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We update our blog several times a week, with news and comment on ministry, theology, the Bible, liturgy and issues of the day.

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Posted by Mark Earngey, 23 Mar 2017

Mark Earngey explores the teaching of the 39 Articles on the supremacy of scripture over the fallible judgments of church councils.

XXI — OF THE AUTHORITY OF GENERAL COUNCILS
General Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of Princes. And when they be gathered together, (forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and Word of God,) they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of holy Scripture.

How is the 21st Article of Religion relevant to 21st century Anglicans? With its reference to the ‘commandment and will of princes’, this article may initially appear to some as something of a fossilised relic of the past, and unable to provide any reasonable application to dispersed groups of Anglicans around the world. Indeed, The Episcopal Church of the United States of America (TEC) omitted this article in 1801 on the basis that it was ‘partly of a local and civil nature’. This was, of course, a polite way of referring to the rejection of British rule following the American War of Independence!

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Posted by Mark Pickles, 22 Mar 2017

Mark Pickles examines what the 39 Articles say about the authority of the church in controversies.

XX — OF THE AUTHORITY OF THE CHURCH
The Church hath 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 so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation.

Article 20 is only a short paragraph and yet it packs a powerful and highly relevant punch for today’s Church.

This article deals with the perennially vital question of the Church’s authority. It articulates historic Anglicanism’s careful, clear, and nuanced wisdom on this subject. It demonstrates convincingly J.I. Packer’s comment that, “The 39 Articles seem not only to catch the substance and spirit of biblical Christianity superbly well but also provide as apt a model of the way to confess the faith in a divided Christendom as the world has yet seen.”

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Posted by Lee Gatiss, 22 Mar 2017

The readings for this Sunday focus on light and sight, day and night, and then discriminating distinctions that God makes. Lee Gatiss expounds the lectionary readings for this Sunday.

The lectionary readings for the 4th Sunday of Lent (Year A) are 1 Samuel 16:1-13, Ephesians 5:8-14, and John 9. In this short video, Lee Gatiss expounds those readings for us today.

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Posted by Andrew Cinnamond, 21 Mar 2017

Andrew Cinnamond unpacks the Anglican doctrine of the church, according to the 39 Articles.

XIX — OF THE CHURCH
The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the 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 hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith.

To many Christians this article may seem superfluous. After all, ‘church’ is the place where we go for hymns, sermons, Communion, and the occasional wedding or funeral. Right? The Reformers knew that the outworking of their theology, based squarely on the sufficiency and authority of the Scriptures, was a direct challenge to Rome and the papacy. It was therefore essential to say what constituted a true church and what did not. Article 19 is similar to that of Article 7 of the Augsburg Confession of 1530 and reflects a shared Protestant consensus that Rome’s teaching on the Church needed to be reformed.

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Posted by Michael Walters, 20 Mar 2017

Michael Walters pays tribute to the former Director of Church Society, David Streater, who died earlier this month.

Members of Church Society will be saddened to hear of the recent death of the Revd David Streater who was Director of the Society 1991 – 1998.

Having trained for ordained ministry at Oak Hill College, he served as Curate of Lindfield (a parish of which the Church Society Trust is Patron) for three years from 1968. He then served in South Africa for 15 years, returning to England to become Rector of Kingham with Churchill, Daylesford and Sarsden in 1986. After this period as an Incumbent, David became Director of Church Society, and on retirement ‘House for Duty’ minister at Odell.
 
When I first met David I was involved in the work of the Church Society Trust. He first struck me as a stereotypical ‘parson’, someone who, were I a layman, I would have been glad to have as my Vicar. He was warm, and genuinely interested in people; forthright but in no way over-bearing.

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Posted by Rohintan Mody, 20 Mar 2017

Rohintan Mody became a Christian out of a Zoroastrian background. But did he have to convert to be saved?

XVIII — OF OBTAINING ETERNAL SALVATION ONLY BY THE NAME OF CHRIST

They also are to be had accursed that presume to say, That every man shall be saved by the Law or Sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that Law, and the light of Nature. For holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the Name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.

There is no more important question in our day and in the church than that of other religions. The question goes something like this: “Since there are so many different religions in the world aren’t there many different ways to God? I know that those of other religions are very sincere in their beliefs, and they are also very good people, so, surely all those who live sincere lives will be led to God?” People say that there are many paths up the one mountain. Indeed, many believe that the most offensive and nonsensical thing that anyone can say is that there is only one way to God. All spiritual truth, we are told, is plural and relative.

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Posted by Paul Darlington, 18 Mar 2017

Paul Darlington takes us through the longest of the 39 Articles, on the tricky subject of predestination. What does the Church of England believe about that?

XVII — OF PREDESTINATION AND ELECTION
Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God’s purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God’s mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.

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Posted by Clare Hendry, 17 Mar 2017

Clare Hendry explores the pastoral realities of sin in the life of a Christian, as part of our “40 Days in the 39 Articles.”

XVI — OF SIN AFTER BAPTISM
Not every deadly sin willingly committed after Baptism is sin against the Holy Ghost, and unpardonable. Wherefore the grant of repentance is not to be denied to such as fall into sin after Baptism. After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given, and fall into sin, and by the grace of God we may arise again, and amend our lives. And therefore they are to be condemned, which say, they can no more sin as long as they live here, or deny the place of forgiveness to such as truly repent.

Recently, I was helping with our church holiday club over half-term. On one of the days, following the main teaching slot, I was chatting in my group with two eight year old boys. We were talking about sin and the need for Jesus to save us. In trying to help them understand the teaching I asked them ‘Do you think you could get through the whole day without sinning, without doing anything wrong?’  One clearly thought he could and explained how! It took a little time and some challenging questions for him to begin to think that maybe he couldn’t quite make it through a whole day sinless, even if he tried very hard.

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Posted by Ben Thompson, 16 Mar 2017

Ben Thompson takes a look at what the 39 Articles say about the possibility of being perfect.

XV — OF CHRIST ALONE WITHOUT SIN
Christ in the truth of our nature was made like unto us in all things, sin only except, from which he was clearly void, both in his flesh, and in his spirit. He came to be the Lamb without spot, who, by sacrifice of himself once made, should take away the sins of the world, and sin, as Saint John saith, was not in him. But all we the rest, although baptized, and born again in Christ, yet offend in many things; and if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

The Apostle John wrote that “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). We can’t be confident that we will deceive anyone else. While they may not tell us to our face, most people who spend time with us would easily list some of the particular sins which we struggle with (or perhaps, more tellingly, don’t struggle with). But we can deceive ourselves, and that is the pastoral brilliance of this Article’s inclusion in our formularies.

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Posted by Trevor Johnston, 15 Mar 2017

Trevor Johnston helps us understand one of the longest words in the 39 Articles, and why it is important.

XIV — OF WORKS OF SUPEREROGATION
Voluntary Works besides, over, and above, God’s Commandments, which they call Works of Supererogation, cannot be taught without arrogancy and impiety: for by them men do declare, that they do not only render unto God as much as they are bound to do, but that they do more for his sake, than of bounden duty is required: whereas Christ saith plainly, When ye have done all that are commanded to you, say, We are unprofitable servants.

500 years ago, being ‘good enough’ for God troubled Martin Luther. He realised, before and after his recovered insight into the gospel of St Paul, that he wasn’t good enough. He felt the weight and burden of his sin (the theological category, not the psychological category of a supposed neurosis). He knew that he was unworthy and unable to be accepted by a holy God. Before his conversion, his life was a series of religious and moral attempts to get into, and stay in, God’s good books. His attempts to satisfy the demands of a holy and righteous God were ineffective, and he knew it. He had no peace.

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