Bible Bicentenary: Bible Society Australia Celebrates 200 Years
Oldest continually operating organization in Australian history
Australia’s longest living organisation may not be who you think it is.
It’s not Houghton Wines or Westpac or the Australian Agricultural Company and it’s certainly not McDonalds.
There wasn’t a Big Mac in sight when community leaders Governor and Lady Macquarie created Bible Society in 1817.
Ahead of its Bicentenary on 7th March 2017, Bible Society remains the oldest continually operating organisation in Australia’s history.
The only change is the name. In 2010, the Bible Societies in each state merged into a single organisation, Bible Society Australia.
It’s still involved in the translation, publishing, and distribution of the Bible. BSA also aims to engage people with what it calls the Good Book, using both traditional and the latest media.
Bible Society Australia CEO Greg Clarke says “we’re not content simply to hand our Bibles. We want to help people engage with the Bible and answer their questions about it”.
“We’re celebrating our 200 years of sharing the Bible by doing more of what supporters want us to do – championing the Bible worldwide, from prisons in Australia to churches in China.”
In our increasingly secular society, the Bible remains the world’s best-selling book with more than five billion copies printed.
But is it still relevant to Australians?
Bible Society claims the good book is foundational to our human rights and legal system.
According to Human Rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC, the philosophic basis of the right to human dignity is the parable of the good Samaritan.
Our charities also reflect the well-known parable. Of the 30 largest charities in Australia, 26 are faith-based. They argue that Bible readers are more likely to volunteer to help others.
The values that Australians cherish also stem from the Bible.
A common ANZAC statement is from John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this – to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Bible Society claims it’s a verse that captures our national vision for humility, sacrifice and friendship between equals.
Following Arthur Stace’s one word campaign “eternity” is a Bible word most Australians would recognise. Christians believe it’s the message of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ and a love that will last forever.
Eternity is also the title of Bible Society’s news service which reaches hundreds of thousands of people via newspaper and digitally.
To mark its 200th birthday, Bible Society Australia is staging a national celebration service on Sunday 5th March, 2017. Bible Society Australia wants this celebration to be more about elevating the place of the Bible rather than about Bible Society itself.
The event will be held at the Hillsong Main Auditorium in Sydney. Church groups of every denomination are encouraged to stream the event as a lighthouse church. Details at www.bible.org.au.
Dr Clarke says “Over the past 200 years, the Bible has done Australia a lot of good”.
He says the work will continue both here and throughout the world, adding “the Good Book really is here for good”.
A key feature of the Bicentenary celebrations is the launch of a unique Indigenous art book titled “Our Mob, God’s Story”.
A powerful collection of 115 paintings by Australia’s Indigenous peoples, that tell Bible stories in their unique visual languages celebrates 200 years of Bible Society Australia (BSA). “It is really good because it engages people, unsaved people, and christians who are going through struggles in life and builds them up”, says Max Conlon, one of the 67 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who contributed to the book. “Our Mob, God’s Story” took over five years to compile, with paintings located from across the Australia, many from extremely remote locations. The book was funded by a generous donor, which means that proceeds from sales will in turn fund future Bible translations in Australian Indigenous languages.
The cover of “The Bible Down Under” a short 100-page history of the impact of the Bible on Australian culture, features an artwork by a controversial Australian artist , Reg Mombassa – who painted an “Australian Jesus” series for the artist’s collective Mambo. The Author, historian Meredith lake explains how the Bible had an impact on the most unpromising of societies, a colonial settlement founded as a prison. She will produce a larger version of this work later in 2017 called “The Bible In Australia”.
A special edition of the NIV Bible commemorates the Bible Society itself, the oldest living organisation in Australia. It contains a short history of BSA, which highlights the translators of the Bible into the local indigenous languages, and the shift from a place with a drastic Bible shortage to a nation where the Bible is freely available.
Perhaps the best way to celebrate 200 years of Bible work is to give it away. A special giveaway NIV gospel of Luke, in handsome large print type on quality paper will be handed out at special BSA events through their bicentenary year. It’s received the same design attention as the other books- arguably it is the most important.
These BSA books are available from www.bibleshop.org.au