Candler’s Pitts Theology Library will host its inaugural Morgan Forum on September 21, a day of events centered around the history of the English Bible and its ongoing significance to the church and world.
Titled “re:Wording: The Past, Present, and Future of the Bible in Translation,” the forum will include a panel discussion of Bible translators and publishers, as well as the keynote Manfred Hoffmann Lecture presented by Timothy Beal 95G, Distinguished University Professor and Florence Harkness Professor of Religion at Case Western Reserve University.
Named for the library’s new J. Michael Morgan English Bible & Psalmody Collection, the Morgan Forum is part of what Margaret A. Pitts Distinguished Director of Pitts Theology Library and Associate Professor in the Practice of Theological Bibliography Richard M. “Bo” Adams, Jr. calls a “big step” in the effort to establish Pitts as an internationally-renowned forum for the study of the Bible in translation.
“We’re inviting the public and scholarly communities together to learn about the history of the English Bible and to consider what challenges our digital age may present for communities reading the Bible,” Adams says. “Our hope is to bridge the conversations scholars are having about the Bible with the concerns of communities who build their identity around this text.”
The day’s events will include a panel discussion unpacking what it means to create a new Bible in the 21st century by experts who have done just that: they each played a role in translating, updating, and publishing the 2022 revision of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, known as the NRSVue. The panelists include Almar H. Shatford Professor of New Testament Susan E. Hylen, who reviewed several biblical books during the process.
Timothy Beal, Distinguished University Professor and Florence Harkness Professor of Religion at Case Western Reserve University, will deliver the keynote Manfred Hoffmann Lecture that evening. Says Adams, “Like Professor Hoffmann, Dr. Beal is deeply committed to pressing the ‘so what?’ question in scholarship. He has been at the forefront of thinking about where the church, Scripture, and theological education are headed in the future. He also has deep knowledge of and experience with digital technology, and has written at length about the dangers and opportunities technology presents for the humanities and for the church.”
In addition, an exhibition curated by Adams will be on display during the forum. Entitled “The Very Meanest Translation,” it explores what he calls the fascinating history of the creation, revision, embrace, and at times rejection of the King James Bible. “The exhibition is not only an opportunity to see the most significant English Bibles in history, but it serves as an invitation to consider why we continue to revise this sacred text and what a diversity of translations means for communities of faith.”
The Morgan Forum also addresses another priority of the library and this specific collection: student engagement and original research. In tandem with the launch of the Morgan Collection, Pitts has begun the Morgan Fellows program, which includes students from both Candler and Columbia Theological Seminary, where collection donor Michael Morgan served for many years as organist. The four fellows—Dana Abu-Ghazelah (Columbia), Joy Edwards (Candler), Victoria Robinson (Columbia), and Kyul Yoon (Candler)—will each research an item from the Morgan Collection, and will have their findings available to view during the forum. Their research will also be published as a digital exhibition on the library’s Digital Collections site.
The event will bring together newer scholars such as the Morgan Fellows with a robust community of Bible collectors from Atlanta and throughout the U.S.—many of whom, Adams notes, knew Morgan and his collection well. The forum coincides with the annual meeting of the International Society of Bible Collectors, which will meet at Candler September 22 and 23.
But again, Adams stresses, the library’s goal for the Morgan Forum—and the Morgan Collection itself—goes beyond those who are well-versed in biblical scholarship and research.
“The Morgan Forum is open to all who are interested in learning more about the history of the Bible and thinking about the role Scripture plays and will play in our busy world,” he says. “We hope visitors who have never been to Candler or Pitts will take this opportunity to learn how this school and library are incredible resources for communities around Atlanta.”
The full schedule of the Morgan Forum is below:
11:05 a.m.: Worship in Cannon Chapel Sanctuary
Featuring Psalms from the psalter published by J. Michael Morgan
2:00–3:30 p.m.: “An Introduction to Pitts Theology Library’s J. Michael Morgan English Bible and Psalmody Collection”
Featuring exhibition gallery tours and viewings of posters by Morgan Fellows
3:30–5:00 p.m.: “Revising the Recently Revised Version: A Panel Discussion of the NRSVue Translation”
John Kutsko, executive director of the American Theological Library Association (ATLA) and former executive director of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL)
Susan Hylen, Almar H. Shatford Professor of New Testament, Candler School of Theology
Will Bergkamp, CEO of Friendship Press
Hugh R. Page, Jr., professor of theology and Africana studies, vice president, associate provost, and dean of the first year of studies at the University of Notre Dame
5:30–6:30 p.m.: The Manfred Hoffmann Lecture: “The End of the World as We Know It: The Story of the Bible, from the Print Revolution to the Digital Revolution and Beyond”
Speaker: Timothy Beal, Distinguished University Professor and Florence Harkness Professor of Religion at Case Western Reserve University
6:30–7:30 p.m.: Reception, book signing, and conversation