We are happy to present the second in the series of Anglican formularies: the Articles of Religion. Drafted by the leading theologians, and ratified by the whole Convocation of the Church in 1571, they have shaped the identity of Anglican Christianity for the last 400 years.
Originally penned by Archbishop Cranmer, with additional amendments by Archbishop Parker and Bishop Jewell, they had been authored by some of the most eminent men in Church history. Their full ratification at the 1571 Convocation also made them definitive and final for Church doctrine. Together, this meant that they would quickly enter the stream of the Anglican consciousness, and over a dozen commentaries were written on them in the 17th century alone.
Unlike the Continental Protestant and Roman confessions, the Articles of Religion were not drafted to be exhaustive, but as instruments of unity and uniformity within the Church; for which reason an uncompromising adherence to them was expected from all her members. After the ratification some continued to remain members without conforming, whereupon the Church adopted a new Canon law, making conformity to the Articles mandatory under the penalty of excommunication. At this point, some lively members of the Puritan sect sought to bypass this obstacle, by subscribing to the Articles using their own private definitions of the words therein. In response to this, a new Preface in 1628 was appended to all future editions, explaining how the Articles were to be understood: in their ‘literal and grammatical sense’.
In this way the Church had formed a unity of doctrine, on all subjects touched upon in her formularies. In their long 400+ year history, the Articles have served as a guiding light wherein the Anglican Church defined her unique nature, apart from the Roman church and the Continental Protestants. Together with the Book of Common Prayer it is the most important statement of Anglican theology. Its influence has been paramount in Christian history, and all future documents with titles like ‘articles of religion’ and ‘articles of faith’ had taken their original inspiration from it.
We hope that the Articles inspire you, and unite you to a common Anglican world, just as they’ve done for centuries, and for countless generations of Anglicans before you.
December 29, 2012 Anno Domini