Rooted in Scripture and Tradition
SSP behaves in ways that are rooted in Scripture and Tradition, post-partisan, and oriented to wise action. Those are our core values, the intolerance we’ll tolerate. As I said in the first post, being clear about these core identity markers frees us up to really engage with the world. It’s only when one has an anchor that one can weather the personal and organizational storms.
What do we mean by ‘rooted in Scripture and Tradition’? We mean three things: an orientation, an attitude, and a practice.
By ‘rooted,’ we’re talking first about an orientation towards the center of Christianity’s witness through time. This center could be described in any number of ways, but one I resonate with is the playful ‘One Canon, Two Testaments, Three Creeds, Four Ecumenical Councils, and the first Five Centuries of the Christian Faith.’ When we say we want to behave in rooted ways, the first thing we mean is that we are theologically oriented towards this center formed by Scripture and Tradition.
But, we also have an attitude about this center which we want to include in what we mean by ‘rooted.’ In the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, King Charles II gets at this in his preface to the 39 Articles. He writes: ‘even in those curious points, in which the present differences lie, men of all sorts take the Articles of the Church of England to be for them.’ (p. 609, emphasis mine). This is an attitude of trust. From this trust comes a willingness to sit at the feet of our fathers and mothers in faith. From this trust comes also a willingness to engage with the center in ways that are critical and creative. Archbishop Ramsey wrote, ‘Rather, I honestly believe that the Elizabethan Settlement by the nature of its appeal to Scripture and antiquity, and by its relationship to the contemporary controversies, liberated theology to appeal to Scripture and tradition in a way that could be really creative, and it is going to be our great task to see that it remains so’ (Ramsey 1991, 22).
But, even that is not enough without practice. Being rooted in Scripture and Tradition also means a commitment to those practices of daily life and prayer that have shaped our fathers and mothers in faith through the ages: Daily Prayer, regular Eucharist, Confession, Reconciliation, study, etc. Faithful practice grounds who we are and what we do.
Now like any core value, the value of ‘rooted in Scripture and Tradition’ can be taken too far. We see this all the time when our parishes and our national churches are rent by partisans who claim ‘orthodoxy’ of one sort or another, not realizing that often their opponents are holding to the same center that they are, taking that same center to be ‘for them,’ and therefore being rooted in Scripture and Tradition just as much as their partisan opponents. Orthodoxy, taken too far, leads to factions, divisions, and dissensions, all things that stand opposed to the Spirit (cf. Gal 5:20).
Which is why our second core value is so important. More on being “Post-Partisan,” and the “beer principle,” next time.