The Anglican Church:
The Anglican Church came out of the English Reformation of the sixteenth century. Just as the Lutheran Church came out of the Protestant Reformation of the fifteenth century. The Protestant Reformation would change the religious makeup of Europe, with half the population becoming Protestant. And the Reformation that took place in England would shape religion in America in the years to come.
All of England was Catholic in the fifteenth century and the Catholic Church in England was having the same problems as the Catholic Church in the rest of Europe. Many of the church leaders lived in luxury and wielded great power and influence over the people causing many Catholics to call for reform, William Tyndale, a reformer, was put to death by the Church. It was King Henry VIII who finally caused the English Catholic Church to split from the Roman Catholic Church and become the Church of England.
King Henry VIII was a Catholic and didn’t want to reform the Catholic Church. All he really wanted was a baby boy and his wife Katharine of Aragon couldn’t seem to produce one for him. King Henry VIII was attracted to Anne Boleyn and he hoped that she could produce a male heir for him. The king asked the pope to give him an annulment to cancel his marriage to Katharine so he could marry Anne Boleyn. The pope refuse to give the king the annulment he wanted, so King Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn anyway. The pope responded by excommunicating him.
This caused England to split from the Roman Catholic Church. The British Parliament removed the Church of England from the pope’s control and declared that King Henry VIII would now have control over the Church of England.
King Henry VIII did not intend to change any of the church’s doctrines. He just wanted to take the oversight of the English Church away from Rome. Even though King Henry VIII put some Protestant reformers to death he did allow Catholics in England to read the Bible, something the Roman Catholic Church had not allowed.
After several years of marriage to Ann Boleyn, King Henry VIII tired of her and had her head chopped off! She had also failed to give him a male heir. After marrying and divorcing or doing away with six wives, King Henry VIII died in 1547: and his sickly nine-year-old son, Edward VI, succeeded him to the throne. During Edward VI’s brief reign as king of England, he allowed the Protestants to reform the Church of England. Clergy were now allowed to marry and the first Book of Common Prayers in the English language was brought in for the people.
When Edward VI, who was Protestant, died, his half-sister Mary, who was a strict Catholic, came in to rule England as their queen. Mary has sometimes been called “Bloody Mary”, because she either beheaded or burned many of the leading Protestant reformers of her day!
After twenty-five years of turmoil where England went from being Roman Catholic to English Catholic to Protestant and back to Roman Catholic, the situation had led to chaos in England! But then Elizabeth I, the half-sister of Mary and Edward came to the throne in 1558. Elizabeth reigned for forty-five years and Elizabeth used her influence to cause the citizens of England to stop fighting and to be united in a common faith. A truly amazing story!
Queen Elizabeth I put together the Church of England, which was made up of Catholics and Protestants, and was called the Anglican Church. There were large numbers of both Catholics and Protestants in England at that time and the Queen wanted them all to come together. Queen Elizabeth I negotiated an agreement between them to form the Church of England – a Church that would keep some of the Catholic doctrines as well as some of the Protestant doctrines!
The Queen’s agreement for a new state church in England was known as the “via media” or “middle way”. She called out to her beloved Englishmen to stop the fighting and bloodshed and she encouraged Catholics and Protestants alike to unite as one. The Queen encouraged Catholics and Protestants to work together peacefully and amazingly they did! Because of this the Anglican Church was born!
Even though we each may not have the influence that the Queen had over England, if each of us used our influence and encouragement to bring about peace and unity, we might just change our little world as Queen Elizabeth did hers! After Queen Elizabeth I died, King James I came into power and he authorized a new translation of the Bible known to us today as the King James Version.
Marks of the Anglican Church that are part of the Catholic teaching are the three-fold ministry of the bishop, priest, and deacon and the seven sacraments. Also the Catholic sense of great reverence for God in the liturgy has continued in the Anglican Church, along with the reliance upon the spiritual disciplines that are a part of the Catholic Church.
The more Protestant elements of Anglicanism include the fact that bishops, priests, and deacons can be married and women can serve as priests in some areas. Also the members of the church share in the ministry of the Anglican Church.
The Catholic Church determines what their beliefs and practices are from two sources. (1) the Bible and from (2) their church traditions. The Lutheran Church only determine what they believe and practice from one source, (1) the Bible, or as Luther stated, “Sola Scriptura” – only Scripture. And the Anglican Church chose to determine their beliefs and practices by following (1) Scripture, (2) Tradition and (3) reason.
They called this their “three-legged stool. The Catholic Church and many conservative denominations of Protestants believe that human reason can never be placed on the same level as God’s Word, the holy Scriptures. Conservatives take a high view of Scripture and worry that this emphasis on human intelligence gives the more liberal denominations a low view of Scripture. .
Prayer is the main emphasis of the Episcopal or Anglican Church. Jesus said that God is looking for people to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Anglican worship is not casual but “high church”. An Anglican church service is never a performance given for an audience but an Anglican worship service is always a time to remember that a holy and almighty God is present and a time to humbly worship Him.
Anglicans believe that without prayer, we simply cannot continue to live as God desires. The idea that “The law of prayer is the law of belief” is an idea that is very important to Anglicans. It means that praying and worshipping are the most important things they do. The essence of Christian faith is found in worshiping together, spending time each day in prayer, and listening for God’s voice. The Anglican Church has a Book of Common Prayers which is read in all their services. Also, Anglicans are encouraged to set aside certain times of the day to pray and worship and read the Psalms.
Anglicans believe that prayers and praise and worship shape their Christian belief. They call on their members to bring discipline and order to their prayer lives. Through prayer, Jesus found strength. And we will too. We can learn valuable lessons from our Anglican brothers and sisters. Let’s follow their example in prioritizing prayer and worship.
And we can also learn lessons from the Anglican attitude of “via Media” or “middle way” of working together to negotiate agreements so all may unite as one. This gentle attitude of peace and cooperation still seems to be a part of many Anglican congregations. We Christians from other branches on Christianity’s family Tree can learn much from our Anglican brothers and sister in Christ.
This material has taken information from Adam Hamilton’s book “Christianity’s Family Tree” Chapter 5 “Anglicanism: Common Prayer.