Thank you so much for the loving support you gave me on the Sunday of my installation as Honorary Canon of Blackburn Cathedral. There were lots of kind words and cards, as well as the presence of many of you at the lunch and the service itself.
However, I had to laugh when a retired senior clergyman of the diocese congratulated me and told me that he’d been pushing for my name to go forward for many years. Presumably other, louder, voices had been saying, “No” for all that time!
The word ‘Canon’ is an interesting one. Those of you who attended the service at the Cathedral probably read the introductory notes included in the order of service. When clergy are made ‘canons’ it signifies that they have a particular responsibility for the order and regulation of the wider church. In addition you might know that there is a book called the ‘Canons of the Church of England.’ This is a list of rules that clergy promise to abide by in their ministry. So clearly the word is always associated with order and authority.
Let me mention a third use of the word that fits in with this – and in my opinion this one is the most significant. In the Church we sometimes talk about the ‘Canon of Scripture.’ These are the books that are accepted as belonging in our Bibles; they are the documents that are regarded as authoritative when it comes to the Church’s doctrine and belief.
Some Christians believe that God can and does reveal new truths as history progresses but as Anglicans we believe that the Canon of Scripture is complete – God has revealed to us everything we need to know. Some might find that an unexciting prospect but it has to be that way. If Christ has done a finished work for us on the cross then there must also be a finished word in Scripture proclaiming that work. “What more can he say than to you he hath said?”*
Hence Article VI of the Church of England’s 39 Articles in the Book of Common Prayer says this: “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” The article then goes on to list the books that are canonical.
The hope and prayer of this Canon is that the Canon of Scripture be a great blessing to you.
Yours in Christ
*From the hymn ‘How firm a foundation’