It has also been said when someone noted that I am a fact-junkie. I like browsing reference sources, just to pick up something new. When I pick up USA Today I find myself looking at the state by state snippets, starting with the state where I live, and then states where I have lived, and then states adjacent to states where I have lived….
So, I was playing recently in the Digital Archives of the Episcopal Church, looking at legislation of past General Conventions. (Take some time to browse there yourself. It’s a wealth of information on the statements and actions of General Conventions since 1976.) There I ran across Resolution 1997-A014:
Resolved, That Canon IV.15 is hereby amended by adding thereto a definition reading as follows: "Doctrine": As used in this Title, the term "Doctrine" shall mean the basic and essential teachings of the church. The Doctrine of the Church is to be found in the Canon of Holy Scripture as understood in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds and in the sacramental rites, the Ordinal and Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer.
First, that led me to consider this definition: "the basic and essential teachings of the church… [are] to be found in the Canon of Holy Scripture as understood in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds and in the sacramental rites, the Ordinal and Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer.” (emphasis mine) Whatever some may say about the importance of Scripture in the Anglican tradition, the General Convention in 1997 affirmed in at least one place in Canons the importance of the Church’s interpretation of Scripture rather than a sola scriptura tradition. That is even more clear when we consider that this definition was accepted as amended. The original version of the resolution was,
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That Canon IV.15. is hereby amended by adding thereto a definition reading as follows: "Doctrine": The Doctrine of the Church shall be found in the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Sacraments, Pastoral Offices, and Ordinal in the Book of Common Prayer, and is in all cases to be supported by Holy Scripture.
The difference is subtle, but the amended version essentially reverses, I think, the original. Rather than Tradition being understood through Scripture, Scripture was to be understood through the Tradition.
Then, it led me to Title IV Canon 15, the title of which is “Of Terminology Used in This Title” It is, in fact, a list of definitions of terms used in Title IV, which encompasses the Disciplinary Canons. In addition, it includes definitions of such terms as “Amenable for Presentment for an Offense” (“a reasonable suspicion exists that the individual has been or may be accused of the commission of an Offense”); . “Discipline” (“found in the Constitution, the Canons, and the Rubrics and the Ordinal of the Book of Common Prayer”); and “Minor: (“a person under the age of twenty-one years of age;”).
It also includes a definition of “Conduct Unbecoming a Member of the Clergy:”
“any disorder or neglect that prejudices the reputation, good order and discipline of the Church, or any conduct of a nature to bring material discredit upon the Church or the Holy Orders conferred by the Church.”
and a definition of “Offense:” “any conduct or acts proscribed in Canon IV.1.1. “
One of the complaints about the Episcopal Church has been lack of clarity and of definition. Here are some clear definitions, affirmed through the constitutional processes of the Episcopal Church. I wonder what use we might make of them.