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The Church of England

The Church of England is a province within the worldwide Anglican Communion. (The other Anglican provinces in the UK are the Church in Wales, Scottish Episcopal Church, and Church of Ireland.)

A Church is a living organization and as yet I have not found any single link which expresses as well as I would like what is special about the Anglicanism (and the Church of England in particular) as opposed to any other denomination. The Church of England's own pages provide a short introduction to its history and structures. There are also descriptions of the more important services of worship. Anglicans Online has a wide collection of information and links to other Churches in the Anglican Communion.

Parts of England were initially evangelized during the Roman occupation, but Christianity faded away before revangelization by two missions, one from the North and the other from the South. The northern effort sprang from the monastery of Iona and its daughter, Lindisfarne, the southern to missionaries sent from Rome. Christianity therefore developed two rival foci, Canterbury in the south and York in the north, each with an archbishop. To settle the argument they were given the titles "Primate of England" (York) and "Primate of All England" (Canterbury). Through the Middle Ages the Church in England slowly separated from the Pope's authority until the King was declared its supreme head in 1534. It was another forty years before the Church's belief was defined as Protestant in thirty-nine articles, adopted in 1571. This was perhaps the high point of protestantism in the Church of England. Since then the boundaries of acceptable belief have widened, so that today it can emcompass protestants who hold firmly to the thirty-nine articles; liberals looking for new forms of Christianity which speak to contemporary culture; and Catholics, emphasizing the Church of England's place as part of the ancient western Church based in Rome.

The key theologian behind this, the distinctive breadth of Anglicanism, is Richard Hooker, was who defined the authorities for its belief and behaviour as scripture, reason, and tradition. It is this wide foundation that allows the Church to include all three groups listed above, each with a tendency to stress one authority above the others.

Despite the changes in doctrine and its later diversity, the organization of the Church shows continuity from the re-evangelization of England in the sixth century. The two senior bishops are the Archbishop of Canterbury, and and Archbishop of York and the country is divided into dioceses each with a bishop; the medieval dioceses have generally been split as population has grown. Bishops retain considerable authority in the running of their diocese, but at national level the General Synod, a tricameral parliament of bishops, clergy and laypeople has developed.

There is an Anglican directory with links to diocese and parish web pages.

If you are totally bewildered by the differences between the denominations in England, try Rowland Croucher's review (really a collection of excerpts) of Gavin White's Book "How the Churches Got to Be the Way They Are".

 


This a very early draft and comments are invited. It should not be taken as representing the views of St Peter's