Thirty-Nine articles of Religion. Text of the articles (with
a modern rendering) and links to other information on each article.
19-22 : The Church
15-18 (previous page)
19 The Church
20 The authority of the church
21 The authority of general councils
23-24 (next page)
see Donald Allister's Cross†Way article on Articles 19-22)
Of the Church.
The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men,
in the 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
The visible church of Christ is a congregation of believers in
which the pure Word of God is preached and in which the sacraments
are rightly administered according to Christ's command in all
those matters that are necessary for proper administration. As
the churches of
Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria have erred, so also the church
of Rome has erred, not only in their practice and forms of worship
but also in matters of faith.
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, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing
against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce
any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation.
20. The authority
of the church
The church has authority to decree forms of worship and ceremonies
and to decide in controversies concerning the faith. However,
it is not lawful for the church to order anything contrary to
God's written Word. Nor may it expound one passage of Scripture
so that it contradicts another passage. So, although the church
is a witness and guardian to holy Scripture, it must not decree
anything contrary to Scripture, nor is it to enforce belief in
anything additional to Scripture as essential to salvation.
XXI. 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.
21. The authority
of general councils
General councils may not be gathered together without the command
and will of rulers. And when they are gathered together (since
they are an assembly of men, among whom not all are ruled by the
Holy Spirit and the Word of God), they may err. Indeed they sometimes
have erred, even in things elating to God. Therefore anything
commanded by them as necessary to salvation has no power or authority
unless it can be shown to be taught by Scripture.
XXII. Of Purgatory.
The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping
and Adoration, as well of Images as of Reliques, 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
The Roman doctrine concerning purgatory, pardons, worshipping
and adoration (both of images and of relics) and the invocation
of saints is a futile thing foolishly conceived and grounded on
no evidence of Scripture. On the contrary this teaching is repugnant
to the Word of God.