What we believe
Lots of information about the Christian faith can be found at
"On Being a Christian"
By Baron Williams of Oystermouth
Christian life is lived in relationship with God through Jesus Christ and, in common with other Christians, seeking to deepen that relationship and to follow the way that Jesus taught. Central to that relationship is knowing we can trust God. Saint Paul says at the end of the eighth chapter of his letter to the Church in Rome, 'if God is for us, who can be against us?' And this is the heart of faith. How do we know that 'God is for us'? Because Jesus Christ, the one human being who is completely in tune with God - with what God wants and what God is doing - has carried the burden of our human betrayals of God and running away from goodness. He has let himself be betrayed and rejected, executed in a humiliating and agonising way, and yet has not turned his back on us. Death did not succeed in silencing him or removing him from the world. He is alive; and that means that his love is alive, having survived the worst we can do.
Nothing - says St Paul in the same passage - can separate us from this love. But this isn't an excuse for doing what we like, knowing we can get away with it. Once we know that God is 'for us', we open up to the gift that God wants to give us - which is a share in his own love and freedom and mercy. We breathe with his breath - that's part of what it means to say that we receive God's 'Spirit', which makes us live like Jesus 'in tune' with God. If we have really taken the message in, we shall live lives of selfless generosity, always asking how the gifts given us - material or imaginative or spiritual or whatever - can be shared in a way that brings other people more fully alive. And we shall be able to trust the generosity of others and be free to receive what they have to give us. Generosity, gratitude, confidence that when we fail we are still loved - all of this focused on Jesus' life and death and resurrection. That's where we start in the lifelong job of being a Christian.
Baron Williams of Oystermouth.
On Being Anglican
The Scriptures and the Gospels, the Apostolic Church and the early Church Fathers, are the foundation of Anglican faith and worship in the 44 self-governing churches that make up the Anglican Communion.
The Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It worships the one true God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
It professes the faith that is uniquely revealed in the Bible and set forth in the Catholic Creeds (the statements of faith developed in the Early Church that are still used in the Church's worship today). The Church is called to proclaim that faith afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, the Church of England bore witness to Christian truth in historic texts that were developed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal (services for ordaining bishops, priests and deacons).
The bishops, priests and deacons of the Church of England and also some laypeople (Readers and certain lay officers) are required to declare their loyalty to this inheritance of faith as their 'inspiration and guidance under God in bringing the grace and truth of Christ to this generation and making Him known to those in [their] care'. They do so by making a Declaration of Assent. The version for bishops, priests and deacons reads:
"I, [name], do so affirm, and accordingly declare my belief in the faith
which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic
creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of
England bear witness; and in public prayer and administration of the
sacraments, I will use only the forms of service which are authorized
or allowed by Canon."
"Being Anglican" by The Archbishop of York
For me having grown up in Uganda being Anglican has always been very
important. Being Christian came first of course - I came to faith in Christ through
the witness of lay people, and immediately became involved in the activities run
by a very godly youth leader, Canon Peter Kigozi. My faith grew there and I was
nurtured as a Christian surrounded by the liturgy, hymns, preaching and teaching,
led by a Catechist - my father. Even then belonging to the Church gave me a keen
sense of both the local and the global. Later as a vicar in South London I knew
my responsibility was towards everyone in the parish, not just those who came to church. But the global dimension was always there. Church was for me a window on the wider world. The missionaries and expatriates I knew brought with them qualities of selfless commitment and devotion to duty which I admired and still admire today. They introduced me to the idea of the church as a world-wide family, in St Paul's words, 'the body of Christ', a community of people where all need each other and where everyone is of infinite worth in the sight of God. This has always chimed, for me, with the wisdom of the African proverb: 'if a tiny toe is hurting, the whole body bends low to tend it'. The worldwide Anglican Communionis this kind of community today.
Our Anglican heritage is enriched and in many ways defined by the Book of Common Prayer, assembled in 1549 by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. The notion of 'common' worship is important to me. The prayers of the faithful are not individualistic or self-indulgent - they are rooted in Holy Scripture and they rely on the presence of the Holy Spirit to make them live. The Prayer Book itself commits the church to engaging creatively with various times, seasons, and cultures, so it is right that people should worship in 'such a tongue as the people understandeth.' So the wide range of Anglican liturgies used around the world are still 'common prayer'.
Essential to Anglicanism is a sense of magnanimity/'moderation' - a holding together, often in creative tension, of different emphases or points of view, but always in a spirit of charity and appreciative enquiry.
In our theology and lived Christian experience revelation and reason are set side by side. Because of God's gracious invitation for 'all sorts and conditions' of men, women and children to come and participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, in our spirituality personal devotion and corporate expression are equally vital. In our church structures we prize the self-governing nature of provinces or national churches whilst at the same time treasuring both the level of mutual accountability and support we share, and the leadership exercised by bishops in council with clergy and laity.
We regard it as our calling to engage both with the individual and the corporate, and with the material and the political. As my friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, he wondered which Bible people were reading if they thought religion and politics didn't mix. In fact our Anglican heritage demands of us a particular sense of responsibility, a critical, and at times prophetic solidarity, variously expressed in different contexts, with the political and constitutional life of the nation in which we live. In Cranmer's Prayer Book this is expressed in our regular prayers for Her Majesty the Queen and all those in authority.
With the tensions facing us in the church and in the world today we should rejoice in God's call to us, both in our diversity and in our common life, to remember our primary responsibility 'together to make Christ visible' in word and deed. Central to our Anglican calling are what we call the 'five marks of mission' which define our calling:
To proclaim the good news of the Kingdom
To teach, baptise, and nurture new believers
To respond to human need by loving service
To seek to transform unjust structures of society
To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and to sustain the life of the earth.
Of course many other church traditions would agree with these priorities.
Distinctive about the Anglican family of churches is what is known as the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (1888): the four reference points of Anglicanism, namely the Holy Scriptures, the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, the two Sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Holy Communion, and the historic episcopate. It would have been good if a fifth had been included: ' lived Christlike experience in his Body, the Church, and in his world.'
I am grateful for the Anglican family's apostolic, catholic, evangelical, and reformed tradition which in its local and international expressions is a spiritual home for so many people. Families often don't eat together these days. By contrast the Anglican family must continue to be one which gathers round the table for conversation, for generous and attentive listening, even at times for argument, but above all for fellowship in shared bread and wine. In doing we seek to look in two directions at the same time: towards God, worshipping him, and towards the world, infecting it with his goodness
By Archbishop John Sentamu
A short history of Anglicanism
Anglicans trace their Christian roots back to the early Church, and their specifically 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 with the seventeenth century, Anglicanism was established alongside colonisation in the United States, Australia, Canada, 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 creation. In practice 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, a person is made one with Christ and 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. 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. Both The Book of Common Prayer, and more recent Anglican liturgies give expression to the comprehensiveness found within the Church whose principles reflect that of the via media 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.