As an Anglican church we seek to uphold the values of the Anglican Communion. These values are upheld by the Leadership Team of Anglicans of Second Life and all others who lead our various ministries, as a common basis for our ministry together.
The Anglican Communion is an organization with 44 regional and national member churches around the globe in over 160 countries and with a total of about 80 million members worldwide. The national Churches are self-governing, but they recognize the Archbishop of Canterbury as their spiritual leader. They discuss together by means of the Anglican Consultative Council which meets every 2-3 years and has members who are lay and ordained. Every ten years all the Anglican bishops meet together at the Lambeth Conference. The Primates (these are the chief Archbishops, Presiding Bishops and Chief Pastors) of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion meet together at various times and in different places around the world. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Anglican Consultative Council, Lambeth Conference and Primates Meetings are called the Instruments of Communion.
The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral lists four points which started as an Anglican definition of what it means to be Christian, but which also define Anglican identity:
- The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as “containing all things necessary to salvation,” and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.
- The Apostles’ Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.
- The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself — Baptism and the Supper of the Lord — ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s Words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.
- The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church.
In our ministry in Second Life the first two points are particularly emphasized. We do not celebrate any sacraments in the Anglican Cathedral of Second Life, although we recognise that this is a very topical issue and likely the conversations about how sacraments and a virtual world might interact will continue. Our local adaptation in terms of bishops means that we are currently working under the authority and episcopal oversight of Bishop Christopher Hill of Guildford, England. Until recently and up until his retirement, we also operated under the authority of Bishop Tom Brown of Wellington, New Zealand. Both +Christopher and +Tom have taken an active interest in our ministry since its early days. It’s not unusual for a Fresh Expression of church such as our own to have different arrangements from the norm to suit particular circumstances.
The Anglican Church has no central authority which determines what we should believe. Instead Anglicans base their faith on what Richard Hooker (1554-1600) described in “Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity”:
“What Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that the first place both of credit and obedience is due. The next whereunto is what any man can necessarily conclude by force of reason. After these the voice of the church succeeds.”
This means that we look first to the Bible for answers, taking the plain meaning of what is written. If the meaning is not absolutely clear we use reasoning, i.e. common sense. If there is still some doubt, the traditional interpretation established over the years is accepted. Scripture, tradition and reason should work with one another, with Scripture having precedence. To this mix, personal experience is often added as an additional source of understanding. All should be grounded in prayer.
This method of finding our way is particularly important for members of Anglican of Second Life as we live out at least part of our faith in the uncharted territory of Second Life where new questions can be thrown up almost daily.
The Anglican Communion’s teaching on sexual ethics is given in Lambeth Resolution 1.10. Knowing that this issue is one which causes contention, we do not presume to teach on this matter, but prefer to concentrate on those things which we hold in common.