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Weekly Reflections

Introducing the Anglican Church: 3. The Church 15Jun14

Introducing the Anglican Church: 3. The Church

We are looking at some of the key teachings of the Anglican Church as found in the 39 Articles, one of the foundation documents of the Anglican Church of Australia. Last week we looked at the place of Justification.Today we look at another in a simple modern English version (the original 16th and 17th century version is in the Prayer Book).

19. About the Church

The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful people, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the sacraments are rightly administered according to everything that Christ's ordinance requires. As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have gone astray; so also the Church of Rome has gone astray, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith.

The Anglican Church defines the church in a different way to that of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Article does not refer to a church structure or organization. It follows the teaching of the New Testament and describes the church as a congregation. It is an assembly gathered together to hear the Word of God and to administer the sacraments.

The Article refers to the visible church. In the New Testament the term church usually means a local group of Christians meeting in one place. The Article uses the term church in this sense. The other main use of the term church in the New Testament is in relation to the heavenly or eternal church. This is the church assembled around Jesus in heaven (see Heb 12.22-24; Eph 1.22; Col 1.18 etc).

The Article states that the things that define the true church of Christ are that:

  • it is a congregation, a fellowship which meets together;
  • it is made up of people who faithfully follow Christ
  • the pure Word of God is preached, not the Word of God mixed with other ideas
  • the sacraments are rightly administered (see later Articles about the sacraments).

The Article does not describe the character of a national church. Article 34 adds other ideas about national churches. This Article does assert that the Roman Church has gone astray in matters of faith as well as ceremonies. This probably refers to doctrines and practices to do with the Mass, justification and purgatory, amongst others.


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