Friends our denomination (Anglican Church) grew out of the Church of England. This denomination was established in the incredible period we call the Reformation (16th Century). Change swept across Europe as Christians
rediscovered their biblical roots. The reformers (eg. Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and Cranmer) summarised their theological concerns with slogans. Hence the catchcry of the reformation became: ‘Bible alone; Christ alone; faith alone; and grace alone’. Yet all were conscious of the overriding perspective that everything is for ‘the glory of God alone’.
These slogans captured the key doctrines of the reformation period. They informed and shaped the Church of England as it separated from the Roman Catholic denomination. The reformation was a ‘protest’ against errors that had crept into the church over the centuries. We are always in danger of turning Christianity into a ‘religious club’ (ie. where we suppose being right with God is the result of good works or performing certain rituals or ceremonies). So we need to be on our guard against this. As Anglicans we are a Protestant denomination – since we were founded out of a movement of protest against wrong teaching and doctrine.
Our Anglican founders wrote down their key beliefs in the 39 Articles (cf. back of the Prayer Book). These articles are reformed in character and seek to explain what Anglicans believe. The articles deal with such essential beliefs as the nature of: God as trinity (1); Christ’s person and work (2-4); sin and salvation (9-18, 31); Bible as our sole authority (6); the church and sacraments (19-20, 23-30).
What does ‘Christ alone’ mean? It’s shorthand for:
► how guilty sinners can be declared right (forgiven) with God;
► Christ as the only basis through his sacrifice for our sin on the cross;
► God’s judgement taken by Christ in his death for us;
► being certain of our salvation for eternity through Christ’s resurrection.
Archbishop Cranmer (1489-1556) was the key person behind our Anglican prayer book tradition. His 1552 Prayer Book became (with only minor changes) the Book of Common Prayer (1662). This was used in the Anglican churches around the world until recent times. Cranmer’s service of the Lord’s Supper (communion) has been acknowledged by both friends and ‘opponents’ as the finest liturgical expression of how we are justified (declared righteous) by Christ alone. So he designed the service to replicate how a person comes to living faith in and through Christ. For Cranmer our attitudes and actions will only change if God changes us from the inside (our heart) out.
His collect of purity at the beginning of the communion service, expresses this truth clearly:
… cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name,
through Christ. our Lord.
Cranmer was executed by Queen Mary because he wouldn’t compromise the biblical beliefs expressed in the Prayer Book. Many others likewise died defending these truths of the reformation, especially Christ alone. Praise God for their faithful witness (cf. Hebs 11, 121ff).
Yours in Christ,