The modern Anglican Church is more specifically referred to as the Anglican Communion. It is an international association of national and regional Anglican Church, so instead of there being a single "Anglican" Church with universal authority and dominion over all Churches, each national or regional Church has full and complete autonomy. Historically, these Churches fall under full communion with the Church of England, or the Mother Church, and the specific titular head, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The status of "full communion" means, ideally that there is mutual agreement on several specific and basic doctrinal issues, and that full participation in each single Church's sacramental rubric is available and upheld by all Anglicans (The Anglican Communion Official Website, 2011).
Overall, the essential nature of the Anglican Communion is epitomized in the Biblical passafe from John 1: This life is revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us -- we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have communion with us; and truly our communion is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. These things we write so that our joy may be complete (John 1: 2-4).
However, one of the rather unique differences with Anglican thought is that the Communion itself considers itself to be part of the "one, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church" and to be both Catholic and Reformed. For some individuals, it represents a type of non-papal Catholicism -- a way to find the traditions of the Church in a comfortable way without the political or fealty towards Rome. For others, the Anglican Communion is a form of Protestantism that removed the issues of European culture from the Church and allowed a form of religion without the strict dogmatism of a Martin Luther, John Calvin or John Wesley. Still, for others, the Anglican Communion is a way to represent a spiritual path of self-identity that combines their own best of what traditional Cat holism and liberal Protestantism have to offer (Sykes, 1998). Some of the reformists in the Anglican Church, while far from taking on the charismatic nature of some of the other Protestant views, still tend to place more emphasis on the Trinity concept and less on just the embodiment of Jesus Christ as God.
The Anglican Church is typically seen as a more moderate view of Catholicism, and compares to other Protestant movements with more doctrinal ties to Roman. In fact, in November, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI issues an apostolic constitution that allows groups of former Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church (Anglicanorum Coetibus, 2009). This was likely a potential result of the Continuing Anglican movement, a number of church bodies formed within the basis of the Anglican Communion, but believe that traditional forms of the Anglican faith have been unacceptably revised -- some viewing the need for more traditionalism, others who believe the social structure of Anglicanism has been lax in allowing for needed social change, most specifically in America the ordination of gay and lesbian individuals to the priesthood and episcopate. This schism has now resulted in over 900 parishes who are no longer affiliated with the Canterbury Communion, but still believe they are structured in the Anglican manner (Being an Anglican, 2011).
Doctrine- Since Anglicanism has not agreed upon confession of faith or international dogma that solidifies and unifies, nor does it have a founding father whose doctrines read as a polemic doctrine. It does not have a central authority like the Roman Catholic magisterium that sets acceptable belief and practice. Instead, while acknowledging that the Bishop of Canterbury is the spiritual leader of the Communion, that does not mean doctrinal power. Instead, most Anglicans believe there is a foundation in three basic streams of faith:
Early Statement of Christian belief that is based on the Canonical Gospels of the New Testament.
Traditional holds dictated by the Apostles to affirm the basic belief structure of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
Adopted in 325 AD in order to provide some agreement on Church practices for the Early Christian Church
Original purpose was to act as a yardstick of correct beliefs -- what symbols and agreed upon explicit divinity of Jesus being God being the predominant theme.
Composed as a defense of the Holy Trinity after the Nicene meeting.
Adheres to the belief that the true spiritual authority is tripartite: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Four point articulation of Anglican identity containing the fundamentals of belief.
The Holy Scriptures provide all necessary information for salvation and the Creeds are sufficient statements to Christian faith.
Four Instruments of Communion (Anglican Communion)
Really four ways of providing unity and a common ground from which to debate.'
The Archbishop of Canterbury; Lambeth Conference, Anglican Consultative Council and the Primate's meeting.
Foundations of Faith- By reviewing the above documents, we can see that the Anglican Communion has a firm foundation in early Christian thought that became the basis for what we now know of as Catholicism. In this, the faith of Anglicans is found in the basic traditions of scripture and of apostolic succession. In fact, Anglicanism forms one of the branches of traditional Western Christianity that declared independence from the Papacy fairly early, during the 1500s and Elizabeth I'd response to the religious divisions created during previous reigns. Many Anglicans wanted reform, but did not want to take the reform as far as some of the Protestants -- Christian tradition and the adherence to Gospel seemed important to retain. However, the actual degree of distinction between Reformed Anglicanism and Catholicism, with the exception of Papal authority, is really one that is philosophically bent upon the idea of whether an intermediary (the Pope) is necessary to communicate with God, and whether individuals can come together to form a spiritual union that works for the culture and community.
The Book of Common Prayer is unique to Anglicanism, and it is a collection of services that worshipers in most Anglican-based Churches use as a way to bind together philosophically. Since each national or regional church has full autonomy, the Book of Common Prayer acts as a way to link the various Churches by affection and common loyalty. In order to address matters that have changed culturally, the Archbishop of Canterbury calls a once -- a decade Lambeth Conference, which allows representatives from the 80 million membership to come together to pray and find common agreement on new issues. Thus, Anglicanism, in its structures, theology, forms of worship, philosophical idealism, and even traditions forms a distinct Christian tradition that represents a more middle ground between the extremes of the 16th century Catholic Church, and the reactions of the early Protestants (Bristed, 2010). That tradition of ecclesiastical moderation in most things follows the Anglican Community even with controversial subjects in the 21st century.
The Vestry Aspect of the Anglican church is the primary focus of spiritual leadership for the Communion of Churches. Structurally, and symbolically, it is also known as the Sacristy, and was historically considered to be the psychological heart of the church. Similarly, Vestry values and attitudes are a reflection of the particular ruling council of the individual parishes. This aspect is sometimes controversial in that it is dependent upon the individual demographics and psychographics of the particular parishes in question, and may also lead to minor schisms within the Congregation as a whole (ordination of gay bishops, ties with Catholic Rome, etc.). The advocate nature of the vestry is nothing new, and has been somewhat controversial since the 1700s; but particularly became notable when certain aspects of the Anglican…