We believe and confess Jesus Christ to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no one comes to the Father but by Him. Therefore, the Anglican Church in North America identifies the following seven elements as characteristic of the Anglican Way, and essential for membership:
- We confess the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments to be the inspired Word of God, containing all things necessary for salvation, and to be the final authority and unchangeable standard for Christian faith and life.
- We confess Baptism and the Supper of the Lord to be Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself in the Gospel, and thus to be ministered with unfailing use of His words of institution and of the elements ordained by Him.
- We confess the godly historic Episcopate as an inherent part of the apostolic faith and practice, and therefore as integral to the fullness and unity of the Body of Christ.
- We confess as proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture the historic faith of the undivided church as declared in the three Catholic Creeds: the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian.
- Concerning the seven Councils of the undivided Church, we affirm the teaching of the first four Councils and the Christological clarifications of the fifth, sixth and seventh Councils, in so far as they are agreeable to the Holy Scriptures.
- We receive The Book of Common Prayer as set forth by the Church of England in 1662, together with the Ordinal attached to the same, as a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline, and, with the Books which preceded it, as the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship.
- We receive the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571, taken in their literal and grammatical sense, as expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time, and as expressing the fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief.
In all these things, the Anglican Church in North America is determined by the help of God to hold and maintain as the Anglican Way has received them the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ.
“The Anglican Communion,” Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher wrote, “has no peculiar thought, practice, creed or confession of its own. It has only the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church, as preserved in the Catholic Creeds and maintained in the Catholic and Apostolic constitution of Christ’s Church from the beginning. It may licitly teach as necessary for salvation nothing but what is read in the Holy Scriptures as God’s Word written or may be proved thereby. It therefore embraces and affirms such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the Scriptures, and thus to be counted apostolic. The Church has no authority to innovate: it is obliged continually, and particularly in times of renewal or reformation, to return to ‘the faith once delivered to the saints.’”
To be an Anglican, then, is not to embrace a distinct version of Christianity, but a distinct way of being a “Mere Christian,” at the same time evangelical, apostolic, catholic, reformed, and Spirit-filled.
First and foremost, Anglicans are Christians. Globally, Anglicans form the third largest body of Christians in the world (around 80 million members) behind the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.
ORIGINS OF THE NAME
The name “Anglican” is traced back to the ancient Anglo-Saxon tribes of Europe. The tribal name was spelled “Engles” or “Angles” and the tribe’s speech was the precursor to the English language. Their island became known as England, and their Christians were known as Anglicans. The name has nothing to do with “angels.”
Just as the English language spread with the British empire, so did Anglican Christianity. When Anglicans resettled in new lands, they brought their personal faith with them. Chaplains and pastors were often among their number. Additionally, many Anglicans traveled as missionaries to share the Gospel. Consequently, Anglican churches now exist all over the world in more than 165 countries. As Anglican Christians became a global family, the demographics shifted dramatically. While Christians from Britain, the United States, Canada, and Australia continue to play an important role, today the “average” Anglican is a young woman from Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Anglican ethos holds together three streams of the Christian Church. For those familiar with Church History, Dr. Les Fairfield provides a synopsis of the history that shapes its life today:
The Protestant movement recalled the 16th century Church to the primacy of the Word—written, read, preached, inwardly digested. The 18th century Holiness movement reminded the Church of God’s love for the poor. The Anglo-Catholic movement re-grounded the Church in the sacramental life of worship. All three strands are grounded in the Gospel. Each one extrapolates the Gospel in a specific direction. No strand is dispensable. Other Christian bodies have often taken one strand to an extreme. By God’s grace the Anglican tradition has held the streams in creative tension. This miracle of unity is a treasure worth keeping.
Anglican worship is diverse. What is common to all is an inheritance of worship that recognizes the supremacy of the Bible and often finds expression through the Prayer Book. To understand what and how Anglicans pray is to understand what they believe. The Prayer Book, described as the Scriptures arranged for worship, provides helpful resources for everything from personal daily devotions to large public gatherings of worship. It includes prayers for every season of life.
The seven sacraments –
Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, Reconciliation (confession), Marriage, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick – are the life of the Church. The following is a portion of the catechism of the Anglican Church of North America, which provides an excellent breakdown of the Anglican understanding of the sacraments.
102. What is a sacrament?
A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. God gives us the sign as a means whereby we receive that grace, and as a tangible assurance that we do in fact receive it. (1662 Catechism)
103. How should you receive the sacraments?
I should receive the sacraments by faith in Christ, with repentance and thanksgiving. Faith in Christ is necessary to receive grace, and obedience to Christ is necessary for the benefits of the sacraments to bear fruit in my life. (1662 Catechism; Articles of Religion, 28)
104. What are the sacraments of the Gospel?
The two sacraments ordained by Christ, which are generally necessary for our salvation, are Baptism and Holy Communion, which is also known as the Lord’s Supper or the Holy Eucharist. (Articles of Religion, 25)
105. What is the outward and visible sign in Baptism?
The outward and visible sign is water, in which candidates are baptized “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” – the name of the Triune God to whom the candidate is being committed. (1662 Catechism, 1 Peter 3:21; Matthew 28:19)
106. What is the inward and spiritual grace set forth in Baptism?
The inward and spiritual grace set forth is a death to sin and a new birth to righteousness, through union with Christ in his death and resurrection. I am born a sinner by nature, separated from God, but in baptism, rightly received, I am made God’s child by grace through faith in Christ. (John 3:3-5; Romans 6:1-11; Ephesians 2:12; Galatians 3:27-29)
107. What is required of you when you come to be baptized?
Repentance, in which I turn away from sin; and faith, in which I turn to Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord and embrace the promises that God makes to me in this sacrament. (Acts 2:38)
108. Why is it appropriate to baptize infants?
Because it is a sign of God’s promise that they are embraced in the covenant community of Christ’s Church. Those who in faith and repentance present infants to be baptized vow to raise them in the knowledge and fear of the Lord, with the expectation that they will one day profess full Christian faith as their own. (Acts 2:39)
109. What signs of the Holy Spirit’s work do you hope and pray to see as a result of your baptism?
I hope and pray that the Holy Spirit who indwells me will help me to be an active member of my Christian community, participate in worship, continually repent and return to God, proclaim the faith, love and serve my neighbor, and strive for justice and peace. (Hebrews 10:25; 12:14; 1 Peter 3:15; 1 John 1:9; 2:1)
110. Why did Christ institute the sacrament of Holy Communion?
He instituted it for the continued remembrance of the sacrifice of his atoning death, and to convey the benefits the faithful receive through that sacrifice. (Luke 22:17-20; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17)
111. What is the outward and visible sign in Holy Communion?
The visible sign is bread and wine, which Christ commands us to receive. (1 Corinthians 11:23)
112. What is the inward and spiritual thing signified?
The spiritual thing signified is the body and blood of Christ, which are truly taken and received in the Lord’s Supper by faith. (1 Corinthians 10:16-18; 11:27; John 6:52-56)
113. What benefits do you receive through partaking of this sacrament?
As my body is nourished by the bread and wine, I receive the strengthening and refreshing of my soul by the body and blood of Christ; and I receive the strengthening and refreshing of the love and unity I share with fellow Christians, with whom I am united in the one Body of Christ. (1662 Catechism)
114. What is required of you when you come to receive Holy Communion?
I am to examine myself as to whether I truly repent of my sins and intend to lead the new life in Christ; whether I have a living faith in God’s mercy through Christ and remember his atoning death with a thankful heart; and whether I have shown love and forgiveness to all people. (1 Corinthians 11:27-32)
115. What is expected of you when you have shared in Holy Communion?
Having been renewed in my union with Christ and his people through sharing in the Supper, I should continue to live in holiness, avoiding sin, showing love and forgiveness to all, and serving others in gratitude.
116. Are there other sacraments?
Other rites and institutions commonly called sacraments include confirmation, absolution, ordination, marriage, and anointing of the sick. These are sometimes called the sacraments of the Church.
117. How do these differ from the sacraments of the Gospel?
They are not commanded by Christ as necessary for salvation, but arise from the practice of the apostles and the early Church, or are states of life blessed by God from creation. God clearly uses them as means of grace.
118. What is confirmation?
After making a mature commitment to my baptismal covenant with God, I receive the laying on of the bishop’s hands with prayer. (Acts 8:14-17; 19:6)
119. What grace does God give you in confirmation?
In confirmation, God strengthens the work of the Holy Spirit in me for his daily increase in my Christian life and ministry. (Acts 8:14-17; 19:6)
120. What is absolution?
After repenting and confessing my sins to God in the presence of a priest, the priest declares God’s forgiveness to me with authority given by God. (John 20:22-23; James 5:15-16)
121. What grace does God give to you in absolution?
In absolution, God conveys to me his pardon through the cross, thus declaring to me reconciliation and peace with him, and bestowing upon me the assurance of his grace and salvation.
122. What is ordination?
Through prayer and the laying on of the bishop’s hands, ordination consecrates, authorizes, and empowers persons called to serve Christ and his Church in the ministry of Word and Sacrament. (1 Timothy 1:5; 5:22; Acts 6:6)
123. What grace does God give in ordination?
In ordination, God confirms the gifts and calling of the candidates, conveys the gift of the Holy Spirit for the office and work of bishop, priest or deacon, and sets them apart to act on behalf of the Church and in the name of Christ.
124. What are the three ordained ministries in the Anglican Church?
The three orders are bishops, priests, and deacons.
125. What is the work of bishops?
The work of bishops is to represent and serve Christ and the Church as chief pastors, to lead in preaching and teaching the faith and in shepherding the faithful, to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church, and to bless, confirm and ordain, thus following in the tradition of the Apostles. (Titus 1:7-9; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Acts 20:28)
126. What is the work of priests?
The work of priests, serving Christ under their bishops, is to nurture congregations through the full ministry of the Word preached and Sacraments rightly administered, and to pronounce absolution and blessing in God’s name. (Titus 1:5; 1 Peter 5:1)
127. What is the work of deacons?
The work of deacons, serving Christ under their bishops, is to assist priests in public worship, instruct both young and old in the catechism, and care for those in need. (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Timothy 3:8-13)
128. What is marriage?
Marriage is a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman, binding both to self-giving love and exclusive fidelity. In the rite of Christian marriage, the couple exchange vows to uphold this covenant. They do this before God and in the presence of witnesses, who pray that God will bless their life together. (Genesis 2:23-24; Matthew 19; Mark 10:2-9; Romans 7:2-3; 1 Corinthians 7:39)
129. What is signified in marriage?
The covenantal union of man and woman in marriage signifies the communion between Christ, the heavenly bridegroom, and the Church, his holy bride. Not all are called to marriage, but all Christians are wedded to Christ and blessed by the grace God gives in marriage. (Ephesians 5:31-32)
130. What grace does God give in marriage?
In Christian marriage, God establishes and blesses the covenant between husband and wife, and joins them to live together in a communion of love, faithfulness and peace within the fellowship of Christ and his Church. God enables all married people to grow in love, wisdom and godliness through a common life patterned on the sacrificial love of Christ.
131. What is the anointing of the sick?
Through prayer and anointing with oil, the minister invokes God’s blessing upon those suffering in body, mind, or spirit. (Matthew 10:8; James 5:14-16).
132. What grace does God give in the anointing of the sick?
As God wills, the healing given through anointing may bring bodily recovery from illness, peace of mind or spirit, and strength to persevere in adversity, especially in preparation for death.