New to Anglicanism?

The Anglican tradition is grounded in the Scriptures and in continuity with the ancient Christian church. It represents more than 90 million people worldwide, most of whom live in Africa, Asia, and South America. Anglican churches recognize one another, and other churches, as genuine expressions of Christian faith.

Anglican churches worldwide are descended from the Church of England, and they have a common liturgical and theological inheritance. This inheritance includes the standard for Anglican liturgy, which is the Book of Common Prayer (1662), as well as the confessional statement for Anglicans, the Thirty-Nine Articles. Here at Holy Cross we use that liturgy and we teach that confession.

The Church of England was the English branch of the Protestant Reformation, and there’s no doubt that the Anglican tradition is Protestant. It insists on justification by faith alone (Article 11) and on the supreme authority of Scripture alone (Articles 6, 8, 19, 20). The Anglican tradition is in the same larger family of churches as Lutherans and Presbyterians.

You’ll sometimes see Anglicanism described as “reformed and catholic.” The “reformed” part is from how this tradition was shaped by the Reformation. But the reformers weren’t trying to do something new; they were trying to recover the purity of the earliest centuries of the church. Like Luther and Calvin, the English reformers insisted on the catholic (meaning “universal”) teachings of the church embodied in the historic creeds, including doctrines about the Trinity and the incarnation of our Lord.

A former Archbishop of Canterbury once gave this helpful description:

“The word ‘Anglican’ begs a question at once. I have simply taken it as referring to the sort of Reformed Christian thinking that was done by those (in Britain at first, then far more widely) who were content to settle with a church order grounded in the historic ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, and with the classical early Christian formulations of doctrine about God and Jesus Christ—the Nicene Creed and the Definition of Chalcedon. It is certainly Reformed thinking, and we should not let the deep and pervasive echoes of the Middle Ages mislead us: it assumes the governing authority of the Bible, made available in the vernacular, and repudiates the necessity of a central executive authority in the Church’s hierarchy. It is committed to a radical criticism of any theology that sanctions the hope that human activity can contribute to the winning of God’s favour, and so is suspicious of any organised asceticism (as opposed to the free expression of devotion to God which may indeed be profoundly ascetic in form) and of a theology of the sacraments which appears to bind God too closely to material transactions (as opposed to seeing the free activity of God sustaining and transforming certain human actions done in Christ’s name).” (Rowan Williams, Anglican Identities, pp. 2-3)

Anglican congregations belong to a “diocese,” which is under the authority and care of a bishop, and a “province,” which is a group of dioceses. Our diocese is the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word, and our province is the Anglican Church in North America.

If you would like to know more about Anglicanism, join us for worship and conversation.

If you are looking for resources for further study, a good place to begin is Gerald Bray’s recently published introduction called Anglicanism: A Reformed Catholic Tradition. If you want to dig deeper, see Thomas Nowell’s catechism as well as the commentaries on the Thirty-nine Articles by Thomas Rogers, Harold Browne, and Griffith Thomas.

Additional resources, articles, and papers on a variety of topics may be found on the website of our diocese.