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Anglicanism is rooted in the beliefs and practices of Christian churches which either have historical connections with the Church of England or maintain a liturgy compatible with it. The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a mediæval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 meaning the English Church. Adherents of Anglicanism are termed Anglicans. The great majority of Anglicans are members of churches belonging to the Anglican Communion. However, there are a great variety of non-affiliated Anglican churches, most notably the Continuing Anglican Churches.

The faith of Anglicans is founded in the Scriptures and the Gospels, the traditions of the Apostolic Church, the apostolic succession—"historic episcopate," and the early Church Fathers. Anglicanism forms one of the branches of Western Christianity; having definitively declared its independence from the Roman pontiff at the time of the Elizabethan Religious Settlement. By the mid 17th century the Church of England (and associated episcopal churches in Ireland and in England's American colonies) came to be seen as comprising a distinct Christian tradition with theologies, structures and forms of worship representing a middle ground, or via media, between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Following the American Revolution, Anglican congregations in the United States and Canada were each reconstituted into an independent church with their own bishops and self-governing structures; which, through the expansion of the British Empire and the activity of Christian Missions, was adopted as the model for many newly formed churches, especially in Africa, Australasia and the regions of the Pacific. In the 19th century the term Anglicanism was coined to describe the common religious tradition of these churches; as also that of the Scottish Episcopal Church, which, though originating earlier within the Church of Scotland, had come to be recognised as sharing this common identity.

The degree of distinction between Reformed and western Catholic tendencies within the Anglican tradition is routinely a matter of debate both within specific Anglican churches and throughout the Anglican Communion. Unique to Anglicanism is the Book of Common Prayer, the collection of services that worshippers in most Anglican churches used for centuries. While it has since undergone many revisions and Anglican churches in different countries have developed other service books, the Prayer Book is still acknowledged as one of the ties that bind the Anglican Communion together. There is no single Anglican Church with universal juridical authority, since each national or regional church has full autonomy. As the name suggests, the Anglican Communion is an association of those churches in full communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. With over seventy-seven million members the Anglican Communion is the third largest Christian communion in the world, after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.


The word Anglicanism is a neologism from the 19th century; being constructed from the much older word Anglican. The word refers to the teachings and rites of Christians throughout the world in communion with the see of Canterbury. It has come to be used to refer to the claim of those Churches to a unique religious and theological tradition apart from all other Christian churches, be they Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or Protestant; and is entirely distinct from the allegiance of some of these churches to the British Crown.

The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a Medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 meaning "the English Church". As an adjective, Anglican is used to describe the people, institutions, and churches as well as the liturgical traditions and theological concepts developed by the Church of England.. As a noun, an Anglican is a member of a Church in the Anglican Communion. The word is also used by followers of dissenting groups which have left the communion or have been founded separately from it, though the Anglican Communion considers this to be misuse.

Although the term Anglican is found referring to the Church of England as far back as the 16th Century, its use did not become general until the latter half of the 19th Century. In British parliamentary legislation referring to the English Established Church, it is described as the Protestant Episcopal Church, thereby distinguishing it from the counterpart established Protestant Presbyterian Church in Scotland. High Churchmen, who objected to the term Protestant, initially promoted the form Reformed Episcopal Church; and it remains the case that word Episcopal is preferred in the title of The Episcopal Church (the province of the Anglican Communion covering the United States) and the Scottish Episcopal Church. Outside of the British Isles, however, the word Anglican Church came to be preferred; as it distinguished these churches from others that claimed an episcopal polity; although the Church of Ireland and the Church in Wales continue to use the term only with reservations.

Anglicanism defined

Anglicanism, in its structures, theology, and forms of worship, is commonly understood as a distinct Christian tradition representing a middle ground between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism and, as such, is often referred to as being a via media (or middle way) between these traditions. The faith of Anglicans is founded in the Scriptures and the Gospels, the traditions of the apostolic Church, the historic episcopate, the first four Ecumenical Councils, and the early Church Fathers. Anglicans understand the Old and New Testaments as 'containing all things necessary for salvation' and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith. Anglicans understand the Apostles' Creed as the baptismal symbol, and the Nicene Creed as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.

Jesus Christ depicted in a stained glass window in Rochester Cathedral, Kent.

Anglicans uphold the catholic and apostolic faith and follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. In practice, Anglicans believe this is revealed in Holy Scripture and the catholic creeds, and interpret these in light of the Christian tradition of the historic Church, scholarship, reason, and experience.

Anglicans celebrate the traditional sacraments, with special emphasis being given to the Holy Eucharist, also called Holy Communion, the Lord's Supper or the Mass. The Eucharist is central to worship for most Anglicans as a communal offering of prayer and praise in which the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are proclaimed through prayer, reading of the Bible, singing, and the reception of bread and wine as instituted at the Last Supper. Whilst many Anglicans celebrate the Eucharist in similar ways to the predominant western Catholic tradition, a considerable degree of liturgical freedom is permitted, and worship styles range from the simple to elaborate.

Unique to Anglicanism is the Book of Common Prayer, the collection of services that worshippers in most Anglican churches used for centuries. It was called common prayer because all Anglicans used to share in its use around the world. In 1549, the first Book of Common Prayer (BCP) was compiled by Thomas Cranmer, who was then Archbishop of Canterbury. Whilst it has since undergone many revisions and Anglican churches in different countries have developed other service books, the Prayer Book is still acknowledged as one of the ties that bind the Anglican Communion together.

Anglican Identity


By the Elizabethan Settlement, the Churches of England and Ireland had been established through legislation in Parliament; and assumed allegiance and loyalty to the British Crown in all their members. However, from the first, the Elizabethan Church began to develop distinct religious traditions; assimilating some of the theology of Reformed churches with the services in the Book of Common Prayer, under the leadership and organisation of a continuing episcopate ; and over the years these traditions themselves came to command adherence and loyalty. Potentially this would create a crisis of identity, were secular and religious loyalties to conflict - and such a crisis indeed occurred in 1776 with the American Declaration of Independence, most of whose signatories were, at least nominally, Anglican . For these American Patriots, even the forms of Anglican services were in doubt, since the Prayer Book rites of Matins, Evensong and Holy Communion, all included specific prayers for the British Royal Family. Consequently, the conclusion of the War of Independence resulted in the creation of two new Anglican churches, The Episcopal Church in the United States of America in those States that had achieved independence; and The Church of England in Canada in those North American colonies remaining under British control and to which many Loyalist churchmen had migrated. Reluctantly, legislation was passed in the British Parliament (the Consecration of Bishops Abroad Act 1786) to allow bishops to be consecrated for an American church outside of allegiance to the British Crown (whereas no bishoprics had ever been established in the former American colonies) . Both in the United States, and in Canada, the new Anglican churches developed novel models of self-government, collective decision-making, and self-supported financing; that would be consistent with separation of religious and secular identities .

In the following century, two further factors acted to accelerate the development of a distinct Anglican identity. From 1828 and 1829, Dissenters and Roman Catholics could be elected to the House of Commons , which consequently ceased to be a purely Anglican body; but which nevertheless, over the following ten years , engaged in extensive reforming legislation affecting the interests of the established churches of both England and Ireland. The propriety of this legislation was bitterly contested by the Tractarians , who in response developed a vision of "Anglicanism" as religious tradition deriving ultimately from the Ecumenical Councils of the patristic church. Those within the Church of England opposed to the Tractarians, and to their revived ritual practices, introduced a stream of Parliamentary Bills aimed to control innovations in worship ; but this only made the dilemma more acute, with consequent continual litigation in the secular and ecclesiastical courts.

Over the same period Anglican churches engaged vigorously in Christian Missions, resulting in the creation, by the end of the century, of over ninety colonial bishoprics ; which gradually coalesced into new self-governing churches on the Canadian and American models. However the case of John William Colenso Bishop of Natal, reinstated in 1865 by the English Judicial Committee of the Privy Council over the heads of the Church in South Africa , demonstrated acutely that the extension of episcopacy had to be accompanied by a recognised Anglican ecclesiology of ecclesiastical authority, distinct from secular power.

Consequently, at the instigation of the Bishops of Canada and South Africa, the first Lambeth Conference was called in 1867 ; to be followed by further conferences in 1878 and 1888, and thereafter at ten year intervals. The various papers and declarations of successive Lambeth Conferences, have served to frame the continued Anglican debate on identity, especially as relating to the possibility of ecumenical discussion with other churches. This ecumenical aspiration became much more of a possibility, as other denominational groups rapidly followed the example of the Anglican Communion in founding their own transnational alliances: the Alliance of Reformed Churches, the Ecumenical Methodist Council, the International Congregational Council, and the Baptist World Alliance.

Theories of Anglican Identity

In their rejection of absolute parliamentary authority, the Tractarians - and in particular John Henry Newman - looked back to the writings of 17th Century Anglican divines, finding in these texts the idea of the English church as a via media between the Protestant and Roman Catholic traditions. This view was associated - especially in the writings of Edward Bouverie Pusey - with the theory of Anglicanism as one of three " branches" (alongside the Catholic and Orthodox churches) historically arising out of the common tradition of the earliest Ecumenical Councils. Newman himself subsequently rejected the theory of the via media, as essentially historicist and static; and hence unable to accommodate any dynamic development within the church. Nevertheless, the aspiration to ground Anglican identity in the writings of the 17th Century divines, and in faithfulness to the traditions of the Church Fathers reflects a continuing theme of Anglican ecclesiology, most recently in the writings of Henry Robert McAdoo..

The Tractarian formulation of the theory of the via media was essentially a party platform, and not acceptable to Anglicans outside the confines of the Oxford Movement. However, the theory of the via media was reworked in the ecclesiological writings of Frederick Denison Maurice, in a more dynamic form that became widely influential. Both Maurice and Newman saw the Church of England of their day as sorely deficient in faith; but whereas Newman had looked back to a distant past when the light of faith might have appeared to burn brighter, Maurice looked forwards to the possibility of a brighter revelation of faith in the future. Maurice saw the Protestant and Catholic strands within the Church of England as contrary but complimentary, both maintaining elements of the true church, but incomplete without the other; such that a true catholic and evangelical church might come into being by a union of opposites. Central to Maurice's perspective, is his belief that the collective elements of family, nation and church represent a divine order of structures through which God unfolds his continuing work of creation. Hence, for Maurice, the Protestant tradition maintains the elements of national distinction which are amongst the marks of the true emerging universal church, but which have been lost within Roman Catholicism in the parasitic internationalism of centralised Papal Authority. In the coming universal church, each national church would maintain the six signs of Catholicity: baptism, eucharist, the creeds, Scripture, an episcopally ordered ministry, and a fixed liturgy; of which the latter would take a variety of forms in accordance with divinely ordained distinctions in national characteristics. Not surprisingly, this vision of a becoming universal church as a congregation of autonomous national churches, proved highly congenial in Anglican circles; and Maurice's six signs were adapted to form the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1888.

In the latter decades of the 20th Century, Maurice's theory, and the various strands of Anglican thought that derived from it, have been criticised by Stephen Sykes; who argues that the terms Protestant and Catholic as used in these approaches are synthetic constructs denoting ecclesiastic identities unacceptable to those to whom the labels are applied. Hence, the Roman Catholic Church does not regard itself as a party or strand within the universal church - but rather identifies itself as the universal church. Moreover, Sykes criticises the denial, implicit in theories of via media, that there is no distinctive body of Anglican doctrine, other than those of the universal church; accusing this of being an excuse not to undertake systematic doctrine at all. Contrariwise, Sykes notes a high degree of commonality in Anglican liturgical forms, and in the doctrinal understandings expressed within those liturgies. He proposes that Anglican identity might rather be found within a shared consistent pattern of prescriptive liturgies, established and maintained through canon law, and embodying both a historic deposit of formal statements of doctrine, and also framing the regular reading and proclamation of scripture. Sykes nevertheless agrees with those heirs of Maurice who emphasise the incompleteness of Anglicanism as a positive feature, and quotes with qualified approval the words of Michael Ramsay:

For while the Anglican church is vindicated by its place in history, with a strikingly balanced witness to Gospel and Church and sound learning, its greater vindication lies in its pointing through its own history to something of which it is a fragment. Its credentials are its incompleteness, with the tension and the travail of its soul. It is clumsy and untidy, it baffles neatness and logic. For it is not sent to commend itself as ‘the best type of Christianity,’ but by its very brokenness to point to the universal Church wherein all have died..


Catholic and Reformed

In the time of Henry VIII the nature of Anglicanism was based on questions of jurisdiction—specifically, the belief of the Crown that national churches should be autonomous—rather than theological disagreement. The effort to create a national church in legal continuity with its traditions, but inclusive of certain doctrinal and liturgical beliefs of the Reformers, was joined by a real concern to make the institution as hospitable as possible to people of different theological inclinations, so as to maintain social peace and cohesion. The result has been a movement with a distinctive self-image among Christian movements. The question often arises as to whether the Anglican Communion should be identified as a Protestant or Catholic church, or perhaps as a distinct branch of Christianity altogether. The official position of the Anglican Communion is that, like the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions, it is a full and distinct branch of the " One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church," created by Christ.

The distinction between Reformed and Catholic, and the coherence of the two, is routinely a matter of debate both within specific Anglican Churches and throughout the Anglican Communion by members themselves. Since the Oxford Movement of the mid-19th century, many Churches of the Communion have revived and extended liturgical and pastoral practices similar to Roman Catholic theology. This extends beyond the ceremony of High Church services to even more theologically significant territory, such as sacramental theology (see Anglican sacraments). While Anglo-Catholic practices, particularly liturgical ones, have resurfaced and become more common within the tradition over the last century, there remain many places where practices and beliefs remain on the more Reformed or Evangelical side (see Sydney Anglicanism).

Guiding principles

Richard Hooker (1554–1600), one of the most influential figures in shaping Anglican theology and self-identity

For 'High Church' Anglicans, doctrine is neither established by a magisterium, nor derived from the theology of an eponymous founder (such as Lutheranism or Calvinism), nor summed up in a confession of faith (beyond those of the creeds). For them, the earliest Anglican theological documents are its prayer books, which they see as the products of profound theological reflection, compromise, and synthesis. They emphasise the Book of Common Prayer as a key expression of Anglican doctrine. The principle of looking to the prayer books as a guide to the parameters of belief and practice is called by the Latin name lex orandi, lex credendi ("the law of prayer is the law of belief"). Within the prayer books are the so-called fundamentals of Anglican doctrine: The Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, the Athanasian Creed (extremely rarely recited, nowadays), the scriptures (via the lectionary), the sacraments, daily prayer, the catechism, and apostolic succession in the context of the historic threefold ministry.

Evangelical Anglicans point more to the more Reformed Thirty Nine Articles, with their insistence on justification by faith alone and predestination, and their hostility to the Roman Catholic church (see Anti-Catholicism). Following the passing of the 1604 Canons, all Anglican clergy had formally to subscribe to the Articles. Nowadays, however, they are no longer binding, but are seen as an historical document that has played a significant role in the shaping of Anglican identity. The degree to which each of the Articles has remained influential varies. Arguably, the most influential of them has been Article VI on the sufficiency of Scripture, which states that Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. This article has informed Anglican biblical exegesis and hermeneutics since earliest times.

Anglicans look for authority in their so-called "standard divines" (see below). Historically, the most influential of these - apart from Cranmer - has been the sixteenth century cleric and theologian Richard Hooker who after 1660 was increasingly portrayed as the founding father of Anglicanism. Hooker's description of Anglican authority as being derived primarily from Scripture, informed by reason (the intellect and the experience of God) and tradition (the practices and beliefs of the historical church), has influenced Anglican self-identity and doctrinal reflection perhaps more powerfully than any other formula. The analogy of the "three-legged stool" of scripture, reason, and tradition is often incorrectly attributed to Hooker. Rather Hooker's description is a hierarchy of authority, with scripture as foundational, and reason, and tradition as vitally important, but secondary, authorities.

Finally, the extension of Anglicanism into non-English cultures, the growing diversity of prayer books, and the increasing interest in ecumenical dialogue, has led to further reflection on the parameters of the Anglican identity. Many Anglicans look to the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1888 as the "sine qua non" of Communal identity. In brief, the Quadrilateral's four points are the Holy Scriptures, as containing all things necessary to salvation; the Creeds (specifically, the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds), as the sufficient statement of Christian faith; the dominical sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion; and the historic episcopate.

Anglican divines

William Laud

Within the Anglican tradition, there have been certain theological writers whose works have been considered standards for faith, doctrine, worship, and spirituality. While there is no authoritative list of these Anglican divines, there are some whose names would likely be found on most lists - those who are commemorated in lesser feasts of the Church, and those whose works are frequently anthologised.

The corpus produced by Anglican divines is diverse. What they have in common is a commitment to the faith as conveyed by Scripture and the Book of Common Prayer, thus regarding prayer and theology in a manner akin to that of the Apostolic Fathers. On the whole, Anglican divines view the via media of Anglicanism, not as a compromise, but "a positive position, witnessing to the universality of God and God's kingdom working through the fallible, earthly ecclesia Anglicana." These theologians regard Scripture as interpreted through tradition and reason as authoritative in matters concerning salvation. Reason and tradition, indeed, is extant in and presupposed by Scripture, thus implying co-operation between God and humanity, God and nature, and between the sacred and secular. Faith is thus regarded as incarnational, and authority as dispersed.

Among the early Anglican divines of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the names of Thomas Cranmer, John Jewel, Richard Hooker, Lancelot Andrewes, and Jeremy Taylor predominate. The influential character of Hooker's Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity cannot be overestimated. Published in 1593 and subsequently, Hooker's eight volume work is primarily a treatise on Church-state relations, but it deals comprehensively with issues of biblical interpretation, soteriology, ethics, and sanctification. Throughout the work, Hooker makes clear that theology involves prayer and is concerned with ultimate issues, and that theology is relevant to the social mission of the church.

Inside Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford

The eighteenth century saw the rise of two important movements in Anglicanism: Cambridge Platonism, with its mystical understanding of reason as the "candle of the Lord," and the Evangelical Revival, with its emphasis on the personal experience of the Holy Spirit. The Cambridge Platonist movement evolved into a school called Latitudinarianism, which emphasised reason as the barometer of discernment and took a stance of indifference towards doctrinal and ecclesiological differences. The Evangelical Revival, influenced by such figures as John Wesley and Charles Simeon, re-emphasised the importance of justification through faith and the consequent importance of personal conversion. Some in this movement, such as Wesley and George Whitefield, took the message to the United States, influencing the First Great Awakening, and created an Anglo-American movement called Methodism that would eventually break away, structurally, from the Anglican churches after the American Revolution.

By the nineteenth century, there was a renewed emphasis on the teachings of the earlier Anglican divines: Theologians such as John Keble, Edward Bouverie Pusey, and John Henry Newman had widespread influence in the realm of polemics, homiletics, and theological and devotional works, not least because they largely repudiated the Old High Church tradition and replaced it with a dynamic appeal to antiquity which looked beyond the Reformers and Anglican formularies. Their work is largely credited with the development of the Oxford Movement, which sought to reassert Catholic identity and practice in the Anglican Church. Through such works as The Kingdom of Christ, Frederick Denison Maurice played a pivotal role in inaugurating another movement, Christian socialism. In this, Maurice transformed Hooker's emphasis on the incarnational nature of Anglican spirituality to an imperative for social justice. In the nineteenth century, Anglican biblical scholarship began to assume a distinct character, represented by the so-called "Cambridge triumvirate" of Joseph Lightfoot, F. J. A. Hort, and Brooke Foss Westcott. Their orientation is best summed up by Lightfoot's observation that "Life which Christ is and which Christ communicates, the life which fills our whole beings as we realise its capacities, is active fellowship with God."

The twentieth century is marked by figures such as Charles Gore, with his emphasis on natural revelation, William Temple's focus on Christianity and society, J.A.T. Robinson's provocative discussions of deism and theism, Darwell Stone's and E. L. Mascall's thomism and defence of Catholic orthodoxy, and Kenneth Kirk's Moral Theology. Outside England, one sees such figures as William Porcher DuBose, William Meade, and Charles Henry Brent in the United States. More recently, theologians such as Henry Chadwick, John Macquarrie and Don Cupitt, who rejected all the doctrines of historic Christianity in favour of a "Christian Buddhism", Jeffrey John, N.T. Wright, and Rowan Williams have added to the mix.


An eastward-facing Solemn High Mass, a Catholic liturgical phenomenon which re-emerged in Anglicanism following the Catholic Revival of the nineteenth century.

"Churchmanship" can be defined as the manifestation of theology in the realms of liturgy, piety and, to some extent, spirituality. Anglican diversity in this respect has tended to reflect the diversity in the tradition's Reformed and Catholic identity. Different individuals, groups, parishes, dioceses and provinces may identify more with one or the other, or some mixture of the two.

The range of Anglican belief and practice became particularly divisive during the 19th century when some clergy were disciplined and even imprisoned on charges of ritual heresy while, at the same time, others were criticised for engaging in public worship services with ministers of Reformed churches. Resistance to the growing acceptance and restoration of traditional Catholic ceremonial by the mainstream of Anglicanism ultimately led to the formation of small breakaway churches such as the Free Church of England in England (1844) and the Reformed Episcopal Church in North America (1873).

Anglo-Catholic (and some Broad Church) Anglicans celebrate public liturgy in ways that understand worship to be something very special and of utmost importance. vestments are worn by the clergy, sung settings often used and incense may be used. Nowadays, in most Anglican churches, the Eucharist is celebrated in a manner similar to Roman Catholics and some Lutherans though, in many churches, more traditional, "pre-Vatican II", models of worship are common, (e.g., an "eastward orientation" at the altar). The Eucharist may be celebrated with a priest, deacon and subdeacon dressed in traditional vestments, with incense and sanctus bells and with prayers adapted from the missal or other sources by the celebrant. Such churches may also have forms of Eucharistic adoration such as Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. In terms of personal piety some Anglicans may recite the rosary and angelus, be involved in a devotional society dedicated to "Our Lady" (the Blessed Virgin Mary) and seek the intercession of the saints.

In recent years the prayer books of several provinces have, out of deference to a greater agreement with Eastern Conciliarism (and a perceived greater respect accorded Anglicanism by Eastern Orthodoxy than by Roman Catholicism), instituted a number of historically Eastern and Oriental Orthodox elements in their liturgies, including introduction of the Trisagion and deletion of the filioque clause from the Nicene Creed.

For their part, those Evangelical (and some Broad Church) Anglicans who emphasise the more Protestant aspects of the Church stress the Reformation theme of salvation by grace through faith. They emphasise the two dominical sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist, viewing the other five as "lesser rites". Some Evangelical Anglicans may even tend to take the inerrancy of Scripture literally, adopting the view of Article VI that it contains all things necessary to salvation in an explicit sense. Worship in churches influenced by these principles tends to be significantly less elaborate, with greater emphasis on the Liturgy of the Word (the reading of the scriptures, the sermon and the intercessory prayers). The Order for Holy Communion may be celebrated bi-weekly or monthly (in preference to the daily offices), by priests attired in choir habit, or more regular clothes, rather than Eucharistic vestments. Ceremony may be in keeping with their view of the provisions of the controversial Ornaments Rubric of the historic English prayer books — no candles, no incense, no bells and a minimum of manual action by the presiding celebrant (such as touching the elements at the Words of Institution).

In recent decades there has been a growth of charismatic worship among Anglicans. Both Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals have been affected by this movement such that it is not uncommon to find typically charismatic postures, music, and other themes evident during the services of otherwise Anglo-Catholic or Evangelical parishes.

The spectrum of Anglican beliefs and practice is too large to be fit into these labels. Many Anglicans locate themselves somewhere in the spectrum of the Broad Church tradition and consider themselves an amalgam of Evangelical and Catholic. Such Anglicans stress that Anglicanism is the " via media" (middle way) between the two major strains of Western Christianity and that Anglicanism is like a "bridge" between the two strains.

Sacramental doctrine and practice

As befits 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 being both a church in the Catholic tradition as well as a church of the Reformation. With respect to sacramental theology the Catholic heritage is perhaps most strongly asserted in the importance Anglicanism places on the sacraments as a means of grace, sanctification and salvation as expressed in the church's liturgy and doctrine.

Of the seven sacraments, Anglicans recognise baptism and the Eucharist as being directly instituted by Christ. The other five sacraments are regarded variously as full sacraments by Anglo-Catholics or as "sacramental rites" by Evangelicals.

The seven sacraments are Baptism, Confession and absolution, Holy Matrimony, Holy Eucharist (also called Holy Communion or Mass), Confirmation, Holy Orders (also called Ordination), and Anointing of the Sick (also called Unction.)

Whilst infant baptism is the norm in Anglicanism, services of thanksgiving and dedication of children are sometimes celebrated, especially when baptism is being deferred. Anglicans regard baptism as an unrepeatable sacrament. People baptized in other traditions will be confirmed without being baptized again unless there is doubt about the validity of their original baptism. Already confirmed Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians are simply received into the Anglican Church.

Eucharistic theology

Anglican Eucharistic theology is divergent in practice, reflecting the essential comprehensiveness of the tradition. Some very few Low Church Anglicans take a strictly memorialist (Zwinglian) view of the sacrament. In other words, they see Holy Communion as a memorial to Christ's suffering, and participation in the Eucharist as both a re-enactment of the Last Supper and a foreshadowing of the heavenly banquet -- the fulfillment of the Eucharistic promise. Most Low Church Anglicans believe in the Real Presence but deny that the presence of Christ is carnal or is necessarily localised in the bread and wine. Despite explicit criticism in the Thirty-Nine Articles, many High Church or Anglo-Catholic Anglicans hold, more or less, the Roman Catholic view of the Real Presence, as expressed in the doctrine of transubstantiation, seeing the Eucharist as a liturgical representation of Christ's atoning sacrifice with the elements actually transformed into Christ's Body and Blood.

Most Anglicans, however, implicitly or explicitly adopt the Eucharistic theology of consubstantiation, first articulated by the Lollards, or Sacramental Union, first articulated by Martin Luther. Luther's analogy of Christ's presence was that of the heat of a horseshoe thrust into a fire until it is glowing. In the same way, Christ is present in the bread and the wine.

The classical Anglican aphorism regarding Christ's presence in the sacrament is found in a poem by John Donne:

He was the Word that spake it;
He took the bread and brake it;
and what that Word did make it;
I do believe and take it.

An Anglican position on the Eucharistic sacrifice ("Sacrifice of the Mass") was expressed in the response Saepius Officio of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to Pope Leo XIII's Papal Encyclical Apostolicae curae. Anglican and Roman Catholic representatives declared that they had "substantial agreement on the doctrine of the Eucharist" in the Windsor Statement on Eucharistic Doctrine from the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Consultation and the Elucidation of the ARCIC Windsor Statement. Despite this agreement, other ecclesiological differences between the two churches prevent full intercommunion.

Practices: prayer and worship

see also Evensong and Prayer of Humble Access

In Anglicanism there is a distinction between liturgy, which is the formal public and communal worship of the Church, and personal prayer and devotion which may be public or private. Liturgy is regulated by the prayer books and consists of the Holy Eucharist (some call it Holy Communion or Mass), the other six Sacraments, and the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours.

Book of Common Prayer

The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) is the foundational prayer book of Anglicanism. The original was one of the instruments of the English Reformation and was later to be adapted and revised in other countries where Anglicanism became established. The BCP replaced the various 'uses' or rites in Latin that had been used in different parts of the country with a single compact volume in the language of the people so that "now from henceforth all the Realm shall have but one use".

With British colonial expansion from the seventeenth century onwards, the Anglican church was planted across the globe. These churches at first used and then revised the use of the Prayer Book, until they, like their parent, produced prayer books which took into account the developments in liturgical study and practice in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which come under the general heading of the Liturgical Movement.

Anglican worship: an overview

Anglican worship services are open to all visitors. Anglican worship originates principally in the reforms of Thomas Cranmer, who aimed to create a set order of service like that of the pre-Reformation church but less complex in its seasonal variety and said in English rather than Latin. This use of a set order of service is not unlike the Roman Catholic tradition. Traditionally the pattern was that laid out in the Book of Common Prayer. Although many Anglican churches now use a wide range of modern service books written in the local language, the structures of the Book of Common Prayer are largely retained. Churches which call themselves Anglican will have identified themselves so because they use some form or variant of the Book of Common Prayer in the shaping of their worship.

Anglican worship, however, is as diverse as Anglican theology. A contemporary " low church" or Evangelical service may differ little from the worship of many mainstream Protestant churches. The service is constructed around a sermon focused on Biblical exposition and opened with one or more Bible readings and closed by a series of prayers (both set and extemporised) and hymns or songs. A " high church" or Anglo-Catholic service, by contrast, is usually a more formal liturgy celebrated by clergy in distinctive vestments and may be almost indistinguishable from a Roman Catholic service, often resembling the "pre-Vatican II" Tridentine rite. Between these extremes are a variety of styles of worship, often involving a robed choir and the use of the organ to accompany the singing and to provide music before and after the service. Anglican churches tend to have pews or chairs and it is usual for the congregation to kneel for some prayers but to stand for hymns and other parts of the service such as the Gloria, Collect, Gospel reading, Creed and either the Preface or all of the Eucharistic Prayer. High Anglicans may genuflect or cross themselves in the same way as Roman Catholics.

Until the mid-twentieth century the main Sunday service was typically morning prayer, but the Eucharist has once again become the standard form of Sunday worship in many Anglican churches; this again is similar to Roman Catholic practice. Other common Sunday services include an early morning Eucharist without music, an abbreviated Eucharist following a service of morning prayer and a service of evening prayer, sometimes in the form of sung Evensong, usually celebrated between 3 and 6 p.m. The late-evening service of Compline was revived in parish use in the early 20th century. Many Anglican churches will also have daily morning and evening prayer and some have midweek or even daily celebration of the Eucharist.

An Anglican service (whether or not a Eucharist) will include readings from the Bible that are generally taken from a standardised lectionary, which provides for the entire Bible (and some passages from the Apocrypha) to be read out loud in the church over a three year cycle. The sermon (or homily) is typically about ten to twenty minutes in length, though it may be much longer in Evangelical churches. Even in the most informal Evangelical services it is common for set prayers such as the weekly Collect to be read. There are also set forms for intercessory prayer, though this is now more often extemporaneous. In high and Anglo-Catholic churches there are generally prayers for the dead.

Although Anglican public worship is usually ordered according to the canonically approved services, in practice many Anglican churches use forms of service outside these norms. Many Evangelical churches sit lightly to the set forms of morning and evening prayer, though generally respecting the canonical order of Holy Communion. Liberal churches may use freely-structured or experimental forms of worship, including patterns borrowed from ecumenical traditions such as those of Taizé Community or the Iona Community.

Anglo-Catholic parishes might use the modern Roman Catholic liturgy of the Mass or more traditional forms, such as the Tridentine Mass (which is translated into English in the English Missal), the Anglican Missal, or, less commonly, the Sarum Rite. Traditional Catholic devotions such as the Rosary, Angelus and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament are also common among Anglo-Catholics.

Eucharistic discipline

Only baptised persons are eligible to receive communion. In the past, it was common to restrict communion to those who had not only been baptised but also confirmed. In many Anglican provinces, however, all baptised Christians are now often invited to receive communion and some dioceses have regularised a system for admitting baptised young people to communion before they are confirmed.

The discipline of fasting before communion is practised by many Anglicans. Most Anglican priests require the presence of at least one other person for the celebration of the Eucharist, though some Anglo-Catholic priests (like Roman Catholic priests) may say private Masses. As in the Roman Catholic Church, it is a canonical requirement to use fermented wine for the Eucharist, Unlike in Roman Catholicism, however, the consecrated bread and wine are always offered to the congregation. In some churches the sacrament is reserved in a tabernacle or aumbry with a lighted candle or lamp nearby. Only a priest or a bishop may be the celebrant at the Eucharist, though Sydney Anglicans may soon authorise lay people to celebrate the Mass.

Divine office

Evensong at York Minster

All Anglican prayer books contain offices for Morning Prayer (Matins) and Evening Prayer (Evensong). In the original Book of Common Prayer these were derived from combinations of the ancient monastic offices of Matins and Lauds; and Vespers and Compline respectively. The prayer offices have an important place in Anglican history. Prior to the Catholic revival of the nineteenth century, which eventually restored the Holy Eucharist as the principal Sunday liturgy, and especially during the eighteenth century, a morning service combining Matins, the Litany and ante-Communion comprised the usual expression of common worship; while Matins and Evensong were sung daily in cathedrals and some collegiate chapels. This nurtured a tradition of distinctive Anglican chant applied to the canticles and psalms used at the offices (although plainsong is often used as well).

In some official and unofficial Anglican service books these offices are supplemented by other offices such as the Little Hours of Prime and prayer during the day such as ( Terce, Sext, None and Compline). Some Anglican monastic communities have a Daily Office based on that of the Book of Common Prayer but with additional antiphons and canticles, etc. for specific days of the week, specific psalms, etc. See, for example, Order of the Holy Cross and Order of St Helena, editors, A Monastic Breviary (Wilton, Conn.: Morehouse-Barlow, 1976). The All Saints Sisters of the Poor , with convents in Catonsville, Maryland and elsewhere use an elaborated version of the Anglican Daily Office. The Society of St. Francis publishes Celebrating Common Prayer which has become especially popular for use among Anglicans.

In England, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and some other Anglican provinces the modern prayer books contain four offices:

  • Morning Prayer, corresponding to Matins and Lauds
  • Prayer During the Day, roughly corresponding to the combination of Terce, Sext and None (Noonday Prayer in the USA)
  • Evening Prayer, corresponding to Vespers
  • Compline

In addition, most prayer books include a section of prayers and devotions for family use. In the US, these offices are further supplemented by an "Order of Worship for the Evening", a prelude to or an abbreviated form of Evensong, partly derived from Orthodox prayers. In the United Kingdom, the publication of Daily Prayer, the third volume of Common Worship was published in 2005. It retains the services for Morning and Evening Prayer and Compline and includes a section entitled "Prayer during the Day". 'A New Zealand Prayer Book' of 1989 provides different outlines for Matins and Evensong on each day of the week, as well as "Midday Prayer", "Night Prayer" and "Family Prayer".

Some Anglicans who pray the office on daily basis use the present Divine Office of the Roman Catholic Church. In many cities, especially in England, Anglican and Roman Catholic priests and lay people often meet several times a week to pray the office in common. A small but enthusiastic minority use the Anglican Breviary, or other translations and adaptations of the Pre-Vatican II Roman Rite and Sarum Rite, along with supplemental material from cognate western sources, to provide such things as a common of Octaves, a common of Holy Women and other additional material. Others may privately use idiosyncratic forms borrowed from a wide range of Christian traditions.

"Quires and Places where they sing"

In the late medieval period, many English cathedrals and monasteries had established small choirs of trained lay clerks and boy choristers to perform polyphonic settings of the Mass in their Lady Chapels. Although these "Lady Masses" were discontinued at the Reformation, the associated musical tradition was maintained in the Elizabethan Settlement through the establishment of choral foundations for daily singing of the Divine Office by expanded choirs of men and boys. This resulted from an explicit addition by Elizabeth herself to the injunctions accompanying the 1559 Book of Common Prayer (that had itself made no mention of choral worship) by which existing choral foundations and choir schools were instructed to be continued, and their endowments secured. Consequently, some thirty-four cathedrals, collegiate churches and royal chapels maintained paid establishments of lay singing men and choristers in the late 16th Century . All save four of these have - with an interruption during the Commonwealth - continued daily choral prayer and praise to this day. In the Offices of Mattins and Evensong in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, these choral establishments are specified as "Quires and Places where they sing".

For nearly three centuries, this round of daily professional choral worship represented a tradition entirely distinct from that embodied in the intoning of Parish Clerks, and the singing of " west gallery choirs" which commonly accompanied weekly worship in English parish churches. However, in 1841, the rebuilt Leeds Parish Church established a surpliced choir to accompany parish services; drawing explicitly on the musical traditions of the ancient choral foundations; and over the next century, the Leeds example proved immensely popular and influential for choirs in cathedrals, parish churches and schools throughout the Anglican communion . More or less extensively adapted, this choral tradition also became the direct inspiration for robed choirs leading congregational worship in a wide range of Christian denominations.

In 1719 the cathedral choirs of Gloucester, Hereford and Worcester combined to establish the annual Three Choirs Festival, the precursor for the multitude of summer music festivals since. By the 20th century, the choral tradition had become for many the most accessible face of world-wide Anglicanism - especially as promoted through the regular broadcasting of choral evensong by the BBC; and also in the annual televising of the festival of Nine lessons and carols from King's College, Cambridge. Composers closely concerned with this tradition include Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, Charles Villiers Stanford and Benjamin Britten. A number of important 20th century works by non-Anglican composers were originally commissioned for the Anglican choral tradition - for example the Chichester Psalms of Leonard Bernstein, and the Nunc dimittis of Arvo Pärt.

Organisation and mission of the Church

Principles of governance

Compass rose, symbol of Anglican Communion

Contrary to popular misconception, the British monarch is not the constitutional "Head" but in law "The Supreme Governor" of the Church of England, nor does he or she have any role in provinces outside England and Wales. The role of the crown in the Church of England is practically limited to the appointment of bishops, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, and even this role is limited, as the Church presents the government with a short list of candidates to choose from. This process is accomplished through collaboration with and consent of ecclesial representatives (see Ecclesiastical Commissioners). The monarch has no constitutional role in Anglican churches in other parts of the world, although the prayer books of several countries where she is head of state maintain prayers for her as sovereign.

A characteristic of Anglicanism is that it has no international juridical authority. All thirty-nine provinces of the Anglican Communion are independent, each with their own primate and governing structure. These provinces may take the form of national churches (such as in Canada, Uganda, or Japan) or a collection of nations (such as the West Indies, Central Africa, or South Asia), or geographical regions (such as Vanuatu and Solomon Islands) etc. Within these Communion provinces may exist subdivisions called ecclesiastical provinces, under the jurisdiction of a metropolitan archbishop. All provinces of the Anglican Communion consist of dioceses, each under the jurisdiction of a bishop. In the Anglican tradition, bishops must be consecrated according to the strictures of apostolic succession, which Anglicans consider one of the marks of catholicity. Apart from bishops, there are two other orders of ordained ministry: deacon and priest. No requirement is made for clerical celibacy, though many Anglo-Catholic priests have traditionally been bachelors. Because of innovations that occurred at various points after the latter half of the twentieth century, women may be ordained as deacons in almost all provinces, as priests in some, and as bishops in a few provinces. Anglican religious orders and communities, suppressed in England during the Reformation, have re-emerged, especially since the mid-nineteenth century, and now have an international presence and influence.

Government in the Anglican Communion is synodical, consisting of three houses of laity (usually elected parish representatives), clergy, and bishops. National, provincial, and diocesan synods maintain different scopes of authority, depending on their canons and constitutions. Anglicanism is not congregational in its polity: It is the diocese, not the parish church, which is the smallest unit of authority in the church, and diocesan bishops must give their assent to resolutions passed by synods. (See Episcopal polity).

Focus of unity: The Archbishop of Canterbury

Arms of the see of Canterbury.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has a precedence of honour over the other primates of the Anglican Communion, and for a province to be considered a part of the Communion means specifically to be in full communion with the See of Canterbury. The Archbishop is, therefore, recognised as primus inter pares, or first amongst equals even though he does not exercise any direct authority in any province outside England, of which he is chief primate. The current Archbishop of Canterbury as of 2003, Rowan Williams is the first appointed from outside the Church of England since the Reformation: he was the former Archbishop of Wales.

As "spiritual head" of the Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury maintains a certain moral authority, and has the right to determine which churches will be in communion with his See. He hosts and chairs the Lambeth Conferences of Anglican Communion bishops, and decides who will be invited to them. He also hosts and chairs the Anglican Communion Primates' Meeting and is responsible for the invitations to it. He acts as president of the secretariat of the Anglican Communion Office, and its deliberative body, the Anglican Consultative Council.

Instruments of unity

The Anglican Communion has no international juridical organisation. All international bodies are consultative and collaborative, and their resolutions are not legally binding on the independent provinces of the Communion. There are three international bodies of note.

  1. The Lambeth Conference is the oldest international consultation. It was first convened by Archbishop Charles Longley in 1867 as a vehicle for bishops of the Communion to "discuss matters of practical interest, and pronounce what we deem expedient in resolutions which may serve as safe guides to future action." Since then, it has been held roughly every ten years. Invitation is by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
  2. The Anglican Consultative Council was created by a 1968 Lambeth Conference resolution, and meets biennially. The council consists of representative bishops, clergy, and laity chosen by the thirty-eight provinces. The body has a permanent secretariat, the Anglican Communion Office, of which the Archbishop of Canterbury is president.
  3. The Anglican Communion Primates' Meeting is the most recent manifestation of international consultation and deliberation, having been first convened by Archbishop Donald Coggan in 1978 as a forum for "leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation."

Ordained ministry

An Anglican priest in Eucharistic vestments. Anglican clergy usually vest at the Eucharist. While the chasuble is considered to be more "high church" by some Anglicans, the alb and stole are common vesture.

Like the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches (but unlike most Protestant churches), the Anglican Communion maintains the threefold ministry of deacons, priests, and bishops.


The bishops, who possess the fullness of Christian priesthood, are the successors of the Apostles. The primates, archbishops and metropolitans are all bishops and members of the historical episcopate, and derive their authority through apostolic succession — an unbroken line of bishops that can be traced back to the apostles of Jesus.

Priesthood (Presbyterate)

Bishops are assisted by priests and deacons. Most ordained ministers in the Anglican Communion are priests, who usually work in parishes within a diocese. Priests in charge of the spiritual life of parishes are usually called the rector or vicar. A curate (or, more correctly, an 'assistant curate') is a term often used for a priest (or deacon) who assists the parish priest.

Non-parochial priests may earn their living by any vocation, though these are usually related to the educational, social service or healing professions. Many other non-stipendiary priests will work in Christian-related fields such as chaplains of hospitals, schools, prisons and the armed forces.

An archdeacon is a priest responsible for administration of an archdeaconry, which is often the name given to the principal subdivisions of a diocese. An archdeacon is an episcopal vicar who represents the diocesan bishop in his or her archdeaconry. In the Church of England the position of archdeacon can only be held by someone in priestly orders who has been ordained for at least six years. In some other parts of the Anglican Communion the position can also be held by deacons. In parts of the Anglican Communion where women cannot be ordained as priests or bishops, the position of archdeacon is effectively the most senior office an ordained woman can be appointed to.

The Anglican Communion recognises Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox ordinations as valid. Outside the Anglican Communion, Anglican ordinations (at least of male priests) are recognised by the Old Catholics and various Independent Catholic Churches.


An Anglican deacon wearing a purple stole over his left shoulder.

In Anglican churches, deacons often work directly in ministry to the marginalised inside and outside the church: the poor, the sick, the hungry, the imprisoned. Unlike Orthodox and Roman Catholic deacons who may be married only before ordination, deacons are permitted to marry freely both before and after ordination, as are priests. Most deacons are preparing for priesthood, and usually only remain as deacons for about a year before being ordained priests. However, there are some deacons who remain deacons. Many provinces of the Anglican Communion ordain both women and men as deacons. Many of those provinces that ordain women to the priesthood previously allowed them to be ordained only to the diaconate. The effect of this was the creation of a large and overwhelmingly female diaconate for a time, as most men proceeded to be ordained priest after a short time as a deacon.

Deacons may baptize and in some dioceses are granted licences to solemnize matrimony, usually under the instruction of their parish priest and bishop. They sometimes officiate at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, in the churches that have this service. Deacons are not permitted to preside at the eucharist (but can lead worship with the distribution of already-consecrated Communion where this is permitted), absolve sins or pronounce a blessing in the name of the Church , (however, these last two are sometimes permitted in an indirect form). It is the prohibition against deacons pronouncing a blessing in the Church's name that leads some in the church to believe that a deacon cannot properly solemnize matrimony. In most cases, deacons minister alongside other clergy.


All baptised members of the Church are called Christian faithful, truly equal in dignity and in the work to build the Church. Some of the non-ordained exercise formal, public ministry in the name of the church, often on a full time and life-long basis. Lay Readers, also known as Readers, churchwardens, vergers and sextons are auxiliaries who do not hold holy orders.

Religious life

A small yet influential aspect of Anglicanism is its religious orders and communities. Shortly after the beginning of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England, there was a renewal of interest in re-establishing religious and monastic orders and communities. One of Henry VIII's earliest acts was their dissolution and seizure of their assets. In 1841 Marion Rebecca Hughes became the first woman to take the vows of religion in communion with the Province of Canterbury since the Reformation. In 1848, Priscilla Lydia Sellon became the superior of the Society of the Most Holy Trinity at Devonport, the first organised religious order. Sellon is called "the restorer, after three centuries, of the religious life in the Church of England." For the next one hundred years, religious orders for both men and women proliferated throughout the world, becoming a numerically small but disproportionately influential feature of global Anglicanism.

Anglican religious life at one time boasted hundreds of orders and communities, and thousands of religious. An important aspect of Anglican religious life is that most communities of both men and women lived their lives consecrated to God under the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience (or in Benedictine communities, Stability, Conversion of Life, and Obedience) by practicing a mixed life of reciting the full eight services of the Breviary in choir, along with a daily Eucharist, plus service to the poor. The mixed life, combining aspects of the contemplative orders and the active orders remains to this day a hallmark of Anglican religious life. Another distinctive feature of Anglican religious life is the existence of some mixed-gender communities.

Since the 1960s there has been a sharp decline in the number of professed religious in most parts of the Anglican Communion, especially in North America, Europe, and Australia. Many once large and international communities have been reduced to a single convent or monastery with memberships of elderly men or women. In the last few decades of the 20th century, novices have for most communities been few and far between. Some orders and communities have already become extinct. There are however, still thousands of Anglican religious working today in approximately 200 communities around the world, and religious life in many parts of the Communion - especially in developing nations - flourishes.

The most significant growth has been in the Melanesian countries of the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. The Melanesian Brotherhood, founded at Tabalia, Guadalcanal, in 1925 by Ini Kopuria, is now the largest Anglican Community in the world with over 450 brothers in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and the United Kingdom. The Sisters of the Church, started by Mother Emily Ayckbowm in England in 1870, has more sisters in the Solomons than all their other communities. The Community of the Sisters of Melanesia, started in 1980 by Sister Nesta Tiboe, is a growing community of women throughout the Solomon Islands. The Society of Saint Francis, founded as a union of various Franciscan orders in the 1920s, has experienced great growth in the Solomon Islands. Other communities of religious have been started by Anglicans in Papua New Guinea and in Vanuatu. Most Melanesian Anglican religious are in their early to mid 20s — vows may be temporary and it is generally assumed that brothers, at least, will leave and marry in due course — making the average age 40 to 50 years younger than their brothers and sisters in other countries. Growth of religious orders, especially for women, is marked in certain parts of Africa.

Worldwide distribution

A world map showing the Provinces of the Anglican Communion (Blue). Shown are the Churches in full communion with the Anglican Church: The Nordic Lutheran churches of the Porvoo Communion (Green), and the Old Catholic Churches in the Utrecht Union (Red).

Anglicanism represents the third largest Christian communion in the world, after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The number of Anglicans in the world is slightly over 77 million. The 11 provinces in Africa saw explosive growth in the last two decades. They now include 36.7 million members, more Anglicans than there are in England. England remains the largest single Anglican province, with 26 million members. In most industrialised countries, church attendance has decreased since the 19th century. Anglicanism's presence in the rest of the world is due to large-scale emigration, the establishment of expatriate communities or the work of missionaries.

The Church of England has been a church of missionaries since the seventeenth century when the Church first left English shores with colonists who founded what would become the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa and established Anglican churches. For example, an Anglican chaplain - Robert Wolfall - with Martin Frobisher's Arctic expedition celebrated the Eucharist in 1578 in Frobisher Bay.

CSI St. Mary's Church, Chennai. This is the first Anglican Church in India

The first Anglican church in the Americas was built at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. By the eighteenth century, missionaries worked to establish Anglican churches in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The great Church of England missionary societies were founded; for example the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) in 1698. Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG) in 1701, and the Church Mission Society (CMS) in 1799. The nineteenth century saw the founding and expansion of social oriented evangelism with societies such as the Church Pastoral Aid Society (CPAS) in 1836, Mission to Seafarers in 1856, Mothers' Union in 1876 and Church Army in 1882 all carrying out a personal form of evangelism. The twentieth century saw the Church of England developing new forms of evangelism such as the Alpha course in 1990 which was developed and propagated from Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London. In the twenty-first century, there has been renewed effort to reach children and youth. Fresh expressions is a Church of England missionary initiative to youth begun in 2005, and has ministries at a skate park through the efforts of St George's Church, Benfleet, Essex - Diocese of Chelmsford - or youth groups with evocative names, like the C.L.A.W (Christ Little Angels - Whatever!) youth group at Coventry Cathedral. And, for the un-churched who don't actually wish to visit a bricks and mortar church there are Internet ministries such as the Diocese of Oxford's on-line Anglican i-Church which appeared on the web in 2005.


Anglican interest in ecumenical dialogue can be traced back to the time of the Reformation and dialogues with both Orthodox and Lutheran churches in the sixteenth century. In the nineteenth century, with the rise of the Oxford Movement, there arose greater concern for reunion of the churches of "Catholic confession." This desire to work towards full communion with other denominations led to the development of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, approved by the Third Lambeth Conference of 1888. The four points (the sufficiency of scripture, the historic creeds, the two dominical sacraments, and the historic episcopate) were proposed as a basis for discussion, although they have frequently been taken as a non-negotiable bottom-line for any form of reunion.

Role of the Church in civilisation

Anglican concern with broader issues of social justice can be traced to its earliest divines. Richard Hooker, for instance, wrote that "God hath created nothing simply for itself, but each thing in all things, and of every thing each part in other have such interest, that in the whole world nothing is found whereunto any thing created can say, 'I need thee not.'" This, and related statements, reflect the deep thread of incarnational theology running through Anglican social thought - a theology which sees God, nature, and humanity in dynamic interaction, and the interpenetration of the secular and the sacred in the make-up of the cosmos. Such theology is informed by a traditional English spiritual ethos, rooted in Celtic Christianity and reinforced by Anglicanism's origins as an established church, bound up by its structure in the life and interests of civil society.

Repeatedly, throughout Anglican history, this principle has reasserted itself in movements of social justice. For instance, in the eighteenth century the influential Evangelical Anglican William Wilberforce, along with others, campaigned against the slave trade. In the nineteenth century, the dominant issues concerned the adverse effects of industrialisation. The usual Anglican response was to focus on education and give support to 'The National Society for the Education of the Children of the Poor in the principles of the Church of England'. Lord Shaftesbury, a devout Evangelical, campaigned to improve the conditions in factories, in mines, for chimney sweeps, and for the education of the very poor. For years he was chairman of the Ragged School Board. Frederick Denison Maurice was a leading figure advocating reform , founding so-called "producer's co-operatives" and the Working Men's College. His work was instrumental in the establishment of the Christian socialist movement, although he himself was not in any real sense a socialist but, "a Tory paternalist with the unusual desire to theories his acceptance of the traditional obligation to help the poor", influenced Anglo-Catholics such as Charles Gore, who wrote that, "the principle of the incarnation is denied unless the Christian spirit can be allowed to concern itself with everything that interests and touches human life." Anglican focus on labor issues culminated in the work of William Temple in the 1930s and 1940s.


A question of whether or not Christianity is a pacifist religion has remained a matter of debate for Anglicans. In 1937, the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship emerged as a distinct reform organisation, seeking to make pacifism a clearly defined part of Anglican theology. The group rapidly gained popularity amongst Anglican intellectuals, including Vera Brittain, Evelyn Underhill and former British political leader George Lansbury. Furthermore, the Reverend Dick Sheppard, who during the 1930s was one of Britain's most famous Anglican priests due to his landmark sermon broadcasts for BBC radio, founded the Peace Pledge Union a secular pacifist organisation for the non-religious that gained considerable support throughout the 1930s.

Whilst never actively endorsed by the Anglican Church, many Anglicans unofficially have adopted the Augustinian " Just War" doctrine. The Anglican Pacifist Fellowship remain highly active throughout the Anglican world. It rejects this doctrine of "just war" and seeks to reform the Church by reintroducing the pacifism inherent in the beliefs of many of the earliest Christians and present in their interpretation of Christ's Sermon on the Mount.

Confusing the matter was the fact that the 37th Article of Religion in the Book of Common Prayer states that "it is lawful for Christian men, at the commandment of the Magistrate, to wear weapons, and serve in the wars." Therefore, the Lambeth Council in the modern era has sought to provide a clearer position by repudiating modern war and developed a statement that has been affirmed at each subsequent meeting of the Council. This statement was strongly reasserted when "the 67th General Convention of the Episcopal Church reaffirms the statement made by the Anglican Bishops assembled at Lambeth in 1978 and adopted by the 66th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 1979, calling "Christian people everywhere ... to engage themselves in non-violent action for justice and peace and to support others so engaged, recognizing that such action will be controversial and may be personally very costly... this General Convention, in obedience to this call, urges all members of this Church to support by prayer and by such other means as they deem appropriate, those who engaged in such non-violent action, and particularly those who suffer for conscience' sake as a result; and be it further Resolved, that this General Convention calls upon all members of this Church seriously to consider the implications for their own lives of this call to resist war and work for peace for their own lives."

Desmond Tutu (born 1931), former Primate of the Anglican Church of the Province of South Africa, noted pacifist and a leading figure in the successful fight against apartheid

After World War II

The focus on other social issues became increasingly diffuse after the Second World War. On the one hand, the growing independence and strength of Anglican churches in the global south brought new emphasis to issues of global poverty, the inequitable distribution of resources, and the lingering effects of colonialism. In this regard, figures such as Desmond Tutu and Ted Scott were instrumental in mobilizing Anglicans worldwide against the apartheid policies of South Africa. Rapid social change in the industrialised world during the twentieth century compelled the church to examine issues of gender, sexuality and marriage.

These changes led to Lambeth Conference resolutions countenancing contraception and the remarriage of divorced persons. They led to most provinces approving the ordination of women. In more recent years it has led some jurisdictions to permit the ordination of people in same-sex relationships and to authorise rites for the blessing of same-sex unions (see Anglican views of homosexuality). More conservative elements within Anglicanism (primarily African churches and factions within North American Anglicanism) are opposed to these changes. Some liberal and moderate Anglicans see this opposition as representing a new fundamentalism within Anglicanism. The lack of social consensus among and within provinces of diverse cultural traditions has resulted in considerable conflict and even schism concerning some or all of these developments (see Anglican realignment). Some Anglicans opposed to various liberalising changes, in particular the ordination of women, have converted to Roman Catholicism.

These latter trends reflect a countervailing tendency in Anglicanism towards insularity, reinforced perhaps by the "big tent" nature of the movement, which seeks to be comprehensive of various views and tendencies. The insularity and complacency of the early established Church of England has tended to influence Anglican self-identity, and inhibit engagement with the broader society in favour of internal debate and dialogue. Nonetheless, there is significantly greater cohesion among Anglicans when they turn their attention outward. Anglicans worldwide are active in many areas of social and environmental concern.

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