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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

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Why the 39 Articles of Religion Should Be Retained: Shall Anglicanism Abandon Its Confession of Faith Today?

[Note: The following article is from the Traditional Protestant Episcopal Church website. I agree with this article and its assessment of Anglo-Catholicism. To see the original website click on the title to this entry.]

At the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in October, 1925, at New Orleans, a resolution was moved and passed under Anglo-Catholic leadership providing that the Articles of Religion be omitted from the Prayer Book. By divine Providence, the resolution failed to be upheld at the subsequent Convention held in the fall of 1928, when the "new" Prayer Book was introduced.

What were the reasons for the action of the Convention in 1925? Every concerned churchman has the right and duty to know the history and theology of his Church; inasmuch as the suppression of the Thirty-Nine Articles involves the faith and therefore, the very life of the Church. Yet, few laymen or clergy are aware of this historic maneuver to do away with the Articles on the part of the Anglo-Catholics and liberals. Is there still a need to defend the value and used of the Articles today? Is there still a "plot" to remove them from the faith and practice of Anglicanism world-wide? What is the future fate of the Articles in relation to present Anglican thinking and Prayer Book revision?

The Articles of Religion were framed during the Reformation. They are clearly based upon Holy Writ; they include only those doctrines which are to be found in the Scriptures, and reject those which are not. The Articles define the distinctive doctrines of the English Church and condemn those of the Roman or Papal Church, which were known from centuries of experience to be sources of oppression, extortion, and immoral conduct. They were adopted and set forth in their present form in 1801 by the then Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States as its confession of faith; they have never been revoked or amended and have always been printed in the Book of Common Prayer.

The historic position of the Articles is beyond dispute; yet, the Articles are not merely of historical value -- they are the official statement of what the Church believes. They are the Magna Carta of its faith, its doctrinal constitution. Only until recently, clergy were required to subscribe to the Articles at the time of ordination. The Articles defended the laity against arbitrary clergy who would foist on their congregations illicit or forbidden teachings. Ignore them, hide them, or abolish them, and the Church is left without an adequate rule and guide: every clergyman could do as he pleases and teach according to personal whim. Such license causes strife and ultimate disintegration.

The Articles clearly teach that the Bible, not the clergy, is the source of both doctrine and authority in the Church. Doctrine and usages based only upon the approval of the General Councils, though representing the entire Church Catholic, are declared to have "neither strength nor authority", and Article XIX expressly repudiates ancient Churches themselves as sources of sound doctrine and usage. (BCP p. 561)

These declarations lead to a momentous conclusion: for Anglicans the source of faith is the Bible and Bible alone. It is not the writings of the medieval Churchmen; not the acts of the General Councils; not the "ancient" Catholic Church, as the Anglo-Catholics mistakenly content, but the Holy Scriptures solely and exclusively.

The historic faith of the Anglican Communion is presently under attack from many sides. Secular humanism, communism, sexual immorality, and heretical teachings of all sorts seem to find a tolerant audience amongst some portion of Anglican believers. Prayer Book revision, higher criticism, and inclusive language lectionaries have been promoted in nearly every Church in the world-wide Anglican Communion. The ordination of women (to the diaconate, presbyterate, and even to the episcopate) is receiving common acceptance. Should this situation be "tolerated" much less promoted? what remedy do we have to combat such ills besetting the Anglican ethos?

Conservative Anglo-Catholics would have us believe that their form of non-papal Catholicism would save Anglicanism from its present ills and provide a bulwark against future departures from the Faith. They blame what they style "liberal Protestantism" for the demise of the historic Church and blast any form of "fundamentalism" as the enemy of reason and true religion.

The Anglo-Catholic churchman dreams of some ideal (but historically nonexistent) church that fulfills the ephemeral goal of a "bridge" Church--a via media--between Rome and Canterbury. They would be willing to retain some of the "trappings" of true Anglicanism, but would repudiate any reformational character in their idealized theology. Some do more than dream: some have taken their dreams and put them into action by attempting to rewrite history and to alter or eliminate the Protestant foundations of Anglicanism as found in the Articles of Religion.

On the one hand, the Anglo-Catholics (better called Anglo-Romanist - but certainly not High Churchmen) pretend that their opposition to the Articles is based upon their obsolescence; that they have fallen out of use. We know, however, that the teachings of the Articles on the Trinity , the Person of Christ, the Sacraments, the ministry, and so on are not "out of date". For Orthodox believers they cannot be out of date: they are believed by the great mass of orthodox, biblical Christians everywhere.

The real reason why the Anglo-Catholics wish to suppress the Articles is exactly and precisely because they are not out of date or obsolete. They do stand solidly athwart the path of these aggressors, who for this very reason are trying to thrust them aside. They denounce and condemn the very doctrines and innovations which this party is trying to foist upon the Church. Remember that it was the Anglo-Catholics who first called for toleration of higher criticism of the Bible; the first to call for changes in the liturgy and the Prayer Book; the first to ordain women; the first to ordain practicing homosexuals; the first to promote Marxism and "social justice" causes; and the first to involve the Anglican Communion in the hopeless moral of the World and National Council of Churches, as well as ecumenism.

The Articles are no more obsolete than they were framed nearly four centuries ago. Strangely, Anglo-Catholics have given them a new vitality, have made them a living need in the Church today. They are once more, as in the sixteenth century, a defense and bulwark of the Primitive and Protestant faith against the errors of Romanism.

In order to lull the suspicions of the laity, until it is too late to save the Protestant faith of the Anglican Churches, some Anglo-Catholics assert that only nonessential doctrines are involved in the controversy: that those who seek to defend the Articles are being contentious over trifles, risking Christian charity by "knit picking". If this is so, why do they labor so zealously to do away with the Articles, and force their own doctrines upon gullible churchmen. Why do they cause strife and heart burning in so many parishes which were formerly at peace in their churchmanship? Why do they imperil the unity of the Church by insisting upon innovations? Why do they violate their own ordination vows, in order to teach what they say is trivial and unimportant?

The truth is that the questions at issue are no trivial controversies between hairsplitting theologians. In order to understand the motives which impel Anglo-Catholics to suppress the Articles and the Protestantism of our faith, we must first know what their theology and purposes are. They aim to abolish the historic teachings of the Protestant Episcopal Church, and to substitute certain beliefs of the Roman and Papal Church.

Anglo-Catholicism teaches, as does Roman Catholicism, that there are seven sacraments; that purgatory is an "intermediate" state of the dead; and the sacrifice of Our Lord on the Cross is "renewed" in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper; that baptism regenerates a soul "ex opere operatio"; that a priest is an "icon" of Christ and has power to forgive sins in "Confession".

Even those who style themselves "conservatives" in the Anglo-Roman camp cannot agree upon the truth. Some ordain women to the diaconate, but not to the priesthood. Some ordain women in lower orders, but refuse them the episcopate. Some use modern revisions of the Prayer Book; some use only the historic BCP; some use both. Some condone homosexuality; some do not. Some believe in the he plenary inspiration of the Scripture; some do not. In short, they are a "mixed" group, both eclectic and syncretic in their theology and practice.

The real issue is no trivial controversy or narrow-minded intolerance: the real issue is as broad as the difference between despotism and liberty, between progress and reaction, between an advance to higher and nobler conceptions of religion and reversion to those which are whimsical and barbarous. The true son of the Church aims to keep his Church loyal to the plain teachings of Christ. The Anglo-Catholic aims to drag it back to the crassly paganized Christianity of the Middle Ages, with its magic, fetishism, and idolatry.

The Articles of Religion are no guaranteed remedy for the evils which so beset the twentieth century Church, nor are they an immutable answer to the ills of the declining Anglican Communion. Yet, they stand through the test of history and controversy in Anglicanism as the bastion of Biblical truth which cannot be denied by sincere churchmen. They were written by men: they are not infallible. But they have never been supplanted, even in the nearly seventy years of church history since General Convention first sought to officially remove them.

Perhaps what the Anglo-Catholics failed to accomplish in 1925 will yet come to pass in your lifetime. The liberals will do away with the Articles as a confessional statement and the conversatives will join with Rome. If this does take place, the Christian world will be the less for it and that which was once one of the noblest expressions of Biblical Christianity will have passed into oblivion. May god defend us and prevent such a victory of the Anti-Christ! May our children and our children's children live to enjoy the precious Protestant heritage of our Anglican faith!

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