We are Christians who seek to “follow Christ, to worship God…and to work and pray and give for the spread of his Kingdom.” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 291) We take great care to affirm and believe that which all Christians at all times, in all places have professed and affirmed. This means we are historical Christians rooted in the traditions and history of the church. This also means we are orthodox Christians rooted in the true faith and practice of the one undivided and indivisible body of Christ.
As historical, orthodox Christians, we believe in and have a relationship with the Triune God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. We are rooted in a history that goes all the way back to Christ Himself. We are a part of the worldwide body of believers which Scripture called the Bride of Christ, and which we call the Church. We accept the documents which that church has deemed canon, namely the Scripture. Lastly, we join with the historical church in affirming the Creeds, especially the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed.
On the Importance of Tradition in Christianity
Our understanding of Traditions is cogently summarized in Article Thirty-Four of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Anglican Church. Article Thirty-Four says:
“IT is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s Word. Whosoever, through his private judgment, willingly and purposely, doth openly break the Traditions and Ceremonies of the Church, which be not repugnant to the Word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly, (that others may fear to do the like,) as he that offendeth against the common order of the Church, and hurteth the authority of the Magistrate, and woundeth the consciences of the weak brethren. Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish Ceremonies or Rites of the Church ordained only by man’s authority so that all things be done to edifying.”
This article states central ideas in the Anglican understanding of Church Tradition. First, Tradition is always subject to Scripture “so that nothing be ordained against God’s Word.” We value those Traditions in the church that buttress and bolster Scripture while rejecting those traditions that undermine and weaken Scripture. This has a profound implication in our worship for we do not dogmatically hold to the Traditional Anglican liturgy just because this is the way Anglicans have always worshipped, but because the Traditional Anglican Liturgy buttresses and supports the clear and catholic teaching of Scripture. Second, Tradition is vitally important and anyone who “doth openly break the Traditions and Ceremonies of the Church…ought to be rebuked openly.” Historically, Anglicans have valued Church Tradition because Traditions guides and frames our understandings of the Scripture.
This means we heartily disagree with the Enlightenment dogma that newer is better. True, the church should always be reforming, but this does not mean we should abandon tradition or make new traditions, it simply means we should always be prepared to remove the dross from our existent traditions. As someone once said, “It is of the utmost importance to understand the scriptures in a way that is consistent with the tradition and history of the Church. We should align ourselves with the saints through all time, and look to them for guidance. Not to do so is like a teenager looking to his peers for life advice, while ignoring the wisdom of those old enough to know what they are talking about.”
(Text gratefully used by permission of the Church of Our Savior, Santa Barbara, California.)