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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

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Part XIX: Thirty-Nine Articles: The Historic Basis of Anglican Faith: Denominational Association

"Thus, on doubtful or less important doctrines the Articles are rightly silent. But ambiguity which aims at the same liberty which silence provides is a false and unworthy method for association, and there is no evidence that the Articles proceed by such a method."

"Members of a Christian association which has a doctrinal basis, as has the Church of England, should be expected to hold that basis themselves, especially if they receive remuneration from their membership."

Thirty-Nine Articles: The Historic Basis of the Anglican Faith

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

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 Nine

Denominational Association

In such a visible church, where there is believing fellowship in prayer and God's Word, and where as a consequence the Holy Spirit is present according to Christ's promise, there is plainly less need of a binding doctrinal statement as a basis of association. God's Word mutually ministered and accepted is sufficient. But in the course of centuries churches have become linked in exclusive groupings, as, for example, as has been mentioned, the Novation, Catholic and Donatist churches in the ancient world, and in our own time the various Catholic and Protestant denominations. These groups are usually called Churches, though in fact they have no biblical prototypes. They differ from churches in that they never assemble, nor form a congregation in which the pure Word of God can be preached so as to do its work of informing and correcting the mind and the conscience. Now if such an association in groups is to be helpful to the churches concerned, it is necessary that there should be a clear doctrinal basis for the association, and this is especially needed when, as in most denominational groups, the central organization of the denomination has taken over some of the duties of the congregation, in particular the duty of ensuring that the pure Word of God is preached within it, by the selecting and disciplining of the ministers. More frequently than not, the denomination has a large say in the appointment of the minister of the church, and in the discipline of church members, including the minister. The denomination also very often regulates the worship of the church. In this way the denomination has taken over the duty of ensuring that the pure Word of God is preached and the sacraments duly administered in the way that Christ ordained, on which, according to Article 19, the very existence of the visible church depends. It is therefore a matter of absolute necessity that the denominational association should have a doctrinal basis.

The need for a clear and full doctrinal basis for denominational association is enhanced by the financial sanctions which the denomination comes to possess over the church or the congregation. The denomination attracts to itself gifts and legacies in trust, which its central organization and office-bearers administer. Grants in aid of ministers' salaries or superannuation, or the awarding of theological bursaries, are examples. Moreover, in some denominations the property which the Church finds convenient to use, such as the church building where it meets, or the house for its minister, is owned or controlled by the denomination. This arrangement is often convenient and helpful, but it puts the possibility of powerful financial sanctions into the hands of those in charge of the central organization. It is a 'this-worldly' type of sanction and has nothing at all in common with the spiritual sanctions or discipline which alone should be exercised in the congregation, namely, the Word of God. for God's Word has the power when it is faithfully ministered to convict a regenerate conscience, and to move the will of the child of God (II Corinthians 7:8-11).

To minimize the possibility of the central organization tyrannizing over ministers of the Gospel in the church, it is not only necessary to have carefully articulated church law (i.e., denominational rules) which preserve the exercise of spiritual principles to the minister and the congregation, and to keep these rules; it is also necessary to have a carefully articulated theological statement which controls all the lawmaking of the denomination's legislative body, and to which assent is required from the ministers which the denomination sends to the churches.

If the denominational association is to be stable, and to serve the purposes for which it was brought into being, it is essential to have a doctrinal basis for the association. Though this theological statement should at every point be based on Scripture, Scripture itself was not written as a document for a basis of association of churches and it is not suitable for this purpose. Yet a doctrinal basis of association is necessary especially when the association takes a form in which the churches hand over to the central organization of the association so many vital matters which concern their own continuance as truly Christian churches. In these circumstances it goes without saying that any assent given to a doctrinal basis of association must be given ex animo,1 and that any required statement of belief that the basis is agreeable to the Word of God must be meant unequivocally. On the other hand, proper liberty for Christian thought should be preserved within the terms of association. Thus, on doubtful or less important doctrines the Articles are rightly silent. But ambiguity which aims at the same liberty which silence provides is a false and unworthy method for association, and there is no evidence that the Articles proceed by such a method.

Members of a Christian association which has a doctrinal basis, as has the Church of England, should be expected to hold that basis themselves, especially if they receive remuneration from their membership. Occasionally clergy leave the Church of England for doctrinal reasons and this is straightforward action. According to the rules of the association mutually agreed upon (e.g., Canon 5 of 1604), roundly to denounce the doctrinal basis as full of erroneous doctrines (as some modern churchmen have done) is automatically to exclude oneself from membership of the association (and so disqualify oneself for holding preferment within it). This also is straightforward and honest. In negotiations for denominational amalgamation the Articles can play a useful part. A question that should asked and answered early in the negotiations is how the negotiating churches stand with regard to the Articles. Not all the Articles are of equal importance for a basis of association. This has been recognized from the beginning. For example, the Act of 1571 which required the clergy to assent to the Articles restricted the requirement to those Articles 'which only concern the true Christian faith and the doctrine of the sacraments'iv; and by the Act of Toleration of 1689 dissenting ministers were required to subscribe only the doctrinal Articles and not those which treated of church polity, namely Articles 34, 35, 36 and the opening clause of Article 20.v But some of the Articles are crucial for any denominational association, and it would be a more straightforward and satisfactory method for the negotiating parties to state how they stood with regard to these than to draw up a new doctrinal statement.


1From the heart: sincerely.
ivHardwick: A History of the Articles of Religion (1851), pp. 217f.
vGee and Hardy: Documents Illustrative of English Church, p. 638.
The Tenth Sunday after Trinity.
The Collect.
LET thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of thy humble servants; and that they may obtain their petitions make them to ask such things as shall please thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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