Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
May 23rd, 2016 by Joel Watts

#UMC Articles of Religion: 22 and rites to our voice

Someone on a facebook group mentioned the 22nd Article of Religion, on rites of the Church:

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 to 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 woundeth the consciences of weak brethren.

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

This is the same as Article 34 from the original Anglican set.


Gerald L. Bray in this book on the 39 Articles, The Faith We Confess: An Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles does not so much speak directly to every line, but to why unity does not require uniformity. There was an attempt by Rome (before the Anglican schism) to force a uniformity of practice and ritual so that every Catholic experienced and heard the same at any given (Church) time.

This is in reaction to that, notably because it allowed for different different styles in worship to be dictated by the (national) church. Anglicanism, of course, is a form of western Orthodoxy, in that each Church was supposed to be national. We have previously discussed what made a congregation/denomination a Church according to historical theology.

This Article requires that require unity without uniformity in an adherence to rites and ceremonies as dictated by the common authority. It allows that rites may change, but until they do, one must follow them. If one breaks them, then it is time to rebuke the offenders. I imagine “rebuke” is something more than the current notion of “Just Resolution.” Further, while there is an allowance for difference (non-uniformity) unity must be achieved. In previous Doctrines and Discipline books (MEC), the Apostles’ Creed provided this unity while other portions allowed for non-uniformity. It was the common practice to allow culture identities to seep through expressing Gospel, rather than the Gospel as an expression of the culture. Bray assigns to the abuse of this practice the reason (in part) as to why the Anglican Communion is weak.

[bctt tweet=”The Gospel is not an expression of the Culture” username=”ejoelwatts”]

I note this failure to hold to unity in the midst of freedom from uniformity is causing us to have a weakened Church. Indeed, as The United Methodist Church schisms, we can look at the divergent practices and the continued breaking of our rites and ceremonies as a causation factor. Please note that this is exemplified in the so-called ordination of Sue Laurie by a “grassroots” group along with at least four Annual Conferences openly violated the Book of Discipline in regards to ordination. Further, this extends to those who re-baptize, those who perform marriages not allowed (and yes, some heterosexual marriages are to be rejected as well), and those who reject infant baptism. Those, of course, being those ordained to perform such.

Article 22 does not restrict the right of rebuke to the episkope and so I must consider the right as applied to all, without preference to the standing in the Church.

*and yes, I meant “rites”

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).


7 Responses to “#UMC Articles of Religion: 22 and rites to our voice”
  1. “which are not repugnant to the Word of God”.

  2. Joel- What do you mean when you say that “some heterosexual marriages are to be rejected as well?” I may be missing your point there.

  3. I’ve commented at length on Article XXII here:

    The 2017-2020 ordinal strengthens (or actually, restores the original intent) of the language of “accepting its… liturgy” to “accepting and upholding.”

    It remains to be seen whether that leads to any changes of behavior.

  4. VEWGibbins says

    The UMC is in the process of breaking the covenant I entered with it when I joined. I feel released to join another denomination that reflects more closely my convictions that had once aligned me with the UMC.

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