Open Letter to SBL Concerning Their Ban of IVP from the Annual Convention

The objection of SBL is that IVCF’s employee policy requires subscription to a document called “Theological Summary of Human Sexuality,” which in SBL’s mind severely restricts free inquiry.

Fifth, and somewhat baffling, is what you wrote to IVP. You said that SBL was committed to: “a variety of critical perspectives …  diversity of participation and unhindered critical discourse …  free inquiry and expression.” John, mate, I don’t want to be confrontational, but can you explain to me how does banning a publisher from the annual conference increase the diversity, free inquiry and expression of SBL?

 

I’ve just heard word that Dr. John Kutsko, Executive Director of SBL, has written to InterVarsity Press, informing them that they will be temporarily suspended from hosting a book stall at the annual convention in Boston in 2017 (so not this year in San Antonio). The objection of SBL is that IVCF’s employee policy requires subscription to a document called “Theological Summary of Human Sexuality,” which in SBL’s mind severely restricts free inquiry.

Can I urge all SBL members who read this blog to avail themselves to the facts, like how Time Magazine misrepresented IVCF’s policy and practice about staff hiring policies, find out what SBL has told IVP, and then write an assertive and yet irenic letter to Dr. Kutsko saying how wrong this is. This is not safeguarding academic freedom, it is censorship, and turning SBL into a confessional organization.

I’ve written to Dr. Kutsko and have posted my own letter below.

Dear Dr. John Kutsko,

Mate, I’m writing from Australia to say that I’m deeply concerned and confused about SBL’s decision to suspend IVP from having a stall at the annual convention.

I read your letter to IVP and I understand the gravity and nature of your concerns. Be that as it may, I think these can be assuaged or at least several other factors need to weigh into your consideration.

First, as an SBL member and an IVP author, I have to say that I’ve found IVP to be professional and irenic. They publish a variety of perspectives, not just evangelical, and are committed to rigorous scholarship, interacting with diverse perspectives, with equality and fairness to other views, and are a brilliant publisher to work with – in fact, I intend to honor all future contracts with them for that very reason. I will then be most disappointed if one of my favourite publishers will not be able to showcase, sell, and promote my books at the annual convention.

Second, I think we need to distinguish the IVF campus ministry from the IVP publishing arm, while the two belong within the same umbrella, it would be unfair to impute the activities of every IVF chapter to the publisher. And let me add that no author of IVP books is required to affirm any statement of faith, as a result, there is no restriction on the freedom of expression of IVP authors in this regard. Our academic freedom within IVP is rock solid, in fact, probably better than some other publishers I know of. So, if you disagree with the IVF, fine, put out a press release; but I humbly ask that you don’t penalize IVP and its authors because of it.

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