TAMPA — The Tampa Tribune became the latest newspaper to deliver copies of the New Testament to subscribers as a part of national effort by the International Bible Society, distributing 56,500 copies in its Saturday edition before Super Bowl XLIII.
The effort was spearheaded by a pair of local residents who raised about $127,000 from 15 area churches and 19 local businesses, including McNichols Co., AnazaoHealth Corp., Ferman Automotive Group, Idlewild Baptist Church, Florida Dental Centers and Bayshore Baptist Church.
The front cover of the 200-plus-page, paperback-sized edition features retired Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy and the Tampa skyline. The organization, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., has also released Path to Victory, a football-themed New Testament featuring testimonies from Dungy and Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner.
Paul Tolleson, director of the group's CityReachers Bible distribution program in Tampa, said two local organizers raised the $2.25 per copy fee to produce and distribute the Bibles in four months — a fraction of the 12 to 18 months they often spend raising money for similar projects.
In the past year, the International Bible Society has collected about $1.2 million to distribute 700,000 Bibles using a similar model, Tolleson said. The Bible giveaways have been implemented in newspapers in Philadelphia, Houston, Fort Worth and Spokane, Wash., he said.
And while Tolleson said many objections to past distributions have come from antireligious people who don't want to see any religious material included with their newspaper, he acknowledged some complaints have also come from Christians fearing Bibles might be tossed in the trash if circulated in bulk.
Tampa resident Debbie Lamphier and her sister got the idea last year from a friend who is an evangelist and knew about the Bible program, picking the Saturday before Super Bowl XLIII as a date when the most readers might pick up the newspaper.
"Someone who has got strong beliefs in another religion might not be thrilled with this … but the hope is to reach lost souls who need God," she said. "There was no intent to offend anyone."