English Church

English Church

The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St Augustine of Canterbury in AD 597.

As a result of Augustine's mission, the church in England came under the authority of the Pope. Initially prompted by a dispute over the annulment of the marriage of King Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon, the Church of England separated from the Roman Catholic Church in 1534 and became the established church by an Act of Parliament in the Act of Supremacy, beginning a series of events known as the English Reformation. During the reign of Queen Mary I and King Philip, the Church was fully restored under Rome in 1555. Papal authority was again explicitly rejected after the accession of Queen Elizabeth I when the Act of Supremacy of 1558 was passed. Catholic and Reformed factions vied for determining the doctrines and worship of the church. This ended with the 1558 Elizabethan settlement, which developed the understanding that the church was to be both Catholic and Reformed:

  • Catholic in that it views itself as a part of the universal church of Jesus Christ in unbroken continuity with the early apostolic church. This is expressed in its emphasis on the teachings of the early Church Fathers, as formalised in the Apostles', Nicene, and Athanasian creeds.
  • Reformed in that it has been shaped by some of the doctrinal principles of the 16th century Protestant Reformation, in particular in the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Book of Common Prayer.

During the 17th century, political and religious disputes raised the Puritan and Presbyterian faction to control of the church, but this ended with the Restoration. The contemporary Church of England still continues to contain several doctrinal strands, now generally known as Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical. This reflects early divisions. In recent times, tensions between theological conservatives and progressives find expression in debates over women's ordination and homosexuality within the church. The Church of England has ordained women as priests since 1994. A proposed measure which would have allowed the consecration of female bishops was lost by a narrow margin in the General Synod of the Church in 2012.

Since the Reformation, the Church of England has used an English liturgy. The Book of Common Prayer was based on original writings and translations from the Latin services by Thomas Cranmer. This liturgy has been updated and modernised at various times. The church also adopted congregational singing of hymns and psalms.

The governing structure of the church is based on the traditional parishes which are gathered into dioceses presided over by a bishop. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the Primate of All England and a focus of unity for the whole Anglican Communion worldwide. The General Synod is the legislative body for the church and comprises bishops, clergy and laity. Although it is only the established church of England, its measures must be approved by both Houses of Parliament including the non-English members.

The Church of Ireland and the Church in Wales separated from the Church of England in 1869 and 1920 respectively and are autonomous churches in the Anglican communion; Scotland's national church, the Church of Scotland, is Presbyterian but the Scottish Episcopal Church is in the Anglican communion.

Read more about English Church:  Doctrine and Practice, Membership, Structure, Financial Situation

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Famous quotes containing the words church and/or english:

    A church that can never have done with excommunicating Christ while it exists! Away with your broad and flat churches, and your narrow and tall churches! Take a step forward, and invent a new style of out-houses. Invent a salt that will save you, and defend our nostrils.
    Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)

    The English like eccentrics. They just don’t like them living next door.
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