The 39 Articles


The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (an acronym too far) “uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.”

Anglicans Online provides the articles. What do you make of this one:

XVII. Of Predestination and Election.

Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God’s purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God’s mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.

As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God’s Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.

Furthermore, we must receive God’s promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture: and, in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God.

Anglo-Catholics will want to have a good look at this one:

XXV. Of the Sacraments.

Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God’s good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.

There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.

Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures, but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.

The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same, they have a wholesome effect or operation: but they that receive them unworthily, purchase to themselves damnation, as Saint Paul saith.

And this bit of Article 27:

The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.

And who knew that allegiance to civil authority, support of the death penalty and a repudiation of pacifism figured so centrally in our current struggles.

Article 37:XXXVII. Of the Power of the Civil Magistrates.

The Power of the Civil Magistrate extendeth to all men, as well Clergy as Laity, in all things temporal; but hath no authority in things purely spiritual. And we hold it to be the duty of all men who are professors of the Gospel, to pay respectful obedience to the Civil Authority, regularly and legitimately constituted.

The original 1571, 1662 text of this Article reads as follows: “The King’s Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England, and other his Dominions, unto whom the chief Government of all Estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign Jurisdiction. Where we attribute to the King’s Majesty the chief government, by which Titles we understand the minds of some slanderous folks to be offended; we give not our Princes the ministering either of God’s Word, or of the Sacraments, the which thing the Injunctions also lately set forth by Elizabeth our Queen do most plainly testify; but that only prerogative, which we see to have been given always to all godly Princes in holy Scriptures by God himself; that is, that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evil-doers.

The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.

The Laws of the Realm may punish Christian men with death, for heinous and grievous offences.

It is lawful for Christian men, at the commandment of the Magistrate, to wear weapons, and serve in the wars.”

Still, as Andrew Brown points out on the Guardian’s Web site:

mocking the Focas is one of the things that got liberals into this mess. Though their beliefs may be variously ridiculous and incoherent, there is a solid spine of hope and hatred to them.

They hate liberalism of all sorts, and they hope God will reward them if they can crush it. Now they have an international base, they will spend decades trying to drive it out of England. First gay people have been the target; the next battle will be over women bishops, because in a conservative reading of the Bible it is always wrong for women to give orders to men. So while they are perfectly happy to tell male bishops to get stuffed, the thought of having to do so to a woman is quite intolerable to them.

Finally, thanks to badman of Thinking Anglicans, who called our attention to Resolution 43 of the Lambeth Conference of 1968:

“The Ministry – The Thirty-Nine Articles

“The Conference accepts the main conclusion of the Report of the Archbishops’ Commission on Christian Doctrine entitled “Subscription and Assent to the Thirty-nine Articles” (1968) and in furtherance of its recommendation:

(a) suggests that each Church of our Communion consider whether the Articles need be bound up with its Prayer Book;

(b) suggests to the Churches of the Anglican Communion that assent to the Thirty-nine Articles be no longer required of ordinands;

(c) suggests that, when subscription is required to the Articles or other elements in the Anglican tradition, it should be required, and given, only in the context of a statement which gives the full range of our inheritance of faith and sets the Articles in their historical context.”

Dislike (0)
6 Responses to "The 39 Articles"
  1. The issues with the 39 Articles in Anglo-Catholic circles has a very long history. Of the original Tractarians (aka the Oxford Movement) John Henry (later Cardinal) Newman wrote one explicitly to harmonize the two. Which leaves me feeling like a contortionist every time I read it.

    What's equally baffling to me is the declaration that the only norm liturgically is the 1662 BCP and the mention in some of the recent articles that the group will soon be producing their own prayer book. Say what?!?

    Like (0)
    Dislike (0)
  2. I'm at a loss to understand how arguing in favor of lifelong faithful partnership between two people who have promised to love, honor, and care for one another can possibly be considered "liberal" and in need of "crushing."

    One would think those who valued marital fidelity - i.e. "conservatives" - would be eager to extend it to gay couples.

    One would be wrong, I guess....

    Like (0)
    Dislike (0)
  3. William Reed Huntington raised the question about the 39 Articles in his Tract 91 and he dealt with the problem well.

    The move to take the Articles out of the Prayer Book was already underway in Huntington's day. He was a proponent of eliminating them from the drafted 1928 USA prayerbook.

    We have managed, despite Huntington's pleas, to keep them in both 1928 and 1979 as well as never repealing General Convention's adoption of the altered Articles. They aren't going away in the US anytime soon, even after 100 years of Tract 91.

    Like (0)
    Dislike (0)
  4. It seems to me that the issue here is really is that for the first time in the Episcopal Church's history, the call is for the 39 Articles to be authoritative.

    It's one thing to read them and be able to learn from them, it's another thing entirely to be required to conform to them across the board.

    Like (0)
    Dislike (0)
  5. @B. Snyder,

    Their sincerity about biblical standards on sexuality must mean that they'll shortly purge all those who are divorced and remarried from their councils.


    Like (0)
    Dislike (0)
  6. I've always been rather fond of Article 27 ("The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.") It's also the case that parish churches were not by Christ's ordinance equipped with rest rooms with flush toilets. Whatever one may think about Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament (which I suspect most of us do), it's a stretch to claim that Jesus said we shouldn't do it.


    Like (0)
    Dislike (0)