LAMBETH: Gay Bishops And The Bible
By Hans Zeiger in Canterbury
July 30, 2008
CANTERBURY-Today's theme at the decennial Lambeth Conference of "The Bishop and the Bible in Mission" is "probably not the most sexy theme," said the Most Rev. Phillip Aspinall, Archbishop of Brisbane and Primate of Australia, as he introduced this afternoon's press conference. But according to the Most Rev. David Moxon, Archbishop of New Zealand, when it comes to the Anglican Communion's direction in matters of sexuality, it's "an issue about the Bible."
"To get at the way we use the Bible is one of the ways we can get at the larger issues facing the Communion," said Moxon, who compared the Communion to a house, with Christ and the Bible as the foundation and the Church as the roof. "The issue of homosexuality comes down to an issue about the Bible," said Moxon. "Underneath all the discussions and debates is how do we view the Bible?"
Sharing the platform with Moxon was Prof. Gerald West, Professor of Old Testament at the University of Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa and coordinator of the Bible Studies at the 2008 Lambeth Conference. According to West, "One of the legacies of Anglicanism is that it has a long history of being interested in the detail of Scripture. That detail can be approached quite differently." Students of Scripture might approach the Bible from a socio-historical perspective, or an historical perspective, or a literary perspective, he said.
West offered a literary interpretation of the Genesis account of Sodom and Gomorrah, that the sin at hand was "inhospitality, expressed through male rape. It may have nothing at all to do with homosexuality." Whenever Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned in the Bible, he said, "It's always about injustice and inhospitality."
VirtueOnline asked Moxon and West whether there are wide differences in the Anglican Communion over Biblical authority, and if so, whether it is even possible to apply a Biblical standard to sexual ethics.
Prof. West replied, "I don't believe that it's widely different. I think it's claimed that it's widely different." He said that Anglicans have the same overall approach to interpretation. "The same things are happening. Everyone in the Anglican Communion has their own process of making sense of the Bible. People who claim that their way of making sense is taking the Bible more seriously than someone else are just trying to talk more loudly or stamp their foot more firmly." He said that Anglicans maintain a "common commitment" to the Scriptures.
The "key source" of that commitment is the Thirty-Nine Articles, said Moxon. "I don't think that the Anglican Communion will be departing from that position. We're going back to first principles about the way we use the Bible."
West listed four elements of applying Scripture to Communion decisions: "a common commitment to be shaped by Scripture," an attention to the detail of Scripture, "a common commitment to bring our contexts into engagement with Scripture," and an "ecclesio-theological framework" that "holds us all together."
West also said that the current Anglican controversies represent a transitional stage in the Communion. He said that missionaries who brought Christianity to South Africa were colonial and imperial, but that Africa is now in the process of moving beyond imperialism.
Asked his opinion of Resolution 110 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, West said that he had no opinion. Moxon turned down a question about the Archbishop's controversial essay "The Body's Grace." West said that he was not familiar with the document.
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