had been disquiet in England regarding the role of Rome for over
500 years. It was Henry VIII who took the decisive act
and asserted Royal Supremacy to restrict the interference of Rome.
However, as is well known, Henry's primary motivation was
his own selfish interests.
remained staunchly Catholic in his doctrine but recognised the
spreading influence of Protestantism and gathered around him various
Protestants including Thomas Cromwell and of course his Archbishop
Thomas Cranmer. Henry desperately wanted to bring Philip Melancthon,
the Lutheran, to England, but he never succeeded.
most monarchs Henry's great concern was to keep unity. He therefore
fostered a creative tension between the Protestants and the conservatives
led by the Bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner.
this time various sets of Articles were produced.
Ten Articles 1536
1536 a Committee, under the auspices of Henry drew up the Ten
Articles. This was a statement of the old ways, but with some
openness to the new whilst specifically excluding extreme Protestantism.
This demonstrates perfectly Henry's own views and religious policy.
Bishop's Book 1537
Ten Articles were replaced the following year by a book entitled, 'The Institution of a Christian Man'. It was propagated by the
Bishops, under Archbishop Cranmer, but never had the authority
of the King, Parliament or Convocation. Hence its popular name,
the Bishop's Book.
consisted of an exposition of the Apostle's Creed, the Seven Sacraments
(so-called), the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer and
the Ave Maria. It also included two of the ten articles
on Justification and Purgatory. Although this may not sound
revolutionary it was actually a significant step in the process
of reform. Cranmer was slowly but surely pushing ahead.
Thirteen Articles 1538
1538 Cranmer arranged a meeting of three English and three Lutheran
scholars. This is a clear sign of Cranmer's hope of an international
agreement between Protestants. They drew up Thirteen Articles
but these were never published and the text of them was only discovered
two or three centuries later. Their text shows a clear
link between the Lutheran Augsburg Confession and The Thirty-Nine
Thirteen Articles were not authorised because at this time Cranmer
was losing ground to Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester.
Six Articles 1539
ascendancy of 'Wily Winchester', as he became known, is demonstrated
in the Six Articles of 1539 which undid much of Cranmer's gentle
reforms. They enforced transubstantiation, Communion in
one kind, clerical celibacy (Thomas Cranmer had been married for
some time, although he kept this quiet), monastic vows, private
masses and private confession.
final significant statement in the reign of Henry was a book entitled
'The Necessary Doctrine and Erudition fro any Christian Man.'
This was a revision of the Bishop's Book, but it was a
step in the direction of reform, rather it went back to the old
ways. It became known as The King's Book.
the time Henry died in 1547 although the Church of England had
made a clear break it remained substantially Catholic in doctrine.
Henry had allowed some latitude towards Protestantism but
towards the end of his life many of the reforms had been undone.
only 11 when he became King Edward VI was very definitely Protestant.
His father, Henry, had allowed Thomas Cranmer to surround
young Edward with Protestant advisors and protectors. By
now Cranmer himself had also moved to fully Reformed position
and he lost no time once Edward was King in pushing ahead with
a breathtaking reform of the Church. This caused considerable
resentment and open rebellion in parts of the country.
the light of this it is surprising that nothing more happened
with the Articles. Cranmer himself had a set of short articles
he required new appointees in his own Diocese to sign but he did
nothing nationally. There have been various attempts
to explain this, but the most natural is that Cranmer had his
sight set much wider. It was known to be his vision to call together
a general council of all the Protestant leaders.
eventually wrote to the German and Swiss reformers making this
proposal and suggesting that England under Edward was the safest
place to meet. By and large the responses were not as he
hoped. Mostly those he invited were fighting battles at
home and could ill afford to be away. As the unpromising replies
dribbled in Cranmer decided that he could no longer wait in the
hope of some internationally agreed articles.
1551 Cranmer was commanded to draw up a Book of Articles of Religion.
In 1552 he laid before Council a series of 42 Articles,
heavily dependent on his own earlier articles, but also, as later
became clear, also on the 13 Articles of the joint Lutheran Anglican
is these 42 Articles that are the substance of the Thirty-Nine
Articles. There are differences amongst historians as to whether
the Articles were actually approved by Convocation - that is the
gathering of Clergy but the arguments are too complex to enter
into here. It does appear that they were ratified in 1553,
just seven weeks before the death of Edward.
Edward's death Mary came to the throne which lead to the restoration
of Catholicism and the persecution of Protestants. Cranmer
himself was burnt at the stake and his prayer book and articles
reign of Elizabeth brought further change. By and large
she took the Church back to the middle years of the reign of Edward.
Cranmer had produced two Prayer Books; the first (1549)
was a half-way house whilst the second (1552) was much more reformed.
It is said that Elizabeth herself preferred the 1549 book
but it was the 1552 book that was reinstated with some small,
but significant changes.
at first, nothing happened about the Articles.
1561 a series of 11 Articles were introduced. These were
clearly intended to break with the reign of Mary but consciously
avoided many of the contentious issues of the day. The
Clergy were required to accept them on being admitted to their
benefices and they were to be read publicly twice a year.
Thirty Eight Articles
1563 revision began of the 42 Articles. It would take far too
long to list the changes made. The work was largely done
by Archbishop Parker. It is possible to see some influence
on the finished product from the reformed Confession of Wurtenberg.
articles were omitted, four new ones introduced and a further
17 changed, four of them fairly dramatically.
they came to Convocation it was decided that three further articles
were no longer needed because they attacked Anabaptist views.
There were thus thirty-nine articles.
shortly before they were published Article 29 was omitted hence
the 1563 Articles were Thirty-Eight in number. The common
belief is that Elizabeth herself had Article 29 struck out because
it asserts that those who do not have lively faith do not receive
the body and blood of Christ in Communion. Elizabeth, like her
Father Henry had a more catholic view of the sacrament.
aside, in several other respects these Articles were more Protestant
than the earlier Forty Two Articles of Thomas Cranmer.
However, they were also less definite on certain points leaving
more room for diversity of opinion.
articles were not approved by Parliament and remained low key.
It is thought that Elizabeth was fearful of the consequences of
them being seen to forcefully as the faith of her Church.
In 1870 the Pope excommunicated Elizabeth, and it may have been
this that led her to send the Articles to Parliament.
Thirty Nine Articles
Jewel of Salisbury was given the task of reworking the Articles
and although this was mostly very minor the missing article, number
29, was reinstated. So it was that, in 1571, Parliament
and Convocation passed the Thirty-Nine Articles into law, and
they were authorised both in English and Latin.
1571 the Articles have
Commonwealth and Restoration
1642 Civil War broke out and the Prayer Book was abolished and
replaced by the Directory or Worship, based on the Genevan Service
subscription to the Articles was no longer required they were
not replaced. It had been intended that a new set of articles
would be produced by the Westminster Assembly in 1648 and called
the Westminster Confession of Faith. However this was never
fully authorised and, although it became the doctrinal standard
of the established Church in Scotland and of many other presbyterian
and independent churches in later centuries, it has never had
an official position in England where it was produced.
May 1660 the monarchy was restored and after a period of uncertainty
the draconian Act of Uniformity was introduced in 1662. This established
the Book of Common Prayer as the sole worship book of the Church
of England for 300 years. Alongside this the 39 Articles
were reintroduced and this time Clerical subscription to them
was rigorously imposed.