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WHAT WE BELIEVE

 

What AMEs Believe About the 25 Articles of Religion By The Rt. Rev. Gregory M. Ingram

 

The Spiritual Aptitude Test, The S.A. T Manual for African Methodism: An Instructional Guide for Teaching New Members and Resource for Others Who want to Understand the Church (2007 revised edition, section with permission)

 

In conceiving Methodism, John Wesley adapted 25 of 39 Articles of Religion from the Anglican Church. Some of the articles he rejected aimed at distinguishing and distancing the Anglican Church from Roman Catholicism, e.g., the sacraments, rejection of mass, and celibate clergy. In the organizational process of the Methodist Church in the United States at the Historic Christmas Conference of Baltimore in 1784, these 25 Articles were adopted. They remain the basic tenants for Methodism. The AME Church adopted 24 Articles from the Methodists. Article 23 was added to reflect the African Methodist’s attitude toward national government, making a total of 25 Articles.7 The Articles are biblically based and some Scriptures are provided for your reference. (7 These Articles are quoted as they appear in the 2004 Discipline; hence, inclusive language is not used. )

 

 

Article 1: Of Faith in the Holy Trinity

There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker and Preserver of all things, both visible and invisible. And in unity of this God-head, there are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity-the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. No one can adequately put God into words. No intellect is capable of capturing the vast concept of God. However, this Article defines the Trinity in three distinct but equal parts of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. True revelation of God can only be realized in the searching heart and soul of the humble believer.

See Matthew 28: 19 and Luke 3: 21.

 

Article 2: Of the Word, or Son of God, Who Was Made Very Man

The Son, who is the Word of the Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father, took man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin; so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the God-head 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 the actual sins of men. The uniqueness of Jesus is addressed in this Article and addresses both his divinity and humanity. While Jesus is God, he was conceived of the Holy Spirit and possessed divine abilities. Therefore, he was also very human. His birth, circumcision, temptation, suffering, and death represent characteristics other men and women share.

See Matthew 1 : 18, 20- 21; John 1; 1-18, 6: 51; Ephesians : 14-18; 1 John 4: 2.

 

Article 3: Of the Resurrection of Christ

Christ did truly rise again from the dead, and took again his body with all things appertaining to the perfection of man’s nature, wherewith he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth until he returns to judge all men at the last day. Jesus’ bodily resurrection, while disputed among many scholars, is irrefutable for Methodists. To be sure, it affirms his divinity. Paul, the apostle, insists that all Christianity rests upon this one great fact. He asserts Jesus’ post resurrection appearances were of him in bodily and not ghostly form.

See Matthew 1: 18,20-22; Mark 16:6, 9-14, 19; Luke 24:7,37-49; John 5 :21; Acts 3 1; 1 Peter 1: 3 - 5 .

 

Article 4: Of the Holy Ghost

The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance,majesty, and the glory with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God. Similar to Article 1, here the Spirit is affirmed as a member of the Trinity.

See Matthew 28: 19; John 14: 15-20, 26-27; Acts 2:4.

 

Article 5: Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation

The Holy Scriptures containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatever 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 faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scriptures, we do understand those canonical books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church. The names of canonical books are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Songs of Solomon, the four greater prophets [Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel], Lamentations, and the 12 lesser [or minor] prophets [Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi]. All the Books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive and account canonical [Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1,2, and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation]. For Methodists, this Article establishes-once and for all that nothing is necessary for salvation except what is contained in the above books of the Bible. These books are the inspired Word of God, recording believers’ interaction with God and providing direction for generations beyond their initial experience. Contrary to other faiths and Christian schisms setting forth varied requirements for acceptance by God, this Article exhaustively defines that only those things found in the canonical or authorized, recognized, and accepted 66 books of the Bible are necessary.

 

This Article does not deny that other scriptural texts exist. Deuterocanonical books are those regarded by the Catholic Church as canonical but not universally acknowledged as such in the early church or by Protestants. These extra-canonical or non-canonical books may be used by AMEs for study or illustration, but not used as the primary texts for sermons or elevated to the status of the above listed canonical books, which are the final word of authority within the church.

See Romans 10:9-10; 2 Timothy 3:15-16.

 

Article 6: Of the Old Testament

The Old Testament is not contrary to the New; for both in the Old and the 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, who feign that the old fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the law was given from God by Moses, as touching ceremonies and rites, doth not bind Christians, nor ought the civil precepts thereof of necessity be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments, which are called moral.

 

Believe it or not, there are some Christians who believe the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible has no or little value to our faith, except for its transitory promises or as it foretells of the coming of Jesus. That is absolutely false! Salvation is offered in both the Old and New Testaments by repentance and faith. All scripture is beneficial and worthy of our obedience.

The Old Testament, as law, is not an end in itself. The law, with all its minute details, was but a means of grace. The same is true for the New Testament.

See Exodus 20:1-17; Matthew 5:17-20,13:51-52,19:17-19.

 

Article 7: Of Original or Birth Sin

Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the 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 of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually.

 

This Article addresses the question of original or birth sin made famous by Pelagius.8 Methodists follow the Genesis theory of sin whereby the disobedience of Adam condemned all future humanity as being sinful by birth, origin, and nature. See Genesis 6: 5; Romans 3: 23, 7: 5, 18; Ephesians 2: 11 ; Galatians 5: 17; 2 Peter 2: 18. [8.Though little is known of Pelagius (354-c, 418), historians agree he was well educated, fluent in Greek and Latin, and a student of theology. He lived as an ascetic monk and directly challenged and denied the Christian doctrine of original sin from Adam.]

 

Article 8: 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 works, to faith, and calling upon God; wherefore, we have no power to do good work, 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.

 

With a sinful nature also comes the free will to choose God over certain damnation. Salvation is a gift to humanity and we are free to choose or reject it. God does not force it upon us. We are incapable of saving ourselves and may freely opt to accept the gift.

See Exodus 36:3; Psalm 54:6; Romans 3:22-24, 1-33; Ephesians 2: 8-10.

 

Article 9: Of the Justification of Man

We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings; wherefore, that we are justified by faith only, is most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort.

Justification by faith is a cornerstone of Methodism. Faith, rather than works, is the means of salvation.

See Romans 3: 28, 5: 1 ; Galatians 2: 16.

 

Article 10: Of Good Works

Although good works, which are the fruit of faith, and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s judgments; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and spring out of a true and lively faith, insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known, as a tree is discerned by its fruit.

 

Good works are a byproduct of true and lively faith and are encouraged. However, they do not atone for sin or enable salvation. They will not get us into the Kingdom of God. A person who is saved will work; but, it is not always true that a person who works is saved.

See Ephesians 2:8-10; Galatians 2: 16; James 2:26.

 

Article 11: Of Works of Supererogation

Voluntary works, besides, over and above God’s Commandments, which they call works of supererogation, cannot be taught without arrogance and impiety. For by them men do declare that they do more for His sake than of bounden duty is required; whereas Christ said plainly, "When ye have done all that is commanded you, say, we are unprofitable servants" [Luke 7: 10].

 

The Roman Catholic Church, it was charged, greatly abused these "extras" to win special favor from God. The Reforming fathers in no uncertain terms denounced the whole system of "works." This Article represents their position. Good works, works of righteousness, or service to those in the communities where we live, cannot put away our sin.

See Proverbs 20:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Jeremiah 2: 35; Matthew 19: 17; Mark 10: 17-18; Luke 17: 10; Romans 3 :9-20; Galatians 2:21; Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 John 1 :8-10.

 

Article 12: Of Sin After Justification

Not every sin willingly committed after justification is the sin against the Holy Ghost, and unpardonable. Wherefore, the grant of repentance is not to be denied to such as fall into sin after justification. After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given, and fall into sin, and, by the grace of God, rise again, and amend our lives. And therefore they are to be condemned who say they can do no more sin as long as they live here; or deny the place of forgiveness to such as truly repent.

 

… This article sets forth two propositions. First, we all sin and fall short of the glory at every turn. Once saved, such sin does not eradicate salvation. With repentance and God’s mercy, we are continually restored in faith.

See Job 22: 23; Jeremiah 8:4, 15:19; Psalm 78:38; Proverbs 16:6; Ezekiel 18:24-32; Micah :18; Luke 17:1-4; John 10:28; Romans 3:23, 5:18,11:22-23; 1 Corinthians :1; 2 Corinthians 7:9-10; Ephesians 4:32; Galatians 5:6; Colossians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:25, 4:8; 1 John 1:9,2:1-2; Revelation 3:3,19.

 

Article 13: Of the Church

The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and Sacraments duly administered according to Christ’s ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.

 

While many argue the church is comprised of the physical edifice and the property therein contained, this Article provides a more accurate description of the church as wherever the people of God congregate for worship, sacraments are duly administered, the Word of God is preached or proclaimed, and the saints of God come to fellowship. To be sure, the early church gathered in homes before separate worship facilities were erected. Even today, many “churches" begin in living rooms, storefronts, school auditoriums, tents, and street corners.

See Psalm 84:4,149:1,150:1; Matthew 10:5-10, 16:17-18, l:19; Mark 14:22-25, 16:16; Luke 22:17-20; Acts 2:38-47, 6:1-7,10:48, :28; 1 Corinthians 11: 17 -33; Galatians 3 :28, 6: 10; Ephesians 2: 19-22, 3: 8¬’; 1 Timothy 3:15,4:1-16,5:17; Hebrews 3:6.

 

Article 14: Of Purgatory

The Romish doctrine concerning purgatory, pardon, worshipping and adoration, as well as images, as of relics, and also invocations of saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warrant or Scripture, but repugnant to the Word of God.

Methodists do not believe in the Catholic Church’s doctrine of purgatory or the "holding room" between a person’s death and time of judgment. Further, this Article rejects the use of images, idols, or relics as a method of summoning the saints or persons admitted to sainthood after their death. One of the main reasons for this renouncement is its lack of biblical foundation.

 

While the Article is clear in not accepting these beliefs and practices, the question remains for many of what happens with the judgment. Upon death, does the person immediately face judgment and entry or refusal into the Kingdom? Certainly, this concept is often offered at funerals and aimed at bringing comfort to loved ones. However, Scripture supports an ultimate judgment after the second coming of Christ. See Exodus 20:3-5; Numbers 3 :52; Psalm 73 :25, 115 :4-8; Isaiah 45 :5-6; Jeremiah 10: 1-16; Habakkuk 2: 18¬20; Matthew 16:17-18; Mark 9:43; Luke 12:5, 16:19-31; John 6:50-58; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10; Galatians 4:26; Colossians 2:18; 1 Timothy 6:3-4; Hebrews 11:13-16, 12:22-27; 2 Peter 2:4; Revelation 10:28, 19:9-10,20:8, 11-21,22:8-9; 23:33.

 

Article 15: Of Speaking in the Congregation in Such a Tongue as the People Understand

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 understood by the people.

 

Historically, this Article aimed at eliminating the use of Latin in worship by the Roman Catholic Church when the people no longer understood the language. In a more contemporary context and in light of the Pentecostal movement, it is important to remember the directive to do all things decently and in order (1 Cor 14:40). The purpose of worship is to glorify God and edify the people. If the people cannot understand the prayer, song, or proclamation, they cannot be edified.

 

This situation is also compounded by the global nature of the AME Church. Existing in many countries with endless languages and dialects, we do well to ensure that whatever is said in worship is capable of being understood by as many as possible. This includes printed orders of worship and extends to hearing-impaired congregants.

 

Finally, this Article is not a rejection of xenoglossia or the ability to spontaneously speak a foreign language without having learned it or been exposed to it (Acts 2: 6-11). Likewise, it is not a rejection of glossolalia or ecstatic speech or utterance consisting of jumbled or disjointed and largely unintelligible sounds (1 Cor 14:1-5,19-25,39-40). Scripture clearly makes allowances for private prayer in the spirit or making use of a personal prayer language and public speaking in tongues when an interpretation follows.

See Numbers 12:8;2 Kings 18:26; Isaiah 36:11; John 16:25-31; Acts 2:6.

 

Article 16: Of the Sacraments

Sacraments ordained of Christ are not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they are certain signs of grace, and God’s good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly 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 the Lord.

 

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 partly grown out of the corrupt following of the Apostles; and partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures, but yet have not the like nature of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, because 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 worthily received the same, they have a wholesome effect or operation; but they receive them unworthily, purchase to themselves condemnation, as St. Paul saith.

 

The Protestant Reformers recognized only two sacraments, Baptism and Holy Communion. They set aside--as unworthy of sacramental honor--the five the Roman Catholic Church viewed as sacraments. Methodists do not deny the place of marriage in the well-ordered life of the Christian community but it is not ordained by Jesus Christ our Lord.

See Matthew 3:13-16, 26:26¬:19; Mark 1:9,10:38-39,14:22-25,16:16; Luke 3:21, 22:14-20; John 6:53-56; Romans 6:3; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, 11:23-26.

 

Article 17: Of Baptism

Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference; but it is also a sign of regeneration or the new birth. The baptism of young children is to be retained in the Church.

This Article affirms that for adults, baptism is an outward symbol of the inward cleansing that happens with salvation. It also asserts the practice of infant baptism as a mark the child belongs to God, much like circumcision did for young boys in the Old Testament.

[ See also Mark 16: 16; Romans 6 :4; 2 Corinthians 5: 17]

 

Article 18: 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 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 our 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.

This Article affirms the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, done in obedience to Jesus’ own commandment to remember his life and sacrifice given at his last Passover (Luke 22: 19). It also specifies how the substance of bread and wine should be viewed by believers. As opposed to believing in transubstantiation or the belief that the substance of bread and wine changes or converts with consecration into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, Methodists affirm consubstantiation or the belief that the bread and wine are only symbols representing Jesus’ body and blood and are not actually transformed or changed into the elements of Jesus’ body and blood as the Catholic Church purports. ...

See also Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20; 1 Corinthians 10:16-22,11:23-26.

 

Article 19: Of Both Kinds:

The cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the lay people: for both parts of the Lord’s Supper, by Christ’s ordinance and commandment, ought to be administered to all Christians alike.

Contrary to some churches requiring communicants to belong to that church, the AME Church practices an "open table" in which all who a saving faith in God are welcomed to partake in the Lord’s Supper. See Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22: 14-20; john 6:53-56; 1 Corinthians 10:16,11:23-26.

 

Article 20: 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 one. Wherefore, the sacraments of masses, in the which it is commonly said that the priest doth offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, is a blasphemous fable, and dangerous deceit.

 

Jesus’ sacrifice was satisfaction for humanity’s original and actual sins. No other atonement is necessary.

See John 14:6; Acts 4: 12; Romans 3:23-26,6: 10; Ephesians 2: 14-18,5 :2; Hebrews 7:23-27,9:26-28, 10:4, 10; 1 Peter 1: 18-19, 1 John 2:2; 1 Timothy 2:5-6.

 

Article 21: Of the Marriage of Ministers

The ministers of Christ 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 Christians, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve best to godliness.

 

This Article calls attention to the fact that there is no biblical requirement that those in Christian ministry take a vow of celibacy or abstain from marriage.

See Genesis 2:23-24; Leviticus 21:6-7,13-24; Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9; 1Corinthians 7:2-3,11:11,32-35; 1 Timothy 3:2, 11-12; Titus 1:6.

 

Article 22: Of the Rites and Ceremonies of Churches

It is not necessary that rites and ceremonies should in all places be the same, or exactly alike; for they have been always different, 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 rites and ceremonies of the church to which he belongs, which are not repugnant of the Word of God, and are ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly, that others may fear to do the like, as one that offendeth against the common order of the Church and wouldeth the consciences of weak brethren.

 

Each particular Church may ordain, change, or abolish rites and ceremonies so that all things may be done to edification.

 

This Article calls attention to the fact that in the New Testament, church "uniformity" was unknown. Each local community of Christians adopted and worked out in detail those rites and ceremonies which served best for them given the time, culture, and location of a particular people. For us, this directive allows clergy and laity the freedom to design and implement various orders of worship as long as nothing was done that went against Scripture and ensures edification of God’s people.

See Hosea 6:6; Matthew 15:8-9, 18-20; John 4:23¬-24; Romans 12:1; 1 Timothy 2:8; 1 Corinthians 7:35, 14:26-33a, 39-40; Colossians 2:5; Hebrews 9:21,12:28-29.

 

Article 23: Of the Rulers of the United States of America

The President, the Congress, the General Assemblies, the Governors, and the Councils of State, as the delegates of the people, are the rulers of the United States of America, according to the division of power made to them by the Constitution of the United States, and by the Constitutions of their respective states. And the said states are a sovereign and independent nation, and ought not to be subject to any foreign jurisdiction. *

 

This Article affirms the freedom and independence of the United States; our faith in and obedience to the democratic way of life as expressed by the duly elected representatives; and support of Christians in all righteous governments. Because the AME Church is now global in scope and presence and the Articles of Religion cannot be altered, it was necessary for the 2004 General Conference to include the following footnote:

 

*It is acknowledged that the African Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in the United States. However, the African Methodist Episcopal Church is an international Christian body with constituents around the world, and a Christian witness that is both parochial and global. Article 23 presumes the duty, loyalty, and patriotism of our constituents, as citizens of sovereign nations, to obey just laws, to recognize and respect the organizational structure, and to uphold the Constitution of the country or nation-state in which our members hold rights and privileges of citizenship. Further, obedience to Civil government is one of the principal duties of all persons and was honored by our Lord and His Apostles. Though differing in form and policy, all just governments rightfully commend the obedience, loyalty, support, and defense of all Christian men and women they control and protect.

See 2 Samuel 23: 3; Psalm 9: 7 - 8; Proverbs 8: 15-16; Zechariah 3: 7; Romans 1 Timothy 2:1-3;Titus 3:1; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 2:13-17.

 

Article 24: Christian Men’s Goods

The riches and goods of Christians are not common as touching the right, title, and possession of the same, as some do falsely boas. Notwithstanding, every man ought, of such things as he possesseth, liberally, to give alms to the poor, according to his ability. This Article encourages those who are blessed to bless others. In Jesus’ economy, the strong bear the infirmities of the weak (Rom 15: 1). In other words, the "haves" help the "have nots."

See Proverbs 3: 27 -28, 22 :9; Ecclesiastes 5:19-20; 1 Chronicles 29: 17; Matthew 6: 1-4,25 :35-46; Luke 6:38; Acts 2 :45, 5:1-4; Romans 15:26-27; 1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 8:13-15, Galatians 6: 10.

 

Article 25: Of Christian Men’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 the 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, judgment, and truth.

This Article affirms the position of the church with regard to taking an oath in a court of law. In the interest of good government, a Christian may take the oath. But in no case are Christians to engage in vain and rash swearing.

See Genesis 14:22; Matthew 5:33-37; Hebrews 7:20-22; James 5:12.

 

(Source: The Spiritual Aptitude Test, The S.A.T. Manual for African Methodism, Revised Edition, Chapter 3 “What You Should Know About African Methodism And What We Believe, What A.M.E.s Believe About the 25 Articles of Religion”, pp. 26-38, Ingram, 2007 with permission)