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 as Tractarianism, 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, the 1662 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 the following resources:
ARTICLES & TALKS:
Rev. Dr. Peter Adam, graduated from Durham University with a PhD in systematic theology on the theme of the Imitation of Christ in the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Vicar of St Jude’s Carlton, Australia he served for twenty years. He was later elected a Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral and served as Principal of Ridley College, Melbourne.
Rev. Dr. Andrew Atherstone , a graduate of both Cambridge and Oxford Universities, he is currently Tutor in History and Doctrine at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He also serves as research fellow of the Latimer Trust an Anglican research institute at Oxford University.
- The Gospel and the Lord's Supper (in historical Anglicanism)
Bishop Wallace Parke Benn, an Evangelical Anglican churchman and former area Bishop of Lewes in the Diocese of Chichester. He is a member of REFORM a conservative evangelical grouping in the Church of England.
In this excellent talk Bishop Wallace Benn explains the Biblical nature and outworking of evangelical episcopacy with historical insights from Bishop Ussher. The second link is an article explaining the importance of confirmation from the perspective of one of Bishop Benn's confirmands.
Rev. Dr. Gerald Bray, is a well known British theologian, church historian and Anglican clergyman ordained in the Church of England. He holds a B.A. McGill University and a MLitt and DLitt University of Paris-Sorbonne. A prolific author, Bray has published many scholarly articles and books, including The Doctrine of God in the Contours of Christian Theology series (of which he is also the general editor) and Biblical Interpretation: Past and Present. He edited Galatians, Ephesians, the first volume of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture and is editor of the Anglican Theological journal Churchman.
- Church History II - The life and thought of the Christian church from the Reformation to modern times with an entire section devoted to the English Reformation.
Rev. Dr. Lee Gatiss is a graduate of Oxford University, Westminster Theological Seminary and Cambridge University (Ph.D. in 17th century biblical interpretation ). In addition to teaching 15-17th century church history at Cambridge University and at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology he is the current director of the Church Society.
In following three talks Lee Gatiss looks at Reformed theology and the doctrines of grace, from the English Reformation to the Evangelical Revival.
In this excellent talk Lee lays out the Evangelical character of the Book of Common Prayer
In this article Lee examines the theology of baptism found in the foundational documents of the Church of England.
Here Lee Gatiss builds on doctoral work examining John Owen’s biblical interpretation to discuss Owen's life and legacy and his little known Anglican identity.
Rev. Dr. W.H. Griffith Thomas , Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, admired and endorsed by J.I. Packer and Alister McGrath, his classic standard introduction to the 39 Articles of Religion demonstrates unambiguously its Reformed and Protestant character.
Dr. Gillis Harp, Professor of History, Grove City College. Dr. Harp is also a member of Grace Anglican Church in Slippery Rock, PA.
Rev. Canon Stanley Holbrooke-Jones (1927 - 2010), M.A. Dip. Th. was formerly Rector of St James, Poole & Director of the Church Society Trust. In this article he explores what led to the prominence of the Anglo-Catholic movement in the Church of England and why this is a betrayal of the true nature of historic Anglicanism as it was established.
Rev. Canon Dr. Henry Jansma is the Canon Theologian for CANA East and rector of All Souls Anglican Church in New Jersey. A graduate of both Westminster Seminary in PA and The University of Durham, in the UK (Ph.D.). Dr. Jansma has taught homiletics in both the Diocese of Lincoln Lay Reader School and at Reformed Episcopal Seminary in Blue Bell, PA. He has also taught Reformation History in the Diocese of New Jersey Deacon School. His Ph.D. thesis is The Prophetic Office in the Theology of John Calvin. Dr. Jansma remains an ardent student of the Reformation period, particularly in early Anglican theology and the Elizabethan Puritan movement. The following papers were produced for CANA East.
Rev. Dr. Michael Jensen is the rector at St Mark's Anglican Church, Darling Point, Australia and is the author of My God, My God: Is it Possible to Believe Anymore? He teaches theology at Sydney's Moore College. The following is an excellent brief introduction to the core essentials of authentic Anglicanism:
Archbishop Peter Jensen the retired Archbishop of Sydney and Metropolitan of the Province of New South Wales in the Anglican Church of Australia. An outspoken evangelical and adherent of confessional protestant & reformed Anglicanism his talks are always worth listening to (see his "Why I am Evangelical, Protestant & Reformed at the bottom of this page).
- On Being a Reformed Evangelical Anglican (Interview given at the 2015 CANA East Synod)
John Jewell, English Reformer and Bishop of Salisbury (1522-1571). His "Apology of the Church of England" makes it plain that the difference between the Church of England and the Church of Rome are theological differences. The Reformation was not a mistake, and the Protestant Reformed Church of England which sprung from it was not an unfortunate anomaly.
Rev. Richard Lepage, an ordained CANA East presbyter and vicar of Reformation Anglican Church in Gray, Maine joins the rest of the Anglican Forum team consisting of the Rev. Canon Dr. Henry Jansma, Rev. Dr. Jonathan Smith and Rev. Matt Kennedy to discuss the vital importance of restoring the 39 Articles of Religion to their role as the confessional standard of Anglicanism as they were originally established to be.
Rev. Canon Dr. Ashley Null is an internationally respected scholar on the grace and gratitude theology of the English Reformation. Holding research degrees from Yale and the University of Cambridge, he currently holds a research post at Humboldt University of Berlin and is a visiting fellow at the Divinity Faculty of Cambridge University and St. John’s College, Durham University. His project is editing the private theological notebooks of Thomas Cranmer.
In the following lecture, because justification by faith emphasized personal faith, persuasion was important to the Protestant Reformers. The verb ‘allure’ was thus closely connected with their expression of the Gospel, and this is reflected in the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer which is examined with great pastoral warmth in the following talk:
In this talk Dr. Null explains how the very heart of Cranmer’s understanding of the mission of the church is to proclaim the gospel … to renew hearts and minds and lives.
In an interview with David Ould Dr. Null discusses Cranmer's Protestant understanding of justification by faith alone and the importance and intent of the Anglican formularies to Anglican identity.
The Five Solas with Dr. Ashley Null filmed at Saint Andrew's in Mount Pleasant, S.C.
Dr. Ashley Null interview on Thomas Cranmer at Moore Theological College in Australia.
Here in the 2005 Global South Institute Lecture in Uganda Dr. Ashley Null spoke on the Thirty-Nine Articles and Reformation Anglicanism.
Rev. Dr. J.I. Packer, Oxford University graduate and noted Reformed Evangelical Anglican, author, and theologian. He is considered to be one of the most important evangelical theologians of the late 20th century.
The Rev. Dr. Ian Paul studied pure maths at St John’s College, Oxford and applied maths (Operational Research) at the University of Southampton. He trained for ordination in the Church of England at St John’s College, Nottingham, where he also did a PhD in New Testament which he has taught at both Nottingham and Fuller Seminary.
Dr. Jean-Louis Quantin, an internationally respected professor and scholar of Reformation history at the Sorbonne in Paris discusses, in this interview, his study of the doctrinal commitments that prevailed among the divines of the Church of England. His close examination of the primary sources is reveals how the divines judged disputes in doctrinal matters, and in particular their unique reliance on Scripture and the Church Fathers as the key for settling doctrinal disputes.
John Charles Ryle (1816 - 1900) was an Anglican clergyman and first Bishop of Liverpool. He was renowned for his powerful preaching and extensive writing as well as his defense of historic Protestant & Reformed Anglicanism.
Rev. Roger Salter, Rector of St. Matthews Anglican Church in the city of Birmingham, AL. The first article below is an excellent concise summary of the Anglican faith.
Augustus Montague Toplady, Noted Anglican minister, apologist & hymn writer (1740-1778). Contemporary and friend of noted Anglican evangelist George Whitefield (1714-1770). In his famous two works The Church of England Vindicated from the Charge of Arminianism (1769) and The Historic Proof of the Doctrinal Calvinism of the Church of England (1774) he exhaustively proves that Calvinism, not Arminianism, was the historical position of the Church of England.
Rev. Adam Charles Young, An ordained Church of England clergyman and graduate of Wycliffe Hall (University of Oxford) who currently serves the parishes of Emmanuel Church Saltburn and Saint Thomas New Marske. Rev. Young is a talented preacher and an articulate defender of the historic defining Formularies of the Church of England (The 39 Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal). His writings carefully demonstrate how the Formularies consistently testify to the pure Gospel faith plainly seen in Holy Scripture and he is a refreshing advocate for restoring the Anglican church to its original and established purpose, namely, a church that upholds and defends "the true profession of the Gospel and the Protestant Reformed religion."
We also highly recommend the following videos by the former Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen :