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What is Anglicanism?

Anglican simply means 'English.' Thus it should be no surprise that Anglicanism is a tradition of Christianity that originated with the Church of England. It emerged during the Reformation in the 16th century, emphasizing a balance of scripture, tradition, and reason, and is characterized by its liturgical worship and the Book of Common Prayer. However, the Anglican Communion is a global fellowship of churches united by shared history and practices.

Historical Roots

An Ancient Church

The roots of the Anglicanism go back to the time of the Roman Empire when a Christian church came into existence in what was then the Roman province of Britain. The early Christian writers Tertullian and Origen mention the existence of a British church in the third century AD and in the fourth century British bishops attended a number of the great councils of the Church such as the Council of Arles in 314 and the Council of Rimini in 359. The first member of the British church whom we know by name is St Alban, who, tradition tells us, was martyred for his faith on the spot where St Albans Abbey in England now stands.

The British church was a missionary church with figures such as St Illtud, St Ninian and St Patrick evangelising in Wales, Scotland and Ireland, but the invasions by the pagan Angles, Saxons and Jutes in the fifth century seem to have destroyed the organization of the church in much of what is now England. In 597 a mission sent by Pope Gregory the Great and led by St Augustine of Canterbury landed in Kent to begin the work of converting these pagan peoples. What eventually became known as the Church of England (the Ecclesia Anglicana - or the English Church) was the result of a combination of three streams of Christianity, the Roman tradition of St Augustine and his successors, the remnants of the old Romano-British church and the Celtic tradition coming down from Scotland and associated with people like St Aidan and St Cuthbert.

These three streams came together as a result of increasing contact and a number of local synods, of which the Synod of Whitby in 664 has traditionally been seen as the most important. The result was an English Church, and the tradition that we now know as Anglicanism.

 

A Reformed Church

At the time of the Protestant Reformation, the Western Church became divided between those who continued to accept Papal authority and the various Protestant churches that did not. The Church of England was among the churches that broke with Rome. The catalyst for this decision was the refusal of the Pope to annul the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, but also a Tudor nationalist belief that authority over the English Church properly belonged to the English monarchy.

During this time, Thomas Cranmer emerged as a central architect of the English Reformation and the development of Anglicanism. As Archbishop of Canterbury from 1533 to 1556, Cranmer wielded considerable influence in steering the Church towards Protestant principles. 

Cranmer's theological convictions aligned closely with the burgeoning Protestant movement sweeping across Europe. He championed doctrines such as justification by faith alone and the priesthood of all believers, reflecting the influence of reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin. Cranmer's commitment to reform extended to the realm of worship, where he spearheaded the development of the Book of Common Prayer. This seminal work provided a standardized liturgy in English, replacing Latin and making worship more accessible to the laity.

The religious settlement that eventually emerged from the Elizabethean Settlement gave Anglicanism its distinctive identity. The result was a Church that consciously retained a large amount of continuity with the Church of the Patristic and Medieval periods in terms of its use of the catholic creeds, its pattern of ministry, its buildings and aspects of its liturgy, but which also embodied Protestant insights in its theology and in the overall shape of its liturgical practice. The way that this is often expressed is by saying that Anglicans are 'reformed catholics.'

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Our Relation to the Anglican Communion

What is the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC)?

The Reformed Episcopal Church was established in New York City in 1873 by a group of eight clergymen and twenty laymen who had previously been part of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Dissatisfied with what they saw as significant changes within their former church, these individuals sought to preserve its original character through reorganization. The split was triggered when The Rt. Rev. George David Cummins, Assistant Bishop of Kentucky in the Protestant Episcopal Church, participated in a Communion Service at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City. Facing criticism and believing that the Protestant Episcopal Church was losing its evangelical and catholic essence, Bishop Cummins called for a reformation. He became the founding Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church, ensuring the continuation of historic orders within the new denomination.

How does this relate to the ACNA?

The Reformed Episcopal Church (REC) is a founding member of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). Established in 1873, the REC is a historic Anglican body that emerged from theological disputes within the Episcopal Church. It shares the ACNA's commitment to upholding traditional Anglican doctrine and liturgical practices. In 2009, the REC joined with other Anglican groups to form the ACNA, aiming to provide a unified Anglican presence in North America that adheres to orthodox Christian teachings. Through this alliance, the REC actively participates in the governance and mission of the ACNA, contributing to its growth and influence within the global Anglican Communion.

Helpful links:

Book of Common Prayer (1662): This is the Prayer Book we use.

Reformed Episcopal Church (REC): Built upon the foundation of the authoritative Word of God


REC100: The Reformed Episcopal Church’s church planting initiative

A Prayer for our Parish

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, we give thee thanks and we pray that by thy grace we may have a like power to hallow and conform our souls and bodies to the purpose of thy most holy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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O God make speed to save us.

O Lord make haste to help us.

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