|Pastor to guide Bible society into technology age|
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
Feb. 21, 2007
The Rev. Anne Robertson
As a self-proclaimed lover of words, the Rev. Anne Robertson is
frustrated by the “extreme resistance” of some local congregations to
newer forms of communication.
During the past year and a half, she’s offered podcasts of her Sunday
sermons at the United Methodist Church of Westford, Mass., and sent
weekly devotions via e-mail. Still, “people aren’t quite sure if I ought
to be spending my time doing that.”
So when the Massachusetts Bible Society asked the 47-year-old pastor
to usher it into the age of technology, she agreed. “They recognize
that’s how people interact and communicate in a huge way,” she said.
Robertson is to become the 198-year-old society’s first female
executive director on April 17, succeeding the Rev. Donald A. Wells, who
is retiring after 19 years.
She likes the organization’s willingness “to put their money where
their mission was,” citing its decision to sell its headquarters
building, with a money-losing but historic bookstore in downtown Boston,
in 2006 to back a new vision of outreach.
Part of that vision is promoting biblical literacy while providing
the tools to look at a biblical text in different ways. During its
existence, the society has distributed more than 1 million Bibles in
some 200 languages.
As a local church pastor, Robertson says new members often don’t have
a working knowledge of biblical teaching. She particularly wants to
reach those who have rejected the Bible as being relevant to their lives
and envisions “some basic bible literacy” targeted at specific secular
groups, such as journalists and politicians.
With her speaking schedule already filling up at local churches,
Robertson hopes her new job allows her to continue spreading the word.
“My call to ministry really was very fundamentally a call to preach,”
she told United Methodist News Service. “(Methodism founder John)
Wesley said the world is my parish. Massachusetts is my parish now.”
A call to preach
Since its inception in 1809, the Massachusetts Bible Society has
distributed more than 1 million Bibles in some 200 languages. A UMNS
photo by Mike DuBose.
Robertson’s journey of faith has been full of twists and turns. At
14, she found her calling while “preaching” during a youth Sunday
worship service at the North Scituate Baptist Church in Rhode Island.
She later became active in the charismatic movement. Her book Blowing the Lid Off the God-Box: Opening Up to a Limitless Faith,
published in 2005, is partly a confession “of having been deeply into
fundamentalism to the point where it derailed my calling for while,” she
Bumping up against the walls of biblical literalism made her worry
about the salvation of her best friend, Celeste, who was a “steadfast
freethinker” and lapsed Catholic, and led Robertson to attempt every job
in a local church other than serving as pastor. But Celeste’s
continuing friendship and Robertson’s need to preach, despite her
gender, created cracks in her fundamentalist beliefs.
“When I moved and became a United Methodist, I learned about the
Quadrilateral, which describes the way John Wesley made decisions,”
Robertson writes on her Web site, www.annerobertson.com.
“He looked at Scripture as being very important, but he also considered
church tradition, reason and experience. He allowed women to preach
because he could not deny that the Holy Spirit was working through them
and blessing their ministry. That seemed right to me.”
Still, Robertson said she didn’t fully embrace Wesleyan theology
until her last semester at Candler School of Theology at Emory
University in Atlanta, where she became a student at age 33 and
graduated in 1994. She originally chose the United Methodist ordination
path because of its job opportunities. “I was newly divorced and I
needed to support myself,” she explained.
She was ordained an elder in the United Methodist Florida Annual
(regional) Conference in 1997, where she served at Trinity United
Methodist Church in Gainesville and First United Methodist Church in
Cross City, then became pastor of St. John’s United Methodist Church in
2001 in Dover, N.H. She has served at Westford since 2005.
Having previously worked in publishing and as a bookstore manager,
Robertson learned both sides of the book trade. In addition to Blowing the Lid Off the God-Box, she is the author of God’s Top 10: Blowing the Lid Off the Commandments (2006), both published by Morehouse Publishing in Harrisburg, Pa. She has been a columnist for Zion’s Herald,
an independent New England-based journal of Methodism, and received the
Wilbur C. Ziegler Award for Excellence in Preaching from the New
England Conference in 2000.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mass. Bible Society picks a Web-savvy leader
After 197 years, Bible Society looks to embrace Internet era
Anne Robertson Web site
Massachusetts Bible Society
United Methodist Church of Westford
Blogs and Podcasts