First and foremost, Anglicans are Christians. Globally, Anglicans form the third largest body of Christians in the world (around 80 million members) behind the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.
The name “Anglican” is traced back to the ancient Anglo-Saxon tribes of Europe. The tribal name was spelled “Engles” or “Angles” and the tribe’s speech was the precursor to the English language. Their island became known as England, and their Christians were known as Anglicans. The name has nothing to do with “angels.”
Just as the English language spread with the British empire, so did Anglican Christianity. When Anglicans resettled in new lands, they brought their personal faith with them. Chaplains and pastors were often among their number. Additionally, many Anglicans traveled as missionaries to share the Gospel. Consequently, Anglican churches now exist all over the world in more than 165 countries. As Anglican Christians became a global family, the demographics shifted dramatically. While Christians from Britain, the United States, Canada, and Australia continue to play an important role, today the “average” Anglican is a young woman from Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Anglican ethos holds together three streams of the Christian Church. For those familiar with Church History, Dr. Les Fairfield provides a synopsis of the history that shapes its life today:
The Protestant movement recalled the 16th century Church to the primacy of the Word—written, read, preached, inwardly digested. The 18th century Holiness movement reminded the Church of God’s love for the poor. The Anglo-Catholic movement re-grounded the Church in the sacramental life of worship. All three strands are grounded in the Gospel. Each one extrapolates the Gospel in a specific direction. No strand is dispensable. Other Christian bodies have often taken one strand to an extreme. By God’s grace the Anglican tradition has held the streams in creative tension. This miracle of unity is a treasure worth keeping.
Anglican worship is diverse, and it is best understood by visiting and attending a local congregation like Christ the Door. What is common to all is an inheritance of worship that recognizes the supremacy of the Bible and often finds expression through the Prayer Book. To understand what and how Anglicans pray is to understand what they believe. The Prayer Book, described as the Scriptures arranged for worship, provides helpful resources for everything from personal daily devotions to large public gatherings of worship. It includes prayers for every season of life.