Anglican Christians trace their faith and practice to the Bible and the earliest Christian churches. Although each national Anglican church enjoys a good deal of autonomy and may adapt its worship and governance so as to be culturally appropriate, all Anglicans hold four things in common:
- We believe the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God. Thus, they are the authoritative rule and ultimate standard of our faith.
- The Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds sufficiently and authoritatively summarize the teachings of the Christian faith. They guide our understanding of Holy Scripture and name the God who saves us and to whom we direct our prayers (“…one God, eternally existing in three Persons: Father, Son & Holy Spirit).
- While not denying the sacramental nature of confirmation, reconciliation, marriage, ordination, or the anointing of the sick, we acknowledge two sacraments of the gospel, ordained by Christ Himself. They are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
- We are governed by the historic episcopate — that is, bishops — who trace the lineage of their ordination through history to Jesus and His twelve apostles.
Anglicans have established venues by which to recognize one another, speak to one another, and even correct one another. We recognize the spiritual leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, as a president of our bishops-in-communion. Our bishops also communicate with one other via a body called the Anglican Consultative Council and come together once a decade for a series of meetings known as the Lambeth Conference.
How Do Anglicans Practice Their Faith?
An old saying of the earliest Christians reads, “Let the rule of belief be established by the rule of prayer.” Our practices of prayer say far more about what we actually believe about God than our doctrinal formulas. Because of this, Anglican Christians are careful to order their worship and prayer in ways that reflect our official teaching.
- Our service of worship, sometimes called “Holy Communion” or “The Eucharist” (from the Greek for “Great Thanksgiving”) is packed with references to Holy Scripture and contains no less than four separate readings (or lections) from Scripture. On any given Sunday, worshippers will hear readings from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the letters of the New Testament, and from one of the four Gospels.
- Our pastor (a “priest” in the Anglican tradition) follows the readings from Scripture with a homily or short sermon expounding on one or more of the readings. The focus is on applying the Bible’s teaching to ordinary life. Because the whole of our worship service proclaims the message of the Gospel in its fullness, the homily is usually brief and lasts no more than 20 minutes.
- Following the homily, the congregation rises to proclaim as one the church’s (and their own) ancient faith. The words of the Nicene Creed (or on some occasions, the Apostles’ Creed) summarize the teaching of the Bible and establish truths that unite Christians throughout the world and through all time.
- Corporate prayer is a large feature of our worship. Our congregational singing is offered to God as prayer. Short prayers of response (sometimes just, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ”) fill the service, end to end. As we approach the summit of our service, however, the congregation prays at length for the needs of our community, for the church locally and globally, and for the health and healing of the world.
- Because our service is intended to be a time of renewal where we return again to God, we also pray for ourselves and appropriate the promises of love and forgiveness made to us in baptism. We pray for God’s forgiveness and for the perfection of His work in us. Christians know that we live “between the times” — that is, between God’s initiation of human salvation in the death and resurrection of Jesus and its consummation in our own final resurrection at Jesus’ second coming — so we invite Christ to rule as master over all our lives and receive the assurance that we are forgiven.
- Like some other Christian communities, we too have an “altar call,” but by that we mean the celebration of Holy Communion as the source and summit of our life together. We pray together a Eucharistic prayer — a “great thanksgiving,” where we remember God’s saving works through history, in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, especially. We then offer to God simple gifts of bread and wine and receive them back, consecrated by God, as the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. In the same way that we need to take ordinary food into ourselves from outside of ourselves, so also we share in the mystery of God’s provision for our spiritual lives, as well. As Jesus himself said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day” (John 6:53-54). At our “altar call” we receive Jesus in an objective way that does not depend on the ups and downs of our subjective feelings. Regardless of whether we feel sorrow or joy, blessed or troubled, embraced or forsaken, Jesus’ Eucharistic gift of Himself to us is the sure pledge that He forgives us, that He loves us, and that He will save us even from death.
- The Eucharist teaches us that we are not a community existing from ourselves or for ourselves. At the conclusion of our worship, therefore, we are commissioned to take the life of God out into the world. As people who have shared in the body and blood of Jesus, we are sent out to live as tangible signs of his presence in every sphere of our lives. As we go, we receive a blessing from the one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Source: The above summary is based on an article on the Anglican faith by Fr. Michael Pahls, Rector of Trinity in the Fields, Marion, Ark.