LifeWay Tells Critics of 2011 NIV Bible: 'Trust the Trustees'

LifeWay Rainer
Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, delivers a report at the Southern Baptist Convention's Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Tuesday, June 19, 2012. |

NEW ORLEANS – Southern Baptist members upset with the products sold in Lifeway Christian Resources bookstores were admonished Tuesday to trust the trustees who determine what materials are sold in the chain.

The 2011 NIV Bible was released in stores in March. The updated translation has drawn mixed reviews, with the latest criticism coming from the Southern Baptist Convention. |

Attendees of the Southern Baptist Convention's 2012 Annual Meeting told LifeWay President and CEO Thom S. Rainer that they were "tired" of changing policies regarding materials banned from sale in LifeWay bookstores.

Most recently, the retailer pulled copies of the 2009 movie "The Blind Side" from its shelves after a SBC pastor complained that characters use "explicit profanity, God's name in vain, and a racial slur." Before the complaint, Lifeway sold the movie with a warning.

Regarding the controversial 2011 NIV Bible, Lifeway announced five months ago that it would not discontinue the sale of the updated NIV Bible despite some Southern Baptists voicing concern over the translation's gender-neutral language.

On Tuesday a SBC member demanded that Rainer explain the company's decision-making process.

Rainer responded by urging SBC members to trust the judgments of the company's board of trustees who decides major issues for the Christian resource retailer. While he admitted that they don't look at every single product that is sold in stores, Rainer said the trustees "ask the tough questions" in order to ensure that questionable material is barred from shelves.

"We must trust our trustees," he insisted. "Trust the trustees. That's how we make the decisions."

Still another SBC member questioned that trust, arguing that LifeWay's decision to continue selling the updated NIV is in direct opposition to the SBC 2011 decision to reject the translation. The member highlighted the apparent opposition when he asked Rainer who should Southern Baptists trust – the SBC or Lifeway.

Though several denominations are patrons of LifeWay's bookstores, the company is affiliated with the SBC.
Rainer said the SBC appoints 57 trustees to serve on LifeWay's board.

He defended the decision detailing how trustees met for several hours, listened to testimonies, combed through presentations and argued both sides of the issue before concluding that there was simply not enough evidence to ban the updated NIV Bible from shelves. Rainer said the process was difficult but assured that LifeWay leaders pray for wisdom to handle such situations correctly.

The LifeWay president presented a report from the company following the question-and-answer session. In the report, Lifeway emphasized its commitment to the Great Commission and being a "ministry-first" organization, among other things.

The company also unveiled its new curriculum titled The Gospel Project. The curriculum is described as "a Christ-centered Bible study resource that deeply examines the grand narrative of Scripture." The Gospel Project for kids is scheduled to debut in the fall.

Follow Stephanie Samuel on Twitter at @stephlivinlive

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