mark and roma burnett
Behind-the-Scenes; Mark and Roma Burnett with the cast and crew on set at the Ouarzazate Museum location. RNS photo courtesy History Channel.

For Hollywood couple, "The Bible" miniseries is a 'labor of love'

LOS ANGELES (RNS) Before actress Roma Downey met her husband, her "Touched by an Angel" co-star Della Reese had a bit of advice.

mark and roma burnett

Behind-the-Scenes; Mark and Roma Burnett with the cast and crew on set at the Ouarzazate Museum location. RNS photo courtesy History Channel.

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

"Baby, you need to pray that God will choose a partner for you," Downey recalled Reese telling her. "Maybe in the past you didn't choose so well and you have to let God choose for you. And let your prayer be that you will know him when he gets here."

So when Downey first spotted Emmy Award-winning producer Mark Burnett in a salon — he was getting a hair cut, she was getting a pedicure — it was a bit more than love at first sight.

"When I met Mark, I had an inner-knowing," Downey said. "There have been times since then that I can't help but wonder, if it were for such a time, as this, that we met."

As they approach their sixth wedding anniversary, the Hollywood heavyweights are sharing their faith with the world in a 10-hour docudrama, "The Bible," which will air on the History Channel on Sunday nights, starting March 3 through Easter.

The project has received rave early reviews from evangelicals, who are a key part of the film's marketing plan. Starting with Noah telling the story of creation aboard his ark, the film weaves through biblical epics and the life of Christ and the early apostles.

The series has the special effects Cecil B. DeMille could have only dreamed of when he cast Charlton Heston as Moses in 1956. And it is a decidedly softer, gentler depiction of Christian history than Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ."

While they describe "The Bible" as a "love story" between God and mankind, the project is also rooted in their own love story.

Downey has made a number of made-for-TV movies since "Touched by an Angel" wrapped in 2003, and Burnett is an executive producer whose credits include "Survivor," "Celebrity Apprentice" and "The Voice." That success has allowed the two to take on "The Bible" project as a personal passion.

"It certainly felt like more of a mission for them than a business opportunity," said Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family and an adviser on the series. "They're doing this as a labor of love."

Actress Roma Downey plays Jesus' mother Mary in 'The Bible' drama documentary.  RNS photo courtesy History Channel.

Actress Roma Downey plays Jesus' mother Mary in 'The Bible' drama documentary. RNS photo courtesy History Channel.

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Downey, who plays Jesus' mother Mary in "The Bible," is better known for her faith than her husband. She grew up Catholic in a divided Northern Ireland, raised by a devout father after her mother died.

Her performance as the angel Monica on "Touched by an Angel" was genuine, according to Lisa Dolab, who became friends with Downey on the sets of the show. "Roma's deep faith and love for God shined through her portrayal of Monica," she said.

"I have tried throughout my career to make choices that are pleasing to God," said Downey, who attends Mass at Our Lady of Malibu, a Catholic parish. "It probably began in my childhood, wanting to make choices in my life that were pleasing to my own father and by extension to my heavenly Father."

After "Touched by an Angel," Downey produced a faith-based DVD and book series for children called "Little Angels." She also earned a master's degree in spiritual psychology from University of Santa Monica.

"My whole life I've been interested in human behavior," she said. "I think that perhaps it's one of the reason I became an actor—to have an opportunity to explore why we do what we do."

Burnett's reality television work might be considered a study in human behavior of a different sort. He had been nervous, he said, about how his secular work would be received in churches as the couple traveled around the country to promote "The Bible." But he found that Christians were excited to talk about his shows.

Entertainment has the power to add or diminish value—or like Burnett's work, it can be neutral, family-friendly entertainment, Downey said. "I don't think either one of us have ever been a part of anything that had that negativity."

In the Bible, Burnett most relates to the Apostle Paul. "I feel like Paul was warrior-like and the least likely person, in many ways, to be called, and it took a person like Paul to go 5,000 miles" to spread the gospel, he said.

During a webinar with church leaders, Burnett urged his fellow Christians to be more like Paul and more aggressive with their message. "This is our story and we have to make some noise," he said. "If we don't make some noise, I have news for you: television networks aren't going to come seeking this kind of programming."

the bible

A scene from the 10-hour docudrama, "The Bible," which will air on the History Channel on Sunday nights, starting March 3 through Easter. RNS photo courtesy History Channel.

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Burnett hasn't always shared his wife's understanding of the Bible. He grew up in England with a Presbyterian mother and Catholic father, and felt "like the stories in the Bible were very rule-based and probably a little threatening." With age and Downey's influence, he has come to see the Bible as a story that shows God's love for humanity.

"Imagine I married Roma Downey, I married an angel," he laughed. "You know Roma, and Roma is so gentle and so full of love and kindness and faith."

They were both previously married—Downey has a daughter and Burnett has two sons from their previous relationships. In 2007, they were married by Reese, who is also a minister. "The Bible" project has spanned three and a half of their six years of marriage.

"Working on this project together," she said, "has deepened our marriage, our love and our faith."


  1. I have to admitt, I was some what sceptible as to the biblical accuracy and motive about a series on the bible not being done by a church or organization with a literal view of scripture. Lets face it they have never had God’s best interest at heart. I am how ever a bit more hopeful after reading this.

  2. The great difference with my God than all the others, is He is big enough to fight His own battles.

    While I may not enjoy the worlds comments, its not my fight its His and he WILL have he way.

  3. Thank you Roma Downey & Mark Burnett for the magnificent movie
    “The Bible” the movie was so very touching about “Jesus” and the
    part about “Paul,” so amazing how God can make the greatest out of
    the meanest, and save there soul, and make them the greatest witnesses
    of all, that to me is the greatest miracle of all (Salvation)…

  4. first of all i think that we have enought bible storys don’t get me wrong about the bible cause it is the most wonderful story in the world it is sad that so many people have to make money off are heavenly fathers word and thats not he sent the word down to us its about sherring his word and taking care of each other not making money there is so many ministers that really don’t understand his word and they teach the people wrong message but we all will have to anser to are heavenly father for all the good and bad that we have done. god bless the world

  5. Note the curriculim (Bernie Siegal) that Roma Downey had to take to get here THE FOUNDATION OF ROMA DOWNEY’S PSYCHIC CHRISTIANITY

    Spiritual Psychology Degree…no wonder she is into Rick Warren and working with him on her Bible Series!

    More regarding Rick Warren unholy alliance with Roma Downey. Here is the foundation (and proof) of Roma Downey’s Master of Spiritual Psychology (New Age) at University of Santa Monica:

    Note Three Major New Age leaders at this school (Deepak Chopra, Barry Siegel [promoted in Rick Warren’s book too], Neil Donal Walsh, and Michael Beckwith)
    Go visit the the School’s website on Spiritual Psychology and see if you can find a single course or curriculim that is truly Christian (the right kind of spirituality vs. spiritual darkness). Here is the darkness:

    An Education for the Future

    “USM walks the talk. To find a grad school that teaches, in practical ways, how to live life the way it was intended to be lived—loving your Self, loving others, and demonstrating success in the world—fills me with hope. And, as a bonus, you earn a degree while doing it! I wholeheartedly recommend USM for anyone who is interested in creating the life they were meant to live. USM knows and teaches what a true education is about—life.”
    Bernie Siegel, M.D.
    Love, Medicine, and Miracles
    How to Live Between Office Visits

    Now this is not the only connection of Bernie Siegel to Rick Warren:

    Did you know that Rick Warren promoted Bernie Siegel in his Purpose Driven Life book, who believed in spirit guides and putting people into a trance?

    Rick Warren and Bernie Siegel
    Siegel says this of his ‘spirit guide’ “All I know is that he has been my invaluable companion ever since his first appearance. My life is much easier now, because he does the hard work”.

    Rick Warren and Bernie Siegel

    In chapter three of The Purpose-Driven Life, Rick Warren suddenly makes reference to someone called

    Bernie Siegel, saying

    “Hope is as essential to your life as air and water. You need hope to cope. Dr. Bernie Siegel found he could predict which of his cancer patients would go into remission by asking, “Do you want to live to be one hundred?” Those with a deep sense of life purpose answered yes and were the ones most likely to survive. Hope comes from having a purpose.” [Page 31]

    So who is Bernie Siegel? Warren Smith, quoting from one of Bernie Siegel’s own books, gives us a great deal of insight….

    “In June of 1978, a Connecticut physician named Bernie Siegel attended a workshop that would completely change his life, including the way he practiced medicine. As a result of a spiritual experience in this workshop—a guided visualization— he would eventually become a bestselling author and New Age leader. In his book Love, Medicine & Miracles, he describes this guided visualization:

    “In June 1978, my practice of medicine changed as a result of an unexpected experience I had at a teaching seminar. Oncologist O. Carl Simonton and psychologist Stephanie Matthews (then his wife) gave a workshop—Psychological Factors, Stress, and Cancer—at the Elmcrest Institute in Portland, Connecticut….” [Bernie Siegel. Love, Medicine & Miracles (New York: Harper Collins Publishers: HarperPerennial, 1998), Pg. 18.]

    “The Simontons taught us how to meditate. At one point they led us in a directed meditation to find and meet an inner guide. I approached this exercise with all the skepticism one expects from a mechanistic doctor. Still, I sat down, closed my eyes, and followed directions. I didn’t believe it would work, but if it did I expected to see Jesus or Moses. Who else would dare appear inside a surgeon’s head? Instead I met George, a bearded, long-haired young man wearing an immaculate flowing white gown and a skullcap. It was an incredible awakening for me, because I hadn’t expected anything to happen….

    “George was spontaneous, aware of my feelings, and an excellent adviser. He gave me honest answers, some of which I didn’t like at first….

    “All I know is that he has been my invaluable companion ever since his first appearance. My life is much easier now, because he does the hard work. [8]

    Siegel also teaches that through continuous “spiritual consciousness” death no longer exists and that he has “received many messages from those who have died,” (p. 220). Siegel concludes with instructions on how to meditate and visualize cosmic-at-oneness energy healing you. He also lists a whole spate of New Age writers and books for suggested reading (pp. 227-239).

    Since that initial spiritual encounter, Siegel has become a leading New Age author and spokesperson. Providing “hope” by fusing modern day medicine with New Age teachings and practices, Siegel has introduced New Age concepts into the professional medical community and to cancer patients everywhere. In Friendship with God, Neale Donald Walsch writes that Bernie Siegel was the “first celebrity endorsement” he received for his first book Conversations with God: Book 1. Walsch said that “it helped book buyers, who might have been skittish about a previously unpublished author, see the value of what I had produced.” [9]

    Today, Siegel continues to influence countless numbers of people in his role as a New Age leader. In his books and workshops he encourages people to do guided meditations and visualizations—just as he once did—to initiate contact with their own personal spirit guides. Siegel openly endorses the teachings of A Course in Miracles, and currently serves on the Board of Advisors of Jerry Jampolsky’s A Course in Miracles-based Attitudinal Healing Center in Northern California. [10.]

    Why would Rick Warren want to introduce his readers (or his son)*—even indirectly—to a New Age leader like Bernie Siegel? SOURCE: Lighthouse Trails

    * red font type is my insertion comment.

    And some of their currculim:

    Perfect Health: The Complete Mind/Body Guid…
    by Deepak Chopra
    $14.22 Ageless Body, Timeless Mind: The Quantum Al…
    by Deepak Chopra
    $10.88 Energy Medicine: Balancing Your Body’s Ener…
    by Donna Eden

    Evoking Answers to Three Essential Questions
    1) Who am I?
    The University’s Master’s Degree
    Programs engage students experientially
    in the principles and practices of Spiritual
    Psychology. This technology empowers
    them to convert their everyday life experi

    ences into rungs on the ladder of Spiritual
    Evolution where the answer to this
    question can be discovered. Classes are
    conducted in a Soul-Centered educational
    environment, pioneered by Drs. Ron
    and Mary Hulnick, that acknowledges
    Spiritual Reality and begins with the rec

    ognition that we are not human beings
    with a Soul; we are Souls having a human
    Why am I here and
    what is my purpose?
    As we learn and implement the practical
    technology of Spiritual Psychology in our
    daily lives, we discover, amazingly, that
    what has stood in the way of Spiritual
    progression as well as a more fulfilling
    life is what we call “unresolved issues”—
    negative reactions within each of us
    that are triggered by various situations,
    circumstances, and people. As we learn
    to heal these unresolved issues, we
    become clearer and more connected to
    our life’s purpose and naturally grow into
    enhanced levels of success and fulfillment.
    3) How can I make a
    meaningful contribution
    in the world?
    Through participating in the educational
    process experienced at USM, students
    make a meaningful contribution in their
    world in two distinct yet related ways.
    First, by healing unresolved issues, we
    literally subtract from the sum total of
    negativity on the planet and add to the
    sum total of positivity. Thus, at USM
    we say, “Every time one person resolves
    one issue, the whole of humanity moves
    forward.” Second, the more we evolve
    Spiritually, the more clearly our life’s
    purpose reveals itself and the more
    empowered we become to make more of
    a meaningful contribution in our world.
    “These students, I know, are dedicated
    to being the answer to the Soul’s only
    question, and to being that answer in
    the lives of all those whose lives they
    touch. And that’s a three-word ques

    tion, which this University seeks to
    answer. Or, better yet, does not seek to
    answer but seeks to provide the space
    from which the answer might emerge.
    And here is the three-word question:
    Who am I?”
    Neale Donald Walsch
    New York Times
    Best-Selling Author
    Conversations with God
    When Everything Changes, Change Everything


    . Michael Beckwith – Agape International Spiritual Center
    . Michael Beckwith’s life is a living testament to building spiritual community. … in 1986 he founded the Agape International Spiritual Center upon his faith in …
    About Agape – Agape International Spiritual Center

    The essence of Agape is best described by its founder, Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith: “When I founded the Agape International Spiritual Center and community …

    Also note that Beckwith promotes The Secret which is another New Age pillar.


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