New to the Anglican Church?
Updated October 5, 2015
The Anglican Church is a Christian church that originated in England. In modern times English ships spread people and their church across the world and the Anglican Church is in now most countries.
The Anglican Church's roots are in the Roman Catholic Church, and many of its customs and traditions are in common: worship, sacraments and clergy: bishops, priests and deacons. We would describe ourselves as a Reformed Catholic Church.
The Church of England had its roots with Christians who came with the Romans not too long after Jesus died and was resurrected. When the Romans gave up England, the Celtic Church had been planted and it survived the Saxon invasions. Augustine of Canterbury brought the Roman Church to England in the 6th century. Through the middle ages the church met the spiritual needs of the people. Henry VIII separated the Church of England from the pope in 1539. When he died and his son Edward was on the throne, Archbishop Cramner, the Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote the Book of Common Prayer in 1549 and 1552 and introduced a number of Protestant reforms including having the liturgy in the language of the people and the marriage of clergy. Edward died, his sister Mary took the throne and tried to return the Church of England to the Roman Catholic fold. Many were martyred including common people. Mary died and her sister Elizabeth I became queen in 1559, passing the Act of Uniformity that made the 1552 Book of Common Prayer the form of worship across her realm. See a related page Reformation History.
Worship is one of the distinguishing characteristics of Anglicanism. The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) being the basis of our worship and the Book of Alternative Services (BAS) carries on the principles of the BCP.
Archbishop Thomas Cramner first drafted the Book of Common Prayer in 1549 and revised it in 1552. He translated the Sarum Mass, used at Salisbury Cathedral, from Latin into English and made changes consistent with Protestant thinking. The lectionary, a table of Bible readings, ensured that the whole Bible was read in church every two years. Holy Communion was seen as a remembrance of Christ's death rather than a re-sacrificing of Christ. Queen Elizabeth I adopted the BCP in 1559. With the restoration of Charles II it was revised in 1662 and still is commonly used in England.
In Canada, General Synod revised the Book of Common Prayer in 1918 and 1962 and the 1962 version is in use. In 1985, the Book of Alternative Services was authorized. This book was part of liturgical revisions happening across many Christian denominations, based on the liturgy of the early church, mainly 4th century, and was in more modern English. It fostered a restored role of lay people in worship and made baptism more a part of the main Sunday worship.
See Anglican Worship for a fuller explanation of Anglican worship and to learn about some customs and traditions, see Things to Know.
Anglican theology grew out of the tension between the different parts of the church in England: Catholic, Reformed (Puritans) and Rational. You may have heard the terms High, Low and Broad, which correspond to these parts. Richard Hooker, a theologian in the late 16th century, came up with an explanation for the Anglican Church that for Anglicans to discern truth is like using a three legged stool: with the three legs being scripture, tradition and reason. This means what we believe is based on the Bible and interpreted by our tradition using reason. This tension fostered another aspect of Anglican theology, the via media or middle way. Within the church we have all points of view and the middle way often balances the extremes of either side.
With the emphasis on reason, learning has been an important part of our tradition.
The Anglican Church does not have confessions of faith beyond that which the early church agreed to; the Apostle's Creed and Nicene Creed are authoritative. Anglican theology is contained in the liturgy; liturgy being the written out worship services. Read the services in the Book of Common Prayer and Book of Alternative Services to have a sense of our doctrine.
The Lambeth Quadrilateral provides a succinct statement of core Anglican doctrine. It was first drafted by the Episcopal Church in 1886 and adopted at the Lambeth Conference in 1888. The Lambeth Conference is a meeting that invites all of the Anglican bishops to participate.
That, in the opinion of this Conference, the following articles supply a basis on which approach may be by God’s blessing made towards home reunion:
(a) The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as ‘containing all things necessary to salvation’, and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.
(b) The Apostles’ Creed, as the baptismal symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.
(c) The two sacraments ordained by Christ himself – Baptism and the Supper of the Lord - ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of institution, and of the elements ordained by him.
(d) The historic episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the unity of his Church.
This statement is the basis for ecumenical discussions, discussions with other Christian denominations such as Lutheran or Roman Catholic.
In the Anglican tradition, the Bishop and the Diocese are the foundation of church government. The role of the Bishop is to represent the Diocese to the rest of the church and to represent the rest of the church to the Diocese. The diocese is a geographical area and a meeting called a Synod is held at which the bishop, clergy (priests and deacons) and lay delegates attend to make decisions for the diocese. Canons are by-laws that the Synod passes that govern the life of the diocese, deaneries and parishes. The Diocese is incorporated and as such is a legal entity. It holds all of the parishes’ property in trust. www.dioceseofalgoma.com
For information on local parishes see Primer on Parish Government.
A Deanery is a geographical area that encompasses several parishes. The Deaneries in the Diocese of Algoma are: Thunder Bay, Algoma, Sudbury, Muskoka and Temiskaming. www.thunderbayanglican.com
The Anglican Church of Canada is divided into four provinces: Canada, Ontario, Rupert's Land and British Columbia. The House of Bishops of each province meets annually and Provincial Synod meets every two years. Archbishop Colin Johnson is Metropolitan Bishop of Ontario.
A diocese is part of a national church, the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC). The Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, is the nominal head of the ACC. The House of Bishops meets annually. Dioceses send bishops, and clergy and lay delegates to General Synod, which meets every three years and makes decisions for the Anglican Church of Canada on doctrine, liturgy, marriage and the discipline of clergy. www.anglican.ca
Internationally, the national Anglican Churches are said to be in communion with each other. The Archbishop of Canterbury represents the Anglican Communion. The Bishops of the Anglican Communion have been invited to attend the Lambeth Conference every ten years at Lambeth palace, the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, however, for the present that meeting is suspended. The Anglican Consultative Council meets every three years and it is a representative body made up of Bishops, clergy and lay people. The Primates also meet. For international decisions to have effect, General Synod must pass a resolution implementing the decision. www.anglicancommunion.org
To learn more, talk with people who attend the church, attend worship, join a Bible Study, and have coffee with the clergy.