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What is the Church of England?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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The officially established Christian church in the nation of England is known as the Church of England, or the Anglican church. In addition to being the seat of Christian worship in England, the Church of England is also the mother church of Anglican beliefs, and it is considered the senior branch of the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion refers to a group of churches around the world which are in agreement with the See or Office of Canterbury, the highest Bishopric in Anglican church. These churches do not submit to Roman authority, along with many other branches of Christianity.

The roots of Christianity in England are quite ancient, with evidence of Christian worship emerging as early as the first century CE. Through the medieval era, England followed the Roman Catholic Church, seated in the Vatican. However, increasing conflicts between church and state led England to join the Protestant movement. The Protestant Reformation in Europe brought about a serious split in the Church, with Protestants rejecting Roman authority, considering the Bible the ultimate source of religious information, and believing that through faith alone, Christians can find Redemption.

Anglicanism got a jumpstart when King Henry VIII of England officially rejected Roman authority over English worship. He was concerned that the church held too much power, and he was also dissatisfied with certain aspects of Roman doctrine. Under his daughter Elizabeth I, the English church went through further reforms, with Elizabeth supporting the adoption of a Book of Common Prayer and the 39 Articles, a list of basic statements which are used as the foundation for Anglican doctrine.

Despite its link with the Protestant break, the Church of England is not considered a Protestant church. Many people consider it to be a middle ground between Roman Catholic and Protestant belief, since it incorporates a bit of both.

During the period of upheaval in England marked by the English Civil War, the Church of England underwent a series of major changes, although it re-emerged in a more or less familiar form in 1662. As the English explored and settled other parts of the world, they introduced new people to the Anglican Church, and numerous churches around the world follow the doctrine and principles of Anglicanism. The Episcopal Church, which originally began as a branch of the Church of England, is now officially separate, and it is seated in the United States. Despite their divisions, these two churches are similar in a number of ways, representing their relatively recent split.

CulturalWorld.org is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a CulturalWorld.org researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By elizabeth23 — On May 14, 2011

A lot of people I know from Britain consider the Anglican Church of England to be Protestant. I think that this is because they are not Catholic, and they did begin it, in a way, to protest against Catholic rules; just differently from the way people like Luther did.

Maybe it didn't start as a Protestant religion against Catholic practices, but I think a lot of Anglicans now would say there's a difference.

By Denha — On May 13, 2011

A lot of people consider themselves Anglican, but don't really go to church often, in England. At the same time, many people I've met in my visits there really love the country's religious history and value maintaining their old churches. I imagine many people just don't feel they have time to go to church regularly anymore.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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