“God’s Word: A Living Hope for All,” was the theme of the 2016 United Bible Societies World Assembly held last May 12-18, 2016 at the Loews Hotel, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
Philippine Bible Society Trustee Bishop Noel Pantoja represented PBS along with General Secretary Dr. Nora Lucero in the 5-day gathering of more than 400 representatives from 148 national Bible Societies and partner agencies.
The Assembly was formally opened by UBS Global Council Chair Rev. Dr. Rudi Zimmer and the Rev. Dr. Robert Cunville, who was re-elected UBS President.
“In 1946, a year after the end of WWII, in a world crying out for hope, the United Bible Societies was formed. Our world is crying out for hope today, too, and only the Word of God can bring the hope we need. More than ever, our mission as Bible Societies continues to be relevant, and a solution to human hopelessness,” Dr. Zimmer said.
A wide variety of topics were discussed in plenary and small group sessions, including the persecution of Christians around the world (the Suffering Church), the current trends in the changing landscape of churches worldwide and what that means for UBS (the Changing and Emerging Church), Digital Ministry and youth audiences, how to engage the unreached and under-represented, and Global Missional Leadership.
There were also seminars conducted in small groups on the following topics: The Leadership Dynamic, Great Governance, Digital Innovation for sustainability, Migrants and Migration: Mission Challenges and Opportunities, Fundraising Development, Communications and Marketing best practices, Developing Bible Advocacy Ministry, Meeting UBS Membership Requirements (Using Evaluation and Best Practices), Translation: Best practices, capacity building, innovation process and quality, Holistic ministry including Trauma Healing, Property Stewardship and Capital Projects, Program Design for Engaging Youth, Biblical Art and Theology: How artists influence our understanding of the Bible, and Inter-confessionality and working with churches.
The Assembly also identified eight topics ranging from serving all age groups to how to build a healthy UBS fellowship, which will form part of the Philadelphia Promise, the new strategic document that will guide the global fellowship’s work from 2017-2022.
During the week-long gathering, the Bible Society of Kenya’s entry to the UBS’s first Big Idea innovation and enterprise competition, the “Pay as you Earn” Bible project was declared the winner. It bested the Bible Society of Brazil’s Integrated Logistics Planning project and the Bible Society of Egypt’s Fundraising Assistant app. The win earned them USD 100,000 to jumpstart the project.
The Assembly also celebrated the American Bible Society’s (ABS) bicentenary and the UBS global fellowship’s 70th anniversary.
For his part, UBS Director General Michael Perreau emphasized the need to see the reality of the Bible in one’s personal and corporate life. The UBS founders, he said, “built their vision on prayer, faithfulness and sacrifice. These are the principles that should guide our journey, too.” He stressed the need for Bible Societies to act as a community rooted in Christ and relevant to their social context. “We must not just distribute the Bible, but ensure that our very lives reflect it,” he said
At the close of the 2016 World Assembly, and to symbolize the start of the journey to the next one, ABS Board Chair Nick Athens handed a scroll to Bible Society of Ghana General Secretary Erasmus Odonkor and Board Chair Efua Ghartey, who will host the 2022 World Assembly in Ghana.