By Bishop Ann Svennungsen

From the beginning of my Reformation, I have asked God to send me neither dreams, nor visions, nor angels, but to give me the right understanding of God’s Word, the Holy Scriptures; for as long as I have God’s Word, I know that I am walking in God’s way. (Martin Luther, Commentary on Genesis, Vol II)

The Scriptures … are inspired by God’s Spirit speaking through their authors, they record and announce God’s revelation centering in Jesus Christ. Through them God’s Spirit speaks to us to create and sustain Christian faith and fellowship for service in the world. (ELCA Constitution)

Does your daily life include the devotional reading of scripture? Are you part of a regular Bible study?

I can still see the closet in my childhood home where my parents kept the massive notebooks needed to participate in the Bethel Bible Series. I’ve served congregations where Crossways and Search Bible studies were regularly offered.

“Though worshipers appreciate the Bible, few hold it in quite the same esteem as our forebears.”

In 2008, the ELCA launched the Book of Faith Initiative, a five-year collaborative effort to “raise to a new level this church’s individual and collective engagement with the Bible, yielding greater biblical fluency and a more profound appreciation of Lutheran principles and approaches for the use of Scripture.

The five-year initiative ended in 2013. Does anyone think we accomplished our goal? Do we have greater biblical fluency? Is there a greater appreciation of Lutheran hermeneutics?


LAST WEEK, Pastors Tania Haber, Babette Chatman, Martha Schwehn Bardwell, and I met with Dr. Michael Chan to prepare for the Bishop’s Theological Conference (BTC), which coincidentally is titled “Does Scripture Matter? Engaging the Bible in the 21st Century.”  We talked about the realities in our churches:

  • Though Bible studies are offered and found meaningful, the number of people participating is sometimes less than hoped for.
  • Though worshipers appreciate the Bible, few hold it in quite the same esteem as our forebears.
  • Even with a steady diet of Biblical preaching, we believe faith is also nourished through deeper, communal discussion and engagement with this “rough manger” that holds the Word made flesh.

Are these things also true in your congregation? We are delighted with the number of registrants for BTC; we’d also love to hear insights from those who won’t be there.

  • Why does Scripture matter? For you? For your congregation?
  • What are effective ways you’ve led your congregation to engage scripture – both in individual devotional reading and in communal study?

You’re welcome to comment on the synod’s Facebook page posting of this blog (scroll down until you find the posting) or email John Mai at and type “Scripture matters” in the subject line. And, I promise to share the insights gleaned from the BTC in one of my future blogs.