Joint Letter to Zondervan

Posted: November 20, 2009 in Uncategorized

To Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite, and the leaders of Zondervan Publishing,

When we received Moe Girkins’ statement regarding Zondervan’s response to the Deadly Vipers controversy, we felt a deep sense of gratitude and admiration towards all of you, for your courage and conviction in the face of a difficult and challenging situation. We know that it must have taken many hours of discussion amongst numerous parties to reach this conclusion.  While the outcome is one we were hoping to see, at the same time we recognize that the costs to make this choice were high, both for the authors, Mike and Jud, as well as for Zondervan Publishing. The fact that you have not only chosen to take this step but to also use this situation as the catalyst for change within the organization speaks to the integrity of Zondervan’s leadership. The personal sacrifices that Mike and Jud were willing to bear in the midst of this decision speaks to their character and demonstrates that these are two pastors who practice what they preach and write.

Thank you for being willing to hear the voices of all those, Asian American and others, who expressed their concerns. We know that it could not have been easy at times to weather the criticisms. Nonetheless, your willingness to understand the issues, to take responsibility for the errors, and to act so swiftly and decisively in order to rectify the situation gives us great hope for the future, hope that the body of Christ can indeed demonstrate the power of reconciliation and be a witness to the world in how we resolve our differences.

We are also heartened to see the changes that have already taken place at the corporate level within Zondervan to reduce the chance that a similar controversy will occur in the future. We know that Stan Gundry has been working hard behind the scenes to bring resolution to this situation, and we want to offer him whatever assistance we can to help him in his new role. Please do not hesitate to call on us if we can support Zondervan’s efforts in deepening its cultural sensitivity and awareness.

To Mike and Jud, we can only imagine the personal toll this situation has taken on you. We have heard from numerous people who deeply admire your work and who attest to the impact that your ministry has in the church today, and we hope and trust that God will continue to bless your work, especially given the integrity you have shown in this matter. As you seek to begin the task of recasting your message in new ways, please let us know if we can help you in that process. We know there is much to preserve in the hard work you have done to this point in creating the content and community for Deadly Vipers, and we want to see your excellent ideas and your growing following converge in similar vehicles as before (book, website, blog, etc.), or more. Our hope and sincere prayer for you both is that this controversy and its resolution will in no way diminish your work and ministry, but broaden and deepen it.

Lastly, we hope and pray that the conversations and relationships that have begun in the wake of this controversy will not cease, but continue in renewed forms as we collectively seek to build and strengthen bridges amongst different members of the body of Christ. True reconciliation is not a one-time achievement but a lifelong, intentional pursuit. May this be just the beginning of all our continued efforts to deepen our understanding of and appreciation for the diversity of God’s people

Sincerely in Christ,

Eugene Cho, Quest Church

Ken Fong, Evergreen Baptist Church of LA

Helen Lee, Author

Kathy Khang, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Soong-Chan Rah, North Park Theological Seminary

Nikki Toyama-Szeto, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

  1. Sam says:

    Seriously absurd.

  2. A gracious conclusion to an sensitive offense. I believe the Christian community is the better for having witnessed this unfolding dialogue. We are all blind to our cultural presuppositions, and the Deadly Viper book proves that point. But, the humble response of both Zondervan and the books authors is to be commended. Perhaps this will spark continued conversations about culture and the Christian community that will be both generative and enlightening.

  3. Hannah says:

    Professor Rah, thank you for being someone we can look up and model ourselves after as young Asian Americans and future leaders. Something I noticed was that a huge community (that I for one didn’t even know existed!) came together closer because of a commonly felt frustration. It is so sad what happened, but I cannot help but smile as I see the way people are coming together to support one another. This experience brings to mind the resurrection – death cycle from Eric Law’s book, “The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb,” which reminds me that eventually it will be our turn as Asian Americans (perhaps it is even now, amidst some of the backlash) to carry our cross and follow Christ to the tomb, just as this time it was DV & Zondervan’s turn to give up power and experience a death that precedes a more abundant life. Some of us at Fuller Seminary were discussing this issue and someone made a remark about the oppressed becoming the oppressors, so I truly pray this is only a beginning for those who are new to this struggle. Thank you for being one who runs long and hard, may you finish even stronger than you began!

  4. Vince says:

    I will simply say, it is sad to see that people in the Christian community place higher emphasis on their culture then on the work God is doing for His will. We need to place ourselves as servants, not as people who see ‘errors’ which need correcting.

    Sad day. I know God will continue to use Mike and Jud in amazing ways, but this movement they 2 years ago, was much too short lived!

  5. […] so riled up, and Zondervan pulled the book. (You can read a joint statement from some AA leaders here and read backwards to follow what […]

  6. I like to tell people exactly what I think, rather than being “politically correct”. Here’s how this ordeal makes me feel:
    I’m so glad I’m not surrounded by Christians like you, Professor Rah. I seriously never would have left the porn business. Finding things to complain about, to take offense to, is one of the biggest reasons I hated Christians so much, especially during the years I produced porn. Good thing Mike Foster co-founded XXXChurch, a missionary group that reached out to me over the course of 4 years, eventually resulting in my surrender to God. This former porn producer is now a seminary student. Why? Because Mike (along with Craig Gross) used a “marketing gimmick” style approach that was relevant, yet demonstrated Christ’s love. In a previous post you wrote that Christ would… blah blah blah. No, my friend, Christ would tell you to suck it up and get to work instead of digging for reasons to get a little bit of attention from a weak position.

    Hopefully you’ll never write a book and put an NFL style football on the cover. I might get offended (tongue in cheek).

    As I said in a previous comment, Kung Fu hasn’t been exclusively Asian for years. My son’s Judo/Jui Jitsu “Sensei” isn’t Asian. I personally don’t know of a martial arts dojo that has an Asian instructor. Yes, these martial arts began in Asian culture. Shall we all start taking ownership of things that “start” in our cultures? Should I take offense if you, God forbid, ever use an airplane as a “marketing gimmick” for a future book? Ya better not write about Deadly F-16 Character Bombers, my friend. Lot’s o’ people might follow your lead and get all up in arms. After all, the Wright brothers… You get the point, I hope.

    Mike Foster’s book didn’t disrespect Asian culture. Christians, of all people, need to develop a thicker skin and give up their “right” to be so easily offended. It’s petty. It’s ridiculous. It’s stomach churning. And you cost a family a great deal of money and forced a change in direction for an entire ministry. Congratulations for weakening the body of Christ. I’m sure Satan applauds your pettiness.

    • Kathy Khang says:

      My sons’ Tae Kwon Do instructors have all been Korean.

      Are you offended by this move by Mike and Jud to take down their site? Then tell them. Are you offended by Zondervan’s decision to pull the material? Then tell Zondervan.

      I’m grateful Mike’s missionary group reached out to you, and in that ministry you surrendered to God. Mike and Jud’s message was supposed to be about Christians leading out of radical integrity and grace. After reading some of the responses from Mike and Jud’s supporters, I’m hoping that the radical integrity and grace you hope to communicate in your comment is simply lost in translation because of the deep loss your community is experiencing.

  7. A few posts I hope you read:

    The apology should come from you, Professor Rah.

    Not Zondervan.
    Not Mike.
    Not Jud.

    For being so petty.

  8. It seems to me that those of you who are now lashing out at Dr. Rah really face 2 possible choices:

    (1) Assume that the apology and corrective actions by Zondervan, Foster, and Wilhite are insincere, in which case you must question why you’re defending the leadership integrity of men who would cave in and lie to protect their public image; or

    (2) Assume that their apologies and actions are sincere, in which case your own attitudes are in radical defiance of their leadership and you must question why your understanding of integrity is so different from theirs.

    I don’t envy your dilemma. Neither choice is petty or painless. Grace and peace to you as you wrestle with their implications.

  9. J.R. says:

    Simply… Prof. Rah’s you are a jackass. Now, that comment will give you a bit of good PR cause you will no doubt have those people who insist you are being persecuted for your efforts. God forbid as Christians we simply call it like it is…
    This ain’t about Asian offense, hell I was born born offended, something to do with original sin I suppose. And no! I am not defending Mike or Jud I could care less if the two went on to offend Hawaiians at this point. Sir, this is matter of you not being able to get beyond your ivory tower to understand some of us enjoy challenging people to Christ. Perhaps you and your far-east Jesus friends need to get off your Jesus ass’s and lead people to Christ instead of joining the history of book burners…. Grow up my Asian friend and go make disciples or be remembered for getting a book pulled from he shelves…. how noble of you.

    j.r. mahon
    Hollywood Pastor.

  10. […] things to look for on this blog.  During the Deadly Viper controversy, a number of guest bloggers chimed in with some of the best insights on the topic.  I am hoping to […]

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