Jaded cynics may try to suggest that the Anglican Communion is divided over the Bible.
Well, there’s no need to buy into that notion any longer.
After three and half years of worldwide research, the Bible in the Life of the Church project has found that Anglicans around the globe – and that includes Africans and Americans, conservatives and liberals – share “a high common ground” over the essential place and use of the Bible in Anglican life.
The Bible in the Life of the Church project – which was led by New Zealand’s Archbishop David Moxon – today delivered its report, entitled: Deep Engagement, Fresh Discovery, to the ACC.
And as far as Archbishop David is concerned, he’s seen incontrovertible proof that Anglicans “can gather around the Bible – and around Christ, who is the Living Word, in our diversity.
“Because we believe in Scripture, tradition and reason – in that order.”
There’s no doubting the enthusiasm that Archbishop David feels about the work that has been done, or about the discoveries which have been made.
In the 400-year history of the Anglican Communion, he says, “we’ve never before said, in one place, in one time, what we think about the Bible, and how we use it.”
Deep Engagement, Fresh Discovery identifies 10 themes and seven principles (eg: ‘Principle 1 – Christ is the living Word of God.’) for its use.
And from the reports of regional groups which fed into the project, four broad conclusions have been drawn:
- Across the Communion “there is clear evidence of the impact made on the lives of our communities and individuals by engaging with Scripture.”
The people who took part in that regional project, for example, found Scripture speaking to them in ways they hadn’t experienced before.
Across the Communion, there is also “a wonderful diversity of ways of what ‘engaging with and interpreting the Scripture’ looks like.”
Across the Communion, it’s clear that the context in which the engagement takes place generates further diversity in the approach to and application of the Scripture.
- Across the Communion there is also evidence of ‘gaps’ between what might be called the ‘received wisdom’ of the Church (about Scripture) … and what actually happens in practice.
Those gaps include, for example, the one between “the academy and the pew”, or the scholar and the ordinary Christian.
The other thing that should be said about this Bible in the Life of the Church project, and its report, is how enthusiastic the ACC members were about it.
Bishop Ian Douglas, of the Episcopal Church, acclaimed it as “one of the most exciting developments we’ve had over the last few decades.”
Then there was Bishop Bill Godfrey, of Peru, who acclaimed the report as “as one of the most exciting things we’ve seen in the church for a long time.”
So much so, in fact, that he wants Deep Engagement, Fresh Discovery translated into other languages, including Spanish, which is the tongue in which he ministers.
And Bishop Stephen Cottrell said he was only sorry the ACC delegates couldn’t “tear up the agenda” to spend more time exploring and unpacking the place of the Bible in Anglican life.
In that respect, says Archbishop David, the project group has gone beyond its brief.
They’ve produced their report with a memory stick, so it can be used in theological schools and Bible study groups for decades to come.
That enthusiasm has been carried further.
ACC members had a draft resolution before them which, among other things, welcomed the Bible in the Life of the Church work, and requested theological colleges and scholars across the Communion to “explore further the issues raised by the project.”
The delegates have sent that draft back to the Resolutions Committee so they can come back with a stronger, more enthusiastic statement about the Bible in the life of the Communion.
Footnote: The Bible in the Life of the Church project is a direct outcome of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia’s hermeneutic hui process.
The church here had, through its ACC representatives, Dr Tony Fitchett, and the Ven Turi Hollis, commended that process to the wider Communion.