This is extraordinary. The Society of Biblical Literature describes itself like this:
Mission, Visions, and Values
The following Mission Statement and Strategic Vision Statements were adopted by the SBL Council May 16, 2004, and revised October 23, 2011.
Foster Biblical Scholarship
Strategic Vision Statement:
Founded in 1880, the Society of Biblical Literature is the oldest and largest learned society devoted to the critical investigation of the Bible from a variety of academic disciplines.* As an international organization, the Society offers its members opportunities for mutual support, intellectual growth, and professional development through the following:
- Advancing academic study of biblical texts and their contexts as well as of the traditions and contexts of biblical interpretation
- Collaborating with educational institutions and other appropriate organizations to support biblical scholarship and teaching
- Developing resources for diverse audiences, including students, religious communities, and the general public
- Facilitating broad and open discussion from a variety of critical perspectives
- Organizing congresses for scholarly exchange
- Publishing biblical scholarship
- Promoting cooperation across global boundaries
Here are what the SBL says are its “core values,” in a statement revised in 2011:
Openness to Change
Respect for Diversity
You might wonder why an academic organization devoted to Biblical scholarship holds as its core values “respect for diversity,” “openness to change,” “inclusivity,” and “tolerance”? Isn’t this just one of those typically euphemistic liberal ways of saying, “No Biblical scholars who don’t accept progressive views on LGBT issues allowed”?
Why yes, apparently, it is. SBL has reportedly banned InterVarsity Press from having a booth at the 2017 SBL convention in Boston because of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s recent decision to hold firmly to orthodox Christian teaching on homosexuality, and to ask employees who dissent to resign.
Rev. Dr. Michael F. Bird, an Australian academic, writes that he saw the letter that SBL president John Kutsko sent to IVP informing them of the society’s decision. Dr. Bird responded with an open letter to Kutsko asking him to reconsider. Excerpt:
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? It does the opposite, it cabines diversity, it censures certain elements of belief, and inhibits free expression. Let me be clear, to ban IVP from the annual convention does not safeguard the academic freedom of SBL members, it amounts to censorship, which many of us are very, very sensitive about.
Sixth, I think it is worth remembering that some publishing houses are confessional, whether that is IVP, Prometheus, Liturgical Press, or Jewish Publishing Society, and they are within their rights to publish books in accordance with their beliefs and guidelines. I’ve been turned down by publishers for being too conservative and by others for being too liberal. What you are proposing creates a very dangerous precedent for confessional publishers who’s views do not accord with the ideology and predilections of the executive committee. I joined SBL to be part of a professional society where a variety of perspectives are exhibited in seminars and at the bookstalls. I’m not interested in being part of a professional society that is a shill for social progressives or a proxy for conservatives. SBL is a society that deals with the study of religious texts by people of all faiths and none, where there is no doctrinal Taliban at the door checking which publishers I’ve bought books from. I think I speak for many when I say that I rather we kept it that way.
This is, of course, an outrage, for exactly the reasons Dr. Bird mentions. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is going to pay a heavy price for its fidelity, and so, as we see in this latest development, is InterVarsity Press.
In a related development, the Big 12 college football conference has decided not to invite Brigham Young University to join in the event of an expansion. More:
Months ago, BYU was viewed as the frontrunner in any Big 12 expansion scenario. With a passionate national fan base, strong football tradition, top-35 TV market in Salt Lake City and solid academic credentials, BYU checked every box of the criteria the Big 12 said it would be analyzing.
But the LGBT community’s opposition to BYU because of its honor code has turned BYU’s candidacy “toxic,” as one Big 12 insider characterized it.
“Their appeal doesn’t outweigh the baggage, even though the appeal is great,” another said.
Earlier this month, Iowa State’s student government passed a resolution opposing a BYU Big 12 invite, noting that “BYU’s discriminatory policies and practices are inconsistent with the values of the Big 12.”
BYU, as you know, is a Mormon university, and administers itself according to Mormon belief. But now, No Mormons Need Apply to the Big 12, because the Big 12 is bigoted against religious institutions who are conservative on sexuality.
Christian colleges and universities are very soon going to be facing a question: Are your athletic programs more important to you than your Christian identity? They won’t be allowed to have both.
As for the SBL situation, it’s a harbinger of further blacklisting to come in academia around the LGBT issue. If the Society of Biblical Literature is beginning to shun Christians for upholding Christian orthodoxy regarding homosexuality, it is an unmistakable sign that we are heading towards banning traditional Christians from academia. SBL is saying that the nation’s largest Christian publisher cannot conduct commerce in its marketplace without having an LGBT seal of approval. Let those with eyes to see, see.