The Rev. Dr. Kabiro wa Gatumu, a Biblical Studies lecturer at St Paul’s University, Limuru, Kenya and Coordinator of the East Africa Regional Group for the Bible in the Life of the Church project, writes about the recent meeting of his regional group.
The East African Regional Group held its second Contextual Bible Study (CBS) workshop at Jumuia Conference and Country Home, Limuru, Kenya from June 27th to July 2nd 2011.
Participants came from Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. Unfortunately, this time we did not have a participant from Burundi and Uganda, though they had been invited. Stephen Lyon of the Anglican Communion Office and the Coordinator of the Bible in the Life of the Church Project and Joseph Crockett of the American Bible Society attended the CBS. Their contributions to the CBS were very helpful and appreciated.
The core task for the CBS was to engage with the fourth mark of mission of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The purpose was to engage with Scripture to see how we as Anglicans have used scripture on the themes of ‘unjust gender structures’ and ‘unjust economic structures’, and what scripture says about the same themes. These themes were discussed ‘as aspects of the fourth Mark of Mission for the Worldwide Anglican Communion, that is, “To seek to transform unjust structures of society”.
[Fuller details of the Bible in the Life of the Church project can be found on the website at: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ministry/theological/bible/index.cfm For contact with the project - Stephen Lyon, Coordinator: email@example.com ]
Full report by Dr Gatamu:
The Contextual Bible Study (CBS) began with the bible study each day and then the texts that were selected were discussed using some lead questions that were meant to help the participant to understand what the text was all about. However, on the first day, it was necessary to introduce to the participant what CBS is all about and what it entails. CBS was thus defined as an interactive study of particular texts in the Bible, which brings the perspectives of both the context of the reader and the context of the Bible into dialogue, for the purpose of transformation.
After introducing the CBS what followed was a brief gender background of the texts that had been chosen for engagement with the theme of unjust gender structure. What emerged from this was that in biblical times, gender relations were not egalitarian and women were regarded as inferior to men. The key texts that were read for unjust gender structures included Numbers 27: 1-11 and I Timothy 2: 8 – 15. What emerged very clearly as the participants engaged with these texts was a gap between what we believe to be the scripture and the way in which we use it. Also, it emerged that the vernacular translation presented some ambiguities to a reader and sometimes they gave a clear understanding as to what the text conveyed. The engagement with texts on unjust gender structure went on for two days.
What followed next was an engagement with unjust economic structure, which also took about two days. This began with a belief introduction of the economic background of the bible. A similarity was noted between the world that produced the bible and our world, which has received the bible, on matters of money, wealth and possessions. It was also noted that land was a key economic pillar, which was distributed equally since the community owned its products. But this changed when the Jews demanded a monarchy like that of the Canaanites, who regarded the king as a son of god who collected a portion of the products of peasants on behalf of the god. This lead to unjust economic structures and as a result of which the pursuit of wealth was fraught with potential problems, which made it easy to view those who possessed wealth with moral and spiritual scepticism
The key text that the participants engaged with included Amos 8: 4-8 and Mark 10: 17-34. Amos portrayed God as one who gets enraged by economic injustice. He gets enraged because economic life and any other form of social organization is a matter of justice and justice is close to God’s heart. Alongside Amos, the participant also read Isaiah 3: 13–15. The background information indicated that Prophet Isaiah was not exaggerating since in his time the economic oppression of the poor was rampant as it was during the time of other prophets. The issues that emerged strongly were on the relationship between wealth and poverty as well as the relationship between the rich and the poor and their place before God.
The CBS ended with reflections on the experience, which focused on the way we handle the Bible. The following points came out distinctively.