The name “Anglican” means “of England”, but the Anglican church exists worldwide. The story about the persecution and martyrdom of St. Alban in the third century attests to the presence of Christianity on the island at that early date, even if a more formal beginning would look to the sixth century, when Pope Gregory the Great sent St. Augustine (of Canterbury) to Britain to bring a more disciplined Apostolic succession to the Celtic Christians. The Anglican Church evolved as part of the Roman church, but the Celtic influence was folded back into the Roman portion of the church in many ways, perhaps most notably by St. Aidan. The Anglican church spread worldwide first by English colonization and then by English-speaking missionaries.
Although it maintains apostolic succession, the Anglican Church is separate from the Roman church. The history of Christianity has produced numerous notable separations. In 1054 came the first major split from Roman administration of the church, when the Eastern Orthodox church and the Roman split apart.
The conflict of authority in England between church and state certainly dates back to the arrival of Augustine, and had simmered for many centuries. The murder of Thomas a Becket was one of the more famous episodes of this conflict. A century later the Magna Carta was signed by King John in 1215. It contained 63 points; the very first point a declaration that the English church was independent in its government..
Discontent with Roman administration of the church
The beginning of the sixteenth century showed significant discontent with the Roman church. Martin Luther’s famous 95 Thesis were nailed to the door of the church in Wittenburg in 1517, and news of this challenge had certainly reached England when, 20 years later, the Anglican branch of the church formally challenged the authority of Rome. Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries and abbeys in 1536.
There is a public perception, especially in the United States, that Henry VIII created the Anglican church in anger over the Pope’s refusal to grant his divorce, but the historical record indicates that Henry spent most of his reign challenging the overall authority of Rome concerning the Church in England, and that the divorce issue was just one of a series of acts that collectively split the English church from the Roman church in much the same way that the Orthodox church had split off five hundred years before.
Defining the new church
The newly-separated Anglican church was given some formal structure in 1562 during the reign of Elizabeth I. That structure was not a management process or governing organization. What binds us together is not common administration but shared tradition and shared belief. This shared belief is written down in the Holy Bible and the Articles of Religion; our tradition is in part embodied in our Book of Common Prayer (“the Bible arranged for worship”). The first Book of Common Prayer was produced in 1549 and in it the Latin liturgy was radically simplified and translated into English, and for the first time a single ‘use’ was enforced throughout England. It has been revised numerous times since then, the most significant revision being the first, in 1552. All revisions since then, before the modern era, were very conservative revisions. The 1662 English Book of Common Prayer forms the historical basis for most Anglican liturgy around the world. While several countries have their own prayer books, all borrow heavily from the English tradition rooted in the original work ofArchbishop Thomas Cranmer.
Church history has been an important part of the cultural history of every nation, and through the centuries thousands of books have been written about it. Every library and every encyclopedia will cover it to some degree. An informative on line starting point for learning more about the history of the Anglican Church is
The Anglican Timeline
The history of Anglicanism has depth and richness which cannot be outlined here. Please consult theAnglican Timeline produced by the American physician Ed Friedlander, MD. It lists several hundred notable events in the history of the Anglican church, with large numbers of links to reference materials and primary sources.
For a more in-depth look into Anglican history and beliefs, we also invite you to take the time to view some of our Media files, but first please take the time to understand why we worship the way we do as perhaps the best way of coming to understand us.
A Few “Famous” Anglicans
- John & Charles Wesley: preachers and evangelists
- George Whitefield: preacher and evangelist
- William Wilberforce: abolished slavery in Britain
- The Clapham Sect: astonishingly influential social reformers
- George Frederic Handel: composer
- Florence Nightingale: nursing pioneer
- Charlotte Bronte: novelist and poet
- Emily Bronte: novelist and poet
- T.S. Eliot: poet
- Charles Dickens: author
- C. S. Lewis: Author, thinker and apologist
- J. I. Packer: theologian and author
- J.C. Ryle: Writer, pastor and preacher. first Bishop of Liverpool
- Janani Luwum: martyred Bishop stood against Idi Amin
- Alister McGrath: theologian and author
- Bishop Desmond Tutu: Nobel Peace Prize winner
- Elizabeth the II: reigning monarch
- John Stott: author and co-framer of the Lausanne Covenant
- Nicky Gumbel: Alpha Course
- N.T. Wright: theologian
- Bono: U2
An Unfamiliar Vocabulary?
If you are new to the Anglican Church, here are some definitions of terms and phrases you may encounter. Generally speaking, however, we speak plain English.
- This is a person who typically lights the altar candles and assists during the Offertory and Eucharist. Acolytes are often young people, from sixth grade on up, but can be adults.
- This word means “English.” The Anglican Church is the church that Elizabeth I started in England in 1558. Grace by the Sea belongs to the Anglican Communion, which means that we are in communion or agreement with other Anglican churches all around the world.
- Archbishop of Canterbury
- The Most Rev. [and Rt. Honorable] Justin Welby fills a unique position in the world-wide Anglican Communion. He serves the Anglican Church as spiritual leader and is the 105th Archbishop to serve in this position.
- This is a sacramental rite by which God adopts us as His children and makes us members of Christ’s Body (the Church) and inheritors of the Kingdom of God.
- A bishop is a clergy person, so ordained through a succession of bishops, all the way back to the Apostles, through the laying on of hands. The bishop is the supervisor of all the priests within his diocese (group of churches). Grace by the Sea is under the care of the Diocese of Cascadia. Our Bishop is The Right Reverend Kevin Allen.
- A disciple is a student, a follower; a Christian disciple is a student and follower of Jesus.
- This is the Greek word for “thanksgiving.” In our Christian worship, the Eucharist (or Communion, or Lord’s Supper) is a sacramental rite commanded by Jesus for the continual remembrance of His life, death and resurrection, until His coming again.
- Intercession, intercessory
- Intercession means “on behalf of another.” Intercessory prayer, then, lifts up someone else in prayer.
- Lay, laity
- The laity are people who are not ordained ministers. Lay ministers are non-ordained people who serve God and His Church.
- This word means “the work of the people,” and it refers to the format of our worship in the Anglican Church, where the congregation is involved in the responses, the prayers, and the singing.
- Minister, ministry
- Ministry is the act of serving God and His Church. The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons.
- This is the part of the worship service where we make an offering of ourselves, our treasures, our lives and labors, for the purposes of God.
- A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. The two great sacraments given by Christ are Baptism and Holy Eucharist. Some of the other sacraments include Confirmation, Ordination, and Holy matrimony. The outward and visible sign in Baptism, for example, is water; the inward and spiritual grace in Baptism is union with Christ in his death and resurrection, birth into God’s family, and new life in the Holy Spirit.
- Sanctus bells
- The word “Sanctus” is Latin for “holy.” In some services at Grace by the Sea, during the celebration of Holy Eucharist, bells are rung at certain points to indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit in what is taking place.
- Terms of Address
- There are formal terms of address, such as The Reverend So-and-So for a priest; the Very Reverend So-and-So for a priest who is also a dean; The Right Reverend So-and-So for a bishop. One would use those formal terms on an envelope or in a formal letter. For example, Father Orritt formally would be addressed as The Rev. Paul Orritt. Casually, here at Grace by the Sea, our Rector is usually addressed as Father Paul. If one were speaking to our bishop, one would call him Bishop Kevin.
- Vestments are the ceremonial clothing worn by clergy and lay ministers.
- The Vestry is the governing body of a parish. Its members are elected from the congregation by the members of the parish at an annual congregational meeting, for a term of three years. Its officers are the Senior Warden and Junior Warden. There are six vestry members at Grace by the Sea.