St. Paul's Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ

What do Anglicans believe?


Anglicans believe, and strive to teach, Christianity as it is presented in the Bible. We believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and our doctrine is based upon Scripture as it was understood by the Early Church. Anglicans believe that nothing may be taught as being necessary to Salvation unless it can be proved from the Bible. The Biblical teaching about the being and nature of God and His Church is summarized in the three ancient Creeds - the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.

Of course, without adequate guidance the Bible is liable to be misunderstood. Anglicans therefore use the most ancient and reliable authorities in the interpretation of Scripture to aid their understanding of the Bible. The greatest commentators on the Bible are known as the Fathers of the Church or the Early Fathers. The earliest of them were taught by the Apostles, and they handed down the Apostles' understanding of Jesus Christ and His teaching from generation to generation. From time to time this teaching tradition was attacked and when the disputes became serious enough Bishops representing the whole Church would meet together in what was known as an Ecumenical (universal) Council. Seven of these were held between AD325 and AD784. The Anglican Church accepts the doctrinal statements made by these Councils as authoritative. It is this Faith rooted in Holy Scripture and explained by the Seven Ecumenical Councils that Anglicans refer to as "the Catholic Faith".

During the Middle Ages the Church overlaid its core teaching with many practices and beliefs which obscured the primitive faith. Inevitably the renaissance, with its emphasis on classical languages led to a revival of interest in the Greek text of the New Testament. It wasn't long before scholars were doing a compare and contrast exercise between the faith as presented by the unreformed Catholic Church and the faith as it is presented in the New Testament. The inevitable explosion occured first in Germany with an obscure friar and professor called Martin Luther who began promoting a return to Biblical Christianity in 1517. Unfortunately, like many pioneers Luther's work was spoiled by some innovations of thought which ran contrary to the very theology which he aimed to restore.

It took a generation for the ideals of the Reformation to take root in England. Although King Henry VIII had broken with Rome in 1534 on political grounds, it wasn't until c.1545 that the process of Reform for under way in England. The Anglican Reformers (Anglican means English) were determined to purify, rather than reinvent, the existing Church, so the English Reformation was very moderate. The reformed Church of England was to be both Catholic and Evangelical. Catholic in its reverence for the Faith delivered to the Apostles and explained by the Early Fathers, and Evangelical in its emphasis on Scripture. The Reformers, led by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, wanted to put the Bible back at the centre of Christian teaching and restore Holy Communion to the central act of Christian worship, the Mass. The reforming bishops made sure that the substance of the Faith was preserved, but many superstitious practices that formed no essential part of the Catholic Faith were abolished. The position that the Anglican Church took on many of the issues of the Reformation are to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion which are to be found at the back of the Book of Common Prayer.

As a result of the Reformation, the Bible once again became the standard by which the Church's teaching was measured, and increasing attention was paid to the writings of the Early Fathers and to the Ecumenical Councils. The ancient services of the Church were abridged and translated into English as "The Book of Common Prayer" so that everyone could follow the Mass (also called the Lord's Supper, Holy Communion or the Eucharist) and Offices (Matins and Evensong). The Bishops also pushed for a better educated clergy, and put an end to many abuses of Christian teaching such as the selling of indulgences, fake relics, and the over-preoccupation with shrines, pilgrimages and Masses for the Dead that had characterized late mediaeval piety.

The Anglican Church retained all that was ancient and good in the Catholic Church - the Bible, the Creeds, the ancient Apostolic orders of ministry - bishop, priest, and deacon, the writings of the Early Fathers and the decrees of the ancient Ecumenical Councils. They laid great stress upon the two sacraments instituted by Christ Himself - Baptism and Holy Communion; and sought to return the life and witness of the Church to the way it had been in the days of the Fathers of the Church.

The Anglican Church came to North America in 1607 with the foundation of the Virginia Colony. Indeed, Virginia was long the heartland of American Anglicanism as it wasn't until the mid-eighteenth century that Anglicanism spread to New England. However, it wasn't until after the Revolution that a bishop was consecrated for America. This proved to be a serious factor in hampering the growth of the Church. Eventually, after the revolution, the Rev. Samuel Seabury was consecrated bishop of Connecticut, not in England, but in Aberdeen, Scotland by the bishops of the independent Scottish Episcopal Church. The next three American Bishops were consecrated in England. Samuel Provoost of New York and William White of Pennsylvania were consecrated at Lambeth in 1787, and in 1791 James Madison was consecrated as Bishop of Virginia, also in Lambeth. The following the year the first bishop to be consecrated in the USA was Thomas Claggett, first Bishop of Maryland.

The Church in the USA was very strongly influenced by both the Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic revivals during the middle years of the 19th century. The Evangelical Movement was very influential in PECUSA from 1820 to about 1870, especially in the ante-bellum South. After 1870 the movement declined as mainstream Protestantism experienced a crisis of confidence caused by the impact of Biblical Criticism and Darwinism. However, Evangelicalism left a permanent mark on the Church in Virginia and the South, and also in the Southwestern States and some New England dioceses. Evangelicals stressed personal conversion, personal commitment, the reasonableness of Christianity, and the preaching of God's Word. Anglo-Catholicism had a major impact on the Episcopal Church from the early 1850s onwards. It fitted in with the popular Romanticism and mediaevalism of the period. The Anglo-Catholic emphasis on Sacramental worship and "the beauty of holiness" appealed to many who wanted orthodox Christianity which appealed to the head and the eye, as well as to the heart. The Catholic revival was centred in New York and on the "Biretta Belt" around Milwaukee. It was most influential in parts of the Northeast, and the Mid-West. Many parishes fell between these two poles and are often, but inaccurately called Broad Church.

From about 1945 onwards the Episcopal Church underwent a series of crises. Gradually the "traditionalist" and "Liberal" wings of the Church grew apart. Finally, in 1963, the failure of the national Church to correct the false teachings of some of the more extreme liberals led to the formation separate traditional Anglican Church in the USA. Since then the traditional Anglican Movement has grown from a few hundred people in half a dozen parishes to three hundred parishes and thirty thousand members.

So if you are a Protestant who wants to reconnect to the Apostolic Church, an Episcopalian looking for a traditional parish, or a Catholic looking for a truly reformed Catholic Church, the Anglican Church is for you

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