I really have both a love and fascination for the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. I name them in that order, because that is their order of familiarity with me. There is something very grounded and wonderful about these traditions of the faith. I love different aspects of what I understand from both. And I love the Anglican tradition which can be kind of a mediation between the Catholics and Protestants (quoting every Sunday on this blog from their wonderful Book of Common Prayer). I don’t mean to ignore other traditions such as the Coptic Church. I believe we can learn from all the traditions. I especially like some of the practices, like the stations of the cross (I go to an outdoor shrine near where we live at a Catholic church, taking my New Testament/Psalms and Proverbs with me). I am not used to prayer labyrinths, but have found them helpful in helping me focus on God and God’s love as well as the journey of faith I am on in this life. I love the incense, chantings in song of scripture and the beauty of the Eastern Orthodox Church. And I think we who are not a part of such traditions can and should learn from them. They have a rich heritage which has spanned generations so that they have more than a leg up on many of the rest of us on some rich practices in coming to know God through Christ as well as serving him in this world.
But in an evangelical sort of way I suppose, in a way which is influenced with a special emphasis on scripture and the centrality of the gospel with hopefully the church being more and more embedded within that witness and practice, I find myself enjoying and appreciating such from a clearly Biblically centered approach. I am quite interested in all the traditions and why they are practiced (along with why we don’t practice them), but I want everything to be clearly anchored in the inscripturated word. I am willing to let their traditions meander off (in my mind, at least) here and there on paths in which I think there is no scriptural support, such as prayers to the saints and devoted prayer to Mary, as long as I think such does not violate the letter and spirit of scripture. I know beginning with the emphasis on tradition, we simply interpret scripture differently at key points. I also know there are serious weaknesses in my own tradition. For example for too many church is not a part of who they are, not much more than a tack which is simply helpful to their individual faith. A terrible oversight and misreading of scripture is part of the problem there. Of course we who are in our traditions in some ways can be the most aware of certain weaknesses, while being blind to other weaknesses, needing help from those outside our tradition.
And so I will continue to appreciate the Great Tradition of the Church and seek to grow through parts of it. But my center in practice will continue to be on scripture itself, with hopefully my focus being on Jesus Christ and God’s grace and kingdom come in him, not only for myself, but for the world. Along with hopefully a growing appreciation for the central place of the church in this life and witness.