Anglicanism is the general name for the
Church of England and includes other churches worldwide with a connection to the Church of England, notably within the Anglican Communion.
The key document that distinguishes Anglicans from other denominations is the
Book of Common Prayer which specifies, for example:
- The supremacy of Scripture in all matters of theology
- Concurrence with the
Apostles' Creed and the
- Liturgies for regular services such as Holy Communion, Morning Prayer, and Evensong
- Liturgies for special events such as Baptisms, Marriages, Funerals, and Ordination of clergy
- A table of Bible readings for every day of the year
- Thirty-nine Articles of religion that clarify how Anglican theology and practice differed from Roman Catholic theology and practice in 1662.
Anglicanism in the United States is represented by the
Episcopal Church which is part of the Anglican Communion and which takes its name from the
episcopalian form of its polity.
For more in-depth discussion see Anglican in Wikipedia.
Look and feel of Anglicanism
A newcomer to Anglican practice will observe the following "look and feel" to the services and the organization:
- Large portions of each service follow a formal
liturgy where members of the congregation recite prayers together (traditionally from the Book of Common Prayer), listen to scripture read from the front of the church, and sing hymns or modern songs together;
- The clergy wear traditional
vestments or robes, the design of which can date back to the early centuries of the church
the church is hierarchical and
episcopal, with authority ascending roughly as follows:
- Junior priests report to the senior priest or "rector" of a parish;
- Rectors and all other priests in a "diocese" are appointed by, and report to, the bishop of that diocese;
- That bishop is elected by a "synod" of lay people and clergy from the diocese, but once in office is relatively autonomous
- the church recognizes ecclesiastical "provinces" (often associated with specific nations) made up of many diocese and presided over by an archbishop. The archbishop has very limited power to give direction to one of the bishops
Church business is supervised by a church council or "vestry" predominantly made up of lay people. Some of the leaders are designated as "wardens." This is particularly true in The
Episcopal Church of the United States. The parish structure varies by province.
Anglicans claim an unbroken line of Apostolic Succession from the 12 Apostles. Each bishop is ordained through the laying on of hands of other bishops and Anglicans believe that this tradition represents a thread back through the pre-reformation Roman
church to Jesus Himself.
Diversity within Anglicanism
The practices and effective theology of the Anglican church vary dramatically from church to church and around the globe. Very generally, practices can be classified as follows:
- Liberal Anglicans: see theological authority as a
Three Legged Stool where the bible, church tradition, and reason are equally authoritative, contrary to the Book of Common Prayer. Practically, this means they emphasize
grace and communion, shy away from discussions of sin and judgement, and are often drawn to a "
Orthodox Anglicans: give Scripture supreme authority over all other documents and traditions, in accordance with the Book of Common Prayer. Among orthodox anglicans there are a variety of traditions, which (at least in North
America and Britain) include:
- Evangelical Anglicans: emphasize scripture teaching, bible study, and discipleship;
- Charismatic Anglicans: emphasize the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the expression of the
gifts of the Spirit in regular worship;
Liturgical Practice - It has been said that Anglicans are catholic in sacrament and protestant in theology. While that does not capture the breadth of Anglicanism, it reflects an attempt at a "via media" (middle way) that has been a hallmark
of Anglicanism since the English Reformation.
- Anglo-Catholic Anglicans: These Anglicans tend to emphasize historical rites and liturgical details, often including for example plainsong chants, incense, and Elizabethan English. Most Anglo-Catholics stress a continuity with the pre-Reformation
Church of England. Some regard the Thirty-nine Articles as non-authoritative because of their negative tone toward such Roman beliefs as purgatory. Some Anglo-Catholics promote communion with Rome (they are sometimes referred to pejoratively as
- Low-Church Anglicans: Many evangelical and charismatic Anglicans tend to be far less liturgical, although the use of the sacraments from the Book of Common Prayer is still standard. These Anglicans are less concerned with liturgical rigor and tend
to be more protestant in outlook.
Anglican Churches in the United States, Canada, and to a lesser extent Great Britain are currently dominated by liberal bishops. In response to this, the "continuing Anglican" movement has come about, wherein many TEC parishes are leaving for
more conservative communions, such as the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Catholic Church. The majority of Anglicans however are in the "Global South" (Africa, Asia, Australia) where orthodoxy is dominant. There is a small but significant
group of orthodox bishops in the United States, most notably associated with the Anglican Communion Network led by Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh.
Provinces of the Anglican Church
The Anglican Church is an association of about 38 provinces from around the world. The largest province is
The Church of Nigeria with 17 million members. A complete list of the provinces is available at
The Anglican Domain website.
Theopedia pages are available for the following provinces:
Category:Anglicans page for a list of all Anglicans for whom there are Theopedia pages.