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Anglican Faith & History FAQs
We want nothing but the old truths rightly preached and rightly brought home to consciences, minds, and wills.There never has been good done in the world excepting by the faithful preaching of evangelical truth.The good that has been done in the world, however small, has always been done by evangelical doctrines.”
Bishop J.C. Ryle
What is an Anglican?
Anglican simply means we trace our roots back to the Protestant Reformation when the Church of England (which used to be called Angle-Land) rejected the authority of the pope and the teachings of the Roman Catholic church. Later as the Church of England began to expand beyond the borders of Great Britain, it was no longer appropriate to call the new churches the Church of England, so they began to be called Anglican.
Aren't you just a British church?
No! Currently there are approximately 80 million Anglicans world-wide, making us the third largest Christian communion in the world after Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. This also makes us by far the largest historically Protestant church in existence today. Since the Anglican Church is well established on every continent in the world (with the possible exception of Antarctica) and is made up of people from all races, cultures and nationalities our outlook is global versus national with our largest (and increasingly most significant) churches being found in Africa and Asia.
How do you worship?
One of the things that made the Church of England unique during the Reformation was their desire to reform the church by changing all that was un-Biblical while keeping all that was Biblical. Liturgical worship (reading, praying, confessing and singing Scripture) has been the practice of the New Testament Church for thousands of years, and was the practice of the Old Testament Church before that. For instance, the Apostle Paul recites several liturgical statements of faith in his letters. These statements (Phil 2:5-11; Col 1:15-20; 2 Tim 2:11-13 ) were most likely said by the first churches weekly to remind themselves of what they believed. Although our liturgical prayers may differ among some branches of the Anglican Communion, many are products of thousands of years of the teaching of the Church.
As traditional Protestant & Reformed Anglicans, we hold that as we pray so we believe ( Lex orandi, lex credendi). We believe that Scripture is God’s inspired and inerrant word and is the chief instrument through which God teaches His people. For this reason, approximately 90% of our Prayer book is taken directly from Scripture. We also believe that we are part of the continuing Christian story. That story does not begin with 21st century America nor will it end with us. Through liturgy we not only connect with the wisdom of God’s word but with the wisdom of faithful believers throughout the ages and other Anglicans all over the world. That helps prevent believers in any one time period, or any one country from wandering too far from the Christian path. It also helps our worship to transcend both culture and time.
True Biblical worship is God centered not man centered, so you will not find any performers on a stage or special music in our service, we come as one body to hear, respond and sing to our God in union together, giving all our attention to Him alone with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12: 28-29).
The role of the minister in Anglican worship is not that of a celebrity speaker or witty entertainer, but as one who has been called to bring and give voice to the Word of God. His words are authoritative only insofar as they conform to the Word of God. He wears robes not because he is special but as an act of humility because his individuality (taste in dress or social class) is not the focus, the content of his words, namely the Gospel and person of Christ alone is.
If Anglicans are Protestants, why do they sometimes refer to their ministers as "Priests"?
The word presbyter derives from Greek πρεσβύτερος (presbyteros), “old man or elder”. In Old English this was pronounced prēost and later became “priest”. This is not the same word as the latin sacerdos/sacerdotes, literally one who presents sacred offerings (sacrifices).
“We [Anglicans] have Bishops, Priests and Deacons, but the Priests are Presbyteri not Sacerdotes… in the New Testament and the Prayer Book [Book of Common Prayer], it is essentially pastoral, never mediatorial, but always concerned with the work of preaching, teaching, and guiding the flock. The minister is a prophet from God to the people, and not a sacrificing or mediating priest” – p. 321
“The Roman Catholic Church gives her “priests” power to “offer sacrifices.” But this is entirely absent from our [Anglican] Ordination Service… there is nothing sacerdotal provided in the ministry of our Church, it seems clear that the word ‘priest’ can only be equivalent to ‘presbyter,’ and, as such, expresses the evangelistic and pastoral ministry associated with the Presbyterate in the New Testament.” – pp. 319-20
– Rev. Dr. W.H. Griffith Thomas, Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford,”The Principles of Theology: An Introduction to the 39 Articles”
Do all Anglicans believe and practice the same way?
No unfortunately not every branch of the Anglican church has remained faithful to our original faith and piety. Anglo-Catholicism, also known asTractarianism, Puseyism or the Oxford Movement arose in the middle 1800’s, several hundred years after the English Reformation and is a departure from the original theology of the English Reformers, found in the 39 Articles, the1662 Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal and the Book of Homilies.
As Roman Catholic ritualism became popular, adherence to the authority of Scripture and the doctrines of grace weakened. Eventually church discipline was undermined as subscription to the Articles of Religion was ignored by both clergy and bishops alike. Sadly this would eventually open the door not only to Roman Catholic teachings but also to liberalism and other more recent innovations. The Episcopal Church in the United States is one such branch whose faith, piety and morality no longer reflect that of Scripture or historic Anglicanism and her confessional formularies.
“I now find it impossible to evade the conviction that among those who are joining in the present movement for the restoration of Eucharistic vestments, the use of incense and candles in the day time, the offering of the Holy Sacrament as a propitiatory sacrifice, and the elevation of the consecrated elements for the worship of the people, there are many who are resolved, if possible, to obliterate in the formularies and worship of our Church every trace of the Reformation. …Sixteen years ago I had to contend with an attempt of somewhat the same character, at St. Saviour’s, Leeds, where among other innovations the practice of confession after the Roman usage was introduced, and as soon as I proceeded to reprove it by the exercise of discipline, some of the Clergy of that Church shewed themselves in their true colours by seceding to the Church of Rome.”
For more information about the traditional faith and history of Anglicanism, we recommend reading our Articles & Talks page.