Despite Mark Driscoll’s efforts to suppress information about his unfurling plagiarism scandal, one Christian publisher has gone public with claims that the right-wing megachurch pastor plagiarized a passage in one of his books. This is far from the only charge of plagiarism Driscoll has faced in recent days, but his allies seem intent on burying the issue.
InterVarsity Press, which bills itself as “the leading publisher of thoughtful Christian books dedicated to serving the university, the church and the world,” released a statement this morning to Christianity Today alleging that Driscoll had plagiarized entire paragraphs from a book that it published:
Several paragraphs from the New Bible Commentary edited by G. J. Wenham, J. A. Motyer, D. A. Carson and R. T. France published by InterVarsity Press appear in Mark Driscoll's now out of print book Trial: 8 Witnesses From 1 & 2 Peter. These improperly appeared without quotation or attribution. With proper citation the material would have been a case of fair use.
InterVarsity Press believes all writers should use great care as they do research and prepare texts for any use to make sure that proper acknowledgement is given to source material.
“We are grateful this was brought to our attention, and we have removed that document from our website to correct the mistake,” Driscoll’s church said in response to InterVarsity’s statement. “Additionally, we are examining all of our similar content as a precautionary measure.”
Conservative talk show host Janet Mefferd uncovered several examples of plagiarism by Driscoll and confronted him about the matter on her radio show last week. Soon afterwards, Mefferd’s supporting material and her interview with Driscoll disappeared from her website, and she apologized for making the claims public.
In case you need another clue as to why Mefferd apologized and is trying to remove all evidence of the matter, the Christian Post reports that Driscoll’s publisher, Tyndale House, has a partnership with Mefferd’s employer, the Salem Radio Network. Salem’s “Testimonials” page features an excerpt from a Tyndale spokesperson:
Salem Radio Network is one of Tyndale’s most valued and respected media partners. They have always provided us with custom advertising campaigns that deliver outstanding results. Their professionalism and expertise has brought us back year after year. We couldn’t be happier with the quality of service we’ve received from SRN.
Tyndale criticized Mefferd for her “belligerent tone” during the interview in which she confronted Driscoll with plagiarism charges. One pastor close to Driscoll even called for a boycott of Mefferd’s show.
Ingrid Schlueter resigned as a producer from Mefferd’s show shortly after Mefferd apologized to Driscoll, strongly suggesting that she faced pressure from “the machine”:
I was a part-time, topic producer for Janet Mefferd until yesterday when I resigned over this situation. All I can share is that there is an evangelical celebrity machine that is more powerful than anyone realizes. You may not go up against the machine. That is all. Mark Driscoll clearly plagiarized and those who could have underscored the seriousness of it and demanded accountability did not. That is the reality of the evangelical industrial complex.
I’ve read much speculation online, which is understandable given the confusing situation, most of it dead wrong. Being limited in what I can share, let me just say that truth tellers face multiple pressure sources these days. I hosted a radio show for 23 years and know from experience how Big Publishing protects its celebrities. Anything but fawning adulation for those who come on your show (a gift of free air time for the author/publisher by the way) is not taken well. Like Dr. Carl Trueman so aptly asked yesterday in his column at Reformation 21, does honest journalism have any role to play in evangelicalism now? (It was rhetorical.) My own take on that question is, no, it does not. The moment hard questions are asked, the negative focus goes on the questioner, not the celebrity, when there is something that needs scrutiny. Those who have the temerity to call out a celebrity have tremendous courage. The easiest thing in the world is to do fluffy interviews with fluffy guests on fluffy books. So hats off to those like Janet who have the courage to ask at all. And my own opinion on Mr. Driscoll is that despite the bravado, despite the near silence of his Reformed peers and enablers, his brand is damaged, and damaged by his own hand.