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Articles of Religion

Collections of articles were commonly formulated by reformed Churches to encapsulate what they regarded as the essentials of the faith. The Church of England issued the Thirty-Nine Articles in 1571. In 1784 John Wesley abridged these to twenty-five, in some cases shortening the text, for use by the American Methodists. He omitted Article 17 'On Predestination' as contrary to his understanding of the Gospel and several others as inessential. The Twenty-Five Articles (including an American version of Article 23) have remained authoritative in American Methodism, but have not enjoyed the same status in Britain, despite being printed in the 1882 WM Service Book.

In 1806, following the expulsion of Joseph Cooke and in response to signs of doctrinal laxity among the younger preachers, Adam Clarke, Joseph Benson and Thomas Coke drew up a set of Articles by order of the Conference, but these seem never to have been formally adopted. The 1807 Conference singled out as Methodism's essential doctrines 'the Total Depravity of Human Nature, the Divinity and Atonement of Christ, the Influence and Witness of the Holy Spirit, and Christian Holiness'.J.H. Riggcommented in 1904 that the hymns of the Wesleys, rather than any Articles, were the doctrinal standard for British Methodists.

Quotations

'Q. Can anything be done for the security of our doctrines?

'A.. The President with Mr. Benson and the secretary are appoointed to draw up a digest or form, expressive of the Methodist doctrines, with a sufficiency of texts of Scripture to explain them respectively: and with extracts out of Mr. Wesley's works, to prove that everything before advanced exactly coincides with his judgement and public declarations: and a copy of what they have drawn up, either unitedly or separately, shall be sent to the Chairman of each District before May.'WM Minutes, 1805

Sources

  • Articles of Religion prepared by order of the Conference of 1806 (WHS, 1897)

Entry written by: DJC
Category: Subject

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