The Church of England, while rooted firmly in Christian and national history is committed to looking forward into the future as it seeks to serve a generation of people experiencing accelerating change. The Church has often found this painful and there are many issues – women bishops, for example – that are still moving through the processes of change.
The Scriptures and the Gospels, the Apostolic Church and the early Church Fathers are the foundations of Anglican faith, both in the United Kingdom and the 38 self-governing churches that make up the Anglican Communion. Anglicans believe:
- the Old and New Testaments contain 'all things necessary for salvation', and are the rule and ultimate standard of faith
- the Apostles' creed and the Nicene creed together form the sufficient statement of the Christian faith
- the two sacraments that have been ordained by Christ himself, Baptism and the Holy Eucharist, are to be administered with unfailing use of Christ's words of institution, and that the elements are ordained by him
- the historic episcopate is best at adapting its administration locally to fit the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the unity of his Church
Anglicans trace their Christian roots back to the early Church, and their particular Anglican identity to the post-Reformation expansion of the Church of England and other Episcopal or Anglican Churches.
Historically, there were two main stages in the development and spread of the Communion. Beginning in the seventeenth century, Anglicanism was established alongside colonisation in North America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The second stage began in the eighteenth century, when missionaries worked to establish Anglican churches in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
As a worldwide family of churches, the Anglican Communion has more than 70 million adherents in 38 Provinces spreading across 161 countries. Located on every continent, Anglicans speak many languages and come from different races and cultures. Although the churches are autonomous, they are also uniquely unified through their history, their theology, their worship and their relationship to the ancient See of Canterbury.
Anglicans uphold the Catholic and Apostolic faith. Following the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Churches are committed to the proclamation of the Good News of the Gospel to the whole of creation. This is based on the revelation contained in Holy Scripture and the Catholic creeds, and is interpreted in light of Christian tradition, scholarship, reason and experience.
By baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, an individual is made one with Christ and is received into the fellowship of the Church. This sacrament of initiation is open to children, as well as to adults.Central to worship for Anglicans is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, also called the Holy Communion, the Lord's Supper or the Mass. In this offering of prayer and praise, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are recalled through the proclamation of the word and the celebration of the sacrament. Other important rites (commonly called sacraments) include confirmation, holy orders, reconciliation, marriage and anointing of the sick.
Worship is at the very heart of Anglicanism. Its styles vary from simple to elaborate, or even a combination thereof. Until the late twentieth century, the great uniting text was The Book of Common Prayer, in its various revisions throughout the Communion, and the modern language liturgies, such as Common Worship, which now exist alongside it still bear a family likeness.
The Book of Common Prayer and the more recent Anglican liturgies give expression to the comprehensiveness found within the Church whose principles reflect that of the 'via media' (lit: the middle way) in relation to its own and other Christian churches.Another distinguishing feature of the corporate nature of Anglicanism is that it is an interdependent Church, where parishes, dioceses and provinces help each other to achieve by mutual support in terms of financial assistance and the sharing of other resources.
To be an Anglican is to be on a journey of faith to God supported by a fellowship of co-believers who are dedicated to finding Him by prayer and service.
Archbishops of Canterbury and York
The Archbishop of Canterbury fills a unique position in the world-wide Anglican Communion. As primus inter pares (first among equals), of the Bishops, he serves the Anglican Church as spiritual leader.
The Archbishop of York is Archbishop of the Province of York - the whole northern half of England with pastoral oversight of the bishops in that Province and responsibility for clergy discipline.
The Archbishops' Council provides a focus for leadership and executive responsibility and a forum for strategic thinking and planning within the whole Church of England.
Millions of people across the world worship in churches which are part of the Anglican Communion. Churches in the Diocese of Winchester are part of this worldwide affiliation of Anglican churches.This worldwide body of Christians is 'in communion' with the Archbishop of Canterbury. The co-ordination of church traditions and beliefs is achieved through the Anglican Communion.
The operation of the Anglican Communion can be seen through the work of the Archbishops of Canterbury, Lambeth Conferences, Primates Meetings and the Anglican Consultative Committee.