Submitted to the Authority of Scripture
As a parish, we hold as one of our core commitments submission to the authority of Scripture. A matter this important deserves far more than the few paragraphs written here, but let this serve as a start as we explore what it means to be a people submitted to the authority of Scripture in our walk together. In Anglican tradition, we will start the conversation with reference to the Articles of Religion, commonly referred to as the 39 Articles, and end with a collect.
Authority for Salvation. The 39 Articles (Article VI) declare that Holy Scripture contains all things necessary for salvation and that nothing that is not contained within Scripture or proven by Scripture may be required as an article of faith or deemed requisite for salvation. It is by Scripture that we understand the character and nature of God, the created, fallen, and redeemed nature of Humanity, and the work of the Church as a sign, foretaste, and instrument of the Kingdom of God.
Authority for and over the Church. The 39 Articles (Article XX) also define the relationship between the Church and Holy Scripture. The Church is described as the witness and keeper of Scripture. As witness and keeper of Scripture, the life of the Church and of each parish should reflect and embody the power of God among His people as described in the Scripture. In Scripture and on our life together, we will hear and know God. We will wrestle with and even disobey God at times. We will be called to repent and return to God. We will be healed and restored. We will glorify God and dwell in His presence. We will be His people and He will be our God. The Church is also admonished to neither ordain any thing that is contrary to Scripture nor expound one place of Scripture to the extent that it is repugnant to another. In order to be submitted to Scripture, we must know the full breadth of Scripture such that we do not dwell only on the parts or interpretations that we like or avoid the portions that challenge us. The Scriptures are full of correctives to easy, simple, or self-serving interpretations. The Church gathered is at its best when we can bring a variety of faithful interpretations, historic and contemporary, together to listen, pray, wrestle, and discern so that we come to a deeper understanding of God and of ourselves.
Authority revealed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. I hope that by this point we can see that it is impossible to live under the authority of Scripture without the assistance of the Holy Spirit. As we encounter Scripture in the presence of the Holy Spirit, we should expect to be convicted, comforted, and transformed. Our encounter with Scripture should lead us to manifest the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Our faithful encounters may include personal and group study, lectionary readings in the Sunday service and the Daily Office, and quiet contemplation through lectio divina or other contemplative reading.
Collect Before the Reading of Scripture. Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and the comfort of your Holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.