Tag Archives: Tyndale House

‘Boy Who Claimed He Went to Heaven Recants, Publisher Pulls Book’

“The best-selling book that documents a 6-year-old’s journey to heaven and back during the two months he spent in a coma is being pulled from shelves after the boy, who is now 17, recanted his story,” according to Boy Who Claimed He Went to Heaven Recants, Publisher Pulls Book, published by Yahoo News.

“Today, the Christian publisher Tyndale House released a statement confirming it will stop selling the book,” the report also said.

While Tyndale House cannot be blamed for the boy’s lie (although it can be blamed for its credulity), the revelation that the book was false cannot help the publisher’s already damaged credibility.

Tyndale House defended former pastor Mark Driscoll’s plagiarism, as noted here.

As I said back in July:

While Tyndale House believed Driscoll had given adequate credit to those who influenced his work, reputable sources outside the publishing company disagree.

Neil Holdway, treasurer of the American Copy Editors Society and newspaper editor, disagrees.

A university professor disagrees.

In my opinion, the Chicago Manual of Style disagrees.

And the MLA Handbook disagrees.

And the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association disagrees.

The publisher sacrificed more of its credibility back in July when it went into attack mode following a report on Driscoll’s relationship with the publisher. The report was written by Warren Throckmorton in The Daily Beast.

Tyndale House’s outrageous PR sacrifices more credibility

“It is disturbing to us to see how quickly some are willing to criticize fellow Christians.” — Tyndale House

The execs at Tyndale House, the religious publisher, probably don’t realize how the company’s defense of Mark Driscoll has hurt their credibility yet again.

Long story short, Tyndale House has altered some of its previous plans for releasing books through the Mark Driscoll-affiliated Resurgence imprint, as Warren Throckmorton reported in The Daily Beast.

The headline on that Daily Beast article, however, made the relationship between Driscoll’s Resurgence imprint and Tyndale House sound like divorce: “Megachurch Star Mark Driscoll’s Publishing Downfall.”

LIT Throck Daily Beast Headline

Actually, it was probably the headline plus an omission in the last paragraph — but an omission that was immediately clarified by a direct quotation that followed.

LIT Throck Daily Beast last para

Throckmorton began the last paragraph with, “In addition to putting Driscoll’s books on hold, Tyndale does not plan to print further titles under the Resurgence imprint” (emphasis added).

However, the next sentence directly quoted Tyndale representative Todd Starowitz, who said, “To my knowledge we do not have any additional Resurgence titles that have release dates scheduled at this time” (emphasis added).

To many readers, the headline might have suggested a lot that wasn’t true.

However, the article itself was solid, aside from the omission of a word or phrase that would have foreshadowed what Starowitz said in the next sentence: “at this time.”

As part of its statement that the relationship between Driscoll’s Resurgence imprint and Tyndale House is not over, the publishing company made a thinly veiled retaliatory remark against Throckmorton.

LIT Throck Charisma Tyndale

“It is disturbing to us to see how quickly some are willing to criticize fellow Christians,” the publisher said.

‘How quickly’? What’s that?

The Tyndale House execs probably aren’t kidding, but I wish they were.

Their statement implies that Driscoll has had a spotless record and the real-world issues mentioned by Throckmorton are just little aberrations that just popped-up on the radar screen.

In the first place, on his blog, Throckmorton has cataloged numerous problems in Mars Hill Church and with Mark Driscoll.

In the second place, another blogger has recorded numerous Driscoll contradictions and outrages, from recent memory as well as from the past.

I’ll go so far as to say, there are no new criticisms of Driscoll, only new details related to those criticisms.

Straining Editorial Standards

Tyndale House’s credibility already has been damaged following its defense of Driscoll against plagiarism allegations that surfaced last year.

While Tyndale House believed Driscoll had given adequate credit to those who influenced his work, reputable sources outside the publishing company disagree.

Neil Holdway, treasurer of the American Copy Editors Society and newspaper editor, disagrees.

A university professor disagrees.

In my opinion, the Chicago Manual of Style disagrees.

And the MLA Handbook disagrees.

And the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association disagrees.

In the PR world, of the PR world

Rather than address Driscoll’s problems and the allegations against him straight on, Tyndale House chose to do exactly what those “worldly” and “secular” strategists do — they took the emphasis off the facts related to Driscoll and placed it on the person who pointed out the facts.

But Tyndale House should get at least one thing straight. There is no “how quickly” to anyone’s criticism Driscoll.

Due to his own words and actions, Driscoll has been inviting criticism for years.

Maybe Mark Driscoll is a product of his time: 2013 poll on plagiarism, fair use, & copyright

As Warren Throckmorton’s examinations of Pastor Mark Driscoll’s “citation problems” continue, I’ve been researching “intentional plagiarism” and “unintentional plagiarism,” as well as what common academic and publishing style guides say about fair use, copyright, and paraphrasing.

More on those matters in upcoming posts. First, I wanted to share some relevant information from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Back in July, NBC News reported the following based on a Pew report that had just been released:

Most writing teachers believe that digital tools — from wikis to whiteboards — make it easier to teach writing, but say they worry about plagiarism and informality in their students’ work, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

More than 2,400 Advanced Placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) middle- and high-school teachers were asked about the use of digital tools including interactive whiteboards, wikis, websites, blogs, and collaborative Web-based tools (such as Google Docs) as sources of help for writing.

“In addition to giving students low ratings on their understanding of fair use and copyright, a majority of AP and NWP teachers also say students are not performing well when it comes to ‘appropriately citing and/or referencing content’ in their work,” the study found.

“This is fairly common concern among the teachers in the study, who note how easy it is for students today to copy and paste others’ work into their own and how difficult it often is to determine the actual source of much of the content they find online.”

Those issues have become so important that 88 percent of the teachers said they spend class time talking to students about the concepts of “citation and plagiarism,” while 75 percent make sure they talk about the notions of fair use and copyright with their students. [boldface added]

Apparently, few really understand the academic, ethical, and legal implications of an inappropriate use of another person’s ideas and (or) creative work.

While the websites of some acclaimed universities (e.g., see here and here) note that students might not always be aware of when they are plagiarizing, those same sites name such unawareness “unintentional plagiarism.” In other words, it’s still plagiarism.

This would be a different take than that held by the folks at Driscoll’s publisher Tyndale House, who defensively have suggested that plagiarism requires an intentional act.

“While there are many nuanced definitions of plagiarism, most definitions agree that plagiarism is a writer’s deliberate use of someone’s words or ideas, and claiming them as their own with no intent to provide credit to the original source,” Tyndale House said in part of a statement released back in December.

“Nuanced definitions of plagiarism”? Cut the nonsense. Tyndale House might as well had told us the definition at hand depended on what our definition of “is” is.

Anti-Plagiarism Campaigner Says Mark Driscoll Did Not Adequately Cite The Work Of Peter Jones

Tyndale House‘s response to the plagiarism accusations against Pastor Mark Driscoll was ridiculous.

As Warren Throckmorton points out — “Anti-Plagiarism Campaigner Says Mark Driscoll Did Not Adequately Cite The Work Of Peter Jones“.

We’ve learned a big lesson from evangelical Christianity here in the U.S.:

Ethical standards only apply to those who are too poor to spend their ways out of problems, or too unpopular to bluff their ways out of shame — never mind the love of money being the root of all evil.

Please join me in refusing to buy anything from Tyndale House until the company changes its editorial standards.

Please copy and paste this in a tweet, Facebook post, or any other social media or blog: “I refuse to buy anything from Tyndale House until its editorial standards improve.”

Why I’m obsessed with Pastor Mark Driscoll’s plagiarism

I explained my obsession with Pastor Mark Driscoll’s plagiarism to someone on Facebook today:

Admittedly it’s a foolhardy endeavor, like spitting in the wind. If enough people like a minister, he can be as dishonest as he wants to be and get away with it, just like our elected officials. So far, Driscoll’s “accountability team” and alleged Christian publishing house Tyndale are A-OK with breaking standards that would get me fired, or get any kid in my classes a failing grade and a permanent mark on his academic record. I shouldn’t be so worked up about it, though, considering in the Roman Catholic Church, priests can rape children and the worst that will happen is they’ll get moved to a new church. So that’s the power of Christian ministry for you: cheat or molest, because either way, your job is secure! Praise the Lord, who must be sleeping.

As it would happen, a little more than 3 hours ago (from the time I’m writing this), NorthlandsNewsCenter.com in Minnesota posted “Bishop Sirba releases names of 17 priests accused of sexual abuse in Duluth Diocese,” which read in part:

Duluth Bishop Paul Sirba has released the names of 17 priests who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children in the [Roman Catholic] Duluth Diocese.

During a news conference, officials with the Duluth Diocese said the priests on the list have been removed from the church, are under investigation or were deceased before the accusations were known.

Officials also released the names of five other priests with ties to the area who have been accused while working in other ministries.

The Diocese says the the accusations of sexual abuse range from 1950 to 2013.

“The release of this information underscores a sad truth that must be acknowledged: Over the last 65 years, a number of clergy members in the Diocese of Duluth have violated the sacred trust placed in them by children, youth and their families,” says Bishop Sirba.

Read the entire article here.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t already seen it, more book publishers and authors might have been victims of Driscoll’s plagiarism.

Mefferd’s strange moves and Driscoll’s worldly political savvy

“I stand by my allegations of insufficient sourcing, absolutely and unequivocally. His plagiarism is a very serious ethical and moral breach. Academics and journalists alike have lost their jobs over less than what Mark Driscoll has done.” — Radio host Janet Mefferd, who started the Driscoll plagiarism controversy, in a later email to Ruth Graham of Slate


Mark Driscoll responded to Janet Mefferd’s so-called un-Christlike confrontation of his plagiarism during a radio show with some un-Christian behavior of his own.

Wait. Is there a Christlike way to confront plagiarism? Maybe to rip the cords from the curtains and start thrashing evangelical publishing businesses? I’ll mull that.

Anyway, Mefferd asked Driscoll a hard question about the source of some material in his book. The interview got tense. At the end, Driscoll seemed to have hung up.

Two days later, according to Slate (and verifiable here), Driscoll wrote about “Slander/Libel” in a longer post about several  sins “we” commit. As Ruth Graham wrote in Slate, “Though he didn’t mention Mefferd by name, it is hard not to see her in the section on ‘Slander/Libel’.”

Driscoll wrote:

Case-builders collect information like stones to throw at somebody—just waiting for the right opportunity to impugn and attack someone’s character and integrity. If you’re a case-builder, you’ve decided that someone is your enemy and then justify sinful slander as righteous aggression.

But now the blog post using the word “libel” seems like Driscoll’s self-justified “righteous aggression.” Calling Mefferd “accusatory” and “unkind” during the interview — in response to a reasonable question — seems like his own self-justified “righteous aggression.”

What makes the “Slander/Libel” section even stranger is the inclusion of those very words within the blog post. Driscoll quotes the book of Leviticus (always handy for hitting people), and the verse he cites uses the word “slanderer.”

By placing “slander” beside “libel,” however, Driscoll connotes matters of news media and law. He frames these terms as “malicious and often false information used to inflict harm.”

Two problems with any suggestion that Mefferd approached slander or libel:

1. Mefferd provided evidence showing that she had grounds for her questions. Statements followed from Peter Jones and InterVarsity Press that suggested they believed their copyrights had been infringed, and copyright infringement is illegal.

During the interview, Mefferd asked Driscoll about his book A Call to Resurgence and his thinly acknowledged use of Peter Jones’s “intellectual property” in the book.

That confrontation would be considered reasonable by anyone who had visited the website of Driscoll’s church and read MarsHill.com’s Terms of Use and MarsHill.com’s FAQ on Use of Content. The FAQ is blunt about plagiarism. The Terms of Use are direct about copyright and intellectual property.

Even paraphrasing Driscoll requires attribution, the site says.

In other words, Mefferd was not false. Mefferd was accurate. A law had been broken. Driscoll’s name was on the book.

2. While Driscoll was blogging about how “we” libel and slander and lie and deceive, he ignored (or maybe redirected public focus from) the deception of presenting himself as the author of something he didn’t write. Oddly enough, “Deception” was one of the headings in the same post with the “Slander/Libel” heading.

Instead of showing pastoral concern for the offended parties and all the readers who have been misled, Driscoll went into defense mode, asking us to think about “One Big, Important Question” before we share information.

As a veteran of 11 years in the newspaper business, most with the late Knight Ridder (now McClatchy) chain, I can assure you nothing Mefferd did on her show constitutes anything close to libel or slander.

The better question is what Driscoll’s and Mars Hill Church’s responses have constituted.

Mefferd’s strange moves

Meanwhile, I’m guessing only God can understand Mefferd’s thinking. Based on published reports (here and here and here):

1. She confronts Mark Driscoll during a radio interview.

2. She provides evidence for why she confronted Driscoll.

3. She apologizes for trying to hold accountable a powerful, influential celebrity who exercises authority over the lives of a sizable flock (of apparently nearsighted sheep).

4. She makes evidence disappear from her website — something that is astounding in the field of journalism.

5. She clams up about the situation for a while.

6. She holds an email correspondence with Graham of Slate and seems to reinforce the position she seemed to have during her interview with Driscoll: “I stand by my allegations of insufficient sourcing, absolutely and unequivocally. His plagiarism is a very serious ethical and moral breach.”

The justification for apologizing was, as Graham paraphrases, “Mefferd wrote to me that she removed the materials from her site because they had already been widely disseminated, and she wanted to be responsive to those who had criticized her tone and approach.”

Having listened to the interview, I don’t think anything was wrong with her tone and approach. This was not a Mike Wallace gotcha moment.

The only thing I don’t understand about Driscoll’s response is his increasing aggravation at the questions and his attempt to change the subject back to the sales pitch we usually hear from authors in media interviews.

Following Mark Driscoll’s plagiarism, it’s time to ask serious questions about Tyndale House’s credibility

Tyndale House‘s defense of Mark Driscoll — following what can only be called plagiarism — suggests the publishing house is unprofessional at best and untrustworthy at worst.

I say this after 11 years of experience as a newspaper reporter and editor, and after 11 semesters of teaching college students about the necessity of citing sources and the serious offense of plagiarism.

But my credentials are minor compared to anyone’s common sense, as well as the facts of the situation and U.S. Copyright Law.

First, if you’re not familiar with revelations of Mark Driscoll’s plagiarism, read Jonathan Merritt here and here before you continue. Another update — and news of bizarre twists in this story — is available at Christianity Today‘s Gleanings blog.

I’m not the first to say “plagiarism” with conviction. Driscoll’s plagiarism cannot be doubted. Professor Collin Garbarino writes, “Some of the other evidence…is more damning. In a book on First and Second Peter published by Mars Hill Church, Driscoll lifts whole paragraphs almost word-for-word from the entry on First Peter in the New Bible Commentary, published by IVP in 1994. These passages are at the end of the previous link, and [Janet] Mefferd provides additional passages here. I’m a university professor. I have no tolerance for this kind of nonsense. I’ve failed students for less flagrant plagiarism. So, it’s my duty, as a member of my professing profession, to give Driscoll an ‘F.’”

Unfortunately, Mefferd’s website no longer holds the evidence that she had collected. She eventually apologized for her “behavior” (the link goes to a Christianity Today blog) when she challenged Driscoll about plagiarism on her radio show.

But Garbarino posted his comments before Mefferd took down the evidence. He saw the evidence, and he testified to it on the First Things blog.

And, fortunately for the truth, Jonathan Merritt captured some of Mefferd’s evidence on his blog, and apparently, Merritt is not influenced by the forces who caused Mefferd to take down what she had collected in the course of basic journalistic reporting.

[Update: A blog called Another Slice salvaged PDF versions of Mefferd’s evidence. They’re on Google Drive, so you’ll have to sign in to your Google account for viewing. Click here to find the links at StandUpForTheTruth.com.] 

However, Tyndale House’s defense of Driscoll’s book is staggering. And baffling. And unacceptable. The defense, as noted on the Gleanings blog, reads:

“It has come to our attention that a radio talk show host has suggested that author Mark Driscoll has committed plagiarism in his recent Tyndale book, A Call to Resurgence. Tyndale House takes any accusation of plagiarism seriously and has therefore conducted a thorough in-house review of the original material and sources provided by the author. After this review we feel confident that the content in question has been properly cited in the printed book and conforms to market standards.”

“Market standards” are irrelevant. The phrase “market standards” means nothing when plagiarism and U.S. copyright laws are involved.

“Properly cited” is inaccurate considering Mefferd’s collected evidence and Garbarino’s assessment of it.

The law is relevant — and it should be relevant to Tyndale House.

(“In-house review”? That reminds me of how much I love the fine print on a product that tells me the producing company found its own product to be effective.)

Tyndale House did not take the charge of plagiarism seriously enough.

On this page, Plagiarism.org has a heading that reads, “BUT CAN WORDS AND IDEAS REALLY BE STOLEN?” Then the site provides an answer: “According to U.S. law, the answer is yes. The expression of original ideas is considered intellectual property and is protected by copyright laws, just like original inventions. Almost all forms of expression fall under copyright protection as long as they are recorded in some way (such as a book or a computer file).”

Based on Garbarino’s testimony, Driscoll and Tyndale House clearly violated U.S. copyright laws as described in the following excerpt of Copyright Basics:

“Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

“• reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords

“• prepare derivative works based upon the work”

Of course, direct copying is a huge problem, but are the execs at Tyndale House ignorant of the meaning of the word “derivative”? Or are they pretending not to know in a ridiculous attempt to protect their cash cow?

If Tyndale House and Driscoll had met the standards of copyright law, then why did Brad Greenberg, Intellectual Property Fellow at Columbia Law School, tell Jonathan Merritt the following?

“The passages that Mefferd has identified appear to be copied almost verbatim from the Carson New Bible Commentary. Merely changing a few words, such as ‘unschooled’ to ‘uneducated’, is likely not enough to skirt liability for copyright infringement,” Greenberg said. “The only relevant defense that I could see Driscoll having is independent creation–that is, he wrote this passage completely independent of the Carson text, and the striking similarity is mere coincidence. That, of course, is exceptionally unlikely because the Carson text was far from obscure and, in fact, was later cited by Driscoll.” (See more at: http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2013/11/27/mark-driscoll-silent-amid-mounting-allegations-of-plagiarism/#sthash.4RVWbexx.dpuf .)

Notice that the “later cited by Driscoll” does not place Driscoll within the law, at least not according to Greenberg’s interpretation of it.

A professional publisher ought to be aware of the basic ethical and editorial standards available at Plagiarism.org and the U.S. Copyright Law website. The explanations and definitions on that website are so basic, I can get my English 101 students, freshmen, to read them each semester. Yet Tyndale House defends itself and Driscoll with “market standards.” Whatever that means, it’s not relevant — and it certainly sets a low bar for ethics.

At least, as Merritt reports, Ingrid Schlueter puts integrity above profits and reputation.

Also see:

Who’s Talking about the Mark Driscoll Plagiarism Controversy?