American Bible Society Weighs-In on Pope Francis

Roy Peterson, President of the American Bible Society

Roy Peterson, the CEO and President of American Bible Society (ABS), has written an opinion piece at Fox News on Pope Francis’s visit to Philadelphia.  As some of you know, ABS moved to Philadelphia this summer after nearly 200 years in New York City.  

The Pope’s visit to Philadelphia allows ABS to stress three things about its current identity:

First, ABS wants to let everyone know that it is still in the business of disseminating the Bible. As I write in my forthcoming The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society (Oxford University Press, 2016), ABS has long been in the business of distributing scripture portions at important events in American history. 

Second, Peterson wants everyone to know that ABS is inter-confessional in its outlook.  Over the last fifty or so years the leadership of ABS has worked hard to rid itself of its earlier anti-Catholicism. Today, the Society works closely with certain sectors of the Roman Catholic Church in America.  As the op-ed mentions, Peterson will be presenting a special Bible to Francis at some point during his visit.

Third, Peterson uses this op-ed to let everyone know that ABS is now based in Philadelphia.  At one point in the article Peterson refers to Philadelphia as his “own city.”  Stay tuned.  As I will describe in the “Afterword” of The Bible Cause, ABS will be doing a lot in the near future to take advantage of their new home by make connections between the Bible and the history of Philadelphia and the United States.

Here is a taste of Peterson’s piece:

Since assuming his seat as the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis has been a frequent advocate for Scripture reading among his 1.2 billion parishioners. As Catholics across the United States prepare for the Pope’s visit later this month, the words of Pope Francis offer encouragement to engage with God through the Bible. The Pope has said, “Dear Families, listen to the Word of God, meditate on it together, pray with it, let the Lord fill your lives with mercy.”
American Catholics are increasingly recognizing the importance of heading this call and diving in to God’s Word. In American Bible Society’s 2015 “State of the Bible” research conducted by Barna, 33 percent of Catholic Bible readers expressed a desire to read the Bible more frequently, compared with 22 percent in 2014. Pope Francis was clearly a large instigator of this increase as a passionate Bible advocate…
…American Bible Society will be passing out copies of the Gospel of Luke in six languages to the thousands of people coming to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. This piece will help people answer the Pope’s call to engage with the Bible. During his historic visit, American Bible Society Board Chairman Nicholas Athens and I will have the honor of presenting a copy of this polyglot Scripture portion to the Pontiff. I look forward to thanking him for all he is doing to encourage Bible engagement.

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