When the Reformation spread to England, King Henry VIII seized on the opportunity to separate the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church and place the monarchy as the head of the Church. Thus, the Anglican religion was born. Anglican simply means "of England." As ministers and missionaries of the Church of England spread across the world, they created Anglican congregations and built Anglican churches. Modern Anglicans share a common history, forms of worship, church government and doctrines.
While it took the better part of a century for the doctrines of the Reformation to control the Church of England fully, it never returned to the Roman Catholic Church's control. For a time, all Anglicans were members of the Church of England. After the American Revolution, Anglicans had a dilemma. They could continue to be members of the Church of England with the King at their head, or they could leave their Anglican religion. Instead, they separated the American Anglicans into a different denomination, the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church mirrored the Church of England in every way except that it defined Christ as the head of the Church rather than the King of England.
Many Anglican doctrines follow traditional Christian thought. They believe in and recite the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds. Anglicans believe in the Trinity, the divinity of Christ and the Resurrection. They also hold some distinctly reformed views, such as the sufficiency of Scripture for salvation, salvation by faith and the prominence of grace in salvation. Anglicans have two sacraments: baptism and Holy Communion. Anglicans have articulated their beliefs in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, composed in the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, composed in the late 19th century.
Anglican worship tends to be formal and organized. It is liturgical in its base, which means it has a set schedule that contains specific elements and incorporates themes from the Christian calendar. A typical Anglican service might have several hymns, a series of responsive readings, readings from the Bible, a homily (short sermon) and Holy Communion. Anglicans celebrate Holy Communion every week, unlike many other Protestant denominations.
Anglican church government is hierarchical. At the bottom are the common parishioners. Above them, the clergy. Several levels of clergy, including priests, bishops and archbishops, create the structure of the Anglican religion. Bishops are all considered equals, with none having greater say than another. The same holds for the archbishops. Special deference is given to the Archbishop of Canterbury, but he has no particular authority over any other archbishop.
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