What Do Anglicans Believe? An Overview of Anglican Beliefs

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When someone visits an Anglican church, if they are new to our tradition, they often ask, “What do Anglicans believe?” As you can imagine, it is not that easy to summarize the doctrinal beliefs of a global communion with a long history and various schools of thought and practice. Nevertheless, here at Anglican Compass, we are dedicated to answering people’s questions and attempting to do so in the conversational way a pastor would answer on a Sunday morning at Coffee Hour. So, here we go.

Keep in mind that this is a description of the basic doctrinal beliefs of the majority of the global fellowship of Anglicans. Please be aware that there are some regional and local churches that have moved away from some of the beliefs described below.

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Anglicans are, first of all, Christians.

We believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. We believe that the Bible, Holy Scripture, tells the true story of the human race, from our creation to our fall. And then it tells the story of God raising up the people of Israel, and then from that people a Messiah (promised one). It tells of Jesus being born of the virgin Mary, living, dying, rising again, and ascending to heaven. The Bible also tells the story of the founding of his Church and its mission to the world in his name through the Holy Spirit. We believe that each and every person is loved by God and that salvation is offered in the name of Christ to all who believe in him.

We believe that the Church is the Body of Christ on Earth.

We are sinners and we are saints, and our history is full of both sin and grace. We baptize those who come to Jesus in repentance and faith, along with their children. We gather at the Lord’s table to share his holy meal, the Eucharist. These two means of grace we call Sacraments, and they point to God’s work and presence in all of creation.

  • Baptism is for the forgiveness of our sins, the giving of the Holy Spirit, and initiation into the Church.
  • The Eucharist is the ongoing sacred meal in which we believe Christ’s presence is given to us in the bread and wine, a participation in his body and blood.

This is our sacramental understanding of God’s work in the world.

We affirm the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed.

These are the creeds of the early Church. These creeds are Trinitarian (One God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). They affirm the incarnation (God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ without ceasing to be God). They affirm the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church and at work in the world. Our more specific doctrines and practices are found in the 39 Articles of Religion, which do not supersede the Creeds, but provide some clarity in terms of our way of being a church.

We are liturgical.

This means that we follow the ancient, biblical pattern of worship through our Book of Common Prayer (founded in its most basic form on the Lord’s Prayer) that guides what we do and say in worship and prayer. We follow the Church year, a Christian calendar of seasons, feasts and fasts. While we don’t believe that liturgical worship is essential to being a true church, we do believe that it is Scriptural, historical, and beneficial. We believe in holy matrimony, confession and reconciliation, ordination and confirmation, and anointing of the sick and dying as sacramental rites that convey God’s grace.

We believe in the dignity of all people.

We believe in the sanctity of all life from conception. We believe in serving and advocating for the poor, the outcast, the stranger, and the marginalized in the name of Jesus Christ.

We are both reformational and catholic.

We are a catholic communion in that we are part of the universal Body of Christ, on earth, and in heaven, and we believe the same thing as the Apostles and the Church in history. We retain the catholic patterns of governance, sacraments, and practices. Yet our church also experienced a reformation in the 16th century that brought about a renewed sense of mission, a more conciliar leadership, a new commitment to biblical authority, and a renewed commitment to preaching grace. Still, later, our church experienced both a catholic resurgence and then a charismatic renewal. Because of these historical influences, some Anglicans emphasize the catholic heritage, while others emphasize the Reformation, others our ecumenical history, and still others our charismatic experience. We are a church with various emphases in one fellowship.

We are also episcopal.

We follow the ancient pattern of consecrations of Bishops, a historic succession that goes back to the Apostles. We retain three orders of ordained ministry:

  • Bishops,
  • Priests (presbyters/elders) and
  • Deacons.

We are not the only true Church.

We believe that other churches that also confess Jesus as Lord, that baptize in water the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that believe in the Gospel and the Bible are our fellow Christians. Therefore, we do not believe that we are the only true Church. We affirm that the Orthodox, Protestant, Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Non-Denominational, Roman Catholic, and other churches that affirm the ancient faith of the Church are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Additional Resources

I’m sure that this attempt is inadequate as a full summary and that other Anglicans would take issue with some of the wording or emphasis. But I believe this gives a good starting point for someone exploring Anglicanism, and I hope it serves to give you a big picture from which you can gain a more detailed picture. If you’d like to read other summaries of what Anglicans believe, check out these resources:

Want to learn more? Check out Winfield Bevins’ book with Anglican Compass, Simply Anglican: An Ancient Faith for Today’s World, available in paperback and for Kindle, exclusively at Amazon.


Photo by Anastasia Petrova on Unsplash

Published on

September 24, 2020

Author

Winfield Bevins

Winfield Bevins is the author of Simply Anglican and numerous other books and the Director of CREO Arts. He lives in Kentucky with his wife and daughters.

View more from Winfield Bevins

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