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. By the way, these Articles are a key component in Messiah’s Statement of Faith. I will quote the Article accurately, but I may modernize the language sometimes.

Article XXVI: Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacrament. Although in the visible church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ’s, and do minister by His commission and authority, we may use their ministry, both in hearing the Word of God and in receiving of the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ’s ordinance taken away by their wickedness nor the grace of God’s gifts diminished from such as by faith and rightly do receive the sacraments ministered unto them; which be affected, because of Christ’s institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men. Nevertheless, it is essential to the discipline of the church that inquiry be made of evil ministers and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally being found guilty by judgment be deposed.”

First, this is a wise article! All grace and power in worship and in preaching and in the sacraments comes from God, not human beings. This article helps protect us from accidentally having a human-centred/based understanding of the Christian’s common life. If most of the power and grace comes from human beings, then having an unbelieving or evil pastor is disastrous. If all of the power and grace comes from God, then a bad minister cannot stop it.

Second, note that sacraments and ordinance are used interchangeably.

Third, note that the article frankly acknowledges that the visible church is a mixed-bag, not pure. Too many churches fall into the trap of demanding that the local church only be made up of the saved and the holy. In a fallen world, this is an idol and an illusion. The local church and denominations will always be a mixed-bag; praise God the power and grace comes from God; not us!

Fourth, the fact that the local church is always a mixed-bag does not mean we should give evil or unbelieving ministers/leaders a pass. This article teaches patience for those in the congregation, but vigilance and courage when it comes to those in positions of authority who minister. The local church and the congregation are to fairly judge those who are accused. If it is found that the minister is not an orthodox Christian and/or they have done serious wrong, then they are to be removed from office. By the way, I believe this article wisely portrays the bottom-line/big-picture, but leaves the steps to be worked out.

George +