There are two ways of answering that question. One way is to focus on what people who go to Anglican churches believe. If you did a survey of what Anglicans in the Church of England and in The Episcopal Church of the United States believed, you would no doubt find a great variety of beliefs about God and about Christ and about what it means to be a Christian, many of them contradicting one another. In the Church of Nigeria, particularly in the Diocese of Jos, we would almost certainly find more agreement!
A more fruitful way of approaching the question is surely to ask what Anglicans believe when they are being faithful to their true convictions and beliefs. Those are to be found in the 39 Articles of Religion and in the Book of Common Prayer which, according to Canon A5 of the Church of England’s rules, faithfully express the Bible’s teaching.
So, let’s ask the 39 Articles and the Prayer Book two very topical questions in our society today. Do true Anglicans believe that Jesus is the only way to God and do they believe that sex before marriage is OK?
Yes is the very clear answer to the first question and no is the equally clear answer to the second.
Article 18 of the 39 Articles, entitled ‘Of obtaining eternal salvation only by the Name of Christ’, affirms that Holy Scripture, i.e. the Bible, sets out for us only the Name of Jesus whereby people must be saved. Article 18 even goes so far as to say that people who teach that people can be saved by observing their non-Christian religion are accursed – that is anathema. They are abhorrent to God because they are teaching a lie that God hates.
In answer to the second question, the marriage service in the Book of Common Prayer states that one of the purposes for which God created marriage between one man and one woman for life was ‘for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency (i.e. self-control) might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of the Body of Christ’.
You could not ask for more clarity than that. Sex before marriage is sinful, according to the Prayer Book; it is displeasing to God; it defiles those who practice it. That is because God has created sex for marriage, to unite a married man and a woman together in love and for the procreation of children within that unity of love.
There are many other questions that both the 39 Articles and the Prayer Book answer. But here we have two very clear answers to contemporary questions.
Faithful Anglican Christians should proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ as the world’s only Saviour from sin and death and hell and they should not have sex outside of heterosexual marriage.Julian Mann
October AD 2013