The Anglican faith began when the English church separated from the Roman Catholic Church under King Henry VIII. While Henry's request for a divorce from Catherine of Aragon (and the Pope's rejection of that request) were the impetus for the actual break, sympathy was already growing in England for the ideas of the Reformation. The Anglican faith broke from Catholicism over significant doctrinal differences in areas ranging from salvation to the authority of the Church and more.
Anglicans stand in the Protestant tradition in regard to salvation. They teach the reformed view that salvation occurs by God's grace through faith in Christ, apart from good works. While Anglicans believe good works are an essential part of the Christian life, they don't believe good works are essential to salvation. Further, they believe only Christ can forgive sins, and that he does so both through the Church and apart from the Church in relationship with individual Christians. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, believes that salvation is a lifelong process for the Christian and that good works are one component of that process. For Catholics, good works are more than important; they are vital to salvation.
The Anglican religion has an episcopal structure similar to Catholicism. They have priests, bishops and archbishops. While the Archbishop of Canterbury presides over Anglican Church councils, he is still considered one among equals. In addition, Anglican churches in each country are autonomous entities, entirely separate from the Church of England and other Anglican churches. This stands in contrast to Catholicism. In Catholicism, the Bishop of Rome -- the Pope -- is the head of the Church on Earth and enjoys a position of deference and honor. The Pope singularly represents Christ as the head of the Church. In addition, Anglicans ordain women as well as married men, while Catholics ordain neither.
Catholicism teaches that purgatory is a temporary state after death in which Catholics are purged from their unforgiven sins with fire. They also teach that a soul's time in purgatory can be reduced through indulgences, or good works on the part of a living Catholic. These good works might include prayers to saints, recitation of the Rosary, charitable acts and more. Protestants, including Anglicans, reject the doctrine of purgatory in part because of the abuses that the doctrine of indulgences brought during the 16th century. At that time, certain Catholic clergy were literally selling indulgences for a hefty price. Anglicans believe the afterlife consists of only two states: heaven and hell.
Like most Protestants, Anglicans recognize two sacraments: baptism and Holy Communion. Catholicism recognizes seven sacraments: baptism, Holy Communion, confirmation, penance, marriage, holy orders and anointing of the sick. Both baptize infants as well as new adult believers. Catholics believe that the bread and wine in communion are transformed physically yet invisibly into the literal body and blood of Christ, while Anglicans believe that Christ is present spiritually in the elements of communion.
- Patheos Library: Anglican/Episcopalian Afterlife and Salvation
- Anglicans Online: Articles of Religion
- Anglican Communion Institute: Bishops’ Statement on the Polity of the Episcopal Church
- The Conciliar Anglican: Ask an Anglican: Purgatory and Grace
- American Catholic: The Seven Catholic Sacraments
- New Advent: Hierarchy
- BBC History: The English Reformation
- Catholic Education Resource Center: Purgatory: Holy Fire
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