What is Anglicanism?
Anglicanism is a global movement of Christians who live out their faith in the traditions which come out of the British historical experience (“Angl-” comes from the Germanic word for “English”).

The Core of Anglicanism

At its core, Anglicanism is a dramatic story that begins with the knowledge that God is a community of persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – who loved each other so much that they wished to create human beings to share that love.  Their intention was that humans would be “images” (reflections) of God, and know and love God freely. But humans rebelled and chose to follow their own selfish desires, creating conflict between humans and God, and between humans themselves. Then began a dance of God’s wooing humanity back into proper relationship, first by choosing the family of Abraham and being involved in their ongoing story, and then by sending one son of Abraham, Jesus, God in the flesh, who through His life and death and resurrection made it possible for humanity to know and love God as God wishes to be known and loved, and to know and love each other as God wishes us to be known and loved. In short, Anglicanism at its core is simply the traditional message of the Christian faith.

The Uniqueness of Anglicanism

What, then, makes Anglicanism special among Christian denominations? Our uniqueness lies in the historical realities of life in the British world which have shaped our understanding of Christianity. St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland in the 400s, and St. Augustine of Canterbury brought Christianity to England in the 500s. Along with the message of the Christian faith, they brought a Catholic understanding of worship and organizational structure. The Norman Conquest in 1066 brought Britain into the mainstream of European political and theological life. In the 1500s, Protestant theological insights were put forward and came to lead the mainstream of Anglican religious thought. The standard of Anglican worship is found in The Book of Common Prayer (“common prayer” means praying together as a community) which was first constructed by Thomas Cranmer in the 1500s and has been updated through the centuries. 

Reformed Catholicism

Anglicanism is sometimes referred to as “Reformed Catholicism” – keeping the beauty of classical and traditional worship while avoiding the theological errors, superstitions, and church corruption of the Middle Ages. Anglicans summarize the essentials of the Christian faith in what is called the “Lambeth Quadrilateral” (Lambeth is the palace in which the Archbishop of Canterbury lives in England; you might remember quadrilateral from a math class as a four-sided object). These four things are: the belief that Scripture contains all that is necessary to know for salvation; that the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds adequately summarize Christian belief; that baptism and the Eucharist are ways in which God touches our physical world; and that the church receives oversight from bishops (persons who have been given the job of serving the role that Apostles served in the early church).

Anglicanism Today

Despite its origins on the small British islands off the northeast corner of Europe, Anglicanism is strongest today in what is called the “Global South” – Africa, Asia, and South America. Of eighty million Anglicans in the world, fifty-five million of them live in the Global South. Only in the last two decades has the fact that international leadership of the Anglican movement has passed to the Global South been fully recognized and celebrated. We acknowledge that our African, Asian, and South American brothers and sisters are now the ones called to lead us as Anglicans forward in the part of the kingdom of God that we are called to. 

What should I expect if I visit an Anglican service?

Although every Anglican worship service follows the same general pattern (what is called “the Prayer Book tradition,”) every parish, or local church, has its own style. The wide range of accepted worship styles is what draws many to Anglicanism in the first place. Many parishes offer both traditional and contemporary services, contemporary services being generally more relaxed and with more modern music involved than the traditional services, which feature classic hymns. Typically, those leading the service will be wearing vestments (white garments), and will begin the service by walking in together from the back of the church. After that, the service will follow a format in a service booklet that is provided, possibly also with projected words, so it will be easy to follow along. There is a general flow to the service in which, over and over, we are reminded that although we have not met God’s expectations in our lives, God loves us and forgives us anyway, and that we are able to respond to God’s love by turning to God instead of following our own selfishness. In almost every Anglican service, there will be a celebration of the Eucharist, the sharing of bread and wine among the members of the congregation. All baptized Christians are welcome to come forward and receive the bread and the wine. If you are not baptized or not a Christian, you are still welcome to come forward and receive prayer; simply cross your arms over your chest and the person giving communion will pray for you. One thing to remember if you visit an Anglican church: please, do not put money in the offering plate! You are our guest, and we are interested in you, not in your money.       
The Rev. DrJames Manley, Deacon


© 2012, Servants of Christ Anglican Church

Other Suggested Reading:
By Thomas McKenzie

The Anglican Way: A Guidebook

By John Howe and George Carey

Our Anglican Heritage, Second Edition: Can an Ancient Church be a Church of the Future?

Some historic documents of Anglicanism:
For further reading on the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA)