When a Congregation Needs to Learn to Read the Bible

When a Congregation Needs to Learn to Read the Bible

In a presentation at the 2014 Virginia Regional Assembly, Rev. Dr. Terrye Williams commented that often our congregations have a need to learn how to read the Bible early in their journey towards becoming Open & Affirming. Here she expands on that thought.

One of the biggest challenges I have confronted in overcoming long-held gut-theologies regarding homosexuality is that almost without fail, even having been life-long, faithful church members, our folks have not been taught how to read the Bible. I realized early on that successfully approaching the subject (almost any subject) my first task would be to address the issue of how folks read and interpret scripture, and provide alternative points of view from current scholarship.

In tackling the issue of “the Bible says…” I have found three very helpful resources for group study. I’m certain there are more, but I have found these to be excellent both in content and in their approach.

Reading the Bible Again for the First Time, by Marcus Borg is a perfect beginning place. Borg offers a contemporary understanding of scripture without the sense of “accept or reject” fundamentalism requires, Borg guides the reader to the understanding that it is, in fact, possible to reconcile the Bible with both scientific and critical thinking as well as deep faith. Borg actually takes readers along his personal journey of faith, sharing how he was able to move from unquestioning childhood belief, through a crisis in faith when his childhood belief struggled to a more mature understanding, to an ability to encounter the text in a more powerful way – seriously, but not literally.

The second study that had great impact on our congregation is also by Marcus Borg – The Heart of Christianity. In this profound study, Borg offers hope to the millions of people who have turned away from beliefs that no longer make sense, offering a different perspective that invites us to a relationship with God. The way Borg helps the reader reclaim Christian terms that have long been perverted by fundamentalists significantly impacted our study groups. For Borg, the Christian life is essentially about opening one’s heart to God and others.

The DVD series, Living the Questions 2.0 (LtQ2) is where the rubber meets the road. It is a 21 week (three parts) series, open-minded alternative to studies that attempt to get at answers. Led by 30 acclaimed scholars, theologians, and other experts, the 20 minute video segments create an environment where participants can ask the tough questions of faith in a safe space; growing together in a deeper appreciation of the questions of an evolving faith.