GS 1998 art 121

GS 1998 Article 121Bible Translations

Committee IV presents: Agenda items I.G, IV.V, IV.X


  • A. Report from the Committee on Bible Translations (CBT)
  • B. Letters from the Canadian Reformed Churches at Elora and Taber


  • A. General Synod Abbotsford 1995 (Acts, Art. 72,V.D) gave the Committee on Bible Translation the mandate to pass on valid concerns about the NIV text to the NIV Translation Center. According to the mandate, the concerns may come from any of three sources:
    • 1. correspondence from churches and/or members;
    • 2. previous synod reports as well as the committee’s reports and its appendices;
    • 3. letters sent to Synod Abbotsford expressing concerns about certain Bible passages.


  • A. The CBT met nine times, primarily to deal with concerns about the publication of a gender-inclusive version of the NIV.
  • B. The CBT sought further information about this new version before it began to carry out its own mandate, because it seriously questioned “whether we would be interested in participating in improving an inclusive language edition” of the NIV.
  • C. On May 27, 1997, the International Bible Society (IBS) announced the cancellation of the whole inclusive language project. At the same time it announced that “there are no further plans for a further revised edition.”
  • D. Upon further enquiries, the CBT learned from the NIV Translation Center that the normal refining process of the NIV will continue. It is only subsequent to this that the CBT actually began to carry out the mandate that it received at General Synod Abbotsford 1995.
  • E. As a result of the CBT’s review of reports submitted to previous General Synods, five matters were brought to the attention of the NIV Translation Center for minor changes to the text.
  • F. As a consequence of the seventeen letters that were sent to General Synod Abbotsford 1995 and subsequently passed on to the CBT, five more matters were brought to the attention of the NIV Translation Center for minor changes to the text.
  • G. Since 1995 only one item of correspondence was received from a member of one of our churches. The CBT was not persuaded that any matters that were raised in this letter should be sent to the NIV Translation Center.
  • H. The CBT reports that “we can wholeheartedly confirm the recommendation of the former Committee on Bible Translations, and the decision made in Article 72 of the Acts of General Synod Abbotsford 1995.”
  • I. The CBT suggests that if General Synod deems it necessary to appoint a new committee, it should include a member with expertise in English linguistics who can help the committee grapple with the inclusive language issue.
  • J. The consistory of the church at Elora expresses thankfulness to the CBT for taking upon itself the responsibility of looking into the matter of a ‘gender- inclusive’ edition of the NIV, but urges Synod to consider that the IBS’s decision to shelve plans for this edition was not a principial one but rather an economic one. Consistory requests that a new committee be instructed to address the IBS about our principial objections against a ‘gender-inclusive’ Bible translation, because unless the IBS is convinced that this is wrong, it will only be a matter of time before this issue comes up again.
  • K. The consistory of the church at Taber expresses great appreciation for the work of the CBT. In principle, consistory endorses the work of the committee.


  • A. When the CBT learned that the IBS intended to produce a ‘gender-neutral’ edition of the NIV, it was appropriate that the CBT dealt with this issue before it began to carry out its own specific mandate. Synod should take thankful notice of this work.
  • B. The consequence of this delay, however, is that the CBT did not have time to carry out the mandate that it received: the nine textual matters that were brought to the NIV Translation Center do not appear to be resolved.
  • C. Although the CBT only received one submission from the churches since General Synod Abbotsford 1995, it is appropriate that the churches and its members have an address where they can send their concerns.
  • D. A committee is needed to monitor the development of the NIV as it is being revised. It would be advisable to include an expert in English linguistics on this committee, not only for confronting the inclusive language issue, but also to help the committee deal with grammatical and stylistic questions.
  • E. The fact that the IBS even considered producing a ‘gender-inclusive’ edition of the NIV is not encouraging. The IBS responded to the negative reaction of mainstream evangelical churches by shelving these plans. It appears that it is not the IBS that has to be convinced that “gender-inclusivity” is wrong. The mainstream evangelical churches in North America will probably decide this issue in the long-term. However the committee should continue to monitor the activities of the IBS in this regard and express our concerns where there is a suitable opportunity.


Synod decide:

  • A. To thank the CBT for the manner in which they served the churches.
  • B. To continue to recommend the NIV for use in the churches.
  • C. To continue to leave it in the freedom of the churches if they feel compelled to use other translations that received favourable reviews in the reports.
  • D. To reappoint a CBT including one member with expertise in English linguistics if possible.
  • E. To give the CBT the following mandate:
    • 1. to receive comments from churches and/or members about passages in the NIV in need of improvement;
    • 2. to scrutinize these comments, and pass on valid concerns to the NIV Translation Center;
    • 3. to bring to a resolution those matters that have already been submitted to the NIV Translation Center;
    • 4. to monitor developments in the NIV as the text is revised;
    • 5. to serve the next General Synod with a report to be sent to the churches at least six months prior to the beginning of Synod.