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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Work launched on guide to reading, understanding the Bible

Work is under way on a major resource to help ELCA members read the Bible with understanding and in a Lutheran approach, Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson told the Conference of Bishops gathered March 2-7 in Lake Geneva, Wis.

“Book of Faith: Lutherans Read the Bible” will be developed over the coming year with an anticipated introduction at synod assemblies in spring 2007, the bishop said.

“We are increasingly a biblically illiterate church,” he said, one in need of such a guide.

The 2005 Churchwide Assembly authorized the project as an examination of how “word and witness go together,” Hanson said.

To help the bishops, Craig L. Nessan, academic dean and professor of contextual theology at Wartburg Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, presented a 20-page paper, “The Authority of Scripture.” He noted that biblical literalism developed in the late 19th century as a way of defending the authority of Scripture against other interpretations.

Today, he said, “in an era where many people are searching for something reliable to stand upon, literalist teaching about the Bible and its authority has proven very attractive and durable.”

Martin Luther took a different view, Nessan said, quoting him: “It is not enough simply to look and see whether this is God’s word, whether God has said it; rather we must look and see to whom it has been spoken, whether it fits us. That makes all the difference between night and day.”

The bishops also:

• Learned that the churchwide organization posted a surplus of $3.5 million of income over expenses for 2005.

However, an additional $4 million authorized by the Church Council for mission and ministry resulted in a loss of $500,000.

• Heard Bread for the World President David Beckmann praise the church for its advocacy in hunger and poverty issues, saying the ELCA is “one of the healthiest large churches in the U.S.”


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