Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Thirty-Nine Articles (Part 15)

XXXV. Of Homilies
The second Book of Homilies, the several titles whereof we have joined under this Article, doth contain a godly and wholesome doctrine and necessary for these times, as doth the former Book of Homilies which were set forth in the time of Edward the Sixth: and therefore we judge them to be read in Churches by the ministers diligently and distinctly, that they may be understanded of the people.

XXXVI. Of Consecration of Bishops and Ministers
The Book of Consecration of Archbishops and Bishops and ordering of Priests and Deacons, lately set forth in the time of Edward the Sixth and confirmed at the same time by authority of Parliament, doth contain all things necessary to such consecration and ordering; neither hath it anything that of itself is superstitious or ungodly.


And therefore whosoever are consecrate or ordered according to the rites of that book, since the second year of King Edward unto this time, or hereafter shall be consecrated or ordered according to the same rites, we decree all such to be rightly, orderly, and lawfully consecrated or ordered.

To us it may seem odd that these kinds of statements were placed into the official confession of the Church of England. They were certainly aimed at particular controversies of that day, and thus they seem rather dated now. However, they do reflect deeper issues which are of abiding concern for all churches.

Article 35 attempts to control both ignorant and partisan preaching. In other words, many clergymen in the Anglican church either had little doctrinal knowledge or else had ideas of their own which were contrary to official church doctrine. We must remember, too, that in those days the pulpit was a primary source of social knowledge, similar to the media today. Consequently, what was said in the pulpit carried great social weight. In order to manage this, church leaders gave a list of prepared sermons which they required the clergy to read distinctly.

Of course, the deeper issue here is whether the church leaders could rightfully exercise such authority. The Puritans vigorously disagreed, and in 1572 they demanded that Parliament remove the requirement for these homilies.

Article 36 also touches on a deeper issue which contemporary American Christians don't think much about. Yet in the days of the Reformation it was at the forefront of everyone's thinking. It is the issue of legitimacy. Who can legitimately be considered a church officer? The Roman Catholics claimed that the Church of England's ordination was null and void because it departed from their ordination. The Puritans, on the other hand, felt that the ordination of the Anglican church was worthless, and even blasphemous, because it went far beyond the Scripture.

On both of these issues, we would judge that the Puritans were closer to the Scriptural revelation.

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