At the next session of the Synod of the Diocese of Brisbane in a few weeks time, the following motion is listed for debate:
That this Synod:
a) Acknowledges the request, in the book The Once and Future Scriptures, for dialogue concerning the approach to interpreting the Bible.
b) Encourages further reflection on the theological content of the book, in light of the statements of faith contained in the Book of Common Prayer (and AAPB and APBA), Fundamental Declarations and Ruling Principles of the Anglican Church of Australia.
c) Welcomes open and thoughtful dialogue, however, expresses concern that aspects of the book appear to contradict the teachings found in the Book of Common Prayer (and AAPB and APBA), Fundamental Declarations and Ruling Principles of the Anglican Church of Australia.
d) Reaffirms its commitment to the authority of Holy Scriptures as expressed in the Thirty-nine Articles, Fundamental Declarations and Ruling Principles of the Anglican Church of Australia.
This blog addresses that motion more directly, and builds on more general comments that I published a week ago in response to published comments by my colleague, Ralph Bowles.
The following comments originated as a Facebook post, but may be helpful re-posted in this way as people prepare for Synod.
(1) Neither I nor any of the other contributors believe that the book is contrary to the formularies of the Anglican Church of Australia, although parts of the book will doubtless be viewed that way according to some interpretations of those formularies. I actually address that very point in the final section of chapter one, where I reflect on the way that the Bible is built into the formularies of our church.
(2) As the Archbishop and Primate not only contributed a Foreword but also launched the book at the Cathedral, I assume he shares my assessment that the book is an exploration of the role of the Bible in the contemporary church (as per the sub-title), is not in breach of the formularies, and makes a serious contribution to a much-needed conversation about the Bible.
(3) Several of the chapters in the book were presented as papers to the SFC Research Seminar series during 2012.
(4) A study guide for the book is being prepared by the MEC, and will be available free of charge to any person or parish wishing to use the book for serious discussion.
(5) The Synod motion builds on the unsuccessful attempt at last year’s Synod to have a theological inquiry into the beliefs of the people teaching at SFC. There is a clear “Sydney” agenda here, and we need to keep reminding all participants that Sydney Diocese and its “New Cranmer” surrogates are not representative of Evangelical Anglicanism.
(6) The motion is unlikely to pass in its present form and will most likely be amended into a more acceptable form.
(7) The best way to encourage dialogue and discussion is not by Synod motions, but by the deep engagement of people who hold different views with one another yet enter into serious conversation to discern what they can learn from the other person.
(8) I note that the BIBLE360 project is both a fruit of the kind of scholarship gathered up in the book under attack, as well as a fine example of cooperation and dialogue that goes beyond church factions, theological opinions, etc.
(9) The really important question at the heart of all this is what kind of church we wish to be at this time and and in this place. The formularies fashioned for the most part in the 16C and 17C, or (in the case of the Constitution of our church) drafted in the 20C to preserve the earlier doctrinal positions are simply not capable of serving the church well in the third millennium. This is a uniquely Australian Anglican problem, rather than a global Anglican problem, as most other provinces have not tied themselves to the Articles and the BCP in the same way.
(10) As a reformed catholic church, the Anglican Church of Australia needs to be able to reform and reshape its own life as the Spirit guides and in faithful conversation with Scripture. This surely means that the Bible can be read in ways that may not always conform to the religio-political compromises of the UK in the 16C and 17C? Otherwise we shall have domesticated the Bible and limited the truth of God revealed through the Scriptures to statements of faith that were already contested and provisional beliefs more than 300 years ago.
The sound of creaking grows ever nearer …