Methodists take a lead in discovering the nation's Biblical literacy

A Methodist supported biblical literacy study has made headlinesaround the world.

The National Biblical Literacy Study 2009, which found thatknowledge of the Bible is declining with fewer than one in 20people able to name all the 10 commandments, received two-thirds ofits £22,000 funding from the Connexional Team and Methodist relatedtrusts CTVC, the Gibbs family Trust and the Rank Trust.

Seven of the nine churches used as locations for interviewing morethan 900 people from faith and non-faith backgrounds were MethodistChurches in Newcastle, Mumbles, Redditch (joint Methodist/URC)Lewisham, Hornchurch, Poole and Sutton.

The project was initiated by Revd Brian D Brown, a Methodistminister and Fellow in Media and Communication at St John'sCollege, Durham University, and Revd Jonathan Kerry, also aMethodist minister and Director of the Guy Chester Centre inMuswell Hill, London.

Brian worked with Revd Dr David Wilkinson, Methodist Principal ofSt John's College, to establish the Centre for Biblical Literacy atSt John's College, Durham University in September 2006 with thehelp of a grant from the Rank Trust.

Brian said: "The study happened to hit at the right time and we areextremely pleased that there has been so much interest in it. TheChurch needs this information and needs it now. The MethodistChurch saw what we were doing as important.

"I am particularly grateful for the support we have received fromthe people in the Connexion. Everyone has been very supportive atthe grassroots level."

The project's research team also included Brian's son Dr PaulBrown, lecturer and researcher in mathematics at Birkbeck CollegeLondon.

Jonathan said: "The results confirmed our impression that there isa small residual awareness of the Bible among people in Britain,but the level of real knowledge is quite low."

The survey brought to light the fact that 33 per cent of theunder-45s interviewed could not name anything about the Feeding ofthe 5,000 compared to 12 per cent of over-45s. More positivefindings showed that 75 per cent of the interviewees owned a bibleand significantly high numbers of them knew central facts about thecrucifixion and resurrection stories which are at the heart of theChristian faith.

Methodist minister Revd Dr Peter Phillips has now taken on thebaton from Rev Brian Brown and heads up the Centre for BiblicalLiteracy at St John's College, Durham University, which is part ofa larger research institute, Communication in the DigitalEnvironment (CODEC). The Centre will use the data for furtherresearch over the next four years.

At the Methodist Conference, Peter seconded a successful notice ofmotion calling Methodists to make 2011 a year of the Bible. Themotion proposed by Rev Ashley Cooper of Swan Bank Methodist Churchcalled for a celebration and promotion of the Bible's impact onBritish culture alongside the Evangelical Alliance's BibleFreshinitiative.