Church of England
The Church of England (C of E) is the established Christian church in England and the mother church of the international Anglican Communion. It traces its history to the Christian church recorded as existing in the Roman province of Britain by the 3rd century and to the 6th-century Gregorian mission to Kent led by Augustine of Canterbury.
|Church of England|
|Abbreviation||C of E|
|Orientation||Broad church (including high church, central and low church traditions)|
|Supreme governor||Queen Elizabeth II|
World Council of Churches
|Region||England, Wales (cross-border parishes)|
Isle of Man
|Headquarters||Church House, Westminster, England|
|Separated from||Roman Catholic Church|
Puritans (17th century)
Methodists (18th century)
Plymouth Brethren (1820s)
Free Church of England (1844)
Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham (2011)
|Members||26 million (baptised)|
|Other name(s)||Anglican Church|
The English church renounced papal authority in 1534 when Henry VIII failed to secure a papal annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. The English Reformation accelerated under Edward VI's regents, before a brief restoration of papal authority under Queen Mary I and King Philip. The Act of Supremacy 1558 renewed the breach, and the Elizabethan Settlement charted a course enabling the English church to describe itself as both Reformed and Catholic. In the earlier phase of the English Reformation there were both Roman Catholic martyrs and radical Protestant martyrs. The later phases saw the Penal Laws punish Roman Catholics and nonconforming Protestants. In the 17th century, the Puritan and Presbyterian factions continued to challenge the leadership of the church, which under the Stuarts veered towards a more Catholic interpretation of the Elizabethan Settlement, especially under Archbishop Laud and the rise of the concept of Anglicanism as a via media between Roman Catholicism and radical Protestantism. After the victory of the Parliamentarians, the Prayer Book was abolished and the Presbyterian and Independent factions dominated. The episcopacy was abolished in 1646 but the Restoration restored the Church of England, episcopacy and the Prayer Book. Papal recognition of George III in 1766 led to greater religious tolerance.
Since the English Reformation, the Church of England has used the English language in the liturgy. The church contains several doctrinal strands, the main three being known as Anglo-Catholic, evangelical and liberal. Tensions between theological conservatives and progressives find expression in debates over the ordination of women and homosexuality.
The British monarch (currently Elizabeth II) is the supreme governor and the archbishop of Canterbury (currently Justin Welby) is the most senior cleric. The governing structure of the church is based on dioceses, each presided over by a bishop. Within each diocese are local parishes. The General Synod of the Church of England is the legislative body for the church and comprises bishops, other clergy and laity. Its measures must be approved by the Parliament of the United Kingdom.