Anglican Communion

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The Anglican Communion is a Communion of Protestant churches which traces its roots to the English King, Henry VIII, and his disputes with the Roman Catholic Church over his divorce and remarriage. Today, the Anglican Communion is spread throughout the world, especially in English speaking countries. Within the Anglican Communion and within each Anglican church there are three main wings: evangelical (low); anglo-catholic (high); liberal.


The Church of England dates from the 16th Century dispute between King Henry VIII and the Papacy over the divorce of the King from Queen Katherine. The Monarch is head of the Church of England, the original and largest of the Anglican churches. The British Government, acting on behalf of the Monarch, appoints Church of England bishops. Bishops also sit in the House of Lords, a privilege not enjoyed by Catholic bishops or representatives of other faiths.


The original sources of Anglican doctrine were

  • The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as containing all things necessary to salvation
  • The three ecumenical creeds (Apostle's, Nicene, Athanasian)
  • The dogmatic decisions of the first four general councils of the Church
  • The Book of Common Prayer together with the Ordinal, as setting forth not only the Anglican order of worship, but also the theology of which that worship is the expression.
  • The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion as the official summary of the Church's standpoint in relation to central issues of theology and to a number of controversial points of doctrine and practice.

It is doubtful whether any of these five points can be cited with equal confidence today.


Anglican churches have an episocopalian system of government. Though there are certain similarities between Anglican and Catholic doctrine and ritual, Anglicanism is Protestant. The 39 articles of faith of Anglican church define the doctrine of the Church of England and churches in communion with it, and include statements of belief regarding justification by faith alone.

Divisions in Anglicanism

Anglicanism has two main wings, the Evangelical wing, being closest to other Protestant denominations such as Methodism and Presbyterianism, and Anglo-Catholicism, which emphasises common ground between Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism and the Orthodox Churches. In recent decades a third wing has developed, the liberal Anglican churches which have much less emphasis of the authority of the Bible and faith in Christ alone, and a greater emphasis on tolerance and acceptance.


There have been various attempts to unite Anglicanism either with other Protestant churches or with the Roman Catholic Church, but none have been successful, though there is considerable discussion and co-operation between the churches.

Archbishop of Canterbury

The spiritual head, or Primate, of the Church of England is the Archbishop of Canterbury. There is a Church council, the General Synod, which is the sovereign body in matters of doctrine. The recent controversy over the ordination of women caused considerable division within Anglicanism. Currently however a chief cause of debate within Anglicanism is the question of the ordination of homosexuals.


There are Anglican churches in the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and many other other countries, mostly English speaking.



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