Dear Friends,

This blog is part of a series where I look briefly at some of the classic or historic or original Anglican teachings.  Each week i look at one of the articles in The Thirty-Nine Articles of religion.  By the way, these articles are a key component in Messiah’s Statement of Faith.  I will quote the article accurately, but I will modernize the language sometimes.

Article XIX: The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men and women, in which the pure Word of God is preached and the sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.  As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria and Antioch have erred; so also the Church of Rome has erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in manners of faith.”

First, notice the implied, biblical distinctions between the visible and the invisible church.  The invisible church is made up of all people, living and dead, who have come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.  Only the Lord knows who are His.  The visible church is a local congregation (or denomination).  Every visible church is too small to be the invisible church.  Every visible church will have in it people who have a saving faith (and are part of the invisible church) and those who do not have a saving faith.

Second, local congregations are to be formed and there is nothing inherently wrong about denominations.  God has not called His people to live private, isolated lives.  he calls us to Himself and then He calls us to live the Christian life as part of a local church.

Third, the local, visible church has two simple tasks listed.  The first is to preach the pure Word of God.  The second is to administer the two sacraments (or ordinances) of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper in the manner that Jesus intended.  Please note that Article 25 clearly teaches that there are only two sacraments; not seven.

Fourth, Anglicanism is not a “middle-way” between Protestantism and Catholicism.  It does not say that Eastern orthodox and Roman Catholics are automatically not Christian.  It does say that they have erred in some matters of faith (doctrine)  and ceremonies (their liturgies and worship) and living (their instructions on how their members are to live their daily lives).

Fifth, it is a surprise to many people that the 39 Articles have no statement about dioceses or synods.  The Articles only have a statement on the local church.  This does not mean Anglicanism undervalues or dismisses denominations or dioceses.  It wisely focuses on how the simple Christian will actually live his or her daily, weekly, yearly Christian walk.  This article does stand as a caution to Anglicans who so exalt the diocese that the importance of the local church is lost.

Georeg +