CHICAGO (ELCA) — Members of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America (ELCA) are reading and discussing the Bible
as part of the church’s Book of Faith initiative. That
discussion is being propelled with Internet technology.

An estimated 2,400 members have signed on to the Book of
Faith social network — — made
possible through Ning, an online platform for users to create
their own social networks.

“Ning is really very similar to Facebook,” said Bill Huff,
assistant director for the Book of Faith initiative, ELCA
Vocation and Education, St. Paul, Minn.

“Social networking is one of the fastest growing vehicles
for personal communication right now,” Huff said. “The essence
of Book of Faith is that it’s not a program. We don’t want it
to be a top-down initiative,” he said.

“The motivation for a social networking site is to stay
in contact with individuals and to be in contact with large
groups of people who have similar interests,” Huff said. “You’ll
be able to socialize with your colleagues throughout the country,
but also you’ll be able to share ideas and be able to see what
other people are doing.”

“The Book of Faith tag line is ‘Open Scripture. Join the
Conversation.’ So much of what the Ning site is about is joining
the conversation,” Huff said. “Once you’re signed up you have a
profile, and you can tell a little bit about yourself. Then you
can join the conversation.”

Someone reading the Bible can find study helps as well as
others who may be reading on their own. There are more than 45
videos and other resources on the site. There is an area of the
site to find or add events.

Augsburg Fortress, the publishing ministry of the ELCA,
Minneapolis, established the Book of Faith’s Ning site.

The initiative is generating resources in congregations
across the church, and the Ning site is a means for sharing
“what’s working in my setting,” Huff said.

“If you are a Sunday school volunteer, you can go on to
the conversation piece and see what’s going on with people as
they teach their kids,” he said. “People post ideas, but also
people post questions or theological concerns.”

“The goal is to get people engaging in Scripture, so
anything we can do to help that along is meeting the mission
and will help the ELCA,” Huff said.