A linguistics training school called “Camp Wycliffe” was founded in 1934 by missionaries William Cameron Townsend and L.L. Legters. It was named after John Wycliffe, the father of the English Bible, and the goal was to provide Bibles in every language of the earth. This project became the Summer Institute of Linguistics (now known as SIL International). Townsend had created an alphabet for and translated the N.T. into Cakchiquel in Guatemala and he wanted to train missionaries to repeat this process in other minority languages. This small training school grew into the Summer Institute for Linguistics (now called SIL International). It is the linguistics arm of Wycliffe Bible Translators. It describes itself as “a non-profit, faith-based, scientific organization with the main purpose to study, develop and document lesser-known languages for the purpose of expanding linguistic knowledge, promoting world literacy and aiding minority language development.”
Wycliffe Bible Translators was founded in 1942. It focused on the actual translation work while the Summer Institute of Linguistics focused on linguistics and training. Later JAARS was established to focus on the technical, logistical, and transportation side of the work.
In 1948, the Jungle Aviation and Radio Service (JAARS) was established to provide support to the translation work through aviation, telecommunications, computers, construction, and shipping.
Today there are 5,000 people involved with Wycliffe, SIL, and JAARS. By 2004 Wycliffe had produced 611 Bibles or portions thereof and more than 1,000 translation projects were ongoing.
WYCLIFFE’S RADICAL AND UNSCRIPTURAL ECUMENISM
Wycliffe’s doctrinal statement is very weak, composed of the following five simple statements: “The divine inspiration and consequent authority of the whole canonical Scripture; the doctrine of the trinity; the fall of man, his consequent moral depravity and his need for regeneration; the atonement through the substitutionary death of Christ; the doctrine of justification by faith; the resurrection of the body, both of the just and the unjust; the eternal life of the saved and the eternal punishment of the lost.” This type of doctrinal statement is designed to allow the broadest possible unity by not defining even the most cardinal doctrines with any specificity. Consider, for example, the statement on inspiration. Theological modernists and Roman Catholics would agree that the Bible is divinely inspired and authoritative, as they define “inspired” and “authoritative” in their own perverted way; and since the canon is not specified, there is plenty of room for Rome’s expanded one. Consider another example, “the doctrine of justification by faith.” Again, this is so vague that even a Roman Catholic could sign on. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that salvation is by faith and even by grace, but not by grace through faith ALONE.
Founder Cameron Townsend established Wycliffe on a doctrinally compromised, ecumenical foundation. In light of Wycliffe Bible Translators’ commendable goal and the sacrifice made by its missionaries to bring the Word of God to those who sit in darkness, it is sad to have to document the great doctrinal compromise of this organization. Yet we are commanded to “prove all things” (1 Thess. 5), to compare all teaching with the Scriptures (Acts 17:11), and to beware of every wind of false doctrine (Eph. 4:14), so we cannot ignore this matter. Unlike its namesake, John Wycliffe, who stood boldly against Roman Catholic heresies and was subsequently persecuted by Catholic authorities, Wycliffe Bible Translators has been ecumenical and pro-Roman Catholic from its inception. The Lord Jesus commanded that we beware of false prophets and the apostles warned us to mark and avoid those who preach false doctrine (Rom. 16:17) and those who hold false gospels, false christs, and false spirits (2 Cor. 11). Instead of obeying these solemn commands, Wycliffe Bible Translators has yoked together with heretics and apostates. Following are a few examples:
In the November 1971 issue of Eternity magazine, Townsend was quoted as saying, “I believe in working with anyone who will help get the Bible to the Indians. ... one of the heroes whom I admire the most is the celebrated Father Bartolome de las Casas. This worthy Dominican, as all well remember, made use of the Sacred History in the Indian languages of Guatemala in order to draw the Indians to the faith and to peace. We too, so insignificant in comparison with that great hero of the cross, can indeed follow his example as regards the use of linguistics.” Note that one of Townsend’s heroes was a Catholic priest. He called this priest a “worthy Dominican” and a “great hero of the cross.” Supposedly it does not matter that this priest led many Indians to eternal hell through his cursed sacramental gospel (Gal. 1:6-8) and his false sacramental wafer christ (2 Cor. 11:4).
Townsend said, “Since we are non-sectarian and non-ecclesiastical, we get help from Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Moslems, Buddhists and even atheists” (James Hefley, Uncle Cam, 1974, p. 204).
Townsend said: “We are happy to be of service to these heroic missionaries of the jungle--one of our airplanes spent three days carrying various persons to the dedication of the new church of the Dominican Mission El Rosario [of the Rosary]. Among the distinguished passengers were two Catholic priests and a bishop. No charge was made for the transportation of these missionaries. It is an honor to serve them” (The Peruvian Times, Aug. 22, 1958).
Townsend helped establish LOGOS Translators, a Roman Catholic association. Consider the following testimony: “W. Cameron Townsend, Founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, had a vision. He saw many translation organizations sending Bible translation teams all over the world. He encouraged [Roman Catholics] Paul and Ginny Witte to organize LOGOS translators. After linguistics study and orientation, Paul and Ginny, with their children, began work among the Andoke Indians in Colombia. In 1977, they transferred to Venezuela at the invitation of Archbishop Mata Cova of Ciudad Bolivar. ... Thus, in November 1982, a group of Christians, representing several denominations, gathered to seek God’s guidance concerning LOGOS translators” (Undated LOGOS Translators brochure, distributed at the North American Congress on the Holy Spirit & World Evangelization, July 22-26, 1987, New Orleans, Louisiana).
Another example of Townsend’s extreme ecumenism is found in the following testimony of the late David du Plessis, the charismatic leader who was instrumental in bringing Pentecostals together with Rome: “Cam Townsend (founder of Wycliffe) came to me and indicated that he was going to send me to the [Roman Catholic] Vatican II Council in 1962 as Wycliffe’s representative. When I arrived in Rome, a particular cardinal called and said he was going to pick me up at my hotel. ... The cardinal arrived at my hotel, and when he came in the room, we both hugged one another and cried. I believe that God is going to unify the church. When you study the history of the church, you will notice that when Christianity became less and less ecumenical and more and more national, she also became less and less charismatic and more formal and divided by theological dissensions. The unity that God will bring about will be both charismatic and ecumenical” (“David du Plessis Speaks On,” Paraclete Journal, Fellowship Christian Church, Cincinnati, Ohio, Oct. 1986, pp. 11, 14). The fact that it was Wycliffe’s founder who sent du Plessis to Rome to attend the unscriptural Vatican II Council illustrates the extreme ecumenical philosophy of the organization.
Charles Turner, Executive Director of the Baptist Bible Translators Institute, was formerly with New Tribes Mission. In his 1975 report entitled The Biblical Doctrine of Separation Applied to New Evangelicals: Wycliffe Bible Translators, Turner exposes the ecumenical practices he witnessed while on the mission field:
“In 1957 when I first took some linguistic training at the Summer Institute of Linguistics (a branch of Wycliffe), I noticed two Roman Catholic priests were also taking the course. At the time I paid little attention because I was told the Summer Institute of Linguistics was under the auspices of the University of Oklahoma and it was open to anyone who wanted to take this training. This sounded reasonable enough to me then, but now I can no longer agree with this reasoning. Many of the teachers of the linguistic courses were people who were being supported financially by fundamental churches. These churches were in effect supporting the Roman Catholic Church because the missionaries they supported were giving their time and energy to train Roman Catholic priests who would use this training to further the cause of Roman Catholicism. The thing that is so wrong about this is the fact that these fundamental churches were not aware that they were supporting missionaries who were training Roman Catholic priests to be better linguists so that they could carry out more effectively the aims of the Roman Catholic Church. I find this quite ironic because one of the priests trained that summer of 1957 later worked in the same Sinasina tribe in which I worked for eighteen years. He helped to establish the Roman Catholic Church’s hold over the Sinasina people--thousands of whom will doubtless spend eternity in Hell because of the false hope they put in their baptism into the Roman Catholic Church. Wycliffe Bible Translators must assume some responsibility for this, because they helped train this priest. He was consequently able to do a better job of causing people to believe another gospel which is not the Gospel. Evidently Paul’s concern about a false gospel is of little concern to Wycliffe. Galatians 1:8, ‘But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.’”
“Again in the Peruvian Times on August 22, 1958, there is a picture of a Wycliffe plane with its pilots and seven Catholic priests and missionaries. The picture caption reads: ‘Photographs of the goodwill plane Moises Saeny with the Dominican Padres and Catholic educational missionaries who were transported to Puerto Esperanyo on the Purus River by a crew of the Summer Institute of Linguistics.’ Anyone would fly emergency medical flights for sick priests or nuns. But there is no excuse for a continuing effort on Wycliffe’s part to support the perversion of the gospel by providing flight service to Catholic missionaries. The Director of Wycliffe’s flight services told the board of my home church that Wycliffe only spent 25% of its time flying for Catholic missionaries in South America. This is an admission that reveals the extent to which Wycliffe has gone to serve the perversion of the gospel of the grace of Christ by Catholicism. Not only must Wycliffe bear some responsibility in the loss of much of God’s work to Catholicism, all those who support Wycliffe must also bear some responsibility in the leading of people into a false hope of salvation by good works. 2 John 11 says, ‘For he that biddeth him [a false teacher] God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.’ Not only has Wycliffe bid these false teachers God speed, but it has indeed sped them along on their journeys to pervert the gospel. Similarly those who have supported Wycliffe in this work are also partakers of the false teachers’ evil deeds.”
“So successful has Mr. Townsend been in the mission which he founded and directed that a Wycliffe associate, James C. Hefley, has written a book called A Prejudiced Protestant Takes A New Look at the Catholic Church (Revell, 1971). Hefley goes into great detail to show Mr. Townsend’s friendship and cooperation with Roman Catholics, particularly on pages 61-63. Chapter 7 relates what an inspiration Mr. Townsend was to Hefley in losing his prejudice and gaining an open acceptance of Roman Catholics. Chapter 11 tells how the Summer Institute of Linguistics has trained so many Roman Catholic priests. Page 118 tells of Wycliffe’s policy not to proselyte from the Catholic church.”
“The Roman Catholic magazine Our Sunday Visitor for July 5, 1965, shows a picture of a priest standing beside a plane in Bolivia. The caption reads: ‘At one time it took Father William M. Allen, Maryknoll Missioner, forty hours to reach [the] persons greeting him in this Bolivian jungle outpost. Now, thanks to an airplane which he rents from the Wycliffe Bible Translators, he can fly over the jungle and reach his parishioners in only forty minutes.’”
“Again in the Highland News published in Goroka, Papua New Guinea, 1975, this article occurs: ‘A dedication of the Gahuku New Testament will be held in Goroka on Sunday, March 19, at 2 p.m. ... The new book, called Monog Gotola Gososhag (The New Fountain-head of Religious-truth) was published by the Bible Society in Papua New Guinea and printed in Hong Kong. ... Participating in the dedication will be Mr. F.B. Borok, the Acting District Commissioner, Mr. Atau Waukave the Council President, and speakers and musical groups from the Lutheran, Seventh Day Adventists, and Catholic churches. ... The translation of the New Testament into Gahuku was done by Dr. Ellis Deibler of the Summer Institute of Linguistics with the help of several local men. Dr. Deibler has been working in the village of Wanima just north of town since 1959.’”
“During November 1967, it was announced to S.I.L. members [in New Guinea] by a director that invitations had been sent to several Roman Catholic bishops to attend a literacy conference during April 1968. Apparently, to train Roman Catholic priests in a science that will help them to delude and destroy souls more effectively means nothing to S.I.L. Some members were disturbed over the news and a few of us got together a protest. We wrote a paper at the invitation of a director to explain our case and provide an alternative policy. We did this, and the paper, along with many words explaining and debating our case over the course of three months, was rejected. The result of the rejection was the resignation of several families” (Charles Turner, The Biblical Doctrine of Separation Applied to New Evangelicals: Wycliffe Bible Translators, 1975).
Other examples of Wycliffe’s ecumenism:
“The Catholic Bible Association and the Lutheran Bible Translation Society sponsored the Wycliffe mission’s celebration of their annual Bible Translation Day in Washington, D.C.” (James Hefley, “How I Lost My Protestant Prejudice,” Eternity, Nov. 1971, p. 16).
“Ecumenical Scripture translation projects sponsored by the Australian Bible Society have included Old Testament portions in the Kitja language, and Bible stories in Murrinh-Patha. The latter were published in 1982, the work of an interconfessional team including Roman Catholic translators. Scripture selections in Tiwi were published in 1985 by Wycliffe Bible Translators in collaboration with Roman Catholics. It is not irrelevant to mention here that the Australian Bible Society received an official visit from a prominent Roman Catholic bishop during 1985: ‘The Most Reverend George Phimphisan, the Catholic Bishop of Udon Thani, Thailand, and member of the UBS [United Bible Societies] executive committee, addressed the society’s Australian Council on the subject “The Roman Catholic Church and the Bible Society Movement--Developing Relationships”’” (UBS Report 1985.101; reprinted in The Australian Beacon, July 1987, p. 4).
Allan Shannon, a coordinator for the Summer Institute of Linguistics of the Wycliffe Bible Translators, is a “prime mover” in the Catholic-Charismatic movement in Peru (Christianity Today, March 5, 1982).
“‘[Wycliffe] translators come from many denominations and church groups. But out here labels don’t mean a lot,’ says Nancy Burmeister who works with her husband, Jonathan, in Ivory Coast. ‘Lutheran or Pentecostal or Evangelical aren’t as important as Christians. We have the same goals. And though we disagree doctrinally on some things, we agree on the basics and we learn to put the rest aside. The task of evangelizing is too important to allow differences to interfere’” (Pamela Honan Peterson, A.D. 2000 Together, May-June 1988, p. 14). This is a popular opinion today but it is directly contrary to what the Lord’s apostles taught about the importance of doctrine. For example, Timothy was instructed not to allow ANY other doctrine (1 Tim. 1:3) and to keep the apostolic doctrine “without spot” (1 Tim. 6:14).
“A consultant for Wycliffe Bible Translators, he [Jamie Buckingham] is also president of the National Leadership Conference and a recognized television personality" (New Orleans '87 General Congress Handbook, p. 17). It would be hard to find a man more ecumenically-minded than the late Jamie Buckingham of Charisma magazine, a key mouthpiece for the charismatic Catholic ecumenical movement. It is appalling that Wycliffe would retain Buckingham’s services as a consultant, but it is indicative of this organization’s ecumenical spirit. Buckingham called for bridge-building ecumenical relations with Jews and Catholics.
“Even Wycliffe Bible Translators UK have joined the Romeward move. Not to be outdone by others in showing its true ecumenical colours, it has also proudly declared its association with the Roman Catholic Church in an article entitled, ‘Wycliffe BT project in Cote d’Ivoire with Roman Catholic collaboration’. The article has as its sub-title, ‘The work is our own now’. In reading the text of this article we read that ‘In 1984 the local Protestant church invited SIL [Summer Institute of Linguistics, an organisation associated with Wycliffe Bible Translators] to help them’ with the translation of the Holy Scriptures into the Adioukorou language. Now, after many years of little progress, the report continues, ‘For the first time since the inception of Christianity in the area, various churches were sitting down together’ and, later in the article, the ominous statement is made, ‘The work is ours now,’ said Marcel Mel Djipro, catechist of the Catholic Church of Cote d’Ivoire. ‘It’s up to us to finish the work’.) How sad that following a request from a Protestant church for assistance in completing the translation of their Bible, the work is now in the hands of those who are more than happy to work with Rome in the completion of the task!” (Quarterly Record, Trinitarian Bible Society, January-March 2003, p. 8).
Another evidence of Wycliffe’s ecumenism is its close relationship with the United Bible Societies (UBS). The UBS is very liberal in theology and radically ecumenical. It is the practice of the UBS throughout the world to work closely with Rome. In 1984, of the 590 translation projects of the United Bible Societies, as many as 390 were of the interconfessional type, meaning that they had Roman Catholic participation (Word-Event, No. 56, 1984). A Catholic Cardinal, Francis Arinze, is a vice-president of the UBS, and a Catholic bishop, Alberto Ablondi, is a member of the General Committee. Catholic Cardinal Carlo Martini was on the editorial committee for the UBS Greek New Testament from 1967 (beginning with the second edition) until his retirement in 2002. Further, a great many of the UBS leaders are theological modernists. Robert Bratcher, translations consultant for the UBS, denies the deity and virgin birth of Jesus Christ and does not believe that the blood of Christ was necessary for the atonement of man’s sin. A great many UBS leaders are in the same apostate condition as Bratcher.
In this light, the fact that Wycliffe Bible Translators works in close association with the United Bible Societies becomes significant. It is in open defiance of God’s commands to separate from heresy and apostasy (e.g., Rom. 16:17; 2 Cor. 6:11-18; 2 Tim. 3:5; 2 John 8-11). Consider some examples of Wycliffe’s close association with the UBS:
“The United Bible Societies has also been approached by the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) [a branch of Wycliffe Bible Translators] to help with Scripture translation in Yupik, a language spoken by more than 17,000 people in Alaska. ... In Montana, two members of SIL are working on the first draft of materials in Crow, along with mother-tongue speakers of that language. This is an interdenominational project. When the translation is complete, SIL will seek the American Bible Society’s permission to print diglot versions with the Today’s English Version” (American Bible Society Record, February 1986, p. 9).
“Serious attempts are made to make all the translations [done by the United Bible Societies in Kenya] interconfessional and the Catholic church has continued to show much concern to get fully involved in both ongoing and new projects. An increasing feature of translation activities is the work of the Wycliffe Bible Translators who have shown a considerable desire to cooperate” (United Bible Society report quoted in Australian Beacon, Aug. 1987, p. 7).
“Such was the worldwide need for Wycliffe’s services that it now operates all over the globe, and works closely with the United Bible Societies” (Word in Action, British and Foreign Bible Society, No. 53. 1987, p. 3).
Not only does Wycliffe Bible Translators yoke together with heretics in the Christian world but also with unbelievers in the secular field. The Summer Institute of Linguistics “holds formal consultative status with UNESCO and United Nations,” and two more anti-christ organizations could not be found on the face of the earth. This is direct disobedience to 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.
Wycliffe and the Charismatic movement
We have already noted that charismatic Jamie Buckingham of Charisma magazine was a consultant for Wycliffe. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Note the following report in the Logos Journal: “Although evangelical in theology ... An amazing number of charismatics have joined the organization [Wycliffe Bible Translators] in recent years, spurred on by the new move of the Holy Spirit. In fact, in recent months there is a move underway which could possibly lead to a joining of ranks among Wycliffe folks and many of the charismatics across the world. Constant reports are coming back that many of the missionaries, and the Indians with whom they work, have received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit at various mission stations” (Logos Journal, May-June, 1973).
The November 1970 issue of Voice, the monthly publication of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International, featured Wycliffe Bible Translators. A series of photographs depicted Wycliffe personnel involved in various charismatic phenomena.
Wycliffe’s affiliation with the most radical aspect of the charismatic movement is further evidenced in their involvement with the massive North American Congress on the Holy Spirit and World Evangelization, in New Orleans, July 1987, and again in Indianapolis, August 1990. The New Orleans meeting was the largest ecumenical charismatic conference of the last 25 years. Approximately 40 different denominations and groups were represented at this ecumenical hodge-podge, but the largest “denomination” represented at both New Orleans ’87 and Indianapolis ’90 was the Roman Catholic Church! Some 50% of the participants were Roman Catholic. There was a Roman Catholic mass each morning, and the Pentecostal chairman of the Congress, Vinson Synan, urged all of the participants to attend the mass and “receive a great blessing.” The final speaker for each conference was Roman Catholic priest Tom Forrest, whose headquarters is in Rome and who worked closely with Pope John Paul II. Forrest said he is thankful to God for purgatory, because he understands that purgatory is the only way he could ever get into Heaven. Any man that believes in purgatory does not believe scripturally in the blood of Jesus Christ. Wycliffe had display booths at both of these conventions. It should be noted that Wycliffe, as an exhibitor, was required to agree to the statement of ecumenical unity produced by this Congress. This statement maintained that those participating would sympathize with the theological position of all others involved and would not cause disunity. By its official presence Wycliffe agreed to this unscriptural policy. Joann Shetler, Wycliffe translator working in the Philippines, flew to the States to speak at the New Orleans Congress. During her speech at New Orleans ‘87, Shetler, speaking to approximately 20,000 Roman Catholics, as well as to the tens of thousands belonging to dozens of other denominations, challenged this mixed multitude to join Wycliffe and give light to a dark world. What a confused light!