FAQ: Frequent Anglican Questions

After all, Anglicanism (the branch of the Church that traces its origins to the Church of England) is uniquely situated to emphasize the importance of both the insights of the Protestant Reformation and the riches of the catholic tradition.

The Anglican tradition contains riches that can benefit the global Church! Anglicanism provides a beautiful vision of Christianity as a way of life—not just a list of beliefs, rules, or emotional experiences.

The word “Anglican” simply means “English.” Anglican churches around the world trace their heritage back to the Church of/in England. To learn more, read our blog post on what “Anglican” means.

Yes, they can! As Article 32 of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion puts it, “Bishops, priests and deacons are not commanded by God’s law, either to vow the estate of single life, or to abstain from marriage; therefore it is lawful for them, as for all other Christian men, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve better to godliness.” To learn more, read our blog post on whether or not Anglican priests can get married.

Yes. The Anglican tradition undoubtedly includes the 16th century English Reformation and a break with the Roman Catholic Church. However, Anglicanism is a “reformed catholic” tradition, because it seeks to preserve the best insights of the Protestant Reformation while not throwing out the vast riches of the catholic (“universal”) Church’s tradition (such as bishops, priests, and deacons; liturgy; sacraments; the Church calendar; etc.).

In an important sense, the Anglican Christian tradition began when Christianity first reached the British Isles in the 1st–3rd centuries. Three British bishops were present at the Council of Arles in 314. The first Archbishop of Canterbury, Augustine, arrived in Kent in 597. However, in an equally important sense, Anglicanism began when the Church of England emerged as a distinct entity (from the Roman Catholic Church) in 1534 when King Henry VIII officially denied that the Pope had authority over the Church in England. While it is true that Henry VIII’s desire for the nullification of his marriage had something to do with this decision, there were also powerful nationalistic and reformational currents in play. Another important Anglican founding figure is Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1533 to 1556 and architect of the first two Books of Common Prayer in 1549 and 1552.

There are structural differences between Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism because there was a clear break between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church during the 16th century English Reformation. The Anglican Church has no Pope of its own, and it does not submit to the authority of the Roman Catholic Pope (although his authority is acknowledged as the Bishop of Rome). There are no Anglican Cardinals, either, although there are Anglican archbishops, bishops, priests, and deacons.
There are also important theological differences between Anglicans and Roman Catholics, although the extent of these differences will depend on how Reformed vs. “Anglo-Catholic” a particular Anglican is. Although they value Church tradition and the authority of the Church, Anglicans clearly subordinate the authority of the Church to the authority of Scripture. Furthermore, regarding transubstantiation, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion claim that it “cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions” (Article 28). And Article 22 states that “The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.”

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