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Canadian Church Will Keep Its 1613 King James Bible

Treasure: A tiny congregation votes not to sell the rare volume, a second edition with a colorful past.

June 22, 2002|DOUGLAS TODD | RELIGION NEWS SERVICE

VANCOUVER, Canada — After a long and passionate debate, members of a remote church in the Canadian Rockies have voted to keep a rare, 4-century-old King James Bible that one congregant calls a "spiritual legacy."

For almost a year, controversy had stirred among church members and others over whether to keep the Bible, donate it to a university or sell it for cash to help the poor.

"It's been a contentious issue for some time," said Art Keith, describing how members of the joint Anglican-United (Church of Canada) congregation in Invermere, British Columbia, and people from across the country, aired their views.

Keith headed the panel that decided to poll the congregation's roughly 125 members to decide what to do with the large book, often called the Dort Bible after the Dutch city where it found a home during the 1700s.

It had been taken there by an English clergyman fleeing a religious crackdown by British ruler Oliver Cromwell.

On June 9, two-thirds of the members decided the Bible should remain in Invermere, 500 miles northeast of Vancouver, as part of its heritage and be displayed in the church.

The others said the Bible, valued by antiquarians at $30,000 to $100,000 in U.S. money, should be given to a scholarly institution or auctioned to expand the church's ministry.

"The good news is that it's no longer going to be stuffed in a box anymore," said the Rev. Michael Rice, pastor of Christ Church Trinity, after the vote. Currently it is kept in a vault.

ship.

It survived Cromwell, an escape to Holland, a church demolition, an Atlantic voyage, absent-minded church custodians and a close call with a fire.

The book was published in 1613, which makes it a second-edition authorized King James Bible, named after Britain's King James I, who authorized 50 scholars to produce what turned into the world's most famous Bible translation.

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