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Section G: Anglican Bishops, Anglican Identity

Formed by Scripture

100. As Anglicans we acknowledge the joy of engaging with the scriptures in setting forth the authentic proclamation of God’s Word. We are attentive to scripture in our worship, prayer and study, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that scripture may form us and shape our worship, our doctrine and our community life. We believe the scriptures to be primary and we read them informed by reason and tradition and with regard for our cultural context. We value the place of biblical scholarship as a critical tool, recognising nevertheless that this leads to divergent interpretations across our many and varied contexts, and of listening to our sister churches as they interpret the same scriptures. The over-arching issue with which we wrestle in relation to the scriptures is the interpretation of the Bible in our ongoing life. (see below)

Shaped by Worship

101Christian worship involves encountering the mystery of God in our Lord Jesus Christ and participating in the life of the Trinity. We delight to meet Christ in word and sacrament. The sacraments of Baptism, whereby we are joined to Christ, and the Eucharist, where we are nourished by his body and blood, bind us together in unity. The Anglican approach to worship places a high value on common structure, common prayer and a common lectionary, sharing the scriptures, across the Communion, while at the same time encouraging local freedom, and inculturation. We are committed to praying for one another and we want to deepen that fellowship of prayer and intercession. As Anglicans, we recognise the relationship between liturgy and doctrine  -  worship shapes belief  -  and between worship and mission  -  worship energises mission. We particularly need to be reminded of our evangelistic context and to seek worship that engages with youth cultures and with children.

Ordered for Communion

102. We have been brought by the redeeming work of Christ into a living communion with God and with all Christian people in our baptism. This communion, which mirrors the life of the Holy Trinity, is God’s gift to the Church, which our human structures only inadequately reflect and sustain. The Anglican Communion shares a particular history within the one holy catholic and apostolic Church and that history brings us into particular relationship one with another. There is a strong desire to stay in communion with one another. Such communion is vital to our common life. Some of our bishops, for example, come from countries or situations where there is strong persecution; here the Communion may offer invaluable support and solidarity. We have inherited and hold firmly to the pattern of the three-fold ministry of bishop, priest and deacon, which guarantees our historical continuity and unites us with the many churches who hold to this order. There is a strong view that an important part of the way forward in deepening our communion is (a) in the development of person to person relationships, (b) in diocesan partnerships and (c) in recovering our sense  of belonging and mutual affection. At the same time we recognise that the variety of ways in which Provinces are ordered  -  the different polities of our churches  -  can produce misunderstandings and confusions that need to be understood and addressed. We need to acknowledge that the whole is more than the sum of the parts and that each part of the Communion, when it acts, must do so in the knowledge of what it means for the whole.

Directed by God’s Mission

103. It is God’s mission in which we share, participating with him in the making of disciples. Mission is the total action of God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit  -  creating, redeeming, sanctifying  -  for the sake of the whole world. The gospel is the life-blood of the Church and evangelism is the process whereby people are led to be strengthened in God’s mission. We have set out above the immensity of the challenge of the proclamation of the gospel in the reality of the modern world. Anglicans must be leaders in that proclamation. We believe that loving service, prophetic witness and a respectful evangelism that speaks of the uniqueness of Christ belong together.

The Service we offer as Bishops

104.  The Bishops in the Anglican Communion serve in a variety of contexts, but our fundamental ministry is common to us all[26].  With all the baptised, and with our fellow presbyters and deacons, we are called to be people of prayer, disciples of Jesus Christ, servants of the people of God and leaders in mission.   The characteristics of the bishop’s ministry include:

  • To gather the whole community in celebration, presiding over the sacraments and ordaining new priests and deacons
  • To proclaim the Word of God as an apostolic witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
  • To be a teacher, guardian and interpreter of the faith and the apostolic tradition
  • To be active in making and nurturing disciples
  • To be a shepherd (pastor) of the whole people of God, with a special concern for the clergy of the diocese
  • To be a prophetic voice for the voiceless.

As bishops, we are committed to the life of the Church, to the wider communities in which we minister and to civil society.  We recognise that it is in our calling to be bridge-builders, reconcilers and symbols of unity, representing the local to the universal and the universal to the local, taking our place within a world-wide college of bishops across the Communion and within the one Church of Christ.

Resources

The framework for this section of the 'Reflections' (Formed by Scripture; Shaped by Worship; Ordered for Communion; Directed by God's Mission) is taken from the document The Anglican Way: Signposts on a Common Journey produced by TEAC (the Primates' Working Party on Theological Education in the Anglican Communion) and is available here

Booklets in the ongoing and developing 'Signposts series' exploring aspects of the statement The Anglican Way: Signposts on a Common Journey in more detail are available from the Anglican Communion Office.

The 'Bishops Grid' produced by TEAC and published in the Lambeth Reader sets out formational competencies for episcopal ministry. Available here

Communion, Conflict and Hope: Kuala Lumpur Report of the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission. Available here

Three papers on Episcopacy: Resources for the Lambeth Conference, published in A Lambeth Reader. These three papers, from the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission, in conversation with the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission for Ecumenical Relations, address questions of Anglican polity and episcopal ministry.

Notes:

 26. ACC-3, page 55.

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