11 April 2019

Lenten Study Group 2019:
4, The 39 Articles

The 39 Articles … is it appropriate to include them in the Book of Common Prayer? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Lent Study Group 2019:

The Rectory, Askeaton, Co Limerick

4, The Articles of Religion (the 39 Articles)

8 p.m., 11 April 2019


Four Lenten study evenings are taking place in the Rectory at 8 p.m. on Thursdays in Lent this year. These evenings are open to all parishioners and friends:

1, Thursday 21 March: The Apostles’ Creed;
2, Thursday 28 March: The Nicene Creed;
3, Thursday 4 April: The Athanasian Creed;
4, Thursday 11 April: The Articles of Religion (the 39 Articles).

At one time, it was expected that all members of the Church would know and be able to recite the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the Apostles’ Creed.

These were once the minimum requirement for Confirmation, and to ensure everyone could learn them by rote then were often painted on boards behind the altar or on the east end walls in parish churches.

Today, few people may know the Apostles’ Creed by heart, and fewer still may know that while the Apostles’ Creed has its origins in the confession of faith required in the Early Church in Rome for Baptism.

How many people know, for example, that we use the Apostles’ Creed at Morning Prayer and Baptism, and it is the Nicene Creed that we use at the Eucharist or Holy Communion?

The Preamble and Declaration (see Book of Common Prayer, pp 776-777), which could be described as the constitutionally foundation document of the Church of Ireland, says that the Church of Ireland shall ‘shall continue to profess the faith of Christ as professed by the Primitive Church.’

This evening we are looking at the Articles of Faith, or the 39 Articles. Although it is not one of the ‘Ecumenical Creeds,’ such as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed or the Athanasian Creed, they are often interpreted as setting the parameters of Anglican doctrine and theology.

So, this evening we are looking the 39 Articles, their origins, how we use them, asking how definitive they have been for Anglicanism, looking at their strengths and their weaknesses, and looking at how they are ‘received’ or used today.

The ecumenical creeds as we understand them within the Anglican tradition are three in number: the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed.


When the Revd Gary Paulsen was being instituted as Rector of Fermoy, Co Cork, last Sunday afternoon, the booklet reminded us that ‘all clergy, on being ordained, instituted or licensed, are required by the Constitution of the Church of Ireland to subscribe the Declaration’ in which they ‘solemnly declare’ a number of points of doctrine and authority in the Church of Ireland.

For example, the priest declares he or she ‘will render all due reverence and canonical obedience’ to their diocesan bishop ‘in all lawful and honest commands.’ They also declare:

‘I assent to the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, and to the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. I believe the doctrine of the Church of Ireland, as therein set forth, to be agreeable to the Word of God.’

In other words, three historical documents – the 39 Articles, the Book of Common Prayer and the ordinal – contain the doctrine of the Church of Ireland, and where they do so, they are agreeable to the Word of God.

But that does not mean everything in those three documents has doctrinal authority in the Church of Ireland. Nor do members of the laity have to sign any declaration like this at any time.

I often wonder what strangers visiting our parish churches think when they open the Book of Common Prayer, pore over its pages, and read some of the words and language in the 39 Articles, found on pp 778-789, a total of 12 pages.

I am happy that the Church of Ireland owns and enjoys its history. But is a prayer book the appropriate place to publish the words written in another age without explaining their original context?

The then Dean of Armagh, the Very Rev Patrick Rooke (now Bishop of Tuam), and Mr Dermot O’Callaghan, one of the leading lay members of the General Synod, tried to put things to right at General Synod in 2008 with a proposal that all future editions of the Book of Common Prayer should include a Declaration immediately preceding the Articles of Religion.

This declaration puts the 39 Articles in their historical context. The language used about Roman Catholics and Anabaptists were typical of the polemics of the day, but it sounds offensive today.

We cannot deny our historical past – indeed we can rejoice in it. But we should be able to explain ourselves, and accept that they do not ‘represent the spirit of [the Church of Ireland] today.’

During the debate, the Bishop of Cashel and Ossory, Bishop Michael Burrows wondered how Anglican understandings of truth are best defended by being rude to others.

The then Archbishop of Dublin, Dr John Neill, pointed out it is impossible to rewrite historic documents that have been important landmarks on the journey.

The declaration that which the General Synod agreed in 2009 to insert in the Book of Common Prayer states boldly:

‘The Church of Ireland is part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds: which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies – the Thirty–nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons and the Declaration prefixed to the Statutes of the Church of Ireland (1870).

‘These historic formularies are a definition of the faith as proclaimed by the Church of Ireland, and thus form an important part of the inheritance through which this Church has been formed in its faith and witness to this day. The formularies that have been passed on are part of a living tradition that today must face new challenges and grasp fresh opportunities.

‘Historic documents often stem from periods of deep separation between Christian Churches. Whilst, in spite of a real degree of convergence, distinct differences remain, the tone and tenor of the language of the negative statements towards other Christians should not be seen as representing the spirit of this Church today.

‘The Church of Ireland affirms all in its tradition that witnesses to the truth of the Gospel. It regrets that words written in another age and in a different context should be used in a manner hurtful to or antagonistic towards other Christians.

‘The Church of Ireland seeks the visible unity of the Church. In working towards that goal this Church is committed to reaching out towards other Churches in a spirit of humility and love, that together all Christians may grow towards unity in life and mission to the glory of God.’

The 39 Articles: the background

The Anglican Reformation can be said to begin in England and Ireland in the 1530s and 1540s with:

● the Dissolution of the monasteries (1536)
● The publication of the Ten Articles (1536)
● placing the English translation of the Bible in every parish church (1538)
● The publication of the Six Articles in June 1539, reaffirming traditional beliefs, including transubstantiation, communion in one kind, private confession, clerical celibacy and monastic vows
● the Irish Act of Supremacy (1539);
● the publication of the first Book of Common Prayer (1549).

Far from being a virulent attack on Rome, the original 1549 Preface to Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer begins mildly, on a note of regret about the state of religious observance and belief: ‘There was never any thing by the wit of man so well devised, or so sure established, which in continuance of time hath not been corrupted.’

The 39 Articles were written and adopted almost a generation later in 1562 in the language of religious controversy during an era when people of all persuasions were being punished and sometimes killed for their beliefs. The articles were set down at a time of great confusion among Christians in these islands and were for ‘the establishing of consent concerning true religion.’

The 39 Articles and the Church of Ireland

But Anglicanism is not just a product of the Reformation in England. It is also an experience of the Church in Wales, Scotland and Ireland too. And, if the English language or some links with British sovereignty does not define ‘Anglicanism,’ then adherence to the Book of Common Prayer or the 39 Articles does not provide that definition either.

The 39 Articles were not adopted by the Church of Ireland until a convocation in 1634, and the Irish canons had to be redrafted to conform to the English ones rather than replaced by them.

The Scottish liturgy, which was considerably ‘higher’ than the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, influenced and shaped the liturgy of the Episcopal Church in the US (TEC). For a long time, the 39 Articles were not part of the tradition of the Scottish Episcopal Church until 1811, and when they were adopted by the Episcopal Church in the US, they were modified to delete all references to the English sovereign.

In 1968, the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops asked the member churches of the Anglican Communion to consider whether the 39 Articles need to be bound up with the Book of Common Prayer, suggested that assent to the 39 Articles should no longer be required of ordinands, and suggested that where subscription is required and given, it is only in the context of setting them in their historical context.

At the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, the Preamble and Declaration became constitutionally self-defining for the Church of Ireland (see the Book of Common Prayer pp 776-779).

There too we find a number of definitions of the Church of Ireland. These include:

● It is the ‘Ancient Catholic and Apostolic Church of Ireland’
● It accepts and believes the Scriptures
● It confesses the faith of the Primitive Church
● It ministers the doctrine, sacraments and discipline of Christ
● It maintains inviolate the orders of bishops, priests and deacons ● It is Reformed and Protestant
● It sees the Reformation as an important landmark
● It receives the 39 Articles, the Book of Common Prayerand the Ordinal, but subject to lawful changes

Paul Avis, in his book The Identity of Anglicanism: Essentials of Anglican Ecclesiology (London: T&T Clark/Continuum, 2007, pp 160-162), lists the principal sources (indicative rather than definitive texts) that are relevant to Anglican ecclesiology. They include the historic formularies (i.e., the 39 Articles, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the 1550/1662 Ordinal).

But they also include:

● The ecclesiological teachings of the Lambeth Conferences since 1867.
● The report of the Church of England’s Doctrine Commission, Doctrine in the Church of England (1938).
● Recent ecclesiological statements from the House of Bishops of the Church of England.
● The ARCIC Agreed Statements.
● The Dublin Agreed Statement (1984) of the international Anglican-Orthodox dialogue.
● The WCC Lima Statement, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (1982).
● The WCC Faith and Order Commission statements on unity, including New Delhi (1961) and Canberra (1991).
● The Porvoo Communion Statement (1996).
● The writings of Richard Hooker summarised by PE More and FL Cross in their 1935 anthology Anglicanism (London: SPCK, 1935).
● The corpus of Anglican spiritual and theological writing anthologised in Love’s Redeeming Work edited by Geoffrey Rowell, Kenneth Stevenson and Rowan Williams (Oxford: OUP, 2004).

The ultimate task of Anglican ecclesiology is to identify what is catholic, and indeed at the point where Anglicanism first becomes aware of its distinction from the Churches of Rome, Jerusalem, Alexandria and Antioch (Article 19), it does so on the understanding that in everything that is necessary to salvation it does and teaches nothing that should not be done and taught everywhere by everyone.

On the other hand, it understands that other Churches outside Anglicanism may do things differently and yet remain recognisable as Church. In the first Book of Common Prayer (1549), the preface ‘Of Ceremonies, why Some be Abolished, and Some be Retained’ declares: ‘And in these our doings we condemn no other Nations, nor prescribe any thing but to our own people only.’ (see the Book of Common Prayer, p. 17).

Article 34 makes this abundantly clear:

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. (see the Book of Common Prayer, pp 786-787).

So where is the Church to be found?

Article 19 states:

The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men [sic], in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same. (see the Book of Common Prayer, p 783).

The congregation in this sense is interpreted in classical Anglican theology as the Church gathered around the bishop – in other words, the diocese – rather the church in a town or village, the parish church.

Article 23, ‘Of Ministering in the Congregation,’ says that the right of admission to the ministry of preaching and sacraments belongs to ‘men who have publick authority given unto them in the Congregation, to call and send Ministers into the Lord’s vineyard.’ (see the Book of Common Prayer, p 783).

This of course is referring to bishops, which supports the interpretation that the congregation as understood in Article 19 is the diocese.

Some points for discussion:

Articles 1-5: Do they supplement, replace, express the three Creeds we have been looking at over the past few weeks?

Article 6: Are all these books identifiable with the Old Testament books we know today. The Apocryphal books should be read ‘for example of life and instruction of manners.’ Is this list accurate.

Article 8: Here the three creeds we have been looking at are named.

Article 19: Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and Rome were the five traditional patriarchates of the Church. Why is Constantinople omitted? As Anglicans, have we ever broken communion with any part of the Church?

Article 20: How broad are our ecumenical tolerance and acceptance?

Article 24: This could also mean that we should language of today in our liturgy and in the translations of the Bible we read.

Article 35: Is this a limit to or a guide for sermons?

Article 37: How should this be read in the Republic of Ireland, or in other places outside England?

Thomas Cranmer (1489-1536), Archbishop of Canterbury (1533-1556) … instrumental in producing The Book of Common Prayer

Appendix 1:

The 39 Articles in The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of Ireland (2004), pp 778-789:

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 1562 for the avoiding of the diversities of opinions, and for the establishment of consent touching true religion.

Received and approved by the Archbishops and Bishops, and the rest of the Clergy in Ireland, in the Synod holden in Dublin, A.D. 1634.

Received and approved by the Archbishops and Bishops, and the Clergy and the laity of the Church of Ireland, in the Synod holden in Dublin, A.D., 1870.

1. Of Faith in the Holy Trinity.

There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

2. Of the Word or Son of God, which was made very Man.

The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took Man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God, and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men.

3. Of the going down of Christ into Hell.

As Christ died for us, and was buried, so also is it to be believed, that he went down into Hell.

4. Of the Resurrection of Christ.

Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of Man’s nature; wherewith he ascended into Heaven, and there sitteth, until he return to judge all Men at the last day.

5. Of the Holy Ghost.

The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory, with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God.

6. 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.

Of the Names and Number of the Canonical Books

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, The First Book of Samuel, The Second Book of Samuel, The First Book of Kings, The Second Book of Kings, The First Book of Chronicles, The Second Book of Chronicles, The First Book of Esdras, The Second Book of Esdras, The Book of Esther, The Book of Job, The Psalms, The Proverbs, Ecclesiastes or Preacher, Cantica or Songs of Solomon, Four Prophets the greater, Twelve Prophets the less.

And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine; such are these following:

The Third Book of Esdras, The Fourth Book of Esdras, The Book of Tobias, The Book of Judith, The rest of the Book of Esther, The Book of Wisdom, Jesus the Son of Sirach, Baruch the Prophet, The Song of the Three Children, The Story of Susanna, Of Bel and the Dragon, The Prayer of Manasses, The First Book of Maccabees, The Second Book of Maccabees.

All the Books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive, and account them Canonical.

7. Of the Old Testament.

The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.

8. Of the Creeds.

The Three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius’ 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.

9. Of Original or Birth-Sin.

Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk;) but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in Greek, phrónema sarkós, which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh, is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized; yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.

10. Of Free-Will.

The condition of Man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith; and calling upon God. Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will.

11. Of the Justification of Man.

We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.

12. Of Good Works.

Albeit that Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith, and follow after Justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith insomuch that by them a lively Faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.

13. Of Works before Justification.

Works done before the grace of Christ, and the Inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ; neither do they make men meet to receive grace, or (as the School-authors say) deserve grace of congruity: yea rather, for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin.

14. Of Works of Supererogation.

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

15. Of Christ alone without Sin.

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

16. Of Sin after Baptism.

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

17. Of Predestination and Election.

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

As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God’s Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.

Furthermore, we must receive God’s promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture: and, in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God.

18. Of obtaining eternal Salvation only by the Name of Christ.

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

19. 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 ministered according to Christ's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.

As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred, so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith.

20. 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 anything that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree anything against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation.

21. Of the Authority of General Councils.

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

22. Of Purgatory.

The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.

23. 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.

24. Of Speaking in the Congregation in such a Tongue as the people understandeth.

It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the Primitive Church to have public Prayer in the Church, or to minister the Sacraments, in a tongue not understanded of the people.

25. 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 the 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.

26. Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments.

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 receiving 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 inquiry 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 judgment be deposed.

27. 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 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.

28. 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 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.

29. Of the Wicked, which eat not the Body of Christ in the use of the Lord’s Supper.

The Wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ; yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing.

30. Of both Kinds.

The Cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the Lay-people: for both the parts of the Lord’s Sacrament, by Christ’s ordinance and commandment, ought to be ministered to all Christian men alike.

31. Of the one Oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross.

The Offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits.

32. Of the Marriage of Priests.

Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, are not commanded by God’s Law, either to vow the estate of single life, or to abstain from marriage: therefore it is lawful for them, as for all other Christian men, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve better to godliness.

33. Of excommunicate Persons, how they are to be avoided.

That person which by open denunciation of the Church is rightly cut off from the unity of the Church, and excommunicated, ought to be taken of the whole multitude of the faithful, as an Heathen and Publican, until he be openly reconciled by penance, and received into the Church by a Judge that hath authority thereunto.

34. 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 diversity of countries, times, and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s Word. Whosoever, through his private judgment, 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.

35. Of the Homilies.

The Second Book of Homilies, the several titles whereof we have joined under this Article, doth contain a godly and wholesome Doctrine, and necessary for these times, as doth the former Book of Homilies, which were set forth in the time of Edward the Sixth; and therefore we judge them to be read in Churches by the Ministers, diligently and distinctly, that they may be understanded of the people.

Of the Names of the Homilies.
1 Of the right Use of the Church.
2 Against Peril of Idolatry.
3 Of repairing and keeping clean of Churches.
4 Of good Works: first of Fasting.
5 Against Gluttony and Drunkenness.
6 Against Excess of Apparel.
7 Of Prayer.
8 Of the Place and Time of Prayer.
9 That Common Prayers and Sacraments ought to be ministered in a known tongue.
10 Of the reverent Estimation of God’s Word.
11 Of Alms-doing.
12 Of the Nativity of Christ.
13 Of the Passion of Christ.
14 Of the Resurrection of Christ.
15 Of the worthy receiving of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.
16 Of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost.
17 For the Rogation days.
18 Of the State of Matrimony.
19 Of Repentance.
20 Against Idleness.
21 Against Rebellion.

36. 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 anything, that of itself is superstitious and ungodly. And therefore whosoever are consecrated or ordered according to the Rites of that Book, since the 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.

37. Of the Power of the Civil Magistrates.

The King’s Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England, and other his Dominions, unto whom the chief Government of all Estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign Jurisdiction.

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 our Princes the ministering either of God’s Word, or of the Sacraments, the which thing the Injunctions also lately set forth by Elizabeth our Queen do most plainly testify; 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.

The Laws of the Realm may punish Christian men with death, for heinous and grievous offences.

It is lawful for Christian men, at the commandment of the Magistrate, to wear weapons, and serve in the wars.

38. Of Christian Men’s Goods, which are not common.

The Riches and Goods of Christians are not common, as touching the right, title, and possession of the same; as certain Anabaptists do falsely boast. Notwithstanding, every man ought, of such things as he possesseth, liberally to give alms to the poor, according to his ability.

39. Of a Christian Man’s Oath.

As we confess that vain and rash swearing is forbidden Christian men by our Lord Jesus Christ, and James his Apostle, so we judge, that Christian Religion doth not prohibit, but that a man may swear when the Magistrate requireth, in a cause of faith and charity, so it be done according to the Prophet's teaching in justice, judgement, and truth.

These notes were prepared for the fourth and final in a series of four Lenten discussion groups on 11 April 2019

Series Concluded

Abbey School represents
the diverse history of
education in Tipperary

The Abbey Grammar School in Tipperary stands on the site of the mediaeval Augustinian Friary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

The Abbey Grammar School on Station Road in Tipperary, close to the railway station, stands on the site of the Augustinian Friary founded in Tipperary Town ca 1290-1300.

The friary or abbey was dissolved ca 1540 at the suppression of the monastic houses during the Reformation.

When local landowners were forcibly dispossessed in the 17th century, the former abbey lands once in the hands of the Ryan family were acquired by Erasmus Smith (1611-1691) from Husband’s Bosworth in Leicestershire. Smith used some of his new-found wealth to endow Grammar Schools in Irish towns, including the Erasmus Smith High School in Dublin, the Grammar Schools in Drogheda, Galway, Ennis and the Abbey Grammar School in Tipperary. Later, other grammar schools founded on the same principles also became known as Erasmus Smith schools.

The first Abbey Grammar School was built using some of the stones of the ruins on the site of the Augustinian abbey or friary, (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The Abbey Grammar School was built on the site of the Augustinian abbey or friary, using some of the stones of the ruins. It opened in 1681, but was closed soon after as the town became embroiled in the Jacobite/Williamite Wars, and both the school and the town destroyed by fire in 1691.

A new grammar school had been built by 1702, and the school was rebuilt again in 1820.

Meanwhile, the Augustinian friars continued to maintain a presence in the town until 1847, when the last resident prior, Father Nicholas Roche from Wexford, died. He is buried in the grounds of the Roman Catholic parish church.

A sustained campaign began in Tipperary in the late 19th century, demanding a Roman Catholic share in Erasmus Smith’s educational endowment. In Tipperary, a leading figure in this campaign was Father David Humphreys (1843-1930), the Roman Catholic curate in the town in 1885-1895.

The ‘Abbey Boys’ memorial in Saint Mary’s Church, commemorating former pupils who died during World War I, illustrates how the Abbey Grammar School in Tipperary continued to serve mainly the Church of Ireland community in the wider area, although the school always had Roman Catholic students.

Other past pupils included Archbishop Michael Slattery (1783-1857) of Cashel, the Fenian John O’Leary (1830-1907), and the historians and writers Standish James O’Grady (1846-1928), Goddard Henry Orpen (1852-1932), author of Ireland Under the Normans, and Nicholas Mansergh (1910-1991), Smuts Professor of Commonwealth History at Cambridge University and Master of Saint John’s College, Cambridge.

Because of the Irish Civil War, the grammar school closed in 1922. It was intended to reopen the school, but circumstances changed in the decades that followed.

Eight years after Humphreys died, an Act of Parliament passed in 1938 divided Smith’s educational endowment between Protestant and Roman Catholic interests.

The third grammar school on this site was destroyed in an accidental fire in 1941.

The present school was built in the 1950s on site of the earlier schools (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The present school was built ca 1955 on site of the earlier school and the site of the mediaeval Augustinian priory. This school, standing in landscaped grounds, represents the mid 20th century continuation of the school founded in the late 17th century by Erasmus Smith, and parts of the 18th century building survive.

The school has a central three-bay, two-storey block with a recessed central towered bay, and recessed, five-bay, single-storey wings with advanced porches at each end.

There are late 20th century additions at the east and west. Other details include a cross finial and a cut limestone eaves course on the tower, finials and low stepped pediments at the porches, and roughcast rendered walls with a smooth rendered stepped plinth course.

There are buttresses at the front of the central block and at porches, moulded coping and string courses at the porches, and moulded coping at the parapets of the wings.

There are Tudor-arch style timber windows, a group of arch openings on the first floor of the tower, triangular-headed doorways at the central block and the porches, and a central doorway set into a slightly projecting surround with a moulded sandstone cornice and a frieze that has stucco rosettes.

The eastern-most elevation of the earlier school building survives at the east, and this includes a partial four-bay two-storey wall that shows evidence of several building phases.

The Irish Christian Brothers managed the Abbey Grammar School until 1994. The school continues under the trusteeship of the Edmund Rice Schools Trust.

In 2000, President Mary McAleese unveiled a memorial celebrating the diverse nature of the history of the Abbey School, which continues a centuries-old tradition of education on this site.

The current principal of the school is John Kiely, the former Limerick hurler who was the manager of the Limerick All-Ireland title winning team in 2018.

Meanwhile, the last trace of the Augustinian Friary was destroyed in 1958, but a newly-built arch marks the site of the former friary.

A modern arch recalls the presence of mediaeval Augustinians on the site (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Historic family remembered
during presentation evening

This report by Helen Machin is published in the ‘Tamworth Herald’:

Historic family remembered
during presentation evening

By Helen Machin
News Editor

Tamworth’s Comberford family, who built the town’s historic Moat House, will be the subject of a presentation hosted by Tamworth and District Civic Society – on the 400th anniversary of King Charles I’s visit to the town.

Whilst his father, King James I & VI of England & Scotland, made the first of his visits to Tamworth Castle as guest of the Ferrers family, Prince Charles was entertained at the Moat House in Lichfield Street by the Comberford family who had built the mansion in 1572 on the site of an earlier ‘motehall.’

The Comberfords backed their former guest in the civil war 25 years later and lost their home and position in Tamworth as a result.

The Tamworth and District Civic Society (TDCS) is marking these royal anniversaries with a presentation on the Comberford Family by the Reverend Canon Professor Patrick Comerford of Ireland, who has close link with the family.

Patrick told the Herald: “I was born in Ireland, but for generations our family thought we were related to the Tamworth Comberfords – and the Tamworth Comberfords thought we were related to them too – we all used the family coat of arms and my family erected the beautiful memorial stone in the chapel.

“Throughout generations there were exchanges between the Irish Comberfords and the English ones and although we have since learned that we are not actually related, it does feel a little like we are adopted families, because of our links over the tears.

“I’ve been to Tamworth many times, I feel an affinity with the area and have huge affection both spiritually and emotionally to the Tamworth and Lichfield area. I’m going to talk about the Comberford family, its role in civic society in Tamworth, how the family built the Comberford chapel in St Editha’s, how the family history is told in the decorated ceiling in the Moat House, and what has happened to the family after the 1700s (clearing up some of the fables created by the plaque in the Comberford Chapel!)”

Patrick Comerford is an Anglican priest in the Church of Ireland and a theologian and church historian. He has contributed to many books and journals, and worked for many years as a journalist. Patrick also maintains a website about the Comerford and Comberford family histories.

The event will be on Thursday, May 9, at 7.30 pm, in St George’s Chapel within Tamworth Parish Church. Admission on the door is £2 for TDCS members and £4 for non-members.

Refreshments will be available in the Comberford Chapel, which is named after this important local family and contains the beautiful memorial tablet.

This report was published in the ‘Tamworth Herald’ (p 29) on 11 April 2019.

Holy Week, Good Friday and
Easter in the Rathkeale and
Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes

The Crucifixion scene in a church in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Sunday 14 April (Palm Sunday, Lent 6):

9.30, The Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Castletown Church;

11.30, Morning Prayer, Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale.

Readings: Isaiah 50: 4-9a; Psalm 31: 9-16; Philippians 2: 5-11; Luke 23: 1-49.


217, All glory, laud and honour (CD 14)
134, Make way, make way, for Christ the king (CD 8)
715, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God the Lord Almighty (CD 40)

Monday 15 April:

8 p.m., Evening Prayer, Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton.

Readings: Psalm 36: 5-11; Hebrews 9: 11-15; John 12: 1-11.


217, All glory, laud and honour (CD 14).

Tuesday 16 April:

8 p.m., Late Evening Office, Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin.

Readings: Psalm 71: 1-14; John 12: 20-36.


66, Before the ending of the day (CD 4)
218, And can it be that I should gain (CD 14)

Wednesday 17 April:

8 p.m., Compline, Holy Trinity, Rathkeale.

Reading: John 13: 21-32.

Hymn: 247, When I survey the wondrous cross (CD 15)

Thursday 18 April (Maundy Thursday):

8 p.m., the Maundy Eucharist, with Washing of the Feet, Castletown Church.

Readings: Exodus 12: 1-4 (5-10), Psalm 116: 1, 10-17; I Corinthians 11: 23-26; John 13: 1-17, 31b-35.


431, Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendour (CD 26)
432, Love is his word, love is his way (CD 26)
515, ‘A new commandment I give unto you (CD 30)

Friday 19 April (Good Friday):

12 noon to 3 p.m.: The Three Hours, Christ’s journey with the Cross to Calvary with ‘The Seven Last Words,’ Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton.

Saturday 20 April (Easter Eve):

8 p.m., The Easter Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Holy Trinity, Rathkeale;

10 p.m., The Easter Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Castletown Church.

Readings: Isaiah 65: 17-25; the Easter Anthems (sung as Hymn 286, CD 17); I Corinthians 15: 19-26; Luke 24: 1-12.


260, Christ is alive! Let Christians sing (CD 16)
258, Christ the Lord is risen again (CD 16)
255, Christ is Risen, alleluia (CD 16)

Sunday 21 April (Easter Day):

9.30 a.m., the Easter Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton;

11.30 a.m., the Easter Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert).

Readings: Acts 10: 34-43; Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24; I Corinthians 15: 19-26; John 20: 1-18.


286, The strife is o’er, the battle done (CD 12)
78, This is the day that the Lord has made (CD 5)
263, Crown him with many crowns (CD 14)

Easter Vestries:

Kilnaughtin: Sunday 5 May 2019 (after Morning Prayer at 11.30 a.m.).

Askeaton and Castletown: Monday 6 May 2019, 7.30 p.m. in the Rectory, Askeaton.

Rathkeale: Tuesday 7 May 2019, 7.30 p.m., in the Rectory, Askeaton.

Praying through Lent with
USPG (37): 11 April 2019

‘Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his Cross’ … Station V in the Stations of the Cross in the Chapel of Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Co Kildare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

During Lent this year, I am using the USPG Prayer Diary, Pray with the World Church, for my morning prayers and reflections.

USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is the Anglican mission agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential, and champion justice. It was founded in 1701.

This week [7-13 April], the USPG prayer diary focusses on the theme of ‘Hope.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday [7 April 2019] with ‘Tagori’s Story,’ an article based upon a report from the ‘Let My People Go’ programme, which is run by the Church of North India Synodical Board of Social Services (CNISBSS) to support marginalised Dalit and tribal people.

Thursday 11 April:

Pray for the Church of North India’s ‘Let My People Go’ programme, that its resolve to free Dalit and tribal peoples from bondage may never tire and may daily be renewed.

The Collect:

Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
Grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross,
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow