Anglicanism


What Anglicans Believe

“Anglicans uphold the Catholic and Apostolic faith. Following the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Churches are committed to the proclamation of the good news of the Gospel to the whole creation. In practice this is based on the revelation contained in Holy Scripture and the Catholic creeds, and is interpreted in light of Christian tradition, scholarship, reason and experience.

By baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a person is made one with Christ and received into the fellowship of the Church. This sacrament of initiation is open to children as well as to adults.

Central to worship for Anglicans is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, also called the Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper or the Mass. In this offering of prayer and praise, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are recalled through the proclamation of the word and the celebration of the sacrament. Other important rites, commonly called sacraments, include confirmation, holy orders, reconciliation, marriage and anointing of the sick.

Worship is at the very heart of Anglicanism. Its styles vary from simple to elaborate, or even a combination. Until the late twentieth century the great uniting text was The Book of Common Prayer, in its various revisions throughout the Communion, and the modern language liturgies, such as Common Worship, which now exist alongside it still bear a family likeness. Both The Book of Common Prayer, and more recent Anglican liturgies give expression to the comprehensiveness found within the Church whose principles reflect that of the via media in relation to its own and other Christian Churches.

Another distinguishing feature of the corporate nature of Anglicanism is that it is an interdependent Church, where parishes, dioceses and provinces help each other to achieve by mutual support in terms of financial assistance and the sharing of other resources.

To be an Anglican is to be on a journey of faith to God supported by a fellowship of co-believers who are dedicated to finding Him by prayer and service.”

(From the Church of England Website – Being an Anglican)

 

A Short History of the Church of England and Anglicanism

Christianity first spread to the British Isles in the earliest days of the Roman empire in Britain.  Although it survived in some areas even after the Romans left, the defining moment in the Christianisation of Britain was the arrival in 597AD of Augustine of Canterbury, a Benedictine missionary sent by Pope Gregory the Great to the Kentish king Aethelberht.  Augustine became the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

For nearly 1,000 years, the Church in England was part of the Roman Catholic Church.  The earliest use of the Latin words from which we get the term “Anglican” simply referred to the Church of the “Angles”, the English.  However, the separation of Britain from continental Europe allowed the Church in England to develop a particular flavour, sometimes in tension with the Church in other countries.

In 1534 the Church in England was declared separated from the authority of the Pope in Rome by King Henry VIII, for primarily personal and political reasons.  In Europe, the Protestant Reformation was already underway, and the ideas of the Reformers spread to England.  In England, Christians were divided over the character of the newly separated Church of England – those who advocated the sweeping changes of the Radical Reformers, those who remained faithful to Rome, and everything in between.  By the time England had seen the reign of Catholic and Protestant monarchs, and undergone a Civil War, the Church in England had taken shape as a Church which maintained aspects of its pre-Reformation tradition (an Episcopal structure, an ordained ministry of Bishops, Priests and Deacons, a formal liturgy for prayer and celebrations of Holy Communion) while accommodating key ideas of the Reformation (autonomy from the jurisdiction of Rome, the doctrine of justification by faith, the abolition of certain rituals and scholastic doctrines).

This synthesis of Catholic and Reformed principles continues to serve the Church of England today and is the basis of “Anglicanism”.  Other churches have been planted in this tradition, and others have joined.  All those churches are in communion with the See of Canterbury belong to the worldwide “Anglican Communion”.

The special gift of the Anglican tradition is its commitment to unity in the essentials of faith, and the tolerance of diversity on non-essential issues.  Theological, ethical and political issues continue to test this commitment, but the Church of England and the Anglican Communion strive to be a place where diverse and sometimes conflicting views are accommodated and even welcomed for the sake of providing a home to all who seek to follow Christ.

Anglicans around the World 

“Anglicans trace their Christian roots back to the early Church, and their specifically Anglican identity to the post-Reformation expansion of the Church of England and other Episcopal or Anglican Churches. Historically, there were two main stages in the development and spread of the Communion. Beginning with the seventeenth century, Anglicanism was established alongside colonisation in the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. The second stage began in the eighteenth century when missionaries worked to establish Anglican churches in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

As a worldwide family of churches, the Anglican Communion has more than 70 million adherents in 38 Provinces spreading across 161 countries. Located on every continent, Anglicans speak many languages and come from different races and cultures. Although the churches are autonomous, they are also uniquely unified through their history, their theology, their worship and their relationship to the ancient See of Canterbury.”

(From the Church of England Website – Being an Anglican)

Doctrine, Ethics and Politics

The nature of Anglican churches is not often to make authoritative statements on questions of doctrine, ethics and politics.  A selection of opinions published following discussions within the Church of England may be found on the Church of England website.