Church of England Articles allowed Universalism in 1563


Here’s an interesting fact I have only just discovered - mainly of interest to Anglicans. When the 39 Articles of Religion, the doctrine defining foundational document of the Church of England, was drawn up in 1563, the doctrine of universalism was deliberately allowed!

The 39 Articles were based on the 42 Articles written under Cranmer in 1552, during the brief reign of Edward VI which represented the height of Calvinist influence in the English Church. The 42nd of these articles was the one condemning universalism. Here it is:-

All men shall not be saved at the last They also are worthy of condemnation, who endeavor at this time to restore the dangerous opinion, that all men be they never so ungodly, shall at length be saved, when they have suffered pains for their sins a certain time appointed by God’s justice.

The 42 Articles never became law, because of the premature death of Edward VI and the reunion of the Church with Rome under his successor Queen Mary I. Following Mary’s death the crown passed to her sister Elizabeth I, who again split the Church from Rome. A Convocation was formed under Elizabeth’s Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker in order to establish the Articles of Religion. Several of Cranmer’s 42 articles were dropped, as Parker backed away from the more extreme Calvinism.

The 42nd Article, the one condemning Universalism, was one of the Articles dropped by Parker, so accepting Universalism as an allowed doctrine. Nothing else in the 39 Articles condemns Universalism.

Although the 39 Articles do not have quite the same status in the Church of England as they once did, they are still influential and revered. Ironically, it tends to be conservative evangelicals who are most keen to affirm the continuing authority of the Articles and of course to reject Universalism which the 39 Articles… er … deliberately allowed. Hmmm :unamused:


I do not see how a rejection of an anti-universalism Article is an acceptance of universalism. All that happened is that they didn’t pass the article. You could have an article against gay marriage fail for whatever reason, perhaps on a technicality, but that doesn’t mean the church automatically approves gay marriage.


There is a difference, on the other hand, between making room for someone (particularly a teaching authority) to be in communion with a group while holding a theological position, and positively approving of that position. And I don’t think Rev was talking about the latter kind of acceptance.

They deliberately made room for allowing universalism, and that’s important; and they did so in much the same way the Eastern Orthodoxy (and related eastern trinitarian communions) have done so: they don’t dogmatically affirm or deny it as part of the creed for affirming unity with the group.


Thanks Jason, yes that’s what I was getting at, Dondi. I think it is significant that the original decision to anathematise universalism was withdrawn when the Articles were enacted under Matthew Parker. My next step will be to find out more about Parker and see if his motive in dropping article 42 is recorded anywhere. I understand he was a friend of Martin Bucer, and both were leaders of a more moderate and ecumenical form of protestantism than that of Calvin and his followers. I think the 39 Articles have also been influential on other confessions and denominations, such as Methodism, Presbyterianism and Lutheranism - but I need to read more about this.


The Anglican Church has never been brillant at weeding out hertics. But, sorry to be the party pooper, the Anglican hasn’t adopted universalism.

1. The Rev Tweedy needs to read Article 8 which says:

And we all know how the second last line of the Athanasisus creed! Furthermore if that wasn’t enough Cranmer in his first book of homilies which as Anglicans we are also oblidged to refer to says:

2. Argument by absence is fairly weak; in other-words by Andrew’s reasoning all doctrines not specifically spoken to or condemned are condoned?
3. I doubt in removing they intended to adopt Universalism as a consequence. However and this is the most interesting part, there seems to have been a Universalist in play maybe someone powerful who pressured Parker into dropping the article, the question is who was he and why he wielded his power in this way. Interesting, a Universalist using power to try (they failed, see Article 8) to implement Universalistic theology!


Well, sorry to be the ‘party-pooper’ pooper but:

Dondi’s argument is not ‘argument by absence’ it is clearly argument by an active and conscious deliberate removal of something which was disagreed with.

A strawman. This is getting as weak and irrational as someones embarrassing blog I was reading recently. All that was being said is the condemnation of universalism was deliberately removed.

-and now desperate speculation in the absence of any rational argument.


Must of struck a nerve. :sunglasses:

Let’s go over this carefully. Dodhi’s said:.

Which is perfectly correct! You cannot say the Anglican Church intended to affirm Universalism by taking out that article.

You say “Strawman”, so I’ll call you the ‘artful dodger’. I said:

Why, did the Anglican Church suddenly adopt Universalism without anyone noticing, what useful historical information can bring to bear on this situation to suggest otherwise?

And while we’re on the artful dodging, no comment about Article 8?

Lastly, “desperate”, speculation? Does the adjective strengthen your argument? You can only offer ad hominem attack in lieu of an actual argument showing that the absence of this article proves the Anglican Church adopted Universalism. All this missing article situation shows, and it’s certainly very interesting, (love to know the backstory) is that this article was removed for some specific historical reason not a wholesale change in theology!


Hi Luke, Thanks for raising some interesting points!

I’m certainly not suggesting that Cranmer or the author of the homily or the Ath Creed were universalists. It is fair to point out that those are also foundational documents, but on this thread I’m just interested in the dropping of Article 42.

I think you know me better than that Luke! I’m certainly NOT suggesting that “anything goes” unless the Articles specifically exclude it.

Like Pilgrim says, I think you are speculating here Luke. It is an interesting theory, that Parker wanted to keep in Article 42, condemning universalism, but a mystery universalist, more powerful than Parker, forced him to keep it in. But who would the Archbishop of Canterbury bow to ?(My tongue in cheek suggestion in support of your theory = the Holy Spirit! :sunglasses: ). Seriously Luke, do you have any evidence for this theory?

The only other person I am aware of who could influence Parker in the way you suggest is Queen Elizabeth herself. And we do know that she exercised some editorial influence over the Articles, mainly to show mercy tolerance to those of her subjects who had Catholic sympathies. I’m not sure if she had a personal view about universalism; perhaps a historian can help us out. Intriguing though! She was certainly a devout Christian woman.

That aside, I think the most likely answer is that Parker himself chose to exclude Article 42, not because he was a universalist but because, like his friend Martin Bucer, he was more tolerant of other viewpoints than people like Augustine and Calvin were. Parker would still firmly stamp out views he saw as dangerous, but unless someone shows me evidence to the contrary it seems universalism was not one of these.


Pilgrim, Luke, let’s keep it friendly please. No fighting boys!


A gracious response Andrew, and yes I admit the mystery Universalist pressuring Parker is pure speculation.

(Although just to be clear the title of this thread is misleading because it suggests the Church of England adopted Unviersalism in 1563, which it plainly did not.)


Thanks Luke - I don’t know if we can change the thread title. I meant accepted in the sense of “allowed” not “adopted”…


Well said.

And perhaps here is the first point of any merit although I see an important distinction between ‘adoption’ (which to me implies promulgation) and ‘acceptance’ (which to me implies toleration).

Pointing out that someone is using a ‘strawman’ technique in debate is quite valid and not ad-hominem.
Personal name calling is quite a different matter and it behoves us all not to stoop that low.

A simple polite request and I would be happy to explain.
I am not particularly familiar with the three creeds and I so I cannot say whether this particular point has merit or not. Perhaps you make a valid point. I am ignorant and therefor it is sensible to remain silent. For this you resort to name-calling. However, revdrew has kindly quoted:

…and I read nothing here that would exclude universalism.



I think that is the general definition of the word.


Pilgrim, that was Luke quoting Cranmer’s homilies, not me. I agree that nothing in those words strictly exclude evangelical universalism, but I don’t think we could argue that the author of this homily or the dubiously named “Athanasian” creed were really sympathetic to universalism. And Luke is correct that Article 8 requires acceptance of the Ath creed…

BUT, it seems clear that the dropping of Article 42 by Archbishop Matthew Parker was a deliberate allowance of universalism. What I am seeking help with now is trying to discover whether it was Parker himself or a higher power (Queen Elizabeth I or the Holy Spirit or whoever!) who forced him to do this. Rather than speculating, I’m hoping a historian might be able to help us out here.


Thanks for the clarification - and for the thread itself. I wish you well in your investigation.


That’s very interesting, and I believe Andrew Jukes pointed that out in his book on UR (I forget the name,)

But I don’t think it’s quite right to say the Queen Elizabeth I “again split the Church from.”

I think she was still in communion with Rome when the Pope (under pressure from Spain) excommunicated her (and the English Church.)


Look Pilgrim, your picture says “No Hate”, yet you post rude comments and you’re critical of my arguments against the Anglican Church accepting Unviersalism in 1563 but fail to offer a single shred of evidence of anything remotely resembling a cogent argument in the contrary.

By rude comment I mean your snide asides and your delightful comments about someone else’s blog, by lack of arguments I mean that you make the charge of “strawman” when I observe there is nothing in Parker dropping the anti-unviersalism article that suggests the Anglicans suddenly decided to accept Universalism, but don’t explain why this is a ‘strawman fallacy’. Then at first you ignore but then plead ignorance of Article 8, suggesting this is some nobler path of “staying silent.”

Yes, it’d be good to know Andrew, what prompted Parker to do this.

Perhaps a small speculation because I doubt there is any link between devotion and Universalism.


Calm down. I do not hate you. I have read your posts on this site and others and your desire for Universalism to be untrue is as evident as the chocolate on the face of a child who denies eating the cake. As part of the body of Christ it is essential to stand for truth and integrity. If you think that universalists are to be trampled on by double talk on different sites with no reply, then you are mistaken.
I could waste time by replying to every single one of the above falsehoods, accusations and personal attacks but to no avail.
A gentle squeeze on a ripe fruit is all that is necessary to tell if the essence is wholesome or poisonous. We are all very good at putting on a face and feigning ‘the Spirit of Christ’ but with some of us the veneer is extremely thin. It is important for readers to see what are our motivations and who is our source. This thread has been very revealing and extremely worthwhile in ways not envisioned at the outset.
You and I are very similar in many ways, and for all of us it is true that at times our desire to be right may supersede our desire for truth. We share many faults and if you can, at least, see that then we could have many profitable exchanges. My Avatar is a reminder TO ME, not to others but you saw it as an opportunity to throw stones. We are both works in progress just as God is working in the lives of all His creatures.
May God continue to work in both our lives and continue to reform us into His image, my brother in Christ. :smiley:


Hi Michael, thanks for correcting my history which was never my strong point! Whilst it was of course Elizabeth’s Protestant sympathies which led to her excommunication, but yes, technically you are right, it was the excommunication which actually split the English Church from Rome.

OK Luke! There are devoted Christians who are Universalists and there are devoted Christians who are not. My point is that Elizabeth, compared to some other monarchs, was somebody who had a serious Christian faith and had opinions on theological and pastoral issues. That makes it more likely that she would have intervened on a religious matter than would a king or queen who was less interested in or committed to a faith.


It may be worth noting, perhaps, that in the 1801 revision of the 39 articles, one main revision was to drop reference to the Athanasian Creed in Article 8. Be that as it may.

While it is abundantly clear that the author of the (so-called) AthCreed was a non-universalist and intended to promote one or another kind of non-universalistic doctrine (and also that the historical use of that Creed by the Roman Catholic Church was aimed at least partially against universalistic tendencies in the East, in much the same way as the affirmation of the filioque in the Creed was aimed against Eastern denial that the Spirit proceeds from the Son as well as the Father); it is just as blatantly clear that the non-universalistic statements of the AthCreed are (1) reserved for the introductions and epilogues to the two main halves of the Creed; and (2) are in all cases explicitly tied to the notion that in order to be saved the most important thing is to rightly believe the material in the two main halves.

These are evident facts that are not really disputable. Which Luke and I have been over the ground of before. :wink:

The practical point is that if the wrapping statements (as I call them) are insisted upon as being part of the Creed themselves (instead of only referring to the material of the Creed, as the statements themselves actually say in effect!), then acceptance of the Creed necessarily involves acceptance of the idea that in order to be saved from hopeless damnation the first and foremost thing is that a person must believe the content of at least the two main halves (if not also of the wrapping statements).

At the time I asked for any evidence of any other (effectively) creedal statement by a main body of trinitarian Christians, Protestant or otherwise, that also affirmed what the wrapping statements actually teach, namely that to avoid hopeless damnation a person saves themselves by consistently asserting to the doctrinal content of the AthCreed (whatever the extent of that content might be). I myself couldn’t recall any such creedal statement myself in use by trinitarian Church bodies today; and such statements are demonstrably absent (as well as overt statements of hopeless damnation at all) from the two prior Great Creeds (Apostles and Nicene).

I gave a couple of examples from various Calvinistic creedal positions–no such statement (of course) could be found. Hopeless damnation, yes (sometimes); saving oneself by holding doctrinal knowledge, no.

Now we come to the Anglican 39 articles; and unless there have been more revisions than mentioned in the 1801 draft, once again there is (of course!) nothing remotely about a person having to hold various doctrines in order to be saved, much less that the most important thing first and foremost to be saved is to hold various doctrines.

So. What does the inclusion of reference to the AthCreed in the first editions of the Articles involve? I can see two options, not themselves mutually exclusive, for consideration.

(1) The drafters intended it as a reference to the trinitarian doctrinal set, and to the Incarnational doctrinal set, and (broadly) to the doctrine of judgment–all of which are represented elsewhere in the Articles, and all of which are represented (in less precise forms) in the other two of the Big Three Creeds mentioned in Article 8.

(2) The drafters intended it as a reference to the doctrine of salvation by persistently holding doctrine (which doctrines being listed in the Creed), but then not only forgot to mention this anywhere else in the Articles but wrote several articles which implicitly countervail this concept (even if not explicitly so).

To me, (1) looks infinitely plausible, while (2) looks infinitely implausible (if not exactly impossible perhaps). A problem with (2) could even explain, perhaps, the removal of reference to the AthCreed in the 1801 version of the draft. I would be curious to see records of official discussion among Anglican scholars at the time on why the reference to the AthCreed was eventually removed.

If the main reason for referring to the AthCreed originally, however, was (1) and not (2), then that would very easily explain why the Archbishop did not think it strange or contradictive to delete an Article denying universalism while keeping an Article referring to something that definitely teaches (one or another kind of) non-universalism: because that portion of the Creed wasn’t what they were interested in affirming in regard to Article 8 in the first place.

Which in turn would also explain why they inadvertently thereby included reference to another doctrine, linked inextricably with non-universalism in the AthCreed, which they not only don’t affirm elsewhere but practically deny: they weren’t even thinking about the “wrapping statement” material when including reference to the AthCreed in Article 8.