- Articles of Religion
- The Articles of Religion is a set of documents that established the beliefs of the Church of England in the 16th century and then were edited by John Wesley in the 18th century for use by the Methodists.Following the passing of the Act of Supremacy (1534) that established the English monarch as the head of the church in the lands over which he ruled, it seemed necessary to publish a statement of church beliefs. After all, the Lutherans with whom the Church of England was associated had in 1530 published their Augsburg Confession of Faith.An initial set of articles was drawn up, approved by church authorities, and published in 1536 as The Articles of our Faith, described as "Articles devised to establish Christian quietness and unity among us and to avoid contentious opinions." They were commonly referred to as the Ten Articles. They were Catholic in tone, the primary doctrinal concession to the Protestants being a statement that the pope did not control the church.The next year, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, in spite of Henry VlII's known allegiance to Roman Catholic beliefs, authored a new set of articles, the Thirteen Articles. These were thoroughly Protestant in tone, Cranmer having drawn his inspiration from the Augsburg Confession.Henry was not pleased. In 1539, he issued a supplementary document, the so-called six Articles. Clearly Roman Catholic in perspective, they affirmed the real presence in the Eucharist, denied communion in both kinds, upheld clerical celibacy, and continued the practice of private masses and confession of one's sins to a priest. Lack of conformity to these articles carried heavy penalties. A commentary on the Ten Articles and the six Articles was issued in 1543 under the title A Necessary Doctrine and Erudition for any Christian Man, popularly known as the King's Book.The Ten Articles, the six Articles, and the King's Book remained authoritative in England until 1552, when they were superseded by the Forty-two Articles. Cranmer served as the primary author of the Forty-two Articles, but they were subsequently approved by the other church leaders and by King Edward VI and his advisers and published in English and in Latin. All these were suppressed during the reign of Mary I. In 1562, the bishops revised the Forty-two Articles, which Elizabeth I later approved. Scottish Presbyterian John Knox helped write these articles, which included phrases reflecting his Calvinist (Reformed Church) orientation. These Thirty-nine Articles have remained unchanged within the Anglican tradition and are frequently printed as an appendix to the Book of Common Prayer, though they were not included in its earliest editions.The Methodist movement began as a revital-ization movement within the Church of England in the 1740s. In the 1760s, it began to spread internationally. Most important, Methodists gathered in small groups called classes in the American colonies. Following the American Revolution, it was decided to allow the American Methodists to organize as a separate denomination. Methodist founder John Wesley set about the task of preparing materials for the new church. In the process he edited the Thirty-nine Articles and arrived at Twenty-four Articles of Religion, which in 1784 were adopted by the Americans as the statement of faith for the Methodist Episcopal Church (with the addition of a 25th article on the church's relation to the new American government). That statement of faith was carried in the Book of Discipline of the church and the several bodies that broke from it and remained in the discipline through the several mergers in the 20th century that led to the founding of the United Methodist Church in 1968. The Twenty-five Articles were also passed around the world by American Methodists missions and have been retained (with appropriate local alterations) by most Methodist bodies internationally.Both the Anglican and Methodist versions of the Articles of Religion affirm the ancient teachings of the church, including the triune god, salvation in Christ, the authority of the scriptures, original sin, and the sacraments. They also include Protestant emphases on justification by faith, the distribution of both bread and wine in the Lord's supper, and the marriage of clergy. They contain specifically Reformed (as opposed to Lutheran) teachings on, for example, the nature of the church, which is defined as "a congregation of faithful men, in which the Word of God is preached and the sacraments be duly administered ..." Both sets of articles carry specific refutations of certain Roman Catholic teachings, such as purgatory, transubstantiation, and lifting up the elements during the Lord's Supper.Among the items deleted by Wesley as unnecessary for Methodists were articles on Of Works Before Justification, which in Calvinism are largely discounted, but in Methodism lauded; Of Predestination and Election, which Wesley felt would be understood in a Calvinist manner that the Methodists rejected; and Of the Traditions of the Church, which Wesley felt to be no longer at issue. Among the most popular items added to the 25 articles by groups that separated from the Methodists in America were statements on the doctrine of sanctification and holiness.Further reading:■ J. H. Benton, The Book of Common Prayer: Its Origin and Growth (Boston: the author, 1910)■ Thomas E Chilcoate, The Articles of Religion (Nashville, Tenn.: Cokesbury Press, 1960)■ J. Gordon Melton, ed. The Encyclopedia of American Religions: Religious Creeds. (Detroit: Gale Research, 1988)■ Kenneth N. Ross, The Thirty-nine Articles (London: A. R. Mowbray, 1957).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.