National Lutheran News

ELCA wants its members to focus on reading, interpreting the Bible

North Carolina Synod prodded the church to action

One of the worst-kept secrets in Lutheranism, as well as in Christianity as a whole, is the fact that biblical illiteracy is now epidemic. People in the pews are less and less confident about what’s in their Bibles. More than one catechism student has recited the four New Testament Gospels as “Matthew, Mark, Luther and John.”

In addition, Lutherans and other Christians are falling victim to individuals and groups who confidently declare “what the Bible says” when the assertions are based on questionable methods of biblical interpretation.

The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has decided to face this growing two-part problem head-on. It has adopted a proposal “for a multiyear special focus among members, congregations and synods … on the authority and interpretation of Scripture.” The proposed emphasis has the working title “Book of Faith: Lutherans Read the Bible.”

The Church Council made the decision during its meeting in Chicago April 1-2.

The idea for an emphasis on Scripture originated with the 2005 ELCA North Car-olina Synod Assembly, which called for an ongoing effort to address issues “surrounding the authority of Scripture” and principles of biblical interpretation. The synod made the request in the form of a memorial to the 2005 Orlando Churchwide Assembly. That body referred it to the ELCA Office of the Secretary for further study in consultation with the presiding bishop, the ELCA Conference of Bishops and the ELCA Division for Ministry (now part of ELCA Vocation and Education), and asked that a report and possible recommendations be presented to the Council’s April 2006 meeting.

The report said a working group “developed a consensus that the initial response should involve the members of this church in reading the Bible, informed by resources that would help them understand and use a Lutheran approach to the Scripture.” The report said the initiative will follow a model established by the Renewing Worship project, a multiyear effort aimed at introducing a generation of worship re-sources to the ELCA.

Resources for use in congregations will be developed and distributed during 2007 and 2008.