Friday, September 21, 2007

Reading Scripture

Of course I've got half an eye on New Orleans where the Archbishop of Canterbury is meeting with the House of Bishops (doesn't everyone?). The article in the Chronicle today sums up the situation as follows: "The Episcopal Church is the Anglican body in the United States and has a more liberal view of Scripture than most Anglicans overseas. Tensions over Bible interpretation erupted in 2003, when Episcopalians consecrated the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire." (emphasis my own, of course)

First of all, I find it interesting that your basic secular newspaper a) capitalizes Scripture and b) clearly makes the assumption that by Scripture we mean what many other denominations refer to as the Bible.

Now, secondly, I'm not sure that it is correct to say that the Episcopal Church has a more liberal view of Scripture than others. For one thing, the Episcopal Church does not have a single perspective on Scripture; there are some who read Scripture very literally and narrowly, and others who read Scripture with a particular emphasis on its cultural and historical relevance and place.

For another thing, I'm not sure it's so much a liberal view of Scripture than it is a liberal view of people and issues that then inform the reading of Scripture. Likewise with a conservative view of Scripture: which came first? The reading of Scripture, or the reading of issues?

I'm speaking as a convert, someone who started from a more conservative position and found that the people and issues didn't match the position. I read Scriptures differently because of my understanding of the issues, not because I so much changed the way I read Scriptures.

The most painful thing for me in all of the arguments in the Anglican Communion is the constant refrain that the liberal side of the issues doesn't respect Scripture. Perhaps other things should be more hurtful, but it is this dismissal of my love of Scripture that I find hardest to bear.

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