Three and a half years of research and conversation has produced the final report from the Anglican Communion’s Bible in the Life of the Church project — Deep Engagement, Fresh Discovery. The report shares that Anglicans around the globe have “a high common ground” over the essential place and use of the Bible in Anglican life.
The Bible in the Life of the Church project began its life following a resolution passed by the Anglican Consultative Council in 2009 and was led by New Zealand’s Archbishop David Moxon. The world was divided into regional groups, with the North American Regional Group (covering the United States and Canada) coordinated by the Rev. Dr. Robert MacSwain, assistant professor of theology and Christian ethics at The School of Theology.
“Our goal was to try to figure out how Scripture actually functions in our individual and common lives as Anglicans,” explains MacSwain. “Despite incredible differences in our North American group alone, let alone the rest of the world, we still have the Bible in common. It is part of what holds us together.”
In the 400-year history of the Anglican Communion, Moxon says, “we’ve never before said, in one place, in one time, what we think about the Bible, and how we use it.”
From the reports of regional groups that fed into the project, four broad conclusions have now been drawn:
1. Across the Communion “there is clear evidence of the impact made on the lives of our communities and individuals by engaging with Scripture.” The people who took part in that regional project, for example, found Scripture speaking to them in ways they hadn’t experienced before.
2. Across the Communion, there is also “a wonderful diversity of ways of what ‘engaging with and interpreting the Scripture’ looks like.”
3. Across the Communion, it’s clear that the context in which the engagement takes place generates further diversity in the approach to and application of the Scripture.
4. Across the Communion there is also evidence of ‘gaps’ between what might be called the ‘received wisdom’ of the Church (about Scripture) … and what actually happens in practice.
In addition to MacSwain, members of the North American Regional Group included the Rev. Dr. Ellen Bradshaw Aitken, Professor of Early Christian History and Literature and Dean of the Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University; the Rev. Stacy Alan, Chaplain of Brent House, the Episcopal Campus Ministry at the University of Chicago; the Rev. Dr. Kortright Davis, Professor of Theology, Howard University School of Divinity; the Rev. Dr. John Goldingay, Professor of Old Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary; Dr. Willis Jenkins, Assistant Professor of Social Ethics, Yale Divinity School; the Rev. Dr. Grant LeMarquand, formerly Academic Dean and Associate Professor of Biblical Studies and Mission, Trinity School for Ministry, now Area Bishop for the Horn of Africa, Diocese of Egypt; the Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald, National Indigenous Bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada; the Rev. Dr. Myron Penner, Associate Priest of Christ Church in Edmonton, Alberta; the Rev. Dr. Carolyn Sharp, Professor of Hebrew Scriptures at Yale Divinity School; and Dr. Marion Taylor, Professor of Old Testament, Wycliffe College, Toronto.