Anglican Futures: Anglican Alphabet Spaghetti

Anglican Futures Anglican Alphabetti Spaghetti A dummies guide to the plethora of organisations and acronyms linked to faithful Anglicans in the UK and Europe. I once spent some time around military personel.  Everything had its own TLA (Three Letter Acronym) right...

Canterbury Tales: Favourite Bible Stories Retold by Archbishop Justin Welby

Canterbury Tales Favourite Bible stories retold by Archbishop Justin Welby The Good Samaritan A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead, halfway...

Anglican Mission in England Elects Two Suffragan Bishops

Anglican Mission in England Elects Two Suffragan Bishops The Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) met in Synod on 18 June.  While there, they elected two suffragan bishops to aid Bishop Andy Lines in providing episcopal oversight for the overall work.  Bishop Lines also...

Pride Flags Causing Conflict at Christian School

Pride Flags Cause Conflict at Christian School Conflict has broken out in a Christian school in Oxfordshire over the display of “Pride” flags. The institution in question is Kingham Hill School.  The same Trust (Kingham Hill Trust) oversees Oak Hill College, an...

Prayer Book Society Raising Funds to Put BCPs in the Hands of Choristers

Prayer Book Society Raising Funds to Put BCPs in the Hands of Choristers The Prayer Book Society, which will soon celebrate its 50th Anniversary, is raising funds to put a special edition BCP into the hands of junior choristers around the nation.   The idea came to...

Book Review: Reimagining Britain by Justin Welby

Reimagining Britain Foundations for Hope Justin Welby Bloomsbury, 2018, new edn. 2021 (ISBN: 978-1-4729-8497-5, 322pp, £12.99) The Archbishop of Canterbury has made several notable political interventions recently, including over ‘partygate’ and the Rwanda deportation...

Birthday of Anglicanism in America

Birthday of Anglicanism in America By the Revd Canon Chuck Collins June 16, 1607 was the birthday of Anglicanism in America. On this day Captain John Smith and 104 others celebrated the Lord’s Supper when they arrived safely in Jamestown, Virginia. Jamestown was the...

Barnabas Fund Report: Two ChiBok Girls Found

Barnabas Fund Reports Two Chibok Girls Found After 8 Years 24 June 2022 Two women, who were among hundreds of schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram from the Nigerian town of Chibok eight years ago, have been found. Hauwa Joseph was discovered among a group of other...

New Bishop-elect for the Diocese of Cashel, Ferns & Ossory

Church of Ireland News New Bishop Elected for Cashel, Ferns & Ossory The Church of Ireland diocese of Cashel, Ferns, and Ossory now has a bishop-elect.  The Venerable Adrian Wilkinson, Archdeacon of Cork, Cloyne, and Ross was elected to succeed the Rt Revd Michael...

Editorial: Lessons to be Learned from the American Pro-Life Movement

Editorial Lessons to be Learned from American Pro-Life Movement Friday, 24 June 2022, the Feast of St John the Baptist, will be a date which will live in infamy amongst the supporters of abortion.  On that date, the US Supreme Court, overturned the precedent set by...

Formularies for What? Center for Reformation Anglicanism

Formularies for What?

Part 1

By Chuck Collins

I eavesdropped on a conversation once in which a very nice lady said, “I love being Episcopalian; you can believe anything and still be one!” She would agree with William James who famously said, “Anglicanism remains obese and round and comfortable and decent with this world’s decencies, without one acute note in its whole life or history.” Is this true? Do Anglicans and Episcopalians have theological distinctives to ground them, or does un-tethered diversity win the day? The church that stands for nothing will fall for anything! Within the roominess and generosity of this church is a rich heritage with clearly defined Anglican essentials.

The English reformers were willing to die for certain doctrinal beliefs — “I think it my duty to exhort you… defend the faith of Christ even until blood and unto death,” (Bishop Edwin Sandys, The Sermons of Edwin Sandys). They were a diverse bunch, to be sure, but they were united in their commitment to the supremacy of Holy Scripture over other authorities, to the central doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone, to the priesthood of all believers, and to a sacramental understanding that the grace of Holy Communion is Christ’s spiritual presence in the hearts and affections of the faithful recipients. These inviolable Anglican doctrines are enshrined and fixed in the Elizabethan Settlement and the recognised formularies of the English Reformation. The historic formularies — the Articles of Religion, the Ordinal, the Book of Common Prayer, and books of Homilies — name and explain the essential doctrines of the Anglican Communion. The foundation for our unity as Anglicans is not some invented connection to the Archbishop of Canterbury, or a three-legged stool of authority (Scripture, reason and tradition), or three streams (Protestant, Catholic, and Pentecostal), as some will say. The modern tendency is to replace any number of organisational inventions for what has long been recognised as a theological definition. Anglican identity is grounded in a cohesive theology that is biblically based, confirmed over time, and preserved in the historic formularies.

The Articles of Religion

The Articles of Religion are often dismissed with an offhanded comment that Anglicans and Episcopalians are not “confessional” like Lutherans with the Augsburg Confession and Presbyterians with the Westminster Confession. The thinking that Anglicans do not have a defining statement of belief is simply not true. Thomas Cranmer wrote the Articles at the same time as the other great Protestant confessions, with the same purpose in mind. The 1571 (and final) version of the Articles succinctly states their purpose: “For the avoiding of diversities of opinions and for the establishing of Consent touching true religion.” While it is clear that the Articles speak to sixteenth century issues in the Church of England, they are much broader in scope and more comprehensive with their attention to such core Christian doctrines as the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and the authority of Holy Scripture. By addressing many matters — controversial and noncontroversial to the times — the Articles show themselves to be the church’s confession of faith. Since the Act of Parliament that established the Articles in 1571, all clergy ordained in the Church of England have been required to subscribe and now to assent to the Articles as an authoritative statement of Anglican beliefs. Moreover, in many parts of the Anglican Communion today subscription is still required of ordinands, as the Articles “bear witness to the faith revealed in Scripture and set forth in the catholic creeds” (Church of England, Canon C15). William White, the first Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church championed the Articles, but he did not require their subscription since they were included in the Constitution of the church, and everyone ordained already vowed to uphold the doctrine and discipline of the church (its Constitution and Canons). The neglect of the Articles in one of the great tragedies of Modern Anglicanism.

So what is an Article, and how are they organised? An Article is simply an official position statement on an important doctrinal matter. The Thirty-nine Articles can be organised and divided into three sections: the catholic (as in “universal”), the Protestant, and the Anglican. Articles 1-8, the catholic Articles, define and describe what is to be believed by all Christians, everywhere and in every age. Articles 9-34 are the Protestant Articles that describe how Anglicanism is distinctly Protestant and not Roman Catholic. The last ones (Articles 35-39) are considered the Anglican Articles, describing aspects of Anglicanism that are distinctive from other parts of Protestantism. As Gerald Bray explains: “Understood in this way, the Thirty-nine Articles have a logical and harmonious symmetry, starting with the universal and going on progressively to what is more particular, first to the protestant world in general and then to the specific circumstances of the Church of England” (The Faith We Confess). The Articles have doctrinal authority today because they are recognized as Anglicans’ key doctrinal statement. At the General Convention of 1801, the fledgling Episcopal Church adopted the Articles as its theological standard. The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) Constitution and Canons states: “We receive the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571, taken in their literal and grammatical sense, as expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time, and as expressing fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief.” The Jerusalem Declaration (GAFCON, 2008) states that “We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.” 

Those who want to know what Anglicans believe about Scripture, predestination, transubstantiation, and whether or not the sacrament’s efficacy depends on the holiness of their minister need only to read the Articles of Religion.

The Revd Canon Chuck Collins is the Director for the Center for Reformation Anglicanism.