Authority

A vexed question in the Church of England!   Very simple, in essence: the Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church: there is no question of that.   The problem comes in deciding how that authority is mediated to the church in practical everyday problems and situations.   There are broadly three strands of belief.   The catholic, which regards the church’s tradition as the final arbiter; the evangelical, which regards Scripture in that way; and the liberal, which gives final authority to human reason.   It is not as clear cut as this simple division would suggest, for the Catholics have a high view of Scripture, the evangelicals do not ride roughshod over tradition (and both recognise that the interpretation of both tradition and Scripture in today’s culture calls for the application of reason), and the liberals are not without regard to tradition and Scripture.   However, there is also fourth strand, the charismatic, which runs through the other three and which holds that the individual believer can experience the direct revelation of truth and its current application from the Holy Spirit.   All this, however, raises the further question of how this authority, however it is derived, is mediated to the church.   The Church of England does this through a system of synodical government, in which both clergy and laity take part.  

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