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Thirty-Nine Articles

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The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion are the historically defining statements of doctrines of the Anglican church with respect to the controversies of the English Reformation
English Reformation
The English Reformation was the series of events in 16th-century England by which the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church....

. First established in 1563, the articles served to define the doctrine of the nascent Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 as it related to Calvinist doctrine and Roman Catholic practice. The full name for the articles is commonly abbreviated as the Thirty-Nine Articles or the XXXIX Articles.

The Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 was searching out its doctrinal position in relation to the Roman Catholic Church and the continental Protestants. A series of defining documents were written and replaced over a period of 30 years as the doctrinal and political situation changed from the excommunication
Excommunication
Excommunication is a religious censure used to deprive, suspend or limit membership in a religious community. The word means putting [someone] out of communion. In some religions, excommunication includes spiritual condemnation of the member or group...

 of Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

 in 1533, to the excommunication of Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

 in 1570.

Prior to King Henry's death in 1547, several statements of position were issued. The first attempt was the Ten Articles in 1536, which showed some slightly Protestant leanings – the result of an English desire for a political alliance with the German Lutheran princes. The next revision was the Six Articles in 1539 which swung away from all reformed positions, and the King's Book in 1543 which re-established almost in full the familiar Catholic doctrines. Then, during the reign of Edward VI
Edward VI of England
Edward VI was the King of England and Ireland from 28 January 1547 until his death. He was crowned on 20 February at the age of nine. The son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, Edward was the third monarch of the Tudor dynasty and England's first monarch who was raised as a Protestant...

 in 1552, the Forty-Two Articles were written under the direction of Archbishop
Archbishop
An archbishop is a bishop of higher rank, but not of higher sacramental order above that of the three orders of deacon, priest , and bishop...

 Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and, for a short time, Mary I. He helped build a favourable case for Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon which resulted in the separation of the English Church from...

. It was in this document that Calvinist thought reached the zenith of its influence in the English Church. These articles were never put into action, due to the king's death and the reunion of the English Church with Rome under Queen Mary I
Mary I of England
Mary I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death.She was the only surviving child born of the ill-fated marriage of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Her younger half-brother, Edward VI, succeeded Henry in 1547...

.

Finally, upon the coronation of Elizabeth I and the re-establishment of the separate Church of England the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion were established by a Convocation
Convocation of the English Clergy
The Convocation of the English Clergy is a synodical assembly of the Church of England consisting of bishops and clergy.- Background and introduction :...

 of the Church in 1563, under the direction of Matthew Parker
Matthew Parker
Matthew Parker was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1559 until his death in 1575. He was also an influential theologian and arguably the co-founder of Anglican theological thought....

, the then Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

, which pulled back from some of the more extreme Calvinist thinking and created the peculiar English reformed doctrine.
The articles, finalised in 1571, were to have a lasting effect on religion in the United Kingdom
Religion in the United Kingdom
Religion in the United Kingdom and the states that pre-dated the UK, was dominated by forms of Christianity for over 1,400 years. Although a majority of citizens still identify with Christianity in many surveys, regular church attendance has fallen dramatically since the middle of the 20th century,...

 and elsewhere through their incorporation into and propagation through the Book of Common Prayer
Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer is the short title of a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion, as well as by the Continuing Anglican, "Anglican realignment" and other Anglican churches. The original book, published in 1549 , in the reign of Edward VI, was a product of the English...

.

Ten Articles (1536)


The Ten Articles were published in 1536 by Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and, for a short time, Mary I. He helped build a favourable case for Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon which resulted in the separation of the English Church from...

. They were the first guidelines of the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 as it became independent of Rome
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

.

In summary, the Ten Articles asserted:
  1. The binding authority of the Bible, the three œcumenical creeds, and the first four œcumenical councils
  2. The necessity of baptism for salvation, even in the case of infants (Art. II. says that 'infants ought to be baptized;' that, dying in infancy, they 'shall undoubtedly be saved thereby, and else not;' that the opinions of Anabaptist
    Anabaptist
    Anabaptists are Protestant Christians of the Radical Reformation of 16th-century Europe, and their direct descendants, particularly the Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites....

    s and Pelagians
    Pelagianism
    Pelagianism is a theological theory named after Pelagius , although he denied, at least at some point in his life, many of the doctrines associated with his name. It is the belief that original sin did not taint human nature and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without...

     are 'detestable heresies, and utterly to be condemned.')
  3. The sacrament of penance, with confession and absolution, which are declared 'expedient and necessary'
  4. The substantial, real, corporal presence of Christ's body and blood under the form of bread and wine in the eucharist
  5. Justification by faith, joined with charity and obedience
  6. The use of images in churches
  7. The honoring of saints and the Virgin Mary
  8. The invocation of saints
  9. The observance of various rites and ceremonies as good and laudable, such as clerical vestments, sprinkling of holy water, bearing of candles on Candlemas-day, giving of ashes on Ash Wednesday
  10. The doctrine of purgatory, and prayers for the dead in purgatory (made purgatory a non-essential doctrine)


The emerging doctrines of the autonomous Church of England were followed by further explication in The Institution of the Christian Man.

Bishops' Book (1537)


The Institution of the Christian Man (also called The Bishops' Book), published in 1537, was written by a committee of forty-six divines and bishops headed by Thomas Cranmer. The purpose of the work, along with the Ten Articles of the previous year, was to implement the reforms of Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

 in separating from the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 and establishing the Ecclesia Anglicana
Anglicanism
Anglicanism is a tradition within Christianity comprising churches with historical connections to the Church of England or similar beliefs, worship and church structures. The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 that means the English...

. It was considered reformatory in basic orientation, though it was not strongly Lutheran. The work functioned as an official formulary of the new Anglican faith in England. It was later superseded by other creedal and official statements during the successive reigns of Edward VI
Edward VI of England
Edward VI was the King of England and Ireland from 28 January 1547 until his death. He was crowned on 20 February at the age of nine. The son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, Edward was the third monarch of the Tudor dynasty and England's first monarch who was raised as a Protestant...

 and Elizabeth I, as the Anglican Church moved toward a more Reformed theological position. It would evolve into the King's Book. "The work was a noble endeavor on the part of the bishops to promote unity, and to instruct the people in Church doctrine."

Authorship


The list of the 46 divines as they appear in the Bishop's Book included all of the bishops, eight archdeacons and seventeen other Doctors of Divinity, some of whom were later involved with translating the Bible
Great Bible
The Great Bible was the first authorized edition of the Bible in English, authorized by King Henry VIII of England to be read aloud in the church services of the Church of England. The Great Bible was prepared by Myles Coverdale, working under commission of Sir Thomas Cromwell, Secretary to Henry...

 and compiling the Prayer Book:

Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and, for a short time, Mary I. He helped build a favourable case for Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon which resulted in the separation of the English Church from...

 -
Edward Lee -
John Stokesley
John Stokesley
John Stokesley was an English church leader who was Catholic Bishop of London during the reign of Henry VIII.He was born at Collyweston in Northamptonshire, and became a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford in 1495, serving also as a lecturer. In 1498 he was made principal of Magdalen Hall, and in...

 -
Cuthbert Tunstall
Cuthbert Tunstall
Cuthbert Tunstall was an English Scholastic, church leader, diplomat, administrator and royal adviser...

 -
Stephen Gardiner
Stephen Gardiner
Stephen Gardiner was an English Roman Catholic bishop and politician during the English Reformation period who served as Lord Chancellor during the reign of Queen Mary I of England.-Early life:...

 -
Robert Aldrich -
John Voysey -
John Longland
John Longland
John Longland was the English Dean of Salisbury from 1514 to 1521 and bishop of Lincoln from 1521 to his death in 1547.He was King Henry VIII's confessor and was said to have been one of those who first persuaded the King that he should annul his marriage to Katherine of Aragon.During the English...

 -
John Clerk -
Royland Lee -
Thomas Goodrich
Thomas Goodrich
Thomas Goodrich was an English ecclesiastic and statesman.-Life:He was a son of Edward Goodrich of East Kirkby, Lincolnshire and brother of Henry Goodricke of Ribston Hall, North Yorkshire....

 -
Nicholas Shaxton
Nicholas Shaxton
Nicholas Shaxton was an English Reformer and Bishop of Salisbury.-Early life:He was a native of the diocese of Norwich, and studied at Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1507. M.A. in 1510, B.D. in 1521 and D.D. in 1531. He was elected a fellow of Gonville Hall in 1510. In 1520 he was appointed...

 -
John Bird
John Bird (bishop)
John Bird was an English Carmelite monk and bishop.He was Warden of the Carmelite house in Coventry, and twice Provincial of his order. He attracted the attention of Henry VIII by his preaching in favour of the royal supremacy over the Church....

 -
Edward Foxe
Edward Foxe
Edward Foxe was an English churchman, Bishop of Hereford. He was the most Lutheran of Henry VIII's bishops, and assisted in drafting the Ten Articles of 1536....

 -
Hugh Latimer
Hugh Latimer
Hugh Latimer was a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, Bishop of Worcester before the Reformation, and later Church of England chaplain to King Edward VI. In 1555, under Queen Mary, he was burnt at the stake, becoming one of the three Oxford Martyrs of Anglicanism.-Life:Latimer was born into a...

 -
John Hilsey
John Hilsey
John Hilsey was an English Dominican, prior provincial of his order, then an agent of Henry VIII and his church reformation, and Bishop of Rochester.-Life:...

 -
Richard Sampson
Richard Sampson
Richard Sampson was an English clergyman and composer of sacred music, who was Anglican bishop of Chichester and subsequently of Coventry and Lichfield.-Biography:...

 -
William Repps -
William Barlowe -
Robert Partew -
Robert Holgate
Robert Holgate
Robert Holgate was Bishop of Llandaff and then Archbishop of York . He recognised Henry VIII as leader of the Church of England....

 -
Richard Wolman -
William Knight
William Knight (royal servant)
William Knight was the Secretary of State to Henry VIII of England, and Bishop of Bath and Wells.Knight was sent to Rome in 1527 to try to get Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled...

 -
John Bell -
Edmond Bonner
Edmund Bonner
Edmund Bonner , Bishop of London, was an English bishop. Initially an instrumental figure in the schism of Henry VIII from Rome, he was antagonized by the Protestant reforms introduced by Somerset and reconciled himself to Roman Catholicism...

 -
William Skip -
Nicholas Heath
Nicholas Heath
Nicholas Heath was archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor.-Life:Heath was born in London and graduated BA at Oxford in 1519. He then migrated to Christ's College, Cambridge, where he graduated BA in 1520, MA in 1522, and was elected fellow in 1524. After holding minor preferments he was appointed...

 -
Cuthbert Marshal -
Richard Curren -
William Cliffe -
William Downes -
Robert Oking -
Ralph Bradford -
Richard Smyth -
Simon Matthew -
John Pryn -
William Buckmaster -
William May -
Nicholas Wotton
Nicholas Wotton
Nicholas Wotton was an English diplomat-Life:He was a son of Sir Robert Wotton of Boughton Malherbe, Kent, and a descendant of Nicholas Wotton, lord mayor of London in 1415 and 1430, and member of parliament for the city from 1406 to 1429.He early became vicar of Boughton Malherbe and of Sutton...

 -
Richard Cox
Richard Cox (bishop)
Richard Cox was an English clergyman, who was Dean of Westminster and Bishop of Ely.-Biography:Cox was born of obscure parentage at Whaddon, Buckinghamshire, in 1499 or 1500....

 -
John Edmunds
John Edmunds (academic)
John Edmunds, D.D. , was master of Peterhouse, Cambridge.Edmunds proceeded B.A. 1503–4, M.A. 1507, was admitted fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, 1517, and afterwards fellow of St. John's 1519. He was prebendary of St. Paul's Cathedral 1510–17, and chancellor 1517–29. He commenced D.D...

 -
Thomas Robertson -
John Baker
John Baker (English statesman)
Sir John Baker was an English politician, and served as a Chancellor of the Exchequer, having previously been Speaker of the House of Commons of England.-Early life:...

 -
Thomas Barett -
John Hase -
John Tyson

Six Articles (1539)


In 1538 three German theologians – Francis Burkhardt, vice-chancellor of Saxony; George von Boyneburg, doctor of law; and Friedrich Myconius
Friedrich Myconius
Friedrich Myconius was a German Lutheran theologian. He was a colleague of Martin Luther....

, superintendent
Superintendent (ecclesiastical)
Superintendent is the head of an administrative division of a Protestant church, largely historical but still in use in Germany.- Superintendents in Sweden :...

 of the church of Gotha – were sent to London and held conferences with the Anglican bishops and clergy in the archbishop’s palace at Lambeth
Lambeth Palace
Lambeth Palace is the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury in England. It is located in Lambeth, on the south bank of the River Thames a short distance upstream of the Palace of Westminster on the opposite shore. It was acquired by the archbishopric around 1200...

 for several months. The Germans presented, as a basis of agreement, a number of Articles based on the Lutheran Confession of Augsburg. Bishops Tunstall
Cuthbert Tunstall
Cuthbert Tunstall was an English Scholastic, church leader, diplomat, administrator and royal adviser...

, Stokesley
John Stokesley
John Stokesley was an English church leader who was Catholic Bishop of London during the reign of Henry VIII.He was born at Collyweston in Northamptonshire, and became a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford in 1495, serving also as a lecturer. In 1498 he was made principal of Magdalen Hall, and in...

 and others were not won over by these Protestant arguments and did everything they could to avoid agreement. They were willing to separate from Rome, but their plan was to unite with the Greek Church
Greek Orthodox Church
The Greek Orthodox Church is the body of several churches within the larger communion of Eastern Orthodox Christianity sharing a common cultural tradition whose liturgy is also traditionally conducted in Koine Greek, the original language of the New Testament...

 and not with the evangelical Protestants on the continent. The bishops also refused to eliminate what the Germans called the "Abuses" (e.g. private Masses, celibacy of the clergy, invocation of saints) allowed by the Anglican Church. Stokesley considered these customs to be essential because the Greek Church practised them. In opposition, Cranmer favoured a union with German Protestants. The king, unwilling to break with Catholic
Catholic
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase , meaning "on the whole," "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words meaning "about" and meaning "whole"...

 practices, dissolved the conference.

Henry had felt uneasy about the appearance of the Lutheran doctors and their theology within his kingdom. On 28 April 1539 Parliament met for the first time in three years. On 5 May, the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

 created a committee with the customary religious balance to examine and determine doctrine. Eleven days later, the Duke of Norfolk
Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk
Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, KG, Earl Marshal was a prominent Tudor politician. He was uncle to Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, two of the wives of King Henry VIII, and played a major role in the machinations behind these marriages...

 noted that the committee had not agreed on anything and proposed that the Lords examine six doctrinal questions which eventually became the basis of the Six Articles. The articles reaffirmed traditional Catholic doctrine on key issues:
  1. transubstantiation
    Transubstantiation
    In Roman Catholic theology, transubstantiation means the change, in the Eucharist, of the substance of wheat bread and grape wine into the substance of the Body and Blood, respectively, of Jesus, while all that is accessible to the senses remains as before.The Eastern Orthodox...

    ,
  2. the reasonableness of withholding of the cup from the laity
    Laity
    In religious organizations, the laity comprises all people who are not in the clergy. A person who is a member of a religious order who is not ordained legitimate clergy is considered as a member of the laity, even though they are members of a religious order .In the past in Christian cultures, the...

     during communion
    Eucharist
    The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

    ,
  3. clerical celibacy
    Clerical celibacy
    Clerical celibacy is the discipline by which some or all members of the clergy in certain religions are required to be unmarried. Since these religions consider deliberate sexual thoughts, feelings, and behavior outside of marriage to be sinful, clerical celibacy also requires abstension from these...

    ,
  4. observance of vows of chastity
    Chastity
    Chastity refers to the sexual behavior of a man or woman acceptable to the moral standards and guidelines of a culture, civilization, or religion....

    ,
  5. permission for private masses
    Mass (liturgy)
    "Mass" is one of the names by which the sacrament of the Eucharist is called in the Roman Catholic Church: others are "Eucharist", the "Lord's Supper", the "Breaking of Bread", the "Eucharistic assembly ", the "memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection", the "Holy Sacrifice", the "Holy and...

    ,
  6. the importance of auricular confession
    Confession
    This article is for the religious practice of confessing one's sins.Confession is the acknowledgment of sin or wrongs...

    .


Penalties under the Act ranged from imprisonment and fine to death. However, its severity was reduced by an act of 1540, which retained the death penalty only for denial of transubstantiation, and a further act limited its arbitrariness. The Catholic emphasis of the doctrine commended in the articles is not matched by the ecclesiastical reforms Henry undertook in the following years, such as the enforcement of the necessity of the English Bible and the insistence upon the abolition of all shrines, both in 1541.

As the Act of the Six Articles neared passage in Parliament, Cranmer moved his wife and children out of England to safety. Up to then the family was kept quietly hidden, most likely in Ford Palace in Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

. The Act passed Parliament at the end of June; subsequently bishops Latimer and Nicholas Shaxton
Nicholas Shaxton
Nicholas Shaxton was an English Reformer and Bishop of Salisbury.-Early life:He was a native of the diocese of Norwich, and studied at Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1507. M.A. in 1510, B.D. in 1521 and D.D. in 1531. He was elected a fellow of Gonville Hall in 1510. In 1520 he was appointed...

, outspoken opponents of the measure, resign their dioceses. After Henry's death the articles were repealed by his son, Edward VI.

King's Book (1543)


The Necessary Doctrine and Erudition for Any Christian Man, also known as the King's Book, was published in 1543, and attributed to Henry VIII. It was a revision of The Institution of the Christian Man, and defended transubstantiation and the Six Articles. It also encouraged preaching and attacked the use of images.

Forty-Two Articles (1552)


The Forty-Two Articles were intended to summarise Anglican doctrine, as it now existed under the reign of Edward VI
Edward VI of England
Edward VI was the King of England and Ireland from 28 January 1547 until his death. He was crowned on 20 February at the age of nine. The son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, Edward was the third monarch of the Tudor dynasty and England's first monarch who was raised as a Protestant...

, who favoured a more Protestant faith. Largely the work of Thomas Cranmer, they were to be short formularies that would demonstrate the faith revealed in Scripture and the existing Catholic creeds. Completed in 1552, they were issued by Royal Mandate on 19 June 1553. The articles were claimed to have received the authority of a Convocation, although this is doubtful. With the coronation of Queen Mary I
Mary I of England
Mary I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death.She was the only surviving child born of the ill-fated marriage of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Her younger half-brother, Edward VI, succeeded Henry in 1547...

 and the reunion of the Church of England with the Roman Catholic Church, the Articles were never enforced. However, after Mary's death, they became the basis of the Thirty-Nine Articles. In 1563, Convocation met under Archbishop Parker
Matthew Parker
Matthew Parker was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1559 until his death in 1575. He was also an influential theologian and arguably the co-founder of Anglican theological thought....

 to revise the articles. Convocation passed only 39 of the 42, and Elizabeth I reduced the number to 38 by throwing out Article XXIX to avoid offending her subjects with Catholic leanings. In 1571, the XXIXth Article, despite the opposition of Bishop Edmund Guest
Edmund Gheast
Edmund Gheast was a 16th-century cleric of the Church of England.Guest was born at Northallerton, Yorkshire, the son of Thomas Geste...

, was inserted, to the effect that the wicked do not eat the Body of Christ. This was done following the queen’s excommunication
Excommunication
Excommunication is a religious censure used to deprive, suspend or limit membership in a religious community. The word means putting [someone] out of communion. In some religions, excommunication includes spiritual condemnation of the member or group...

 by the Pope in 1570. That act destroyed any hope of reconciliation with Rome and it was no longer necessary to fear that Article XXIX would offend Catholic sensibilities. The Articles, increased to Thirty-nine, were ratified by the Queen, and the bishops and clergy were required to assent.

Thirty-Nine Articles (1563)


The Thirty-Nine Articles were not intended as a complete statement of the Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 faith, but of the position of the Church of England in relation to the Roman Catholic Church and dissident Protestants
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

. The Articles argue against some Anabaptist
Anabaptist
Anabaptists are Protestant Christians of the Radical Reformation of 16th-century Europe, and their direct descendants, particularly the Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites....

 positions such as the holding of goods in common and the necessity of believer's baptism
Believer's baptism
Believer's baptism is the Christian practice of baptism as this is understood by many Protestant churches, particularly those that descend from the Anabaptist tradition...

. The motivation for their production and enactment was the absence of a general consensus on matters of faith following the separation with Rome. There was a concern that dissenters who wanted the reforms to go much further (for example, to abolish hierarchies of bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

s) would increase in influence. Wishing to pursue Elizabeth I's agenda of establishing a national church that would maintain the indigenous apostolic faith
Apostolic Succession
Apostolic succession is a doctrine, held by some Christian denominations, which asserts that the chosen successors of the Twelve Apostles, from the first century to the present day, have inherited the spiritual, ecclesiastical and sacramental authority, power, and responsibility that were...

 and incorporate some of the insights of Protestantism, the Articles were intended to incorporate a balance of theology and doctrine. This allowed them to appeal to the broadest domestic opinion, Catholic and otherwise. In this sense, the Articles are a revealing window into the ethos and character of Anglicanism, in particular in the way the document works to navigate a via media, or "middle path," between the beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church and of the English Puritans, thus lending the Church of England a mainstream Reformed air. The "via media" was expressed so adroitly in the Articles that some Anglican scholars have labeled their content as an early example of the idea that the doctrine of Anglicanism is one of "Reformed Catholicism".

Content


The Articles highlight the Anglican positions with regard to the corruption of Catholic doctrine in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, to orthodox Roman Catholic teachings, to Puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

ism, and to Anabaptist thought.
They are divided, in compliance with the command of Queen Elizabeth I, into four sections: Articles 1–8, "The Catholic Faith"; Articles 9–18, "Personal Religion"; Articles 19–31, "Corporate Religion"; and Articles 32–39, "Miscellaneous." The articles were issued both in English and in Latin, and both are of equal authority.

Summary


Articles I–VIII: The Catholic faith:
The first five articles articulate the Catholic credal statements concerning the nature of God, manifest in the Holy Trinity. Articles VI and VII deal with scripture, while Article VIII discusses the essential creeds.

Articles IX—XVIII: Personal religion:
These articles dwell on the topics of sin
Sin
In religion, sin is the violation or deviation of an eternal divine law or standard. The term sin may also refer to the state of having committed such a violation. Christians believe the moral code of conduct is decreed by God In religion, sin (also called peccancy) is the violation or deviation...

, justification
Justification (theology)
Rising out of the Protestant Reformation, Justification is the chief article of faith describing God's act of declaring or making a sinner righteous through Christ's atoning sacrifice....

, and the eternal disposition of the soul. Of particular focus is the major Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 topic of justification by faith. The Articles in this section and in the section on the Church plant Anglicanism in the via media of the debate, portraying an Economy of Salvation
Economy of Salvation
The Economy of Salvation is that part of divine revelation that deals with God’s creation and management of the world, particularly His plan for salvation accomplished through the Church. From the Greek oikonomia , literally, "management of a household" or "stewardship"...

 where good works are an outgrowth of faith and there is a role for the Church and for the sacrament
Sacrament
A sacrament is a sacred rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites.-General definitions and terms:...

s.

Articles XIX–XXXI: Corporate religion:
This section focuses on the expression of faith in the public venue – the institutional church, the councils of the church
Episcopal polity
Episcopal polity is a form of church governance that is hierarchical in structure with the chief authority over a local Christian church resting in a bishop...

, worship
Christian worship
In Christianity, worship is adoration and contemplation of God.-Overview:Throughout most of Christianity's history, corporate Christian worship has been primarily liturgical, characterized by prayers and hymns, with texts rooted in, or closely related to, the Scripture, particularly the Psalter;...

, ministry
Anglican ministry
The Anglican ministry is both the leadership and agency of Christian service in the Anglican Communion. "Ministry" commonly refers to the office of ordained clergy: the threefold order of bishops, priests and deacons. More accurately, Anglican ministry includes many laypeople who devote themselves...

, and sacramental theology
Anglican sacraments
In keeping with its prevailing self-identity as a via media or "middle path" of Western Christianity, Anglican sacramental theology expresses elements in keeping with its status as a church in the Catholic tradition and a church of the Reformation...

.

Articles XXXII—XXXIX: Miscellaneous:
These articles concern clerical celibacy
Clerical celibacy
Clerical celibacy is the discipline by which some or all members of the clergy in certain religions are required to be unmarried. Since these religions consider deliberate sexual thoughts, feelings, and behavior outside of marriage to be sinful, clerical celibacy also requires abstension from these...

, excommunication
Excommunication
Excommunication is a religious censure used to deprive, suspend or limit membership in a religious community. The word means putting [someone] out of communion. In some religions, excommunication includes spiritual condemnation of the member or group...

, traditions of the Church, and other issues not covered elsewhere.

Interpretation


In 1628 Charles I of England
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

 prefixed a royal declaration to the articles, which demands a literal interpretation of them, threatening discipline for academics or churchmen teaching any personal interpretations or encouraging debate about them. It states: "no man hereafter shall either print or preach, to draw the Article aside any way, but shall submit to it in the plain and Full meaning thereof: and shall not put his own sense or comment to be the meaning of the Article, but shall take it in the literal and grammatical sense."

However, what the Articles truly mean has been a matter of debate in the Church since before they were issued. The evangelical
Evangelicalism
Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement which began in Great Britain in the 1730s and gained popularity in the United States during the series of Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century.Its key commitments are:...

 wing of the Church has taken the Articles at face value. In 2003, evangelical Anglican clergyman Chris Pierce wrote:
This view has never been held by the whole church. In 1643, Archbishop of Armagh
Archbishop of Armagh (Church of Ireland)
The Anglican Archbishop of Armagh is the ecclesiastical head of the Church of Ireland, the metropolitan of the Province of Armagh and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Armagh....

 John Bramhall
John Bramhall
John Bramhall was an Archbishop of Armagh, and an Anglican theologian and apologist. He was a noted controversialist who doggedly defended the English Church from both Puritan and Roman Catholic accusations, as well as the materialism of Thomas Hobbes.-Early life:Bramhall was born in Pontefract,...

 laid out the core argument against the Articles:
This divergence of opinion became overt during the Oxford Movement
Oxford Movement
The Oxford Movement was a movement of High Church Anglicans, eventually developing into Anglo-Catholicism. The movement, whose members were often associated with the University of Oxford, argued for the reinstatement of lost Christian traditions of faith and their inclusion into Anglican liturgy...

 of the 19th century. The stipulations of Articles XXV and XXVIII were regularly invoked by evangelicals to oppose the reintroduction of certain beliefs, customs, and acts of piety with respect to the sacraments. In response, Cardinal John Henry Newman's Tract 90
Tract 90
Remarks on Certain Passages in the Thirty-Nine Articles, better known as Tract 90, was a theological pamphlet written by the English theologian and churchman John Henry Newman and published in 1841...

 attempted to show that the Articles could be interpreted in a way less hostile to Roman Catholic doctrine.

History and influence



Adherence to the Articles was made a legal requirement by the English Parliament in 1571. They are printed in the Book of Common Prayer
Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer is the short title of a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion, as well as by the Continuing Anglican, "Anglican realignment" and other Anglican churches. The original book, published in 1549 , in the reign of Edward VI, was a product of the English...

 and other Anglican prayer books. The Test Act
Test Act
The Test Acts were a series of English penal laws that served as a religious test for public office and imposed various civil disabilities on Roman Catholics and Nonconformists...

 of 1672 made adherence to the Articles a requirement for holding civil office in England (repealed in 1824).

In the past, in numerous national churches and dioceses, those entering Holy Orders
Holy Orders
The term Holy Orders is used by many Christian churches to refer to ordination or to those individuals ordained for a special role or ministry....

 had to make an oath of subscription to the Articles. Clergy of the Church of England are still required to acknowledge that the Articles are "agreeable to the Word of God", but the laity are not. The Church of Ireland has a similar declaration for its clergy, while some other churches of the Anglican Communion make no such requirement.

The influence of the Articles on Anglican thought, doctrine and practice has been profound. Although Article VIII itself states that the three Catholic creeds are a sufficient statement of faith, the Articles have often been perceived as the nearest thing to a supplementary confession of faith possessed by the tradition.

A revised version was adopted in 1801 by the US Episcopal Church. Earlier, John Wesley
John Wesley
John Wesley was a Church of England cleric and Christian theologian. Wesley is largely credited, along with his brother Charles Wesley, as founding the Methodist movement which began when he took to open-air preaching in a similar manner to George Whitefield...

, founder of the Methodists, adapted the Thirty-Nine Articles for use by American Methodists
United Methodist Church
The United Methodist Church is a Methodist Christian denomination which is both mainline Protestant and evangelical. Founded in 1968 by the union of The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church, the UMC traces its roots back to the revival movement of John and Charles Wesley...

 in the 18th century. The resulting Articles of Religion
Articles of Religion (Methodist)
The Articles of Religion are an official doctrinal statement of American Methodism. John Wesley abridged for the American Methodists the Thirty-Nine Articles of Anglicanism, removing the Calvinistic parts among others. The Articles were adopted at a conference in 1784 and are found in paragraph 103...

 remain official United Methodist doctrine.

In Anglican discourse, the Articles are regularly cited and interpreted to clarify doctrine and practice. Sometimes they are used to prescribe support of Anglican comprehensiveness. An important concrete manifestation of this is the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral
Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral
The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, frequently referred to as the Lambeth Quadrilateral or the Lambeth-Chicago Quadrilateral, is a four-point articulation of Anglican identity, often cited as encapsulating the fundamentals of the Communion's doctrine and as a reference-point for ecumenical...

, which incorporates Articles VI, VIII, XXV, and XXXVI in its broad articulation of fundamental Anglican identity. In other circumstances they delineate the parameters of acceptable belief and practice in proscriptive fashion.

The Articles continue to be invoked today in the Anglican Church. For example, in the ongoing debate over homosexual activity and the concomitant controversies over episcopal authority, Articles VI, XX, XXIII, XXVI, and XXXIV are regularly cited by those of various opinions.

Each of the 44 member churches in the Anglican Communion is, however, free to adopt and authorise its own official documents, and the Articles are not officially normative in all Anglican Churches (neither is the Athanasian Creed
Athanasian Creed
The Athanasian Creed is a Christian statement of belief, focusing on Trinitarian doctrine and Christology. The Latin name of the creed, Quicumque vult, is taken from the opening words, "Whosoever wishes." The Athanasian Creed has been used by Christian churches since the sixth century...

). The only doctrinal documents agreed upon in the Anglican Communion are the Apostolic Creed, the Nicene Creed of AD 381, and the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. Beside these documents, authorised liturgical formularies, such as Prayer Book and Ordinal, are normative. The several provincial editions of Prayer Books (and authorised alternative liturgies) are, however, not identical, although they share a greater or smaller amount of family resemblance. No specific edition of the Prayer Book is therefore binding for the entire Communion.

Further reading

  • O'Donovan, Oliver
    Oliver O'Donovan
    Oliver O'Donovan FBA FRSE is a scholar in the field of Christian ethics. He has made contributions to political theology, both contemporary and historical.-Life:...

    . On the 39 Articles: A Conversation with Tudor Christianity. Paternoster, 1986.
  • Redworth, Glyn. A Study in the Formulation of Policy: The Genesis and Evolution of the Act of Six Articles. Journal of Ecclesiastical History 37/1 (1986): 42–67.

External links