Bible in the Life of the Church Project – ACC Standing Committee

Stephen Lyon, Bible in the Life of the Church project manager gave a presentation on the progress made on this initiative. He explained that participants in six regional groups were asked to engage with Scripture to see what it says about the theme of the fifth Mark of Mission ‘To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth’, and then reflect on how they had done that. The learnings from these groups were reviewed at the project’s Steering Group meeting in Durban, South Africa in November 2010.

An overarching observation relating to how the Church uses Scripture is that there is a ‘hermeneutical gap’ “between the academy and the pew”. One example of this was an observed gap between engaging with a particular passage of Scripture and both allowing that passage to speak to other passages and putting the passage in its larger Biblical context. “Are there reasons why the ‘lectionary tradition’ of Anglicanism that brings a number of passages together to speak to one another might not be informing  some of our study of engagement?” Mr Lyon asked in his report.

The overarching observation is that for individual Anglicans there could well be a perceived difference between what we say we do and what we actually do when it comes to reading the Bible—a gap between espoused theory and theory in practice. An example was a view that once Anglicans have studied an issue or topic from a Biblical standpoint, then they have that issue or topic ‘sorted’, i.e. further study is unnecessary. Mr Lyon asked: “Does this contradict the view that the Church is a community is a community of learners continually seeking to grow in our faith?”

Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Canon Kenneth Kearon said that what had been discovered thus far “needed to be taken very seriously because it could fundamentally affect the way Anglicans engage with the Bible.” Mr Lyon added that in the coming year, regional groups would be asked engage with Scripture to see what it says about the themes of ‘unjust gender structures’ and ‘unjust economic structures’ as aspects of the fourth Mark of Mission ‘To seek to transform unjust structures of society’.

The committee welcomed the report and endorsed the production of a 2012 Lent Course for the Anglican Communion based on the fifth Mark of Mission.

Theological Education
Director of Theological Studies, Clare Amos opened her presentation by playing a recording of ‘Namata urinde’, (‘Watch and pray’) (find it on this page) a song in Shona sung during the recent Theological Education for the Anglican Communion steering group meeting in the Diocese of Harare. She explained the lyrics were extraordinarily apt for the Christians there who were standing firm in their faith in spite of difficulties and dangers.

At the meeting in Harare, members planned the priorities for the coming year with a particular focus on a greater understanding of ‘the Anglican way’ in theological education, and on supporting and equipping of theological educators. They also offered two days of Continuing Ministerial Education to about 80 clergy from dioceses of the Province of the Church of Central Africa.

Mrs Amos also told the committee that Theological College Principals from around the Communion will travel to Canterbury in May for a one off event to, among other things, share experiences, discuss the theological education curricula, exploring questions such as spiritual and personal formation in theological education, and develop an ongoing network of theological colleges across the world. There are also plans to launch a web-based course on the Anglican Way.

Planning of ACC-15
There was some discussion about the planning for the next meeting of the Anglican Consultation Council meeting, the 15th. The committee heard that there is a local planning group in New Zealand. Standing Committee member Dr Anthony Fitchett is also member of that group. The Standing Committee agreed that ACC-15 will be held from the 27 October to 7 November 2012 in Auckland Cathedral.

The Standing Committee
The Standing Committee agreed to next meet from 30 May to 1 June of 2012 to, among other things, work towards ACC-15.


Let’s all hope that the’ Bible in the Life of the Church’ discussions will bear fruit in the way in which ALL Provinces of the Church will take very seriously the hermeneutical task required to ‘make sense’ of the Scriptures, as they provide the basis for the continuing opening up of understanding for the mission of the church in the world of today.

Sadly, the ‘world-view’ of many erstwhile Christians has been blighted by a reluctance to re-discover what the Holy Spirit might be saying to the Church on issues that currently divide us. This dependence on past – especially pre-enlightenment – understandings of ‘What the Bible is Saying’ has often triumphed over the Anglican charism of ‘Reason’, which has long been treasured as one of the basic tools of teaching the Faith ‘once delivered (but not in totality) to The Saints. Here we must be mindful of the warning from Jesus to his disciples, that “When the Spirit comes (s)he will lead you into ALL the truth”. One of the inferences that can be drawn from that counsel of Jesus is that the Holy Spirit – who still comes to us – has yet more knowledge to impart on the matter of salvation and redemption.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch

(Have a prayerful Palm Sunday and Holy Week)

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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