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Bible Society’s contemporary objects and work

by
15 August 2014

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From Mr Paul Woolley

Sir, - I enjoyed reading Bishop Michael Doe's review (Books, 25 July) of Matthew Engelke's God's Agents: Biblical publicity in contemporary England, but couldn't help but wonder at times whether we had read the same book.

First, the review suggests (the book does not) that translation, production, and distribution are no longer part of Bible Society's work. In reality, the core of Bible Society's activity is precisely in this area. This is unsurprising considering that 4000 of the world's languages are still without any part of the scriptures.

Bishop Doe is right, however, to draw attention to the fact that, in England and Wales, the challenge is not one of availability but of engagement, which explains why our work, domestically, is focused on encouraging the nine out of ten people who don't read the Bible to pick it up for the first time.

Second, the review seems to confuse Bible Society's historic commitment to producing Bibles without denominational "note or comment" with neutrality about the Bible. While Bible Society studiously avoids taking denominational or sectarian positions (we are inter-confessional), we are absolutely committed to talking about the relevance and application of the Bible in contemporary culture and political debate.

Bishop Doe appears to criticise us for not taking a clear "left" or "right" line on political issues. It is certainly true that we are committed to helping people of all parties consider the significance of the Bible without telling them what to think, but, across all of our outputs, we explicitly challenge notions of neutrality, secular or otherwise.

Finally, he asks whether, in a secular world (though not as secular as perhaps he thinks), the promotion of the Bible itself is the best place to begin. If we were another agency, the answer might possibly be different, but there is surely no other option for Bible Society. Founded by William Wilberforce and others in 1804, we are resolutely committed to both the Bible and society, and expressly exist to offer the Bible to the world.

PAUL WOOLLEY
Executive Director (Charity)
Bible Society
Stonehill Green, Westlea
Swindon SN5 7DG

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