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Mass. Bible Society picks a Web-savvy leader

Group provides access for many

The Rev. Anne Robertson said she will attempt to bring the Massachusetts Bible Society into the technological age. The Rev. Anne Robertson said she will attempt to bring the Massachusetts Bible Society into the technological age. (Janet KNott/Globe Staff)

The venerable Massachusetts Bible Society, after selling off its Bromfield Street headquarters and closing its long time bookstore, has now selected a podcasting, pet-loving Methodist minister to help the organization reinvent itself for a third century.

The Rev. Anne Robertson , 47, a Rhode Island native who now serves as pastor of the United Methodist Church of Westford, in April will start work as the first woman to head the 198-year-old Bible society, which has distributed more than one million Bibles in more than 200 languages in its ongoing effort to make the scripture more accessible to the masses.

Robertson's task will be to honor the organization's traditional mission of Bible distribution while adapting it to a new era in which few people have heard of the group and even fewer know what it does. The society's board spent a year-and-a-half debating its future, and decided to attempt to transform the organization into "a voice for progressive Christianity," through which, leaders say, they hope to provide an alternative view of the Bible and of Christian theology than that offered by conservative Christians.

"Of course the Bible Society will continue giving grants to give Bibles to organizations and to people and to start-up churches, but they also do want to try to address the issues of Biblical literacy, and especially to be a countervailing voice to the voice of Biblical inerrancy, and to say there's more than one way to read this," Robertson said in an interview. "It's so wonderful to watch people if they can relax with the Bible, and find a loving God in it, instead of being worried that if they mess up a little bit God will strike them down with a lightning bolt."

Robertson said she will attempt to bring the society into the technological age. She has experience in this area, with a web site,, a MySpace profile, pod cast sermons, and an on line ministry for people grieving the death of a pet. She also has experience with books; she once managed a bookstore and she worked at the rare books library at Brown University.

Robertson was raised in the American Baptist church. As a young adult, she was affiliated with the Assemblies of God, a large Pentecostal denomination. Robertson said she first felt a call to ministry at 14, after preaching a youth sermon, and that she chose the United Methodist Church in part because it offered good career opportunities for women.

"We were impressed with her creativity, her preaching, and her commitment to progressive Christianity," Cathy Minkiewicz , the president of the society's board of trustees, said as she announced the appointment this week. "She also has a sense of balance, influenced by her pastoral strengths, to seek reconciliation or at least dialogue with those who disagree."

Robertson will replace the Rev. Donald A. Wells , who is retiring after 19 years as the society's executive director.

Michael Paulson can be reached at