewhat permanently assigned to the aisle containing their adult curriculum.   Their number one product, the workbook to Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby has sold enough copies to have long-recovered any developmental or research costs.   The ethical thing to do at this point would be to call it — and several others — a regular book publication and drop the short discount.   But if Lifeway has ever debated that possibility, I’ll never know.   They have refused to answer any correspondence I’ve sent them on this issue for about three years.  They’re Baptists.   They don’t have to answer to me.

So it was hard to have any sympathy for Lifeway whatsoever when I saw this story about the company being caught in a classic case of double-speak.  The magazine at left, Gospel Today, got pulled from their retail store shelves because it featured a cover story on — are you sitting down? — female pastors.  Yes, I know a few Bible verses on this subject, also; but this is Lifeway, home of Beth Moore, the Southern Baptist equivalent of Joyce Meyer. (Or is Joyce Meyer the Charismatic equivalent of Beth Moore?)

Here’s how Kentucky writer and blogger Michael Spencer at Internetmonk summed it up so well in this editorial.  I don’t share his biting anti-evangelical rhetoric, but I’ll grant that in this case, the comments are completely well-deserved:

Rereading the story of the story of Lifeway Christian stores pulling from sale a magazine with five female pastors on the cover, I was really overwhelmed with the vacuity of evangelicalism.

At what point is someone allowed to say that in those same Lifeway stores, the #1 selling Bible teaching marterials are the resources published by Lifeway by Beth Moore? When are we supposed to notice the dozens and dozens of Beth Moore books and workbooks? The Beth Moore aisle in most Lifeway stores? When are we supposed to notice that Beth Moore’s materials in Lifeway DWARF any male pastor or teacher? When do we get the exercise in pretzel logic that explains there’s no inconsistency in having a female Bible teacher with an audience larger than any pastor in a denomination that opposes women pastors?

When are we supposed to notice the howling hypocrisy of chattering endlessly about the tragedy and threat of women pastors, but pocketing who knows how much money from Beth Moore’s Bible teaching?

Moore can teach more individual Southern Baptists and in more churches (via video, etc) than any other Bible teacher, but as long as we have our Pharisaical lenses on, it can all be explained as within the boundaries we’ve drawn.

And you wonder why people equate evangelicals with an inability to think critically. It’s this kind of nonsense that makes any pretense to principle comedic. It’s the authority of the Bible….as we creatively construe it.

… If you link to the article, don’t miss the more than 70 comments that have been posted.

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