Bishop Eric Menees
When Archbishop Cramner and the other Anglican Reformers first broke from the Roman Catholic Church, they wanted to keep the richness of the faith and the tradition of the Apostolic and Patristic periods of the church. In doing so, the Anglican reformers placed a strong emphasis on both the Word of God and the Sacraments of the Church - the 39 Articles of Religion state that, "The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same." (Article 19)I love the Anglican Church because we recognize that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Inspired Word of God! The 39 Articles are clear in stating:
"Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church." (Article 6)
For Anglicanism, it begins and ends with God's self-revelation through His Word. The Book of Common Prayer itself is made up of something like 80% scripture...now that is just a guess on my part, (but I'm sure someone with lots of time on their hands has already done a study) however, it is an educated guess. Look at the words of institution (the words Jesus used at the Last Supper) during Holy Eucharist, which are taken from the Gospels and Corinthians. Or take the Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer services where, for example, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) and the Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2:29-32) are taken directly from scripture.
This was done in a radical move to make the scriptures accessible to all people: rich and poor, literate and illiterate. By attending the services, the people were immersed in the Word of God. Equally, when the lectionary was put together, the intention was to allow the scriptures to be taught and learned on a Sunday by Sunday - day by day basis.
This emphasis on the Word of God has been brought into modern day Anglicanism, and has been affirmed in current documents like the Jerusalem Declaration and the Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). "The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in the plain and canonical sense, respectful of the Church's historic and consensual reading" (Jerusalem Declaration)
This emphasis on The Word of God is also one of our points of separation from the Episcopal Church, which has, for a generation now, taught that the Bible contains the "words" of God but is not necessarily the inspired Word of God that is authoritative for our lives. In the Anglican Church we read, believe and follow the words of St. Paul when writing to Timothy, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17) Our lives - public and private- are to be modeled upon the the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.
As the ACNA puts together our Prayer Book and develops the lectionary, I've encouraged Bishop Thompson and his committee to reverse what the Episcopal Church did in removing large sections of scripture that they disagreed with from the daily and Sunday readings. We have a wonderful opportunity to get it right, and to make sure that we begin and end with the Word of God!