Some notes from this afternoon’s press conference on Biblical interpretation:
David Moxen, the Archbishop of New Zealand described a four-part approach to Scripture used in his province in an attempt to move toward some common understandings of Biblical interpretation. It is informed by the notion that one wants to build a “large house for the way we use the Bible.”
The perception that “Jesus Christ is the living Word of God” is the “floor” of that house. The way into the house–its door- is a understanding of the world of those who first received the Bible. “What was God saying to that world?” The “walls” of the house are made up of the world that we live in. “What is God saying to our world?” The “roof” of the house is the Church–How does the Church over-arch and provide a shelter for Jesus Christ the Living word of God.”
“The Anglican Communion has never tried this before across the whole world,” Moxen said.
Gerald West, a professor of Old Testament from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, also laid out a four-part plan for interpreting Scripture: 1) a common commitment to be shaped by Scripture; 2) a commitment to understanding the detail of Scripture; 3) a commitment among Anglicans to bring context into Scriptural analysis and 4) a commitment to analyze Scripture in an ecclesiological/theological framework.
This may sound rather academic, and, in some respects, it was. But West’s contention that one had to consider the social-historical context in which a text was written (did ancient authors share our understanding of homosexuality?); that a literary analysis of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah suggests that it is not about homosexuality; that readers of the Scriptures are required to apply its lessons to their own context (for instance, what do the Scriptures have to say to a country afflicted by the AIDS pandemic) and that Africans did not simply receive the Gospels from British evangelists, but “engaged” with them, developing black theology, contextual theology and liberation theology, clearly got under some people’s skin.
West said that in their indaba groups, the bishops were “engaging how they used scripture and realizing how they come to different conclusions.”
“The Anglican Communion is no longer what it used to be, and this Lambeth Conference is taking that seriously. Everybody in the Anglican Communion has got their own process of making sense of the Bible,” West said, adding that those who claimed to take Scripture more seriously than others were “just trying to talk more loudly or stamp their feet more firmly.”