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Anglican Basics

History

Anglicans trace their history and doctrine back to the earliest church and through the first English speaking Christians. The English Reformation (when the Church of England broke away from the Roman Catholic Church) was a pivotal event that resulted in the Anglican Formularies, our statements of belief. See below.

Beliefs and Doctrine

“One Canon (one Bible), two Testaments, three Creeds, four General Councils, five centuries and the series of Fathers in that period determine the boundaries of our faith.”   

~ Bishop Lancelot Andrews (1555-1626)

The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion are an authoritative confession for many Anglicans, along with the historic (1662) Book of Common Prayer and the Anglican Ordinal.  Reading the Articles is one of the best ways to get the essence of historic, classical Anglican doctrine. When you’re done with that, I suggest digging into the BCP to see how that plays out in corporate worship.

Although not every Anglican church agrees on the Articles, all Anglicans hold these four points in common:

  • The Holy Bible, comprising the Old and New Testament, as a basis of our faith;
  • The Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds as the basic statements of Christian belief;
  • Recognition of the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion; and
  • The Historic Episcopate—ours is a Christian tradition with bishops.

This is called the Chicago-Lambeth quadrilateral.

Polity

There are 38 national provinces in the global Anglican Communion. Each of these is governed by an archbishop, who oversees other bishops, who pastor priests, who guide local congregations through Word (preaching) and Sacrament (the Lord’s Supper). Deacons assist the priest in various ways and tend to the poor, sick, and needy.

There is no Anglican pope; however, the Archbishop of Canterbury is considered “first among equals” and has a special symbolic status.

According to the 1979 American BCP revision, the mission of the laity is “to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church”

Public Worship

Public worship in Anglicanism varies widely, however it is almost universally liturgical (structured and participatory) and centers around corporate prayer, singing songs of faith, preaching, the reading of Holy Scripture, and participation in the Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper.

Communion is usually celebrated weekly, and things like corporate confession and absolution, responsive readings, and making the sign of the cross are quite common. Anglicans love a good procession.

The Nuts and Bolts of Anglican Liturgy from St. Peter's Anglican Church on Vimeo.

Private Devotion

The Anglican church also has a rich tradition of private devotion centering around praying the Daily Office (prayers appointed for certain times of day) from the Book of Common Prayer and reading the Scriptures from the Daily Lectionary (Scriptures appointed for each day).

Anglican Axioms & Identity

  • Lex orandi, lex credendi (“The Law of Prayer is the Law of Belief”)
  • Via Media (“Middle Way” between Puritanism and Roman Catholicism)
  • Reformed & Catholic
  • Catholic, Evangelical, Charismatic
  • “Unity in necessary things; liberty in doubtful things; charity in all things”

Further Resources