Dusting off the Bible? Does that mean we aren’t using our Bibles, or is it an overstatement meant to capture our attention? Perhaps it implies looking at scripture with new eyes, learning to see beyond the familiar so that we can apply biblical teachings to life in today’s world.
Assembly keynote speakers Gerald Gerbrandt, Tom Yoder Neufeld, and Sheila Klassen-Wiebe—accomplished theologians and educators—are aware that the theme for Assembly 2012 has sparked discussion.
Current president of Canadian Mennonite University (CMU), Gerbrandt says that the image of a dusty Bible may be an exaggeration, but “we’re in a time where the Bible isn’t as prominent in church people’s thinking as it was when I grew up.”
“The rise of scholarship has sometimes indirectly communicated that only scholars can make use of the Bible,” he says. “We’re living in a time where all authority is questioned. I think it’s helpful today to ask what is it and how might we become more enthused about scripture so that it remains central for us.”
Yoder Neufeld, Professor of Religious Studies (New Testament) for Conrad Grebel University College at the University of Waterloo, concurs. “I am aware that for many persons, including many Mennonites, the Bible has fallen into disuse. There are numerous factors, I'm sure. It may even be that folks like me need to take some responsibility for that in giving the impression that if you really want to understand the Bible, you need experts to help you.” Yet, he says, the Bible is really, “the record of our long and ongoing conversation with God.” The Bible is intended for everyone.
As Associate Professor of New Testament at CMU, Klassen-Wiebe says she has noticed that some of her students are not as scripturally literate as previous generations. She points to information overload and hectic schedules as possible factors. In addition, the Bible may be viewed by some as a book of old and out-of-date stories. “Sometimes people think the Bible is only an ancient book . . . but the Bible is not an old tome that should sit on the shelf gathering dust. It does speak to us in the 21st century.”
The Assembly will include a wide number of workshops covering topics like how to read and apply scripture, and how the Bible came to be; two scripture-based videos commissioned from actor, writer and humorist, Ted Swartz; an art exhibit, worship and fellowship.
“It’s life-giving to read and understand the Bible,” Klassen-Wiebe says. “We need to be grabbed by the power of scripture to help us be a faithful people.”
Gerbrandt will address the Assembly on Friday morning and Sat. evening. Yoder Neufeld is scheduled to speak on Sat. and Sunday mornings, while Klassen-Wiebe will lead Bible studies during the later half of Friday and Saturday morning sessions.
Registration deadline is June 15, 2012 (www.mennonitechurch.ca/vancouver2012).