In 1999, the General Synod adopted a resolution which sets out the church’s contemporary understanding of the Thirty-Nine Articles and its historical formularies in general:
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, 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. (…)
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
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
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, ,(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
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
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 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.
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
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
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.
Of the right Use of the Church.
Against Peril of Idolatry.
Of repairing and keeping clean of Churches.
Of good Works, first of Fasting.
Against Gluttony and Drunkenness.
Against Excess of Apparel.
Of the Place and Time of Prayer.
That Common Prayers and Sacraments ought to be ministered in a known tongue.
Of the reverent Estimation of God’s Word.
Of the Nativity of Christ.
Of the Passion of Christ.
Of the Resurrection of Christ.
Of the worthy receiving of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.
Of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost.
For the Rogation-days.
Of the State of Matrimony.
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 any thing, 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.