"A three-fold cord is not easily broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
Anglicanism has a rich heritage which combines three strands into a single cord: Biblical teaching and preaching (Scripture), celebrating the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion using liturgies based upon the ancient practices of the Church (Sacrament), and belief that the Holy Spirit continues to move within the Church with all the gifts described by the Scriptures (Spirit). Together, these three strands describe the Church in its fulness.
While you may not be familiar with Anglicanism, you are more than likely familiar with some famous Anglicans: C.S. Lewis, J.I. Packer, Bono, John Stott, George Washington, Francis Bacon, Florence Nightingale, the sisters Bronte, Peter Hitchens (Christopher Hitchens’ brother), Jan Karon, James Madison, John Wesley, Jane Austen, T.S. Eliot, Dorothy Sayers, and William Wordsworth, to name a few.
The roots of the Anglican Church began with the missionary effort to convert the Britons during the days of the Roman Empire. Many Church Fathers, such as Tertullian, Eusebius, Dorotheus of Tyre, and Hilary of Poitiers, tell us that this effort began during the time of the Apostles, resulting in a well-established, mission-minded church in Briton. With the collapse of the Roman Empire and the invasion of Germanic pagans, this ministry was continued in Ireland and Scotland, and missionaries from the Celtic monasteries and their Saxon disciples would re-evangelize northern portions of England, as well as much of western and northern Europe. Later, St. Augustine of Canterbury would usher in a second missionary efforts which eventually saw the conversion of southern and middle England. These two branches of the Church in England would join together in the 7th century, giving the basic shape to the Anglican Church of today.
As was the case throughout Europe, corruptions came into the Church in England during the Middle Ages. In the 16th century, theologians and preachers, such as Robert Barnes, Thomas Bilney, Thomas Cranmer, and Hugh Latimer, brought about the reformation of the Anglican Church, restoring such fundamental, Biblical doctrines as salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, teachings which the ancient British Christians believed. Unlike the Reformation on the continent of Europe, the Anglican Church retained the godly practices of the Catholic Church, including the distinctive English liturgies, rites, and episcopal government. Because of this, the Anglican Church is considered the “middle way” between Protestantism and Catholicism.
As England grew to become the British Empire, colonizing much of the world, she took her Church, the Church of England, with her. This Church was the greatest missionary movement in the 19th and the first quarter of the 20th centuries. Millions of people came to Christ through the Church’s faithful preaching and teaching. When the British Empire dissolved, the Anglican Church remained, retaining the theology and heritage of the parent church. This brought about the creation of the Anglican Communion, which now is represented in over 160 countries, with a total of about 85 million members worldwide, organized into 39 autonomous Provinces.
There is a global crisis today in the Anglican Communion because some Provinces (like the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada) have left the biblical moorings that served to form the foundation of our Church. In response to this, in 2009 the Anglican Church in North America was formed, holding to teachings and practices distinctive to classical Anglicanism, including:
- The Bible is the authoritative Word of God and contains all truths that are needed for salvation;
- The Nicene and Apostles' Creeds are held as basic statements of essential Christian belief inasmuch as they are accurate summaries of Biblical teaching;
- The 39 Articles and The Book of Common Prayer are historic and faithful statements of Anglican doctrine and practice;
- Baptism and Holy Communion are to be celebrated as the sacraments established by Christ in the Gospels;
- The godly, historic episcopate is the form of Church government consistent with the teachings of Scripture and the manner by which the Church has been governed from its earliest days.
As in many denominations, from Roman Catholics to Baptists, the renewal movement of the 20th century had and continues to have, an impact on Anglicanism. This movement has enriched our tradition by reawakening us to the truth that the Spirit of God is still present in the Church today, as the Spirit has always been, giving gifts and empowering the Gospel ministry of the Church.
There is, of course, much more to being an Anglican than is described here. So come and visit and discover the richness of our tradition as we faithfully proclaim the Gospel of Christ.