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Sola scriptura, says book

by
26 June 2008

by Paul Handley in Jerusalem

THE clearest indication that GAFCON might herald a formal split in the Anglican Communion came on Thursday of last week with the publication of The Way, the Truth and the Life.

The 94-page book was given to all 1200 participants, and has been produced by the 25-strong GAFCON theological resource team, chaired by the Archbishop of Bendel, Nigeria, the Most Revd Nicholas Okoh. The group’s secretary is Canon Dr Chris Sugden, executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream, based in Oxford.

The book uses the language of the parting of the ways. “We see a parallel between contemporary events and events in England in the 16th century. . . Now, after five centuries, a new fork in the road is appearing. Though this fork in the road may present itself publicly as a choice in relation to aberrant sexuality, the core issues are about whether or not there is one Word, accessible to all, and whether or not there is one Christ, accessible to all.”

Another section, written by the Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, is more explicit. It refers to years of debate with the liberal strain of Anglicanism. “These past ten years of distraction have been agonizing, and the cost has been enormous. The time and financial resources spent on endless meetings, whose statements and warnings have been consistently ignored, represent a tragic loss of resources that should have been used otherwise. It now appears, however, that the journey is coming to an end, and the moment of decision is almost upon us.”

Archbishop Akinola states: “One road, the road of compromise of biblical truth, leads to destruction and disunity.” It is a road “we simply cannot take”.

He goes on: “The other road is the only one that we can embrace. It is not an easy road because it demands obedience and faithfulness from each one of us. It requires an unequivocal acceptance of, and commitment to:

• the authority and supremacy of scripture;

• the doctrine of the Trinity;

• the person, work and resurrection of Jesus the Christ;

• the acknowledgement of Jesus as divine, and the one and only means of salvation;

• the biblical teaching on sin, forgiveness, reconciliation, and transformation by the Holy Spirit through Christ;

• the sanctity of marriage;

• teaching about morality that is rooted and grounded in biblical revelation;

• apostolic ministry.”

Another section in the book rejects some traditional Anglican approaches: “While it is sometimes said that the three-legged stool of scripture, tradition, and reason is a mutually referring and informing authority for Anglicans . . . the idea, in fact, finds no support in scripture, nor in the foundational documents of Anglicanism (the Thirty-nine Articles, the Book of Common Prayer and the Homilies). Scripture stands alone, above both the tradition of the churches and the carefully reasoned arguments of the human mind.”

The document does not indicate what steps the GAFCON leadership might take; and it acknowledges that there is a range of views among conservative bishops: “Some continue to hope that an Anglican Covenant will result in a clear statement of orthodoxy, which will require the heterodox to conform or else walk apart.

“Others have concluded that the Covenant itself will be diluted and delayed, and that it is necessary, therefore, to come together with a renewed common vision of Anglican orthodoxy.”

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