Staff Spotlight: Peter Edman
Meet American Bible Society’s Director of Content
This is part of a series of monthly staff spotlights at American Bible Society. We hope you enjoy getting to know our staff members, who are using their gifts to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world.
Tell us a little about yourself!
I live with my wife Sherri in an old Victorian house in Philadelphia with six assorted children, a pair of chattering parakeets, a clumsy kitten, and a newly neurotic cat. There are also books.
How long have you been at American Bible Society?
I’ve worked here for 10 years.
How has your faith and professional background informed your current work?
I’ve been shaped by a wide range of Christian traditions. I was born and raised Catholic in my early years, then our family joined the Assemblies of God. I went to an evangelical college and a mainline divinity school. I’ve been Anglican since college, with experiences in the charismatic and evangelical streams of that tradition. So, I have a good sense of the breadth of the church and have appreciated getting to know people from all sorts of backgrounds.
Throughout all of this, the Bible has always been in the background. While I was growing up, my mother had us memorize Scripture passages like the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5—7). In grad school, I studied literature and the role of the imagination in shaping us. That deepened my understanding of the story and the interconnections within Scripture and helped me rethink my approach to the Bible. I’m trying to read it as a whole, looking for threads and not just verses. You can’t read verses in isolation; you always read any part of God’s Word in the context of the rest of Scripture and alongside other believers down the ages.
The intersection of Bible and life—one of the themes of the Faith and Liberty Bible, which occupied so much of my time last year—has been another consistent theme for me. In college, I did the American Studies Program in Washington, D.C. and interned with Os Guinness and the Williamsburg Charter Foundation. That was my first deep encounter with questions of freedom of conscience and religious liberty. After college, I spent a few years working for an ethics nonprofit before I joined the Trinity Forum. During my time there, I worked on anthology collections and short readings on topics ranging from character and calling to arts to ethics to technology to science—including, notably, one on the problem of evil and suffering and another on the relation of faith and liberty. I did a lot of reading in a broad range of disciplines. So, I guess you could say that I’m a generalist—I know enough to be helpful (or dangerous) in a lot of different subjects, and I’m really interested in getting context and finding connections.
How has your role at American Bible Society evolved over the past decade?
I first joined American Bible Society in 2011 for the launch of “She’s My Sister,” our first program supporting Bible-based trauma healing, focused on the war zones of Great Lakes Africa. Parts of that program continue in our Trauma Healing Ministry. I started in Communications and moved into editorial roles developing and revising curricula and facilitator guides for the Healing the Wounds of Trauma programs. In the process, I had the privilege of working with translators and trainers from many different Bible Societies and ministry partners around the world. I’ve done quality assurance now in more languages than I can easily count! As the program grew, we kept asking how we could present the universal message of the gospel in different situations, cultures, and contexts. Those are the kinds of questions I like to explore!
Since 2015, I’ve been part of the Content and Quality Assurance team, where I work with Davina McDonald to oversee content editing and quality assurance for the entire organization. Over the past couple years, my biggest projects have been preparing for the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center and the Faith and Liberty Bible.
What has been your favorite part of your work with Trauma Healing Ministry and the Faith and Liberty Bible?
I think my favorite trauma healing project has been the Beyond Disaster suite. We took what we learned from trauma healing and adapted it so people going through a hurricane or other disaster would have tools to avoid deep trauma. We had to think about the global church and not get caught up in one specific kind of disaster or culture. There’s a core booklet supported by related resources for adults, teens, and children—some related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We worked alongside several different teams within American Bible Society to ensure that the product would serve the church well. We worked with many national Bible Societies and ministry partners to design, contextualize, test, and translate the product into languages, from Arabic to Japanese, Bengali to Ukrainian. It’s always exciting to see projects take off and start hearing stories.
The Faith and Liberty Bible has been like a return to my roots—and digging deeper. Through my work alongside our amazing scholars and writers, I got a crash course in American history as we explored the ways people have used the Bible in America over the past 400 years. It’s been fascinating to get that context and to see patterns emerging. I’ve been so impressed with all the “new” people from history that I’ve met through this project, and especially their level of faithfulness and the sophistication of their engagement with the Bible. These people spent so much more time with it than we typically do today! It shaped their public witness in ways that were transformative, often for the whole nation.
Who was one of your favorite historical figures from your work on the Faith and Liberty Bible?
I share more about how the Faith and Liberty Bible impacted me in this blog, but I think the most pleasant surprise for me as an editor was learning of Ida B. Wells. She was such a dedicated believer all her life and so committed to the power of words and truth. She read the whole Bible as a young person, along with a range of writers including Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens, and Shakespeare. She taught the young men’s Sunday school class at a Presbyterian church in Chicago for 10 years while working to co-found the NAACP. All of her justice work was grounded in the Bible. In fact, her faith was one of the things that influenced her to do the investigative journalism on lynching that made her famous.
At one point I was trying to sort through the mountain of abolitionist material submitted for the Faith and Liberty Bible, so I asked the researchers, “Do we have anybody who changed their mind on slavery?” That’s how I found James Gillespie Birney, who went from slaveowner to staunch abolitionist. He became convinced of the sin of slavery during the Second Great Awakening, quietly, over a period of three years sitting in the pews of Georgia’s first Presbyterian church. It really was his encounter with Scripture that changed his mind. He had such courage—he made a herculean effort to assess his own times against the Bible, and then he acted, at great personal cost. Birney ran for president twice on the anti-slavery Liberty Party ticket. Historians connect that party with the rise of the Republican Party and the end of slavery in the United States. It shows what God can do through the Bible and a frontier preacher faithfully preaching the gospel.
Birney died a few years before Wells was born, though they are connected by common friendship with Frederick Douglass. Between Wells and Birney, you have a journalist born into slavery who co-founded the NAACP and an ex-slave owner who eventually published his own abolitionist paper, both
inspired by the same Bible. They show us what can happen when you spend time with the Bible. God’s Word can call your deepest sins and presuppositions into question and lead to massive change. And it all starts with transformation that happens in the person—the Changemaker—before it happens in society.
Would you share one of your favorite Bible verses with us?
I always find that a hard question! I can say that I spend a lot of time with Philippians 2, which talks about how Christ is both completely humble and highly exalted. I wrote a paper once connecting that with the humility and holiness of God in Ezekiel—how far God comes down to save us. The
humility and gentleness of God, held together with his intention of making a holy people, is a recurring theme I see.
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