Project Canterbury


The Doctrine of the Church
as Held and Taught in the
Church of England


Regius Professor of Divinity
In the University of Oxford




Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2016


[5] This statement has been written for the use of the Commission on 'The Church' appointed by the Continuation Committee of the Edinburgh (1937) World Conference on Faith and Order. That Commission asked for statements showing how in each Church its official formularies are understood and interpreted today. In the preparation of this statement I have had the help of six theologians of the Church of England, three representing the catholic and three the evangelical tradition in our Church. After papers on the subject had been written from each of these two points of view and circulated among the seven of us, we met in conference for three whole days in September 1945. The statement has been written in the light of those discussions, circulated among the other six and revised by the aid of their comments. Thus, while I am alone responsible for what is written, I have done what I could to make it an honest representation of what is held and taught in the Church as a whole.

One of my consultants makes the general criticism of the statement as a whole that it is unduly restricted in scope, saying that he would have liked to see some elaboration of Anglican teaching on such points as the calling of the Church, its continuity with Israel, its four 'great notes', and the sense in which it is the Body of Christ. We should all of us agree that what here follows does not begin to be an adequate, let alone a full, account of what is held and taught about the Church in the Church of England. But if one set out upon the elaboration of such points as those just mentioned, one would be unable to stop short of writing a large book. Bearing in mind the purpose for which this statement is made, I have tried to concentrate upon those aspects of the subject which are most in need of explanation if members of other churches, abroad as well as at home, are to be helped to understand how we see ourselves.

Christ Church, Oxford, England.
January, 1946.

The Doctrine of the Church as Held and
Taught in the Church of England


[7] THE title of this paper has been carefully chosen so as not to suggest that there is any specifically Anglican doctrine. The Anglican child is taught that to the question, 'Where was the Church of England before the Reformation?' The correct reply is the counter-question, 'Where was your face before you washed it?' The Reformation in England was characteristically English in that it did not proceed by logically developing a theological or ecclesiastical system from some basic doctrine or position. It aimed at reforming the abuses in the continuing life of the existing Church.

The official formularies of the Church of England—the Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Canons Ecclesiastical —are not 'confessions' or 'foundation documents', setting out a specifically Anglican corpus of doctrine to be the starting-point of all later Anglican teaching. In the form in which they have come down to us they reflect the chequered history of Anglican divinity over a period of more than a century, from 1548 to 1662. In seeking to detect and reform abuses the English reformers all turned to Scripture to find the norm or standard of what Church life should be. But different elements in the Church of England approached the Scriptures with different presuppositions influencing their interpretations. Catholic-minded divines sought to avoid mediaeval errors by reading the Bible through the eyes of the 'Catholic Fathers and Ancient Bishops' of the undivided Church. More radical reformers tended to take as their starting point the doctrines of continental protestants, some Lutheran, some Calvinist. Roughly speaking, the outlook of the former was dominant under Henry VIII and the Stuart Kings, of the latter under Edward VI. The 'Elizabethan settlement' was aimed at including as many of both wings as possible. A third factor of importance was the influence on Bible study of renaissance scholarship, as illustrated by such men as Dean Colet. This moved men to go to the Scriptures with a view to trying to see what they taught rather than to find scriptural support for doctrinal positions already held. As we shall [7/8] see, one characteristic of Anglican formularies is their silence on critical points of contemporary doctrinal controversy, e.g. the doctrines of the invisible Church and of the damnation of unbaptized infants. Whether this silence was due to aiming at the widest possible inclusion of different elements in the Church, or to the determination to be silent where Scripture was silent, may be open to question. Doubtless both motives were at work. However that may be, there can be no doubt that a characteristic feature of the English Reformation was the appeal to reason in the scientific as contrasted with the scholastic sense of the word. Those doctrines were to be held which could be reasonably inferred from the scriptural revelation when the Scriptures were studied with scholarly integrity.

Thus the official formularies of the Church of England can only be rightly understood if they are read in their historical context as reflecting the century-long process in which the Church, while conscious of its unbroken continuity with the Church of the ages, was seeking to purge itself of corruptions and abuses. The continuity with the Church of the past was witnessed to not only in what was said but in what was done, in the maintenance of the inherited Church structure with its threefold ministry, episcopal ordination, cathedrals, deans, chapters, archdeacons and universities. The reformation was carried forward by a dialectical process due to the continuance within the Church of catholic-minded conservatives, protestant-minded radicals and those whose first care was for reasonable scholarship. The one thing which has been characteristic of the Church of England as a whole has been and still is the fact that it contains these three elements, maintains them in tension with one another, and is the locus of their tripartite dialectic. Because the Church's formularies are the written deposit of that dialectic during the formative century of its separate existence, the successors of the three contributory elements, the Anglo-Catholics, the Evangelicals and the Modernists, each tend to see in them the expression of that for which they stand and feel themselves to be loyal members of the Church to which all belong. They are united in the conviction that they belong to the Church which can trace its continuous history back to the days of St. Augustine of Canterbury, and that the principle of its reformation, to which it must be true, is conformity to the scriptural revelation of what the Church should be.



1. Article VI. Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for salvation
Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.

2. Article VIII. Of the Three Creeds
The Three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius's Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles' Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of holy Scripture.

3. Article XIX. Of the Church
The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly administered 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.

4. Article 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, as it ought not to decree anything against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity to Salvation.

5. Article XXIII. Of Ministering in the Congregation
It is not lawful for any man to take upon him the office of public preaching, or ministering the Sacraments in the Congregation, before he be lawfully called, and sent to execute the same. And those we ought to judge lawfully called and sent, which be chosen and called to this work by men who have public authority given unto them in the Congregation, to call and send Ministers into the Lord's vineyard.

[10] 6. Article XXV. Of the Sacraments
Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God's good will towards us, by which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.

There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.

Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.

The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same they have a wholesome effect or operation: but they that receive them unworthily purchase to themselves damnation, as Saint Paul saith.

7. 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 the 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 effectual, because of Christ's institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.

Nevertheless it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that enquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally being found guilty, by just judgement be deposed.

8. Article XXVII. Of Baptism
Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or new Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the [10/11] Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed; Faith is confirmed, and Grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God. The Baptism of young Children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ.

9. Article XXVIII. Of the Lord's Supper
The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another; but rather it is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ's death; insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.

Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by holy Writ; but it is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.

The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith.

The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.

10. Article XXXIV. Of the Traditions of the Church
It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversities of countries, times and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's Word. Whosoever through his private judgement, willingly and purposely, doth openly break the traditions and ceremonies of the Church, which be not repugnant to the Word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly (that others may fear to do the like), as he that offendeth against the common order of the Church, and hurteth the authority of the Magistrate, and woundeth the consciences of the weak brethren.

Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish ceremonies or rites of the Church ordained only by man's authority, so that all things be done to edifying.

11. Article XXXVI. Of Consecration of Bishops and Ministers
The Book of Consecration of Archbishops and Bishops, and Ordering of Priests and Deacons, lately set forth in the time of Edward the Sixth, and confirmed at the same time by authority of Parliament, doth contain all things necessary to such Consecration and Ordering: neither hath it any thing, that of itself is superstitious and ungodly. And therefore whosoever are consecrated or ordered according to the Rites of that Book, since the [11/12] second year of the forenamed King Edward unto this time, or hereafter shall be consecrated or ordered according to the same Rites; we decree all such to be rightly, orderly and lawfully consecrated and ordered.

12. Article XXXVII. Of the Civil Magistrates
Where we attribute to the King's Majesty the chief government, by which Titles we understand the minds of some slanderous folks to be offended; we give not to our Princes the ministering either of God's Word, or of the Sacraments . . . ; but that only prerogative, which we see to have been given always to all godly Princes in holy Scriptures by God himself; that is, that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evil-doers.

The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.


13. The Book of Common Prayer, and Administration of the Sacraments, and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, according to the use of the Church of England: together with the Psalter or Psalms of David, pointed as they are to be sung or said in Churches; and the Form and Manner of making, ordaining and consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. (Title page)

14. Of the sundry alterations proposed unto us, we have rejected all such as were either of dangerous consequence (as secretly striking at some established doctrine, or laudable practice of the Church of England, or indeed of the whole Catholic Church of Christ) or else of no consequence at all, but utterly frivolous and vain. (The Preface, 1662.)

15. I believe in . . . The holy Catholick Church. (Apostles' Creed.) I believe one Catholick and Apostolick Church. (Nicene Creed.)

16. That it may please thee to rule and govern thy holy Church universal in the right way. (The Litany.)

17. More especially, we pray for the good estate of the Catholick Church; that it may be so guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life. (Prayer for all Conditions of Men.)

18. . . . beseeching thee to inspire continually the universal Church with the spirit of truth, unity, and concord: And grant, that all they that do confess thy holy Name may agree in the truth of thy holy Word, and [12/13] live in unity, and godly love. (Communion Service. Prayer for the "Whole state of Christ's Church militant here in earth.")

19. . . . dost assure us thereby of thy favour and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people (Communion Service: post-communion Prayer.)

20. O almighty God, who hast built thy Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head cornerstone; Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, that we may be made an holy temple acceptable unto thee. (Collect for SS. Simon and Jude.)

21. O almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord. (Collect for All Saints.)

22. Forasmuch as all men are conceived and born in sin; and that our Saviour Christ saith, None can enter into the kingdom of God except he be regenerate and born anew of Water and of the Holy Ghost; I beseech you to call upon God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that of his bounteous mercy he will grant to this Child that thing which by nature he cannot have; that he may be baptized with Water and the Holy Ghost, and received into Christ's holy Church, and be made a lively member of the same. (Baptism.)

23. Almighty and everlasting God, who . . . by the Baptism of thy well-beloved Son Jesus Christ, in the river Jordan, didst sanctify Water to the mystical washing away of sin; We beseech thee, for thine infinite mercies, that thou wilt mercifully look upon this child; wash him and sanctify him with the Holy Ghost; that he, being delivered from thy wrath, may be received into the ark of Christ's Church. (Baptism.)

24. We receive this Child into the congregation of Christ's flock. . . . Seeing now . . . that this Child is regenerate, and grafted into the body of Christ's Church . . .

We yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to regenerate this Infant with thy holy Spirit, to receive him for thine own Child by adoption, and to incorporate him into thy holy Church. (Baptism.)

25. What is required of persons to be baptized? Repentance, whereby they forsake sin; and Faith, whereby they stedfastly believe the promise of God made to them in that Sacrament.

[14] Why then are Infants baptized, when by reason of their tender age they cannot perform them? Because they promise them both by their Sureties; which promise, when they come to age, themselves are bound to perform. (Catechism.)

26. Here shall the sick person be moved to make a special Confession of his sins, if he feel his conscience troubled with any weighty matter. After which Confession, the Priest shall absolve him (if he humbly and heartily desire it) after this sort.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath left power to his Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in him, of his great mercy forgive thee thine offences: And by his authority committed to me, I absolve thee from all thy sins, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. (Visitation of the Sick.)

27. It is evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ's Church; Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. Which Offices were evermore had 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 publick 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. (Preface to the Ordinal.)

28. The Bishop with the Priests present shall lay their hands severally upon the head of every one that receiveth the Order of Priesthood; the Receivers humbly kneeling upon their knees, and the Bishop saying,

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. Amen.

Then the Bishop shall deliver to every one of them kneeling, the Bible into his hands, saying,

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. (The Ordering of Priests.)

[15] 29. O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace; Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions. Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly Union and Concord: that, as there is but one body, and one Spirit, and one Hope of our Calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God, and Father of us all, so we may henceforth be all of one heart, and of one soul, united in one holy bond of Truth and Peace, of Faith and Charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Accession Service.)


30. (1571). Inprimis vero videbunt, ne quid unquam doceant pro concione, quod a populo religiose teneri et credi velint, nisi quod consentaneum sit doctrinae Veteris aut Novi Testamenti, quodque ex illa ipsa doctrina catholici patres, et veteres episcopi collegerint. Et quoniam articuli illi religionis christianae, in quos consensum est ab episcopis in legitima et sancta synodo, jussu atque auctoritate serenissimae principis Elizabethae convocata et celebrata, hand dubie collecti sunt ex sacris libris Veteris et Novi Testamenti, et cum caelesti doctrina, quae in illis continetur, per omnia congruunt; quoniam etiam liber publicarum precum, et liber de inauguratione archiepiscoporum, episcoporum presbyterorum et diaconorum nihil continent ab illa ipsa doctrina alienum; quicunque mittentur ad docendum populum, illorum articulorum auctoritatem et fidem, non tantum concionibus suis, sed etiam subscriptione confirmabunt. Qui secus fecerit, et contraria doctrina populum turbaverit, excommunicabitur.

31. (1604) III. The Church of England a true and Apostolical Church

Whosoever shall hereafter affirm, that the Church of England, by law established under the king's majesty, is not a true and an apostolical church, teaching and maintaining the doctrine of the apostles; let him be excommunicated. . . .

32. (1604) IV. Impugners of the public Worship of God, established in the Church of England, censured

Whosoever shall hereafter affirm, that the form of God's worship in the Church of England, established by law, and contained in the Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments, is a corrupt, superstitious or unlawful worship of God, or containeth any thing in it that is repugnant to the scriptures; let him be excommunicated. . . .

33. (1604) V. Impugners of the Articles of Religion, established in the Church of England, censured

VI. Impugners of the Rites and Ceremonies, established in the Church of England, censured

[16] VII. Impugners of the Government of the Church of England by Archbishops, Bishops etc. censured

VIII. Impugners of the form of Consecrating and Ordering Archbishops, Bishops, etc. in the Church of England, censured

These follow in general the same lines as Canon IV.

34. (1604) XXX. The lawful use of the Cross in Baptism explained

. . . Thirdly, it must be confessed, that in process of time the sign of the cross was greatly abused in the church of Rome, especially after that corruption of popery had once possessed it. But the abuse of a thing doth not take away the lawful use of it. Nay, so far was it from the purpose of the Church of England to forsake and reject the Churches of Italy, France, Spain, Germany, or any such like Churches, in all things which they held and practised, that, as the Apology of the Church of England confesseth, it doth with reverence retain those ceremonies, which do neither endamage the Church of God, nor offend the minds of sober men; and only departed from them in those particular points, wherein they were fallen both from themselves in their ancient integrity, and from the apostolical Churches, which were their first founders. . . .

First, the Church of England, since the abolishing of popery, hath ever held and taught, and so doth hold and teach still, that the sign of the cross used in baptism is no part of the substance of that sacrament: for when the minister, dipping the infant in water, or laying water upon the face of it, (as the manner also is), hath pronounced these words, 'I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,' the infant is fully and perfectly baptized. . . .

Secondly, it is apparent in the Communion-book, that the infant baptized is, by virtue of baptism, before it be signed with the sign of the cross, received into the congregation of Christ's flock, as a perfect member thereof, and not by any power ascribed unto the sign of the cross.

Lastly, the use of the sign of the cross in baptism, being thus purged from all popish superstition and error, and reduced in the Church of England to the primary institution of it, upon those true rules of doctrine concerning things indifferent, which are consonant to the word of God, and the judgements of all the ancient fathers, we hold it the part of every private mans both minister and other, reverently to retain the true use of it prescribed by public authority.

(The figures in parenthesis refer to the numbered passages quoted above in Section II.)

[17] Two illustrations will make clear the possibility of different interpretations referred to in Section I.

I. In sixteenth-century Reformation theology the distinction between the visible and the invisible Church has a cardinal place. The distinction was based upon the doctrine of justification by faith. Whilst it is the will of God that there should be a visible church, an organized society in which the gospel is preached and the sacraments administered, the essence of Christianity is man's personal response in faith to God's grace in Christ. Only God knows what men are living by this response of faith to grace. They are the elect, the invisible Church, the mystical body of Christ. The organized visible Church is, so to speak, God's instrument for promoting the growth of the invisible. It is to the invisible Church that the New Testament language refers which speaks of the Church as the body of Christ.

In the Anglican formularies the phrase 'the invisible Church' does not occur. Article XIX (3), entitled Of the Church begins straight away 'The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men. . .' Read against the background of contemporary thought this is patient of two interpretations.

(a) The use of the words 'visible' and 'faithful' implies that the article takes for granted the doctrine of the invisible Church. Its concern is with the visible Church, but it defines it in a way which shows that it presupposes the invisible.

(b) The significant thing about the article, when compared with contemporary Reformation definitions, is its omission of any reference to the invisible Church. The opening words, when taken in conjunction with the title, imply that there is only one Church, the visible. Moreover, Article XXVI (7) shows that 'faithful' must mean professed believers, not those whose faith is known to God alone.

2. In ordaining priests (28) the bishop gives to each a Bible only.

(a) This departure from the catholic practice of giving also a chalice and paten implies that the Church of England repudiates the doctrine of the eucharistic sacrifice. [This states the argument in an extreme form on which one of my catholic consultants’ comments, 'Is there any doctrine that can be called "the" doctrine of the eucharistic sacrifice? Most evangelicals admit some doctrine of "this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving".' It would take too long here to discuss to what extent and in what sense different schools of [17/18] thought among Anglicans regard the later medieval doctrine as erroneous and in need of revision. I have therefore left the argument as stated, in order to point the contrast, and ask the reader to read it in the light of the fuller exposition below.]

(b) To argue that the change of procedure introduced in 1552 commits the Church of England to a particular protestant version of sacramental doctrine is an illicit pressing of an argument from silence.

These different interpretations have great influence in thought about the Church.

I. All agree that membership of the organized, visible Church does not by itself guarantee salvation. There are tares in the wheat, bad fish in the drag-net, reprobates in the Church at Corinth. But the doctrine of the invisible Church does more than express this truth. It implies that the faithful elect form the Church to which is given such promises as that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it, the Church which is the mystical body of Christ, the Church referred to in the creeds (15), the post-communion prayer (19) and the collect for All Saints' Day (21). For those who hold this doctrine there are not two Churches, one visible and the other invisible; there is one Church which qua invisible is definable in terms of grace and faith, qua visible in terms of sacraments and profession of faith in response to a true preaching of the word. The visible Church is the Church in so far as it enshrines the invisible. Hence the ground of its unity is not to be found in its maintenance of a common order of ministry or profession of a common form of creed, but in its being the locus of that faith-relationship to God in Christ which constitutes its invisible essence. References to the Church universal (13, 14, 15, 16, 18, etc.) include all Christian bodies of which this is true, and exclude those of which it is not, no matter whether or no they have preserved the apostolic ministry through continuous episcopal ordination.  The requirement of such ordination for the ministry of the Church of England does not imply that all churches everywhere must do the same in order truly to belong to the one universal Church. [I am indebted to one of my evangelical consultants for the following note: 'This section seems to imply that the Anglican Evangelical would not define the Church qua visible in terms of ministry as well as in terms of sacraments, profession of faith and preaching of the Word, whereas the Catholic would so define it. This is not so. What the Evangelical would not do is equate Ministry with a particular Form of Ministry or a particular theory about that Form.

The section also seems to imply that the Church qua invisible, because it cannot be identified by Anglican Evangelicals with the Church qua visible simpliciter is thought by them not to be "of one substance with" the visible. This is not so. Because the Church walks by faith and not by sight, this does not mean that it is unclothed. The life of the Church as a whole, and not just of the supposed faithful elect, is hid with Christ in God, while at the same time it is made manifest, i.e. clothed upon with visible forms.'

No mention is here made of any influence of the doctrine of predestination on that of [18/19] the invisible Church. For some reformed theologians there was a close connection between the two: the invisible Church was the company of the predestined elect. But that was not the only source of the doctrine of the invisible Church, and there is no need here to raise the question of the place of the doctrine of predestination in the Church of England. Neither is it necessary to discuss total depravity. It is true that some scholars regard the protestantism of Luther and Calvin as involving a logical system in which justification by faith alone and total depravity are essentials. But many Anglicans who hold strongly to justification by faith do not regard themselves as thereby logically bound to accept the doctrine of total depravity.]

It is otherwise with those for whom the only Church to be considered is the visible company of professed believers, including those who are baptized into it as infants (8, 23-25). For them Christ's promises were made to the visible company of His disciples for whose guidance and leadership He trained the twelve apostles. It was to that visible Church that St. Paul referred when he spoke of the body of Christ, and that Church has continued to be the same Church down the ages by continuing to make outward profession of the same faith and having a ministry commissioned in unbroken succession from the apostles who had received their commission from Christ Himself. Wherever in the formularies of the Church of England there is reference to the Church Universal, the reference is to whatever Christian bodies openly profess the faith of the oecumenical creeds and maintain the apostolic ministry by unbroken succession of ordinations. In requiring that its own ministry shall be in the episcopal succession (27), the Church of England is safeguarding its position as the true representative in England of the one Church universal.

2. The question of the eucharistic sacrifice is connected with that of the Church's function in the world. In catholic theology the service, in one of its aspects, reflects the heavenly intercession of the crucified, risen and ascended Lord. In the words of William Bright's hymn:

Once, only once, and once for all,
His precious life He gave;
Before the Cross our spirits fall,
And own it strong to save.

'One offering, single and complete,'
With lips and heart we say;
But what He never can repeat
He shows forth day by day.

This 'showing forth of the Lord's death till He come' is a pleading before God of the sacrifice of the Cross. In the central act of the Church's worship the Lord to whom priest and people draw near is the Lord who is present among them as their crucified, risen and ascended Intercessor. In this act of worship the Church performs a [19/20] priestly act on behalf of the whole of sinful creation. In the name of fallen humanity it prays:

Look, Father, look on His anointed face,
And only look on us as found in Him;
Look not on our misusings of Thy grace,
Our prayers so languid, and our faith so dim:
For lo! between our sins and their reward
We set the Passion of Thy Son our Lord.

'O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.'

By the catholic in the Church of England this godward aspect of the eucharist is strongly emphasized. The reception of the sacrament is communion with the Lord whose atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world is pleaded before the Father. Non-communicating attendance at other times for the purpose of worship and intercession is encouraged. For the evangelical the primary emphasis rests on the manward aspect of the service. It is not connected with the thought of the Lord who 'ever liveth to make intercession for us' so much as with that of the Lord who 'when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high'. The atoning work has been done. The way to God for man is now open. The believer has the right of access to God. What he needs when he comes to the Lord's Supper is not to plead the Cross before the Father but to receive the forgiveness and new life in Christ that have been won for him on the Cross in order that he may present himself, soul and body, as a reasonable, holy and lively sacrifice to God. The showing forth of the Lord's death is a showing forth to men. This showing forth is not adequately described simply as a reminder of what their Lord has done for them. The emphasis in the sacrament is on what God covenants to do and does do. Like the Bible and the Gospel the movement is from God to man. The function of the Church in the world is the proclamation that 'God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have e'erlasting life.' 'Showing forth the Lord's death' means 'by sacramental act preaching the Cross with saving power.'

It is clear that the formularies lend themselves to these different interpretations. [On this sentence one of my evangelical consultants comments as follows: 'Honestly I don't think this is fair as stated here. What was removed in 1552 and never restored is important. The place of the Prayer of Oblation and the form of its wording is of critical importance. I should agree if you were commenting on the 1928 book, ex animo. But I could not [20/21] accept this statement as an unbiased comment on 1662, and I say this with all deference, and the fullest appreciation of your desire to be absolutely fair.'

I am not convinced that my critic is right in holding that his is the only justifiable interpretation of the Prayer Book of 1662. This difference of opinion illustrates the continuing dialectic which characterizes the life of the Church of England.

Moreover, since one of the things I am trying to do in this paper is to describe what is held and taught in the Church of England to-day, I should add that the Revised Prayer Book of 1928, though not approved by Parliament, has been approved by the Convocations of Canterbury and York and the Church Assembly and is generally regarded by the bishops as giving the limits within which variations from the Book of 1662 are allowable in public worship. (A concise account of the history of this book by Dr. W. K. Lowther Clarke is to be found on pp. 787-791 of Liturgy and Worship, published by S.P.C.K. in 1932.)

This paper is solely concerned with the Church of England; therefore no reference is made to the Prayer Books of other churches of the Anglican communion. These would have to be considered in any attempt to give an account of Anglicanism as a whole.]
It was the aim of the Church of England to purge itself by scriptural standards from the abuses and corruptions of the unreformed Western Church. Those abuses and corruptions raised questions to which no direct and unambiguous answer could be found in Scripture. In the apostolic age, for example, men were led by faith to seek baptism; church-membership meant that a man both had faith and had been baptized; there is no direct answer to the question whether it were the faith or the baptism which made them members of the Church. But such questions were live issues in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and in seeking guidance from the Bible different Anglican theologians used different canons of scriptural interpretation. Some, as represented by the bishops who put forth the canons ecclesiastical of 1571 (30), regarded the writings of the Fathers of the undivided Church as the classical commentary on the Scriptures, written when the Church was moulding authoritative statements of what it stood for. Thus for their successors there is a scale of priorities in doctrinal authority. First comes the biblical revelation as expressed in the Canon of Scriptures, the Creeds and the liturgical tradition. Next come the patristic writings as the classical commentary. The Anglican Articles and Homilies are to be interpreted as governed by these, and the Church is not bound by documents of the continental Reformation or by the opinions of individual divines of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Others had less respect for the teaching of the early Fathers. As living nearer to the apostolic age they could be called in evidence, but patristic theology as well as mediaeval was subject to the judgment of Scripture. Those who held that such Reformation leaders as Luther or Calvin had been given deeper insights than their predecessors into the meaning of the Bible attached more weight to their teaching than to that of the early Fathers. For them and their successors the first place in the scale of priorities is given to the Bible as interpreted [21/22] by the reformers, and the patristic writings are of importance in so far as they anticipate the reformation insights.

The history of the Church of England shows how it is that these two traditions can be held with honesty and with loyalty to the Church to which both belong. It shows, further, the futility of any attempt to arrive at a so-called 'Anglican doctrine' by paring away what is distinctive of each and concentrating on what is common to both. The character of the Church of England as the locus of their dialectic is destroyed if it is evacuated of what gives to each its characteristic ethos.

Nevertheless, there must be some reason why for four centuries the Church has continued to hold together as one Church while continuing to be the locus of dialectic. We must try in conclusion to see how far this enables us to describe in anything like coherent form the doctrine of the Church as held and taught in the Church of England.


Two governing considerations emerge from what has already been said:

1. When we take account of what the Church of England has done as well as of what it has said, it is clear that it has never thought of itself as having originated in the sixteenth century. It had been the Church of England before it renounced the papal jurisdiction (12, 34) and purged itself of certain abuses and corruptions; it continued to be the same Church of England afterwards. Bit by bit, by its missionary evangelism, the apostolic Church of the New Testament had spread through the world. It had come to England and thus the Church of England had grown up within the Church universal. In the sixteenth century there was agreement that it needed to be reformed by scriptural standards. Those who undertook that reformation might differ in the doctrinal significance they attached to their historical continuity through the universal Church with the Church of the New Testament. The fact remains that they preserved that continuity, and that fact has inevitably influenced Anglican thought and teaching about the Church ever since.

2. It must be remembered that the dialectic of which the Church of England has been and is the locus is not dual but triple. In so far as the modernist stands for scholarly study of the Bible he has his place in the Church together with the catholic and the evangelical. It may indeed be questioned whether there is a place for modernism as a third 'party' in the dialogue. It may be that the true function of the modernist is not to set a third doctrinal tradition beside those of the catholic and the evangelical; it is to keep both catholic and evangelical mindful of their need to use genuinely scholarly methods in their search for guidance from Scripture. To do this means that while we are ready to be guided by the insights of both patristic and reformation exegesis, we are not prepared to abdicate our responsibility for re-examining the original text and interpreting it in the light of the best available scholarship of our own days.

This bids us remember that the prevailing cast of thought of the New Testament writers was Hebraic rather than Greek, and that its presentation of truth is by the accumulation of images rather than by logical analysis. Where the biblical writer seeks to describe a reality too sublime for precise logical definition in human language, he puts side by side different images which are incapable of logical combination [23/24] but bear witness to truths about it which have all to be recognized as true. Thus Christ is sometimes the whole body of the Church of which Christians are members, and sometimes the Head of the body.

The meaning of such scriptural images as the body and the vine is the point raised by the reformation doctrine of the invisible Church. That doctrine sprang from the thought that to identify Christ with the existing visible Church simpliciter would be to predicate of Him its sins and corruptions: it could not be that the Church which in the New Testament was called the body of Christ was the actual human society which could and did behave as the Church of Corinth behaved. Now catholics and protestants were all agreed that the sins and corruptions of the actual Church on earth could not be predicated of Christ, and also that to God alone is known which human beings are men of faith whose lives are hid with God in Christ. Protestants alone formulated the definite doctrine by which this hidden company of men of faith were held to form the invisible Church which could be identified simpliciter with the body of Christ. This was an expedient devised to meet the difficulty of expressing the Hebraic scriptural teaching in the language of Western Christendom. Its later history suggests that the truth is beyond expression by any such precise definition. A modern Lutheran exposition, for example, reads: 'As Christ Himself, the Church is both divine and human, invisible and visible, spirit and body. This Church is from one point of view an inward fellowship of faith and love. . . From the other point of view, the same Church is a community, organized in changing outward forms.' [Convictions (London 1934) p. 155] Of the Church, as of the individual Christian, the unity with Christ is a mystery: 'I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me'. When we try to resolve the paradox by interposing the invisible Church as that which is identified with Christ, the paradox returns in all attempts at stating the relation between the invisible Church and the visible.

As we have seen, there is no explicit mention of the invisible Church in the formularies of the Church of England. Nor is there any answer to the question whether membership of the Church depends upon faith or baptism; both are required. [One of my evangelical consultants writes: 'May I suggest that in this connexion the Anglican postponement of confirmation is doctrinally important? For us Anglicans, repentance, faith and obedience must be personal realities.'] In both these respects the Church of England is truly scriptural and is silent where the Scriptures are silent. As the New Testament Church was a visible Church which paradoxically was both the body of Christ and could leave [24/25] its first love and have its candlestick removed out of its place, so is the Church of England. As the New Testament Church was the congregation of those who had been given the gift of faith and had been baptized into the fellowship of forgiven sinners, so is the Church of England.

The same thing is true of the teaching in the Church of England about the origin of the Church and the place of the ministry within it. In the New Testament the Church was the new Israel, united to Christ from Pentecost onwards in the fellowship of the Spirit, and entrusted to the pastoral care of the Apostles. Few Anglican theologians would now maintain that the threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, as we have them to-day, can be directly traced back with their present differentiations of function, to apostolic times. But it is generally held among us that from the start of its life as the Christian Church an integral element in the constitution of the new Israel was the ministry for which the apostles had been trained and commissioned by Christ Himself. Nor was this simply a ministry of witness which must cease with the passing of those who had been contemporary with the Gospel events; it was a ministry perpetuated through those whom the apostles appointed to be their colleagues and successors, and it developed into the graded hierarchy of bishops, priests and deacons. [I think I am right in saying that this is what is generally held among Anglicans. But the statement is criticized on two grounds: (i) There is said to be insufficient evidence of apostolic appointment; (ii) One of my evangelical consultants writes: 'we should not agree that continuity is either dependent on the "form" of the ministry, or that it is necessarily guaranteed by an unbroken ministry. Continuity must surely be primarily a matter of witness to the true faith and the Spirit's guidance and enabling.'

On (i) the recent publication of H. Burn-Murdoch's Church Continuity and Unity (Cambridge, 1945) seems to me to show that the historical evidence is stronger than is sometimes thought. And, in any case, (as I have said) I believe it to be commonly accepted among Anglicans as adequate. If I am wrong, the text could be altered to read '. . . perpetuated through the colleagues and successors of the apostles.'

(ii) applies also to what follows, and is surely another illustration of our continuing dialectic. The evangelical lays stress on continuity through witness, etc., the catholic through succession, in ordination. Each is tempted to make it a question of 'either or', but the Church of England as a whole says 'Both . . . and.'] Just as the Church of England neither asks nor answers the question whether baptism without faith nor faith without baptism admits to the Church, so it neither asks nor answers the question whether apostolic faith or apostolic ordination constitute the ministry. In both cases it will be satisfied with nothing less than both, and treats the question 'Which is the more important?' as a nonsense question.

'For the Anglican, unity means unity vertically down the ages as well as horizontally across the face of the earth, unity with that little company in [25/26] the Upper Room at Jerusalem as well as with fellow-Christians now alive in America, India and Japan. When an Anglican sets out to baptize a convert, he sets out to baptize him into that fellowship; when the Anglican priest stands before the altar to celebrate the Holy Communion, or a lay-reader holds a mission service for half dozen souls in some isolated region of Montana or Wyoming, that which is being done is an official act of the whole society functioning in that place. The members of a little gathering of twentieth-century Christians in an out-of-the-way corner of the world are to be assured that they are worshipping in communion with Peter and Andrew, James and John, the rest of that company, and the whole company of "just men made perfect" from that day to this.

'This being his aim, the Anglican asks how that unity can be secured. He notices that in any earthly society unity and continuity from generation to generation seem to depend on two factors interwoven like two strands of a single rope: the outward continuity of organization and the inward continuity of spirit, faith and practice. He notices, for example, that if a body of trustees are challenged as to their right to continue administering some endowment, they have to make good their position by showing both that they have been appointed constitutionally in accordance with the accepted custom of the trust, and that in their administration they are carrying out the intentions of the founder as he would like them to be carried out were he alive at the time. He concludes that he cannot rightly exercise less care in matters spiritual than is required in matters temporal, that he cannot offer to baptize into the fellowship of the Apostles if he is careless about either strand of the rope which links the Church of to-day to the Church of the Upper Room.' [L. Hodgson, Essays in Christian Philosophy (London, 1930) p. 144]

Anglican theologians differ on the question whether in divided Christendom Churches which have not maintained continuity of succession by ordination can be recognized as true Churches with true ministries. Apart from that, the Church of England as a whole, speaking generally, regards its own maintenance of that succession as a treasure which it holds in trust for the Church universal, as one of the contributions which it has to bring into a reunited Christendom.

In considering the function of the ministry in the Church, it is important to distinguish questions of spiritual ministration and discipline from questions of government and administration. The distinction is not altogether easy to draw, and must not be pressed to such an extent as to obscure the fact that the New Testament shows the apostles to have been entrusted with the leadership of the Christian Church and to have exercised jurisdiction over the ordering of its life. The leadership and jurisdiction exercised over the general [26/27] ordering of the life of the Church by the bishop in his diocese and the priest in his parish are part of their function as ordained ministers. But they are not the whole, and that there is a distinction is shown by such facts as that a curate may be equal to his vicar in his priesthood though subordinate in government, a parish may have for its rector or vicar a bishop who has no episcopal jurisdiction but differs from his fellow-incumbents in that he is competent to confirm and ordain as they are not, a priest may be the Superior of a religious community which numbers a bishop among its members. The modem administrative hierarchy of bishop, archdeacon, rural dean is different from the hierarchy of 'holy orders': bishop, priest, deacon.' [On this see H. Burn-Murdoch, Church Continuity and Unity (Cambridge, 1945), pp. 38, 49, 53, 61, 62, 83.]

It is impossible to understand the Church of England unless this distinction is borne in mind. In some non-Anglican quarters, for example, it seems to be assumed that it is his governmental functions alone that make a bishop a bishop; the question of episcopacy is discussed as though it were simply a matter of efficiency in administration. But in his teaching about the ministry the Anglican is concerned as much, if not more, with ministration in matters spiritual. The Church's care that its clergy shall be properly ordained is not simply a concern about the form of church government, but springs from its care to secure to men the spiritual blessings entrusted to it by its Lord, such blessings as the preaching of the Gospel which kindles faith, baptism into the fellowship of forgiven sinners, absolution from post-baptismal sin, and communion with the Lord in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Anglicans may differ as to the precise meaning of the services of Baptism and Holy Communion and on the question whether God's forgiveness of penitent sinners is most effectively declared in general to a whole congregation or individually in the confessional. But all are agreed that for the Church to be the Church it must intend its sacraments to be what Christ means them to be, and must be able to say to the penitent sinner with the voice of authority, 'Go in peace. Thy sins are forgiven.' The care which the Church of England takes about the ordination of its ministers can only be understood if it be realized that its motive is to secure these blessings to those to whom they minister.

It should be added that no Anglican thinks of this ministry as interfering with the direct access of each human soul to God. The function of the minister is to bring man and God together.

These considerations have a bearing on the question of the position [27/28] of the Church of England in its relation to the state. The 'establishment' of the Church of England is irrelevant to its claim to be truly a constituent member of the universal Church of Christ; it need not therefore be further discussed here. But it may be well to add that it is a mistake to suppose that this relation to the state is what keeps the Church together in spite of the differences within it. The non-established Anglican Church in the United States of America is the locus of precisely the same dialectic that we have seen to be characteristic of the Church of England.

Anglicans generally would accept and endorse Dr. Newton Flew's saying: 'The Church is in the first place the object of the divine activity, and then the organ or instrument of God's saving purpose for mankind.' [R. N. Flew, Jesus and His Church (London, 1938) p. 33.] The mission of the Church is, first and foremost, to be the fellowship of forgiven sinners, united to one another through their common relationship to their Lord in the Spirit. But this membership of the Lord's body is not simply and solely for their own benefit either here or hereafter. To be members of Christ is to be His eyes to see what He wants done in the world, His feet to speed on His errands, His mouth to speak His words, His hands to do His work. Hence the Church must be interested in all that makes for overcoming and casting out the evil with which creation is infected and for drawing out creation's latent possibilities of good. It is not for nothing that down the ages Christian faith has borne fruit in social service, in learning and education, and in works of art. The Church is called upon to renounce the world not in order to escape from it into an isolation of bliss, but in order to be used by the Spirit to save the world from itself for God. It is to be kept true to this calling by remembering that its fundamental activity is worship. Its Lord came on earth in order that all created things might be redeemed and summed up in Him and offered to the Father (Eph. i, I Cor. xv. 25-28). In His incarnate life, through the Eternal Spirit He offered Himself without blemish unto God (Heb. ix, 15). He wills to carry on His incarnate work through His earthly body the Church which must therefore seek in all its activities to be offering itself without blemish through the eternal Spirit unto God. It must therefore continually turn in penitence to its Lord that it may be cleansed from its blemishes and as the fellowship of forgiven sinners be presented by Him to the Father in the Spirit.

In the mind of the Church of England the universal Church is the society of men and women which Christ constituted as the fellowship [28/29] of forgiven sinners to be the earthly body through which He should carry on His work in the world. Its mission is to proclaim to men God's saving purpose and the good news of forgiveness ready and waiting through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, to call them to faith and repentance, to baptize them into the fellowship, to enlist them in His service and to keep them united to their Lord in the Spirit. This Church was sent forth by Christ into the world on this mission, served by the apostolic ministry. It grew and spread as new members were baptized into the fellowship and new clergy ordained to continue the ministry of word and sacraments.

The Church of England believes itself to be a constituent member of this universal Church of Christ. As it looks back over its own history it sees itself as somewhat drastically purged of certain abuses and corruptions in the sixteenth century, but as remaining the same Church after as before, maintaining its unity and continuity with the Church of the Apostles and Fathers. As it looks out over divided Christendom it seems that its distinctive characteristic has been to be the locus of dialectic between different interpretations of God's revealed will for His Church—differences between fellow-churchmen who all hold to such central affirmations of the Christian faith as the doctrines of creation, incarnation, atonement, and the Trinity and the general conception of the Church's calling and mission. There are differences of opinion between Anglican theologians on the question whether the continuity of the ministry through episcopal ordination is essential to the unity of the Church of to-day with the Church of the Apostles, differences which come to a head when the point at issue is the status as churches of Christian bodies which have not maintained that succession. Leaving aside this question about other bodies, and confining ourselves to the Church of England's thought about itself, the statements of its bishops and the official acts of its Convocations in recent years represent it as valuing this ministerial succession as one link with the apostolic Church and the universal Church of the ages. As it looks to the future it looks for a reunited Christendom in which the question of the status of ministers without episcopal ordination will no longer be asked, when the whole universal Church will be unquestionably one with the Church of the New Testament, its various constituent local Churches united to it and to one another both by the exercise of apostolic faith and by the possession of a ministry universally accepted as apostolic in origin and in character. Not by any merit of its own, but by the inscrutable [29/30] providence and grace of God, the Church of England believes itself to have been privileged to maintain a ministry united to that of the apostles by unbroken continuity of ordination. Its desire is to share this privilege with all congregations of faithful men in which the pure Word of God is preached and the Sacraments are duly ministered.

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