In keeping with its prevailing self-identity as a ''via media'' or "middle path" of Western Christianity, Anglican sacramental theology expresses elements in keeping with its status as a church in the Catholic tradition and a church of the Reformation. With respect to sacramental theology the Catholic tradition is perhaps most strongly asserted in the importance Anglicanism places on the sacraments as a means of grace, sanctification and forgiveness as expressed in the church's liturgy.
When the Thirty-Nine Articles were accepted by Anglicans generally as a norm for Anglican teaching, they recognised two sacraments only – Baptism and the Eucharist – as having been ordained by Christ ("sacraments of the Gospel" ) as Article XXV of the Thirty-Nine Articles describes them) and as necessary for salvation. The status of the Articles today varies from Province to Province: Canon A5 of the Church of England defines them as a source for Anglican doctrine. Peter Toon names ten Provinces as having retained them. He goes on to suggest that they have become "one strategic lens of a multi-lens telescope through which to view tradition and approach Scripture".
Five other acts are regarded variously as full sacraments by Anglo-Catholics or as "sacramental rites" by Evangelicals with varied opinions among broad church and liberal Anglicans. Article XXV states that these five "are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God."〔)
According to the Thirty-Nine Articles, the seven are divided as follows:
A wider range of opinions about the 'effectiveness' of the sacraments is found among Anglicans than in the Roman Catholic Church: some hold to a more Catholic view maintaining that the sacraments function "as a result of the act performed" (''ex opere operato''); others emphasise strongly the need for worthy reception and faith".
==Characteristics of sacraments==
As defined by the 16th century Anglican divine, Richard Hooker, the sacraments are "visible signs of invisible grace." However, their "efficacy resteth obscure to our understanding, except we search somewhat more distinctly what grace in particular that is whereunto they are referred and what manner of operation they have towards it".〔.〕 They thus serve to convey sanctification on the individual participating in the sacramental action, but Hooker expressly warns that that "all receive not the grace of God which receive the sacraments of his grace".〔.〕
To be considered a valid sacrament both the appropriate ''form'' and ''matter'' must be present and duly used. ''Form'' is the specific verbal and physical liturgical action associated with the sacrament while the ''matter'' refers to the essential material objects used (e.g. water in Baptism; bread and wine in the Eucharist, etc.). This in itself is not sufficient to ensure the 'validity' there must also be the right ''intention'' on the part of the minister and, when the sacrament is ministered to an adult, the minimal requirement is that the recipient must not place an obstacle in the way of the grace to be received.〔
The question as to who is to be considered the minister of a 'valid' sacrament has led to serious divergences of opinion within Anglicanism. It is clear that in emergency any layperson may administer baptism. Whether a deacon can celebrate marriage varies from Province to Province. The theory that to be validly ordained, Anglican clergy must be ordained and/or consecrated by bishops whose own consecration can be traced to one of the Apostles (see Apostolic succession) has always been a minority position. Bradshaw sums up the position as follows:
:''...Hooker and the great weight of representative Anglican theology did not unchurch continental non-episcopal churches. Anglican ecclesiology does not, classically, hold the view that the church and sacramental grace depend upon the episcopal succession from the apostles.''
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