Anglicanism: characteristics and history

He Anglicanism Is one of the traditions or expressions of the Christian faith grounded in the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is characterized by having strong historical links with the Christian Church of England. It shares beliefs, rites and structures similar to those of the Christian Church of Roman tradition.

The word Anglicanism originated in the medieval Anglican Ecclesia and was used in the Magna Carta to name the Christian Church in England in the thirteenth century. During the last two hundred years, however, the Anglican tradition has adopted the term Anglicanism to frame its religious position, beyond its etymological roots (Avis, 2000).


The Christian Church in England is one of the oldest in the world, with approximately 2000 years of antiquity. Historically, marked differences can be identified with the Roman Church, which is why in the sixteenth century it became independent of it and gave way to a reform that allowed to form the Church of England. However, the Anglican faith dates back to before the Reformation of the Christian Church.

There are currently approximately 85 million members of the Anglican Church in the world belonging to the 38 national or regional churches that call themselves Anglican autonomous. Each of these churches is connected with the Church of England and is part of what is known as the Anglican Community, which is led by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

History of Anglicanism

During the sixth and sixteenth centuries the Christian Church in England underwent great changes. Initially separated from the Bishop of Rome during the reign of King Henry VIII and was reintegrated into the church of Rome during the reign of Queen Mary I, re-separating during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

The Church in England was never seen as a new institution founded by the Roman church, but as an ancient continuation of the English Church (Ecclesia Anglicana) reformed and ready to reaffirm its rights as a national church, closer to its followers.

It is for this reason that during the sixth and sixteenth centuries the Christian Church in England underwent great changes, separating and reintegrating into the Catholic Church several times before defining itself as Anglican.

Separation from Rome

During century XVI, the king of England Enrique VIII wanted to repudiate to his wife Catherine of Aragon because this one did not give a son to him. When requesting the nullity of his marriage before the pope, this one did not grant it by political subjects that put him in situation of unfavorable with the Kingdom of Spain. This situation exasperated Henry VIII, who had his marriage annulled by an ecclesiastical court.

Once Henry VIII was excommunicated, he exercised an Act of Supremacy, endorsed by the English Parliament in 1534, in which he indicated that the king was the sole authority at the head of the Church in England.

This decision led to take innovative measures and all the monasteries of the kingdom were dismantled and wealth secularized. The English people did not hesitate to support the initiative of the king because a third of the territory of the kingdom belonged to the Roman Church.

Enrique VII always had very strong ties with Christianity, for this reason, by the year 1535 he had the whole Bible translated and a copy in English was given to each parish.

During the reign of Henry VIII were written the 6 articles that later would adopt the parliament to condemn the ideas of Luther. In this way, Henry VIII founded an independent church of Rome, without monastic communities, but faithful to the doctrines of the Roman faith.


When Henry VIII died, his son Edward VI was only 9 years old. This made the regency council and the archbishop of Canterbury, Cranmer, open the doors of England to the reform of the Church. All reformers like John Knox and Martin Bucer were able to exercise their doctrines and the kingdom accepted the new and reformed theological positions.

In 1549 the celebration of the Mass was abolished and a new liturgy was implemented based on the book of common prayer, a text written by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer. This text served the Anglican church until the twentieth century.

Return to Catholicism

Mary Tudor, the daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon was a devout Catholic. Once it was crowned, it reestablished the power of the Roman Church in England, and once again the religious power was granted to the pope.

The persecution of Protestants and reformers began immediately and 300 of them were burned alive in front of Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury for 20 years. These executions impacted the public and Mary Tudor received the name of Mary the bloodthirsty.

Birth of Anglicanism

When Mary Tudor died, Elizabeth I succeeded her as queen. Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and was brought to the throne by the Protestants. It is still unknown whether Elizabeth I was a Protestant, but it was the support of the reformists that brought her to power.

Elizabeth I reestablished the Supreme Act requested by her father and positioned herself as the highest authority of the Church in England. She appointed new bishops and commissioned them to review the doctrine of the English Church, which resulted in the writing of the 39 articles, adopted as the official text of the Anglicans. These articles were based on the reforms of Luther, Calvin and Bucer.

The Catholic tradition was not completely abolished and Catholic rituals were preserved as part of the Church in England. This made the commitment taken by Elizabeth I with Protestants and the Catholic Church took the form of Anglicanism and that it was called the"middle point"(Protestantism, 2017).


The members of the Anglican Church believe that there is only one God, but there are three elements that converge in this figure: the father, the son and the holy spirit. Similarly, they believe that human beings who live by rejecting the existence of this God live in a condition of sin.

Anglicans believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to the world, lived and died to give people a model a way to be reconciled with God. On the other hand, they understand the Bible as a fundamental text for life, just as Christians believe that the holy scriptures contain all the elements necessary to attain salvation.

Anglican beliefs include prayers and prayers in private and public places as worship of God in all its manifestations. Anglicans should practice what they profess in their prayers and attend the Mass that is celebrated every day of the week, with a special service on Sundays.

To become an Anglican Church one must be baptized under the faith of the same and all Christians belonging to the Anglican faith must take holy communion or Eucharist as the shared meal that everyone eats in the name of Jesus.

The creed accepted by the Anglicans expresses their Christian faith based on the apostles' creed, which is composed of baptism and morning and evening prayer. On the other hand, they believe in the Nicene Creed in the service of Holy Communion. Information related to creeds can be found in any Anglican prayer book and complete beliefs and prayers in church catechism.

Special features

The Anglican faith is open and diverse. Although most Anglicans share the same positions, it is common to find different practices in different churches around the world. It can be said that the Anglican Church is tolerant of different lifestyles.

However, Anglicans in general are in agreement with the beliefs and practices that the bible emphasizes. In other words, the sacred scriptures unite them within the same faith. Reason and tradition are two additional elements to the bible taken into account by all members of the Anglican Church as a support of their faith. These three pillars of the Anglican faith are the basis of their doctrine and what sets them apart from the Roman Catholic and Protestant faith.

The Anglican faith shares more similarities with Roman Christianity than with Protestant or Calvinist practices. Many of the beliefs of both churches are related, although there are different principles that have led to it to become an independent and reformed church.

Doctrine around the world

Anglicans declare the bible as the chief authority on religious subjects. Its doctrine is defined mainly by the sacred scriptures and the Apostolic and Nicena creeds. The 38 Anglican churches around the world have made different interpretations of the 39 articles that make up the Anglican faith in the book of common prayers.

They also have different limits on more orthodox issues and the sanctions that are imposed when the norms of the Anglican faith are broken.

A short summary of Anglican beliefs in the world can be found in the Lamberth Quadrilateral, a text where the four basic elements of the Anglican faith (the bible, the sacraments, the creeds and the historical episcopate) are defined.

On the other hand, there are individual commissions per church that must inform the general synod in England on any subject related to doctrinal matters. The house of bishops in every territory where there is an Anglican Church has the responsibility to watch over the preservation of the faith and its passage to the next generations.

Anglicanism: characteristics and history Members of the Anglican church in the world. Source:

Lamberth quadrangle

  1. The Holy Scriptures : The old and new testament as it was revealed by the word of God.
  2. The Apostolic and Nicene Creeds : The declaration of the Christian faith.
  3. The two sacraments : Baptism and supper with God or communion. They are carried out according to the words and directions of Christ.
  4. The historic episcopate : Adapted locally according to the administrative methods of each church. It works according to the needs of each church and attends to the call of God for the unity of the church.

39 Articles

Agreed in 1562 by all the clergy and the Archbishop and Bishop of London, the 39 articles of Anglicanism were established as a strategy to avoid diversity of views on the Anglican religion and to have a solid base where to constitute it. They were signed by the Act of Parliament in 1571 as a measure of Elizabeth I to define a basic belief of the Church of England.

39 articles Anglicanism

Anglican Community

The Anglican community is an international organization consisting of 38 national and regional autonomous churches and six additional churches and dioceses; All these institutions belong to the Anglican community and work within a reciprocal relationship between them and with the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the spiritual head of the Anglican Church.

The Anglican Church lacks the highest authority as would the Pope for Roman Catholics, which means that each church can make its own decisions and implement them in its own way, always following the recommendations of The Lamberth Conference, The Anglican Consultative Council, The Meeting of Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury (Communion, 2017).

Churches belonging to the Anglican community are considered part of a single Reformed Catholic Church. Some members of this community understand Anglicanism as if it were a Roman Catholicism without a pope, or as a Protestantism without a representative figure such as Lutheranism or Calvinism.

The Anglican community has an estimated 85 million members worldwide and is positioned as the third largest Christian community in the world, after the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church. The majority of representative Anglican churches are those located in English colonies, such as Canada.

Anglicanism: characteristics and history Main religions of the world by number of practitioners. Source:

Marks of the Mission

There are five mission marks accepted worldwide by the Anglican community which are generally considered when planning any activity related to doing Christian missions. These mission marks are not a typical document of the anglicate doctrine, but operate as a guide to the holistic nature of missions.

The five brands of the mission were initially developed as four brands by the Anglican Consultative Council (CCA) in 1984 and became five in 1990. The fifth brand took into account the environmental crisis and the affectation to the creation of God from a point Of biblical view, and was adopted in 1990 during the meeting of CCA held in Wales during that same year.

Since the implementation of the fifth mark the Anglican community has held different meetings to review the effectiveness of the same. The last meeting was held in Auckland, New Zealand in 2012 and it was confirmed that all five brands still had value.

  1. Proclaim the good news of the kingdom.
  2. Reach, baptize and nurture the faith of new believers.
  3. Respond to human needs with love and service.
  4. To seek the transformation of unjust social structures, to challenge violence of any kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.
  5. Strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew life on earth.


  1. Avis, P. (2000). The Anglican Understanding of the Church: An Introduction. Great Britain: Society for promoting christian knowledge.
  2. Bena, D.J. (2010). Why Anglicanism. In A. C. America, The Anglican Diocese of the MID-ATLANTIC (Pages 2-4). Anglican Church in North America.
  3. Communion, A. (2017). Anglican Communion . Retrieved from"What is the Anglican Communion?":
  4. Doe, N. (1998). Canon Law in the Anglican Communion: A Worldwide Perspective. Clarendon Press.
  5. García, M. M. (11 of 11 of 2010). The Victorian Web . Retrieved from The Thirty-nine Articles of the Religion:
  6. Podmore, C. (2005). Aspects of Anglican Identity. England: Church house publishing.
  7. Protestantism. (2017). Virtual Museum of Protestantism . Retrieved from The Anglican Reformation:
  8. William L. Sachs, R. S. (7 of 9 of 2010). Encyclopedia Britannica . Obtained from Anglicanism:

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