Lex Orandi, lex credendi and the proposals for the affirmation of same-sex relationships and gender transition by the Church of England.

Feb 6, 2018 by

by Martin Davie:

This paper is an expansion of a paper I originally wrote in July 2016. It has now been updated to include reference to the proposal from Hereford Diocesan Synod to mark same-sex marriages through the use of a service of Prayer and Dedication after a Civil Marriage and the proposal that has now been put forward by the House of Bishops that services of Baptism, Confirmation and the Affirmation of Baptismal Promises should be adapted to allow for the liturgical marking of gender transition.

Latin phrases and their meanings.

There are a series of Latin phrases that are widely used in theology such as sola scriptura, sola fide and ecclesia reformata semper reformanda. One thing they all have in common, apart from saying things that are theologically significant, is that their meaning needs careful unpacking if it is to be understood properly.

Thus the phrase sola scriptura (‘Scripture alone’) does not mean that the Bible is the only rule of Christian faith and practice in the sense that no Christian should either believe anything or do anything that is not explicitly mandated in the Bible. As Richard Hooker points out in the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, this is an extreme position which is it is impossible to live out in consistently in everyday life. ‘For in every action of common life to find out some sentence clearly and infallibly setting before our eyes what we ought to do, (seem we in Scripture never so expert,) would trouble us more than we aware.’[1] Try deciding between a flat white and a latte in your local coffee shop on the basis of an explicit sentence in Scripture on the issue and you will see what Hooker is getting at.

What the phrase sola scriptura does mean that Scripture is the supreme authority in all matters of doctrine and practice. There are other authorities, such as Christian tradition and the exercise of sanctified reason, that the individual Christian and the Church collectively may rightly draw on to shape what they think and what they do, but all such other authorities are subordinate to, and subject to correction by, the written word of God.

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