Project aimed at helping Anglicans read Bible with ‘fresh eyes’

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Canon John Gibaut, director of the World Council of Churches’ faith and order commission and Anglican Consultative Council ecumenical delegate, urges the ACC to the use of “the gifts of the ecumenical movement,” in its Bible in the Life of the Church Project. Mr. Gibaut is a Canadian-Anglican.

Kingston, Jamaica

An Anglican Communion-wide project that will examine how Anglicans worldwide read and interpret Scripture will soon be launched.

The 14th Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting on May 9 approved The Bible in the Life of the Church project, which was created in response to a proposal from the Windsor Report. Published in 2004 by the Lambeth Commission on Communion, the Windsor Report offered prescriptions on how the Anglican Communion could settle its deep divisions over the thorny issue of human sexuality.

One section of that report called on the Anglican Communion “to re-evaluate the ways in which we have read, heard, studied and digested Scripture. We can no longer be content to drop random texts into arguments, imagining that the point is thereby proved, or indeed to sweep away sections of the New Testament as irrelevant to today’s world, imagining that problems are thereby solved.”

Archdeacon Turi Hollis, representing the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia, talked about his province’s initiative that looked into “how we do hermeneutics,” or the theory of interpretation of scriptural texts. He said that the hui (a Maori word for assembly) enabled Anglicans from his province to look at “how we, as a church, and as a province, have woven our thoughts on Scripture” and was instructive in helping craft their discussions and response on the issue of the church and human sexuality.

Claire Amos, co-ordinator of the Network for Inter-Faith Concerns, presented the project, saying it would involve “scholarship, insights from contextual grassroots situation.”

Reacting to Ms. Amos’s presentation, Archdeacon Hollis emphasized that the success of his church’s project lay in the “diversity of Biblical and theological understanding” of its participants. “Not all of them were academics; the steering committee should include not just academics.”

Ms. Amos quoted then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, who in 1993 said that Scripture is “the very soul of sacred theology,” and that each age must do its own study of the holy text.

She said that already, the project has captured the interest of many theological colleges worldwide. As a case study, she said, the project would like to examine, “How do we read the Bible as Anglicans in exploring the environment?” She noted that this was an issue that was not only uncontroversial, but would allow Anglicans “to look with fresh eyes at the Bible.”

The project drew enthusiastic reactions from ACC delegates, including Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams who said that it “has enormous potential for the health of our Communion.” He urged the committee to also draw from the experiences of how the Communion’s ecumenical partners look and study the Bible, saying there was a lot that Anglicans could learn from them.

Archbishop Williams also stressed that the project was “not about becoming better at arguments,” but about how it can aid growth and holiness.

Bishop Bill Godfrey, of the diocese of Peru, who represents the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, expressed the hope that the project would also look at the use of Scripture in prayer, or Leccio Divina.

Canon John Gibaut, director of the World Council of Churches’ faith and order commission and ACC ecumenical delegate, recommended that the project incorporate “the gifts of the ecumenical movement,” citing that the WCC has texts that would be useful, including Bible in the Time of Crises, and Christian Zionism.

The three-year project will cost about 100,000 sterling pounds ($174,000 Cdn) each year, according to Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion. He appealed to member churches to support the project by giving money over and above their annual contributions to the ACC.

 

 

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Marites N. Sison
Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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