For decades, the American Bible Society focused on a simple goal: distributing Bibles and study aids to encourage people to spend time with it. The organization, founded in 1816, had a long, liberal history. It was active in the abolitionist movement and lent its offices to an early suffragette who helped women find work.
Not any more. While nominally non-denominational, ABS is now acting like a conservative evangelical organization. Under new rules, employees will be required to sign a document swearing that “I will seek to pursue my identity in Christ as described in the Bible.”
Needless to say, that means LGBTQ employees will have to go. Among the rules that ABS is asking employees to follow is to “seek to refrain from sexual activity outside of the marriage convenant prescribed and exemplified in the Bible.” ABS interprets that to mean a marriage between a man and a woman only.
Employees will be asked to sign the document (aka the Affirmation) in January 2019. If they refuse to do so, they will be asked to resign.
A number of employees have already left, upset by the demand that they adhere to one particular interpretation of the Bible. According to the Religious News Service, at least nine of the organization’s 200 employees have left as a result of the new directive.
Among those who left are Jeremy Gimbel, who had worked at ABS for 10 years. Gimbel, who is gay, wrote a letter to the Board objecting to the policy.
“I am hurt because this Affirmation specifically excludes me from the community it is supposed to foster,” Gimbel wrote. “The Affirmation will, like much (of) the political climate we live in today, build walls along the lines of difference, pushing away diversity and leaving no room for unity.”
Of course, that doesn’t seem to matter to the organization. In a statement to RNS, ABS CEO Roy Peterson said, “We did this because we believe a staff made up of people with a deep and personal connection to the Bible will bring unity and clarity as we continue our third century of ministry.”
Peterson also said, “We understand there are differing views on these matters.” Except not at ABS.