Why Anglicans Study the Bible in Light of Tradition

Anglican Church

While Scripture is the foundational aspect of Anglican theology, another key “leg” of the three-legged stool is tradition. Anglicans value studying Scripture within tradition, bringing insights and decisions from the larger communion of saints, across time and geography, to bear on the interpretation and implementation of Scripture. In other words, each time we open Scripture, it is not simply one individual studying Scripture alone, it is very intentionally a group effort in partnership with the great cloud of witnesses.

Unity through worship

First and foremost in the Anglican tradition is the Book of Common Prayer. At the end of the sixteenth century, the Church of England was deeply divided between the Puritans and those who wanted to hold on to more of the Roman Catholic elements of the church (later referred to as Anglo-Catholics). With Queen Elizabeth at its head, the Church of England decided that it wasn’t going to enforce doctrinal unity outside of what it saw as central Christian belief. Rather, they emphasized unity of worship. Drawing heavily on existing material while injecting insights from the Reformers, Anglicans created the Book of Common Prayer to unify worship across all their churches. Consequently, it is Anglicans’ common worshipping and praying life that has the largest influence on its views of Scripture and the rest of tradition.

A diverse body

That focus on unity of worship has allowed for a wide diversity in the way the tradition has developed. Most Anglicans have always held the Church Fathers in high regard. Many Anglicans have drawn on Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theologians as a way to understand Scripture and interpret existing tradition. Still other have been significantly influenced by Lutheran and Reformed theologians. This mix has created an Anglican tradition with a character all its own. At the same time, however, most Anglicans still draw on sources outside of the Anglican tradition.


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  1. So, I might be able to guess, but to be sure, what exactly are the three legs to the stool. Are they equal, or does one take precedence?

  2. David R. Sincerbox says

    The three legged stool is based on a milk stool in which the three legs are not equal. The longest leg is Scripture, and the two shorter legs are tradition and reason. Some have distorted Hooker’s image and presented the three legs as equal.

    • Hamilton Ramos says

      God bless:

      This is interesting, thanks for sharing.

      I just thought that the stool is missing context: Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

      Jesus Christ is the rock over where the stool must be resting, and the Holy Spirit can be seen as the gravity that keeps the stool from moving out of place.

      Never thought of this until reading this article and the posts of participants.

      Thanks, and blessings.

  3. Significantly then Anglicanism is not a doctrinaire denomination but a denomination that balances personal experience with the experience of the whole church, past and present. Conflicts arise when the balance is placed in a different place. But can one position be authoritative?