Feast of Pentecost, 2008
It is often said that Anglican theology has historically had a particularly occasional nature; one thinks readily of Richard Hooker and The Laws as an irenic response to a polemical situation in the process of whose writing decisive work on Anglican ecclesiology was accomplished. The following collection of essays is offered similarly in a time of great debate within the Anglican Communion about the proper teaching on human sexuality. The authors are all Anglicans and scholars deeply engaged in the life of the church and committed both to the gospel and to the well-being of the Anglican Church of Canada. We responded last April to The Council of General Synod’s proposed motions on same sex blessing; we seek now to carry further the work of theological inquiry on behalf of the church begun in that letter. As we have sought to dig down deeper to address this question, we hope that we have discovered some things of use about the nature of doctrine, authority, and the theological evaluation of the human person.
Real theology is always pro ecclesia, and so this project was conceived when we heard that the Primate’s Theological Commission was welcoming contributions more widely as they addressed questions about development and the work of the Spirit in history in connection with their mandate from the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, 2007. The essays here printed form part of a larger collection to be issued in book form for use by individuals and parish study groups. It is our hope that these essays will serve to foster further dialogue on these important subjects, and will make a contribution to the theological and spiritual welfare of the Church of which we are servants.
In particular, the essays offer a “way of seeing,” an approach to the current crisis which is both catholic and evangelical. It is evangelical insofar as it begins and ends with Scripture: the Bible provides the context in which each essay’s discussion unfolds. It is also catholic, rooted in the whole history of the church’s reflection on Scripture in its international scope, from the interpretive traditions of the early Christian communities and the theological reflection of the Church Fathers to JH Newman and George Lindbeck and contemporary African readings of Scripture. We offer these essays as an articulation of the presuppositions by which we may move forward in a time of serious disagreement, and in the belief that their approach, both catholic and evangelical, rooted in Scripture and in the community of the faithful, captures the peculiar genius of Anglicanism and, more broadly, something of what it means to be the Church.