South Carolina Capitol Bible Reading Marathon

S.C. joins six other states for marathon


On April 28–May 2, God’s Word was read for 90 consecutive hours, early in the morning and through the night at the south steps of the South Carolina State Capitol building in Columbia. This is South Carolina’s first time participating in a Capitol Bible Reading Marathon. And His Word will not return to Him empty (Isa. 55:11).

John Hash founded the Capitol Bible Reading Marathon in Washington, D.C. He had a vision to have God’s Word read publicly, free of commentary and politics. Hash was inspired after participating in a Bible reading marathon in 1989 on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Today, the event is directed by Seedline International, a nonprofit organization that produces, transports, and distributes God’s Word around the world. What started in Washington, D.C., now has occurred in seven state capitals, including South Carolina.

South Carolina’s Bible Reading Marathon began with an opening ceremony with prayer and worship. Then the editor and president of The Baptist Courier, Jeff Robinson, encouraged listeners by sharing the overarching biblical narrative of Christ in all of Scripture.

“Jeff traced the ‘crimson river,’ the blood of Jesus Christ, through the books of the Bible,” said Debra Summerlin, a volunteer with Seedline International and coordinator of the event. She said, “It was very well done; it was a perfect lead into the Bible reading marathon.”

Following Robinson’s address, 12 South Carolina Christian leaders, including Josiah Magnuson, a representative of District 38 (Spartanburg County) read passages from Psalm 119. Additional music followed, and Genesis 1 was read to kick off the marathon.

Individuals signed up to read in 15-minute time slots before the event. The public could also sign up as the event took place. A total of 360 slots needed filling to complete the 90 consecutive hours. Any spots that weren’t filled were read by event volunteers. But an estimated 75 percent of the spots were filled and included roughly 15 legislators, two women who read in Spanish, a volunteer who read in Portuguese, and “multiple readers who took their shoes off to read in honor and reverence to God’s Holy Word,” Debra added.

She said many expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to read God’s Word, recalling one individual who, in his prayer, said, “I just thank You that I can read Your Word at my state house.”

By 7:30 a.m. Thursday, they read through Revelation 21. They read back in Psalms until their closing ceremony at 10 a.m. Then John Goudelock (associate pastor) and Josh Walls (worship pastor) of Living Water Baptist Church began the closing ceremony with a challenge and worship. State Rep. Bob Harris led a reading of Revelation 22. The ceremony ended with worship and a closing prayer.

Tony Summerlin, husband of Debra Summerlin and co-coordinator of the event, said they had bathed this marathon in prayer for months. And “God showed up in a mighty way, a marvelous way. It was well beyond anything that I could imagine, but that just shows you what kind of God we serve,” he added.

The Bible Reading Marathon gets God’s Word out to the public and reminds states to return to Christian principles. But the main focal point is simply the Bible. Readers are not allowed to comment or protest. Instead, participants simply read the Bible, Tony explained. This keeps with Hash’s vision: He desired that God’s Word be the priority of the entire event.

Tony said Christians often go to church, tithe, and are involved in Sunday school, but they do not get outside of their four walls. The Bible Reading Marathon provides an opportunity for congregations to leave the church building.

The event includes an opportunity to witness. Jesus did not just die for Southern Baptists; He died for the world, Tony said (1 John 2:2). The invitation is to all. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

The Summerlins said they desire that people see the value of God’s Word. First, His Word will not return empty to God, but will accomplish His purpose (see Isa. 55:11). And second, God exalts His Word above His name (Ps. 138:2).

“It’s all about Him. And it’s all about His Word. And we never want to lose focus of the fact that this whole Bible reading marathon is to read God’s Word out loud,” Tony said.

For more information regarding future Bible Reading Marathons in South Carolina and other states, visit capitolbrm.org.

“Holy words long preserved, For our walk in this world 

They resound with God’s own heart, Oh, let the ancient words impart” 

— “Ancient Words” (written by Lynn DeShazo, performed by Michael W. Smith)