Anglicanism is a major stream of Christianity that comes from the British Isles. For many centuries, British Christianity was part of the huge church body called the Catholic Church. The unity of this body was broken in the 1500s when religious leaders throughout Europe, finding that Catholicism had drifted from the teaching of the Bible, tried to reform it. This movement is known as the Protestant Reformation. In some cases, the reform efforts resulted in new church bodies, like the Mennonite churches and some Lutheran ones. But in England, Wales, and Ireland, reform happened differently; the entire branches of the Catholic Church in each these lands became Protestant. These churches, known today as Anglican churches, were less extreme in their reforms than most other Protestant groups. They retained many of their ancient and medieval aspects but sought to bring everything into alignment with the Bible and early Christianity. For this reason, Anglicanism is often said to be Catholic and Protestant at the same time, even though Anglicans were excluded from the body called the Catholic Church long ago.
During the Reformation era and in the following centuries, Anglicanism spread around the world. Today, it is a global stream of Christianity with a particularly strong presence in certain parts of Africa. Until recently, there was a single voice of global Anglicanism: the huge association of churches called the Anglican Communion. However, due to theological disagreements, a new voice has emerged: the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon), a Bible-based association that is said to represent the majority of Anglicans worldwide. St. Hilda’s, as part of the diocese called the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC), belongs to Gafcon.
Bishop James Hannington, who was killed in East Africa in the late 1800s, is celebrated as a brave missionary and a prominent evangelical.
Beliefs and Practices
Anglicanism has never aimed to be a flashy new kind of Christianity with brand-new distinctive beliefs. Rather, the desire of Anglicans has been to practise authentic classical Christianity, the religion preached by the apostles and clarified over centuries of faithful Christian living. Therefore, it upholds the core teachings of all genuine Christian churches, teachings like the Trinity, the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the promise of salvation for those who believe. If you would like to learn more about Anglican beliefs, you can read our Theology page and our short explanation of the Apostles’ Creed. Anglicanism does, however, have a few beliefs and practices not found in all churches. These include infant baptism, leadership by bishops, and liturgical worship (church services that follow a written-out plan).
As one of the largest streams of the Christians religion, Anglicanism has had a strong influence on global Christianity. It was the Anglican King James I of England who commissioned the classic King James translation of the Bible, and the Church of England gave the world the beloved Book of Common Prayer. Many of the greatest theologians and scholars since the 1500s, from John Wesley to N. T. Wright, have called the Anglican Church home. Anglicans have also played an important role in huge social achievements, including the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. Moreover, the influence of Anglicanism is not limited to its own members and achievements. It is an ancestor to many denominations in the world today, including most Baptist and Pentecostal ones, and many of its core ideas, practices, and attitudes are maintained by these other denominations.
 Photograph: Anonymous, in Bishop Hannington and the Story of the Uganda Mission, by W. Grinton Berry (New York: Revell, n.d.), frontispiece.