I am sorry for my delay in making a statement about the plagiarism issue that blew up on Thursday. Because of the nature of the case, there were various entities, boards and committees involved, and I did not want to make any statement that would then have to be further qualified or explained.
In the future, more might need to be said about this issue, and that might include some differences of opinion. But now is not the time or the place to try to anticipate that sort of thing. Right now, I simply want to acknowledge what happened, and take responsibility for all that I can.
On Thursday, Rachel Miller revealed that significant portions of A Justice Primer, coauthored by Randy Booth and me, had been plagiarized. The same day Canon Press discontinued the book, posted their own statement about it, as well as separate statements from Randy and from me. They can be found here. In addition, a second statement from Aaron Rench, CEO of Canon, has now been posted here.
Rachel Miller and I have clashed in the past, but on this issue I owe her my heartfelt thanks. Better this revelation now, and a resultant mess, than to have years of calm if such calm were to be purchased by means of undetected plagiarism. I am grateful to God for sending this revelation, and grateful to Rachel Miller for bringing it.
I have been friends with Randy for many years, and that friendship will continue. He has sought my forgiveness for this, and it has been extended. We are at peace with each other.
The day it was revealed, Randy resigned from the review committee that was looking into our previous two controversies. More about that can be found here. He also resigned his position on the NSA board on Thursday, and the board accepted that resignation today (Saturday), and issued a statement about it, which can be found here. Randy was already on a leave of absence from the NSA board because of his work on the review committee. His resignation was effective last Thursday.
In addition, Randy was serving as the pro tem presiding minister of the CREC. Resigning that position is a bit more complicated constitutionally, but that process has begun.
Justin Taylor made some helpful comments about publishers and plagiarism here. Canon is already in the process of contacting the authors who were plagiarized in order to apologize to them. But yesterday Canon Press took the additional step of purchasing some plagiarism software which, as Justin indicated, is not yet industry standard, but is likely to become so. They intend to incorporate that software into their editorial processes. The first thing they did with it is run my contribution to A Justice Primer through it, which came out clean.
Nevertheless, all that said, there are some significant areas where I need to take the responsibility. Let me first make a few general statements, and then follow it up with a few specifics.
I continue to affirm the principles I laid down on this same subject in my discussion of Mark Driscoll and the charge of plagiarism against him. The particularly relevant sections are #4-6. The cash quote is here: “I am nevertheless responsible for it. My name is on the cover.”
Consequently, I want to take full responsibility for having my name on the cover of a book containing plagiarized sections, and where the contributions from the authors were undifferentiated. In such circumstances, when plagiarism is detected, the one who finds it has every right to look at the cover and decide right on the spot who is responsible. The names on the cover are the ones with the authorial responsibility, which is the primary responsibility according to contract, and the editorial imprint is the one with the publisher’s responsibility, also specified by contract. Further investigation might reveal where particular culpability lies, but the responsibility for the project flows (according to God’s design) to the names on the cover.
There are two kinds of responsibility in this kind of thing. We may call them covenantal and practical. The covenantal responsibility is what is assigned because of the name-on-the-cover principle. The practical responsibility is the kind you feel when you can think of things you ought to have done differently. The responsibility I am assuming here is of both kinds. Even if there was nothing I could have done differently, I am still in an important measure responsible.
That being the case, and with all this in mind, I would first like to apologize to all the authors whose work was taken into this book and represented as quite possibly mine. I will be following this general public statement up with a letter to each of these writers in order to apologize directly. I would also like to apologize to Canon Press for urging this book project on them. They are the ones who have been financially damaged in very tangible ways by this. And last, I should apologize to New St. Andrews College. Academic integrity is the heartbeat of any academic institution, and even though the board has acted promptly and wisely in accepting Randy’s resignation, I am still distressed by the headache this has caused them.
This reality is heightened by the fact this is the second time it has happened. While it should not have happened either time, it really should not have happened the second time. (The first time was almost twenty years ago with the booklet Southern Slavery as It Was, co-authored with Steve Wilkins.) Because it has happened before, and because I am operating in an environment of hyper-scrutiny, I should have taken special precautions against the possibility of this happening. Not doing so in an adequate way was solely my responsibility.
I mentioned that I needed to state a few specifics. One of them is that after I gave my sections to Randy for editing and blending, I did not do anything more. I looked at the manuscript when it came in, but did not read through the whole book, left to right. I do not know that doing so would have changed anything, but it could have. This is an example of practical responsibility.
Taking responsibility in either sense needs to result in something concrete, and in my case it means that I will not be co-authoring any books like this anymore. I will not be putting myself in this position again.
I should also offer a last word of encouragement to those good people who are weary of controversy, particularly controversies that have my name in the middle of it. (“Doesn’t he know how to do anything else?”) My apologies to you as well. Some controversies are quite necessary, but this was not one of those. But regardless of all such circumstances, God remains constant and good. He knows what He has assigned to us.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).