The Windsor Report 2004

Theological development

  1. There is, first, theological development. Virtually all Christians agree on the necessity for theological development, including radical innovation, and on the fact that the Holy Spirit enables the church to undertake such development. Primary examples include the great fourth-century creeds, which go significantly beyond the actual words and concepts of scripture but which have been recognised by almost all Christians ever since as expressing the faith to which we are committed. At the same time, all are agreed that not all proposed developments are (to put it mildly) of equal weight and worth. Some, in fact, do not develop the Christian faith, but distort or even destroy it. A recent example might be the heresy of apartheid. Healthy theological development normally takes place within the missionary imperative to articulate the faith afresh in different cultures, but (as has become notorious) this merely pushes the question a stage further back: how is the line between faithful inculturation and false accommodation to the world's ways of thinking (note Romans 12.1-2) to be discerned and determined? Christians are not at liberty to simplify these matters either by claiming the Spirit's justification for every proposed innovation or by claiming long-standing tradition as the reason for rejecting all such proposals. The church therefore always needs procedures for discussing, sifting, evaluating and deciding upon proposed developments; in particular, they need to honour the process of 'reception', described in Section B.

  2. The first reason therefore why the present problems have reached the pitch they have is that it appears to the wider Communion that neither the Diocese of New Westminster nor the Episcopal Church (USA) has made a serious attempt to offer an explanation to, or consult meaningfully with, the Communion as a whole about the significant development of theology which alone could justify the recent moves by a diocese or a province.