Back to results

Section I: The Scriptures

121.The dispute concerning sexuality has reflected among some a deeper unease about the acceptance of the authority of scripture.  It behoves us therefore to explore the nature of our understanding of scripture in the life of the Church.

122. Jesus Christ is the Word of God, the true light that enlightens all, incarnate in human form, full of grace and truth, from before time and forever[32].

123. God’s first and eternal Word to us is Jesus. Because of this our reading and interpretation of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments possess a clear Christ-centred quality rooted in the Incarnation. St. John the Evangelist announces that “these things are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name”.[33] We proclaim Jesus as Saviour of the world and Lord of the Church. Jesus Christ, crucified, risen, ascended, and coming again, is the holy one of God through whom the  meaning of the Scriptures is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.

124. In the Anglican tradition, the Holy Scriptures are central to our life together as servants of God’s mission. In like manner, the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the primary sources for equipping our apostolic ministry as bishops. Indeed, the bishops of our Communion, at the time of their ordination and consecration to the episcopate, claim for their ministries and in their own lives that they believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God and to contain all things necessary to salvation.  This affirmation of the authority of the Holy Scriptures in our common life is shared across the Communion, enshrined in the various prayer books, canons, and official documents of our tradition, and found deep in the heart of our vocation as bishops of the Church.  It is clear to us that the Holy Scriptures do not belong to us alone and that the fullness of the revealed truth of God in Jesus Christ is a treasured gift from God that belongs to the whole church catholic. Together with the church universal, we are humbled by the custodianship of the sacred texts given into our care and we seek to honour that responsibility by living under God’s Word in obedience, humility and joy.

125. For Anglicans, the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds are understood to be faithful and sufficient statements of the essentials of the biblical witness as revealed by the power of the Holy Spirit to us and to the whole church in every generation. We acknowledge the full reliability of the texts of the canonical Scriptures given to us by God, and seek to proclaim afresh with clarity and power the full revelation of God in Jesus Christ. From this strong sense of biblical reliability the Church derives norms of moral and ethical life that are to be honoured by the whole Body of Christ; at the same time we discover biblically faithful means to respond pastorally to those who are unable to observe such norms. When serious disagreements arise among us about moral and ethical norms we  are called to intensify our efforts to discover God’s Word through continuing scriptural discernment.  We rejoice in the Holy Scriptures as God’s gift to the whole church for teaching and guidance, admonition, and pastoral care. 

126. In the Anglican prayer book tradition, the following collect, composed by Archbishop Cranmer, sets a proper framework for our understanding of the Holy Scriptures in our lives as bishops and in the lives of all God’s faithful people.

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

127. Praying this collect reminds us that an Anglican approach to Scripture honours the sacred texts as inspired and revealed by God while inviting us to use the resources of the human intellect to interpret and apply those texts for making faithful disciples and for the deepening of holy lives worthy of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Utilizing the God-given gifts of reason and tradition as resources for the interpretation of the Scriptures enables the fullest possible exploration of the whole counsel of God[34]and calls to mind the unfathomable depths and richness of the ways of God.[35]  Biblical interpretation is the work of reverent inquiry that approaches the Holy Scriptures in a spirit of awe and wonder as holy writings different from all other texts.

128. In the history of the Anglican tradition, biblical scholarship and exegetical theology have held an honoured place. We rejoice that many faithful scholars of the Bible, both past and present, have been Anglicans and our Church and its ministry has been immeasurably enriched by their faithfulness. Such scholarship, however, does not happen in isolation from the ecumenical community of biblical theologians. We also note the importance of hearing again the voices of the preachers and teachers through the centuries as they sought to speak a lively word in their own time and place. We are grateful to God for the strong contributions made to our own understanding of God’s Word by scholars and teachers of other traditions past and present.

129. Biblical scholars have a variety of exegetical tools for their use and employ many different methods of biblical exposition and interpretation. When used discerningly and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, these tools and methods can assist us in breaking open the Holy Scriptures and enrich our understanding of God’s Word. As bishops of the Church, we commend the use of faithful biblical scholarship by our clergy and people in the full confidence that there is still more light and truth to break forth from God’s Word.

130. In addition to the more formal means of biblical scholarship, our tradition makes use of a number of spiritual disciplines and practical methods that enhance our hearing of the Scriptures. For example, some Anglicans read the Scriptures to discern a rule of life for themselves and for their community. Others find the practice of praying with the Scriptures and utilizing the gifts of our monastic traditions as particularly powerful ways to listen for the Word of God. Still others find the discipline of the Daily Office a faithful means by which to engage the full range of the Scriptures. As bishops of the Communion we commend to our people every opportunity possible to encounter God in the living word of Holy Scripture, whether reading and studying for personal devotion, gathering with others for Bible study and holy conversation, or studying more formally under the care of a pastor or teacher, and in worship.

131. Worship and common prayer are central to our identity as Anglicans. Consequently the liturgical reading of Scripture and the ministry of preaching are primary aspects of how we listen for and hear God’s Word to us. Preachers are called to expound the whole counsel of God and especially at the Eucharist to point God’s people toward the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and hold him up as God incarnate, crucified, risen, ascended, and coming again in glory.

132. We are grateful for the various lectionaries adopted by the Provinces of our Communion. The use of lectionaries for the Daily Offices and the Holy Eucharist greatly enhances the breadth of our hearing of Scripture and provides good discipline to those among us who are called to preach.

133. We are mindful that God’s people hear Jesus, God’s incarnate Word, and the vital preaching of Holy Scriptures, from within the varied contexts of their lives.  Above we affirmed the faithful reliability of God’s Word, and here we acknowledge that the context in which one seeks to listen shapes, at least in part, how one hears. Across our Communion we tell the good news of Jesus in many cultures, in many languages, and in the face of many different political, economic, and social realities. It is always our desire to proclaim the authentic Word of God for all, but we acknowledge that our people hear the Holy Scriptures conditioned by the needs and passions of their local situations. We recognize, for example, that communities that have faced natural disasters or systemic injustice will hear God’s Word with different ears than others who are far removed from such realities.  We note that the particularity of mission strategy from one place to another or difficult pastoral realities may have impact upon how the Holy Scriptures are heard.  We are clear that the Word of God does not change from place to place and its light and truth applies throughout the whole of God’s world. At the same time we acknowledge that our ability to hear God’s Word is profoundly affected by the context in which we listen for it.

134. God’s Living Word, incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth and revealed in Holy Scripture, challenges and transforms us in ways that can be full of joy and at other times quite unsettling. Even as our contexts influence our interpretation of Holy Scripture, we affirm that the Scripture also addresses our contexts with both judgment and consolation, with conviction and with grace. The Word of God has always held a primary and cherished place in the Churches of the Anglican Communion. So shall it always be.

135. As we face the challenges of our time, the Holy Scriptures will continue to be for us a springboard into mission – that the world may have life in all its fullness.[36]

Notes:

32. John 20: 31

33. Acts 20:27

34. Romans 11:33

35. John 10:10

Additional Filters