Cristian Romocea is a Senior Bible Advocate and Head of IBAC at British and Foreign Bible Society. Cristian has a background in public theology and international relations.
As we entered 2016, I paused to look back at the strides made by IBAC in the previous twelve months. I suddenly realised what an amazing team effort it has been, and how many people from BFBS, the United Bible Societies (UBS) Service organisation, other national Bible Societies and organisations outside the Fellowship have contributed to the shaping and development of the centre. Looking at today’s website, with the project catalogue slowly but surely expanding in size, the branding work, the promotional videos effectively describing the work of Bible advocacy, the published research on Democracy, Conflict and the Bible, the weekly blog attracting an increasing number of readers, and the social media activity, you might not realise it.
But all of these are extraordinary achievements in what has been a very full and busy 2015.
However, throughout last year there was one key question I had to ask myself repeatedly: Why are we doing it? I was taken back to a Bible passage I was reflecting on when I wrote a founding document on which we’re building IBAC. There, I was talking about “excellence” and how IBAC will not be about governance and authority, but about striving towards exceeding expectations. In Colossians 3:17 we are reminded that Christ is calling us to strive for excellence in everything: ’Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus…‘ and later Paul adds, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward" (Colossians 3:23-24). These verses have motivated not just me, but the whole IBAC team, to put the best of our efforts, to spend time above and beyond our normal working schedule, and stretch our creativity in order to deliver the building blocks on which IBAC will now grow.
One of the highlights of 2015 has been to meet some of our UBS Fellowship colleagues, in person at the Global Advocacy Exchange in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Experiencing together the advocacy work of the Cambodian Bible Society with the artistic performance which used theatre to explore the biblical message of forgiveness and reconciliation, and then learning and sharing about the theory and practice of Bible advocacy, has been an eye-opener to the “boundless creativity” that exists in the UBS family. And if in the past Bible advocacy has seemed somewhat eccentric for some UBS colleagues, the feedback from the event would indicate a paradigm shift of perception. In the feedback survey we asked participants to fill in, some claimed it was “the best conference I have been to this year”; others reflected on the “opportunity to meet with other colleagues and hear about their dreams, needs and challenges” while others were challenged “to show our Bible Societies about the urgent need to develop projects that will meet the need of our world today.”
... if in the past Bible advocacy has seemed marginal and somewhat eccentric for some UBS colleagues, the feedback from the event would indicate a paradigm shift of perception.
Enthusiasm for Bible advocacy is wonderful to see, and we need to continue to motivate one another about its importance. However, relevant projects meeting the needs and concerns of our communities require deep reflection and research. I’ve therefore been pleased to see the interest you have shown in IBAC’s first piece of major research, where we explore the crucial contribution of the Bible to democracy and peacebuilding worldwide. After we returned from the exchange in Cambodia, we hosted a UK launch of this research together with Christians in Parliament. Again, as if needing reminding, we saw how relevant the Bible is today with its vision for good global governance. We heard from one of Britain’s most senior former military leaders who recognised that today’s military personnel should find strength from being ‘rooted in a moral framework and an ethical code’ which comes from the Bible, and were challenged by Mike Bassous from the Bible Society in Lebanon who reminded us that the Bible is ambiguous about human rights, and that in the Middle East democracy has to start from ensuring that there is freedom of religion, not merely freedom to worship.
Such public events underline the need for us to create a space for an open conversation between our culture and the Bible, if we want to see people continue being impacted by its message.
What is in store for 2016? We will ensure that the IBAC website remains a line of communication and information on Bible advocacy projects for you. At the end of last year, we began our social media presence, primarily on Twitter, where we’ve already seen the tweet impressions up by 76% and profile visits up by 350%. We invite you to register on our catalogue page in order to access advocacy projects and stay informed about our work and forthcoming research. And last but not least, we look forward to meet old and new faces at our next Global Advocacy Exchange in South Africa. Until then, a heartfelt thanks for your support, prayers and engagement with IBAC.
Although IBAC exists to foster conversations on Bible advocacy-related issues, the views or opinions represented in this blog are solely those of the author