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Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion (1571) - how boring! [Not]
VirtueOnline-News ^ | 10/05/2005 | The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Posted on 10/05/2005 6:39:57 PM PDT by sionnsar

Very few Anglicans/Episcopalians today actually look at, and even fewer actually read and study, the Confession of Faith of the Anglican Way! This means that few clergy and laity know what it is for the Church of England and the provinces of the Anglican Communion to be known as Reformed Catholic in their Christian religion. Together with the classic Book of Common Prayer and the Ordination Services (Ordinal), the Articles constitute the Formularies of the Anglican Way. (All three Formularies are bound together in the English BCP of 1662, the American BCP of 1928 and the Canadian BCP of 1962. In English Canon Law the Articles are always listed first of the three.)

The Articles of Religion were adopted by the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA in 1801 and then were bound together with The Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal (editions of 1789, 1892 and 1928). So the American Church had the same Formularies as the Church of England from its origins in the 1780s to the late 1970s.

The Church of England has retained these Formularies to this day (2005) but the Episcopal Church rejected them as worship and doctrine standards by majority votes in General Convention in 1976 and then again in 1979. Since then the Articles have been treated as a museum piece without any authority in America. They have been effectively replaced by the radically liberal "Outline of the Faith" printed inside the 1979 Prayer Book of the Episcopal Church. In contrast, in 2005 the large Anglican Church of Nigeria reaffirmed its commitment to the BCP, Ordinal and Articles and stated that it would only be in fellowship with Churches of the same doctrine (and thus not in communion with the Episcopal Church of the USA).

Let me begin my reflections on the Articles by referring to a famous 19th century bishop, John Charles Ryle. Years ago I made a study of his life and writings as the first Bishop of Liverpool (the diocese where I was ordained in 1973) and then I published several books and articles about him.

Ryle was very much an English Churchman, a committed and loyal member of the Church of England, and he defined his churchmanship, as did all Evangelicals in his day, in terms of his commitment to the doctrine of the Articles of Religion (which are printed at the back of every official copy of the BCP). For him, as for others, The Book of Common Prayer was a most excellent Liturgy, but it was not seen as the confession of faith of the Church. The Confession of Faith was the Articles of Religion and the Prayer Book was the Liturgy wherein the doctrines of the Faith were to be found in the form of prayer and collect, canticle and versicle, rubric and exhortation, preface and addresses, and the shape and structure of the services. And the doctrine of the Ministry, stated in the Articles, was set out in large format in the three services for the making of deacons, ordering of priests and consecrating of bishops (the Ordinal).

Certainly the Articles are a sixteenth century statement of Faith but they may be seen as providing a major signpost and guide through the controversies, debates and divisions of the period of the Protestant Reformation and the Roman Catholic Counter Reformation. They may also be seen as pointing the way into a Reformed Catholic expression of Christianity that is based on the Scriptures and learns from history and tradition. Further, they may be seen as setting boundaries for this Reformed Catholic Faith, making clear when and where stepping over the line leads into error and heresy, immorality and wickedness.

The Articles are boring to those who are not enthusiastic to know what is the basis and content of Reformed Catholic Faith. Yet this is not surprising for we all know that many important documents are boring, unless one has an interest in their contents - for example, wills and testaments, marriage settlements, constitutions and canons, are boring for most people but extremely important to others who have a personal interest in knowing what is written therein!

A quick survey of the Articles reveals that they contain what may be called the patristic and catholic dogma of God the Holy Trinity, a Trinity of Persons in the One Godhead, and of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father, the One Person with Two Natures, Divine and Human. Also they contain what may be called the distinctive doctrines of the Reformation - e.g., the authority of Scripture, the saving and redeeming work of Christ Jesus, the nature of sin, justification by faith issuing in works of love, and the dominical Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

Without the Articles of Religion, the Anglican Way is a Way that is not clearly defined and thus a Way in which it is possible to get lost! However, with the Articles and the Book of Common Prayer functioning, as it were, hand in hand, together with the reading and meditating upon the Bible, there is in existence the authentic Anglican Way of Reformed Catholicism.

What these two Formularies joined to the Ordinal present to us - as summarized for ordinary folks in the late 16th century - is a simple 1,2,3,4 & 5, which "scheme" was used as the basis for the reforms of the 16th century. The Anglican Way is based upon ONE Canon of Scripture with TWO Testaments, whose doctrinal message is summarized in THREE Creeds (Apostles', Nicene and Athanasian); and is found in more detail in the decrees and canons of FOUR ecumenical councils [Nicea (325), Constantinople (381) , Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451)] and by the general developments (e.g., Liturgy, threefold Ministry, Church Year, Canon Law and so on) of the first FIVE centuries.

The 1,2,3,4 & 5 are a basis not the whole structure, but without a foundation there is no structure.

So to return to where we began.

The Articles may be boring to many but to those who are committed to the Anglican Way they are exciting and necessary.

Read them!

If the Liturgical Commission of the ECUSA had taken them seriously, they would have produced a much more biblically based and reformed catholic Liturgy for the new Prayer Book of 1979. Why, for example, did not this Commission produce a dynamic equivalent to the services of the classic Prayer Book in contemporary language instead of creating something very different in style, content and doctrine in the Rite II material?

So read the Articles and read the classic BCP and Ordinal along with them! And be pleasantly surprised - even by delight and joy.

--The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford) is president of the Prayer Book Society. he lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant
[Huh. The 39 articles (38 if you count the one excluded because it was particular to Britain) were a key element of my Catechism class. --sionnsar]
1 posted on 10/05/2005 6:40:00 PM PDT by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; Fractal Trader; Zero Sum; anselmcantuar; Agrarian; coffeecup; Paridel; keilimon; ...
Traditional Anglican ping, continued in memory of its founder Arlin Adams.

FReepmail sionnsar if you want on or off this moderately high-volume ping list (typically 3-9 pings/day).
This list is pinged by sionnsar and newheart.

Resource for Traditional Anglicans:

Humor: The Anglican Blue (by Huber)

Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 10/05/2005 6:40:56 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† || (To Libs:) You are failing to celebrate MY diversity! || Iran Azadi)
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To: sionnsar
But when the new prayer book was adopted, the XXXIX were demoted, so to speak, to the status of "Historical Documents" and no longer were the official Articles of Faith. Read the fine print.

High Churchers like me ignored them anyway, especially XXII, XXVIII, and XXXI.

3 posted on 10/05/2005 6:52:10 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother (. . . Ministrix of ye Chace (recess appointment), TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary . . .)
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To: sionnsar

read later

4 posted on 10/05/2005 7:03:15 PM PDT by LiteKeeper (The radical secularization of America is happening)
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To: sionnsar

Hers's a link to the REAL 39 Articles.

5 posted on 10/06/2005 6:08:30 PM PDT by PAR35
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