The Global Family
There are estimated to be around 80 million Anglican Christians in the world: we are a rapidly growing family, especially in the non-western world, also known as the Global South. A century ago, the average Anglican was a well-to-do English-speaking Westerner, but today the picture is very different, with over 45 million members in sub-Saharan Africa alone, and worshipping communities in every region on Earth.
Anglicanism came to the Lowcountry of South Carolina in colonial times, and many of our historic churches (eg. St. Michael's and St. Philip's in Downtown Charleston) date from that era. We have strong roots, yet our sense of mission and purpose has been reignited in recent years through relationships with the Global South, and a recognition that God is on the move in Anglicanism.
Anglicanism is also a fractured family – for example, we are no longer in communion with the Episcopal Church, to which we long belonged and to which we owe much – but we earnestly pray that God would redeem our division and that the Kingdom would come in spite of it.
THE FIRST THOUSAND YEARS
The Gospel first came to the British Isles in the first generation of the Christian Church: the first known bishop (or overseer) of Christians in Roman Britannia was St. Aristobulus, who died in the First Century AD.
After the Romans abandoned Britannia, Christianity there dwindled, but still produced St. Patrick, the first known missionary to Ireland and the founder of what is now called the Celtic Church. Celtic monks subsequently established worshipping communities in many parts of Western Europe, and even as far away as Iceland!
Then, in 597, Pope Gregory the Great appointed a monk called Augustine as his missionary to the pagan Anglo-Saxons who had settled in what is now England. The mission was hugely successful, and also resulted in the Celtic Church and the remnants of the Roman-era Church uniting under the Pope and his Archbishop (based in Canterbury) in 664AD.
CATHOLIC AND REFORMED
The full Christianization of the British Isles was considered complete by the 9th Century – sometimes by evangelism, and sometimes by conquest – and a settled period followed. Christian kings like Edmund, Alfred the Great, Cnut, and Edward the Confessor oversaw a flourishing of the faith, and by the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066 the English Church had again gained its own distinctive identity. Norman rule reversed this, and conformity to continental Catholicism was the norm until the 16th Century, when the Church of England again became independent: initially for political reasons (when the Pope refused to grant Henry VIII an annulment for his marriage), and then for theological ones, as part of the movement called the Protestant Reformation.
Between 1536 and 1660, the Church of England, Church of Ireland, and the Episcopal Church of Scotland, each absorbed influences from Protestantism, and together emerged with a distinct identity, often described as 'Catholic and Reformed'. Retaining the structures, aesthetics, and liturgy it inherited from Catholicism, Anglicanism rejected Catholic doctrines that had no foundation in Scripture, and returned to the Biblical understanding that salvation is by faith alone.
TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH
The settled core of Anglican beliefs found its lasting expression in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, along with the 39 Articles of Religion and the Book of Homilies. These sought unity not in uniformity, but in shared worship and in the essentials of the Faith, whilst allowing liberty in non-essentials.
The United Kingdom also flourished, building on its maritime strength to become a global trading nation, and then an Empire. Soon Anglicans were worshipping all over the globe, including Charleston and the Lowcountry! St. Philip's Church, founded in 1681, was the first congregation of what is now the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina.
But Anglicanism did not only spread by emigration and colonization: its advance as a missionary force in the 19th and 20th Centuries was instrumental in the development of the modern Anglican Communion; a truly multicultural, multi-ethnic, global family of churches, covering each region of the world.
What We Believe
The core of Anglican belief is well summarized in the Jerusalem Declaration, which includes the following assertions:
We are Gospel-believing Christians. It is by grace we have been saved,
through faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments
to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation.
We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds
as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine
of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.
We uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as the authoritative standard
of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.
We recognize that God has called and gifted bishops, priests and deacons
in historic succession to equip the people of God for ministry in the world.