The American Bible Society defended another Bible society's efforts to distribute Scripture through secular newspapers in America after hearing that the project was receiving complaints from some Christians.
International Bible Society and Send the Light (IBS-STL), which merged earlier this year, is planning to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to distribute New Testament Bibles with 11 newspapers this year and next. The Bible ministry's "City Reachers" project aims to reach newspaper subscribers in eight regions next year, according to its Web site. Three others, including the one in Fort Worth, Texas, are scheduled this year.
"The American Bible Society (ABS) wholeheartedly supports the CityReachers' initiative to distribute Scripture through newspapers," stated the Rev. Dr. Paul Irwin, president of ABS, in a statement released to The Christian Post. "The effort ensures that people will have access to the Bible and the opportunity to experience its life-changing message."
The Bible society leader's comments were made after hearing that there was an outcry against IBS-STL's project coming from one of the least expected sources – Christians.
Bob Ray Sanders, vice president and associate editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which announced in May that it would deliver more than 200,000 New Testaments the last Sunday of the year, said some worried that the Bibles tossed on the lawn with the newspaper would be thrown away.
"I expected that we'd get some criticism, but I thought it would be coming from people who were not Christian or not religious at all. Many of the complaints we got were from people who were Christian and didn't like the idea," said Sanders, according to The Associated Press.
In response, ABS's Irwin said that while Christians who fear that Bibles will be thrown away have a valid concern, "fear cannot keep Bible Societies from spreading the Word to the masses."
"If one person keeps the Bible and gives their soul to Christ, then the effort was well worth it," the ministry leader stated.
"The American Bible Society regularly distributes Bibles as special events and Scripture portions, such as a special one about God's comfort and hope in the Bible, given to more than 1.5 million people after Hurricane Katrina. We must trust that God's Word will fall on fertile soil and not be discarded."
In his statement, Irwin also announced that ABS would be joining IBS-STL next year in distributing Scripture through newspapers, adding that "ever-changing distribution techniques are a sign of the times."
"It has been the history of the American Bible Society to find new and innovative ways to spread God's Word, from being the first to put Bibles in hotels in 1846, and on steamships and railroads in the 1850s to transcribing Scripture onto DVDs and mobile devices," the ABS president stated. "The ever-changing distribution techniques are a sign of the times, personifying the fundamental purpose of the American Bible Society's mission: 'Sharing God's Word with the world.'"
According to IBS-STL's Paul Tolleson, major fundraising for the "City Reachers" project in Fort Worth and other cities has only just begun. Some campaigns already have been delayed, but none have been canceled.
On its website, the ministry emphasizes the importance of the Bible in a "confused society."
"It is a sourcebook for everyday living. We find standards for our conduct, guidelines for knowing right from wrong, principles to help us in a confused society where so often 'anything goes,'" IBS-STL declares on its website.
In 2006, the International Bible Society and the Send the Light announced a merger between the two ministries creating one of the world's largest translators and distributors of Scripture while becoming a leading global distributor of Christian literature.