The 2015 second edition of Bishop Colin Buchanan’s Historical Dictionary of Anglicanism, published by Rowman & Littlefield, is an extraordinarily comprehensive and informative resource for getting a grasp on the historical breadth and depth of the Anglican tradition.

Yes, the book is expensive, but it would be well worth the expense for an Anglican church library. The annotated bibliography alone (over 40 pages) is probably worth the price!

Bishop Buchanan’s work begins with an extensive chronology of Anglicanism, beginning with:

  • A.D. 30: Probable year of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • 43: Emperor Claudius invades Britain.
  • 3rd Century: Martyrdom of St. Alban.
  • 313: Decree of Constantine.
  • 314: Council of Arles, with three British Bishops present.

Needless to say, the Anglican tradition, although it undoubtedly experienced a distinct transformation in the 16th century English Reformation, is quite a bit older than Henry VIII!

Who is St. Alban, you ask? Read the article on Alban, St. From there, or really from any other starting point, you can bounce around the dictionary using the bolded entry terms contained throughout each article. In the process, just by following your whim, you’ll get a pretty good historical Anglican education! This is especially the case if you start with a keystone entry like

  • Anglican Communion,
  • Anglo-Catholicism,
  • Articles of Religion,
  • Book of Common Prayer, etc.

You’ll also find entries for Anglican historical figures, almost every acronym’ed Anglican body (including GAFCON and the ACNA), global Anglican regions and Provinces, liturgical terms, and theological concepts!

However, in rushing to the dictionary terms, I’ve neglected to mention the value of Buchanan’s Introduction, in which he manages to summarize the history of Anglicanism in a mere 14 pages!

After covering “Abbey” through “Zimbabwe” in the dictionary proper, Buchanan provides three appendices:

  • A: Bishops and Archbishops of Canterbury (a timeline)
  • B: The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion 1571 (full text)
  • C: The Anglican Covenant 2009 (full text)

Then there’s the previously mentioned bibliography, broken down by genre, historical era, global region, and even theological doctrines!

In case you can’t tell, I am very impressed by this resource. I am sure there are various things to quibble with in a single-author work of this breadth, but, on the whole, I thought Buchanan was remarkably fair even when describing the contentious recent history of the Anglican Communion and the rise of GAFCON. As far as I could tell, he tells a fairly objective “third story” that people on both sides of various recent Anglican debates could sign off on.

All that to say, if you or your church or your school can afford it, get a copy of the Historical Dictionary of Anglicanism in your library ASAP! It will be an invaluable asset to you in your studies about the history of the Anglican tradition.

Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book by the publisher for an honest review.