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Church of England - Anglican Church - Definition

Church of England - Anglican Church - Definition

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The Church of England, or Anglican Church, is the primary state church in England, where the concepts of church and state are linked. The Church of England is considered the original church of the Anglican Communion, which represents over 85 million people in more than 165 countries. While the Church upholds many of the customs of Roman Catholicism, it also embraces fundamental ideas adopted during the Protestant Reformation. In recent years, the Church of England has been viewed as one of the more progressive sects of Christianity and is known for its relatively liberal policies, such as allowing the ordination of women and gay priests.

Church of England Facts

  • The British monarch is considered the supreme governor of the Church. Among other privileges, he or she has the authority to approve the appointment of archbishops and other church leaders.
  • The Church of England contends that the Bible is the principle foundation of all Christian faith and thought.
  • Followers embrace the sacraments of baptism and holy communion.
  • The Church claims to be both Catholic and Reformed. It upholds teachings found in early Christian doctrines, such as the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed. The Church also reveres 16th century Protestant Reformation ideas outlined in texts, such as the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Book of Common Prayer.
  • The Church of England sustains a traditional Catholic order system that includes ordained bishops, priests and deacons.
  • The Church follows an episcopal form of government. It’s divided into two provinces: Canterbury and York. Provinces are separated into dioceses, which are headed by bishops and include parishes.
  • The Archbishop of Canterbury is thought to be the most senior cleric in the Church.
  • The Church’s bishops play a lawmaking role in Britain. Twenty-six bishops sit in the House of Lords and are referred to as the “Lords Spiritual.”
  • Generally, the Church embraces a way of thinking that includes scripture, tradition and reason.
  • The Church of England is sometimes referred to as the Anglican Church and is part of the Anglican Communion, which contains sects such as the Protestant Episcopal Church.
  • Each year, about 9.4 million people visit a Church of England cathedral.
  • In recent years, women and homosexuals were given the opportunity to participate in the church’s leadership roles.

Church of England History

The Church of England’s earliest origins date back to the Roman Catholic Church’s influence in Europe during the 2nd century.

However, the church’s official formation and identity are typically thought to have started during the Reformation in England of the 16th century. King Henry VIII (famous for his many wives) is considered the founder of the Church of England.

Henry VIII

Henry VIII broke ties with the Pope in the 1530s after the Catholic church wouldn’t allow him to annul his marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, who failed to produce any male heirs.

Henry passed the Act of Succession and the Act of Supremacy, which essentially declared himself the supreme head of the Church of England.

After Henry’s death, Protestant reforms made their way into the church during the reign of Edward VI. But, when Edward’s half-sister, Mary, succeeded the throne in 1553, she persecuted Protestants and embraced traditional Roman Catholic ideals.

After Elizabeth I took the title of Queen in 1558, however, the Church of England was revived. The Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion became important texts that outlined moral doctrine and worship principles.

Church Movements

The Puritan movement in the 17th century led to the English Civil Wars and the Commonwealth. During this time, the Church of England and the monarchy were quelled, but both were re-established in 1660.

The 18th century brought the Evangelical movement, which promoted the Protestant customs of the Church. Conversely, the Oxford Movement in the 19th century highlighted the Roman Catholic heritage.

These two movements and their philosophies have endured in the Church and are sometimes referred to as “Low Church” and “High Church.”

Since the 20th century, the Church of England has been active in the Ecumenical Movement, which promotes ideas of worldwide Christian unity.

Church of England in America

Many of the early American colonists were Anglican Puritans. During the Colonial era, the Anglican Church set up establishments in Virginia, New York, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

After the American Revolution, the Anglican Church became an independent organization in the United States and called itself the Protestant Episcopal Church.

The Episcopal Church, USA, is the official organization of the Anglican Communion in the United States. It’s been a self-governing body since 1785 and has about 1.9 million members.

Women and Gays in the Church of England

In 1992, the Church of England voted to ordain women as priests. This decision sparked debate within the clerical community but also opened the door for further empowerment of women within the church hierarchy.

Over the next few years, several attempts to allow women to become bishops were put in place, but many of them were squashed by the opposition.

Finally, in 2014, the Church passed a bill to consecrate women as bishops. The archbishops of Canterbury and of York—the church’s most elite officials—approved the bill later that year. The first female bishop of the Church of England, Rev. Libby Lane, was consecrated in January 2015.

Since 2005, the Church of England has allowed for the ordination of gay priests, under the condition that they remain celibate. Homosexuals in celibate civil unions were permitted to become bishops in 2013.

Also, in 2013, the House of Commons passed legislation to legalize same-sex marriages but didn’t allow the Church of England to perform them.

Many consider the Church of England’s elevation of women and gays in the clergy as groundbreaking and long-awaited progress. Others in the church view it as sacrilegious and blasphemous.

While the debate continues, experts agree that the Church of England has paved the way for conversations about expanding gender and sexual-orientation roles within Christianity.


History of the Church of England, The Church of England.
Church of England, BBC.
The Church of England in Early America, National Humanities Center.
Episcopal Church Fast Facts, CNN.

Anglican History

The churches of the Anglican Communion have their historical roots in the English Reformation, when King Henry VIII (r. 1509-1547) wished to obtain a divorce that the pope would not grant. Through the Act of Supremacy of 1534, the king made himself the "supreme head" of the Church of England in place of the Pope.

After this dramatic move, King Henry dissolved England's monasteries, destroyed Roman Catholic shrines, and ordered the Great Bible (in English) to be placed in all churches. However, Henry allowed few doctrinal changes and very little changed in the religious life of the common English worshipper. Under Henry VIII, and the Church of England remained almost fully Catholic with the exception of loyalty to Rome.

A power struggle between English Protestants and Catholics ensued during the reigns of Edward VI and Mary I. Under King Edward, Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer contributed a great deal to the Protestant movement, including the first two versions of the Book of Common Prayer (1549 and 1552) and the 42 Articles (1553). After the ascension of the Catholic "Bloody Mary" to the throne in 1553, England was restored to Catholicism, much of the reforming work under Kings Henry and Edward was undone, and Thomas Cranmer was burned at the stake.

Protestantism finally emerged victorious under Queen Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603). It was under Elizabeth that "Anglicanism" took shape, established on the notion of a via media between Catholicism and Protestantism (specifically Reformed Protestantism). Elizabeth appointed Protestant bishops, but reintroduced a crucifix in her chapel, tried to insist on traditional clerical vestments, and made other attempts to satisfy conservative opinion.

The 42 Articles were reduced to 39 and the Book of Common Prayer was reissued. The 39 Articles and the Book of Common Prayer, which together expressed the faith and practice of the Church of England, were sufficiently vague to allow for a variety of interpretations along the Catholic-Protestant spectrum.

After Elizabeth, Calvinist influences were dominant for a time, but High Churchmen regained control of the Church of England in the Restoration of 1660. In the latter 17th and early 18th centuries, Anglicanism was characterized by its emphases on reason, simple devotional religion and moral living. After about 1690, the controversy quieted down and the Church of England settled into the form that still characterizes it today.

Evangelicalism arose in 18th century in part as a reaction against the lack of spiritual fervor and enthusiasm in the Church. This had a balancing effect on Anglicanism (and there remains a strong evangelical group within the Church of England), but evangelicals also went beyond the bounds of the traditional Anglican outlook and many, like Methodism under the direction of John Wesley, broke away from the Church of England.

Another important development in the history of Anglicanism, the Oxford Movement, began in 1833. Also known as the Catholic Revival, this movement sought to restore the sacraments, rituals and outward forms of Catholicism to the Church of England. By the mid-20th century, many of the practices advocated by this group had been incorporated.

Also in the 19th century, the Church of England found room for the new German biblical criticism and liberal theology. Scholarship is still highly regarded in Anglicanism, and Anglican scholars have generally been free to adopt views ranging from conservative to radical while remaining in the Anglican fold.

Anglicanism expanded along with the British Empire, creating a network of autonomous churches that were loyal to the faith and forms of the Church of England. After the American Revolution, Anglicans in the U.S. called themselves Episcopalians (the name reflecting the role of the episcopate, or bishops) to distinguish themselves from the British crown and the Church of England. Today, the Episcopalian Church in the United States and many other Anglican churches in former British colonies are members of the Anglican Communion.

The 21st century has proven to be an important point in history for Anglicanism. The recent ordination of a gay bishop in America and the disapproving reaction from the Communion will have great implications for the question of how much variation can be tolerated within Anglicanism. And, as always, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the bishops and the priests in Anglican churches must decide how to react to the continuing influences of biblical criticism, liberal theology and modern ethical values.

Church of England - Anglican Church - Definition - HISTORY

The name "Anglican" means "of England", but the Anglican church exists worldwide. It began in the sixth century in England, when Pope Gregory the Great sent St. Augustine to Britain to bring a more disciplined Apostolic succession to the Celtic Christians. The Anglican Church evolved as part of the Roman church, but the Celtic influence was folded back into the Roman portion of the church in many ways, perhaps most notably by Charlemagne's tutor Aidan. The Anglican church was spread worldwide first by English colonization and then by English-speaking missionaries.

The Anglican church, although it has apostolic succession, is separate from the Roman church. The history of Christianity has produced numerous notable separations. In 1054 came the first major split from Roman administration of the church, when the Eastern Orthodox church and the Roman split apart.

The conflict of authority in England between church and state certainly dates back to the arrival of Augustine, and has simmered for many centuries. The murder of Thomas a Becket was one of the more famous episodes of this conflict. The Magna Carta, signed by King John in 1215, contains 63 points the very first point is a declaration that the English church is independent of its government..

Discontent with Roman administration of the church.

The beginning of the sixteenth century showed significant discontent with the Roman church. Martin Luther's famous 95 Theses were nailed to the door of the church in Wittenburg in 1517, and news of this challenge had certainly reached England when, 20 years later, the Anglican branch of the church formally challenged the authority of Rome. Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries and abbeys in 1536.

There is a public perception, especially in the United States, that Henry VIII created the Anglican church in anger over the Pope's refusal to grant his divorce, but the historical record indicates that Henry spent most of his reign challenging the authority of Rome, and that the divorce issue was just one of a series of acts that collectively split the English church from the Roman church in much the same way that the Orthodox church had split off five hundred years before.

Defining the new church

The newly-separated Anglican church was given some formal structure in 1562 during the reign of Elizabeth I. That structure is not a management process or governing organization. What binds us together is not common administration but shared tradition and shared belief. Our belief is written down in the Holy Bible and the Articles of Religion our tradition is in part embodied in our Book of Common Prayer. The first Book of Common Prayer was produced in 1549. In it the Latin liturgy was radically simplified and translated into English, and for the first time a single 'use' was enforced throughout England. It has been revised numerous times since then, the most significant revision being the first, in 1552. All revisions since then, before the modern era, were very conservative revisions. The 1662 English Book of Common Prayer forms the historical basis for most Anglican liturgy around the world. While several countries have their own prayer books, all borrow heavily from the English tradition rooted in Cranmer's original work.

What Is the History of the Anglican Church?

The Anglican church began with King Henry VIII's disassociation with the Roman Catholic Church. Anglicanism continued to develop in the 1600s in England before spreading to other colonies.

In the sixteenth century, when the Protestant Reformation was beginning to take place in continental Europe, King Henry VIII had already been showing discontent with the Pope. The final straw was the Pope refusing to grant Henry a divorce upon this, the king made himself the head of the Church of England, with more authority than the Pope. However, the only major change that occurred was disassociation with Rome.

While Anglicanism began to adopt Protestant doctrine under King Edward VI, the religion didn't distinguish itself significantly until the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. She appointed bishops and introduced the first Book of Common Prayer. Therefore, she was the first to truly organize Anglicanism into a new church. Anglicanism still caused some turmoil within the nation the church's insistence on Scotland adopting the new book of prayer was one of the factors that caused the English Civil War.

Anglicanism eventually spread to other British colonies. The Anglican Church had a notable presence in the American colonies prior to the Revolutionary War, until those congregations evolved into the separate Episcopalian church.. However, the church did not participate earnestly in missionary work overseas until the 1800s. Around this time, Anglicanism's doctrines were still changing, accepting Catholic and other theologians' influence.

Church of England - Anglican Church - Definition - HISTORY


With a Prefatory Note by

(Successors to Newbery and Harris),

Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2008

This Essay is presented to the Deaconess cause, with the earnest desire that it may be made useful to the furtherance of the movement.

Any proceeds derived from its circulation will be given to the Church Deaconess Home, Maidstone.

To the President of this Home, the Very Rev. the Dean of Canterbury, most grateful thanks are due for his kind encouragement in the publication of this Treatise, as well as for his earnest interest and aid in the cause.

[7] TO THE


Allow me to dedicate to you, the foremost advocate of the deaconess cause in our country, this short essay upon deaconesses, which you have been so very good as to revise, and the material of which has been in a great measure gathered, with your kind permission, from your able treatise upon the subject.

I only send forth these few imperfect pages because it has become so difficult to obtain that treatise--a fact which is greatly to be regretted, as you have lately assured me that [7/8] your opinions are the same as when you first gave them to the world, and that years and experience have only strengthened your conviction of the need which exists for the organised service of Christian women in our Church.

I may add that I am looking forward, the more earnestly, to the re-publication of your book, because my own enthusiasm in the cause was first awakened by its perusal, so that, with God's blessing and guidance, I have for some years owed to your pen, the privilege and happiness of being able to subscribe myself,

With true and grateful respect,
Yours faithfully,



Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.--EPH. ii. 20, 21.

[11] IT is twenty years since the Dean of Chester commenced his treatise on deaconesses, [*Deaconesses. An Essay reprinted from the Quarterly Review (1860). By Dean Howson.] with the remark that he had no doubt that his book would be opened by many with the question, "What is a deaconess?"

And although in the interim the movement has made great progress in England, the majority, we believe, of persons still, nay, we fear even the majority of the clergy of our Church, have but a vague idea of what the calling and position of a deaconess mean.

The Deaconess Institution at Kaiserswerth, [11/12] and others on the Continent, are accepted by the Christian world generally, as valuable centres of useful work. But this general acceptance has been for the most part without any knowledge of, or sympathy in, Pastor Fliedner's distinct conception, that in commencing his Deaconess Institution (the first of modern days), he was not only endeavouring to supply a modern want in a judicious and effectual manner, but also to restore an order which existed in the early Church. [* Deaconesses. p. 72.]

The object of the present pages is to bring the subject of deaconesses before the minds of those who may not hitherto have given sufficient consideration to the movement. And--to begin--if an answer is needed to the question, "What is a deaconess?" no more simple one can be found than the official definition given to the term, in the formula drawn up in 1862, and signed by our two Archbishops and eighteen of our Bishops, viz., "A deaconess is a woman set apart by a [12/13] Bishop under that title for service in the Church." [* See the Bishop's Rules at end of Essay.]

In giving this definition of the office, our Bishops made use of the Apostle Paul's designation, Rom. xvi. I, where he says, "I commend unto you Phoebe our sister, who is a deaconess of the Church at Cenchrea." Upon the translation of the original here, into servant, Bishop Lightfoot writes in his book on the authorised version of the New Testament: "If the testimony borne in this passage to a ministry of women in apostolic times had not thus been blotted out of our English Bible, attention would probably have been directed to the subject at an earlier date, and our English Church would not have remained so long maimed in one of her hands."

Dean Howson says also, "the idea involved in the original Greek word here, is precisely that of helpful service and it was, no doubt," the Dean thinks, "in the performance [13/14] of such service that Phoebe, the deaconess of the Church at Cenchrea, was sent by St. Paul from Corinth to Rome. No definition," he goes on to say, "is so true--none so honourable to women, nor so important for the other sex to recognise. Whenever the strong become weak, whenever it is not power we need, but influence when prompt good sense is demanded, then it is not good for man to be alone. Then, and not only then, but at all times, in apostolic days, as well as our own, all true instincts must feel and acknowledge that woman's work is pre-eminently helping work."

Again we quote from Dean Howson. Besides the mention by St. Paul of Phoebe, there are other allusions in his epistles that evince recognition of woman's service in the Church. [* Deaconesses, p. 57.]

"Amongst several others, there is one in I Tim. iii. II, which occurs in the midst of a long passage relating to the diaconate, [14/15] where it says, 'Even so must their wives be grave.' The expression wives has no authority from the original Greek, the word is simply women. And on this verse Bishop Lightfoot [* Bishop Wordsworth, Bishop Ellicot and Dean Alford are of the same opinion as to the meaning of the Greek here also Chrysostom, Grotius, and Bloomfield.] likewise remarks in the passage already quoted, 'If the theory of the definite article (in the Greek) had been understood, our translators would have seen that the reference is to deaconesses, not to the wives of the deacons.'

"And," Dean Howson continues, in the passage just alluded to, "it should be particularly noticed in connection with this, that in the early part of the chapter no such directions are given concerning the wives of the Bishops, though they are certainly as important as the wives of the deacons. So that it can scarcely be thought otherwise than that the Apostle's directions were for the deaconesses, an order which we find in [15/16] ecclesiastical records for some centuries, side by side with that of deacons."

The Dean quotes from some of these early records. "'It is prescribed that the deacons are to be, like the Bishops, free from blame, and more free for active service, that they may be able to minister to those that need help and the deaconesses must be zealous in ministering to the women, and both must be ready for errands, and for journeys, and for service of every kind.'

"The allusion to journeys brings at once to our recollection," as he proceeds to say, "the verse already alluded to in Rom. xvi. I, where Deaconess Phoebe is presented to us as travelling on some Christian errand from Corinth to Rome." [* Deaconesses, p. 235.]

"Our sources of information," Dean Howson writes, "are various, and we are not even limited to Christian authorities. For the heathen writer, Pliny, in his celebrated letters to Trajan, speaks of the heroic constancy of [16/17] the Christian 'ministrae,' who were tortured under his orders. Lucian also alludes to the services of these devoted women in prison." [* Deaconesses, p. 37.]

There are handed down to us decrees on the subject, in various councils, and a prayer is still extant which was used in the third century, on the occasion of deaconesses being set apart to their office.

It is preceded by this formulary:--"As to the deaconess, O Bishop, thou shalt lay thy hands on her, in the presence of the presbyters, the deacons, and the deaconesses, and thou shalt say--

"Eternal God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Creator both of man and of woman, who didst fill with Thy Holy Spirit, Mary, Deborah, Anna, and Huldah, who didst not disdain that Thy only-begotten Son should be born of a woman, who also in the Tabernacle of Testimony, and in the Temple, didst appoint women as the keepers of Thy Holy Gates, look now Thyself on this Thy hand-maid, [17/18] here set apart for the office of a deaconess give unto her Thy Holy Spirit, cleanse her from all impurity of the flesh and of the spirit that she may worthily accomplish the task now committed unto her, to Thy Glory and to the praise of Thy Christ, with Whom, to Thee and the Holy Spirit, be glory and worship, for ever and ever, Amen."

This prayer is sometimes used in the present day, at the Setting Apart of Deaconesses. The service on such occasions is a most solemn one. It has been hitherto held, with one or two exceptions, in the private chapel of the Bishop of the diocese. No Christian woman could surely allow herself to be so set apart, with prayer and the solemn laying on of hands, without a previous consecration of heart to the special service of her Master, and of her Church nor, having been thus set apart, could ever lightly abandon the work to which a deaconess devotes her life, for so long as that life shall be left free by God to be so devoted. It must ever be remembered that a deaconess [18/19] is under no vows whatsoever but is at liberty to resign her commission at any time, or to have it taken from her by her bishop.

Before, however, we pass from the early records of deaconesses, [* Deaconesses, p. 41.] we must not omit to mention the biography of St. Chrysostom, A.D. 400, which, as various writers say, is remarkable for its many points of contact with female agency in the Church, and we find that there were forty deaconesses attached to the Mother Church of Constantinople alone, indeed throughout the memoirs of this eminent bishop, there is honorable mention made of many Christian women who laboured under his superintendence. And the name of Olympia, borne by one of his deaconesses, is familiar to all acquainted with these memoirs, bringing before our minds a queenly character of not only high position and large fortune, but one full of grandeur, self-devotion, and courage.

[20] After the earlier centuries [* "We find traces of the existence of the female diaconate both in the East and the West, for from nine to twelve centuries, about two-thirds in fact of the Christian era."--Woman' s Work in the Church. By John Malcolm Ludlow.] of the Church, we gradually lose sight of deaconesses in connexion with it, and find on the commencement of Romish sway that a conventual system arose instead. The evils which grew out of this system were exposed at the time of the Reformation, but it was not until about forty-three years ago (at which time Pastor Fliedner commenced, in a very small way at first, the now noble Institution at Kaiserswerth) that any attempt was made to restore the old Apostolic order of deaconesses.

It is not generally known that it was said in the Upper House of the Convocation of Canterbury, about nineteen or twenty years since, that "the effort to restore the order of deaconesses deserved all the encouragement that the Church could give and it was recommended that guidance should be sought [20/21] directly from the parochial clergy and from the bishops." [* Deaconesses, p. 143.]

Such guidance has been now for some years granted to the deaconess movement, and the under-named Institutions are established in England, with diocesan sanction and under clerical supervision.

Canterbury. Maidstone.
Chester. Chester.
Ely. Bedford.
London. London.
Salisbury. Salisbury.
Winchester. Farnham.

[It will be understood that these pages professedly glance only at Deaconess Institutions which are under diocesan control. There are several others, such in particular as the Institution at Mildmay Park, of which too much admiration cannot be expressed as to their useful work.]

There is no doubt that the number of Deaconess Institutions is small, compared with the number of Sisterhoods which exist in our land and by many the two are confounded together, whereas they are upon [21/22] completely different lines. The sister, as Canon Gore says, is of the Sisterhood, the deaconess is of the Church. [Paper read by Canon Gore at the Stoke Church Congress, 1876.]

More particular attention is directed to this point, for by so many, as Canon Gore remarks in the same paper, the Deaconess Institution is supposed to be but a stepping-stone to a Sisterhood, whereas, as it has been said elsewhere, [* Fourth Yearly Report of the Maidstone Church Deaconess Home.] the Sisterhood exists primarily for the sake of forming a religious community, but deaconesses live together for the sake of the work itself, attracted to deaconess homes by the want which in most populous towns is calling loudly for assistance, and with the view of being trained therein for spiritual and temporal usefulness amongst the poor.

We may also quote here a passage from Anglican Deaconesses, published in 1871, where [22/23] the writer says:--"The deaconess movement has this distinctive feature, that it aims at being a public and a Church movement, its one ambition being to strengthen the existing parochial system, by supplying the part which lacked, that so, with God's blessing, all the building fitly framed together may grow into an holy temple in the Lord."

No one can deny that much good and noble work has been done by Sisterhoods, but it is no disparagement to any one line of work to maintain the distinctiveness of another line of work. And with many in the Church of England, to whose hearts its Reformation principles are sacred, it is a subject of deep thanksgiving to Almighty God, that by the restoration of deaconesses to the Church, a most necessary and extensive sphere of usefulness has been opened out to Christian women, essentially distinctive and Protestant in its character.

If the boundary between the two lines of work is sought to be made less distinctive on [23/24] the deaconess side, it is greatly to be feared that, as in former centuries, such efforts will only prove suicidal to the deaconess cause.

In America there are evangelical Sisterhoods, and it also promises well for the advancement of the deaconess cause that since the visit of Dean Howson in 1871 to that country, the deaconess movement has been fairly established there, and of late has been making great progress, especially as to the position and maintenance of its deaconesses [* See American Report of Bishop Potter's Memorial House for Deaconesses (1878).]--matters which it is to be regretted that the Church of England has not as yet taken properly into consideration. [* We may quote here from a paper upon the "Revival of Deaconesses in the English Church," Monthly Packet, November, 1878, the following paragraph:--"In the writings of the early Fathers we find constant mention of Deaconesses. . . . We perceive how entirely the Deaconess was looked upon as a necessary member of the Church's staff, in the regulations in the Apostolic Constitutions, for the due appointment of the offertory. They provide that the Bishop shall receive four shares, the Presbyters three, the Deacons two, and the Deaconesses one. Evidently it was as [24/25] much taken for granted that the Bishop would have deaconesses, as that he would have priests and deacons, on his staff."

The subject is, however, now steadily gaining ground, and there is much cause for gratitude that it has found powerful advocates lately in some of the most earnest and able of our clergy. At the Church Congress held in September, 1878, the Rev. F. Pigou, of Halifax, said in the paper which he read--"Why should not the Scriptural and Apostolic Order of Deaconesses be revived, and become a recognised centre of spiritual power in every diocese? The Church of this country, being both episcopal in her discipline and parochial in her machinery, the deaconess would have her proper place. She might be sent to some populous parish, not to the prejudice or exclusion of that help which every pastor should endeavour to find and use in his own parish, but as supplemental to it. May we not," Mr. Pigou added, "indulge in a hope that as one of the practical [25/26] results of this Congress emphatic attention may be directed to the revival of an order so intimately connected with woman's work in the Church?"

It is necessarily of importance that deaconess homes should, wherever they are placed, be made a part of the parochial system, and it is essential to their usefulness that they should be situated wherever it is practicable, in parishes, the incumbents of which give them this recognition, and have cordial sympathy with such institutions, so that the inmates may always have the incalculable benefit of the godly support and counsel which only a good pastor can give. And the regular attendance, if possible, daily, at the churches of those parishes where the deaconesses work, is not only helpful spiritually, but is a good example to others, and is in accordance with their fundamental principles as parish workers.

One of the most important and distinctive principles in the organisation of deaconess [26/27] institutions, lies in their form of government, which should never be entirely restricted to individuals, whether in the position of chaplains or of lady superintendents.

Pastor Fliedner said at the Conference at Kaiserswerth of 1861, that the history of the Church warned us of the danger of absolute power being placed in the hands of head sisters. The best form of management in this country is thought by the Dean of Chester, and by others whose opinions are of weight, to consist in a council or committee of clergy and laymen under diocesan sanction. And experience will no doubt prove it to be wise to adopt the decision come to at the German Conference, namely, that the deaconess at the head of the institution should always be a member of its council or committee. Every institution also should be under the immediate introspection of one of the clergy, if possible the incumbent of the parish in which it is placed, whether the title of chaplain be adopted or not.

[28] A deaconess institution is only a means to an end. A deaconess is not necessarily the member of a community. There are in the present day unattached deaconesses working in several places in England. The object of the institution is, as it has been said before, to train ladies who, after they have been set apart as deaconesses, go forth to labour in any parish where their services may be required. A deaconess may or may not continue in connection with her institution, but it is desirable for her to do so, in order that she may find there a home-centre at any time of need. [* Again we quote from Anglican Deaconesses:--"Another distinctive feature is one of importance, and touches upon a very essential point of the Church deaconess plan. It is this: community life is not the end proposed, but only a means to the end, and constitutes an important but merely temporary arrangement with regard to the individual, a training in a household or community being only for that term which may be necessary to fit her for her future profession in all its branches, and to give her the opportunity both of testing herself in the sincerity of purpose and of satisfying competent judges of her personal fitness, physically, mentally, and spiritually for the work."] Mr. Ludlow wisely remarks:--[28/29] "The Protestant Deaconess Institution, instead of estranging its members from the common life of mankind, should simply and solely aim at fitting them to take a better part in it. It should glory rather in sending better women out than in taking the very best in. Like the Church of which it is an instrument, it exists for the world and not for itself it has to help in conquering the world for its true King." [* Woman's Work in the Church, p. 208.]

No lady should be recommended for the deaconess office without sufficient and careful training in nursing, in teaching, and in all parochial work but it is still more important that she should be an earnest Christian, desirous to follow in her Master's footsteps amongst His poor and suffering, and that she should be possessed of the requisite devotion and capacity for such work. Also, that she should seek to have the spirit of love, of obedience (which essentially implies humility), and of self-reliance--a self-reliance [29/30] of which the spring is God-reliance, and which implies such experience and such a calm power of judgment and of decision as will prevent her unnecessarily troubling those under whom she labours.

In the Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury there was in the month of May the year before last, an interesting debate upon Deaconess Institutions and Sisterhoods. [* As reported in Guardian of May 22nd, 1878.] The friends of the former could not but regret the absence at the time of the leading advocates of the Deaconess Order for whereas some of the speakers present dwelt upon what they termed the "higher life," the "more devotional atmosphere," and the "life-long self-sacrifice" of Sisterhoods, there was no one present sufficiently acquainted with the nature of the deaconess movement, to place it in its proper light, and the debate passed without any allusion to the leading principles upon which deaconess institutions are based. Now one of the most important [30/31] of these principles, and it is one upon which the Archbishop of Canterbury dwelt particularly at the setting apart of deaconesses in his diocese some years since, is that, whatever life God gives to any woman is the highest life for that woman, and that in becoming a deaconess, a woman devoting herself to this life must believe that it is the highest life for her, and that in it she gives herself wholly to the Lord. In such surrender a deaconess humbly and faithfully takes up no experiment, but her life-work although not binding herself by any promise which might prevent her being free to fulfil in the future those duties to which in the good providence of God she might be called. At the same time, wherever the deaconess spirit exists, there must of necessity co-exist a spirit of obedience and order, whilst freedom from all vows is surely consistent with that "liberty" spoken of by St. Paul, as the "Glorious liberty of the Children of God." It is a mistake to suppose that a devotional spirit is not as [31/32] much sought after in deaconess institutions as in Sisterhoods but it is one in harmony with an unfettered life of active usefulness, and in accordance with the healthful, sound evangelical doctrines of the Church of England. [* Letter in Guardian of May 29th, 1878, in reference to the above-mentioned debate.]

At the Winchester Diocesan Conference, held in October, 1878, the valuable paper read by Canon Sumner cannot but prove helpful to the deaconess cause. From it he is good enough to allow the following quotations. "The abuses incidental to conventual life in the Middle Ages, undoubtedly led to a revulsion of feeling which prevented the Reformed Church from seeking the systematic co-operation of women in furthering the work of Christ in the world. But it is surely a great mistake to suppose that nuns and deaconesses are synonymous terms. Convents are ostensibly houses for the sheltering of those who think that they can serve God better by retiring from the world for purposes of [32/33] meditation and prayer. Deaconess institutions are for those women who desire, in a stated, formal, and authorised manner, to be set apart for active work in the Church of God. The two are wide as the poles apart, and I would earnestly deprecate any opposition to the work of deaconesses from dread of the gradual introduction of the conventual system. . . . . Deaconesses, without doubt, took considerable part in the work of the early Church. Bingham gives a short epitome of their history and their duties, and it is abundantly clear from references to them by the early fathers, and by canons respecting them in various councils, that their work gradually assumed considerable prominence."

Canon Sumner's paper goes on to consider the necessities, dangers, and advantages which surround the deaconess question--Firstly, the necessity for episcopal supervision and control which it needs to keep it strictly within ecclesiastical bounds Secondly, [33/34] the dangers of vows, of confession, and of the use of books of devotion unauthorised by our Church. Upon confession, he says, that "if our deaconess institutions travel on the lines of the Declaration substantially adopted by the recent Lambeth Conference, which affirms that, grounding her doctrine on Holy Scripture, the Church of England distinctly declares the full and entire forgiveness of sins, through the Blood of Jesus Christ, to all who bewail their own sinfulness, confess themselves to Almighty God with full purpose of amendment of life, and turn with true faith unto Him, &c., there will not," he ventures to think, "be found any difficulty arising from the subject." And with regard to the other danger--the use of services other than those of our Church, he is confident that the only safeguard lies in jealously guarding any departure either by excess or defect from the principles and practices of our Church, which would ensure deaconess institutions being neither latitudinarian on the one hand, nor [34/35] Roman Catholic on the other. And he is also of opinion that deaconesses need the protection which a distinctive dress affords, and that it should be a dress which would stamp them as deaconesses, but that it certainly ought not to be of the Roman Catholic pattern.

In conclusion, Canon Sumner's paper remarks:--"It may be asked why do we want deaconess institutions? why are we not satisfied with district visitors, and the like? I reply that there is surely an obvious advantage in having a central institution for the training of these women in the particular line of life to which they have devoted themselves. . . . And besides this we want women who shall be recognised by episcopal authority, set apart to their work as in old times, with the episcopal blessing and imposition of hands--able to do work for God in parishes, unable, perhaps, otherwise, to obtain the services of duly qualified Church helpers. I am perfectly aware--no one more so--by [35/36] practical personal experience, that from the many thousand parsonages and squires' houses throughout the length and breadth of the land, a band of ministering servants of the Lord daily go forth on their holy mission of love I desire in no way to disparage their services nor to supersede them. But there are women who have no special domestic ties to prevent their self-dedication there are some who desire to give themselves up more wholly to the work than it is possible to do amidst the various details of ordinary home life, and it is for these that I plead, that they may find a recognised place of work, and may become, under episcopal supervision, a part of the authorised spiritual machinery of the diocese. Can we not, on such a question as this, rise above party? It is no party question. Institutions which have found advocates in Fliedner, Arnold, Howson, Pennefather, need certainly not be suspected of necessarily leading to Rome. Why may not we meet on the one common ground of [36/37] Church principles, and strive as far as we can, at any rate in the diocese in which through God's providence our own lot in life is cast, to restore to its rightful position the authorised ministry of deaconesses in the Church of England?" [A deaconess institution has been, since Canon Sumner's paper was read, established at Farnham.]

Amongst those who have given consideration to the subject of deaconesses, and who have entered practically into it, some are to be found who advocate the system of a solemn promise being given for a term of at least three years. But there is not the smallest ground for the establishment of any such system in the judicious rules of our bishops: and should we not be careful of everything which might seem subversive of the spirit of obedience, which is, generally speaking, a safe rule with regard to all righteous and lawful authority?

Once admit any taking of vows for deaconesses, and there becomes immediately a [37/38] lessening of the Scriptural freedom which is, and is rightly, the grand and distinctive feature of the order.

A woman who needs to make a vow to keep her steadfast is not a woman of the right material for a deaconess, and the steadfastness which requires a vow of any kind to keep it alive would not be found to contain within it the quiet fortitude, and at the same time the enthusiasm, without which deaconess-work will never be useful nor persistent. [* Since writing the above sentence the following extract from the Report of the Oxford Church Congress in 1862, p. 149, has been sent to the writer by the Dean of Chester, and as coming from the lips of the then Bishop of Oxford is worthy of quotation:--"I should not have felt at liberty to take any part in the arrangements of any sisterhood of which vows of celibacy formed a part, because, first, I see no warrant for them in the Word of God, and it would seem to me that to encourage persons to make vows for which there is no distinct promise given that they should be able to keep them, would be entangling them in a yoke of danger secondly, because it seems to me that our Church has certainly discouraged such vows and thirdly, because it seems to me really to be of the essence of such a religious life, that it [38/39] should be continued, not because in a moment of past fervour a vow was made, but because by a continual life of love, that life is again and again freely offered to that service to which it was originally dedicated. I feel, therefore, that I may venture to say that instead of the perpetual vows representing the higher, it is the admission of a lower standard. I have felt it my duty to say this, that there might be no mistake as to my view."

[39] Women should not offer themselves for service in the Church until they have made up their minds as to what their desire is for their future lives. The office should not be experimented upon as merely a refuge from disappointment, or as a change from an inactive, dissatisfied existence, but should be sought for and entered into as a God-given sphere of service. No woman should allow herself to be set apart as a deaconess unless in doing so she is conscientiously giving herself to the Church. It might possibly happen, however, that a daughter or sister, after she has become a deaconess, may, in God's Providence, find it necessary to return to her home duties: and should any promise whatsoever [39/40] stand in the way of a Christian woman being at liberty to answer to the call of any duty which is clearly a God-sent one? Neither should it be supposed that marriage is impossible for a deaconess, if only that marriage is "in the Lord," and if it should be shown to be so clearly His way for her, that in marrying she will have the approval of her own conscience and the sanction of the Bishop of her diocese: in such case the deaconess spirit will have but a different sphere for its exercise for every real deaconess is a deaconess for life.

The term of probation enjoined by the Bishops' rules is not only good for training, but should admit of ample opportunity for each probationer to be absolutely certain that she is choosing the life which God would have her to choose.

Associates, resident or non-resident, who have cordial sympathy with the deaconess movement, will be found a source of strength to deaconess institutions, and those institutions will afford to associates most useful [40/41] training, both as to work and self-discipline. The Bishops' rules are also suggestive on this point.

The deaconess office being still comparatively new to the English mind, new as to a knowledge of its primitive origin, as well as its present nature and work, is it not incumbent on those dignitaries and clergy of our Church who heartily wish well to the cause, to make it, and their approval of it, more generally known? [* "It is of the utmost importance that clergymen in their Confirmation Classes, Missionary Meetings, Scripture Classes, &c., &c., make the female youth and their parents familiar with the nature of the deaconess office and with the work."--Resolution No. 4 passed at the Kaiserswerth Conference, 1861.]

The movement requires from its friends greater faith for it in God, and greater faith in itself. Does not any movement heartily opposed grow more quickly than one unheartily countenanced? The clergy have, and thank God that they have, great power and influence and if our well-born and [41/42] wealthy women without direct home work and domestic ties were to have the office of a deaconess set before them as a position to be desired--a position of great influence, at once holy and honourable, we might perhaps see deaconess Olympias in our own days. And those women with means, to whom God has given the blessed gift of domestic ties and duties, might be led to help, out of their abundance, those poorer sisters who would gladly present that first gift of all, their own selves, to the service of their Master and their Church but are held back by the (perhaps, unexpected) necessity of earning their bread in whatever work they take up.

Amongst the poorer classes also it is most needful to make the deaconess movement understood and appreciated. To the uneducated, the very term "home" or "institution" has a very questionable interpretation--to them the name of deaconess itself bears no significance. And although (notwithstanding their sometime prejudice and ignorance) [42/43] they quickly learn to love those who, with ready tact, only smile at their misapprehension, and who soon become to them as "friends of their own," still a few words of explanation at first, from the clergy of the parish, would make it generally known that the term of deaconess is a Scriptural one, therefore ought to be beloved, that it is at once, as Dean Howson says, Primitive and Protestant, [* Deaconesses, p. 149] and that the position is an accredited one in the Church.

There seems to be sometimes a shrinking, even amongst the friends of the cause, from giving to it a just consideration as an ecclesiastical, not a lay, position (ecclesiastical merely, however, as belonging to the Church.) This arises from perhaps an unconscious fear that a deaconess may be apt to think of her office more highly than she ought to think. But does not this judgment lie in an error as to human, or rather let it be said woman, nature? Must not any true honour conferred, [43/44] confer with it, of necessity, true humility? And those whose sentiments may unconsciously be coloured by such a fear have not surely for others, although they may have done so for themselves, gauged the heights, or depths, of that "self-renunciation, in which all things become ours, because we cease to be our own." [* The Bertram Family. By Mrs. Charles.]

Besides, the very term "deaconess" means just "a helpful servant." Perhaps one reason why our bishops wish the title to be prefixed to the christian and surname, is to keep this idea of humble, helpful service continually before the mind of her upon whom it has been bestowed. "A servant of servants," ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. This should be, and it may be hoped is, the integral meaning of the title and the office to every one who is privileged to bear it.

Between the deaconesses of a parish and the district visitors of that parish there should always be the closest association. Generally [44/45] speaking, large parishes need not only the refining, helpful influence which kindly Christian women bring with them from their own homes--the family interests of both visitors and visited making a common bond which must act beneficially on each but such parishes mostly need as well, organised, trained workers--workers whose time is wholly at the disposal of the clergy, and entirely free from home and social claims. [* "One great result is that a parish with a deaconess has always a certain amount of district visiting which is not liable to interruption, the clergyman has some feminine help upon which he can rely this help, too, is practised help. . . The official work of the deaconess will bring out voluntary work that did not exist before, and give new life and encouragement to that which did exist."--Deaconesses, p. 205.]

Over and above the valuable work, which can best be done by district visitors in a parish, there are many descriptions of work which can best be done by deaconesses.

Amongst several others is not only constant spiritual ministry, but the regular attendance and nursing of the sick poor in [45/46] their own homes, by night as well as day, when necessary, especially in times of epidemic and infectious illness the seeking out and rescuing of the lost, for which latter the quiet, unremarkable, and yet distinctive dress enjoined on a deaconess by the bishops, makes her especially suitable, as also the quick perception and readiness, seldom acquired except through training and experience. Night classes, likewise, for both men and women of the rougher description, form an important part of deaconess work. [* Pastor Fliedner says that "the parish deaconess comes nearest to the apostolical and ancient deaconess in her work."]

And if hardworking deaconesses, who devote their whole time to parochial work, find, as is too often the case, that at the end of the week they have not been able to get through a tithe of the work that there is to be done, how is it possible that district visitors, however excellent, can satisfy the requirements of an earnest and laborious [46/47] clergyman for the poor of a large parish, when district visitors, as a rule, can only give to parochial work their surplus time from prior domestic and social claims, which they often do with the most generous self-sacrifice?

Oh, that more of the free Christian women of our land might be stirred up to come forward to the aid of the deaconess cause! [* Bishop Wordsworth, quoted in Deaconesses, p. 57, says:--"It would be a blessed work of Christian charity to restore the office of widow and deaconess in the Church to their primitive simplicity, and so to engage the affections and sympathies, and to exercise the quiet piety and devout zeal of Christian women, old and young, in the service of Christ in a regular and orderly manner under the guidance of lawful authority, and with its commission and benediction, according to the apostolic model prescribed by the Holy Ghost."] Women sitting at ease, left free by God perhaps for this very purpose of help, and yet satisfied to "sit still," whilst everywhere there is such great need of assistance. The ignorance which exists amongst our overcrowded population is scarcely to be credited, nor the want and the sin which are on all sides.

[48] To see but the surface of a well-ordered parish gives no idea of this ignorance, want, and sin, which only become too palpable when one dives beneath the surface. Our illiterate poor require to be instructed and humanised, as well as attracted towards the beautiful services of our Church, by having the love of its Divine Head brought home to their hearts in personal contact, and our Saviour's example of seeking the lost to save them, not only by loving words and deeds, but also by loving touch, needs to be more practically carried out.

Much is said in the present day about Charity Organisation Societies, and there is no doubt that such have been most useful in detecting imposture and in ministering to cases of real distress but might not the best, the most effectual, and at the same time the most economical charity organisation be found in organised deaconess work? Would there be the same amount of sin and imposition requiring investigation, if pious, refined [48/49] women, under their clergy's supervision, lived, as it were, everywhere amongst the poor, gaining by this means a thorough knowledge of their characters and requirements, and exerting a beneficial influence over their lives and homes?

All workers are willing to recognise the fact that the more work there is done, the more there is to do how great then is the necessity for more workers, and how blessed might be the result to both, if the two ends of society could be brought nearer to each other! Why has the All-wise Master permitted the differences of wealth and poverty? Was it for the separation between classes which exists,--the wasteful luxury on the one hand, the pitiful want on the other or has not our Lord, in the lesson of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the rather shown us that approximation of riches and penury, which might have been made a mutual blessing?

How is it that there are so few deaconesses? Is it entirely that the movement is but little [49/50] known, and still less understood? Is it entirely that only extreme movements succeed quickly? Or is it not also, as Dean Howson writes, that "our comfortable, luxurious English homes are an enchanted ground on which it is very difficult to awake, even when the voice of the poor is ringing in our ears, and in many cases the very facility of our religious advantages has added to the potency of the charm." [* Deaconesses, p. 156.]

It is indeed too much the habit of the women of our better classes to look upon a routine of social and domestic duties as their only allotted ones certainly, when in the good Providence of God such duties are given, they are the first for those to whom they are given. Those wives and mothers and daughters upon whom God has bestowed the most sacred of all womanly duties, and who are in such duties seeking with singleness of heart His glory, are perhaps doing Him the highest of all service, and are most likely [50/51] exercising the holiest and most enduring influence that it is possible for woman in any station of life to exercise. But over and above these there is an immense margin. We learn from statistical reports how much greater is the number of women in the world than is the number of men. Does it not therefore seem as if there must be some wise purpose for this great surplus number, which has not yet been rightly apprehended? May not the effort then to restore the order of deaconesses supply, at least, one wide and sacred channel in which many out of this great surplus might be made use of for God's glory, and for the amelioration of human sin and suffering?

Amongst our middle and upper classes how many families possess several unmarried daughters, often without sufficient occupation, some of whom may wish to devote their lives to Christian work, but who are perhaps held back by their parents from doing so whilst those very parents would willingly part from [51/52] all their daughters in marriage! How many single ladies in our land are living in boardinghouses, or in solitary apartments! How many widows [* A careful study of the Scriptures with a view to this question would seem, the writer thinks, to make the deaconess office especially suitable for such widows.] are there, childless--or, it may be, whose families no longer need their care and help! Are not all such persons for the most part leading lives without any definite aim? many of them perhaps filled with an indefinite longing for more definite work? Might not such women, by responding to the desire for organised work expressed by the bishops and pastors of their Church, become at once more useful, and consequently more happy, by devoting themselves in this way to their Master's service?

There are many influences which no doubt tend to check enthusiasm for the deaconess cause which, it may be hoped, will wear away as it becomes better understood. Firstly, the arrangements connected with it need to [52/53] be placed ecclesiastically on a more certain basis as regards its official position and support. [* "The chain of Catholic tradition in respect of woman's work in the Church, which the Church of Rome had snapped, has thus by Protestant hands been practically restored, and the new Female Diaconate needs but a franker and more solemn consecration at the hands of the Reformed Churches of Christendom, to bear, as I believe, yet more abundant fruit."--Historical Notes on Deaconesses and Sisterhoods. By John Malcolm Ludlow. P. 217.] Secondly, the English mind has not yet generally accepted the fact that it is, as Dean Howson says, "quite as possible and quite as natural and right for refined Christian women of good position and independent means to be employed confessedly in organised work for God, as it is for well-born, educated men to be so." And the idea also needs to become familiarised amongst us that where God has bestowed His gift of poverty upon any Christian gentlewoman suitable in every respect to become a deaconess, it should be made possible, and be considered honourable for her to do so. [* "Is it quite fair that the lady who, through good fortune, [53/54] has enough money for her own wants should merely on that account be in a position to perform a more elevated act of Christian love than she who, having nothing, must of dire need feed and clothe herself before she can minister to others?"--Anglican Deaconesses, p. 20.] In some minds there appears to be an idea that if women could earn their maintenance as deaconesses, they might be led for the sake of the mere maintenance to seek the office. [* "It is certain that the highest Christian devotion may be found in those who receive remuneration for their spiritual work. But it is a higher form both of labour and reward if all that the labourer wishes is to have facilities to serve God freely, and if having food and raiment, she is therewith content."--Deaconesses, p. 115.] Are women, then, more mercenary than men? Or could any Christian woman wish to be made a deaconess, knowing that in entering upon the office she must choose in all things not to please herself--that she must be devoted, persevering, obedient, and hardworking--unless the love of that Master, Who pleased not Himself, was inspiring her with the true-hearted desire to follow in His footsteps, by giving herself to ministry amongst His poor?

[55] "It is characteristic of the period we live in," to quote from Dean Howson's treatise again, "that there is what has been called 'a congestion to the metropolis'--that is, the accumulation of dense masses of the labouring and distressed population in our larger towns but there is a correlative fact which is not always observed with equal distinction of view, namely, the radiation outwards from our great towns of the wealthy and educated. The railway system, &c., gives to those in competent circumstances the opportunity of finding a home in the midst of fresh air and country scenery. Meanwhile the poor and degraded are accumulating in increasing numbers, without any proximity of culture and gentle influence, which is found in a rural village, and which used to be found in old-fashioned times even in the places of dense population. Thus there is a vast and widening gulf between the rich and the poor, between the power of good influence on the one hand, and the tendency [55/56] to hopeless degradation on the other. This change is inevitable, but it has also its favourable side. Vast and incidental evils are however connected with it, and our plain duty is to inquire what supplementary provision it demands, in addition to what we already have, for raising and rescuing and evangelising the poor." [* Deaconesses, p. 23.]

It is to meet this great need of the present day that deaconess institutions, [* It will be found desirable, and quite practicable in such institutions, to combine with regular work the healthful atmosphere of a home-like life.] which should ever be placed within easy reach of the poor, are so much required. From the removal of the homes of the better classes from the town to the country, clergymen are often left badly off for even Sunday-school teachers as well as for district visitors. The deaconess therefore, belonging to all classes, and spending her life chiefly amongst the very lowest, worst, and most suffering, becomes a link between high and low, rich and poor, and [56/57] thus helps to prevent the common brotherhood from a still wider severance, and to establish a greater belief amongst the people in the sympathy of their clergy and of the wealthier classes, who so often minister to the sorrowful and destitute through her agency.

For the establishment and furtherance of deaconess work in our land both friends and funds are required. Institutions are constantly receiving applications [* Such applications would no doubt be still more frequent if deaconess work were made more widely known amongst all classes, so that parishes requiring the help of a trained worker might be found willing and ready to maintain one. The question as to how such means shall be found for poor parishes, is one which it is to be hoped will ere long be dealt with ecclesiastically. Even in cases where a deaconess has independent means, the cost of her maintenance should still be a parochial matter, for everything is of importance which would aid in preventing the work of a deaconess from being looked upon, either by herself or others, as desultory work. In this way, also, help towards the expenses of training others might be afforded by a deaconess with means.] from overworked clergy of over-grown parishes for assistance, which assistance such institutions [57/58] are only able here and there to supply. Lack of means in too many instances prevents institutions from receiving and sending forth women who have not competence for self-support and women who have such competence are very slow in responding to the urgent need which exists for their services.

The poor always ye have with you. Has not our Lord in these words left us a precious legacy? whilst there may well ring upon our hearts, and nerve them to the attempt of succour, that solemn and yet full encouragement: Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.

Torn asunder by extremes, our Church never stood so much in need as she does now of earnest, devoted servants, desirous not only to avoid extremes, but also to preserve that unity which every member of Christ's Church should strive strenuously to uphold.

Let us pray then to Him, Who, when [58/59] upon earth, graciously accepted the ministry of women from His Cradle to His Cross, where, as Dean Howson says, "the earliest deaconesses were found" to Him Whose first gracious Resurrection-word was "woman," that He would put it into the hearts of the free Christian women of our land to come forward in obedience to His example, and to give their sympathy and their own selves to the aid of the deaconess cause, the greatest want of which is--deaconesses.

The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the Harvest that He will send forth labourers into His harvest.

Anglican Theology

While the theology of the Anglican Church today has been affected by various movements such as Anglo-Catholicism and theological liberalism, Anglican theology is historically rooted in the Protestant documents that were developed in the period of the English Reformation, most importantly the Thirty-nine Articles, the Homilies, and the Book of Common Prayer.


Anglican theology is historically rooted in the documents that were developed in the period of the English Reformation, most importantly the Thirty-nine Articles, the Homilies, and the Book of Common Prayer. The chief architect of this new communion was the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, an English Catholic influenced by Luther. The most foundational piece of Anglican theology composed by Cranmer is the Thirty-nine Articles, which were regarded as providing a comprehensive system of doctrine for the reformed Church and have remained unchanged since 1571. One of the more substantial developments within the Anglican Communion has been the rise of Anglo-Catholicism, a movement that seeks more conformity with their reconstruction of the pre-Reformation church against what they see as “Protestant innovations.” At the same time, the Anglican Communion has been assailed by widespread theological liberalism and has been unable to establish structures for ensuring a common discipline among the forty autonomous churches that constitute it. Whether the Anglican Communion can regroup around the doctrines of the Reformation or whether the Communion will disintegrate into its constituent parts remains to be seen.

The Foundations

Anglican theology is rooted in the particular circumstances of the English Reformation. When Henry VIII (1509–1547) broke with the Church of Rome in 1534, he created a “Protestant” church that had no Protestants in it. A few Englishmen were conversant with Martin Luther’s teaching, but there was little understanding of his deeper theological motivation. Henry VIII despatched an embassy to Wittenberg in order to confer with the Lutherans about forming an alliance against Rome, and in the process, some Lutheran ideas were introduced into England. But a real Reformation had to wait until the reign of Henry’s nine-year-old son Edward VI (1547–1553). Its main architect was the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556), who had come under Lutheran influence and was moving increasingly in a Protestant direction. As a member of Edward’s regency council, he was given the authority to govern the Church, and it was this that enabled him to enact a broad range of reforms.

Cranmer had to teach Protestantism to an ignorant populace, and this explains the didactic nature of the doctrinal formularies he composed or authorized. First came a book of Homilies (1547), which set out the basic doctrines of the Church regarding the centrality of Scripture and of justification by faith, two key pillars of Lutheranism. A second book of Homilies was planned but did not appear until 1563. Next came a Book of Common Prayer (1549), which was subsequently revised in a more radical direction (1552). Soon after that the Ordinal appeared (and was annexed to the Prayer Book). This explained what was expected of each of the three clerical orders (bishops, priests and deacons). Cranmer also composed forty-two Articles of Religion (1553) which were later revised and became the Thirty-nine Articles that we know today (1563 and 1571). Finally, he produced a book of church discipline (1553) that failed to gain acceptance, although it was sometimes quoted in later times as if it were one of the foundational documents of the Church.

Taken together, these texts form the core of classical Anglican theology. The Articles are foundational and take pride of place. The Homilies are cited in the Articles as resources that provide more detailed doctrinal statements, and the Book of Common Prayer, last revised in 1662, illustrates how the doctrine of the Articles is applied in the worship and practice of the Church. Many Anglicans think that the Prayer Book is the Church’s chief source of doctrine, but this is a misunderstanding. In fact, it reflects the teaching of the Articles and the Homilies, not the other way around.

A number of disciplinary canons were enacted between 1571 and 1604, when what became the classical collection was produced, but these never acquired the status accorded to the other texts. Anglicans have never been able to devise a universally agreed form of Church discipline, a failing that continues to haunt the Anglican Communion to this day.

The Doctrine of the Thirty-nine Articles

The Articles of Religion are not formally subdivided into different sections or categories, but careful study of them shows that they possess a coherent structure that resembles a systematic approach. The first eight articles are “catholic” in the sense that they affirm doctrines that their authors believed were both ancient and universal. The first five deal with God and the individual persons of the Trinity and are consonant with the Chalcedonian theology of both Rome and the other main Protestant churches. Article 5 affirms the double procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son (filioque), which is rejected by the Eastern Orthodox churches, but this had been determined at the Council of Florence in 1439 and the Church of England merely accepted the standard western position.

Articles 6 and 7 define the place and canon of the Scriptures and take a definitely Protestant position. The canon is that of Jerome (as Article 6 expressly states), omitting the non-Hebraic books of the Old Testament, which are relegated to a secondary status. These so-called Apocrypha or deuterocanonical books may be read for spiritual edification but not used to support any particular doctrine. In addition, Article 6 states that whatever is not found in the Scriptures cannot be imposed on Christians as a belief necessary for salvation. Non-scriptural beliefs and practices are not explicitly rejected, but they cannot be taught or imposed on the Church as part of its core doctrine.

Article 7 upholds the use of the Old Testament and (in typically Reformed fashion) subdivides the law of Moses into ceremonial, civil and moral aspects. The first two of these have been made obsolete by the coming of Christ, but the last retains its importance for the Church. Article 8 proclaims the authority of the three ancient Creeds (Apostles’s, Nicene and Athanasian). The first two are regularly used in worship and the Athanasian Creed, though rejected by the American Episcopal Church in 1801, retains its place in the Book of Common Prayer and is considered authoritative by most Anglicans, even if it is little known or used today.

Articles 9–34 are specifically Protestant and state the position adopted by the Church of England on the theological controversies of the 16th century. Broadly speaking, they reflect what would now be regarded as a moderate Calvinism. They were composed during Calvin’s lifetime and were influenced by him, but they say nothing about the controversies that would shape the Calvinism that we know today—double predestination, covenant theology, and the five points of the Synod of Dort (1618–1619) being the most obvious omissions. Individual Anglicans have often held these more developed Calvinist doctrines, but they are not found in the Articles and attempts to add them were resisted from the start.

Articles 9–18 outline an order of salvation (ordo salutis), which begins with an affirmation of original sin and is followed by a denial of free will. Next come affirmations of justification by faith alone, the necessity of good works after justification (and the useless of them beforehand), and the impossibility of acquiring grace through works, however good or numerous they may be. These articles are then followed by ones detailing the sinlessness of Christ, the possibility of forgiveness for sins committed after baptism, predestination (and election), and the uniqueness of salvation in and through Christ alone. None of these is particularly controversial among Protestants, but they reveal a clear departure from Roman Catholic teaching. The article on predestination affirms that doctrine very clearly, but it warns about the dangers of preaching it indiscriminately and says nothing about the fate of those who are not among the elect.

Articles 19–34 deal with the doctrine of the Church, including the ministry (23–24, 32) and the sacraments (25–31). The Church is defined as a body of faithful people in which the pure Word of God is preached and the sacraments are properly administered, but that at the same time every church has erred at some point in its history. This suggests a leaning towards belief in an invisible Church that is not to be identified with any particular institution, but at the same time these articles appear to assume that the Church of England has succeeded in providing what is required. The Church is recognized as having the authority to decree rites and ceremonies and also to decide matters of faith, so long as nothing it does contradicts the Scriptures.

Article 21 says that general (ecumenical) councils can only be summoned at the behest of the secular authorities and insists that they can err in their decisions. Today most Anglicans would agree that church councils can meet without the consent of secular rulers, but the belief that they can be mistaken remains part of Anglican doctrine.

Article 22 is a denial of purgatory and of other corrupt practices of the Roman Church. Article 23 says that ministers must be called by the appropriate Church authorities and properly ordained, though it does not specify who those authorities are nor what orders of ministry are being considered. Article 24 states that public worship must be conducted in a language that people can understand but does not specify that this must be the mother tongue of the worshipers.

Article 25 makes a clear distinction between the two sacraments of the gospel (baptism and holy communion), which are retained, and the five so-called sacraments that either misinterpret the New Testament or represent states of life (like matrimony), which may be valid in themselves but have no sacramental character. Sacraments are meant to be used properly and are effective in those who receive them in the right spirit, but the unworthiness of a minister does not invalidate them. Bad ministers must be disciplined, but their sacramental ministry is regarded as effective for those who receive it correctly. In this way, the Articles achieve a balance between the objectivity of the administration and the need for worthy reception by those who partake of them.

Baptism is a sign of regeneration, forgiveness of sin, adoption as children of God, and incorporation into the Church, but it does not produce these things automatically. In 1850, a court decision known as the Gorham Judgment determined that the Church of England does not teach baptismal regeneration, and that remains the standard Anglican position. Infant baptism is retained as being “most agreeable” to the teaching of Christ, although no attempt is made to defend it theologically. The Prayer Book makes it clear that the Church expected all newborn babies to be baptized and to be brought up as believers, but the rite itself could not guarantee their salvation.

Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, is a sign of Christian love, but more importantly it recalls Christ’s death for our salvation. Transubstantiation is firmly rejected, and Christ can only be received by faith, in a heavenly and spiritual way. Catholic ritual practices associated with transubstantiation are rejected, as is the Lutheran belief that unbelievers partake of Christ when they consume the consecrated elements of bread and wine. Communion must be offered to everyone in both kinds, and it is in no sense an extension or repetition of Christ’s sacrifice, which was made once for all on the cross.

Ordained clergy are given permission to marry at their own discretion (32) and excommunicated people are to be kept out of the church until they are formally reconciled (33). Finally, Article 34 allows every national church to adopt its own traditions and patterns of worship but gives the secular authorities the right to enforce its decisions within their jurisdictions. The Church of England could allow that foreign churches might have quite different rules and patterns of worship, but at the same time discipline its members if they tried to introduce those customs into their own Church.

Articles 35–37 are peculiarly Anglican. They commend the Homilies (35) and the Ordinal (36) and also recognize the legitimate role of civil government (37). Article 37 states that the “bishop of Rome” has no jurisdiction in England and that it is lawful both for the secular government to administer the death penalty for serious offences and for Christians to serve in the military. Articles 38–39 are an appendix designed to counter radical forms of Anabaptism. The first defends the right of believers to have their own property and the second says that it is lawful to swear an oath when one is required to seal a contract, or to tell the truth in a court.

The Articles of Religion were regarded as providing a comprehensive system of doctrine for the reformed Church and have remained unchanged since 1571. Much has happened since that time, but they remain the foundation for all authentically Anglican theology to this day.

Subsequent Developments and Controversies

Until the mid-19th century there was very little dissent from the doctrine of the Thirty-nine Articles. Disputes arose over Church discipline, with the so-called Puritans wanting stricter conformity to the teaching of the Bible and the practice of other Reformed churches and their opponents tending to defend traditional practices and the right of the state to determine the worship of the Church as it saw fit. This consensus broke down after 1832, when the admission of non-Anglicans to Parliament drove many to seek a more purely “spiritual” doctrine of the Church. The result was the emergence of Anglo-Catholicism which looked back to the pre-Reformation Church and turned its back on what it regarded as “Protestant innovations.” Anglo-Catholicism was a fanciful reconstruction of church history and widely denounced as such, but it had considerable success in defining “Anglicanism” as a fully Catholic branch of the universal Church, but one that (like the Eastern Orthodox Churches) was not subject to the Roman papacy.

Anglo-Catholics sought to eliminate the Church’s Reformation heritage as much as possible. They rediscovered the 16th-century lawyer Richard Hooker (1554–1600) and made him the true founder of Anglicanism because he argued against the Puritans and preached conformity to the Church establishment. They also appropriated virtually every anti-Puritan writer of the 17th and early 18th centuries, even though most of them were just as Protestant in doctrine as the Puritans were. They exploited the lack of discipline in the Church by innovating liturgically, reintroducing clerical vestments and a number of ritual practices that other Protestants thought were Roman Catholic but now often regard as typically “Anglican” also.

The Anglo-Catholics’s greatest success was their ability to insist on the “historic episcopate” as fundamental to Anglicanism, which it had not been before. Their intention was to align Anglicans with Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, as well as to distance themselves from Protestants, who felt increasingly alienated. The Catholics and Orthodox spurned their overtures however, and modern ecumenism has blurred the issues to some extent. Traditional Anglo-Catholicism has faded as more Anglican churches ordain women, admit non-Anglicans to Communion and join in ecumenical projects, mainly with other Protestants. Historical research has debunked most of its claims about early Anglicanism and in recent years there has been a revival of interest among more conservative groups in the Church’s Reformation formularies as the basis for inter-Anglican unity. At the same time, the Anglican Communion has been assailed by widespread theological liberalism and has been unable to establish structures for ensuring a common discipline among the forty autonomous churches that constitute it. The problem is that the Church now contains a breadth of opinion on theological matters that is unparalleled elsewhere in the Christian world and makes the term “Anglican theology” almost meaningless. Whether Anglicans will be able to regroup around the doctrines of the Reformation or whether the Communion will disintegrate into its constituent parts remains to be seen and may fairly be regarded as the great unanswered question of our time.

Further Reading

    – a complete listing of online resources
  • Bruce Kaye, An Introduction to World Anglicanism
  • Colin Buchanan, Historical Dictionary of Anglicanism
  • Mark Chapman, Anglican Theology
  • Paul Avis, Anglicanism and the Christian Church: Theological Resources in Historical Perspective
  • Rowan Strong, The Oxford History of Anglicanism, 5 vols.
  • Stephen Spencer, SCM Study Guide to Anglicanism

This essay is part of the Concise Theology series. All views expressed in this essay are those of the author. This essay is freely available under Creative Commons License with Attribution-ShareAlike, allowing users to share it in other mediums/formats and adapt/translate the content as long as an attribution link, indication of changes, and the same Creative Commons License applies to that material. If you are interested in translating our content or are interested in joining our community of translators, please reach out to us.

The Church of England was described by historian John Tonkin as an active partner in the Swan River colony.

The first colonial chaplain was the Reverend John Burdett Wittenoom, who arrived in the colony in 1830. For five years, he was the only ordained minister in the colony.

A temporary church known as the Rush church was built and also served as a courthouse until a more permanent court was built in 1837. The new building also functioned as a church and a court and is still standing today in the Supreme Court Gardens It is believed to be the oldest building in Perth.

In 1836, the Reverend Louis Giustiniani arrived in Western Australia an appointee of the “Western Australian Missionary Society”. He was tasked with ministering to Aboriginal people and became a vocal opponent of what he witnessed as the unequal application of law in relation to Aboriginal people. This brought him into conflict with many of the settlers, the government and the establishment of the church he left the colony in 1838.

Letters patent were issued by the Queen in 1856 which formed the See of Perth and appointed Matthew Blagden Hale as Bishop.

Rev’d John Alban Brown and Stephen Andrew circa 1902

The Diocese of Bunbury was formed in 1904, the North-West in 1910 and Kalgoorlie in 1914.

On 21 August 1872, the first Synod was held where the Constitution of the Diocese of Perth was passed and adopted. The Diocese of Perth was the last state Diocese to adopt synodal government. Bishop Hale set the tone for the first Synod, stating

In the 1911 census, 38% of the population of Western Australia (excluding Aboriginal people, who were not counted in the census) identified as Church of England. In 2006, census data records 20.4% of Western Australians identified as Anglican.

On 24 August 1981, the name Church of England was replaced with The Anglican Church of Australia.

The Anglican Diocese of Perth took a leading role in the ordination of women when Archbishop of Perth Peter Carnley announced plans to ordain women as priests in March 1992. Despite opposition and a case in the Supreme Court of Western Australia, the ordination went ahead. Kaye Goldsworthy was the first woman appointed Bishop in Australia and the first woman to be appointed Archbishop in Australia.

Consecration of St Georges Cathedral


200700017007 Rev’d John Burdett Wittenoom.
2007/00017/026 Bishop Hale.
2007/00017/062 Montana Tent Church. Montana was a suburb of Coolgardie which was active during the goldrushes in the 1890s. The rapid increase in population and difficulty in securing resources inspired some creativity in terms of church construction.
2014/00108/012 Rev’d John Alban Brown and Stephen Andrew circa 1902. Ministers often travelled great distances under difficult conditions. It is estimated the first archdeacon of Perth, John Ramsden Wollaston, travelled 1000 miles during each visitation on horseback, camping between visits.
200700017029 Picton Church. Between 1836 and 1843, churches were built at Fremantle, Guildford, Augusta, Albany, Middle and Upper Swan and Picton.
200700017058 Interior Picton Church. Recognised as one of the oldest Anglican Church’s in Western Australia. The church was established by John Ramsden Wollaston. 2007/00017/031 Consecration of St Georges Cathedral. With the establishment of the see of Perth, St George’s Church, which was completed in 1845, became a cathedral. The cathedral was extended and consecrated 15 November 1888.

Church of England - Anglican Church - Definition - HISTORY

In the circumstances of nineteenth-century England, the argument for an Establishment must in fairness be pronounced to be convincing. The parochial system, worked by a married clergy, was unquestionably a civilizing influence which nothing else could have replaced. Whether it was in equal measure a religious influence may be doubted: the English Churchman was rarely so well informed in his faith as the Irish Catholic or the Scotch Presbyterian, and he was not called upon to be so active in his membership as the English Dissenter. The Church was on the defensive: Nonconformity had the strategic initiative. The Church was aristocratic: the Church was the greatest landed proprietor in the kingdom: and in the sixties even well-disposed men might wonder anxiously whether the Church was still the bulwark it had once been against Popery and Infidelity. — G. M. Young, Victorian England: Portrait of an Age

For its entire lifespan, the Church of England has experienced one crisis after another. Forged in crisis in the sixteenth century, driven underground for part of the seventeenth, challenged by freethinking and Methodism in the eighteenth, and beset with internal quarrels in the nineteenth, it has been weakened by secularism and unbelief thereafter. In our own time, religious allegiance is widely seen as intellectually unrespectable and socially discordant: a shift which has particularly affected Anglicanism, so long synonymous with belonging. Conversely, among those who yearn for alternatives to secular credos, it can seem the least enterprising of spiritual paths. — Alison Shell, Time Literary Supplement

Protestantism established a precarious toehold in England very shortly after Luther's initial protest in 1517, but for many years Protestants remained a tiny minority, frequently persecuted. There was, however, widespread discontent both at the extent of corruption within the English Catholic Church and at its lack of spiritual vitality. A pervasive anti-clerical attitude on the part of the population as a whole and in Parliament in particular made it possible for Henry VIII to obtain an annulment in 1533 of his first marriage (to Catherine of Aragon) in the face of papal opposition, and in 1534 the Act of Supremacy transferred papal supremacy over the English Church to the crown. It was not until the 1550's, however, under Edward VI, that the English Church became Protestant in doctrine and ritual, and even then it remained traditional in organization. Under the Roman Catholic Mary I a politico-religious reaction resulted in the burning at the stake of some prominent Protestants and the exile of many others, which led in turn to a popular association of Catholicism with persecution and Spanish domination. When Elizabeth I succeeded to the throne in 1558, however, she restored a moderate Protestantism, codifying the Anglican faith in the Act of Uniformity, the Act of Supremacy, and the Thirty-Nine Articles.

From the time of the Elizabethan settlement on, the Church of England (the Anglican Church) attempted, with varying degrees of success, to consolidate its position both as a distinctive middle way between Catholicism and Puritanism and as the national religion of England. Under Charles I, the "popish" High-Church policies of the Arminian William Laud alienated the Puritan wing of the Church, and after the victory of Cromwell's (frequently Puritan) parliamentarians over Charles's (frequently Catholic) Royalists in the Civil Wars of 1642-1651, the Anglican Church, by now the Church of England, was largely dismantled.

The Puritan emphasis on individualism, however, made the establishment of a national Presbyterian Church during the Interregnum impossible, and the Restoration of the Monarchy under Charles II in 1660 facilitated the re-establishment of the Anglican Church, purged of Puritans, who split into various dissenting factions. It remained the official state church until the passage of the Toleration Act in 1690, which permitted Dissenters to hold meetings in licensed preaching houses. Thereafter it grew both politically and spiritually weaker, and the eighteenth century found it largely unprepared for the serious spiritual challenge which was implicit in the appearance of Methodism.

At the time of the birth of the Methodist movement in the late eighteenth century, there were 13,500 Anglican priests in England, but only 11,700 livings (fixed incomes derived from Church lands and tithes and attached to a particular parish) to support them, and many of the livings paid so poorly that many priests held more than one. Some priests, too, thanks to political and social influence, controlled more than one of the wealthy livings. In addition, the Church was far too dependent upon political and economic interests to reform itself: half of all livings were granted by landowners, and the government had the right to appoint all bishops, a number of prebends, and hundreds of livings, so that it is not exaggerating too much to say that the Church became, to a considerable degree, the preserve of the younger sons of members of the aristocracy who had little interest in religion and less interest in the growing numbers of urban poor. There were, in consequence, over 6,000 Anglican parishes with no priests at all, and it was into this void that the Methodist evangelicals stepped.

Four Punch cartoons from the late 1850s and '60s commenting on problems in the Established Church. Left: Alma Mater . Middle left: A Pan-Anglican Washing Day . Middle right: A Pan-Anglican Oversight . Right: Orthodox . [Click on thumbnails for larger images.]

In the nineteenth century the Church of England remained a middle way, but had to widen its doctrines considerably. This process was facilitated to a considerable degree in part because many upper-class Anglicans, tired of doctrinal disputes, wanted only a rational, moderate, practical religion which would permit them to worship in peace. This "Latitudinarian" outlook made it possible for the Church to absorb not only the Evangelical movement which, fueled by the same energies which had given birth to Methodism, broadened the Anglican Low-Church faction, but also the Oxford Movement which, fueled by the same activist impulses, presided over the revival of a High-Church faction at the other extreme. During the greater part of the nineteenth century the Evangelicals remained dominant among the clergy, but the universities had become bastions of the High-Church faction. At the same time, the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829 emancipated Catholics, and this put still more pressure on the Church, as many High-Churchmen, notably Newman and his disciples, would eventually defect to Catholicism. Meanwhile, the Broad Church faction received governmental support which was out of all proportion to its size. In the mid-nineteenth century, then, the Church of England was disorganized. Though its adherents were largely conservative, a considerable portion of its leadership was, ideologically speaking, perilously close to Catholicism, and the religious census of 1851 showed that it was reaching only about fourteen percent of the population of England.

Although the real authority of the Church diminished thereafter, evangelical fervor diminished as well, and there was a considerable movement of industrial wealth from the old Nonconformists to the established church. The public schools and the universities, even after they were freed of religious restrictions, remained bastions of Anglicanism, and in 1919 the Church attained a still greater degree of unity when, after the passage of an act which effectively separated Church and State, it established an assembly which would, fifty years later, become the main legislative body of the Church.

Related material

Related Web Resources

  • Church of England Official site, containing links to dioceses and information about the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Recent Publications

The Oxford History of Anglicanism . Rowan Strong, General Editor. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019.

Anglican vs Episcopal Church

What are the differences between the Anglican and Episcopal Church? The main differences lie in their origins, leadership, geographical reach, and stance towards female ordination and same-sex marriage.


The Anglican Church traces its roots to the 1530s, when King Henry VIII renounced his allegiance to the Pope and the Catholic Church, therefore founding the Church of England. The Episcopal Church, on the other hand, began after the American colonies declared their independence from England in 1789.


The Archbishop of Canterbury, who is appointed by the reigning King or Queen of England, leads the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. Meanwhile, the Episcopal Church is led by a Presiding Bishop, who is elected by the General Convention for a term of nine years.

Geographical coverage

The Anglican Church, or Church of England, covers England, Wales, and Europe. It has also directly contributed to the founding of the churches of Canada and Australia. Under the Anglican Communion, it also has primacy over similar churches all over the world. The Episcopal Church, in contrast, has churches in the United States, Taiwan, Micronesia, and certain countries in Latin America.

Female Ordination

The Anglican Church ordained its first women priests in 1994, and consecrated its first female bishops in 2014. The Episcopal Church, however, ordained women as members of clergy earlier the first female Episcopal priests received Holy Orders in 1974, while the first woman bishop received her consecration in 1989.

Same-sex Marriage

Collectively, the Anglican Church and other members of the Anglican Communion do not support the idea of same-sex marriage. However, the Episcopal Church recognizes same-sex marriages this has led to their suspension as a voting member of the Anglican Communion as of 2016.

Anglicanism: Definition, History & Beliefs

Christian religious doctrine derived from Catholicism, which began in England during the 16th century.

Definition of Anglicanism

Anglicanism is a Christian religious doctrine derived from Catholicism, which began in England during the 16th century. Its founder was King Henry VIII (1509 – 1547), who, in the context of the Protestant Reformation, separated England from the authority of the Roman Church, for political and personal reasons.

Today this religion is known as the “Anglican Communion” and recognizes the Archbishop of Canterbury as its spiritual leader. It gathers about 90 million faithful, most of them in Great Britain and the rest in countries that were British colonies, such as Canada, Australia, South Africa or New Zealand.

Despite its differences with Catholicism, it has more similarities to the Roman Church than other Protestant strains, such as Lutheranism and Calvinism .

Portrait of King Henry VIII , promoter of Anglicanism. Oil painting by the German artist Hans Holbein , the Younger.

Origin of Anglicanism

In 1517, the German monk and theologian Martin Luther criticized various practices of the Catholic Church, including the sale of indulgences and the accumulation of material goods. His preaching in favor of a return to the values ​​of early Christianity and against the authority of the Pope gave rise to Protestantism, a religious movement that soon spread throughout much of northern Europe.

Scribes: Definition, History & Origins of Scribal

In this context, King Henry VIII asked Pope Clement VII to annul his marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, with whom he had not been able to have a male heir. As the Pope refused, in 1534, Henry VIII sanctioned the Act of Supremacy, by which he proclaimed himself the highest authority of the Church of England.

In this way, he caused a break with the Catholic Church, after which he divorced and married Ana Bolena .

This disruptive attitude of Henry VIII was supported by his Secretary of State, Thomas Cromwell , and by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer . Instead, it was rejected by the humanistTomas Moro , who refused to accept the Act of Supremacy, for which he was sentenced to death.

During the reign of Henry VIII , Cromwell and Cranmer established the first doctrinal and liturgical structures of Anglicanism and in 1539, they promoted the dissolution of the Catholic abbeys and Monasteries, confiscating all their property.

Despite the break with Rome, Henry VIII rejected the most radical claims of Lutheranism. For that reason, Anglicanism is considered a form of Christianity intermediate between Catholicism and Protestantism.

Communist Manifesto: Definition & Summary

Anglicanism was in danger of disappearing during the reign of María I (1553-1558), daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. The queen tried to re-establish Catholicism and had Thomas Cranmer burned at the stake.

The premature death of María brought her half-sister Elizabeth I (1558-1603), daughter of Enrique VIII and Ana Bolena , to power. Isabel , faithful heir of her father, broke relations with Rome and consolidated Anglicanism as the official religion of England.

During his reign, Parliament passed a religious agreement that defined Anglicanism as a church that was both Catholic and Reformed, with the English monarch as supreme head.

Difference Between Anglicanism and Catholicism

The main differences between Anglicanism and Catholicism are as follows:

  • In Anglicanism, there is no priestly celibacy, while in Catholicism, it is mandatory for all its members. Anglican pastors are allowed to marry and have children.
  • The more liberal Anglicanism accepts the female priesthood, while in Catholicism it is prohibited.
  • Part of the Anglican community accepts gay marriage, which is not accepted by Catholics.
  • In addition to the Bible, the doctrinal bases of Anglicanism are the 39 Articles and the Book of Common Prayer, where Anglican beliefs and doctrines are specified. The Bible can be freely interpreted by individual reason.
  • The Anglican Church only recognizes two of the seven sacraments accepted by Catholicism, Baptism and the Eucharist.
  • As in Lutheranism, Anglicans are in favor of justification through faith. This means that to access salvation all you need is to believe in God and repent of all your sins.
  • The leader of the Anglican Church is the Archbishop of Canterbury, so the authority of the Pope, spiritual head of the RomanCatholic Apostolic Church, is unknown.

View of the interior of the central nave of Canterbury Cathedral, in English Gothic style. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Anglican Church.

Anglican Church Divisions

The Anglican Church is divided into three branches, which differ in their perspective on some biblical doctrines. These branches are as follows:

Watch the video: Αγγλικανική Εκκλησία Αγίου Παύλου (August 2022).