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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Part X: Thirty-Nine Articles: The Historic Basis of Anglican Faith: Churches in Association



"Some denominations, especially those who give high-sounding titles to their office bearers, are more effective than others in securing this influence. But it remains true that influence secured by denominational organization is worldly influence rather than the influence which arises from the power of the Gospel, and so it will fail to advance God's glory."


Thirty-Nine Articles: The Historic Basis of Anglican Faith

A book by David Broughton Knox (Sydney: Anglican Church League, 1967). Revised 1976.

The author: Canon David Broughton Knox, B.A., A. L. C. D., B.D., M.Th., D. Phil. (Oxford), was Principal of Moore Theological College, Sydney, Australia. Ordained in 1941 he served in an English parish and as a chaplain in the Royal Navy before becoming a tutor at Moore College 1947-53. On leave in England he was tutor and lecturer in New Testament at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford 1951-53 and Assistant Curate in the parish of St. Aldale's, Oxford. He became Vice Principal of Moore College in 1954 and Principal in 1959. He was elected Canon of St. Andrew's Cathedral in 1960. His other books include "The Doctrine of Faith in the Reign of Henry VIII" (London: James Clarke, 1961).


David Broughton Knox also founded George Whitefield College in South Africa in 1989.



Chapter Five
The Teaching of the Articles
Churches in Association

In view of modern interest in church union it may be useful to consider the implications of Article 19 a little further, and to examine the nature of the relationship that should subsist between the local manifestations of Christ's Church, of one or more of which all Christians are members. The basic and only essential bond between these local visible churches or assemblies is the mutual love, interest and prayer that members of one assembly have for members of the others. They receive members of other assemblies as fellow Christians, when they are assured of the individual faith of those members. They are interested in the Christian progress of one another, not only of those within their own assembly but of those in other assemblies. It is impossible to discover in the New Testament any link or relationship between local churches other than this invisible bond of mutual love of the members one for the other. The same is true for the first centuries of the Church's history. for example, in the time of Cyprian, in the middle of the third century, each Christian assembly, though bound in love to the others, is completely independent of any other assembly.


Things are very different today. The various local assemblies of Christians are grouped in patterns of fellowship. The groupings or denominations arose in the course of history for various reasons; but what characterizes a denomination at the present time, and is its principle of continuity, is the restriction of fellowship to within the denomination. A denomination need not consist of more than one congregation, but if this congregation restricts its fellowship with regard to members of other congregations, it is rightly called a denomination. In fact, it would be difficult to find a Christian assembly today which, though not linked in any way with other assemblies, nevertheless recognizes other assemblies as on all points equally as Christian as itself. Such an attitude of full acceptance of other congregations is now limited to those within the same denomination.


Denominationalism is not solely a modern phenomenon. The ancient Church had its pattern of restricted fellowship at a local as well as on a world-wide level. The Meletian schism is an example of the former, while the Novatian and Donatist and Catholic groupings are examples of world-wide denominational patterns of fellowship or 'churches'. Thus, Cyril of Jerusalem (A.D. 350) took it for granted that in any city which his catechumens might visit there would be several churches of different denominations, all calling themselves Christian churches (Cat. Lectures, 18:26). The concept of an 'undivided' Early Church is a modern myth.


The Thirty-Nine Articles have two references to the denomination, that is, the structure of association of churches associating together for certain purposes. The Church is a divine entity, called into being by Christ. Fellowship between churches (i.e., between congregations) is a Christian duty; but it is important to remember that the structures and organizations which such fellowship sometimes brings into being are in themselves human structures and organizations, in contrast to the divine character of the Church of God. That is to say, these structures are secular, using that term in a good sense.


The first reference to such a structure linking churches is in Article 21 which speaks of general councils. The essentially secular character of such meetings of leaders from the churches is reflected in the fact that these meetings are under the authority of the secular power: 'General Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of princes.' The truth implicit in this statement, namely that the structure of association of churches is secular, is vindicated by the fact that it is not practical to consummate the amalgamation of denominations (or 'church union') without the aid of an act of the legislature, i.e., 'without the will of princes'.


A second reference to denominational association is in the last paragraph of Article 34 which speaks of a 'national Church'. In a national 'Church', or denomination, the basis of association of the churches is common nationhood. The Article affirms that this is perfectly legitimate so long as the denominational association recognizes that its authority extends only to legislating on matters 'ordained only by man's authority'. The object of a denominational association and of the regulations it makes is to assist the building up (the 'edifying') of the churches.


A denomination is seen in its best light when viewed in relation to the service which it provides for the local Christian assemblies. Thus, it normally provides expert advice and mediation in many areas; it provides training colleges for the ministers and a pool of ministers to draw on to fill vacancies; it provides financial facilities for the purchase of congregational amenities, such as a church building to assemble in and a residence for the minister. It may provide superannuation schemes at a cheaper rate than insurance companies. It may run a publishing house. It also provides a channel for supporting missionaries in their ministry overseas, and in this respect it has a New Testament prototype in the organization set up by St. Paul to collect and convey alms to the Christians of Jerusalem on the occasion of his last visit to that city. Missionary societies which operate within a denomination but are not coterminous with it furnish the interesting phenomenon -- wrongly regarded by some people an anomalous -- of a denomination (or pattern of fellowship) within a denomination.


Perhaps the most serious danger which the denominational groupings of Christian congregations presents is that such groupings provide a focal point for loyalty. For many members, the denomination replaces the true centre of loyalty which a Christian assembly should have, namely Christ who gathers His assembly together, through His Word, which is the instrument of His lordship.


Nowadays denominationalism is greatly strengthened and perpetuated by the centralized structure that has been built up to serve denominationally linked churches. Organization increases the influence of the denomination in the community. Some denominations, especially those who give high-sounding titles to their office bearers, are more effective than others in securing this influence. But it remains true that influence secured by denominational organization is worldly influence rather than the influence which arises from the power of the Gospel, and so it will fail to advance God's glory. It falls under the ban, 'But it shall not be so among you' (cf. Luke 22:24-27). God's purposes are not advanced by pressure groups but by prayer, preaching, and Christian living and suffering.


'Parallel denominationalism' may be defined as more than one denomination having churches in the same locality. The parallel denominationalism of the Early Church was terminated by the persecution carried on by Constantine and his successors against all Christians who were not Catholic. Hatch in his Bampton Lectures gives a long list of these oppressive measures.v. In Britain parallel denominationalism has arisen again consequent upon the relaxation of persecution following the failure of the Clarendon Code and upon the repeal of the disabilities previously imposed on Roman Catholics.


The blessing which accompanies parallel denominationalism is liberty of conscience. A single denomination has always in history been a persecuting denomination and has maintained its monopoly only by persecution. Amalgamation of denominations through negotiation will never completely succeed nor be permanently monolithic without the aid of some such pressure. The union of denominations may be beneficial as leading to greater efficiency in their capacity as service organizations; but it is important that efficiency is not purchased at the cost of truth, or of liberty to preach and teach the Gospel, or of the integrity of the life of the local church. Thus, the union of denominations may well be an object to be encouraged, though it is unwarranted to think that such union in itself is a spiritual objective which Christians are under obligation to strive for.


The real way forward is a return to the ancient -- in fact, the original -- pattern, by strengthening the local church's responsibility for matters which affect its own spiritual existence, and by the mutual acceptance of one another, between church and church. These things need not wait for the negotiating of a 'union scheme' of the denominations to which the local churches happen to belong. The duty of receiving fully, freely and with Christian love all fellow Christians whom Christ receives should be laid on the Christian's conscience by the ministry of God's Word. At the same time the restrictive character of the denominational link-up should be weakened by allowing with goodwill, and indeed encouraging, congregations and individual Christians to be in fellowship with each other and to worship together across denominational barriers. But till this duty of Christian fellowship is firmly apprehended, and is permitted to be acted on, merely enlarging the link-up of local churches by denominational amalgamation ('church union') will only strengthen denominational exclusiveness.


v.The Organization of the Early Churches, sixth edition, p. 81.





The Eighth Sunday after Trinity.
The Collect.
O GOD, whose never-failing providence ordereth all things both in heaven and earth; We humbly beseech thee to put away from us all hurtful things, and to give us those things which be profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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