I was asked by someone this week, who was interested in exploring the Anglican expression of Christian faith, where they would start. Obviously, this is a great question to be asked, and very encouraging, as a parish priest to hear that question asked. It does cheer my heart.
I framed my response using the image of the Anglican three legged stool, scripture, tradition, and reason and I thought it would be good to share with you. Everyone can use a refresher.
“Scripture. A good place to start is to read the stories about Jesus in the New Testament of the Bible. The scripture. Go to the source. Don’t get too caught up by the different “interpretations” and “spins” denominations, like, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Baptist, etc. put on the reading of it. It is over 2000 years old, so it does present some challenges, but it full of truth. (Suggested link: http://bible.oremus.org)
Tradition. This covers everything from teachings, practices, and worship. Over the course of 2000 years, lots of good, prayerful, and smart people have thought, taught, and prayed on Jesus and his teachings. So there is a lot written down, taught, and carried down generation to generation. The BBC has a good website and the Wikipedia article on Christianity that give a pretty good overview. Links: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/ and http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity
There is also tradition in how we worship and pray. A good resource for understanding how and why we worship in the Anglican Church can be found in the Book of Alternative Services (BAS). There are really good introductions to things like Baptism and the Eucharist, in the BAS. You can download a free copy at the Anglican Church of Canada Website. Link: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4905842/Liturgy/BAS.pdf
Reason. This is a pretty important pillar, especially these days. Anglicans believe that God gave us each a brain to think and ask questions with. So, that means we don’t always agree or that we can not always present a “united front” on all teachings and practices globally or even a local church. But we work together and we hold each other accountable by thinking, challenging, and questioning. Reason, helps balance out the strong pull of the other two pillars.”
Of course, there is plenty I have left out, but I don’t want to put out the spark of faith with too much kindling.