Church of England
The Church of England (C of E) is a Christian church which is the established church of England. The archbishop of Canterbury is the most senior cleric, although the monarch is the supreme governor. The Church of England is also 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||Anglican (with various liturgical preferences, including High Church, Broad Church and Low Church)|
|Supreme governor||Queen Elizabeth II|
World Council of Churches
|Region||England, Wales (cross-border parishes)|
Isle of Man
|Headquarters||Church House, Westminster, England, United Kingdom|
|Separated from||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 when Henry VIII failed to secure an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon in 1534. 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 Catholic and Reformed:
- Catholic in that it views itself as a part of the universal church of Jesus Christ in unbroken continuity with the early apostolic church. This is expressed in its emphasis on the teachings of the early Church Fathers, as formalised in the Apostles', Nicene, and Athanasian creeds.
- Reformed in that it has been shaped by some of the doctrinal principles of the 16th-century Protestant Reformation, in particular in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion and the Book of Common Prayer.
In the earlier phase of the English Reformation there were both Catholic martyrs and radical Protestant martyrs. The later phases saw the Penal Laws punish Roman Catholic 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 the Via Media. After the victory of the Parliamentarians, the Prayer Book was abolished and the Presbyterian and Independent factions dominated. The episcopacy (bishops) was abolished in 1646. 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 English in the liturgy. The church contains several doctrinal strands, the main three known as Anglo-Catholic, evangelical, and broad church. Tensions between theological conservatives and progressives find expression in debates over the ordination of women and homosexuality. The church includes both liberal and conservative clergy and members.
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 both Houses of Parliament.