Wycliffe Bible Translators, the Religious Right, World Vision & the CIA

Wycliffe Bible Translators, the Religious Right, World Vision & the CIA

Wycliffe Bible Translators

SourceWatch - Wycliffe Bible Translators "was founded in 1942 by William Cameron Townsend. A missionary to the Cakchiquel Indians of Guatemala." [1] Wycliffe Bible Translators "is part of an international association of Wycliffe organizations dedicated to seeing God's Word become accessible to all people in the language that speaks to their heart. In its 70-year history, Wycliffe has been involved in more than 600 translations, representing greater than 77 million people. Today Wycliffe consists of more than 6,000 personnel working in partnership with expatriates and nationals worldwide." [2]

"The recent emergence of the relationship between the mainstream media, elected officials, White conservatives, Black civil rights leaders, a Sudanese opposition group (SPLA/M), and a Christian human rights organization, Christian Solidarity International (CSI), caused us to reflect over a long history of covert relationships between US and foreign intelligence agencies and Christian missionaries. One of the best examples of such was the relationship between the famous Wycliffe Bible Translators and the CIA. The relationship was documented in a book, Thy Will Be Done, written in the 1990s.

Acording to Gerard Colby and Charlotte Dennett, the association between the intelligence community and Christian missionaries predates the public emergence of the CIA. In Thy Will Be Done, they write of the Wycliffe Bible Translators (also known as the Summer Institute of Linguistics -SIL) and its founder William Cameron Townsend'a (also known as "Cam") association with the intelligence community." [3]

1 Funding2 Directors3 Directors (from 2007)4 External links5 Related SourceWatch6 Contact

According to their 2004 990 form they received $117 in direct public support and $117 million in government contributions.

Brady Anderson - Chair
Eldon (Butch) Barkman
Ruth Cowan
Laura Mae Gardner
Duane G. Johnson
Eddie B. Lane
Tom Lin
Karen Lynip
Tom Matlock
Doug McIntosh
Joyce A. Prettol
Chris Seiple
Larry Jones
Atul Tandon

Brady Anderson
Eldon Barkman

Eddie B. LaneTom LinKaren LynipAlan B. MacDonald

Michael Pugliese, "Wycliffe Bible Translators and the CIA", Interhemispheric Resource Center, 23 May 2000.
Cedric Muhammad, "On The CIA And Christian Missionaries", 2001.


Bible Translators, and the Vision (for a New Right) World

Long-time John Birch Society supporter Nelson Bunker Hunt (a man

...not known for his scruples... own[ing] oil and gas leases all over the world)  can be indirectly connected to Billy Graham through the controversial Wycliffe Bible Translators -- an organization that works closely with the aforementioned Summer Institute of Linguistics.  This is because Graham served on Wycliffe's board of directors "from about 1958 until 1961," while some time later Hunt acted as a trustee of the Wycliffe Bible Translators' "largest undertaking to date, the International Linguistic Center."  Although Graham left Wycliffe's board because of a "dispute over the founder's fundraising tactics," his Billy Graham Evangelistic Association "continued to provide funds to Wycliffe well into the 21st Century."  Given these links it is fitting that just prior to his death in 1982, Wycliffe Bible Translators' founder, Cameron Townsend, was......

... listed as one of several dozen Christian leaders in the Religious Roundtable, a New Right vehicle

...to fight in the political arena for pro-God, pro-family, pro-American causes. The Roundtable was organized in 1979 by a former Wycliffe Associates board member, E.E. McAteer, who had just introduced a flag and Bible entrepreneur named Jerry Falwell to his associates in Washington, thereby helping to launch the Moral Majority....

Here it is important to pause to examine the organizations that eventually evolved into the Religious Roundtable, as the...

... first major effort to build a national movement of conservative evangelicals came in 1974. Arizona Congressman John Conlan and Bill Bright, president and founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, devised a plan to politicize and educate people in every Congressional district who would become part of a national grassroots effort to elect evangelical Christians sharing a conservative political agenda. At the center of their plan was Third Century Publishers, organized in 1974 to publish books and other materials promoting a conservative political and economic philosophy based on scriptural principles. Its chief publication was One Nation Under God by Rus Walton, intended for use in the study of "Christian economics." In addition to his post as editor-in-chief of Third Century, Walton was a director of the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Conservative Union.

In the same year John Conlan and Bill Bright created the soon to be defunct Christian Embassy, an organization whose board included

...religious leaders such as Billy Graham, W. A. Criswell, Norman Vincent Peale, and Harold Lindsell of Christianity Today.  Graham was a "long-time friend" of Bright, and upon his death in 2003, he commented: "He is a man whose sincerity and integrity and devotion to our Lord have been an inspiration and a blessing to me ever since the early days of my ministry."...

Bright is best known for founding the Campus Crusade for Christ in 1951 with the help of Billy Graham amongst others -- an organization Bright had led until 2000 when he passed the reigns of the Crusade over to Steve Douglass (who presently leads the organization along with the associated Campus Crusade for Christ International). Not surprisingly, given the conservative nature of this organization, the right-wing philanthropist Nelson Bunker Hunt rears his head again, as he served as the past chairman of the executive committee of Campus Crusade for Christ International's Here's Life Campaign, and funded the production of Bright's world-famous Jesus film (1979). In 1994 Bright went on to co-found the right-wing Alliance Defense Fund with Larry Burkett (amongst others),  an individual who just over a decade earlier had founded the National Christian Foundation with Terry Parker (an individual who went on to serve as a board member of the neoconservative Family Research Council), and Ron Blue (who is presently a board member of Campus Crusade for Christ International).

Returning to the conservative Wycliffe Bible Translators, to this day Wycliffe's work remains connected to World Vision luminaries. For example, Wycliffe board member Atul Tandon is the senior vice president of donor engagement for World Vision U.S. Furthermore, Wycliffe board member, and author of The U.S. Military/NGO Relationship in Humanitarian Interventions (US Army Peacekeeping Institute, 1996) Chris Seiple is the son of the former long-serving president of World Vision U.S., Robert Seiple (1987-98). Like his father, Chris is intimately enmeshed within powerful elite networks and he is a senior fellow at the neoconservative Foreign Policy Research Institute, a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (London),  and serves as the president of the Institute for Global Engagement (which was co-founded by his father).

The current chair of the Wycliffe Bible Translators' fourteen-person-strong board of directors is former World Vision International board member Brady Anderson. Prior to becoming the US Ambassador to Tanzania (1994-7), Anderson had spent six years working with Summer Institute of Linguistics (in Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania), and after vacating his post as the US Ambassador to Tanzania, he served for two years as the USAID administrator (1999-2001). In 2001 Anderson was succeeded at USAID by Andrew Natsios, an individual who had previously served as a vice president of World Vision (from 1993 until 1998). As if this evidence of the intimate relations maintained between World Vision and the US government were not enough, in an interview conducted in 2004 Anderson observed how World Vision had been

...the largest handler of food in the world, and almost all the food was donated by the U.S. government. An important point given that the US government does not donate food out of generosity; rather their food distribution networks are considered to be an integral weapon through which to promote their geostrategic interests....

The affiliations of another Wycliffe board member, Tom Lin, further serve to expand our understanding of the type of work being undertaken by World Vision, as he is presently the regional director (central US) of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship -- an "evangelical campus mission" that was formed in 1941. Again the Fellowship is directly connected to right-wing elites, as their Internet editor and media coordinator, Gordon Govier, is the secretary of the arch-conservative organization Gegrapha. Incidentally, World Vision's former events and communications director T. Diane Bryhn was appointed (in 2003) to be Gegrapha's first executive director. World Vision also maintains direct connections to the Fellowship as the latter's board of trustees includes Dolphus Weary, who is a former board member of World Vision U.S., and the former president of the Fellowship, Stephen Hayner, is a board member of both World Vision International and the International Justice Mission.


THY WILL BE DONE: The Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil, By Gerard Colby with Charlotte Dennett (HarperCollins: $35; 794 pp.)
Recent news revelations that the CIA has maintained a substantial covert intelligence operation in Guatemala since the 1950s, that the CIA financed the assassination in 1992 of a rebel leader married to an American lawyer, and that the agency is currently deeply implicated in the rise to power of Efrain Rios Montt, a ruthless military dictator who is also a Bible-thumping fundamentalist, will come as no surprise to readers of "Thy Will Be Done."

Wycliffe Bible Translators

Ed McAteer was a member of the board of Wycliffe Bible Associates, a lay ministry which was created to support the work of Wycliffe Bible Translators, an evangelical organization that raises funds and recruits missionaries to do the work of the Summer Institute of Linguistics. Bill Bright served on the board of the International Linguistics Center in Dallas, which was an associate group of SIL. The Summer Institute of Linguistics was established in 1936 by William Cameron Townsend as a scientific, nonsectarian organization specializing in language studies, literacy work and "other services." 32. An expose of SIL's corruption by Rockefeller money mentions Cam Townsend's role in founding the Religious Roundtable with Ed McAteer.

"In 1979, after Nelson Rockefeller had passed from living humanity into history, Cam had gathered with other members of Christian Fundamentalism to form the Religious Roundtable. . . Cam was one of those who followed McAteer into the founding meeting of the Religious Roundtable. If he had any reservations about where this would lead SIL and how it would play in Latin America . . ., Cam's base of support in the homeland and his top financial backers left him little choice. He was, at the end of his career, trapped by the Far Right Fundamentalist base on which he had built Wycliffe's success at home." 33.

In this massive volume, Thy Will Be Done: The Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil, authors Gerard Colby and Charlotte Dennett present the disturbing evidence of Rockefeller's use of American missionaries, and in particular, the Summer Institute of Linguistics, who cooperated in conducting surveys, transporting CIA agents and indirectly assisting in the genocide of tribes in the Amazon basin.

"At the heart of this story are two intensely ambitious and ultimately tragic figures: Nelson Rockefeller, scion of the liberal Standard Oil family, and William Cameron Townsend, founder of the ultraconservative Wycliffe Bible Translators. Although leaders of opposing camps, both found common cause against fascism and the communism, with ironic, fateful results.

"We see Rockefeller gathering political power and building a vast business empire in Latin America, working with the CIA, developing close friendships with famous Latin American politicians and businessmen, and increasingly advocating military dictatorships, while Townsend's missionaries are used to pacify native populations in frontiers rich in oil and rare minerals or subject to guerrilla insurgencies. Seeking to hasten the prophesied Second Coming, Townsend pursues a fanatical effort to reach every Bibleless tribe with the Word, even to the point of saving their souls by destroying their culture and allying with the dictators who oppress them.

"Rockefeller and Townsend contributed more than any other Americans to the conquest of the Amazon that now threatens to destroy the 'lungs of the planet,' the rain forests. Their systematic campaign of colonization was a chilling foretaste of American intervention in the Third World that has become so common today we take for granted repeated forays in the name of democracy and the securing of valuable resources." 34.

Colby and Dennett also describe the vital role of Ed McAteer in bringing together wealthy liberal and conservative patrons to fund and direct the Wycliffe organization which, in the name of Christ, was assisting Nelson Rockefeller in the conquest of Latin America:

"Yet, of all the principles building the Religious Right into a cohesive political force, the most important was perhaps the least known. Edward McAteer was the Colgate-Palmolive salesman who was the real organizing force behind the politicized Fundamentalist movement. McAteer had the glib tongue of his profession, substituting Christ for soap in his market analysis. He was more than a friend to Cam Townsend; he was a major figure on the board of Wycliffe Associates, which was now a powerhouse of resources for SIL, providing it and [Jungle Aviation and Radio Services] with construction skills, money, promotion, and overnight stays for furloughed translators on fund-raising tours. In return, testimonies from returned translators, films, books, and slide shows parlayed surrogate travels around the world for suburban believers. Special trips to jungle bases allowed the more affluent faithful actually to partake in adventure for God. The sheer human energy amassed by Wycliffe Associates was impressive, but the financial core was fueled by reliable wealthy SIL backers like North Carolina's James A. Jones, one of the largest contractors for military bases in Vietnam, and oilman Nelson Bunker Hunt of Texas. 'Bunker Hunt had helped me considerably,' McAteer freely offered.

"Wycliffe Associates '500 Club' was designed to offer the richer members a way out of service through cash; $500 or more each year was all it took to get a special certificate of membership. Some gave much more. Texas's corporate leaders were prominent in helping Cam build SIL's International Linguistics Center near Dallas; the Linguistics Center's board meeting was one of those special occasions where a Rockefeller business partner like Trammel Crow could rub shoulders with an ultrarightist like Nelson Bunker Hunt. But they were the old core of supporters. The real power in Wycliffe Associates was its thousands of newer members, spreading the influence of SIL across the country, and the influence of Wycliffe Associates in Cam's organization." 35.

As Ed McAteer's applied his advertising and public relations skills to finance the Summer Institute of Linguistics, these techniques would serve him well in organizing a base of support for the election of Ronald Reagan:

"Promoting and leading this base of support into politics was McAteer's forte. During the Carter administration, his name began to appear among New Right circles in Washington, D.C., connected with North Carolina's Senator Jesse Helms. It was McAteer who brought Jerry Falwell into this crowd, helping Falwell build the Moral Majority. Then, in 1979, McAteer organized the Religious Roundtable. Well funded, McAteer pulled together many of the Fundamentalists leaders of the nation to back the candidacy of Ronald Reagan. 36.



On The CIA And Christian Missionaries


The recent emergence of the relationship between the mainstream media, elected officials, White conservatives, Black civil rights leaders, a Sudanese opposition group (SPLA/M), and a Christian human rights organization, Christian Solidarity International (CSI), caused us to reflect over a long history of covert relationships between US and foreign intelligence agencies and Christian missionaries. One of the best examples of such was the relationship between the famous Wycliffe Bible Translators and the CIA. The relationship was documented in a book, Thy Will Be Done, written in the 1990s.

According to Gerard Colby and Charlotte Dennett, the association between the intelligence community and Christian missionaries predates the public emergence of the CIA. In Thy Will Be Done, they write of the Wycliffe Bible Translator's (also known as the Summer Institute of Linguistic -SIL) and its founder William Cameron Townsend's (also known as "Cam") association with the intelligence community.

...This was not the first time that SIL had served U.S. government intelligence purposes during the war. In 1942, after discussions in Washington with some men who are interested in furthering good will between our countries", Cam specifically requested SIL's Mexico City office to solicit reports from "any of our workers who may have observed efforts on the part of anyone to make the Indians think that Americans are not their friends." Cam's directive ended with a message, "Please give my regards to Mr. Lockett in case you should see him in this connection." Thomas Lockett, commercial attaché', was Cam's confidential contact at the embassy after Ambassador Daniels departed in 1941. Lockett carried out intelligence missions for Washington, identifying suspected Nazi sympathizers and their companies for (Adolf) Berle and (Nelson) Rockefeller. SIL was one of his intelligence sources....

"SIL had helped gather anthropological information on the Tarascan Indians that ended up in Nelson Rockefeller's intelligence files. The files contained cross-references to reveal behavioral patterns among Indian peoples in everything from socialization (including aggressive tendencies) and personality traits, drives, emotions, and language structure, to political intrigue, kinship ties, traditional authority, mineral resources, exploitation, and labor relations. Rockefeller called these data the Strategic Index of Latin America."

While the majority of SIL or the Wycliffe Bible translators work with the intelligence agencies took place in Latin America they also worked hand in hand with the CIA in Asia,

...As souls ascended to heaven in the flight against Satan, many clergy became direct collaborators with the CIA. One member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) was proud of this collaboration. William Carlsen, a missionary in northeastern Thailand, considered it a privilege to share information with responsible agencies of the government where they seek us out." Carlsen gave an eight-hour briefing to the CIA on Thailand's tribal areas when he returned home for a furlough. Most C&MA missionaries did likewise, according to a CIA source. Most of the information gleaned was about people, their actions, opinions, and grievances."...

Interestingly, the link between the CIA and missionary groups was quite often the US Agency for International Development (AID). This is written of in great detail in Thy Will Be Done:

" William Cameron Townsend watched the controversy over the CIA's use of missionaries with curiosity and growing alarm. The CIA's penetration of religious missions, an issue previously overlooked by the media, was now, in 1975, making international headlines.

" The story had been building since 1970, when Dr. Eric Wolfe, chair of the American Anthropological Association's ethics committee, explained how anthropologists had been manipulated through the Chiang Mai Tribal Research Center in northern Thailand, which was funded through the Agency for International Development (AID). He also revealed that American missionary organizations had been drawn into this counterinsurgency operation as well.

"That June, President Nixon's director of AID, John Hannah, had admitted publicly that AID had funded CIA operations in Laos, and subsequent revelations pointed to CIA-AID collaboration in Ecuador, Uruguay, Thailand and the Philippines. These revelations could hurt all missionary efforts, but the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) was particularly vulnerable. Cam Townsend had been aggressively pursuing government funding for his Bible translators for decades, first from foreign governments and then from his own government. The amendment to the 1949 Federal Property and Administrative Services Act that allowed religious missions to take surplus U.S. government property abroad had even been called "Townsend's bill" in some congressional circles. By the 1960s, SIL was receiving a hefty income from AID indirectly through foreign governments that received U.S. foreign aid or directly through AID-funded programs in bilingual education and agricultural development cooperatives. This income was supplemented by surplus military equipment, including helicopters that were retired from Vietnam and donated to SIL. Evangelized pilots of these choppers became soldiers for Christ in the tradition of Dawson Trotman's Navigators. In Peru, after the nationalization of Standard Oil, the head of the U.S. Embassy's AID office even became a member of SIL."

Establishing a direct link between missionaries, US AID, the CIA and other intelligence agencies like the NSA, is not a very difficult task. The question for the Black electorate, in the Western Hemisphere and Africa is how such a history impacts on the monopoly of thought that Christian Solidarity International has obtained over the issue of the Sudan, influencing members of the US Congress and the British parliament, as well as White Conservatives and Black Civil Rights leaders?

And finally, what does all of this have to do with President Bush's new appointment to head US AID, Andrew Natsios and his decision, this month, to make Mr. Natsios the special humanitarian coordinator to monitor aid deliveries in Sudan?

We were intrigued by President Bush's recent emphasis on making sure that aid deliveries reached the people of the Sudan as opposed to being stolen and misappropriated by the Sudanese government. We were interested in President Bush's comments because it has been documented by many human rights groups and even the US government that it has been the SPLA, the Sudanese opposition group, that has been foremost in stealing foreign aid, food and resources before they reach the Sudanese people. Again, human rights groups have documented this information and provided it to the White House and members of the US Congress. But Republicans and Democrats alike, have done and said nothing.

Not surprisingly, Christian Solidarity International, who works hand in hand with the SPLA in arranging its "slavery redemptions", has been silent on such abuses, as have all of those in the anti-slavery coalition in America. The missionary and human rights work of Christians in the Sudan seems to dovetail rather nicely with the foreign policy objectives of the US and Britain in that part of Africa.

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Billy Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse harbors quite a few CIA aircraft