Here is the resolution (15.19) passed at ACC-15:
"Resolution 15.19: Bible in the Life of the Church Project
- affirms the centrality of the Bible in the life of the churches of the Anglican Communion;
- affirms the importance of the continued study of the Bible in the parishes, dioceses and Provinces of the Anglican Communion and congratulates all involved in the Bible in the Life of the Church (BILC) Project on the work undertaken, in particular its smooth and effective facilitation by Stephen Lyon;
- welcomes the work of the Project, especially the Lent books (And it was Good, and Economic Justice), and the final report, Deep Engagement, Fresh Discovery and requests the Provinces to encourage their widespread use throughout their dioceses and parishes;
- notes with deep appreciation the collection of resources on the use of the Bible made by the BILC Steering Group, and commends them particularly to Christian Education bodies, theological colleges and Doctrine Commissions across the Communion;
- requests theological colleges and research scholars across the Anglican Communion to explore further the issues raised by the Project, especially as these relate to engaging with the Bible in local contexts;
- requests that the work undertaken by the BILC Project be continued and that, where possible, resources developed by the BILC be translated into one or more languages other than English; and
- requests that the Secretary General attempt to secure funding to enable an immediate publicizing and rolling out of the Project’s insights and resources across the Communion.
Might one demur at the thought of encouraging the widespread use of a 674 page report in dioceses and parishes? But the main demurral here is that the vision of further research is limited to "engaging with the Bible in local contexts." Might it not be more urgent to explore what "the centrality of the Bible in the life of the churches of the Anglican Communion" actually means? In terms of ++Rowan's final presidential address we might ask whether the authority of the Bible is merely enabling or is also corrective.
I like what ++Rowan says in his Foreword to the Report. This, indeed, is most worthy of widespread reading and discussion through dioceses and parishes. For your convenience I cite it here and follow that with the "Core Message" of the report. I have emboldened the ABC's words which I particularly agree with:
By the Archbishop of Canterbury
How is the Anglican Communion to be, in the fullest and most authentic sense, a family of
‘biblical’ churches? This question is at the heart of most of the tensions that have been in
evidence within the Communion over the last couple of decades, and it is not one that admits of a quick answer. The Anglican way in theology exists as a distinctive voice partly because of the Reformation impulse to make the Church once again a community in which people listen as directly as they can to what God is saying – a community, therefore, in which what the Church thinks or does is always being tested and judged in the light of what God says to his people in the Scriptural record of his historical dealings with them.
But it has never been a way of theology which has imagined that we can solve every issue by appealing to the plain words of the Bible and no more. The mainstream of the Reformation, including the Church of England, sought both to affirm the absolute authority of the Bible as God’s self-communication and also the crucial importance of training people in a discerning reading that drew on the history of interpretation and the intelligence of the whole community. It is a great mistake to think that the Reformers held the same views as extreme modern fundamentalists. Christians in this tradition knew they were always reading Scripture in company with believers of every age and place, and bringing to bear on their reading the perspectives and skills of their human culture. Yet Anglicans have consistently given Scripture the supreme role of deciding the limits of what can and must be believed; and they have tried to listen to Scripture in the expectation of being converted and transformed by the Spirit whose action underlies the words on the page.
This project, commissioned by the ACC, welcomed and encouraged by the Primates and the
bishops at the Lambeth Conference, is an attempt to let the churches of the Communion
reflect on the ways in which they actually use the Bible – how they read it, whom they read
it with, what they bring to the reading, what their experience is of transformation. It is not a
project that seeks to advance some agenda, ‘traditional’ or ‘liberal’; simply one that seeks to
help us understand ourselves better and so, we hope and pray, to allow the Scriptures to speak to us more powerfully and freely. It is an attempt to share across the Communion what people want to say about the importance of the Bible. One of our challenges seems to be that we do not often enough experience how Anglicans in another setting are reading and using Scripture, and so can fall prey to various caricatures. This project looks towards a future in which we can not only read Scripture with clearer eyes but understand each other’s reading with clearer eyes as well – with more love and patience and willingness to be taught and enriched by each other.
The title of the project is all-important. This is about the Bible in its true place – not in a library, not even on an individual’s bookshelf, but in the life of the fellowship of believers. It is a book read in public, read in worship; a book whose words worshippers make their own in prayer, private and public; a book whose purpose is to show what a human life looks like when it is lived in loving intimacy with and obedience to the living God, whose eternal Word became flesh to reconcile us to the Father and transform us by his Spirit. The inspiration of Scripture is the presence of this Spirit, moving us to be reconciled and renewed in the likeness of Christ.
Scholarship alone cannot do this; nor can a reading of the Bible as just a code of behaviour
which we can follow by our own effort. The Spirit works in Scripture to convict us of sin and
to open us to the grace of Christ. That is why we need to hear from each other in the Church
what it means to be judged and restored in the process of reading the Bible – or, to put it
more sharply, what it means to meet Jesus Christ the Word Incarnate in what the Thirty Nine
Articles of the Church of England call the ‘Word written.’
Often we, like other Christians, talk about the Bible more than we really listen to it; sadly, many churches will acknowledge that their people do not have the habit of familiarity with the Bible that they need, or that their Bible reading is restricted to the bits they like and know already. One of the things that I personally hope this project will help us develop in the Communion is a wider and fuller biblical literacy, in which the outlines of the one great story of creation and redemption will be clear. To be a biblical Church is surely to be a community that lives out this great story day by day and commends it to people everywhere as the most comprehensive truth possible about the nature of God and God’s world. May God use this work to further that end, in our Communion and in all communities of his people.
Anglicans love the scriptures of both Old and New Testaments; these have a central place within our common life. For 500 years or more we have valued their availability in vernacular translation and treasured them in our worship. They speak to us, and the societies in which we live, in many ways - permeating our liturgy, Bible study, preaching, commentary, story-telling, song, scholarship, dance, music, and art. The nature of these encounters differs from context to context, adding to both the variety of interpretations and the complexity of the interpretive process.
The richness of these encounters was explored in this project by our investigation of how Anglicans around the world approach the Bible. This involved workshops in different parts of the Communion, a questionnaire survey, a literature survey of official Anglican statements and documents, and academic reflections by Anglican scholars.
A major finding of these investigations is that how Anglicans engage with the Bible turns out to be just as important as its content. This perhaps unnerving claim does not contest the unique place and authority which the scriptures have in Anglican life, but it does point up the significance, perhaps thus far overlooked, of the contexts in which and processes by which they are heard and read.
The Bible in the Life of the Church project, while finding some decline in biblical literacy, above all encountered the sense of excitement, discovery and challenge that comes from reading the scriptures together. This Report seeks to capture the work of the project and, through its narratives and the resources offered, invites us, as a Communion, to deepen our love of the Bible and the rich treasures its pages offer.
With this in mind this Report:
is NOT a total picture of what happens across the Communion – but a series of snapshots, a collage. Its value is in the stories it offers, the examples it shows, and the resources it promotes.
is NOT a set of answers to the question, “How do Anglicans engage with and interpret the Bible?” – but a mirror or checklist, a set of questions and encouragements to challenge us, as Anglicans, to think further.
is NOT a prescribed programme or way forward – but a toolbox or collection of ideas, approaches and resources to dig deeper into the process of our engagement with Scripture."
What do you think?