APPROVED. F. CANTUAR. 27 June, 1900.
WE have been asked by friends who are members of the Orthodox Eastern Church to give them fuller information respecting the Church of England, and, in particular, concerning its doctrines on certain points on which there has been from time to time a difference in the apprehension of the faith among certain bodies of Christian people, on which they have proposed questions to us. We respond to this request very willingly, both on account of our great respect for those who have asked us to undertake this task, and our general love for and sympathy with the Christian people of the East, who would we believe find the temper and traditions of the Church of England in many important points in harmony with their own, if they became better acquainted with the beliefs of its members.
It must, in the first place, be observed that there is an Anglican Church both in a broader and a narrower sense. There is a world-wide community, including the Church of the United States of America, as well as the Churches of our Communion in Ireland, Scotland, India, Canada, the West Indies, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and other colonies, besides the various native Churches both within and without the dominions of the British Crown. Then there is the Church of England in the narrower sense, namely that of the kingdom of England, divided into the two Provinces of Canterbury and York, and of the settlements of our countrymen in the foreign jurisdictions committed to the charge of the Bishop of London, the Bishop of Gibraltar, and the Bishop in Jerusalem and the East. The Anglican Church in both senses is one body, but its parts outside the kingdom of England are ruled by their own archbishops, bishops and synods as free corporations; and their relations with the national Church of England vary from very close and definite binding ties to one of mere alliance, though that of a most intimate character, with the Church of the United States of America. This sketch of our constitution will show members of the Orthodox Eastern Church that their position and ours have much in common. There is a real unity of faith and discipline and character of teaching, but great local freedom in the Anglican Church. And this way of regarding the Church of Christ, which is necessarily imposed upon us by the conditions of our organization, enables us, as we believe it enables members of the Orthodox Eastern Church, in the various countries through which it is spread, to approach the problems of the reunion of Christendom with greater hopefulness and patience. We see that local freedom is not only tolerable but helpful, that it brings out the best points of national character, and enlists them in the service of Jesus Christ.
The statements that follow in answer to the questions proposed have not only the approval of the Archbishop of Canterbury, but also that of the Archbishop of York (formerly President of the Anglo-Continental Society), and of the Bishops of London and Gibraltar, and of the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem. We therefore confidently commend them to our readers.
(PRESIDENT OF THE ANGLO-CONTINENTAL SOCIETY).
I. What is the official confession of the Church of England? In what books is it contained, and what is its binding force or validity (kuros)?
2. What does the Church of England teach about the infallibility of the Church and about the Oecumenical Councils?
3. What does it teach concerning faith and good works, that is to say, what requirements does it lay down for salvation and justification?
4. How many Sacraments (mysteries) does it receive? What does it teach in general about Sacraments, and in particular concerning Baptism, Eucharist, and Holy Orders (lit. priesthood)?
5. What does it teach about predestination, about the procession (ekporeuseos) of the Holy Spirit, and about tradition?
I. What is the official confession of the Church of England? In what books is it contained, and what is its binding force or validity?
The elements of the teaching of the Church of England are found in the three Creeds, that is to say, (i) in the definition of the faith known as the "Nicene Creed," which is constantly recited in the divine Liturgy; (a) in what is called the Apostles' Creed, which is professed by all at Baptism; and (3) in the hymn which is commonly called the Athanasian Creed. [This is the Creed which was ascribed by the Fathers of Chalcedon (A. D. 451) to the 150 Fathers of Constantinople (A. D. 381). It is now generally supposed by Western scholars to have been originally the baptismal Creed of the Church of Jerusalem. It is of course Nicene in doctrine, but with the addition of certain clauses required by the later growth of heresy.]
We receive these Creeds not only because we reverence the ancient tradition of the Church and the Oecumenical Synods, but because we believe that the Holy Scriptures most clearly bear witness to the doctrines contained in them. For we honour the Holy Scriptures' as the rule and test of divine truth, by which every form of doctrine, whether derived from ancient tradition or from theological definition, must necessarily be tried.
Further, inasmuch as in our public worship we stand before the Almighty and All-wise God, whom we cannot approach except with entire faith and sincerity, we all consider the teaching contained in our Prayer-book ("The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and other Bites and Ceremonies of the Church, according to the Use of the Church of England, together with the Psalter and the Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests and Deacons"), which is in the hands of all, even of our children, to be an official and authoritative expression of the belief of the Church of England. This book had the fullest sanction which it was possible to give it, being ratified first by the Convocations of the two Provinces, and afterwards accepted by an Act of Parliament A.D. 1662. In this book moreover is inserted, between the services for Baptism and that for Confirmation or Laying on of Hands, the Catechism or "instruction to be learned of every person before he be brought to be confirmed by the Bishop." This Catechism has to be learned by heart by every child and the meaning of it understood. It contains an explanation of the Apostles' Creed, of the Ten Commandments, and of the Lord's Prayer, and it also contains the most necessary information concerning the two great Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion (Eucharist).
Outside the Prayer-book, but usually bound up together with it, we have "The Articles of Religion agreed upon by the Archbishops and Bishops of both Provinces and the whole Clergy, in the Convocation holden at London in the year 1563, for the avoiding of diversities of Opinions and for the establishing of Consent touching true Religion." We have given the full title of these Articles, usually called "the XXXIX Articles," because it describes the object with which they were framed. The XXXIX Articles are definitions to which the clergy give assent in writing, professing by their subscription that they will not teach anything in opposition to them, and that they consider the doctrine contained in them and in the Prayer-book to be agreeable to the word of God. It must be observed that these Articles, though they contain many valuable definitions of Christian truth, are rather "Articles of Religion" than a Confession of Faith. Their main object from the beginning was the preservation of peace and the elimination of certain kinds of error, "that every mouth might be stopped" of those who contentiously disputed, and that so our Church might be at peace within itself. Assent to these Articles is not required of our own lay-people nor necessarily of the clergy of the Churches of our communion which may be established in foreign lands. The synods of these Churches are free to establish what rules they think fit in order to secure the orthodoxy of their clergy and the maintenance of union with the general body of the Anglican Communion.
The XXXIX Articles therefore considered and examined in a historical light are a very useful internal bond of union, and are no hindrance to the maintenance of inter-communion and brotherly relations with our fellow Christians of other lands, who have not adopted the errors referred to in these Articles.
Further, the national Church of England has a body of Canons, promulgated mostly in the year 1603, which are binding upon the Clergy and contain in various parts important statements as to doctrine. Other branches of our communion have their own codes of Canons of similar character.
II. What does the Church of England teach about the infallibility of the Church and about the Oecumenical Councils?
The Church of England thankfully accepts the general promises of our Lord in Holy Scripture that the gates of hell shall not prevail against His Church (St. Matt. xvi. 18), that His Spirit will guide His Apostles into all the truth (St. John xvi. 13), and that He will be with His disciples always unto the end of the world (St. Matt, xxviii. 20). It believes that He is present by the power of the Holy Ghost wherever His people are gathered together in His name, not only in public worship, but in the judicial and legislative assemblies of the Church; and that it is the duty of Christians to "hear the Church" (St. Matt, xviii. 15-20). It acknowledges also with thankfulness that the definitions of the faith arrived at by the undisputed Oecumenical Councils are a correct and faithful expression of the truths respecting the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity in Unity and the Person and Incarnation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and the Person of the Holy Spirit, which from the first have been explicitly or implicitly held within the Church.
This preservation from error is however the work of God, not of men; and infallibility is not inherent in man, nor can it be ascribed beforehand to any person or body of persons however eminent and however numerous. Some of the most numerously attended Councils of the Church have been betrayed into errors of doctrine. The tests of the validity of the acts of a Council are to be found therefore in their agreement with Scripture and the acceptance of their decrees by the whole body of the Church which thus sets the seal to them after their promulgation.
Further, the Church has always drawn a distinction between articles of faith and decrees on points of discipline and ritual, and it does not attach the same weight to the latter as to the former. For this reason amongst others the Church of England does not consider itself bound by the decrees of the seventh Council (of Nicaea), which were not received, at the time of its meeting, in the Western Church, and which relate to observances which it does not consider helpful or necessary for the people committed to its charge. It admits however representations of sacred things and persons into our churches for the purposes of edification; and it condemns any who injure or deface them.
III. What does the Church of England teach concerning faith and good works, that is to say, what requirements does it lay down for salvation and justification?
The Church of England teaches, in conformity with Holy Scripture, that "being justified by faith we have peace with God" (Rom.v. i). This faith of course reposes in humble confidence upon the merits of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and not upon any merits of our own. But by faith we understand not a dead but a living faith, which as naturally leads the believer to do good works for God as a good tree necessarily bears good fruit. There is no contrast between faith and good works, and there can hardly be said to be any permanent distinction between them, since our blessed Lord teaches: "This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent" (St. John vi. 29). Good works are properly contrasted with bad or selfish or dead works, not with any Christian grace.
Further, it teaches that repentance, faith, and obedience are necessary conditions for the reception of the two Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist which are generally necessary to salvation.
Without professing to limit the power of divine grace it knows no other conditions of salvation than these; but it teaches its children to hope that those who turn to God in sickness with purpose of amendment are really in the way of obedience even if they are not allowed time to do outward acts which would give evidence of their faith. ..
IV. How many Sacraments (mysteries) does the Church of England receive? What does it teach in general about Sacraments, and in particular concerning Baptism, Eucharist, and Holy Orders (lit. Priesthood)?
Everything which reveals God to man and elevates man to God, whether in created nature or in the orderly life of the Church, is in a true sense sacramental (mysteriodes). Both the order and the beauty of nature are intended by God to minister to the religious life of man. Thus also the word of God read and preached, and the prayers of faithful Christians, public and private, have a distinctly sacramental character. The gathering together of two or three believers in Christ's Name brings us the wonderful blessing of His presence.
But the question appears to refer to a narrower circle of sacred acts. Sacraments in this sense may be defined as solemn and sacred acts done at certain specified times and under certain conditions in the name of God, in agreement with the teaching of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and in humble reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit, in which an outward and visible sign is both the symbol and instrument of an inward and spiritual grace. In regard to these the Church of England has not laid down an exact numeration. It recognizes however that two of them are superior in dignity to the others, as being clearly ordained by Christ Himself during His earthly ministry, and as being, according to His own teaching, generally necessary to salvation (St. John iii. 5; vi. 53). These it is accustomed to call "the two great Sacraments," or "the Sacraments of the Gospel." Besides these, it most solemnly administers Ordination, as the guarantee for the preservation of the deposit of the faith, for the good government of the Church and the valid administration of the Sacraments. It attaches great importance to Confirmation as the natural complement to holy Baptism. It acknowledges the sacredness of Christian marriage, and provides for its celebration in the face of the Church and its blessing by a priest. It solemnly applies to the penitent, both publicly and privately, the reconciling power of the Saviour. It provides a special office for the Visitation of the Sick, with prayers for the sick man's recovery, and it enjoins upon its bishops in particular to "heal the sick" (see p. 26). All these rites it holds to be essential to the due order of the Church of Christ, and to be ordinary means of grace which have an abiding-position in reference to the life of the Church.
Besides these acts, which have a special right to be called sacramental, it also provides sacred offices for the thanksgiving of women after childbirth, and for the burial of the dead; and it consecrates churches and their contents, and churchyards or cemeteries for the burial of the dead, setting them apart for ever from profane and unhallowed uses.
We believe that the Holy Spirit, in fulfilment of our Saviour's promise, has led the Church universal to a general agreement on these points, an agreement visible under certain differences of detail, and that these acts are all in their degree effectual signs of grace. This way of looking at the matter is implied in the title of our Prayer-book, which is, as we have already quoted it, p. 11: "The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church [i. e. of the Church universal], according to the Use of the Church of England" &c. In regard also to Ceremonies abolished and retained by us, the Preface to our Prayer-book says expressly: "In these our doings we condemn no other nations, nor prescribe anything but to our own people only: for we think it convenient that every country should use such Ceremonies as they shall think best to the setting forth of God's honour and glory and to the reducing of the people to a most perfect and godly living, without error or superstition."
With regard particularly to Baptism, the Eucharist, and Holy Orders, the Church of England teaches as follows:--
(I) As regards Baptism, it teaches that Baptism must always be administered with water in the name of the blessed Trinity, according to our Lord's command (St. Matt, xxviii. 19). It recommends Baptism by immersion, but permits Baptism by affusion; it provides for Baptism by a priest (subject, in the case of adults, to the direction of the bishop), or in the priest's absence by a deacon; but it does not invalidate Baptism by a layman, if it be properly performed.
It teaches that the Baptism of young children is to be retained as most agreeable with the institution of Christ. It orders that such children should be brought to the font by three sponsors, two of the same sex as the child and one of the other sex.
As regards the effect of Baptism, it teaches that it is a death to sin and a new birth unto righteousness, and comprehends gifts that by nature we cannot have. In it we are regenerated and made members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. Baptism cannot be repeated. Its proper complement is Confirmation, which is administered among us only to those who have arrived at years of discretion. All who bring children to Baptism are directed to see that they are afterwards brought to Confirmation.
Confirmation among us is always ministered by a bishop in person, with prayer for the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah xi. 3). The prayer is followed by solemn imposition of hands and blessing.
(2) As regards the Eucharist, it teaches that pure wheaten bread and wine, being the fermented juice of the grape, are the necessary elements of the Sacrament. The bread most commonly used is leavened; but unleavened bread is not prohibited. The wine may be pure, or mixed with water. No one but a bishop or presbyter may consecrate the Eucharist.
The following are the forms of consecration and administration in the national Church of England:--
"Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of thy tender mercy didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world; and did institute, and in his holy Gospel command us to continue, a perpetual memory of that his precious death, until his coming again; Hear us, O merciful Father, we most humbly beseech thee; and grant that we receiving these thy creatures of bread and wine, according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ's holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood: who, in the same night that he was betrayed [Here the Priest is to take the Paten into his hands], took Bread; and, when he had given thanks [And here to break the bread], he brake it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, Take, eat [And here to lay his hand upon all the Bread], this is my Body which is given for you: Do this in remembrance of me. Likewise after supper he [Here he is to take the Cup into his hand] took the Cup; and, when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of this; for this [And here to lay his hand upon every vessel (be it Chalice or Flagon) in which there is any Wine to be consecrated] is my Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins: Do this, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of me. Amen."
The forms of administration are as follows:--
"The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving."
"The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Drink this in remembrance that Christ's Blood was shed for thee, and be thankful."
Then follows the Lord's Prayer to be said by the Priest: the people repeating every petition after him.
The following prayer describes the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharistic service:-
"O Lord and heavenly Father, we thy humble servants entirely desire thy fatherly goodness, mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; most humbly beseeching thee to grant, that by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood, we and all thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion. And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto thee; humbly beseeching thee, that all we, who are partakers of this holy Communion, may be filled with thy grace and heavenly benediction. And although we be unworthy, through our manifold sins, to offer unto thee any sacrifice; yet we beseech thee to accept this our bounden duty and service; not weighing our merits, but pardoning our offences, through Jesus Christ our Lord; by whom, and with whom, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, all honour and glory be unto thee, O Father Almighty, world without end. Amen."
As to the effect of the Sacrament: we believe and teach that the Body and Blood of Christ are verily and indeed given, taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper, and that through this Sacrament we dwell in Christ and Christ in us, we are one with Christ and Christ with us. But we discourage scholastic definitions as to the mode and manner of Christ's presence, which we acknowledge to be true and genuine and therefore after a mysterious, ineffable and spiritual manner.
(3) As regards Holy Orders. Our Church teaches in the Preface to the Ordinal, which forms a part of our Book of Common Prayer, that "It is evident unto all men diligently reading Holy Scripture and ancient authors, that from the Apostles' times there have been these Orders of ministers in Christ's Church--Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. Which Offices were evermore held in such reverend Estimation, that no man might presume to execute any of them, except he were first called, tried, examined, and known to have such qualities as are requisite for the same; and also by public Prayer, with Imposition of Hands, were approved and admitted thereunto by lawful Authority. And therefore to the intent that these Orders may be continued, and reverently used and esteemed, in the Church of England; no man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest or Deacon in the Church of England, or suffered to execute any of the said Functions, except he be called, tried, examined and admitted thereunto, according to the form hereafter following, or hath had formerly Episcopal Consecration, or Ordination."
The pre-requisites for ordination in the Church of England are proper age and mental and bodily capacity, sufficient learning, good character, and approval, either expressed or reasonably to be presumed, on the part of the people, and a sufficient "title" or sphere of work.
The essentials of a valid Ordination are the presence and ministry of the proper minister and the use of suitable prayer with laying on of hands.
A deacon amongst us is ordained by a bishop alone. A presbyter is ordained by a bishop with the assistance of other presbyters who take part in the laying on of hands, though the bishop alone says the prayer and the forms which accompany and follow the laying on of hands. An archbishop or bishop is consecrated by three or more bishops.
The work of a deacon is to assist the priest in divine service and in the relief of the poor: he is permitted to baptize in the absence of the priest, to read the Gospel and to assist in the administration of the Eucharist, and to preach if he receives the bishop's licence.
A presbyter is ordained to the "stewardship" and "ministry of the Word and Sacraments."
As a "steward" or "dispenser" he has to consider to whom and on what occasions he will minister. He is also described as a "messenger and watchman of the Lord." As a "minister" of the Word and Sacraments he is bound by the canons and liturgical rules of the Church in the manner of his ministration,
As a sign of office the deacon receives the New Testament at his ordination; the presbyter and the bishop each receive a Bible.
Bishops have in addition to the duties and privileges which they received as presbyters, special powers of ordaining, confirming, teaching and government assigned to them.
The distinction between the work of the three Orders will be made clear by the forms which accompany and follow the laying on of hands in each case--
1. For a deacon at the laying on of hands: "Take thou Authority to execute the Office of a Deacon in the Church of God committed unto thee; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
At the delivery of the New Testament: "Take thou Authority to read the Gospel in the Church of God, and to preach the same, if thou be thereto licensed by the Bishop himself."
2. For a priest at the laying on of hands: "Receive the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained. And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of His holy Sacraments; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
At the delivery of the Bible: "Take thou Authority to preach the Word of God, and to minister the holy Sacraments in the Congregation, where thou shalt be lawfully appointed thereunto."
3. For an archbishop or bishop at the laying on of hands: "Receive the Holy Ghost, for the Office and Work of a Bishop in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. And remember that thou stir up the grace of God which is given thee by this Imposition of our hands: for God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and soberness."
At the delivery of the Bible: "Give heed unto reading, exhortation, and doctrine. Think upon the things contained in this Book. Be diligent in them, that the increase coming thereby may be manifest unto all men. Take heed unto thyself, and to doctrine, and be diligent in doing them: for by so doing thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee. Be to the flock of Christ a shepherd, not a wolf; feed them, devour them not. Hold up the weak, heal the sick, bind up the broken, bring again the outcasts, seek the lost. Be so merciful, that you be not too remiss; so minister discipline, that you forget not mercy; that when the chief Shepherd shall appear you shall receive the never-fading crown of glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
These forms of ordination are the same in all branches of the Anglican Church.
V. What does the Church of England teach about predestination, about the procession of the Holy Spirit, and about tradition?
I. Concerning predestination, our Church teaches, in conformity with Scripture, that it is God's will that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (I Tim. ii. 4); and that therefore we are bound to assist Him to the best of our power by spreading the knowledge of His Gospel among all nations, and by bringing the ignorant and sinful to their Saviour.
Yet as a matter of fact it appears that God does not intend that all should come to this knowledge at once; but rather gradually through the operation of the Holy Spirit using human instruments for the conversion of the ignorant and sinful. Those who thus become members of His Church are in the first sense of the terms the "called " and the "elect." Yet in these free-will is not destroyed, and they can, if they will, resist divine grace. Therefore they are to be warned according to the words of St. Peter (2 Pet. I. 10), "to be earnest to make their calling and election sure." The number of those who will persevere to the end is a secret known only to God, and our Church teaches that it is dangerous to attempt to penetrate this secret, for to do so may easily lead to vanity and carelessness or to despair.
2. Concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit. We acknowledge that the Father is the one beginning, cause and source of the Godhead and that from Him the Holy Spirit issues.
The Holy Spirit issues out (proserketai) of the Father through the coeternal Son, and He is the eternal bond of union between them, and through the Son He is united to the Father.
We have accepted the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan Creed as it was delivered to us by our fathers, and we so continue to recite it in the Liturgy. We are able to allege on behalf of the orthodoxy of the expression which is in question the authority of St. Augustine of Hippo, who thus writes: "Filius de Patre natus est: et Spiritus sanctus de Patre principaliter, et, ipso sine ullo temporis intervallo dante, communiter de utroque procedit . . . Non ab utroque est genitus, sed procedit ab utroque amborum Spiritus" (De Trinitate xv. 47). But, as regards the text of the Creed, we acknowledge that the words "and the Son" were introduced into it in an irregular manner. We therefore think it sufficient here to affirm that we attach to those words the above meaning, that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are coeternal, and that the Holy Spirit issuing from the Father through the Son is from eternity the Spirit of both the Father and the Son.
3. Concerning tradition. The Church of England accepts and venerates the primitive traditions of the Church which are in harmony with Holy Scripture, remembering that the canon of Scripture itself is received from tradition. In this way it accepts the term "Trinity," which describes the relation of the three holy persons of the Godhead, the observance of the Lord's Day, and the baptism of infants and other similar beliefs and practices of the universal Church. The Church of England has always proclaimed itself studious of antiquity and averse to novelties. But it holds many matters of discipline and ritual indifferent and within the power of national or particular Churches to change and order according to the needs of the times.
We desire in all brotherly love that those who read the foregoing answers will read them in a spirit of Christian kindness and hopefulness. "Blessed are the peacemakers"; and especially blessed are those who make peace within the fold of Christ. We cannot believe that it is His will that His children should be separated from one another because they do not think alike on all difficult points. Divisions and strifes among Christians are the work of the enemy of mankind. Coldness among Christians tends to weakening the witness which the Church ought to give to Christ. Let all Christians therefore who read these pages determine that they will make a serious effort to promote a clearer mutual understanding, and closer and more friendly relations between members of the Eastern and Anglican Churches, with a single eye to God's glory and the benefit of immortal souls.