As many of you know, several Asian-American leaders and I have been in dialogue with both the authors of Deadly Vipers and the publisher, Zondervan, over a controversy I’ve written about here and here. I know that many who have followed along have been frustrated by the [perception] of the lack of progress and movement but there have been a lot of things going on behind the scenes and I’m thankful to share that we recently received this official statement and apology (and concrete actions) from Maureen Girkins, the CEO of Zondervan.
In short, they have decided to pull the Deadly Vipers book and curriculum from stores.
While this decision pleases us, I want you to know that no one is jumping up and down. I have no desire to revel or bask in “victory” for the simple reason that I don’t see this as a win or lose, us vs. them, Asians vs non-Asians, etc. I never saw it that way. We are part of the larger body of Christ. We are your sisters and brothers and while Asian-Americans are not a monolithic group, many of us shared our pain and hurt over the presentation and marketing (not the content) of the book and curriculum.
In the official Zondervan statement, I was also very encouraged that they are reaching out to the authors, Mike and Jud, to “come up with a better presentation of that message.” I intend to reach out to them as well. I’ve met Mike and have had some interactions with him; I have yet to meet Jud, but believe in their leadership and presence and hope to work with them in the future. [update: their website has been taken down now...see below for their message and my hope that it will be raised up again in the near future].
My prayers remain with Mike and Jud as I’m sure this entire situation has been incredibly difficult. They are brothers in Christ and good leaders and I sincerely hope that things will converge in such a way that we can share in face to face conversation and fellowship in the future.
The other leaders and I have contended from the beginning that this isn’t a personal attack on the authors and that we wholeheartedly support the elevation of the subject matters of their book – ‘character’ and integrity -’ for all Christians, especially female and male leaders.
I’m certain that the dialogue won’t end here..for reconciliation and unity need to be steadfast and intentional pursuits. For example, Zondervan has asked couple folks to consider joining an advisory board to consult with them on future materials. And I certainly hope that our interactions with Mike and Jud will not end with this situation. As I’ve shared before in an earlier post, I do not want my relationship with them to be defined by this “controversy” or be content in being “Facebook friends.”
Lastly, I want to thank Zondervan for hearing us, engaging us, and ultimately, doing the right thing. I acknowledge that it wasn’t an easy thing to do…but they did the right thing. Apologies are never easy. But acknowledging and correcting require humility, leadership, and courage and we commend them and the authors, Mike & Jud.
Thanks for your support and prayers.
Here’s their official statement:
November 19, 2009
Zondervan Statement Regarding Concerns Voiced About “Deadly Viper: Character Assassins”
From Moe Girkins, President and CEO
Hello and thanks for your patience.
On behalf of Zondervan, I apologize for publishing Deadly Viper: Character Assassins. It is our mission to offer products that glorify Jesus Christ. This book’s characterizations and visual representations are offensive to many people despite its otherwise solid message.
There is no need for debate on this subject. We are pulling the book and the curriculum in their current forms from stores permanently.
We have taken the criticism and advice we have received to heart. In order to avoid similar episodes in the future, last week I named Stan Gundry as our Editor-in-Chief of all Zondervan products. He will be responsible for making the necessary changes at Zondervan to prevent editorial mistakes like this going forward. We already have begun a dialogue with Christian colleagues in the Asian-American community to deepen our cultural awareness and sensitivity.
Zondervan is committed to publishing Christian content and resources that uplift God and see humanity in its proper perspective in relation to God. We take seriously our call to provide resources that encourage spiritual growth. And, we know there is more to learn by always listening to our critics as well as our advocates.
It would be unfair to take these actions without expressing our love and support for the authors of this book, Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite. Both gentlemen are gifted writers and passionate about their ministry. We do believe their message is valuable and plan to work with the authors to come up with a better presentation of that message. We will jointly ensure we do our due diligence on the appropriateness of the creative side. This will include reaching out to a broad spectrum of cultural experts.
Finally, I want to personally thank Professor Rah, Ken Fong, Eugene Cho and Kathy Khang for their input and prayers during this discussion. We appreciate everyone’s concern and effort and look forward to working together for God’s kingdom.
[update] And the Deadly Vipers website has been taken down with the following note below.
I sincerely hope that the heart and content of their ministry, book, and website will re-emerge in the future.
The form can change but the content is what formed the crux and heart of their ministry. A believer of the People of the Second Chance…
To our Friends and Family:
Due to an unfortunate conflict that arose around our use of Asian American themes, we have decided to close this chapter of Deadly Viper Character Assassins. This decision has been a very difficult one for us and one that we did not take lightly.
For the past 2 years we have had the honor to be part of an incredible movement of advocating for radical integrity and grace. We have been deeply humbled hearing your stories of how Deadly Viper has impacted your life, family, and relationships.
We and our team will continue to commit our lives to the message of integrity, grace, and most of all becoming People Of The Second Chance.
We thank you for your prayers, support, and kindness through this season.
We love you.
Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite