The Anglican way of faith rests on a sure foundation: the Scriptures, the Apostolic Church and the early Church Fathers and Mothers. Together these define our worship and faith together. Anglican roots go deep, to the earliest days of the Church. By tradition, Joseph of Arimathea and company brought the Good News to Britain in the years just after the Resurrection. Many count the arrival of St. Augustine of Canterbury in 597 as the beginning of Christianity in Britain - but in truth when Augustine arrived he found the faith already on British soil. The best conjecture by historians is that the Good News came to Britain during the Roman occupation.
In the 1500s, the Reformation decisively shaped our identity as Anglicans, and the Church of England was born as an independent reformed catholic and apostolic Church apart from Rome.
Anglicans embrace and are sustained in the catholic and apostolic faith. Responding to the teachings of Christ Jesus, Anglicans proclaim - in word and action - the good news of the Gospel to the whole of Creation. We are rooted in the scriptures and the catholic creeds, interpreted in the light of tradition, scholarship, reason, and experience.
Worship is the very heart of the Anglican way of faith. Unlike the confessional Protestant churches, who defined themselves by their credal statements and doctrinal differences, Anglicans uniquely are defined by our Book of Common Prayer. One of the more influential books in the English language, the Book of Common Prayer unites us as Anglicans throughout the world.
Central to worship of the Book of Common Prayer is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist (or Holy Communion, or the Lord's Supper). In the proclamation of the Word, and the celebration of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus through the bread and wine, we are united across time and space with all Christian faithful.
To be an Anglican is to be on a journey of faith with God and in God and to God, in a community of fellow pilgrims who are dedicated to making this journey through common prayer and service.
Following are some of the distinctive emphases in the Anglican way of faith that have shaped our life in the Good News of Christ.
The historic 3-fold apostolic ministry of bishop, presbyter, and deacon.
The churches in the Anglican tradition have always maintained and valued the historic episcopate, as being instituted by the Apostles for the leading of the faithful. The FEC continues to maintain and value this tradition. Our bishops are both the servants and the shepherds of our Church.
The priesthood of all believers.
Standing with our Protestant sister churches, Anglicans affirm and support the priesthood of all believers, conveyed through our baptism into the Body of Christ.
The Via Media - "middle way".
The English Reformers sought the balance point of the Anglican way of faith in the middle way "between Geneva and Rome". They found in the core teachings of Martin Luther and John Calvin some important correctives to the medieval abuses that had corrupted the Catholic faith. Yet they saw no reason to reject the vital heart of that Catholic faith in the process of removing the corrupted elements. The middle way for them was a Reformed Catholic practice free of the oversight of the Pope.
The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.
When the English Reformers altered the course of the English Church in the 1500s, they created a statement of faith called the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. This document is a clear lens into the Reformers' minds and hearts, telling us what mattered most to them, and what forces shaped the Anglican way of faith in their day, and continue to shape the Anglican way of faith today.
The Book of Common Prayer.
Along with Anglicans around the world, we use the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). As each national church began its own journey, their Prayer Books began to reflect the vernacular of each people, each place. This is as it should be. The Free Episcopal Church has chosen to use the 1979 BCP as developed by the Episcopal Church in the US.
The 3-Legged Stool.
As Anglican theologian Richard Hooker taught, Scripture, the Church's Tradition, and individual Reason together are the grounds for gaining understanding and making choices. Though the insight is not new with Hooker (Aquinas made the case previously), it takes a central prominence for Anglicans. Remove any one leg, and the "stool" tips over. Each must be in equal dialog with the other two. This approach, if actually practiced (!), is a corrective to the abuses of fundamentalism as well as excessive "orthodoxy" which denies the possibility of God-given Reason.
Anglicans celebrate the two Sacraments instituted by the Christ: Baptism, and Holy Eucharist. We recognize through Tradition five additional sacramental rites, that sanctify our relationship with God and each other: Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, Anointing of the Sick, and Penance. These sacramental rites are means of grace but not necessary for our salvation. The Free Episcopal Church practices open Communion, and places no humanly created barriers to the Sacraments. In providing this brief overview of the distinctives of the Anglican way of faith we are indebted to - and highly recommend - this excellent book:
Urban T. Holmes III, What is Anglicanism? An Anglican Studies Series Book Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing, 1982