The Anglican Way

Thomas McKenzie, in his accessible book, The Anglican Way, writes that Anglican churches are distinct in these ways: 

  • Trinitarian: Anglicans believe that there is One God who exists eternally in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Furthermore, we believe that Jesus Christ is completely God and is also completely human. If a religious group does not teach these two doctrines, we do not recognize them as Christian.
  • Primacy of Scripture: Anglican churches hold that Old and New Testaments together are the Word of God and contain all things necessary for salvation. We believe that the Bible holds authority in questions of God and humanity over all other traditions, arguments, decisions, and values.
  • Salvation: Anglicans believe that every human being on earth is in need of the saving help of Jesus Christ. We believe that salvation is in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone.
  • Word and Sacrament: Anglicans believe that a church is a community that gathers around the proclamation of the Word of God and the celebration of the sacraments of Christ. We believe in preaching the whole of the Gospel. We teach that the sacraments are external signs of interior grace, signs commanded by Christ for the building up of his church.
  • Common Life: We believe that God has called us to live our lives together in Christ. We engage in liturgical disciplines of prayer, worship, and repentance. Anglicans embrace a full life of seasons and hours, fasts and feasts. We are called to lives that are both ordered and creative.
  • Mission: Anglicans have a mission to the world. This mission is one of both proclaiming the Gospel and living it out. This means that we believe in starting new churches, evangelizing our neighbors, ministering to the poor, and caring for the world. 
  • Apostolic Succession: The church preserves and protects the Gospel through our bishops. They are the successors of the Apostles through heritage, teaching, and character. Our bishops were consecrated by other bishops, who were consecrated by other bishops, all the way back to the Apostles. They have the responsibility of guarding the faith that has been delivered to us, and of serving those whom God has put under their care. 
  • Semper Reformanda: Anglicans are never finished. We are, as the Latin phrase above puts it, “always reforming.” Although we are stabilized by tradition, we are nevertheless looking for ways to better proclaim the Gospel in our own day. 
  • Via Media: This Latin term means “the middle way.” The Anglican Way lives at the center rather than the extremes. We have learned that it’s impossible to be radical about more than one thing. We don’t desire to be radical about politics, traditions, ideas, or even religion. We just want to be radical about the only thing worth being radical about: the amazing love of God in Christ. 

A Historical Summary of Anglicanism

Anglicans are Christians whose spiritual and theological roots can be traced back to the historic Church of England. The word itself is derived from the Angles, a tribe from Northern Germany who settled in Northern and Eastern England in the 5th and 6th centuries. The English Christian Church is thought to have been founded by Christian missionaries in the 1st century A.D. It developed according to the growth and influence of various groups in the British Isles including the Gauls, Celts and Saxons (as well as the Angles). 

Saint Patrick was a famous product of the early Church in England. In the 7th century, thanks in part to the efforts of Christian missionaries from Rome, the English Church came into compliance with Roman Christian customs. This carried the day for nearly 900 years until, during the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, English Christians again charted a separate course. 

By the second half of the 17th century, the character of the English church was somewhat established with the English language Bible of 1611 (the King James version) and the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 at its heart. Some people describe the Anglican Church as a 'Reformed Catholic Church'. It is united with other Reformation churches in giving the Bible chief authority, but it retained much of the historic church’s liturgy and order in the process. For example, we celebrate Holy Communion weekly as was the custom of the early church and refer to our clergy as Bishops, Priests and Deacons. 

Anglican Churches can be found in great varieties: Some emphasize our Reformation heritage and have a lot in common with our Bible Church brethren. Others lean more on the Catholic side and have an elaborate liturgy. Some have been influenced by the 20th-century charismatic movement and can bear a resemblance to Pentecostal churches. But in whatever shape you find an Anglican church, at its core you will find: 

A Biblical church that considers the Bible to be the ultimate standard of faith. 

An Orthodox church that accepts and teaches the ancient faith as outlined in the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. 

A Sacramental church that is obedient to our Lord’s commandments to seek to baptize all nations and to “Do this in remembrance of me” (celebrate the Lord’s Supper). 

A Catholic (universal) church that follows the historic order of the church dating back to ancient times including the episcopal (having bishops) method of governance. 

A praying church that uses the Book of Common Prayer to shape its liturgy. 

Anglican churches are the third largest group of churches in the world today after the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.