That missing Article of Religion dropped by the PECUSA and recovered (but only as historical text) in the ECUSA
When the Protestant Episcopal Church adopted The Articles of Religion in 1801 as a Formulary (to stand alongside the American editions of The Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal of 1789 & 1792), it did not adopt them exactly as they are found in The Book of Common Prayer (1662) of the Church of England.
For example, Article XXI “Of the Authority of General Councils” of the original Articles is not printed in the American 1801 edition. But these words of explanation are provided: “The Twenty-first…is omitted because it is partly of a local and civil nature, and is provided for, as to the remaining parts of it, in other Articles.” Thus those who used the various printings of the 1789 edition of BCP after 1801 and then of the various printings of the 1892 & 1928 editions never really knew what was in Article XXI, as it had existed in the Church of England from 1571.
In 1979 the Episcopal Church of the USA (having dropped “Protestant” from its title) rejected The Articles as a Formulary of the Church (as it also rejected the classic BCP & Ordinal). Yet, it decided to print them as a historical document in very small print at the back of its new Formulary, the Prayer Book of 1979. And here, since it was an historical document without any authority, the text of the original Article XXI from the English BCP was printed in full:
“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 for salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of holy Scripture.”
Why had the Convention of the PECUSA rejected this Article in 1801? Basically because it referred to Christian Princes/Kings, who in the sixteenth century were the only ones, apart from the Pope, who were seen as having authority to call together a church council. The USA was a republic and in 1801 supremely conscious of being so!
However, with hindsight we can see that the essence of this Article is truly a word of wisdom to national churches as well as to provincial churches, including both the PECUSA & ECUSA, not to mention the C of E. If General Councils may err and have erred (the Reformers were thinking primarily of the Councils called by the Pope during the period from the seventh ecumenical council held in Nicea in the eighth century through to the sixteenth century at Trent) then how much more may and have local church synods and conventions. And they have erred and may err because, like the Medieval Church they set themselves above the Word of God written, that is, above its doctrinal and moral norms and contrary to its principles of worship and prayer.
And local general conventions and synods have probably erred more in the last fifty years than at any other period since the lade middle ages! The liberated ECUSA (no longer the PECUSA with its Reformed Catholicism from the ecclesia anglicana) decided to have new formularies – new services, new doctrine, new catechism, new orders of Ministry, new morality, new language for God and man, new canons, new relations with other Anglican provinces – by the exercise of its democratic procedures. Yet in most of its innovations it has erred and it continues to err, and of this going astray from the Word of God written not a few of its leaders are very proud! Further, and most regrettably, some who do not favor its most recent errors (e.g., in homosexuality) seem to enjoy living with its older errors (e.g., in marriage norms and rules and in the doctrinal content of liturgy) and also think themselves to be worthy of the name “orthodox”.
Lord have mercy upon us.
Christ have mercy upon us.
Lord have mercy upon us.
October 9, 2005