Dear friends,

Over the summer with these blogs I am going to look at some classic Anglican doctrine. Today we will look at Anglicanism’s understanding of church authority. I have modernized the language, but here, in its entirety, is article 20 of The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.

XX. Of the authority of the Church: The church has power to decree rites or ceremonies, and authority in controversies of faith: And yet it is not lawful for the church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the church be a witness and a keeper of holy writ (the Bible, God’s Word written), yet, as it ought not to decree anything against the Bible, it must also not enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of salvation that is not taught by the Bible.”

Several things to notice. First, we are to seek to read and teach the Bible in a deeply consistent manner. I love the language! I am not to interpret one part of the Bible in such a way that it means another part of the Bible is repugnant to the first part.

Second, the Bible is God’s Word written. It is not the Biblical author’s attempt to interpret God or describe what God might be thinking. The Bible, as a whole, and each of its parts down to the individual words, is God’s Word written down. So while the Bible has many human authors, some known and some unknown, the final product comes from the mind and heart of God, so that each word, sentence, paragraph, chapter, book, testament and the Bible as a whole is what God wanted said.

Third, until Jesus comes, there will be controversies. The church is not required to address every controversy, but there are some controversies that the church must address because the Bible addresses the controversy. The church must address the controversy by searching the whole Bible to discern the Bible’s teaching and then the church can address the controversy Biblically.

Fourth, the church needs public worship. This worship should have both order and content. Each church can develop order and content. But every church is to search the Scriptures so that the shape and content of their public worship is Biblical. Please note. The Article is very clearly telling us that there is a God-pleasing diversity in “rites and ceremonies”. There does not have to be only one way. However, it is easy for churches to slip up and order worship by ideological, commercial or psychological criteria. But, God is to order the church through His Word written.

George +