GAFCON: The Key Hermeneutical Point

It would be inappropriate, to say the least, for a Baptist to stand in too hasty judgment over those who have decided to renegotiate their relationship with the Anglican Communion (and Baptists that are inclined to disapprove have a consequent responsibility to ‘consider their own position’ in relation to such issues.)

However, in reading the ‘Jerusalem Declaration’ that has emerged from GAFCON which can be read in full here the following sentence struck me as lying close to the heart of the hermeneutical issues involved:

We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the
Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation.
The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its
plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and
consensual reading.

Note the omission of the word ‘interpreted’.  By failing to mention this level of mediated engagement with the scriptural witness, those who support the concerns of GAFCON are able to (a) imply that anyone who disagrees with their conclusions is reading their own agenda into the text, while they are simply teaching and obeying the plain and canonical sense and (b) identify that plain, canonical sense with the (i) church’s historic and consensual reading and further (ii) their own own interpretive conclusions.

As I continue to argue, unless we take the inevitability and responsibility of the human work of interpretation seriously when thinking about Scripture, we will never progress beyond the kind of oppositional and conflictual discourse that characterizes the GAFCON statement (and, as noted above, much of my own Baptist heritage).