Safe from the Strife of Tongues
Alle Schwärmer sind eins — all enthusiasts are one. Some will surely contend this cannot be so. Are the Pentecostal, the Arian, the Baptist, and the outwardly zealous 'convert' truly the same? Yes, for all error is one — for Truth is One. In truth, the saying from Luther — as is so often the case with Luther — simply echoes Scripture:
"He who is not with Me is against Me, and He who does not gather with Me scatters"
I am the maintainer of the site, the caretaker of the site, the guardian of the site, the steward of the site, but I am not the owner. I am the webmaster, but I am not the Master. The Book of Concord — whether the physical book or the website — belongs to the Church, and, ultimately, to Christ. Everything I have done with regard to the site — from rebuilding it to refusing to relinquish control over it — has been undertaken with the foregoing in mind. If I believed another more capable, competent, and dedicated — and trustworthy — then I would have no issue with letting him assume the duty of maintaining the site. There will undoubtedly come a day when I will have to pass off many duties related to the site — and, eventually, all duties — but that is a day far in the future.
There are many online versions of the Bible; there is really only one online version of the Book of Concord. When I, some years ago, now, started to take my faith more seriously, I acquired more than a full bookshelf worth of Lutheran materials — I now have ten or so physical copies of the Book of Concord. However, there are times when a Web-based version of such a text is more useful than a physical copy (and even Logos falls short in some respects). I found the Book of Concord early on in my journey back into Lutheranism, and I have used it since — in my personal studies, in teaching, in debate, et cetera. It is an invaluable resource. I am an inveterate dabbler and investigator, and I have always had an interest in computers. I run a (small) IT services company and have done (some) Web development for many years. When I saw that the Book of Concord site was getting quite old (and some things were actually broken), I contacted Paul McCain, Sr., and offered to renovate the site. Actually, I contacted CPH first to ask about making a modern site, and they forwarded the email to Rev. McCain who then contacted me. This was in November of 2019. It took the better part of a year to find the time to complete the new site (a rebuild, not a renovation) — many of the final touches and much of the final formatting had to be done manually. Consequently, I managed the site for more or less two years (and some months).
Now, we must cover two technical matters to give an accurate background: website hosting and copyright. First, website hosting. There are three salient matters: domain registration, DNS, and servers. When you enter a domain into your browser (or click a link), your computer queries a DNS server, which returns a record for the domain you requested (e.g., example.org); that record is an address for the server that hosts the website you requested. A domain registrar sells domains (e.g., example.org). The person who owns the domain has control over which DNS servers are authoritative (i.e., which ones return the canonically 'correct' answer for where the website associated with the domain name is hosted). It is entirely possible for the owner of a domain to neither manage the DNS nor own the servers or site associated with the domain.
Second, copyright. Now, I am an attorney, but none of this is legal advice and is certainly not intended to be a comprehensive treatment of the subject. Copyright is a complicated matter. Generally, original works enjoy protection for the life of the author plus some years (the exact number is not particularly important here). Translations are treated differently (they are essentially derivative works). Translations may or may not enjoy the same protection as an original work (there are a number of factors). Works that are no longer within their protective period under applicable copyright law are in the public domain — these may be freely used, published, modified, et cetera.
To make sure the two foregoing matters are clear:
- A domain is not a website.
- Owning a domain does not necessarily entail ownership of the website it displays.
- The content on a website is not necessarily owned by the domain owner or the website owner.
- No one owns content in the public domain.
The Book of Concord website uses the text from the Triglotta, which was published in 1921 and is in the public domain — no one owns the content of the Book of Concord site insofar as it is merely the Triglotta text. Per Rev. McCain: "All the supplemental texts … are also in the public domain[.]" The only part of the site over which anyone could claim ownership is the design and structure — I created and own both. I am, legally and in fact, the sole owner of the Book of Concord website. Why, then, was the 'original' domain reverted to the old version of the site?
Steadfast Lutherans, originally (seemingly) on behalf of Rev. McCain, and now (seemingly) on behalf of Paul McCain, Jr., owns or manages the 'original' domain. They requested I transfer the new site to them; I declined; they took the site offline by redirecting the DNS and then putting up the old site again (by pointing the DNS to a server with the old version of the site). I knew that, sooner or later, they would do this, and so I had measures in place (hence the new site was up on the new domain [i.e., thebookofconcord.org] even before they changed the DNS records). But how did I know? Now we come to the core issue.
Rev. McCain and I did not agree politically, but this was never once allowed to become a problem with regard to the Book of Concord site. Why? Because we both agreed that the Book of Concord was and is more important — the primary issue for both of us was keeping the site online, accessible, and functional. His son does not seem to share that goal. Here is the sequence of events: Certain agitators pressured Mr. Slayton (I am certain that it took little enough pressure), the LCMS media director, to 'do something' about the fact that I maintain the Book of Concord site, this was done for — at best — political reasons; Mr. Slayton contacted Mr. McCain to inquire about transferring 'ownership' of the site; and Mr. McCain then contacted Rev. Scheer at Steadfast Lutherans. I will spare some of the details, but the short version is that Mr. McCain then contacted me to attempt to get me to transfer the site to Rev. Scheer. As should now be obvious, I knew their true motives, but they attempted to conceal them. During the email exchange, I inquired into their preparations for assuming control of the site (they had made virtually none — as the present state of their site attests — and could not adequately answer my technical questions). Additionally, I gave them a chance to, in accordance with Scripture (see, e.g., Matthew 18), come clean and admit what they were actually attempting to do and why; contrary to what those who understand less than half of what I say may have you believe, I am not necessarily exceedingly or excessively blunt — however, here, I was not unduly subtle:
If there are concerns ulterior to the site itself, then I would be happy to address those as well.
Matters were clear to me long before I received the first email from Mr. McCain, but I still proceeded in good faith, giving them the benefit of the doubt and an opportunity to behave as brothers-in-Christ. They made their decision and will one day answer for it. As for me. I cannot in good conscience permit men who behave thusly to assume control of so precious and important a resource. Consequently, I will continue to serve Christ and His Church by maintaining the Book of Concord website.
Doubtless, the libel and the slander will continue, but to such I am accustomed.
"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
Soli Deo Gloria.
Legally, yes, it is mine, but I am speaking of more important things. ↩︎
To be clear: I have dozens of Bibles — I am not even certain of the number. ↩︎
And this is to say nothing of the fact that the site is free, and the books beyond the means of many to acquire. ↩︎
Although I dislike them more with each passing year — or at least dislike how they are implemented in our society. ↩︎
Obviously this treatment isn't intended to be comprehensive — I'm not even covering the fact that it is a sin to copyright sound theological works. ↩︎
Do believe me that I could name them, but I am not certain as to which actor did what and when and there are peripheral actors of whose degree of participation I am not certain, so I choose to hold my tongue. ↩︎
n.b., these men clearly do not understand how ownership and websites work. ↩︎