Scripture references: I Corinthians 9:5, I Timothy 3:1-16, Titus 1:5-9.
The Article reads: "The ministers of Christ are not commanded by Gods 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 dates to 1563 and was rewritten from the 1553 Article by Archbishop Parker. The Article contains two main statements, each of which requires separate or individual treatment.
1. There is no prohibition of the marriage of the clergy in Scripture.
2. Ii is lawful for the clergy to marry if they think it advisable.
We will study them in the order stated above.
A. There is No Prohibition of the Marriage of the Clergy in Scripture
Ministers of the Gospel are not commanded by Gods law either to vow the estate of single life, or to abstain from marriage. On the contrary, the injunctions of Paul in I Timothy and Titus distinctly contemplate that the men ordained to the offices of Bishops and Deacons should be married men. There is no hint that they should abstain from marriage, but to the contrary, be married.
The Reformers, also, recalled that Simon Peter, hailed by the Roman Catholic Church as the first pope was a married man (I Corinthians 9:5; also Luke 4:38-39; Matthew 8:14). There is no doubt that Paul, himself, had been married. It is true that at the time of the writing of the Corinthian letters he did not have a wife. Whether she died early in life or left Paul when he made the stand for Christ, we do not know. But in Pauls testimony before Agrippa in Acts 26:10, he states, that before his conversion, when Christians were brought to trial, he "gave his vote" against them. This very statement implies that he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest council of the Jewish nation. No single man could be elected to and serve in the council of seventy or the Sanhedrin.
I think that proof here given is conclusive in proving that there is absolutely nothing that would substantiate celibacy or prohibit the marriage of the clergy.
B. It is Lawful to Marry if They Think it Advisable
There is abundant evidence that in the early days of the Churchs history the leaders or clergy did marry. As stated above Peter was married. Barnabas was Married. Paul had been married or he could not have held a position of authority in the High Council of Israel. Church history reveals that marriage among the clergy was common until about the end of the third century.
In the western church or Roman Church the practice of celibacy became a controversial question during the fourth century. At the Council of Elvira, Spain. AD 306, the clergy were positively forbidden to live in wedlock with their wives. The Church as a whole accepted celibacy at the Council of Nicea in AD 325 and then the pressing of its enforcement was rescinded upon the entreaty of Bishop Paphnutius, himself an unmarried man. While sanctioned by Rome, the eastern branch or the Greek Orthodox Church never accepted the rule of celibacy and its priests marry today.
Later Western Councils held in Carthage in 387 and 390 commanded bishops, priests and deacons to separate from their wives if married.
The Council of Trullo in AD 692 of the Eastern Church took the opposite position. This very matter of the marriage of the clergy was one of the deciding factors in the great schism in the church, dividing it into the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox or Greek Catholic churches in the year AD 1000.
This very doctrine of celibacy was the cause of much immorality in the Roman Church. It was this that caused the revolt of such men as Savonarola, Peter Waldo and Martin Luther.
One of the first acts of the Reformers was to permit the marriage of the clergy. They believed that such a move was vitally important to the maintaining of a high moral standard within the Christian fellowship.
Recently, realizing this same danger within her ranks today, the Roman Catholic Church has taken certain steps to allow some of her priests, especially those in the teaching profession, to marry.
One of the first steps taken by the Church of England after its secession from Rome was to permit the marriage of its clergy. The first Archbishop, Cranmer, was married.
In 1539, the Convocation, in answer to questions submitted by Cromwell, asserted that "priests after the order of the priesthood received, as afore, may not marry by the law of God." But in the "Kings Book" of 1543 it was stated that the estate of matrimony, "is not commanded as necessary to any particular man, but left at liberty to all men, saving priests, and to others, which of their free liberty, by vows advisedly made, have chosen the state of continency, who according to their free choice, must freely and willingly continue in the same."
When Edward VI came to the throne in 1547, by a large majority, the Convocation agreed to the following, "That all such canons, laws, statutes, decrees, usages and customs, heretofore made, had or used, that forbid any person to contract matrimony, or condemn matrimony already
contracted by any person, for any vow or promise of priesthood, chastity, or widowhood, shall from henceforth cease, be utterly void, and of none effect."
In 1549, an act of Parliament forever settled the matter. This act declared that all of the clergy, regardless of the office held, were free to marry if they so willed. Now neither Scripture. Canon Law or Civil Law forbade it.
The refusal of the privilege of marriage to the Roman Catholic priesthood has been the cause for much immorality and inconsistency in the ranks of her clergy. We believe that the right to marry has greatly strengthened the moral status of the Protestant clergy and the Protestant Church.
The Roman Church gives marriage the status of a sacrament. Yet her own clergy are deprived of its rights and blessings. As another has written, we too would ask "Could that which the Roman Catholic Church upholds as holy be regarded as unworthy of her priesthood?"
Evangelical Methodist ministers, as ministers of Christ, "are not commanded by Gods law either to vow the estate of single life, or to abstain from marriage: therefore it is lawful for them as all other Christians to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve best to godliness."