'Bible in the Life of the Church' project participants report on work thus far

November 23, 2010

Reports about work in the first year of the Anglican Communion's "The Bible in the Life of the Church" project showed both the variety of ways Anglican engage with the Bible and also "made clear the common experience of Anglicans that the Bible is a source of 'transformative power,'" according to a press release.

Gathering in Salt Rock, Durban, South Africa, Nov. 15-18, members of the project's steering group were encouraged to hear about the work accomplished so far in regional groups, the release said.

The Bible in the Life of the Church is a major project being undertaken over three years by the Anglican Communion, which the Anglican Consultative Council mandated at its May 2009 meeting. It is seeking to discover how Anglican Christians read the Bible, recognizing the very diverse contexts in which they do that reading. The work of this project will largely take place in a number of regional groups based around theological education institutions in East Africa, Southern Africa, South East Asia, Oceania, North America and Britain. The steering group also includes members from Cuba and Nigeria.

During 2010, regional and user groups explored how Anglicans read the Bible and used the last of the Five Marks of Mission of the Anglican Communion as a starting point.

The Fifth Mark, which commits Anglicans "to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth," was chosen as an initial case study because it relates to a major concern in the world today and for which biblical resources have not been sufficiently explored until recently, the release said.

The steering group noted a number of examples of the range of explorations and conclusion in the case study. A reading group in Sudan noted how the Bible indicates that "humans are meant to have a genuine relationship with animals." An East African regional group reflected how "human beings cannot be saved anywhere apart from the world in which they live" and acknowledged that there were insights to be gained from East African primal religions in relation to care for the environment. In the United States and Canada some participants vocalized the challenge, "How do we read scripture for and from within a common life that is meaningfully witnessing to the goodness of creation or God’s love for all creatures?"

Groups in Cuba, Australia, the United Kingdom and Southern Africa also reported on their work. Reading groups in South-East Asia, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea and Ireland have also begun to be involved with the project, although they were not yet at a point to provide a report, the steering group said.

The group noted what it called "a number of key threads" that had emerged about the process of biblical interpretation. They include:

  • The importance of taking context seriously when engaging with the Bible was widely appreciated, both in terms of the interpreters' context and that of the Bible itself.
  • The reality that many Anglicans encounter scripture primarily in liturgy, which plays an important role in Anglican interpretation of the Bible.
  • The difficulty of engaging young lay people in the process of biblical interpretation.
  • The importance of reading the Bible "through the eyes of others" was a challenge that Anglicans needed to explore.

The steering group proposed that as the topic for the project's second case study that regional and user groups focus on the fourth Mark of Mission ("To seek to transform unjust structures of society"), and suggested a range of biblical texts -- one selection focusing on economic issues and the other on gender justice.

More information about the two case studies is due to be posted on the project's website here.

In 2011, the group said it plans to release a study course for Lent 2012 and plans to publish a short booklet setting out key and historic Anglican statements on scripture.

More information is available from Project Manager Stephen Lyon at stephenplyon@gmail.com.

Related Topics: