Anglicanism is a Western Christian tradition which has developed from the practices, liturgy, and identity of the Church of England following the English Reformation.
Adherents of Anglicanism are called “Anglicans“, or “Episcopalians” in some countries. The majority of Anglicans are members of national or regional ecclesiastical provinces of the international Anglican Communion, which forms the third-largest Christian communion in the world, after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. They are in full communion with the See of Canterbury, and thus the Archbishop of Canterbury, whom the communion refers to as its primus inter pares (Latin, “first among equals”). He calls the decennial Lambeth Conference, chairs the meeting of primates, and is the president of the Anglican Consultative Council. Some churches that are not part of the Anglican Communion or recognised by the Anglican Communion also call themselves Anglican, including those that are part of the Continuing Anglican movement and Anglican realignment.
Anglicans base their Christian faith on the Bible, traditions of the apostolic Church, apostolic succession (“historic episcopate”), and the writings of the Church Fathers. Anglicanism forms one of the branches of Western Christianity, having definitively declared its independence from the Holy See at the time of the Elizabethan Religious Settlement. Many of the new Anglican formularies of the mid-16th century corresponded closely to those of contemporary Protestantism. These reforms in the Church of England were understood by one of those most responsible for them, Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and others as navigating a middle way between two of the emerging Protestant traditions, namely Lutheranism and Calvinism.
In the first half of the 17th century, the Church of England and its associated Church of Ireland were presented by some Anglican divines as comprising a distinct Christian tradition, with theologies, structures, and forms of worship representing a different kind of middle way, or via media, between Protestantism and Catholicism – a perspective that came to be highly influential in later theories of Anglican identity and expressed in the description of Anglicanism as “Catholic and Reformed”. The degree of distinction between Protestant and 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 in one Book used for centuries. The Book is acknowledged as a principal tie that binds the Anglican Communion together as a liturgical rather than a confessional tradition or one possessing a magisterium as in the Roman Catholic Church.
After the American Revolution, Anglican congregations in the United States and British North America (which would later form the basis for the modern country of Canada) were each reconstituted into autonomous churches with their own bishops and self-governing structures; these were known as the American Episcopal Church and the Church of England in the Dominion of Canada. Through the expansion of the British Empire and the activity of Christian missions, this model was adopted as the model for many newly formed churches, especially in Africa, Australasia, and Asia-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.
As a noun, an Anglican is a member of a church in the Anglican Communion. The word is also used by followers of separated groups which have left the communion or have been founded separately from it, although this is considered as a misuse by the Anglican Communion. The word Anglicanism came into being in the 19th century. The word originally referred only to the teachings and rites of Christians throughout the world in communion with the see of Canterbury, but has come to sometimes be extended to any church following those traditions rather than actual membership in the modern Anglican Communion.
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, there is no need for a description; it is simply the Church of England, though the word “Protestant” is used in many legal acts specifying the succession to the Crown and qualifications for office. When the Union with Ireland Act created the United Church of England and Ireland, it is specified that it shall be one “Protestant Episcopal Church”, thereby distinguishing its form of church government from the Presbyterian polity that prevails in the Church of Scotland.
The 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, though the full name of the former is The Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America. Elsewhere, however, the term “Anglican Church” came to be preferred as it distinguished these churches from others that maintain an episcopal polity.
Anglicanism, in its structures, theology, and forms of worship, is commonly understood as a distinct Christian tradition representing a middle ground between what are perceived to be the extremes of the claims of 16th-century Roman Catholicism and the Lutheran and Reformed varieties of Protestantism of that era. As such, it 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 historical episcopate, the first four ecumenical councils, and the early Church Fathers (among these councils, especially the premier four ones, and among these Fathers, especially those active during the five initial centuries of Christianity, according to the quinquasaecularist principle proposed by the English bishop Lancelot Andrewes and the Lutheran dissident Georg Calixtus). Anglicans understand the Old and New Testaments as “containing all things necessary for salvation” and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith. Reason and tradition are seen as valuable means to interpret scripture (a position first formulated in detail by Richard Hooker), but there is no full mutual agreement among Anglicans about exactly how scripture, reason, and tradition interact (or ought to interact) with each other.Anglicans understand the Apostles’ Creed as the baptismal symbol and the Nicene Creed as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.
Anglicans believe the catholic and apostolic faith 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 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, giving God thanks over the bread and wine for the innumerable benefits obtained through the passion of Christ, the breaking of the bread, the blessing of the cup, and the partaking of the body and blood of Christ as instituted at the Last Supper, however one wished to define the Presence. The consecrated bread and wine which are the true body and blood of Christ after a spiritual manner (not in a crude physical way) are outward symbols of an inner grace given by Christ, which to the repentant conveys forgiveness and cleaning from sin. While 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 (BCP), the collection of services that worshippers in most Anglican churches have used for centuries. It was called common prayer originally because it was intended for use in all Church of England churches, which had previously followed differing local liturgies. The term was kept when the church became international, because all Anglicans used to share in its use around the world.
In 1549, the first Book of Common Prayer was compiled by Thomas Cranmer, who was then Archbishop of Canterbury. 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 Anglicans together.
After Roman troops withdrew from Britain, the “absence of Roman military and governmental influence and overall decline of Roman imperial political power enabled Britain and the surrounding isles to develop distinctively from the rest of the West. A new culture emerged around the Irish Sea among the Celtic peoples with Celtic Christianity at its core. What resulted was a form of Christianity distinct from Rome in many traditions and practices.”
The historian Charles Thomas, in addition to the Celticist Heinrich Zimmer, writes that the distinction between sub-Roman and post-Roman Insular Christianity, also known as Celtic Christianity, began to become apparent around AD 475, with the Celtic churches allowing married clergy, observing Lent and Easter according to their own calendar, and having a different tonsure; moreover, like the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Celtic churches operated independently of the Pope’s authority, as a result of their isolated development in the British Isles.
Eventually, the “Christian Church of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria convened the Synod of Whitby in 663/664 to decide whether to follow Celtic or Roman usages.” This meeting, with King Oswiu as the final decision maker, “led to the acceptance of Roman usage elsewhere in England and brought the English Church into close contact with the Continent”. As a result of assuming Roman usages, the Celtic Church surrendered its independence, and, from this point on, the Church in England “was no longer purely Celtic, but became Anglo-Roman-Celtic”. The theologian Christopher L. Webber writes that, although “the Roman form of Christianity became the dominant influence in Britain as in all of western Europe, Anglican Christianity has continued to have a distinctive quality because of its Celtic heritage.”
The Church in England remained united with Rome until the English Parliament, through the Act of Supremacy (1534), declared King Henry VIII to be the Supreme Head of the Church of England to fulfill the “English desire to be independent from continental Europe religiously and politically.” Although now separate from Rome, the English Church, at this point in history, continued to maintain Roman Catholic doctrines and the sacraments. With little exception, Henry VIII allowed no changes during his lifetime. Under King Edward VI (1547–1553), however, the church in England underwent what is known as the English Reformation, in the course of which it acquired a number of characteristics that would subsequently become recognised as constituting its distinctive “Anglican” identity.
With the Elizabethan Settlement of 1559, the Protestant identity of the English and Irish churches was affirmed by means of parliamentary legislation which mandated allegiance and loyalty to the English Crown in all their members. 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 (which drew extensively on the Sarum Rite native to England), under the leadership and organisation of a continuing episcopate. Over the years, these traditions themselves came to command adherence and loyalty. The Elizabethan Settlement stopped the radical Protestant tendencies under Edward VI by combining the more radical elements of the Second Prayer Book of 1552 with the conservative “Catholic” First Prayer Book of 1549. From then on, Protestantism was in a “state of arrested development”, regardless of the attempts to detach the Church of England from its “idiosyncratic anchorage in the medieval past” by various groups which tried to push it towards a more Reformed theology and governance in the years 1560–1660.
Historical studies on the period 1560–1660 written before the late 1960s tended to project the predominant conformist spirituality and doctrine of the 1660s on the ecclesiastical situation one hundred years before, and there was also a tendency to take polemically binary partitions of reality claimed by contestants studied (such as the dichotomies Protestant-“Popish” or “Laudian”-“Puritan”) at face value. Since the late 1960s, these interpretations have been criticised. Studies on the subject written during the last forty-five years have, however, not reached any consensus on how to interpret this period in English church history. The extent to which one or several positions concerning doctrine and spirituality existed alongside the more well-known and articulate Puritan movement and the Durham House Party, and the exact extent of continental Calvinism among the English elite and among the ordinary churchgoers from the 1560s to the 1620s are subjects of current and ongoing debate.
In 1662, under King Charles II, a revised Book of Common Prayer was produced, which was acceptable to high churchmen as well as some Puritans, and is still considered authoritative to this day.
In so far as Anglicans derived their identity from both parliamentary legislation and ecclesiastical tradition, a crisis of identity could result wherever secular and religious loyalties came into 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 eventually resulted in the creation of two new Anglican churches, the Episcopal Church in the United States in those states that had achieved independence; and in the 1830s The Church of England in Canada became independent from the Church of England in those North American colonies which had remained 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 (since no dioceses 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 Catholics could be elected to the House of Commons, which consequently ceased to be a body drawn purely from the established churches of Scotland, England, and Ireland; but which nevertheless, over the following ten years, engaged in extensive reforming legislation affecting the interests of the English and Irish churches; which, by the Acts of Union of 1800, had been reconstituted as the United Church of England and Ireland. The propriety of this legislation was bitterly contested by the Oxford Movement (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 bills in parliament aimed to control innovations in worship. 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 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.
The Tractarian formulation of the theory of the via media between Protestantism and Catholicism was essentially a party platform, and not acceptable to Anglicans outside the confines of the Oxford Movement. However, this 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 forward 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 complementary, 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.
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 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 proposition, implicit in theories of via media, that there is no distinctive body of Anglican doctrines, 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 Ramsey:
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.
Main article: Anglican doctrine, Anglican Marian Theology
“Catholic and Reformed”
The distinction between Reformed and Catholic, and the coherence of the two, is a matter of debate within the Anglican Communion. The Oxford Movement of the mid-19th century revived and extended doctrinal, liturgical, and pastoral practices similar to those of Roman Catholicism. 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 become more common within the tradition over the last century, there are also places where practices and beliefs resonate more closely with the evangelical movements of the 1730s (see Sydney Anglicanism).
Within the prayer books are the fundamentals of Anglican doctrine: the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds, the Athanasian Creed (now rarely used), the scriptures (via the lectionary), the sacraments, daily prayer, the catechism, and apostolic succession in the context of the historic threefold ministry. For some low-church and evangelical Anglicans, the 16th-century Reformed Thirty-Nine Articles form the basis of doctrine.
Distinctives of Anglican belief
The Thirty-Nine Articles played a significant role in Anglican doctrine and practice. Following the passing of the 1604 canons, all Anglican clergy had to formally subscribe to the articles. Today, however, the articles are no longer binding, but are seen as a historical document which has played a significant role in the shaping of Anglican identity. The degree to which each of the articles has remained influential varies.
On the doctrine of justification, for example, there is a wide range of beliefs within the Anglican Communion, with some Anglo-Catholics arguing for a faith with good works and the sacraments. At the same time, however, some evangelical Anglicans ascribe to the Reformed emphasis on sola fide (“faith alone”) in their doctrine of justification (see Sydney Anglicanism). Still other Anglicans adopt a nuanced view of justification, taking elements from the early Church Fathers, Catholicism, Protestantism, liberal theology, and latitudinarian thought.
Arguably, the most influential of the original articles has been Article VI on the “sufficiency of scripture”, which says 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 “standard divines” (see below). Historically, the most influential of these – apart from Cranmer – has been the 16th-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 have led to further reflection on the parameters of 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 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.
Within the Anglican tradition, “divines” are clergy of the Church of England whose theological writings have been considered standards for faith, doctrine, worship, and spirituality, and whose influence has permeated the Anglican Communion in varying degrees through the years. 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 Anglican churches 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 as “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.
Amongst the early Anglican divines of the 16th and 17th centuries, the names of Thomas Cranmer, John Jewel, Matthew Parker, 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.
The 18th 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 creating an Anglo-American movement called Methodism that would eventually break away, structurally, from the Anglican churches after the American Revolution.
By the 19th century, there was a renewed interest in pre-Reformation English religious thought and practice. 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 Anglicanism.
In contrast to this movement, clergy such as the Bishop of Liverpool, J. C. Ryle, sought to uphold the distinctly Reformed identity of the Church of England. He was not a servant of the status quo, but argued for a lively religion which emphasised grace, holy and charitable living, and the plain use of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (interpreted in a partisan evangelical way) without additional rituals. Frederick Denison Maurice, through such works as The Kingdom of Christ, 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 19th 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 earlier part of the 20th century is marked by Charles Gore, with his emphasis on natural revelation, and William Temple’s focus on Christianity and society, while, from outside England, Robert Leighton, Archbishop of Glasgow, and several clergy from the United States have been suggested, such as William Porcher DuBose, John Henry Hobart (1775–1830, Bishop of New York 1816–30), William Meade, Phillips Brooks, and Charles Brent.
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 introducing illegal ritual 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 are often used, and incense may be used. Nowadays, in most Anglican churches, the Eucharist is celebrated in a manner similar to the usage of 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). Whilst many Anglo-Catholics derive much of their liturgical practice from that of the pre-Reformation English church, others more closely follow traditional Roman Catholic practices.
The Eucharist may sometimes be celebrated in the form known as High Mass, with a priest, deacon, and subdeacon dressed in traditional vestments, with incense and sanctus bells, and with prayers adapted from the Roman 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 17th-century Puritans – being a Reformed interpretation of the Ornaments Rubric – no candles, no incense, no bells, and a minimum of manual actions 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
Main article: Anglican sacraments
In accord 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 being both a church in the Catholic tradition as well as a Reformed church. 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, all Anglicans recognise Baptism and the Eucharist as being directly instituted by Christ. The other five – Confession/Absolution, Matrimony, Confirmation, Holy Orders (also called Ordination), and Anointing of the Sick (also called Unction) – are regarded variously as full sacraments by Anglo-Catholics and many high-church and some broad-church Anglicans, but merely as “sacramental rites” by other broad-church and low-church Anglicans, especially evangelicals associated with Reform UK and the Diocese of Sydney.
Main article: Anglican eucharistic theology
Anglican eucharistic theology is divergent in practice, reflecting the essential comprehensiveness of the tradition. A 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 fulfilment of the eucharistic promise.
Other low-church Anglicans believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist but deny that the presence of Christ is carnal or is necessarily localised in the bread and wine (which is by coincidence what Thomas Aquinas wrote that the Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is not to be understood “materialiter ni localiter” as physical or trapped in a place). Despite explicit criticism in the Thirty-Nine Articles, many high-church or Anglo-Catholic Anglicans hold, more or less, the 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.
The majority of Anglicans, however, have in common a belief in the real presence, defined in one way or another. To that extent, they are in the company of the continental reformer Martin Luther and Calvin rather than Ulrich Zwingli. The Catechism of the American BCP of 1976 repeats the standard Anglican view (“The outward and visible sign in the Eucharist is the bread and wine”…”The inward and spiritual grace in the Holy Communion is the Body and Blood of Christ given to his people, and received by faith”) without further definition. It should be remembered that Anglicanism has no official doctrine on this matter, believing it is wiser to leave the Presence a mystery. The faithful can believe privately whatever explanation they favor, be it transubstantiation, consubstantiation, receptionism, or virtualism (the two most congenial to Anglicans for centuries until the Oxford Movement), each of which espouses belief in the real presence in one way or another, or memorialism, which has never been an option with Anglicans.
A famous Anglican aphorism regarding Christ’s presence in the sacrament, commonly misattributed to Queen Elizabeth I, is first found in print 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: viz. that the Prayer Book contained a strong sacrificial theology. Later revisions of the Prayer Book influenced by the Scottish Canon of 1764 first adopted by the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1789 made this assertion quite evident: “we do make and celebrate before thy Divine Majesty with these thy holy gifts, which we now OFFER unto thee, the memorial thy Son has commanded us to make”, which is repeated in the 1929 English BCP and included in such words or others such as “present” or “show forth” in subsequent revisions.
Anglican and Roman Catholic representatives declared that they had “substantial agreement on the doctrine of the Eucharist” in the Windsor Statement on Eucharistic Doctrine by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Consultation (1971) and the Elucidation of the ARCIC Windsor Statement (1979). The final response (1991) to these documents by the Vatican made it plain that it did not consider the degree of agreement reached to be satisfactory.
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
With British colonial expansion from the 17th century onwards, Anglican churches were planted around the globe. These churches at first used and then revised the Book of Common Prayer until they, like their parent church, produced prayer books which took into account the developments in liturgical study and practice in the 19th and 20th centuries, which come under the general heading of the Liturgical Movement.
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 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” service may differ little from the worship of many mainstream non-Anglican 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. Anglicans may genuflect or cross themselves in the same way as Roman Catholics.
Other more traditional Anglicans tend to follow the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and retain the use of the King James Bible. This is typical in many Anglican cathedrals and particularly in Royal Peculiars such as the Savoy Chapel and the Queen’s Chapel. These services reflect older Anglican liturgies and differ from the Traditional Anglican Communion in that they are in favour of women priests and the ability of clergy to marry. These Anglican church services include classical music instead of songs, hymns from the New English Hymnal (usually excluding modern hymns such as “Lord of the Dance”), and are generally non-evangelical and formal in practice.
Until the mid-20th 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 pm. 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 much of the Bible (and some passages from the Apocrypha) to be read out loud in the church over a cycle of one, two, or three years (depending on which eucharistic and office lectionaries are used, respectively). The sermon (or homily) is typically about ten to twenty minutes in length, often comparably short to sermons in evangelical churches. Even in the most informal Anglican 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. Liberal churches may use freely structured or experimental forms of worship, including patterns borrowed from ecumenical traditions such as those of the 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. Catholic devotions such as the Rosary, Angelus, and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament are also common among Anglo-Catholics.
Only baptised persons are eligible to receive communion, although in many churches communion is restricted to those who have 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 some Anglicans. Most Anglican priests require the presence of at least one other person for the celebration of the Eucharist (referring back to Christ’s statement in Matthew 18:20, “When two or more are gathered in my name, I will be in the midst of them.”), 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 communion.
Unlike in Roman Catholicism, the consecrated bread and wine are always offered to the congregation at a eucharistic service (“communion in both kinds”). This practice is becoming more frequent in the Roman Catholic Church as well, especially through the Neocatechumenal Way. In some churches, the sacrament is reserved in a tabernacle or aumbry with a lighted candle or lamp nearby. In Anglican churches, only a priest or a bishop may be the celebrant at the Eucharist.
Prior to the Catholic revival of the 19th century, which eventually restored the Holy Eucharist as the principal Sunday liturgy, and especially during the 18th 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 many 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, Lauds and Prime;
- Prayer During the Day, roughly corresponding to the combination of Terce, Sext, and None (Noonday Prayer in the USA);
- Evening Prayer, corresponding to Vespers (and Compline);
In addition, most prayer books include a section of prayers and devotions for family use. In the U.S., 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 Catholic Church. In many cities, especially in England, Anglican and 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 Matins 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. 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. 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 worldwide 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 of the Anglican Communion
Principles of governance
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. 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 from which to choose. 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 autonomous, 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 20th 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-19th 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.
Archbishop of Canterbury
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.
The Anglican Communion has no international juridical organisation. All international bodies are consultative and collaborative, and their resolutions are not legally binding on the autonomous provinces of the Communion. There are three international bodies of note.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”.
Like the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches, the Anglican Communion maintains the threefold ministry of deacons, presbyters (usually called “priests”), and bishops.
Bishops, who possess the fullness of Christian priesthood, are the successors of the Apostles. Primates, archbishops, and metropolitans are all bishops and members of the historical episcopate who derive their authority through apostolic succession – an unbroken line of bishops that can be traced back to the 12 apostles of Jesus.
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 are in charge of the spiritual life of parishes and are usually called the rector or vicar. A curate (or, more correctly, an “assistant curate”) is a priest or deacon who assists the parish priest. Non-parochial priests may earn their living by any vocation, although employment by educational institutions or charitable organisations is most common. Priests also serve as chaplains of hospitals, schools, prisons, and in the armed forces.
An archdeacon is a priest or deacon responsible for administration of an archdeaconry, which is often the name given to the principal subdivisions of a diocese. An archdeacon 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 but can be ordained as deacons, the position of archdeacon is effectively the most senior office to which an ordained woman can be appointed.
A dean is a priest who is the principal cleric of a cathedral or other collegiate church and the head of the chapter of canons. If the cathedral or collegiate church has its own parish, the dean is usually also rector of the parish. However, in the Church of Ireland, the roles are often separated, and most cathedrals in the Church of England do not have associated parishes. In the Church in Wales, however, most cathedrals are parish churches and their deans are now also vicars of their parishes.
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 Catholic Church, Porvoo Communion Lutherans, and various Independent Catholic churches.
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 most 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 so.
Many provinces of the Anglican Communion ordain both men and women 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, in some dioceses, can be granted licences to solemnise matrimony, usually under the instruction of their parish priest and bishop. They sometimes officiate at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in churches which 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. It is the prohibition against deacons pronouncing blessings that leads some to believe that deacons cannot solemnise matrimony.
All baptised members of the church are called Christian faithful, truly equal in dignity and in the work to build the church. Some non-ordained people also have a formal public ministry, often on a full-time and long-term basis – such as lay readers (also known as readers), churchwardens, vergers, and sextons. Other lay positions include acolytes (male or female, often children), lay eucharistic ministers (also known as chalice bearers), and lay eucharistic visitors (who deliver consecrated bread and wine to “shut-ins” or members of the parish who are unable to leave home or hospital to attend the Eucharist). Lay people also serve on the parish altar guild (preparing the altar and caring for its candles, linens, flowers, etc.), in the choir and as cantors, as ushers and greeters, and on the church council (called the “vestry” in some countries), which is the governing body of a parish.
See also: Anglican religious order and Anglican Devotions
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, Marian 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, Plymouth, 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 practising 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.
The Church of England has been a church of missionaries since the 17th 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.
The 19th 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, Girls’ Friendly Society (GFS) in 1875, Mothers’ Union in 1876, and Church Army in 1882, all carrying out a personal form of evangelism.
The 20th 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 21st 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 unchurched who do not actually wish to visit a brick and mortar church, there are Internet ministries such as the Diocese of Oxford’s online 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 16th century. In the 19th 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.
Anglicanism in general has always sought a balance between the emphases of Catholicism and Protestantism, while tolerating a range of expressions of evangelicalism and ceremony. Clergy and laity from all Anglican churchmanship traditions have been active in the formation of the Continuing movement.
Most Continuing churches in the United States reject the 1979 revision of the Book of Common Prayer by the Episcopal Church and use the 1928 version for their services instead. In addition, Anglo-Catholic bodies may use the Anglican Missal, Anglican Service Book, or English Missal in celebrating the Mass.
Conflicts within Anglicanism
A changing focus on social issues after the Second World War led to Lambeth Conference resolutions countenancing contraception and the remarriage of divorced persons. Eventually, most provinces approved the ordination of women. In more recent years, some jurisdictions have permitted the ordination of people in same-sex relationships and authorised rites for the blessing of same-sex unions (see Homosexuality and Anglicanism). “The more liberal provinces that are open to changing Church doctrine on marriage in order to allow for same-sex unions include Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, Scotland, South India, South Africa, the US and Wales.”
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). More conservative elements within and outside of Anglicanism (primarily African churches and factions within North American Anglicanism) have opposed these changes, while some liberal and moderate Anglicans see this opposition as representing a new fundamentalism within Anglicanism and “believe a split is inevitable and preferable to continued infighting and paralysis.” Some Anglicans opposed to various liberalising changes, in particular the ordination of women, have become Roman Catholics or Orthodox. Others have, at various times, joined the Continuing Anglican movement.
Continuing Anglican movement
The term “Continuing Anglicanism” refers to a number of church bodies which have formed outside of the Anglican Communion in the belief that traditional forms of Anglican faith, worship, and order have been unacceptably revised or abandoned within some Anglican Communion churches in recent decades. They therefore claim that they are “continuing” traditional Anglicanism.
The modern Continuing Anglican movement principally dates to the Congress of St. Louis, held in the United States in 1977, where participants rejected changes that had been made in the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer and also the Episcopal Church’s approval of the ordination of women to the priesthood. More recent changes in the North American churches of the Anglican Communion, such as the introduction of same-sex marriage rites and the ordination of gay and lesbian people to the priesthood and episcopate, have created further separations.
Continuing churches have generally been formed by people who have left the Anglican Communion. The original Anglican churches are charged by the Continuing Anglicans with being greatly compromised by secular cultural standards and liberal theology. Many Continuing Anglicans believe that the faith of some churches in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury has become unorthodox and therefore have not sought to also be in communion with him.
The original continuing parishes in the United States were found mainly in metropolitan areas. Since the late 1990s, a number have appeared in smaller communities, often as a result of a division in the town’s existing Episcopal churches. The 2007–08 Directory of Traditional Anglican and Episcopal Parishes, published by the Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen, contained information on over 900 parishes affiliated with either the Continuing Anglican churches or the Anglican realignment movement, a more recent wave of Anglicans withdrawing from the Anglican Communion’s North American provinces.
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 labour 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. The leading Anglican spokesman for pacifist ideas, from 1914 to 1945, was Ernest Barnes, bishop of Birmingham from 1924–1953. He opposed both world wars. 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 the former British political leader George Lansbury. Furthermore, 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 Anglican churches, many Anglicans unofficially have adopted the Augustinian “Just War” doctrine. The Anglican Pacifist Fellowship remains 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. The principles of the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship are often formulated as a statement of belief that “Jesus’ teaching is incompatible with the waging of war … that a Christian church should never support or justify war … [and] that our Christian witness should include opposing the waging or justifying of war.”
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, recognising 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.”
After World War II
Ordinariates within the Roman Catholic Church
On 4 November 2009, Pope Benedict XVI issued an apostolic constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, to allow groups of former Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church as members of personal ordinariates. The 20 October 2009 announcement of the imminent constitution mentioned:
Today’s announcement of the Apostolic Constitution is a response by Pope Benedict XVI to a number of requests over the past few years to the Holy See from groups of Anglicans who wish to enter into full visible communion with the Roman Catholic Church, and are willing to declare that they share a common Catholic faith and accept the Petrine ministry as willed by Christ for his Church.
Pope Benedict XVI has approved, within the Apostolic Constitution, a canonical structure that provides for Personal Ordinariates, which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of distinctive Anglican spiritual patrimony.
The announcement of this Apostolic Constitution brings to an end a period of uncertainty for such groups who have nurtured hopes of new ways of embracing unity with the Catholic Church. It will now be up to those who have made requests to the Holy See to respond to the Apostolic Constitution.— The Archbishop of Westminster and The Archbishop of Canterbury
For each personal ordinariate, the ordinary may be a former Anglican bishop or priest. It was expected that provision would be made to allow the retention of aspects of Anglican liturgy; cf. Anglican Use.