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Dr. Marten Woudstra, Sodomite, Homosexual, and Chairman of the NIV Old Testament Committee



The following is a report by Mr. Michael Penfold of England, UK. Reprinted with kind permission.

"James White's book The King James Only Controversy (Bethany House Publishers, 1995) includes a question and answer section. One of the questions reads, 'I've been told that there were homosexuals on the NIV translation committee. Is this true?' On pages 245-246 of his book James White gives the following answer. 'No, it is not [true]. But due to the consistent bearing of false witness by many KJV Only advocates, Dr. Kenneth Barker, Executive Director of the NIV Translation Centre, had to write a response to the accusation, which I quote below:

[Dr. Barker writes]: 'It has come to my attention that false rumours are circulating, in both oral and written form, that the NIV is soft on sodomy (that is, homosexual sins). The alleged reason for this is that some NIV translators and editors were homosexuals and lesbians. These charges have no basis in fact. Thus they are simply untrue. And those who make such false charges could be legitimately sued for libel, slander and defamation of character. Here are the facts. It is true that in the earliest stages of translation work on the NIV (in the late 1960s and early 1970s), Virginia Mollenkott was consulted briefly and only in a minor way on matters of English style. At that time she had the reputation of being a committed evangelical Christian with expertise in contemporary English idiom and usage. Nothing was known of her lesbian views. Those did not begin to surface until years later in some of her writings. If we had known in the sixties what became public knowledge only years later, we would not have consulted her at all. But it must be stressed that she did not influence the NIV translators and editors in any of their final decisions.'

"This is a very cleverly worded statement and one which we can allow Virginia Mollenkott to answer herself. In a letter to me [Michael J. Penfold] dated Dec. 18th 1996, in reply to my investigation into her true role on the NIV, Mollenkott wrote the following revealing letter:

"[Virginia Mollenkott writes] 'I worked on the NIV during the entire time it was being translated and reviewed, although I was never free to attend the summer sessions even when I was invited to do so. Elisabeth Elliot and I were the Stylistic Consultants: our job was simply to make sure the translation would communicate clearly to modern American readers, and that the style was as smooth and understandable as possible. I was never removed, sacked, or made redundant from my work on the NIV; if I were, my name would not have appeared on the list sent out by the IBS. It was Dr. Edwin Palmer, who lived near my college, who invited me to work on the NIV. He had heard me speak and respected my integrity and my knowledge. So far as I know, nobody including Dr. Palmer suspected that I was lesbian while I was working on the NIV; it was information I kept private at that time. Dr. Palmer always sent me the batches of translating to review, and I always returned them (with my comments) to him. I have not kept track of which of my suggestions made it into the final version; I am a busy person, and it was a labour love in the scriptures. I do not think anything concerning homosexuality was in any of the batches I reviewed. I do not consider the NIV more gay-friendly than most modern translations, so I do not understand why anybody would want to bash the NIV because a closeted lesbian worked on it. I was not a translator; if I were I would have argued that the word/concept "homosexual" is too anachronistic to be utilised in translating an ancient text. But I was a stylist and nobody asked me. I no longer have any contact with the NIV-CBT, but I am often amused to remember that I frequently refused my $5 an hour stipend because I heard the project was running out of money. At the time I was naive about how many millions of dollars are made by a successful Bible translation! Please tell Kenneth Barker for me that although there is much controversy about homosexuality among Biblical scholars, to my knowledge nobody denies that the Bible condemns lying about other people. He should be ashamed of his attempt to rewrite history.

"'Somewhere in my files is the letter I got thanking me for my work on the NIV when the project was completed. I also have the slipcase version sent out to the whole NIV team in 1978 by Zondervan; and I have the tenth-anniversary edition sent out to the whole team in 1988 by the International Bible Society. Various other editions were also sent out gratis to the translation committee and stylists, but I have received nothing since 1988 that I can remember. Because I am idealistic and sincere, it never occurred to me that anyone would lie about my contributions, so I was not meticulous about keeping records. Thank you for anything you can do to set the record straight. You may utilise this letter to do so, and I'd appreciate you sending me a copy of anything you generate. Sincerely, Virginia Ramey Mollenkott.'

"Why could not Dr. Barker have told the truth in the first place? Taking Mollenkott's words at their face value, the NIV publicity machine has nothing to worry about. Does their anxiety to distance the NIV from homosexual associations reveal something more sinister?

"In the light of the following, I believe it does, as it has now come to light that THE CHAIRMAN OF THE NIV'S OLD TESTAMENT TRANSLATION COMMITTEE, DR. MARTEN H. WOUDSTRA, WAS A HOMOSEXUAL. This is much more serious than Mollenkott's involvement. Here we have one of the leading scholars on the NIV CBT who is a homosexual. Obviously this fact compromises the whole project, especially as this fact was well known by his colleagues for many years. However, only now is this fact coming to the notice of the general public through articles like the one you are reading.

"Dr. Woudstra, who died in the early 1990s, was a long-time friend of Evangelicals Concerned Inc. This organisation was founded in 1976 by New York psychologist, Dr. Ralph Blair, as a nation-wide task force and fellowship for gay and lesbian 'evangelical Christians' and their friends. ECI's address is 311 East 72nd Street, New York, NY 10021. They can be found on the internet at http://www.korpi.com/ECWE/

"It was during a series of research phone calls to Dr. Blair that I first confirmed the fact of Dr. Woudstra's homosexuality. Blair and Dr. Woudstra were friends. Dr. Woudstra had been on the mailing list of Evangelicals Concerned from its inception, and although he had no formal ties with ECI, on one of his many trips to New York he called in and had tea with Dr. Blair. Dr Blair told me that Dr. Woudstra shared the viewpoint of ECI that lifelong 'loving monogamous relationships' between gay men or women were acceptable to God. He believed that there was nothing in the Old Testament (his special area of technical expertise) that corresponded to 'homosexual orientation'. The 'sodomy' of the OT simply involved temple rites and gang rape (Gen 19). Notice the similarity between this view and that of Virginia Mollenkott. Dr. Blair clearly stated to me on the phone on 23rd September 1997 that Dr. Woudstra, a lifelong bachelor, was a homosexual. He intimated that other members of the NIV translation committee were also quietly supportive of ECI, but he was not able to tell me who they were (for obvious reasons). He later called them 'bigger' names than Dr. Woudstra.

"As to Dr. Marten Woudstra theologically, he was once the OT Professor at Calvin Seminary, the college of the Christian Reformed Church (Dutch Calvinistic). Over 70% of this denomination's churches now use the NIV. Dr. Woudstra was considered very 'conservative' within Calvin Seminary. He wrote the Joshua Commentary in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Eerdmans) which was also contributed to by such illustrious 'evangelical' names as F.F. Bruce.

"In 1973 the Christian Reformed Church published their official position relative to homosexuality. There is currently discussion, debate and disagreement over the issue of homosexuality within the CRC as in the wider Reformed denominations. For instance, the CRC's sister denomination, the Reformed Church of the Netherlands, took the position in 1979 of actually approving homosexual behaviour within certain bounds. This is a more liberal position than the CRC has ever yet taken. Is it not incredible to think how far the CRC has travelled over the years when one considers some of the former teachers, professors and presidents Calvin Seminary has had, such as Harry Bultema, Herman Hoeksema, H.J. Kuiper, Louis Berkof and William Hendrikson, to name a few.

"In 1970, the CRC Synod appointed a six man committee to study homosexuality. Its report was adopted by the same Synod in 1973. One of the six, Clarence Boomsma, was four times moderator of the CRC and pastor of two CRC churches. In fact Boomsma held the record for the longest pastorate in the CRC; 35 years in the CRC church in Grand Rapids, near the Calvin Seminary.

"I called Clarence Boomsma on the phone in October 1997, and had a long talk about Dr. Woudstra since he had know him for many years and had been his friend. HE TOLD ME THAT DR. WOUDSTRA ASSISTED THEM IN WRITING THE REPORT ON HOMOSEXUALITY. I have a copy of the complete report in my office. It takes a compromised 'middle line' between the Biblical anti-homosexuality absolute, and the Reformed Church of the Netherlands liberal acceptance of homosexual behaviour within certain bounds.

"Let me quote a few lines from the report (Report 42, Art. 53, 1973):

"'In fact, its [homosexuality] origin is so unclear as to be finally a mystery' (page 613)

"'As the cause of homosexuality is uncertain, so is the possibility of correcting it' (page 614)

"'Responsibility and the possibility of personal guilt for the homosexual arises at the point where he must decide what he will do with his sexuality. It is here that the Christian homosexual must ask what God's will is for him in the same way as the Christian heterosexual must ask what he must do in obedience to God with his sex drive' (page 616)

"[Note here the clever but wrong comparison being drawn. For a man to desire sexual relations with a woman is not wrong within the marriage relationship. However, for a man to desire sexual relations with another man is always wrong in all circumstances].

"'From this story [Genesis 19, Sodom & Gomorrah] read as an isolated incident we cannot conclude however that homosexualism is here condemned' (page 617).

"[Note that this report took the position that a person may be a homosexual by birth (homosexualism) due to the fallen and irregular nature of humanity, but should not practice homosexual acts (homosexuality)!]

"'In how far the prohibition of homosexualism [in Lev 18:21 & 20:13] is binding on us is therefore a question that remains' (page 619).

"'It has been suggested that the use of these words [malakoi and arsenokoitai in I Cor 6:9-10] stresses the activity rather than the condition of homosexuality' (page 619)

"[Note this vital belief of Dr. Woudstra. This is the reasoning behind the very clever translation in the NIV in I Cor 6 'homosexual offenders'. Thus the NIV here allows a person to be a homosexual, as long as they don't offend.]

"The report refers constantly to the 'Christian homosexual', and urges that he 'deserves the same acceptance, recognition, compassion and help that is given to any person (page 626). Since the report urges a fully functional place in the church for 'Christian homosexuals' is it any wonder that, according the Boomsma, the CRC has currently (1997) one openly 'celibate' homosexual minister who has 'come out'. All through the report one is struck with the similarities it bears to the views of Virginia Mollenkott. Even the title of her book 'Is The Homosexual My Neighbour' finds an echo on page 631 of the CRC's Homosexuality Committee's 1973 report where paragraph 2 begins 'Love for the homosexual neighbour...'

"The 1973 report advised homosexual ministers to seek pastoral and psychological help to cope with their desires, but stopped short of condoning homosexual practice. Boomsma felt that although the CRC should understand and 'sympathise' (page 630) with the struggle homosexuals faced, for which they may bear minimal responsibility (page 631), it could not make an exception and allow such people to engage in 'homosexual activity' that is wrong. This is still the view of the CRC in general.

"Taking the scriptural principle of two witnesses, I will now add the comments of Clarence Boomsma regarding the sexuality of his friend Dr. Woudstra, the Chairman of the NIV Old Testament Committee. Boomsma made the following statement to me on the phone on 25th October 1997; I wrote it down verbatim: 'It is generally believed among us [Christian Reformed Church and Calvin Seminary] that Dr. Woudstra was a homosexual.'

"I asked Boomsma if Dr. Woudstra was an 'active' homosexual. Although he knew Dr. Woudstra's views on homosexuality very well and holds in his possession a written dissertation by Dr. Woudstra on the subject, he did not feel free to comment on its contents. However, he did tell me about a '[homosexual] incident' in Dr. Woudstra's career in which his professorship was at stake. Woudstra survived and was not fired by the Seminary.

"Boomsma also spoke of Dr. Woudstra's frequent trips to New York 'which like all large cities has a large homosexual population'. On his return Woudstra would tell Boomsma how much he enjoyed the 'plays' in New York. I asked were these 'gay plays'. Boomsma would only say that New York has a large gay culture and is dotted with gay bars, and it was his impression that his friend, Dr. Woudstra, took part in this side of New York's social scene.

"I submit this research as I feel it has a direct bearing on how the NIV treats homosexuality. By removing the word sodomy and sodomite from the Old Testament, the language is changed and new ideas are introduced. By speaking of homosexual 'offenders' in I Corinthians ch. 6, the NIV allows for people to be homosexual as long as they don't 'offend' by being 'active'; and this is the position of the Christian Reformed Church, Calvin Seminary, Evangelicals Concerned, and who knows, quite a few other members of the NIV Translation Committee other than the late Dr. Woudstra. The fact that Leviticus denounces homosexuality in total does not worry them as such ethical condemnations do not apply today! ''A corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit'' (Matthew 7:17)."


Michael Penfold, November 1997 P.O.Box 26, Bicester, Oxon. OX6 8PB, England UK. PenfoldBooks@characterlink.net


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