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A Scripture-formed Communion? Possibilities and Prospects after Lambeth, ACC, and General Convention

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 September 2009


The question of the authority, use and relevance of Scripture in today’s Anglican Communion needs to be addressed more thoroughly. All authority is God’s authority, and the question of Scripture’s authority needs to be reframed in that light: God is not merely providing information and instruction, but taking forward his Kingdom-project, and Scripture is not merely a witness to that but also a necessary agent, equipping God’s people for their tasks. Various questions then emerge in a new light: we need an integrated, layered, and nuanced vision of the whole Scripture, foregrounding the gospel challenge of new creation and recognizing the inadequacy of some standard slogans such as Jesus’ supposed slackening of the law. In particular, the biblical basis of ‘covenant’ needs further exploration, and the whole communion should embrace a much richer practice of Scripture reading and study to face the challenges of tomorrow’s world.

Research Article
Copyright © The Journal of Anglican Studies Trust 2009

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N.T. Wright is Bishop of Durham in The Church of England.


2. Wright, N.T., Scripture and the Authority of God (London: SPCK, 2005); published in USA as The Last Word (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005).Google Scholar

3. Oliver O’Donovan, , A Conversation Waiting to Begin: The Churches and the Gay Controversy (London: SCM, 2009).Google Scholar

4. In 1995 Walter C. Righter, the retired Episcopalian bishop of Iowa and at that time Assistant Bishop in the diocese of Newark, was charged by ten bishops under Church canons for ordaining a practising homosexual. On May 15, 1996 the church court, by a vote of seven to one, drew a distinction between ‘the Church’s Core Doctrine’ and ‘other Church teachings’ and, declaring that the sexual behaviour of clergy was not part of the former, dismissed the charges against Bishop Righter.Google Scholar

5. For ‘new creation’ as a major theme in New Testament ethics, see Hays, Richard B., The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996).Google Scholar

6. The point being that after handling the sacred books you had to wash your hands, as a sign of having been in contact with something holy. For the controversy, see Wright, N.T., The New Testament and the People of God (London: SPCK, 1992), 183f.Google Scholar

7. This was argued at Lambeth 1988 (resolution 26) on the grounds of deprivation: it was important that the multiple wives still be provided for.Google Scholar