Written for May 10, 2007
Anglicanism, also known as The Church of England, is a Christian faith which is a sort of midpoint between Catholicism and Protestantism. It is a Protestant religion because it broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in the 1500s during the Protestant Reformation, but in practice it is extraordinarily similar to Catholicism. England officially broke ties with Roman Catholicism in the 1530s. Although it is commonly believed that England established its own church because Henry VIII wished to get an annulment but could not get one from the Pope, that is not actually the driving factor in the separation. The influence of the Protestant Reformation and its leaders, like Martin Luther and John Calvin, and the patriotic desire to have a national church were what really pushed England into establishing its own church.
The fundamental beliefs of the Anglicans can be summed up in the Thirty-Nine Articles and both testaments of the Bible. They believe that the Bible comprises the Holy Scripture and therefore contains all the necessary information to achieve salvation. Another religious text used is the Book of Common Prayer, which Anglicans use for their liturgy. Anglicans believe that professing their faith is as simple as stating the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed, and this differs from other Protestant religions which require a more concrete confession of faith. Also different from Protestantism is the hierarchy of power, similar to that of the Catholics: Bishops have the power, and under them are the priests and the deacons.
Anglicans practice very typical Christian rituals and ceremonies. They believe in two principal sacraments, Baptism and the Eucharist. While they celebrate the other sacraments – Reconciliation, Holy Matrimony, Unction, and Ordination – these are considered “lesser” sacraments. Prayer throughout the day and as a community is extremely important to Anglicans. The community worship experience is emphasized, and it is deemed necessary to worship as a group where the Word of God is proclaimed.
Anglicanism accounts for 1.3 percent of the world’s total population, with about 70 million members. The religion exists in 161 countries world wide, ranging from England to Canada to Africa to Australia. Membership and church attendance has been decreasing in recent years for the Anglican Church, and this declination is attributed to the lack of emphasis on religion in modern society. In the United Kingdom alone, church attendance on Sundays plummeted from 1,260,800 in 1989 all the way down to 867,400 in 2005, which is a 31 percent drop.
Several changes have occurred in the Anglican Church in the past century, and these major changes have been very controversial. In the mid twentieth century, women were finally given ordination rights and therefore could become priests. This achievement is largely due to the feminist movement in the 1960s. This issue remained controversial among Anglican groups worldwide through the 1980s, when the first women were named bishops. The very first female bishop was consecrated in 1989 in New Zealand, and the United States section followed shortly thereafter with the consecration of a female African American as a bishop later that year.
Homosexuality has also been an issue for Anglicans, and the issue has become extremely controversial in recent years because of society’s openness to same-sex relationships and especially because of Gene Robinson, the first openly gay and non-celibate Anglican bishop. This has led to very heated debate, sparking questions about what the proper limits of tolerance are in the Anglican Church, and also hinting at a possible schism between the Anglicans in the U.S. and Anglicans elsewhere throughout the world.
Anglicanism, which originated in England in the 1500s, is a very receptive Christian religion that promotes tolerance and equality of gender and now even sexual orientation. Although membership has been on the decline and debate has arisen among different Anglican factions, the religion has been making strides for tolerance since the mid 1900s. A cross between Catholicism and Protestantism, it is considered a “middle ground” between the two.
AP Multimedia Archive. 9 May 2007. http://accuweather.ap.org/cgi-bin/apl.pl.
BBC.co.uk. 9 May 2007. http://www.bbc.co.uk/london/content/articles/2005/05/19/faith_protestantlondon_feature.shtml.
The Church of England. 9 May 2007. http://www.cofe.anglican.org/about/diocesesparishes/
Douglas, Ian. “Christianity: Anglicanism (Episcopalianism).” Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices. Vol. 1 : Religions and Denominations. Detroit: Gale, 2006. WTHS. 19 Apr 2007.
England & UK Christian Statistics. 9 May 2007. http://www.vexen.co.uk/religion/rib.html#members.
Religious Tolerance. 9 May 2007. http://www.religioustolerance.org/femclrg3.htm.