An Anglican church in Auckland advertises itself on the internet as ‘free from dogma’. TEC and ACCanada have suddenly discovered that canons matter when its ministers challenge the order of the church, having conveniently forgotten the canons when its ministers challenged the doctrine of the church. One wonders when the canons of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia will be brought to bear on the a-dogmatic parish in Auckland!
Let it be said, gently, graciously, humbly, that the Anglican Church, historically and presently, is a church with Holy Scripture at its foundation and Holy Scripture over it as its authority. This church of, for, and by Holy Scripture cannot be other than full of dogma, for Scripture both teaches sound doctrine and lays on the ministers of the church the responsibility for teaching sound doctrine, aye, even more, for contending for sound doctrine.
And why this emphasis on ‘Holy Scripture’? My friend Bryden Black reminds me of the reason when he cited Eberhard Jungel on a recent Anglicans All post:
‘The traditional language of Christianity insists, therefore, on the fact that we must have said to us what the word “God” should be thought to mean. The presupposition is that ultimately only the speaking God himself can say what the word “God” should provide us to think about. Theology comprehends this whole subject under the category of revelation.’ (E. Jungel, God as the Mystery of the World, T&T Clark, 1983, p. 13).
Holy Scripture is not a ‘book’ in the sense of a bound writing which can be waved in argument at other bound writings such as ‘prayer book’ or ‘book of canons’ as though each is the same kind of book. No. Holy Scripture is the writing down of the revelation of God – the written speech of the speaking God. Anglicans, it appears, are apt to forget this fundamental character of Scripture. We need to rediscover it. We might resolve some of our problems if we did, for then we might unite together in obedience to the voice of God rather than the current imbroglio in which ‘obedience’ seems to be the last thing on our minds (unless to the canons of the church).