In the 39 articles of faith, article 35 says the following:

XXXV. Of the Homilies. The Second Book of Homilies, the several titles whereof we have joined under this Article, doth contain a godly and wholesome Doctrine, and necessary for these times, as doth the former Book of Homilies, which were set forth in the time of Edward the Sixth; and therefore we judge them to be read in Churches by the Ministers, diligently and distinctly, that they may he understanded of the people. (http://anglicansonline.org/basics/thirty-nine_articles.html)

Do Anglican churches still read the Homilies aloud as per the 39 articles? If not, how do they justify not following the 39 articles?

Related: What is The Second book of Homilies mentioned in the Anglican 39 articles of faith?

  • They never have in any Anglican church I've been to. They are written in archaic language, and would not be helpful for most people. May 10, 2013 at 13:24

1 Answer 1


tl;dr> No.

Quick insight to the lack of use of the Book of Homilies can be seen in the fact that the book itself has technically been out of print in England since 2003.

The Book of Homilies is primarily an artifact from a condition that is not nearly as prevalent today. At the time of the 39 articles (in the mid 1500s), two conditions conspired to make preachers scarce:

  1. In order to preach in any church, you needed to be licensed. (Baptists, in particular, hated this!).
  2. In order to be licensed, you needed an education.

While in modern America, neither of these is a requirement, in the England of the time of the 39 articles, these were rather significant hurdles. Imagine not only the paucity of students devoting themselves to an education, but also the massive number of churches required when you couldn't just drive to the local megachurch, and one can quickly see why a lack of professional preachers was a problem.

To address this problem, the Anglican church printed books of homilies - pre-approved, biblical, sermon-like speeches that could be delivered by laymen acting in a priests' stead. Much like how blessed elements could be distributed by Lay Eucharistic Ministers - a position that still exists today in many Episcopal churches, the Book of Homilies enabled instruction to be conveyed by those with less training.

Nowadays, with the Episcopal Church in decline in much of North America, the situation is exactly the opposite - there are too many qualified ministers. As such, there is almost no need for these. In my more than 5 years as a lay preacher in the Episcopal Church, I have never run across a church that still used them.

  • I read in the back of the BCP 1928 where it lists the 39 articles, in brackets under article XXXV it says that they were discontinued until such a time as the English could be updated and "local references" could be removed. I guess they never got around to that! May 12, 2014 at 2:31

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