As Christians in the Anglican tradition, we are called to live out our faith on a daily basis, whether we are at home, school, work or recreation. Centred on Christ, our Faith is supported by Scripture, as interpreted by tradition and understood through reason.
The 39 books of the Hebrew Testament contain the story of God’s love, from Creation up to the birth of his son, Jesus Christ. They contain God’s “laws” as they were understood by the Hebrew people, and the Hebrew peoples’ interpretation and response. The New Testament contains Christ’s teachings, the accounts of his life as told by his followers, and the beginning of his church. It is expressed in the 27 books eventually determined by the Church to be authentic expressions of the tradition. These documents have faced all the hazards of transcription and translation for two thousand years, and continue to be the subject of scholarly analysis and interpretation as new evidence and insights emerge. Within an Anglican worship service, Scripture is read in the lessons, the Gospel (the story and teachings of Jesus), the Psalms (poems from the Old Testament) and other prayers. It generally forms the basis of the sermon. Additionally, about two- thirds of our guides to worship, the Book of Alternate Services and the Book of Common Prayer, comes directly from the Old and New Testaments. Indeed, the Bible is fundamental.
We are not Christians in isolation but are part of a living faith that spans 2000 years, with roots that reach back even further. Tradition is the embodiment of our experience as Christians throughout those centuries. “Without either roots or a vision for the future we become prisoners of the here-and-now — wanderers without memory or hope” (Peter Davidson).The heart of our tradition is expressed through the Bible, the Creeds (statements of faith, written in the first centuries of the church’s existence), the Sacraments (the Eucharist and Baptism), and the ordained ministry passed on by Christ to his Church. It is a living tradition, and therefore grows and changes. Our tradition speaks through a lively theological canon, and is expressed with many voices, among which are a variety of worship styles, priorities, languages, cultures, architecture and music. We seek to value the life and story each person can bring to the community of faith. As in a multitextured tapestry, each person’s offering is woven into the life of the whole, making it stronger and more beautiful.
Each one of us, with God’s help, makes a decision about how we use tradition and Scripture in our lives. The gift of reason allows us to “hear what the Spirit is saying” in texts that were developed in very different times and cultures, and apply those messages to the modern context. So, for example, using reason, it took time for Christians to understand how opposed Jesus was to slavery, even though some biblical texts might seem to condone it. Similarly, it took time and reasoned debate to realize that Paul’s apparent negative attitude to women was a reflection of his desire, in a very patriarchal society, to divert official attention from his mission, but was not an authentic reflection of Christ’s teaching about the place of women in his Kingdom. Both of these insights have in part grown out of our growing knowledge of the dynamics of the Greek and Roman worlds.
Likewise, the modern understanding of the physical world that has emerged from the practical application of reason is not seen as a contradiction of the world of Faith. The Biblical writers had a very different understanding of the nature of physical reality, and they voiced their insight within that context. Our “job” is to understand the insight, and apply it to the world as we understand it. That Scripture merits this intensive analysis and study, rather than mute acceptance, reflects the very high priority it is given by the Church. Scripture comes alive with its full historic, metaphorical and sacramental significance restored. This approach makes Scripture relevant to our lives today in a way that an ancient artifact cannot be, so that it can be “taken seriously” by a modern seeker.
(The above is adapted from the website of the Diocese of Texas, part of the Episcopal (Anglican) Church in the U.S.A., but is substantially revised from the original)