What is Anglicanism?
The Historic Anglican Expression of the Christian Faith
Anglicanism is the expression of the Christian faith within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church owing its origins to the historic Church of England. Anglican Christians number more than 70,000,000 throughout the globe and is the third largest Christian expression in the world after the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. It is important to note that while there are churches or communions within Anglicanism separated by issues of disagreement such as churchmanship, liturgy, and Book of Common Prayer and Bible translation versions to be used; Anglicanism itself is NOT a denomination. Anglican Christians consider their faith expression a branch within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. The word “catholic” means “universal” and does not refer to the Roman Catholic Church.
Certain beliefs unite Anglicans. The Lambeth Quadrilateral, set out at the Lambeth Conference in 1888, defines these as:
- 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 faith.
- The Apostles’ Creed as the Baptismal Symbol, and the Nicene Creed as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.
- The two sacraments ordained by Christ himself – Baptism and Holy Communion – ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of institution and of the elements ordained by him.
- The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of his Church.
Anglican Churches are influenced by the Church of England in matters of faith (39 Articles of Religion), church polity (Episcopal), worship and liturgy (Book of Common Prayer), and church ordinances (Sacraments and Ministries). See below to learn more about these influences.
Sacraments and Ministries
A sacrament involves the use of material things as a sign and pledge of God’s grace, and as a means by which we receive his gifts. The two parts of a sacrament are the outward and visible sign, and the inward and spiritual grace. Jesus Christ, in the Gospel, appointed for his Church, two sacraments. They are Baptism and Holy Communion.
Anglican Churches baptize infants, young children and adults. It is required that persons to be baptized should turn from sin, exclusively embrace the Christian Faith, and give themselves to Christ to be his servants. Anglicans baptize infants and young children, because, though they are not yet old enough to make promises to God for themselves, others, i.e. their parents and Godparents/sponsors, make promises on their behalf and commit to raise those baptized to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.
Besides these two sacraments, Anglican Churches often practice ministries of grace. Although these rites were not directly instituted by Jesus Christ, they are recognised as being ecclesiastical customs which do not contradict the Holy Scriptures, and are practiced for the good of the Church and her members. These rites are: Confirmation, Confession, Holy Matrimony, Ordination, and Holy Unction (prayer for healing).
Anglicans embrace the threefold order of ministry that emerged early in the life of the Universal Church .
- Bishop A bishop leads in serving and caring for the people of God and to work with them in the oversight of the Church. As a chief pastor, a Bishop shares with fellow bishops a special responsibility to maintain and further the unity of the Church, to uphold its discipline, and to guard its faith. A bishop promotes the Church’s mission throughout the world.
- Priest A priest is called by God to work with the bishop and with fellow-priests, as servant and shepherd among the people of God. A priest proclaims the Word of the Lord. A priest presides at the celebration of the Holy Communion. A priest leads God’s people in prayer and worship, intercedes for them, and teaches and encourages by word and example.
- Deacon A deacon serves the Church of God , by working with its members in caring for the poor, the needy, the sick, and all who are in trouble. A deacon assists the priest in leading the worship of the people, especially in the administration of the Holy Communion.
The Church Calendar
The Church Calendar reminds us of the great events of the Gospel story, out of which Christian worship springs. Sunday is the weekly memorial of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus.
- Advent prepares us to celebrate Christ’s first coming and his second coming to judge the living and the dead.
- Christmas is the anniversary of our Lord’s birth.
- Epiphany (January 6) which, with the following Sundays, speaks of the glory of God revealed in Christ.
- Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, and last forty days, excluding Sundays. This period recalls the forty days of our Lord’s temptation. It is a season of penitence and fasting in preparation for Easter.
- Holy Week opens with Palm Sunday and leads our thoughts through our Lord’s Passion from his entry into Jerusalem, through the last Supper on Maundy Thursday, to His Crucifixion on Good Friday, and His lying in the grave on Easter Eve.
- Easter, the festival of the Resurrection, is kept for eight days. The season of rejoicing extends through the forty days after Easter, ending with Ascension Day, when Christ is proclaimed as Lord of all life; and then to Pentecost Sunday, when the Holy Spirit came to dwell in the Church. The series ends with Trinity Sunday, which declares the fullness of the Christian revelation of God.
- Other events of our Lord’s life and those great men and women of God in the New Testament and the life of the Church are commemorated throughout the year on Holy Days or Saints’ Days.
The Liturgical Colors
The colors of the hangings on an Anglican Church’s altar, pulpit and lectern, and of the stoles and Communion vestments worn by the clergy are appropriate to the season of the Church Year. Each color is symbolic:
- White, for purity and joy, is used during the great festivals of Christmas and Easter.
- Red, signifying blood and fire, is used on martyrs’ days and Pentecost.
- Purple or violet, symbolizing penitence and mourning, is the color of the Advent and Lent.
- Green is for life, hope, and peace; it is used for seasons of Epiphany and Trinity.
- Black is for death and it is used on Good Friday and for funerals.
(Adapted from “Anglican Ethos”, The Diocese of Singapore Website.)