What is an "Anglican"?
This word may be new to you, but it isn't too complicated. It comes from the Latin word for "English". The simplest definition of Anglican is those churches which descend from the Church of England.
That definition, however, does not tell us much about what an Anglican is. There have been Christians in England since at least the 2nd or 3rd century AD who faithfully passed on their faith down through the Middle Ages to the time of the Reformation.
At the Reformation, many theologians, clergy, and faithful lay men and women sought to bring the Church back in line with the Scriptures and the faith of the Early Church. Henry VIII's issues with his wives served as an opening to reform in the Church.
The desire of the Reformation in England was to place Scripture as the highest authority while retaining the good parts that had been passed down. Thus, Anglicanism is a Reformed Catholicity. We retain our continuity to the Early Church while we also have reformed our theology and practice according to Scripture.
Other denominations have a key theologian which describes their theology. For us, there are several key documents which describe and shape what we believe:
- We worship according to the Book of Common Prayer. It contains our liturgy, which means it gives a structure to our prayer and worship. The content of the Book of Common Prayer is either Scripture or prayer. The way we worship shapes what we believe. The prayers we say, how we do Holy Communion, where the sermon fits into the service, even whether we stand, sit, or kneel, all shape our beliefs. As we share a Common Prayer, it unites us in one faith. It was initially penned primarily by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, and it underwent several revisions through the Reformation time period, until 1662. The 1662 version of the Book of Common Prayer is the standard prayer book, though Anglican churches throughout the world may adapt it to suit the needs of their local setting. Our local parish uses the 1928 US version of the prayer book.
- We confess the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion as a summary of the teaching of Holy Scripture and the Early Church. This statement was finalized in 1571. All throughout, it seeks to ground its theology in the teaching of the Scriptures in concert with the historic understanding of the Church. It situates Anglicanism as Reformed Catholic Christians who are heirs of Augustine's theology. The theology of the Thirty-Nine Articles is moderately Reformed, which means on some issues it sides more with the Lutherans and on others, it sides more with the Reformed of places like Zurich or Geneva.
The need to continually reform the Church to the Scriptures has not ended with the Reformation. In the last couple centuries, there have been movements that seek to lead the Church away from the faith of the Scriptures and the Early Church.
We are a part of a global movement to bring Anglicanism back into line with the teaching of our Christian forefathers, called GAFCON. To address the new issues that have arisen in our day, we also hold to the Jerusalem Declaration.
- We believe in One God in Three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who created all things visible and invisible.
- We believe God has revealed himself to us in the inspired, inerrant, and authoritative Holy Scriptures.
- We believe humanity sinned against God in the Garden of Eden, and now, every human has a sinful nature.
- We believe that to redeem us, the 2nd Person of the Trinity, took up our human nature, dwelt among us, and was named Jesus. He died on the cross for our sins, rose again for our justification, and ascended into heaven to make intercession for us.
- We believe that all who trust in Jesus Christ are saved as his Body, the Church, having been united to him in Holy Baptism, and having been sustained by him in Holy Communion.
- We believe that when Jesus ascended into heaven, he sent the Holy Spirit to convict us and sanctify us, as well as to empower us to proclaim the Gospel to the nations.
- We believe that one day, Jesus Christ will return to make all things new, and in light of his return, we seek to live in obedience to him.
- We believe that God created humanity as male and female, and he structured marriage to be between one man and one woman as a picture of the Gospel.