Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL International have for many years had a high reputation for their commitment to the Scriptures and their commitment to translating Scriptures into various languages throughout the world. Because they recognized the importance of the Word of God, men and women would attend classes at SIL International to learn linguistics so that they could go as Wycliffe missionaries to language groups, many of which did not even have a written language. Wycliffe missionaries would spend years learning the language, transcribing it into written form and teaching the people to read if necessary, translating Scripture, and thus providing the Bible in written form so that people could read the Word of God in their own language. We are thankful for Wycliffe missionaries and for their translation work through the years. However, we are concerned about a possible shift in emphasis from translating the Word of God to exalting the wisdom of men.
When we did the research for our book Missions & Psychoheresy we interviewed Wycliffe Bible Translators, Orlando, Florida, and found more than just a trace of psychoheresy with respect to the selection and care of missionaries.
The January 2002 Wycliffe’s Insider publication featured a "Healing Trauma Through Scripture Use" article. The article described a two-week workshop in Africa that "has been proposed for representatives from 15 language groups" to heal the trauma "of human suffering in Africa." The total cost of the two-week workshop is $24,000. According to the article the workshops would use "Scripture with Christian counseling principles." Since "Christian counseling" is often a misnomer for almost anything and everything used by psychotherapists who happen to be Christians, we wondered what Wycliffe would be doing.
We first called Wycliffe Translators in Orlando, Florida, regarding the Insider article, and were referred to SIL International in Texas. We began calling SIL International in January 2002, when we first received the Insider. It took four months of persistent phone calling and emailing to obtain any details of the content of the proposed workshops, which were later conducted in Africa.
At one point we were given some details about the workshop with a number of verses "compiled by H. Norman Wright." As a result, we asked the following three simple questions:
1. From which of H. Norman Wright’s books did the Bible verses come?
2. What counseling credentials or licenses, if any, do the "several Wycliffe Member Care Leaders" hold?
3. Were there any books upon which the "drafts of teaching materials were based"? If so, which books?
After two administrators refused to answer these simple questions, we requested the information from John Watters, Executive Director, SIL International. Watters also refused to provide the answers to these simple questions.
Later we received a Wycliffe’s Insider Update letter from Roy Peterson, President, Wycliffe Translators in Orlando, in which he reports that Wycliffe is translating the manual for this same "Healing Trauma Through Scripture Use" workshop into seven different languages. Because of his direct knowledge of this workshop and support for it, we contacted Mr. Peterson and appealed to him to provide answers to our three simple questions. He refused to do so.
After researching H. Norman Wright’s over 50 books, we finally found that the Bible verses came from his book Crisis Counseling. This raises the question as to why Watters et al. at SIL International kept the title of the book secret. In answer to question one, they only needed to inform us of the two-word title of H. Norman Wright’s book.
We suspect (and Watters and Peterson have given us reason to be suspicious) that the workshop was based not only on the Scripture verses on pages 306 and 307, but also on much more of Wright’s book Crisis Counseling and that what they refer to as "several Wycliffe Member-Care Leaders" were professionally trained and possibly licensed counselors.
H. Norman Wright is an integrationist who uses the Bible mixed with the very wisdom of men about which God has warned His children. Crisis Counseling is an amalgamation of Scripture and psychotherapeutic practices and ideas. Thus, the "Christian counseling" referred to by SIL is probably not truly Christian, but simply a perversion of Scripture with the unproven psychological wisdom of men, or why else would Watters and Peterson avoid answering such simple questions?
The reason we are very suspicious of the nature of this workshop is because the answers to these three questions would probably involve less than ten words, since the answer to question 1 is a two-word title of Wright’s book. While failing to give us the few words needed to answer these three questions, Watters and Peterson used a far greater number of words in their email replies refusing to give simple answers to these simple questions.
We wonder if Wycliffe and SIL ever thought about the possibility that their translation efforts could be compromised because of this new ministry which they have surfaced, no matter how well intentioned it is. Will they be viewed as Bible translators AND "therapizers" instead of just translators and thus have to deal with a new and expanded image?
Wycliffe and SIL are known for Bible translation. Why does Wycliffe in Florida use the unproven ways of the world to screen and care for missionary candidates and missionaries? Does SIL in Texas, approved by Wycliffe in Florida, provide an amalgamated system of psychotherapy and Scripture under the false façade of "Healing Trauma Through Scripture Use" workshops? And, why would SIL use $24,000 of contributions for a workshop that is a detour from the work for which they are so well known? If you are a supporter of Wycliffe or SIL, please attempt to obtain a reply to questions 2 and 3. Their email addresses are:
<firstname.lastname@example.org> and <John_Watters@sil.org>.
PAL V10N5 (September-October 2002)