The Church Mission Committee (CMC) is pleased to produce this Lenten Programme as the diocese celebrates the 40th Anniversary of disestablishment under the theme “Celebrating and reclaiming our heritage.”

This Programme aims to inform and educate our members and the wider public about some aspects of our heritage that give Anglicanism its distinctiveness.  It is our prayer that as parishes use this document for their Lenten reflection, it will help our members to appreciate the Anglican way of doing things and enable them to articulate their faith to non-Anglicans. As Anglicans, we must be able to “make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you.”
The following topics will be the focus of the Programme:

  • Understanding Anglicanism
  • The Via Media (The Middle Way)
  • The Instruments of Communion
  • Scripture, Reason and Tradition
  • The Prayer Book
  • The use of the Bible in Anglicanism

It is recommended that the text be used as the basis for Sunday sermons and / or discussion. Alternatively, it may be used as a mid week tool for study and discussion. Whatever method is employed we trust that opportunities be provided for congregations to reflect on the articles and discuss the questions that accompany each topic. In the final analysis each parish will decide how best to use the Study.
Thanks to the contributors and all others who have made this Programme possible.
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”



The word ‘Anglican’ comes from a Latin word ‘Anglicana’, which meant ‘English.’ It was a word used to describe the English Church in a document called the ‘Magna Carta,’ produced in 1215, in which the English Church is described as ‘Ecclesia Anglicana;’ so that the term originally meant the “Church of England.’ In centuries past, where England had colonies in many parts of the world, the Church was spoken of as the ‘Church of England’ in Barbados, Nigeria, or India, as the case may be. This way of speaking of the Church changed as former colonies gained their independence from Britain. In these newly independent states the title was changed to the ‘Anglican Church’ or to the Episcopal Church in Scotland, in Nigeria, or India; or to the ‘Church in the Province of’ West Africa or the West Indies. Today the term ‘Anglican’ is used to describe churches which are in a close relationship with the Church of England headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Western Church in the middle ages came under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome, commonly referred to as the Pope. In his administration of this vast church, the pope was assisted by a large body, known as the curia.  The many and very costly functions of the curia led to people having to raise large sums of money to meet the legal and other expenses of what today we should call a ‘secretariat’. This large secretariat and its various departments are usually referred to as the ‘papacy’. There seems to have been no limits to its authority and its claims – the most disturbing being its claims to determine how long an individual might spend in ‘purgatory’. This concern about purgatory was related to the penitential system of the Middle Ages, a peculiar focus of those times. Part of the penitential system entailed requiring the penitent to do acts of mercy or piety in lieu of any punishment he or she might have deserved for wrongs committed. As with criminal offences today, the demand might be commuted by an indulgence – a reprieve based on one’s having done something of outstanding merit in furthering the work of the Church. The papacy set the terms for reducing one’s time in purgatory, and the cost of that reduction.

Beginning in Germany in 1517, the calls for change extended across Europe and into the British Isles. While Thomas Cranmer, later Archbishop of Canterbury, worked quietly to effect changes in worship, Henry VIII took strong measures to bring about policy changes. These changes were originally sparked by his need to get an annulment of his marriage to his first wife, Catherine, a decision which required a dispensation from the pope. This dispensation was not possible for various reasons: one was the fact that the pope was then in the power of the emperor Charles V, Catherine’s nephew, and the consequences of offending him were severe; another was the fact that Henry had received from pope Leo’s predecessor a dispensation to marry Catherine, and an annulment would have compromised the authority of the papacy by the act of reversing the previous decision.

Henry’s action involved the removal of policies which had irked him for some time, and which his advisers persuaded him to remove. His first act was to make the English court the final court of appeal, so that appeals could no longer be made to the papacy in Rome; secondly, the flow of funds to Rome was cut off; appointments to high office in the Church  rested with the king, who now called himself head on earth of the Church of England. Henry’s actions between 1532 and 1539 were the culmination of a process that had begun as long ago as 1350, by statutes which limited the power of appointment of the pope as well as appeals to that prelate. In pursuance of his programme, he invoked laws that were still on the statute books. The effect of Henry’s policy was to separate the English Church from the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome, not to start a Church. At his death he left the Church of England as it had always been – staunchly Catholic, but no longer tied to the papacy. Variations were made on Henry’s policy as Protestant regents and the Catholic Queen, Mary, sought to direct the course of Church affairs in the years following his death. Consolidation came in the lengthy reign of Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603), in whose time the Anglican ‘middle way’ (via media) began to emerge.

The designation “Anglican Communion” first came into use in the middle of the nineteenth century. It was used rather frequently in the resolutions of Lambeth Conference 1867 along with another designation – “the Anglican Branch of the Church Catholic.” The second Lambeth Conference in 1878 seldom used the designation “Anglican Communion.” Rather it spoke of Churches in visible communion with the Church of England. These two descriptions define our understanding of the Anglican Communion. The fullest definition of the Anglican Communion is to be found in a forceful analogy employed in the Report of the Lambeth Conference of 1948. This states that:

The Anglican Communion today is like a river that is made up of streams, each of which passes through a different country, each with a colour drawn from the soil through which it passes, each giving its best to the full strength of the river, flowing toward that ocean symbolic of a larger comity when the Anglican Communion itself will once again become part of a reunited Christendom. No one stream is superior to another. The glory of each is its contribution to this river which, while being enriched by all, enriches all the countries of the world wheresoever it flows.

This analogy embodies the recognition that the communion is multi-cultural, and that the various cultures make a contribution to the character of the institution.  In turn, the analogy shows that the Anglican Communion is not merely a thing given, which we must accept; but that it is something we all help to shape.  Of critical importance is the notion that no branch should consider itself superior to the others.  This principle of mutual respect has been a foundation for the operations of the Communion.

Where lies the authority in the Anglican Communion?  This has been the subject of considerable discussion both within and outside the Anglican Communion.  There are those who wish to see a clear, centralised source of authority, such as the Church of Rome evinces, in which authority is unmistakable.  There are those who see authority as residing in the scriptures, so that everything done is in accordance with them; yet such authority does not exist for many of their decisions and actions.  The Anglican Communion presents an unusual picture in that it eschews any human authority figure in the same sense as Rome does.

In the Anglican Communion authority is not located in any one source; in fact, the Lambeth Conference of 1948 described authority in the Communion as dispersed.  What this means is that authority is distributed among scriptures, tradition, the creeds, the ministry of the Word and Sacraments, the witness of the saints, and the common mind of all the faithful (the consensus fidelium).  The scriptures are our authority for the faith we proclaim, the tradition (see 1930 and 1988) can be briefly described as “the living and growing ‘mind’ of the Church that has from generation to generation been formed and challenged by the scriptural Word in the process of appropriating that Word in liturgy, life and teaching.” The creeds present us with a summary of the faith; the witness of the saints and the ministry of Word and Sacraments form part of the tradition.  The consensus fidelium is a critical element of this authority; it is the means whereby the faith (the tradition) was preserved in the early Church in the face of myriad dissenting opinions.

With its notion of dispersed authority, it has sometimes been asked whether the Communion is in a position to deal with the issue of comprehensiveness. This term reflects the reality of a Communion, which contains within itself strongly Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic positions on matters of the tradition, which sometimes appear irreconcilable. But comprehensiveness also includes a broad spectrum of opinion raging from conservative to liberal on the scriptures as well as on moral issues. This attitude of mind has been a sore point within the Communion and outside it, as it suggests the lack of any clear position on issues.  It has posed for the Communion a serious problem in the face of recent departures from accepted moral positions, especially as regards the highest office in the Church.  At this time, it will help to reflect on two thoughts arising from the Lambeth Conference of 1968:

Comprehensiveness demands agreement on fundamentals, while tolerating disagreement on matters in which Christians may differ without feeling the necessity of breaking communion . . .  Comprehensiveness implies a willingness to allow liberty of interpretation, with a certain slowness in arresting restraining exploratory thinking.

The Anglican Communion, through its various Provinces, has been engaged in more discussions on unity than perhaps any other Christian body. And it is remarkable that, in thirteen Lambeth Conferences from 1867 to 1998, no fewer than eight dealt directly with the issue.
Anglican relations with other churches are based on certain principles, to which have been given the name: The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral.  The word Quadrilateral literally means four sides, and refers to the four principles which Anglicans hold to be cornerstones for any church, and fundamental for ecumenical discussions. The four principles or foundations of ecumenical discussions are:
· The Holy Scriptures (Old and New Testaments)
· The Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed
· The Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion
· The Historic Episcopate (or an Episcopal Ministry)

The Church in the Province of the West Indies (CPWI) consists of eight dioceses: Barbados (1824); Jamaica (1824); British Guiana  (1842); Antigua (now North Eastern Caribbean and Aruba) (1842); Nassau (Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands) (1861); Trinidad (now Trinidad and Tobago) (1872) ;Windward Islands (Grenada, St. Vincent, St. Lucia ) (1878); British Honduras (now Belize) (1883); the Diocesan bishop of one of them being elected Archbishop. Over the years certain changes were discussed. One of these, raised in 1981, was the wisdom of having a non-diocesan Archbishop.  For a variety of reasons, this course was not pursued and can be regarded as dormant.  In 1998, for the first time, the Provincial Synod participated in the election of the Archbishop. Hitherto all Archbishops were elected only by the House of Bishops.  In due course, other changes will be made to facilitate the on-going mission of the Church.

Questions for discussion.
1.  How would you respond to the suggestion that Henry V111 started the Church of England?
2.   What do you consider to be the implications of the definition of the Anglican Communion as stated
      by the 1948 Lambeth Conference?
3.  What are the principles by which the Communion approaches relations with other churches?


It is not unusual to hear the remark that Anglicans have no particular stance on any issue. Some persons have used this as a reason for leaving the Anglican Church and joining another denomination. This, of course is not true. For many who left the Church their disappointment was that they did not find the extreme or definitive position for which they were looking.  What is seen as Anglicanism’s ‘indecisiveness’ is informed by the principle of the VIA MEDIA.

Anglicanism follows the via media or the middle way. Many persons associate the principle of the Middle Way with Richard Hooker an Anglican theologian who believed that the Church should be “broad, tolerant and an inclusive body”.  Others suggest that this phrase was made popular in the nineteenth century by the Oxford Movement, especially John Henry Newman, and referred to Anglicanism’s position between Roman Catholicism on the one hand and Protestantism on the other. The Anglican Church at that time wanted to be seen as a bridge between the two and would have afforded them the opportunity to speak to each other through us.  However, it should be noted that the concept of the via media first appeared during the reign of Elizabeth I.

The Via Media can be compared to Aristotle’s Golden mean.  Aristotle taught the Golden Mean as a balance of virtues which avoided vice.  The Via Media though similar is a more principled approach to life as it is informed by divine revelation and not mere human reason and experience.

The Via Media is not `compromise' but the safest path through the challenging issues we meet in daily life for which there is no universal acceptable position. It is a principle way of approaching issues, which accepts that religious truth is always larger than our perception of it.  Our reluctance to take no dogmatic stand on controversial questions is informed by our view that there is some truth to be found everywhere.  Richard H. Schmidt says, "the result is that Anglicanism have always tolerated a certain ambiguity, middleness, and imprecision."

By adhering to the principle of the Via Media the Anglican church supports the concept of inclusiveness as opposed to exclusiveness; tolerance as against dogmatism; and humility in contrast to arrogance.  To be Anglican is to follow the middle way. The middle way of Anglicanism allows us to live creatively in the presence of God.  We are able to respond positively to contemporary issues without being restricted by past experiences; we use the past creatively but we are never slaves of the past.  The middle way allows Anglicans to go forward without being afraid of the future.  The Via Media has its strengths and weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages. Nevertheless, it is essential to Anglicanism and gives our church a comprehensiveness, which likens it to a large tree where all the birds of the air can come and make their nests.

“Comprehensiveness” requires agreement on essentials while allowing for disagreement on matters that are not crucial to the Christian faith.  The 1968 Lambeth Conference says:

Comprehensiveness demands agreement on fundamentals, while tolerating disagreement on matters in which Christians may differ without feeling the necessity of breaking communion. In the mind of an Anglican, comprehensiveness is not compromise.  Nor is it to bargain one truth for another. It is not a sophisticated word for syncretism. Rather it implies that the apprehension of truth is a growing thing: we only gradually succeed in “knowing the truth”.  Comprehensiveness implies a willingness to allow liberty of interpretation, with a certain slowness in arresting or restraining exploratory thinking.

The concepts of the middle way and comprehensiveness suggest that there will be differences in our understanding of God.  One of the strengths of Anglicanism is its openness and acceptance of intellectual freedom which allows people to behave in different ways and yet be members of the same family.  We do not subscribe to the theory that “anything’ goes; we recognize that there will be differences in people’s understanding of God. Religious truth can never be contained in one concept. God is infinite and we cannot always comprehend the mind of God.  The middle way of Anglicanism fosters tolerance and acceptance of differing views as we seek to discern God’s will in every given situation.

In Barbados, we may hear the terms low and high used as descriptive terms for some of our churches. These terms refer to the extent to which ceremonial is practiced in a particular church.
Anglicans accept the scriptures, creeds, worship and ministry of the historic Christian church, making us Catholic but at the same time we are reformed.  The following ways are offered for your consideration.  Church may be expressed in any or all of these ways.

You may become a part of such a church by confessing the faith, signing on to a set of doctrines or beliefs.
Such a church membership calls for sharing an experience of some sort, usually a recognizable conversion and subsequent commitment to Christ.
Such a church asks that its members do something – get baptized, receive communion.  Are we a pragmatic church? What makes us part of such a church is that we do what the church does. This definition fits in with the ideal of Anglicanism as a “family”. What makes us part of a family is that we come to dinner when the family gathers to eat.

Richard Schmidt (2002) suggests that the central event for some churches is the death of Jesus on the cross.  Such churches are Good Friday churches.  Others see the resurrection of Jesus as the central event.  Such churches are Easter churches.  A third group focuses on Christ’s gift of the Holy spirit at Pentecost.  Such churches are Pentecostals.  Anglicans focus on the incarnation of the son of God, the Word made flesh.  Anglican churches are Christmas churches.  Even though we recognize these other events in the life of Jesus as important Schmidt argues that what vibrates most in the Anglican soul is the incarnation.

Although it may be helpful for Anglicans to be aware of the various forms of ministry which exists in the other churches around us, it may be helpful to note, that Anglicanism developed not by looking at churches around them, but by asking the question: how can we be the church in this particular place, at this particular time?

Questions for discussion
1. How much does your experiences of other churches influence the way you see the Anglican Church?

2. Which aspects of the life of Christ most influence your practice of your Christianity?

3. What do you see as the greatest demands of the church today? How does your understanding of 
    yourself as an Anglican help you to shape a church that is a “bridge” between God and the world?

4. Do you see the diversity in Anglicanism as a strength or weakness?


How does Anglicanism maintain its unity? This is a valid question given the diversity of the Anglican Church and the absence of a central body possessing legal authority to regulate church practice and belief.

The unity of the Anglican Church is maintained by what we call the Instruments of Communion. These are:
1)  The Archbishop of Canterbury
2)  The Lambeth Conference
3)  The Anglican Consultative Council
4)  The Primates Meetings.

These persons and institutions act in an advisory role; they do not exercise legislative authority. 
The absence of a central authoritative figure or a central body possessing legislative authority creates problems and tensions in the Communion.  However, one recognizes that the Communion has its own way of solving its problems and generally unity is always preserved. 

The Archbishop of Canterbury occupies a special role in the Anglican Communion and is universally recognised as its spiritual head.  He is primus inter pares (first among equals) among the Bishops of the Anglican Communion.  He does not rule the world's 100 million Anglicans and is not an 'Anglican Pope' but he is the Communion’s symbol of unity and maintains the unity of the Communion through bonds of affection and shared beliefs which draw people together.

Successive Lambeth Conferences have recognised and emphasised the Archbishop’s role as a symbol of unity. His unifying role is clearly seen when the Communion experiences a crisis and he is invited by the Communion to exercise moral leadership and becomes a rallying point.  A classic example of the Archbishop’s unifying and moral leadership role was seen in 2003 when he invited the Primates of the Communion to Lambeth Palace to discuss the problems and tensions caused by the election of an openly gay priest as a Bishop in a member church of the Communion.

Various Lambeth Conferences have sought to define the role and function of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the primacy of the See of Canterbury within the Communion.

The Lambeth Conference of 1930 defines Anglicanism in this way: 
It is part of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Its centre of unity is the See of Canterbury.  To be Anglican it is necessary to be in communion with that See. The Archbishop of Canterbury has no jurisdiction outside the Church of England, but he is recognized as the spiritual leader of the Anglican Church and one can say he exercises moral authority. His office holds the communion together. 
Lambeth Conference of 1968 describes the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury: 
Within the College of Bishops it is evident that there must be a President.  In the Anglican Communion this position is at present held by the occupant of the historic See of Canterbury who enjoys a primacy of honour, not of jurisdiction. This primacy is found to involve, in a particular way, that care of all the Churches which is shared by all the Bishops. 
The Archbishop of Canterbury is not the equivalent of the Roman Catholic Pope. The Archbishop occupies a position of honour but is not head of the Anglican Church.  Nevertheless, his spiritual leadership and authority is germane to the whole concept of the Anglican Communion. 

The Lambeth Conferences are the most important administrative gatherings of the Anglican Communion.  These conferences allow the leaders of the Communion to deliberate and make decisions on moral and social issues that affect the church and society.  Lambeth Conferences are held every ten years under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury.  They have no legal authority but Lambeth resolutions and decisions represent the mind of the Communion as is represented by the Bishops.  These Conferences unite the Communion and set the parameters for action relating to doctrinal, moral and social issues.  Although these Conferences do not have legal or judicial authority, their decisions are morally binding on the Church.  Provinces are expected to act in conformity with Lambeth decisions which are not legislative but advisory.  The Provinces through their own synodical governments must accept any resolutions calling for action within the Communion.

The first Lambeth Conference was held in 1867 under the presidency of Archbishop Charles Thomas Longley. The Canadian Bishops call for a meeting such as Lambeth was in response to the actions of Bishop Colenso of Natal, South Africa, who among other things refused to make polygamous men give up their extra wives prior to baptism.  The idea was to call a meeting of Anglican Bishops to discuss Anglican doctrine and practice.

Archbishop Longley in accepting the Canadian Bishops request stressed the point that a meeting of Anglican Bishops would not be a legislative body.  He saw the meeting as an occasion for ‘brotherly consultations’.  In his opening address to the conference on September 24, 1867, Archbishop Longley said:
“It has never been contemplated that we should assume the functions of a general synod of all churches in full communion with the Church of England, and take upon ourselves to enact canons that should be binding upon those here represented.  We merely propose to discuss matters of practical interest, and pronounce what we deem expedient in resolutions which may serve as safe guides to future action.”
Ever since the first Lambeth Conference, successive meetings have been held every ten years under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury.  These continue to be advisory in nature but they represent the mind of the communion on social, moral and theological issues.  The Conference plays a very important role in promoting Anglican unity. 

The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) was established by a resolution of the 1968 Lambeth Conference. The ACC is comprised of bishops, priests and lay people who meet every three years under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury, to work on common concerns. 
"Its most vital purpose, however, like the Lambeth Conference, is to establish a communion of mutual attentiveness, interdependence and accountability to serve the unity and interdependence in mission of the Anglican Communion"  

The Primates (Archbishops) meeting takes place every two years under the Chairmanship of the Archbishop of Canterbury.  This meeting allows for the Primates as chief pastors to offer guidance to the Communion on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters.  This meeting serves several functions which include:
(a) serving as a sign of the unity and Catholicity of the Church,
(b) giving a high profile to important issues, and
(c) providing mutual support and counsel.

Questions for discussion

1.  How important is the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Communion?
2.  Should the Lambeth Conference be given Synodical status?
3.  Does the Communion need the equivalent of the Roman  Catholic Pope?


Scripture, reason and tradition have been described as a three-legged stool on which sit Anglican authority and method. The Virginia Report (1997) says: “Anglicans are held together by the characteristic way in which they use scripture, tradition and reason in discerning a fresh mind of Christ for the Church in each generation.”

Defining Scripture, Reason & Tradition

“The written record of God’s speaking to humanity”. The Protestant Bible consisting of thirty-nine Books of the Old Testament and twenty-seven books of the New Testament. The Apocrypha is used in worship but not to determine doctrine. The Bible is a “Book of books” whose stories are very different in their purpose and their value.

“Faith seeking understanding”. Reason provides an important, even though limited knowledge of God based on the nature of the universe and human moral experience while at the same time allowing faith to serve as the proper response to God’s self-disclosure.

Tradition points to the insights of forebears who also endeavoured to understand their lives and practices in the light of Scripture. It is the teaching and practice of the Church formally evolving from Holy Scripture and this teaching and practice has been carried on continuously from the beginning.

1.  Scripture
The collect for Proper 28 (Book of Common Prayer, Church in the Province of the West Indies) says, in part: “Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning”. This acknowledges that it was human beings who wrote them, but God was the primary and ultimate cause of their writing. Some persons interpret the belief that Scriptures were inspired by God to mean that God dictated his words to their minds or that he guided the pens of human writers. This is often referred to as “fundamentalism” or “literalism”.

Some persons believe in the inerrancy of the Bible or that it is incapable of mistakes. The Bible contains human errors. The guidance of the Holy Spirit was to produce an authentic witness to the salvation event in Jesus Christ to produce faith in the reader. The authority of the Bible is the experience of God at work in the lives of the people who wrote it, and of the people about whom they wrote.

The inspiration of Scripture is not to be understood as a once-for-all accomplished event. When Scripture is read in the Church, the Holy Spirit uses it anew to proclaim the living word of salvation. Anglicanism accepts the authority of the Scriptures, however, the Scriptures must be translated, read, and understood, and the meaning must be grasped through a continuing process of interpretation.  We are encouraged as Anglicans to enter into dialogue with the Biblical writers as we seek to discern the will of God.

Christians are obliged to use the Bible as their sacred text for informing them on all issues which they encounter from time to time.  However, we must be aware that the Bible does not explicitly address every theological or moral issue and as such it cannot be used as the final authority for answering problems such as cloning, life support methods, human and animal genetic engineering, nuclear war and other social and moral problems.  At times we need to use insights from natural and social sciences, medical science, anthropology, philosophy and natural law to help us in making our theological, moral and ethical decisions.

When reading Holy Scripture let us ask ourselves: Who wrote this book/passage?  To whom was the author writing, and why?  When was it written?  What was happening in the world/society at that time?

2.  Reason
Since human nature includes body and soul, the human good is material as well as spiritual, intellectual and moral.  Reason seeks to give guidance to the structures and policies of public life.

Reason cannot be ruled out in our search for a truthful interpretation of scripture and tradition.  Reason is a gift from God, it is the human capacity to symbolise, order, share and communicate experiences.  It is informed by our experience of the world and it allows us to make sense of our experiences. At the same time reason becomes what people at a given time take as good sense or common sense. This idea of reason relates to a given time and place and is understood within the context of a particular culture.  Reason helps us to discern the truth.  Truth is not static; it grows and changes as “God brings new elements of reality to light”.

3.  Tradition
(The Virginia Report 1997) says:
“Tradition is not to be understood as an accumulation of formulae and text, but as the living mind, the nerve centre of the Church.” 
In using the word “tradition” we are not referring solely to “old customs” handed down to us. The Bible, the Creeds, the sacraments, turning east, making the sign of the cross, the teaching of the Apostles and the Eucharistic Prayers are all part of our tradition.

We are members of a faith that spans a period of over two thousand years. Tradition is the collective thought of our experience during this period and forms an important part in our understanding of God. This tradition, influenced by culture and language has been expressed in many voices.  Tradition represents the mind of the Church.

Tradition and reason seek to interpret the Scriptures at any given time.  Baptism, the Eucharist and the ministry antedate the writing of the New Testament (NT), but without the N.T. our knowledge of them would be so uncertain and indefinite as to render them useless as vehicles of tradition.

Scripture, reason and tradition are the hall marks of Anglican thinking. The Virginia Report (1997) says, “The characteristic Anglican way to living with a constant dynamic interplay of scripture, tradition and reason means that the mind of God has constantly to be discerned afresh, not only in every age, but in each and every context.  Moreover, the experience of the Church as it is lived in different places has something to contribute to the discernment of the mind of Christ.  No one culture, no one period of history has a monopoly of insight into the truth of the gospel.”

Questions for discussion

1.  When studying Holy Scripture it is important to understand the context?

2.  Do you accept the Holy Scriptures as uniquely revealing the word of God and containing all things 

3.  Does the reliance on human reason necessitate giving up on the notion of faith altogether?


Most Anglicans have had to deal with the criticism that we can only pray from a book.
If there is one aspect of Anglicanism that stands as a testimony that the Anglican Faith emerged from the struggles of the Reformation, it is what we now refer to as simply, “The Book of Common Prayer”.  This great work that has fuelled and continues to strengthen the faith of many, stands as a bulwark against the insinuations of those who display intellectual dishonesty or simple ineptitude when they seek to suggest that the origin of the Anglican Faith is anything other than the Reformation.

It is difficult to speak of the Book of Common Prayer without touching some of the political and ecclesiastical issues that circulated throughout England and Europe at the time.  Many persons have linked the development of the Anglican Faith to the issues surrounding King Henry VIII’s desire to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon.  However, nothing could be further from the truth.  Henry, like most other rulers in Europe wanted total control of his country including the church.  However, what made it interesting is that Henry wanted to keep the catholic faith while rejecting the authority of the Pope.

King Henry died in 1547 and by 1549 the first version of the Prayer Book emerged.  Thomas Cranmer was the master-mind behind the renewal of public worship in the Church of England. Together with his associates, he planned the first Book of Common Prayer, which contained all the necessary rites required for public worship under one cover.  The title of this book was “The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of Sacraments, and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Churches after the use of the Church of England.”  In Crammer's words the book was issued so “that the people might continually profit more and more in the knowledge of God, and be more inflamed with love of true religion”. Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer had a strong Biblical base, it conformed to the order of the early Church; and it was designed to unify the realm.

One of the major changes that resulted from the advent of the Book of Common Prayer was that for the first time many people had the opportunity to share in a meaningful way in the worship of the church.  One of the main concerns that sparked Luther’s opposition to Catholicism was the fact that because the church was centred in Rome, Latin was the official language of the Church.  Therefore all services were said in Latin; a language which was foreign to the majority of the people.  Indeed one of the practices that emerged as a result of the people’s inability to understand the language of the service and still exists today, is the elevation of the Sacrament at the point of the Mass following the words of institution.  The reason, for the elevation of the sacrament and the ringing of the Sanctus bell was to alert the people who were unable to understand the language, that an important part of the worship was taking place.
The Book of Common Prayer was written in the language of the people and therefore afforded them the opportunity to reflect on their faith for themselves and most importantly share in every aspect of the worship.

It is a compact compilation of many of the liturgical rites and services of the church which would have been found in different service books.

One example of the liturgical changes that emerged can be found in Article 25 of what is commonly called the Articles of Religion.

There are several issues which surfaced during the Reformation being addressed in this particular Article of the Faith.  First of all there is the notion first surfaced by Martin Luther that there are only two Sacraments and not seven as the church had hitherto believed.  This argument had arisen during the Reformation in response to what Luther deemed as the church’s corruption of the Sacrament of Penance by the introduction of the ‘Doctrine of Merit’ which saw the church profiting from indulgences paid by the people to have their sins expunged.

Another issue being dealt with in this Article are two liturgical practices which were considered extreme and unnecessary by the reformers: Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and Procession with the Blessed Sacrament.

Also being addressed in this Article is the Catholic understanding of the effect of the Sacraments upon those who receive them.  The Catholic understanding is that the benefits of the Sacraments are bestowed upon persons and are effective whether they believe in their effectiveness or not; this understanding is termed ex opere operato.  Clearly in this Article it is directed toward the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper because it seeks to further counter the doctrine of Transubstantiation.  What the Article seeks to purport is the belief referred to as Receptionism, which simply infers that the Sacrament is only beneficial if received in faith and of course, good conscience.

In 1552 a revised version of the Prayer Book was published.  Like the Prayer Book of 1549, the revised version of 1552 was made compulsory by an act of Parliament.

A revised version of the Prayer Book was authorized by a new Act of Uniformity in 1662 and has served as the Book of Common Prayer for the Church of England to this day.  Minor revisions have been made throughout the Anglican Communion, for example, the ‘Book of Common Prayer for the Church in the Province of the West Indies’.  In 1958 the Lambeth Conference of Bishops agreed on the need for liturgical reform and the development of more contemporary forms of worship.  The aim was to provide modern liturgies that would be sensitive to pastoral needs, make forms of worship relevant to local conditions, incorporate social concerns, and allow more flexibility to meet the needs of particular worshipping communities.  However, in spite of the various revisions which have been made over time throughout the Communion due to cultural and lingual differences, it remains the Book of Common Prayer.

One of the greatest successes of the Book of Common Prayer has been its ability to achieve uniformity in worship not only in England but in the wider Anglican Communion.  The idea of Cranmer was to produce a nation that was truly united not only in allegiance to its monarch, but in its worship of and allegiance to God as well.

Today in spite of the different versions of the Prayer Book that may exist throughout the Anglican Communion, there is still a great element of uniformity.  That uniformity is achieved especially through our lectionary and the liturgical year which it follows.  The liturgical year with its various seasons is the same throughout the Anglican Communion and the lectionary (i.e. the readings) is the same on a given Sunday in most places throughout the Communion.  In addition, the collects (i.e. prayers of the people) follow the liturgical year and are the same in most places throughout the Communion.  Thus the uniformity is such that an Anglican can leave any part of the world and travel to any country and enter an Anglican Church on a given Sunday and be able to follow the Liturgy knowing exactly what the readings are likely to be.  That is amazing!  Moreover what it also means is that on any given Sunday most Anglicans the world over are reflecting on the same passages of Scripture and praying for the same things.  There is beauty in this concept, and indeed a sense of unity where over 100 million people in the Anglican Communion are praying with a common purpose not only every Sunday but indeed every day because there is uniformity in the daily offices as well.

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and all those who contributed to the development of the Prayer Book and indeed our Faith have given us a great treasure of which, all adherents to the Anglican Faith ought to be proud.  However, our pride must not simply be wanton, in the sense that we rejoice at the achievement of the great literary work we possess as our Prayer Book.  Instead, our pride must be lived and exemplified in our devotion to God through our use of the Prayer Book which was designed specifically for that purpose.

Questions for discussion

1.   Does the Prayer Book help you with your private prayer life?
2.   What are the advantages and disadvantages of written prayers and liturgies?
3.   Do we need more ‘freedom’ in our worship?


The Anglican Church over the centuries has developed a theology that is a distinct way of understanding God’s relationship to each individual, to the Church and to the world.  This theology is built on what we can term “the three pillars of Anglicanism”: Scripture, Reason and Tradition.
These three inform and influence each other. For example, the interpretation of Scripture (the Bible) is guided by reason and tradition. In the use of reason, Anglicans make use of the critical work that has been employed to move the interpretation of the Bible beyond a literal and basic interpretation.

We acknowledge the place of tradition in this process which is acknowledging that there is a long history of understanding of the Bible, especially in the Anglican Church, which can assist in our understanding and interpretation in our own time.  But even before we venture out to interpret the Bible we need to be aware of the nature of this great book.

1.  What is the Bible?
The Bible is a collection of ancient religious literature, from the Ancient Near East (Modern Middle East), some of it dates from as early as 1000 B.C with the latest information from around 130 AD. This collection has become sacred scripture to two of the world’s major religions.  Judaism claims the Old Testament as scripture and Christianity claims both the Old and the New Testaments.

The claim of scripture means that the literature is treated and understood as being more than an ordinary work of humanity.  We believe it reflects God’s revelation to us.  Revelation here means that in the literature we can find some powerful insights and lessons which we believe reflect the presence and the guidance of God and can help us to follow him in a better way.

When we open the pages of the Bible we do so conscious of the fact that we are dealing with an end product of a long and complex  process of production and development stretching over some one thousand or more years. That it has become a precious and sacred body of literature under God’s guidance, does not mean that we can ignore its process of development.

The Bible is like a potpourri, a mixture of many things. Some elements of the mixture are not very apparent to the untrained eye.  There is therefore a need for some training in biblical interpretation if we are to understand the mixture, identify its constituent elements and release the message it contains.

In this great collection of literature that Christians proclaim as the word of God, we find the following in an exciting and intriguing mix:
 (i)  History
(ii)  Poetry
(iii)  Myth
(iv)  Legend
 (v)  Law
(vi)  Apocalyptic
all in a framework called
(vii) Religion with a connecting element called
(viii)  Faith/Belief
These are all shaped by the experiences of those who produced them, covered by what can be likened to the outer casing that holds them together:
(ix)  Theology.

2. Interpretation of the Bible
The Bible’s message is captured in its theology.  In other words, the message is related to questions about how God is at work for those to whom the message is directed.  This is a point that is critical to the interpretation of the Bible.  When we study any passage of the Bible, we need to ask two important questions:
(i)  What message about the God-Community relationship was this passage trying to convey to the people for whom it was first written?
(ii) How can this message speak to us in our own time?  It is this knowledge of a ‘double’ audience that can help us to better understand the message of the Bible.  It brings it alive when we realise that the message was written by and for people like us.  It was a response to a set of human conditions that are still very much with us today.  Many things have changed in the world over the centuries, but human nature, human needs and fears remain almost constant.
3.   Searching for the message by asking the correct questions
Theology leads us to ask a number of questions as we search for the message in the passage.   Here are some of the critical ones:
1.  What is the passage saying about God?
2.   What is it saying about God’s relationship with the characters in the story?
3.   How does the relationship between the characters reflect or reject the presence of God
4.   What lessons about our relationship with God can we glean from the passage?
As we try to understand and interpret the Bible, it is very important to be aware of the fact that it was written to answer theological questions and not scientific ones, nor even historical ones.  In other words the primary guiding question was this:
What is God saying to this community through this person, this experience, this event?
4.  An example of the search
To ignore this guiding question and so attempt to draw out an answer from a text that was not written to provide the specific answer only does harm to the text.  Here are a few illustrations of the approach to the interpretation of the Bible that we should adopt if the text is to speak to us in its most powerful and relevant manner.

Let us use some stories with which we are familiar, the creation stories about the origin of sin (Genesis 1:1-2:4a; 2:4b-end); the fall (Genesis 3) and the conflict between Cain and Abel (Genesis 4) to illustrate how we should interpret them, guided by our Anglican understanding of the Bible.  Like other stories in the Bible they are conveying important theological messages, that is, messages about our relationship with God.

In the stories some very strange things seem to be happening. There is a rib that produces a woman, there is a serpent that speaks, one man who gives names to all the animals, the eating of a fruit that plunges Adam and Eve and the entire human race over a precipice into a world of pain and sorrow and a marriage when there seems not to be any possibility of a partner.
They are origin stories or myths which seek to provide some answers to the origin of some human experiences, citing God as being closely connected to these origins.  The stories should not, and indeed cannot, be converted into history.

If we go to them asking such questions like:
 (i)  Can one human rib produce an entire body?
(ii)  Did one man provide names for all the animals?
(iii) Can a serpent really talk?
(iv) What language did he and Adam and Eve speak?
 (v) Who did Cain marry?

We will be trying to find some answers that really cannot be provided.  Such questions cannot be answered by the stories simply because they were not written to answer them.  They were written to make some profound theological points that are still relevant in our own time.
Using an Anglican approach, let us try to discover how the stories can still speak to our conditions today.  Remember the points for which we are searching are theological ones, points that help us to understand God’s relationship with us and the world.  Remember that as Anglicans we pay close attention to reason as a guiding force in our understanding and interpretation of the Bible.  Reason can sometimes be compared to common sense.  So here we go.

(i) Can one human rib produce an entire body?
The bit about the rib explains in a dramatic way the affinity and the powerful bond between a man and a woman.  This has been the subject of hundreds of books and stories and plays and much rumour and gossip over the years.  We are all familiar with the famous couples of history that reflect this bond, sometimes in a disastrous way.

We have Samson and Delilah, Anthony and Cleopatra, Romeo and Juliet.  We can add several more to this list.  I am sure from your knowledge and experience you can add a few.
For the ancients this man/woman bond was very mysterious, as it still is.  This mystery could only be explained by citing the divine origin of the bond.  God made it this way.  It could only be something of God given human inability to fully understand or explain it or even control it.
We use a lot of this theology in our marriage services.  We still treat the bond between man and woman as divine in origin.  As such we treat it as precious and call the event that formalises this bond, marriage, a sacrament.

Remember the old definition of a sacrament:  An earthly act with a heavenly meaning. That is, it is an act that has significance, it points beyond itself to God.  So marriage, the blessing of the man/woman bond reminds us of this mystery that is of God.
What are some of the threats to this understanding of the man/woman relationship?
(ii)  Did one man provide names for all the animals?
The question about naming the animals has to do with the order of creation.  Human beings do seem to have a measure of control over animals in a way that they do not have control over us.  The creation story through the naming, is saying that God ordained it to be like this.
With control however comes responsibility.  Control is not a license to destroy the animals.
We are to respect them as creatures created by God.  In recent years ‘Animal Rights’ groups have developed in some parts of the world.  We also have the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  These remind us of our responsibility to animals.  The work of these groups can find a solid foundation in the creation stories.
What are some the ways in which the Church can support the welfare of animals?
(iii)  Can a serpent really talk?
Of course serpents cannot speak.  This bit about the talking serpent is making a theological point and not a biological one.  It makes a profound point about evil.  It reminds us that evil can offer far more than it can ever deliver.

Evil pretends to be equal with God, offering alternatives to the way of God.  Listen to the voice of the serpent:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God say, 'You shall not eat from any tree in the garden'?"  The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'  But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
The voice of the serpent is still very much alive and active at work in the world in our own time. Think of the lucrative alternatives to the way of God that can be offered to the gullible.
The serpent’s offer is a status of a god.  Very attractive: the power, the prestige, the control over other people, not to speak of a possible ‘not dying’ condition.  Who can resist this?
The writer of the story is aware of how powerful and attractive this package is.  Eve succumbs to it and draws Adam into the net.
What are some of the nets into which we can be lured in our own time by the voice of the serpent who offers more that he can ever deliver?
(iv)  What language did Adam and Eve speak?
This question may seem like an odd one but it may be one that some may be asked by some persons.  To answer we make a point we have made earlier with a slight variation.  We are dealing with theology and not history.  So the question about the language does arise.
In stories, they are dialogues between the characters that allow the writer to make certain points.  Any conversation in the creation stories is there to make theological points and not linguistic ones. Through the conversations the writer is trying to teach us something about God’s relationship with us.
How can we in our conversations do the same?
(v)  Who did Cain marry?
Here is a popular question that is asked of the stories.  Once more our point that the interest of the author is theological and not historical stands.  Marriage is used here in the story as one of the indications that God has granted Cain a pardon and he is carrying on a normal life.

This question is a historical one being asked of a story that is written to make a number of theological points.  The author is not concerned with any census regarding the number of persons, or women who are in the world and so are available for Cain to marry.

The author of this story wants to show the compassion of God who can forgive us when we have done some dreadful things in life.  He provides Cain with a wife even after he had killed his brother.
What lessons can the story help us in our approach to the emotive issue of capital punishment?
We have employed a method of interpretation that allows the stories in Genesis1-4 to speak to us today.  It is a very Anglican method.  It rejects a literal interpretation of the Bible, searches for the theological point it is making and finds the message it is seeking to convey.

This is a method that releases the power of the passage and forces us to ask some questions about ourselves, about our relationship with God and with our neighbour. It leads us to engage in theological reflection.
The writer to the Hebrews says:
Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  Hebrews 4:12

This is one of the most apt descriptions of the Bible.  It can only function with this effective power if it is released from the sheath of ignorance and literalism.  Anglicanism in its approach to the Bible is able to achieve this great goal.

Suggestions for further reading and study. These documents can be found on the Internet.
The Report of the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission  
The Windsor Report 2004

An Anglican Covenant - St Andrew's Draft Text


The Rt Rev Dr John Holder – Bishop of Barbados
The Rev Canon Austin Carrington – Rector - Christ Church Parish Church
The Rev Canon Dr Noel Titus - Retired Principal of Codrington College
The Rev Canon Dr Geoffrey Mayers - Rector - St John Parish Church
The Rev Canon Wayne Isaacs - Rector - St Paul Church
The Rev John Rogers – Rector - St Luke Church


The Church Mission Committee (CMC) was launched by Bishop Drexel Gomez on October 31, 1990.  CMC replaced the former Mission, Evangelism and Stewardship Committee.

The Church Mission Committee is responsible for training and equipping members of the Church to engage in various areas of the Church’s Mission.

The CMC’s work is carried out by the following Commissions:

1. Christian formation
2. Family Life
3. Stewardship
4. Social Responsibility
5. Evangelism
6. Liturgy, Spirituality and Music
7. Youth

In 1995 the Synod Council agreed to the establishment of two new Commissions, namely, the Evangelism and Liturgy, Spirituality and Music Commissions.  The Companion Diocese Committee is not a Commission but it functions under CMC.  Each Commission has various tasks assigned to it aimed at strengthening the Mission of the Church and enhancing the work of the diocese.  In 1995 Synod Council made this observation: “These Commissions form the very lifeblood of the Church. If these function effectively both at the parochial and the diocesan level then there will hardly be any need for “Special Mission”.

The Church Mission Committee has an important role to play in the life of the Diocese; a role that can never be over emphasised as the Church bears faithful witness to its mandate to proclaim the Good News of the kingdom and to equip its members for ministry.  For the work of the Church Mission Committee to be effective and of real benefit to the Diocese there must be a high level of co-operation between the CMC and incumbents.

Wayne E. Isaacs
Canon Missioner

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