Usage and ab-usage in the language of contemporary Anglicanism

‘Experience’ is a key word in understanding the current drift of Anglican theology. Slowly but inexorably, in the literature on the ordination of women to the priesthood produced by the House of Bishops, ‘experience’ replaced ‘reason’ in the time-honoured Anglican trinity of ‘Scripture, Tradition and Reason’. The bishops, however, were at least clear about the primacy of scripture. We all accept the “controlling authority” of scripture and the authority of t the Church’s tradition’, they said in GS829.

All, that is, apart from Bishop Timothy Bavin. He, it seems from a recent interview in the Chichester News, has other, more radical, ideas. Traditional teaching derived from scripture and the history of the church is up against human experience,’ he courageously affirmed. ‘Are we to say that the Holy Spirit is more in one than the other? I don’t know that we can. If we believe that God is still at work in His world through his spirit, we cannot deny human experience.’

Like the Readers’ Digest, the Chichester r News is not an ideal forum in which to launch new and demanding theological concepts. So the bishop owes the rest of us (who are trying to catch up) something of an explanation. Is he saying that contemporary experience should have the same weight as scriptural teaching? Is he claiming that the experience of the Fathers was somehow less than ‘human’? The bishop should tell us.