The Anglican Consultative Council expressed support on Saturday for a project that will explore the ways Anglicans worldwide read and interpret Scripture.
The Bible in the Life of the Church project is being launched to build "understanding, trust and respect" among those who differ in biblical interpretations.
Formerly, the Anglican Communion had been called on in 2004 to "re-evaluate the ways in which we have read, heard, studied and digested scripture." The request, however, was largely neglected.
"We can no longer be content to drop random texts into arguments, imagining that the point is thereby proved, or indeed to sweep away sections of the New Testament as irrelevant to today's world, imagining that problems are thereby solved," a provision in the 2004 Windsor Report states. "We need mature study, wise and prayerful discussion, and a joint commitment to hearing and obeying God as he speaks in scripture, to discovering more of the Jesus Christ to whom all authority is committed, and to being open to the fresh wind of the Spirit who inspired scripture in the first place.
"If our present difficulties force us to read and learn together from scripture in new ways, they will not have been without profit."
The Windsor Report was drawn up to resolve disputes in the global church body, particularly over homosexuality.
In 2003, The Episcopal Church – the U.S. arm of Anglicanism – had heightened controversy when it consecrated the first openly gay bishop. Conservative Anglicans believe the U.S. national body has abandoned Christian orthodoxy and has called it to get back in line with Scripture and traditional Anglicanism.
In debates over Scripture, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall of Brisbane, primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, told the Anglican Consultative Council, "We see the others as not understanding Scripture properly, as not taking Scripture seriously, as applying Scripture in ways it shouldn't be applied, or all three of those," as reported by the Episcopal News Service.
Initial plans for a project exploring the way or ways the Bible is used in the life of the Anglican Communion were discussed in February 2007 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Since then a more detailed proposal has been drawn up.
The question Anglicans will be addressing through the Bible project is: "What do we mean when we say that we are a Church that lives under Scripture?"
Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, considered the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, expressed hope in the project.
He said it has "enormous potential for the health of our Communion," while noting that the project was "not about becoming better at arguments," according to Anglican Journal.
The Bible in the Life of the Church is a three-year project that will involve wide, regionally based, grassroots participation from around the Anglican Communion. It will also draw on the work of academic biblical scholars and theologians. Additionally, the project is expected to incorporate "previous work done in this field" by some of the Communion's ecumenical partners.
The Anglican Consultative Council, a decision-making body that includes bishops, clergy and laity, is currently meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, for its May 2-12 gathering.