What is an Anglican?
Bono from U2, C.S. Lewis, Jane Austen, T.S. Elliot, George Washington, William Shakespeare, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Desmond Tutu, and John Wesley. What do these people have in common? They're all Anglicans!
Anglicanism traces its heritage back to the Church of the British Isles (Anglican comes from the word English). Simply, an Anglican is a Christian who worships God within the long tradition of English and Celtic Christianity that stretches back to early years after Christ's death and resurrection. Today, this "Anglican" tradition of Christianity has grown and expanded to become an international communion of about 85 million members in more than 165 countries. Anglicanism is the third largest Christian communion in the world after the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.
The Anglican Communion is united by our common profession of Jesus Christ, our common faith in scripture, our common confession in the creeds and councils of the early church, and our common worship. Please continue reading to learn what it means to hold to the Anglican tradition.
Anglicans are first and foremost committed to the Bible. We believe the Bible is God's holy word written and contains all things necessary for salvation. the Bible is the final authority and unchangeable standard for Christian faith and life.
Because the Bible is God's word written, it always points us to the Word of God made flesh, the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. The Old Testament is the story of God's creation and calling of the Jews to be be his people. The New Testament continues this story which finds its crescendo in Jesus Christ, who lives, dies on the cross, and is resurrected three days later that we might be saved through him. Anglicans confess the good news of salvation found in Jesus Christ.
The original Greek word for catholic meant "according to the whole." Every Anglican diocese expresses the wholeness of the Christian faith:
- Catholic faith: Anglicans continue the faith of the undivided church best expressed in the ancient creeds and early church councils under the authority of the Bible.
- Catholic practice: Anglicans worship according to a liturgy - the Anglican Book of Common Prayer - 80% of which is take directly from the Bible. Our worship crescendos in the weekly celebration of Holy Communion (aka Lord's Supper or Eucharist).
- Catholic order: Anglicans hold to the three-fold ministerial order of bishops, priests, and deacons. Governed by bishops, we believe they are an inherent part of the apostolic faith and practice. They provide unity with the ancient church and unity with today's church across the globe.
Holding fast to the worship, doctrine, and order of the early church is what makes us catholic, though we are not Roman Catholic.
How can someone be a catholic and a protestant at the same time? To be protestant means to be pro-testament. The testimony we proclaim is the gospel message: the free forgiveness found in Jesus Christ alone that is offered to all. We believe and teach that we are saved by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
This centrality of the gospel message was reclaimed by various groups in the 16th century Protestant Reformation. Anglicanism traces her particular heritage through the English Reformation. Thus, Anglicans are simultaneously protestant and catholic.
Anglicans believe God the Holy Spirit - the third person of the Trinity - is alive and active today! The Holy Spirit was poured out onto the Church at Pentecost (Acts 2) and still strives with the global church. The Holy Spirit draws us to Jesus Christ. Through Baptism the Holy Spirit unites us to Jesus and to his Church. Through preaching the Holy Spirit speaks the Word of God to our hearts that we may better know God the Father through Jesus Christ and understand our Christian faith. In the Eucharist the Holy Spirit makes Jesus present in a heavenly way for us. The Holy Spirit equips us with his gifts that we may love and serve others. Anglicans believe the Holy Spirit fills, indwells, and empowers us to be fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.