World Bible Leaders Conclude a Productive Week in Philadelphia

It has been a good week for the Bible. Some 400 delegates representing more than 150 Bible societies working in more than 200 countries spent the last week in Philadelphia building a blueprint for the future of the Bible cause. The event was hosted by American Bible Society as part of the celebration of its bicentennial anniversary. The meeting came to a close yesterday, with the adoption of a new strategic document that will guide the work of Bible societies during the next six years. The Philadelphia Promise document affirms the central place of Bible translation in the work of United Bible Societies (UBS) member organizations and identifies eight priorities for Bible societies to focus on, ranging from building translation capacity to serving the vulnerable and under-represented people groups of the world. 

UBS continues to grow and expand as an organization. Since the last World Assembly six years ago, eight Bible societies have become members of UBS: the Bible Society of Lithuania, the Bible Society in Serbia, United Bible Societies in Ecuador, the Faroese Bible Society, the Bible Society of Gabon, the Mongolian Union Bible Society, the Bible Society in Mozambique and the Palestinian Bible Society.

Making a Connection in Philadelphia
This past Sunday, many World Assembly delegates shared their stories at local churches in Philadelphia, reaching thousands of listeners with messages about the Bible work taking place around the world. Churches around Philadelphia of many different denominations, including Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, independent and the Salvation Army, opened their pulpits to all World Assembly delegates to preach the morning’s sermon. 

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
During the plenary sessions UBS Director General Michael Perreau compared the current delegates’ journey through the changing mission landscape with that faced by Bible societies after World War II, when the organization was founded. “They built their vision on prayer, faithfulness and sacrifice,” he said. “These are the principles that should guide our journey too.” The Bible societies journey today seeks to address the growing urban population, the unreached and the under-represented. Perreau highlighted specific groups that Bible societies desire to serve better, including the persecuted, visually disabled, hearing impaired, illiterate, migrants and the forcibly displaced, as well as women and youth.

Dr. Kirk Franklin, Wycliffe Global Alliance executive director, spoke to World Assembly delegates about the need for systematic action in an increasingly globalized world. “Global Christianity is an agent and a product of globalization,” he said. “It has crossed geographic, cultural, linguistic and many other barriers.”

The World Assembly also considered the impact of technology on the Bible cause. “Digital technology challenges us radically,” acknowledged Nelson Saba, UBS digital publishing strategist. “But it can allow us to fulfill our mission in ways which are unimaginable with traditional media.” 

Kenyan Bible Society Honored
In an effort to encourage innovation and enterprise, UBS launched The Big Idea Project. The Bible Society of Kenya was selected from 45 project submissions to develop its innovation to make Bible accessible to rural communities through digital enhancement.

A Report on Bible Distribution in 2015
UBS released strong distribution figures for 2015 during the World Assembly. The number of Bibles distributed by Bible societies around the world has topped 34 million for the first time. Altogether, 34,396,611 full Bibles were distributed by national Bible societies in 2015. When the distribution of New Testaments, Gospels and other Scripture portions are included, Bible societies distributed more than 418.7 million Scriptures in 2015. 

The report highlighted that Scripture distribution in Europe and the Middle East soared in 2015, up by nearly 50 percent compared to the previous year. The Middle East saw the biggest rise in Scripture distribution, reflecting the tremendous effort to meet the demand for God’s Word among those affected by war, violence and conflict. Bible distribution across the countries affected most by conflict and the resulting migration of people rose by a staggering 88 percent between 2014 and 2015. There has been a surge in demand for smaller Scripture items, like calendars and booklets, which can be transported and distributed easily by Bible Societies’ network of volunteers. 

Looking Ahead to 2022
The Rev. Dr. Robert Cunville was formally welcomed to serve a second term as UBS president. At the close of the 2016 World Assembly, American Bible Society Board Chairman Nick Athens handed a scroll to the organizers of the 2022 World Assembly.

About United Bible Societies
United Bible Societies is a global network of Bible societies working in more than 200 countries and territories across the world. Together, United Bible societies members are the world’s biggest translator, publisher and distributor of the Bible. Bible Societies are also active in areas such as HIV/AIDS prevention, trauma healing and literacy. United Bible Societies works with all Christian Churches and many international non-governmental organizations. Read more:

About American Bible Society
Founded in 1816, American Bible Society works to make the Bible available to every person in a language and format each can understand and afford, so all people may experience its life-changing message. One of the nation's oldest and most enduring nonprofit organizations, today's American Bible Society provides resources across a variety of platforms enabling first-time readers and seasoned theologians alike to engage with the best-selling book of all time. For more information, visit