: The Church of England,



The Church of England

, 2002

The Church of England


Introduction ..3

I.        History of the Church of England

1)   Status of Church in England up to 1530 ..4

2)   Reformation of Church 4

Henry VII.4

Edward VI6

Mary I...6

Elizabeth I7

Charles II..8

Victoria .8

II. The Church of England today..9

1)   The essence of being an Anglican..9

2)   Organisation of the Church of England .11

III.  Church of England becomes an International Church...12




Everything in this life has its own history, especially Religion, as it is a great institution. With the development of history of a particular country, there will always be development of Religion, since the Church is an integral part of State System. Heathenism, Orthodoxy, Judaism etc.. They have been living for centuries. And some of them were changed, penetrated each other or reformed dramatically.

England was not exception.

The English are not a deeply religious race. Hundreds of years ago they decided that Roman Catholicism with its teachings about original sin and the unworthiness of the human race could not really have been meant for them. So they designed a Church of their own the Church of England.

The English Reformation was a result of the chain of events that eventually altered England and Englishness forever. So much in history is a bastard child of both long-standing, simmering emotion and the opportunistic seizing of a moment. By its nature unexpected, it is also unpredictable, and shaped as much by environment and chance as by its progenitors. The Reformation was no different. It was going on through the ages and reigns.

I. History of the Church of England

1. Status of Church in England up to 1530

Until 1054 there was only one Christian Church - the Catholic Church. Its leadership was centered in five great Patriarchates -- Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and Constantinople in the East and Rome in the West. After the Roman Empire became Christian some bishops increasingly became involved in political matters, and the bishops of Rome in particular began to claim power over the whole Church. This led to a tragic division in the Church, the "Great Schism" of 1054, when it split into the "Orthodox" East and the "Roman Catholic" West.

Not directly involved in that split was the Church in England, which the Bishops of Rome were determined to claim - especially after 1061, when a rival Papacy in Lombardy claimed allegiance from the See of Canterbury. In 1066, the Duke of Normandy (William "the Conqueror"), with the support and formal blessing of Pope Alexander II, invaded England. After seizing the English Crown, William replaced all but one of the English bishops with Norman bishops loyal to Rome. The CHURCH OF ENGLAND was to remain under Papal jurisdiction for nearly 500 years, until the reign of King Henry VIII.

2. Reformation of Church

England in the sixteenth century was a land of contrasts. Much less urban than either Germany or the Netherlands, it nevertheless possessed a thriving international trade centre in London and in Oxford and Cambridge, two universities of outstanding reputation. The universities, in fact, would play a significant role in the early campaigns against Luther. Henry VIII turned to their finest theologians for arguments allowing him to enter the lists against the growing threat of Lutheran heresy. This initiative would earn him from a grateful Pope the coveted title, Defender of the Faith.

The progress of the Reformation in England was closely bound up with Henry's personal affairs. His increasing desperation to secure release from his marriage to Catherine of Aragon forced him to contemplate radical steps that went very much against the grain of his own instinctive theological conservatism.

Henry VIII

It was the only Henrys chance to go outside the boundaries of the orthodoxy. Until this event, Henry had never questioned the Popes authority or the validity of the Bible passage, it banned the marriage of a brother- and sister-in-law. It was as early as the end of 1529 that Henry first considered a complete dissociation from the Roman church.

Henry forced Wolsey to retire, as his entire foreign policy had collapsed and he was now of no help to the King. In July of 1531, Henry sent Catherine to Ampthill, never to see her again. He took back her royal jewels and gave them to Anne. When Parliament reconvened in January, 1532, Henry ordered that no further funds would be transferred to Rome, but hinted to the Pope that the money would be restored if the annulment was passed.

Meanwhile, most of the bishops had been persuaded that they would not lose any power or income if the English Church were to split from Rome. In March, the Convocation formally announced their readiness to separate: May it please your Highness to ordain in the present Parliament that the obedience of your Highness and of the people be withdrawn from the See of Rome. On May 15, they printed a pledge to submit all its legislation to a new committee, formed of laymen and clergymen, called the Reformation Parliament and Convocation. This is where the Church of England was born.

On January 15, 1533, Henry and Anne, who was four months pregnant, were married. However, the King still did not have his first marriage annulled. He submitted his request for annulment to the new Convocation, led by Thomas Cranmer. On May 23, Cranmer declared Henry and Catherines marriage to be unlawful and void. Five days later, he pronounced Henry and Anne legally wed. On May 31, 1533, Anne was coronated as Queen of England. Although the King and new Queen rejoiced, the silence from the crowd at the coronation spoke for much of England. Pope Clement excommunicated the King, stating that the new marriage was null, and that any children would be illegitimate. On September 7 Elizabeth was born.

Henry swiftly transformed the English Church by passing various Acts through Parliament. In March of 1534, The Act of Succession declared the marriage to Catherine invalid, and therefore Mary illegitimate. Elizabeth was named heir to the throne unless Anne produced a son. Royal commissioners rode through the countryside, stopping at every house, castle, monastery, and convent to exact oaths of loyalty to the King from every man and woman. Only a few refused; those that did were sent to the Tower of London to be put to death.

On November 11, 1534, the Statute of Supremacy was passed by Parliament. This Act announced that the king, our sovereign lord, his heirs and successors, kings of this realm, shall be taken, accepted, and reputed the only supreme head in earth of the Church of England, called Anglicans Ecclesia. And the King our said sovereign lord, his heirs and successors, kings of this realm, shall have full power and authority to do everything most to the pleasure of Almighty God. It was done to increase virtue in Christ's religion, and for the conservation of the peace, unity, and tranquility of this realm (pp. 97-98, Milton Viorst, The Great Documents of Western Civilization, NY, Barnes and Noble, 1965)

Innovative from the first, the new Church simplified the liturgy, ensured it was in English rather than Latin and set it out in a new Book of Common Prayer which was designed to give the people of England a commonly held pattern of worship, a sense of oneness of Church and people, with the Church sanctifying every side of national life, giving society a Godward purpose and direction. It introduced on Day of Pentecost. It is written in English, emphasizes the people's participation in the eucharist, and requires the Bible to be read from cover to cover. Fast days are retained (supposedly to help fishermen), but saints' days are not.

The political nation was, for the most part, obediently compliant rather than enthusiastic. There is no evidence of any great hostility towards the church and its institutions before the Reformation; on the contrary, both the English episcopate and parish clergy seem to have been, by the standards of other European lands, both well-trained and living without scandal. Cardinal Wolsey, who fathered an illegitimate son, was very much the exception. On the other hand, few were prepared to defy the King to defend the threatened institutions of the old church. Many benefited from the windfall of church property that followed the confiscation of monastic lands.

Edward VI

During Edward's reign (Henrys son), the Church of England became more explicitly Protestant - Edward himself was fiercely so. The Book of Common Prayer was introduced in 1549, aspects of Roman Catholic practices (including statues and stained glass) were eradicated and the marriage of clergy allowed. The imposition of the Prayer Book (which replaced Latin services with English) led to rebellions in Cornwall and Devon.

Images" ordered removed from all churches by the council of regents. This also means no vestments, ashes, palms, holy water, or crucifixes. This causes so much resentment that an order suppressing all preaching follows.

Mary I

Edward VI dies. People are tired of Protestant looting of churches. Mary Tudor ("Bloody Mary"), a militant Roman Catholic, becomes queen, she returned the English church to communion with Rome. She was Popular at first, but soon marries the hated Philip II of Spain. Persecution of Protestants begins; Mary appoints new bishops and fires all married priests. During her reign, about 300 Protestants were burned, including 5 bishops, 100 priests, and 60 women. An attempt by Cardinal Pole (Mary's archbishop of Canterbury) to restore monasticism fizzles when, among 1500 surviving monks, nuns, and friars, fewer than 100 are willing to return to celibacy. All this ensures Roman Catholics will remain unpopular in England.

Elizabeth I

Mary dies. Elizabeth I, (a Protestant), becomes queen. Despite many problems (including frequent assassination plots from Roman Catholics), she supports the enterprising middle class and England prospers. With her accession an independent church was restored and steered along a middle ground between Roman Catholicism and Calvinism.

Since 1564 the Era of Puritanism had began. The word "Puritan" appears for the first time. It was biblically based on Calvinistic Protestantism - with emphasis upon the "purification" of church and society of the remnants of "corrupt" and "unscriptural" "papist" ritual and dogma. The characteristics of their movement were the following: a disciplined, godly life, and the energetic evangelical activities. They want:

  • a skilled, educated preaching ministry, based on the Bible
  • as few ceremonies in church as Biblically possible (no surplice, no signing of the cross)
  • abolition of the traditional role of bishop, and replacement of the episcopate by a presbyterian system
  • one legal government church, controlled by Puritans.

By the 1660s Puritanism was firmly established amongst the gentry and the emerging middle classes of southern and eastern England, and during the Civil Wars the Puritan "Roundheads" fought for the parliamentary cause and formed the backbone of Cromwell's forces during the Commonwealth period. After 1646, however, the Puritan emphasis upon individualism and the individual conscience made it impossible for the movement to form a national Presbyterian church, and by 1662, when the Anglican church was re-established, Puritanism had become a loose confederation of various Dissenting sects. The growing pressure for religious toleration within Britain itself was to a considerable degree a legacy of Puritanism, and its emphasis on self-discipline, individualism, responsibility, work, and asceticism was also an important influence upon the values and attitudes of the emerging middle classes.

Thirty-Nine Articles (1571) drafted as a doctrinal statement by a convocation of the Church of England. The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, along with the historic Creeds, are the doctrinal standard for Anglicanism. They are printed in the back of most editions of the Prayer Book and tell us not only about the main postulates (e.g. Of faith in the Holy Trinity, Of the Word, or Son of God, which was made very man; Of Original or Birth Sin; Of Free Will etc.), but also about Sin after Baptism, Of the Church, Of the Authority of the Church, Of the authority of General Councils, Of speaking in the Congregation in such a tongue as the people understandeth etc.

Charles II

With accession of Charles II in 1660 the Restoration of the monarchy began. Everyone is tired of Puritan rule. Puritan laws and censorship are repealed; the theaters re-open. The "Declaration of Breda" results in tolerance for Puritan views within the Anglican fold. The conflict with Puritanism leaves distrust for religious individualism and emotionalism ("enthusiasm") among Anglicans. This will continue through the "Great Awakening" (1738-1784: Christian revival in England and America). This coincides with the Enlightenment, or Age of Reason, during which many educated people cease to consider themselves Christians.

Act of Toleration (1689), partially restores civil rights to Roman Catholics and Dissenters. The events since the Reformation have finally convinced most Anglicans of the virtues of tolerance and mutual forbearance.

Victorian Era

The trend during this period will be rediscovery of liturgy and church history - High church - and spreading Christianity Low hurch.

The Evangelical branch of the Anglican Church coincided very nearly with the "Low Church" party. Evangelical, a term literally meaning "of or pertaining to the Gospel," designated the school of theology adhered to by those Protestants who believed that the essence of the Gospel lay in the doctrine of salvation by faith in the death of Christ, which atoned for man's sins. Evangelicalism stressed the reality of the "inner life," insisted on the total depravity of humanity and on the importance of the individual's personal relationship with God and Savior. They put particular emphasis on faith, denying that either good works or the sacraments (which they perceived as being merely symbolic) possessed any salvational efficacy. Evangelicals, too, denied that ordination imparted any supernatural gifts, and upheld the sole authority of the Bible in matters of doctrine

High church was associated with the Tractarian movement began about 1833 and ended in 1845 with John Henry Newman's conversion to Roman Catholicism. It was also called the Oxford Movement because Newman, a fellow of Oriel College (part of Oxford University) and vicar of St. Mary's, the University church, and others were based there when they began the Tracts for the Times in 1833. There were exactly 90 Tracts, the majority written by Newman, arguing in general that the truth of the doctrines of the Church of England rested on the modern church's position as the direct descendant of the church established by the Apostles. Pretty obviously, such an argument was a conservative answer to the various contemporary challenges to the authority of religion in general, Christianity in particular, and specifically Anglicanism Catholicism, fueled by the same need for reassurance as was the Evangelical revival. Since the 16th century the Church of England had prided itself on being the via media, or middle road, between Roman Catholicism and a more radical Protestantism.

The Church of England has, in its several ways, been the Church to uphold the dignity of the individual. It gave the lead, for example, not only in the abolition of slavery but it played a critical role in stopping the slave trade itself. Today, of course, it is a Church at the forefront of the practical fight to right injustices, restore the dignity of people everywhere and put the world on a sustainable economic footing without ruining the planet upon which God put us.

II. The Church of England today

We are now in what many call the post-modern era and the Church of England is experiencing a resurgence of interest in matters of faith as well as in the Church itself. Calls to the ministry are up, giving for the Church's work is up and the Church is confident that, with and by God's grace, it can make an increasingly valuable contribution to the life of the nation, its people, and do so far beyond its borders as well.

Anglicans are numerous on every continent and constitute the principal Christian community in many areas, notably in Africa.

The Book of Common Prayer exists in 170 languages. There are about 45 million Anglicans worldwide. There are three million Episcopalians in the US.
At least one survey indicates that, among all denominations in this country, we have the highest percentage of members who take time for daily prayer.

There is little doubt that, among all groups of Christians, we Anglicans are the most diverse and the most tolerant. Anglicans are still facing persecution in Iran and other Middle Eastern countries, Communist China, the Soviet bloc nations, Central Africa, and Central America.

Throughout the world, over one thousand new Christian churches open their doors each Sunday. As always, Christianity flourishes wherever it shows people its highest ideals.

1) The essence of being an Anglican

The Scriptures and the Gospels, the Apostolic Church and the early Church Fathers, are the foundation of Anglican faith and worship. The basic tenets of being an Anglican are:

* They view the Old and New Testaments 'as containing all things necessary for salvation' and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.

* They understand the Apostles' creed as the baptismal symbol, and the Nicene creed as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.

* The two sacraments ordained by Christ himself - Baptism and the Supper of the Lord - are administered with unfailing use of Christ's words of institution, and the elements are ordained by him.

* The historic episcopate is locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the unity of his Church.

Anglicans uphold the Catholic and Apostolic faith. Following the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Churches are committed to the proclamation of the good news of the Gospel to the whole creation. In practice this is based on the revelation contained in Holy Scripture and the Catholic creeds, and is interpreted in light of Christian tradition, scholarship, reason and experience.

By baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a person is made one with Christ and received into the fellowship of the Church. This sacrament of initiation is open to children as well as to adults.

Central to worship for Anglicans is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, also called the Holy Communion, the Lord's Supper or the Mass. In this offering of prayer and praise, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are recalled through the proclamation of the word and the celebration of the sacrament. Other important rites, commonly called sacraments, include confirmation, holy orders, reconciliation, marriage and anointing of the sick.

Worship is at the very heart of Anglicanism. Its styles vary from simple to elaborate, or even a combination. The great uniting text is The Book of Common Prayer, in its various revisions throughout the Communion. The Book of Common Prayer, alongside additional liturgies gives expression to the comprehensiveness found within the Church whose principles reflect that of the via media in relation to its own and other Christian Churches. The Lambeth Conferences of the 1950s and 1960s called for more up-to-date national liturgies and this is going on today. No matter how distinctive each is, they are all clearly of the lineage of The Book of Common Prayer.

Another distinguishing feature of the corporate nature of Anglicanism is that it is an interdependent Church, where parishes, dioceses and provinces help each other to achieve by mutual support in terms of financial assistance and the sharing of other resources.

To be an Anglican is to be on a journey of faith to God supported by a fellowship of co-believers who are dedicated to finding Him by prayer and service.



2) Todays Organisation of the Church of England

The Church of England is organised into two provinces; each led by an archbishop (Canterbury for the Southern Province and York for the Northern). These two provinces cover every inch of English soil, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, the Isles of Scilly and even a small part of Wales.

Each province is built from dioceses. There are 43 in England and the Diocese in Europe has clergy and congregations in the rest of Europe, Morocco, Turkey and the Asian countries of the former Soviet Union.

Each diocese (except Europe) is divided into parishes. The parish is the heart of the Church of England. Each parish is overseen by a parish priest (usually called a vicar or rector). From ancient times through to today, they, and their bishop, are responsible for the 'cure of souls' in their parish. That includes everyone. And this explains why parish priests are so involved with the key issues and problems affecting the whole community.

Her Majesty the Queen is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and she also has a unique and special relationship with the Church of Scotland, which is a Free Church. In the Church of England she appoints archbishops, bishops and deans of cathedrals on the advice of the Prime Minister. The two archbishops and 24 senior bishops sit in the House of Lords, making a major contribution to Parliament's work.

The Church of England is episcopally led (there are 108 bishops) and synodically governed. The General Synod is elected from the laity and clergy of each diocese and meets in London or York at least twice annually to consider legislation for the good of the Church.

The Archbishops' Council was established in 1999 to co-ordinate, promote, aid and further the mission of the Church of England. It is composed of 19 members and 7 directors whose task is to give a clear sense of direction to the Church nationally and support the Church locally.

The Church of England issues its own newspaper: The Church Times, founded in 1863. It has become the world's leading Anglican weekly newspaper. It has always been independent of the Church of England hierarchy. It was a family concern until 1989, when ownership passed to Hymns Ancient & Modern, a Christian charitable trust. The Church Times was started to campaign for Anglo-Catholic principles, which it did with vigour and rudeness. But in the 1940s and '50s the paper began the move to broaden its outlook and coverage. It now attempts to provide balanced and fair reporting of events and opinions across the whole range of Anglican affairs. The rudeness we now leave to our readers. For a longer history of the paper

III. Church of England becomes an International Church

Anglicans trace their Christian roots back to the early Church, and their specifically Anglican identity to the post-Reformation expansion of the Church of England and other Episcopal or Anglican Churches. Following the discovery of the "New World", Anglicanism spread to the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania (the central and south Pacific). Some 37 national and regional Anglican Churches were established in various parts of the world, which together became known as the Anglican Communion.

Historically, there were two main stages in the development and spread of the Communion. Beginning with the seventeenth century, Anglicanism was established alongside colonisation in the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. The second state began in the eighteenth century when missionaries worked to establish Anglican churches in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

As a worldwide family of churches, the Anglican Communion has more than 70 million adherents in 38 Provinces spreading across 161 countries. Located on every continent, Anglicans speak many languages and come from different races and cultures. Although the churches are autonomous, they are also uniquely unified through their history, their theology, their worship and their relationship to the ancient See of Canterbury.

The Anglican Communion has no constitution, governing body, central authority or common liturgy. It is merely a loose association of autonomous Churches with similar origins. Since 1970 it has been disintegrating, as some member churches have brazenly tampered with essential elements of the Faith and con no longer claim to have the same Scriptures, Creeds, Sacraments and Ministry as the rest of the Catholic church. Since 1987 those Churches have included the CHURCH OF ENGLAND herself.


There have been Christians in Britain since AD200 and probably earlier. Through war, peace, famine and prosperity, the Church was critical in the development of society, law, buildings and the quiet piety of the people. English civil power and the Church developed in an increasingly uneasy parallel. Two points of contention were the Church's wealth and its ties with Rome. These differences came to a head in the 1530s, when King Henry VIII wished to obtain a divorce from Queen Catherine of Aragon. And Act of Supremacy was issued. This Act reaffirmed the Kings sovereignty over the English Church and State and gave Henry power over all moral, organizational, heretical, and ecclesiastical reform which until this point had been left to the Church. The new church was christened Ecclesia Anglicana.

But in 1550's, however, under Edward VI, the English Church became Protestant in doctrine and ritual, and even then it remained traditional in organization. Under the Roman Catholic Mary I a politico-religious reaction resulted in the burning at the stake of some prominent Protestants and the exile of many others, which led in turn to a popular association of Catholicism with persecution and Spanish domination. When Elizabeth I succeeded to the throne in 1558, however, she restored a moderate Protestantism, codifying the Anglican faith in the Act of Uniformity, the Act of Supremacy, and the Thirty-Nine Articles.

Under reign of Charles II. Puritan laws and censorship are repealed; the theaters re-open. The conflict with Puritanism leaves distrust for religious individualism and emotionalism ("enthusiasm") among Anglicans. This will continue through the "Great Awakening". During "Great Awakening" Christian revival took place in England and America.

The trend during Victorian Era rediscovered of liturgy and church history and spreading Christianity. In the mid-nineteenth century, then, the Church of England was disorganized. Though its adherents were largely conservative, a considerable portion of its leadership was, ideologically speaking, perilously close to Catholicism, and the religious census of 1851 showed that it was reaching only about fourteen percent of the population of England.

When the British Empire expanded in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, so too did the Church. And today the Anglican Communion has more than 70 million adherents in 38 Provinces spreading across 161 countries. Te Churches are committed to the proclamation of the good news of the Gospel to the whole creation. In practice this is based on the revelation contained in Holy Scripture and the Catholic creeds, and is interpreted in light of Christian tradition, scholarship, reason and experience. The Anglican Church is open for people who are united in their creed and their love of Christ Jesus, the Son of God and what He means for them and for the world around them.


1.   The Anglican Catholic Church, second edition, 1998, published by The Anglican Catholic Church

2.   Dickens, A.G. The English Reformation. Second Ed. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1989

3.   Rupp, Gordon. Religion in England 1688-1791. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986

4.   Morgan, Kenneth O., ed. The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.


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