The term Anglican describes those people and churches following the religious traditions of the Church of England, especially following the Reformation. Anglicans trace these traditions back to the first followers of Jesus, but acknowledge that schisms occurred first with the Orthodox then with the Roman Catholic churches. Like Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches (and unlike most Protestant churches), Anglicans maintain authority within the church through apostolic succession.

Anglicanism considers itself a Catholic church, and is thus in contrast with the Roman Catholic variety of Catholicism; but it is very common in English to use "Catholic" to refer only to the Catholic Church in union with Rome.

Anglicanism is most commonly identified with the established Church of England, but Anglican churches exist in most parts of the world. In some countries (e.g., the United States, Scotland) the Anglican church is known as Episcopal, from the Latin episcopus, "bishop", which comes from a Greek word literally meaning an "overseer". The majority of Anglicans consider themselves 'in communion' with the See of Canterbury, and the Anglican Communion is a formal organisation made up of churches at the national level. However, there are a small number of Anglicans, the 'continuing church' movement, who do not acknowledge the Anglican Communion, because they consider the Church of England and the Episcopal Church, as well as other Western provinces, too "liberal".

Each national church, or province is headed by a Primate, called a Primus in Scotland, an Archbishop in most countries, and a Presiding Bishop in the ECUSA, and is divided into a number of dioceses, usually corresponding to state or metropolitan divisions. There are three orders of ordained ministry: deacon, priest and bishop. Clerical celibacy is not enforced, and women may be ordained as deacons in almost all dioceses, as priests in many, and in some countries as bishops.

Anglicans look for authority (in the formula of Richard Hooker) in Scripture, Tradition (the practices and writings of the historical church) and Reason, allowing for continued development of doctrine. The Church of England regards the Bible, the three Creeds (Nicene Creed, Apostles' Creed, and Athanasian Creed), the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Book of Common Prayer as the principal statements of Anglican doctrine, as do most other churches in the Anglican Communion worldwide. The Thirty-Nine Articles are not binding and are Calvinist in nature.

Anglicanism has always been characterised by diversity in theology and liturgy. Different individuals and groups may identify more with Roman Catholic tradition or with the principles of the Reformation. For example, some Anglicans follow Roman Catholics and Orthodox in regarding the Deuterocanonical (or Apocryphal) books of the Bible as having some authority, while others reject them as not belonging in the Bible. (See Biblical canon.) Officially, the Anglican doctrine is that these books are to be read in church, but not used to establish doctrine.

Two extreme forms of Anglicanism which became particularly prominent in the 19th century were the Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical movements. These groups are often equated with 'High' and 'Low' Anglicanism respectively, but the range of beliefs held by Anglicans in the last two centuries are far too diverse to fit into these labels. Most Anglicans are 'Broad', or somewhere between High and Low.

See also: Church of England, Anglican Communion, and Methodist.

External Links:

  • Anglican Communion - The official site of the Anglican Communion.
  • Anglicans Online - An unofficial site of the Anglican Communion. One of the biggest resources of Anglicanism in the world.\n