The Anglican Way
An Ancient Faith
Anglicans trace their geographical roots back to the early Church during the time of the Roman Empire when a Christian church first came into existence in Britain. Early Christian writers mention the existence of a British church in the third century AD. In the 16th century, English Reformers, including Thomas Cranmer and Richard Hooker, joined the Protestant Reformation happening all over Europe, seeking to rediscover the beauty of salvation as a gift from God and to put the Scriptures into the daily lives of God’s people. Though Anglicanism admittedly spread widely through the era of English colonialism, the riches of the Christian faith have blessed people all over the world and continue to be passed on in every generation in independent nations. With over 500 years of rich history and spirituality, Anglicans still stand for Christian orthodoxy by affirming the Christian creeds: the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian. And Anglicanism, as a via media (“middle way”) between Protestant and Catholic worlds, continues in the sacramental beliefs and worship practices of the earliest Christians.
Anglican Core Beliefs
There are five core commitments that unite faithful Anglicans around the world. They are:
The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as “containing all things necessary to salvation,” and as being the rule and ultimate standard of our common faith.
The two sacraments ordained by Christ himself - Baptism and Holy Communion. Sacraments are “the outward sign (water, bread) of an inward grace (the presence of Jesus).”
The Anglican Formularies guide our belief, practices and governance. They are the 39 Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal and the Homilies. In addressing the particular concerns of the English Reformation, the Articles of Religion set forth a precise articulation of faith on many of the great points of Christian doctrine, in concert with the Creeds.
The ministry of the historic episcopate. All Anglican churches are tethered to the apostolic tradition and minister under the spiritual leadership of a chief pastor, their bishop.
“Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi”
When asked what we believe, Anglicans would most naturally reply, “Worship with us and you’ll know.” That’s because Anglican belief is displayed, taught and experienced in the actual practice of worship. That’s what lex orandi, lex credendi means, translated “the law of prayer is the law of belief.” In other words, our beliefs are not simply studied, accepted and committed to memory as propositional truths. Our beliefs are caught and taught as we worship together in a Christ-centered way. Our worship service is best understood as a prayer service with the Eucharist at the climax. The liturgy in which we participate proclaims and carries out our beliefs. So, it’s in the practice of prayer together that our beliefs are more deeply… believed.
“Let us consider the sacraments of priestly prayers, which, having been handed down by the apostles are celebrated uniformly throughout the whole world and in every catholic Church so that the law of praying might establish the law of believing.”
- Prosper of Aquitane (390-455 AD), a disciple of St. Augustine
The Book of Common Prayer
Perhaps one of the most unique features of Anglican spirituality is the Book of Common Prayer, an ancient prayer book compiled by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer during the Reformation in 16th century England. While other Reformation era churches developed confessional statements of faith, the Anglican church developed a Prayer Book to guide our beliefs and practices. The Prayer Book is fundamentally pastoral and holistic rather than abstract and theoretical. Cranmer, by shaping the prayers around the Word of God, helped to shape future generations of Anglicans by grounding them in the rhythms, language, and cadence of our ancient faith.
The enduring legacy of the Book of Common Prayer is that it is scripturally based, doctrinally sound, and thoroughly gospel-centered. Dr. John Sentamu, Archbishop of York reminds us: “The Prayer Book places the Bible at the heart of the Church's worship and on the lips of the people. It teaches the grace and mercy of God, and it preaches Jesus as a living Saviour, not a dead master of a by gone age.”
Six Gifts of Anglicanism
In his book, "Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail", Robert Webber highlights 6 Gifts of Anglicanism. These are helpful, part of what make Anglicanism as a worship tradition so rich, and the reason many in our congregation have come into this worship tradition in recent years. The 6 Gifts are:
Christ-centeredness - worshipping with the Eucharist (communion) as our primary act
Historical Identity - being tethered to thousands of years of worship and Scriptural integrity, dating back to the 1st century
Sacramental Reality - believing in the real presence of Christ with us in baptism and the Eucharist.
Mystery and awe - keeping rationalism in check
Participation in catholic (universal) traditions - worshipping in concert with the vast majority of other believers worldwide and throughout history.
Holistic spirituality - a strong, Trinitarian embrace of the Spirit's work through mind, body and spirit.
Anglicans embrace the threefold order of ordained ministry that emerged in the apostolic era of the Church and continues today.
The ministry of a bishop is to serve as the chief priest/pastor of a diocese; to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church; to proclaim the Word of God; and to ordain others to continue Christ's ministry.
The ministry of a priest is to serve as a pastor to the people; to share with the bishop in the overseeing of the Church; to proclaim the Gospel; to administer the sacraments.
The ministry of a deacon is a servant of those in need; and to assist bishops and priests in the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments.
The Church Calendar
Anglican spirituality places real importance on living life in and with Jesus Christ through the different events and seasons of his birth, life, suffering, death and resurrection. The Christian year is “time out of time.” We don’t ultimately live according to the Gregorian calendar, which is now dictated by production and consumption. We who “live and move and have our being” in Christ live by the reality of his life - first and fundamentally. And we do this together through the Church Calendar.
The forty days leading up to Christmas during which we focus on the incarnation of Christ and identify with Israel longing for the Messiah. It is a penitential season for humbling ourselves and confessing our need for God’s salvation. Purple is the color of each penitential season.
The twelve days of Christmas, from sunset on Christmas Eve to sunset on January 5th. White and/or Gold are the colors of Christmastide. These are the most celebratory colors.
The season following Christmas that focuses on the revelation of Christ the King to the world. Epiphany begins with the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus and ends with his Transfiguration to Peter, James and John on the mountain. Epiphany is considered an ordinary time, with the color Green. Green symbolizes new life.
The forty days leading up to Easter, beginning on Ash Wednesday. Lent commemorates Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness and provides an opportunity to search ourselves individually and as the Church in a posture of repentance, which is why we call it a penitential season. Lent concludes at sundown on the day before Easter, what we call the Great Vigil. Purple is the color of each penitential season.
From Monday to Saturday, we journey with Christ in his Passion from Gethsemane to the Cross. Includes 3 services called the Triduum held on Maundy Thursday (Red, symbolizing blood), Good Friday, and the Great Vigil on Saturday (both Black for mourning).
The fifty days from Resurrection Sunday to Pentecost Sunday. Easter season recognizes God's ongoing work of establishing new creation through Christ. (White)
The season of commemorating Acts 2 and celebrating the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church. Literally meaning “50 days after,” the day of Pentecost falls 50 days after Easter. (Red, symbolizing fire.)
This season’s name comes from the word ordinal, which means “counted.” Beginning on the first Sunday after Pentecost, ordinary time focuses on specific themes of interest or importance to a local congregation. (Green)