A well-known Bible verse provides inspiration for the theme of the 2020 General Conference in Minneapolis.
Just how much of that verse to include was a subject of debate when organizers of the United Methodist lawmaking assembly met Aug. 7-9 in Lexington, Kentucky.
Ultimately, the Commission on General Conference approved the theme “…and know that I am God” from Psalm 46.
Along the way, the multinational group discovered that the way the rest of that verse is translated and even the verse number itself varies depending on the language your translation uses.
Many English-speaking United Methodists can readily quote the King James Version of Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Members of the 2020 General Conference worship team recommended the abbreviated version of that verse.
“One of the things that we wanted to make sure was clear was that there are multiple opportunities and ways people come to know God,” Stephanie Parsons, a team member, told the commission. “It’s not just in the still and the quiet. It’s also in celebration, in conversation and in any number of ways.”
Kim Simpson, the commission chair, pointed out that General Conference themes traditionally have used only parts of verses. The 2016 General Conference theme was “Therefore, Go” from Matthew 28:19-20, in which the risen Christ instructs those he sends to go make disciples of all nations.
However, the Rev. Joseph Ndala Mulongo — a commission member from Congo — expressed reluctance to shorten the verse in the 2020 theme. “God is the one who says, ‘be still,’ in speaking to the community,” Mulongo said through an interpreter.
The Rev. Beth Ann Cook of the Indiana Conference said she learned as a seminary student that the passage “has less to do with physical stillness than the stillness of the heart.”
Following up on their comments, fellow commission member Stephanie Henry of the Pacific Northwest Conference made a motion to add “Be still” to the theme.
Isabelle Berger, a French interpreter for the commission, pointed out another possible wrinkle. What is verse Psalm 46:10 in English translations of the Bible is listed as 46:11 in French, she said.
Commission members Christine Flick from Germany and Audun Westad from Norway soon noted it was also verse 46:11 in their respective mother tongues.
That variation was just the beginning of the difference.
Westad noted that where English speakers see “Be still,” in Norwegian the translation says something closer to “Shut up.” Flick noted that her German Bible says, “Make peace.”
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Source: United Methodist News