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The Jabez Paradox:
Mission Statement of the Jabez Foundation
Now, fast forward several months later to February of 2001. We were contacted by Multnomah Press (publisher of the "Prayer of Jabez") regarding us featuring the book on our Web site. They accused me of not being an "authorized" dealer of the book (which I am, they simply didn't do their research to find out the truth about that). They threatened legal action if we refused to remove the cover of the book from our Web site. An attorney representing Multnomah stated that the origin of Wilkinson's and the publisher's distress was that I, a self-affirming gay Christian, and the Jabez Foundation Board of Directors chose to include "gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and allied persons" in the category of "God's children." The author and publisher additionally thought that any "perceived connection" with the Web site might in some way harm their book and Wilkinson's ministry. Ironically, in some cases, just the opposite was true! One couple, Jeff and Patti Ellis, wrote me the following:
Three years ago my husband and I began the acceptance process after our oldest son told us he is gay. After many restless nights and climbing many mountains, we are all doing very good.
Because of the pain that we went through, we committed ourselves to help other parents find that path. We have been (with the help of many editors and website makers) developing a website sharing our family story and struggle.
I have been searching for positive links for our resources and would like to use your www.EmpoweringDiversity.com and www.EmpoweringDiversity.com/JabezPrayerapostles. Would you allow us to add your link to our resources? Our name will be www.familyacceptance.com. I will look forward to hearing from you.
Since Patti was interested in my Web site about the Jabez Prayer apostles, I felt I should tell her what was going on at the time with Bruce Wilkinson and Multnomah Press.
Under the threat of a lawsuit (which would probably cost $10,000 - $15,000) and after almost a year of failed negotiations, we finally agreed to remove the book from the Web site. Before doing that, however, board members of the Jabez Foundation wrote letters to Wilkinson and Multnomah expressing their disappointment. They also made some simple requests, including that Wilkinson and Multnomah explain in writing why they believed the Web site was not a valid vehicle for the truth of The Prayer of Jabez.
Since I am from Atlanta, Georgia, where Bruce lives, I also issued a plea, asking Bruce to meet to discuss the issue. After being told several times that Wilkinson would meet with me and some Jabez Foundation board members as soon as time could be arranged with his busy schedule, I received notification that he had decided not to meet and that the book must be removed from the Web site. In the end, all of the requests from the Jabez Foundation were denied.
Rev. Dr. Lisa W. Davison, assistant professor of Old Testament at Lexington Theological Seminary and Jabez Foundation Board member, wrote to Wilkinson. She expressed her hope that, "you might truly pray the prayer of Jabez and open your eyes to the way that God has worked through you and your book to bless persons' lives, despite your best efforts to limit God's love to only those who are like you."
Other Jabez Foundation members who wrote Wilkinson included Mary Lou and Bob Wallner. The Wallners lost their lesbian daughter, Anna, to suicide and attend well-known author and minister Bill Hybels' church, Willow Creek Community Church, in South Barrington, Illinois. Their letter said, "When you refuse to allow Dotti Berry to display the cover of your book on her Web site, you are rejecting people who God Himself would never reject. We can only say that you, too, are a victim of untruth and misinformation taught by the church (universal)." The Wallners continue to reach out to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons through their Web site dedicated to their daughter as well as through a weekly Bible study in their home.
Patti and Jeff Ellis of Fayetteville, Georgia, whose gay son prompted them to develop the Web site www.FamilyAcceptance.com, in a letter to Berry said, "Mr. Wilkinson has the opportunity to really widen the circle a little more, like Christ came to do. He is missing the point by asking you to remove the book. I am sorry for him. But thank you. It was that moment of seeing the book cover on your web site that once again opened my eyes to God's love for our son."
I think that it is unfortunate that some of our spiritual leaders have bestowed upon themselves the divine responsibility of judging others. I pray that Bruce Wilkinson will perhaps reconsider the Jabez prayer where it says ` ... that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.' I made a simple request to him ... `Meet with me face-to-face.' Since Bruce, like me, is a child of God, I wanted that opportunity for us to dialogue together out of love, not fear. For me, I will continue to hold to the "hope" that God will truly "enlarge Bruce Wilkinson's territory" beyond anything he could ever imagine! Note: The "entire" story (along with letters written by Jabez Foundation Board Members and articles about the situation in the Washington Post and Atlanta Constitution) are located on the Web site www.EmpoweringDiversity.com/JabezPrayerapostles (Click on "The Book" icon). Also, there are copies of emails from people who wrote (both pro and con) after reading the newspaper articles.
Copyright © 2002 by the author