Our Anglican Heritage
Like all Anglicans, the congregations and missions of the Anglican Church in North America trace our roots to Christianity in Britain. This dates from the 2nd Century A.D. among the Celts, and from the 6th Century A.D. among those Germanic peoples who had settled there (St. Augustine of Canterbury established the gospel among the English speaking peoples). Our faith is rooted in Scripture, the tradition of the undivided Church, and the English Reformation. This is expressed in our worship, which is biblical, sacramental, and Spirit-filled. Anglican Christians are also known for our missionary efforts, which have resulted in the third largest grouping of churches around the world (about 90 million people). For more information on our denomination, confessional statements, and polity, see our Affiliations page.
Common Questions (answers below):
- Why do Anglicans use the Book of Common Prayer (BCP)?
- What are the Sacraments of the Church?
- Why do Anglican clergy dress differently during different seasons and events?
- Why do Anglicans stand, sit and kneel during worship?
- Why do some people raise their hands or cross themselves?
- Why do we celebrate the Lord’s Supper every week?
- What is Apostolic Tradition and why is it important?
- Why Bishops, Priests and Deacons?
- How are we like and unlike the Roman Catholic Church?
- How are we like and unlike other evangelical churches?
- How are we like and unlike other charismatic churches?
- What do we call our clergy? Pastor? Father? Reverend?
- How important is Anglicanism in our identity?
1. Why do Anglicans use the Book of Common Prayer (BCP)?
Here are three reasons:
- To be biblical. We want to ensure that the worship of the Church is biblical in its language. What we pray together in the group teaches us how to pray privately. The BCP has more Bible in it than any other form of Christian Worship we are aware of.
- Spirit anointed language. These prayers have commended themselves to the Saints of God over long periods of time. Bishop Ryle said, “If all of the people could pray all of the time the way some of the people pray some of the time, we might not need Prayer Books.”
- Participation. Common prayers can be prayed together, actively and in unity.
At Church of the Holy Spirit, we project words on the screen, but the words themselves come from the BCP.
We do have meetings where we do not always use the BCP.
2. What are the Sacraments of the Church?
There are two Sacraments of the Gospel: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These sacraments were instituted by Christ himself, and are necessary for all people. In addition, there are five other sacramental rites of the church: confirmation, marriage, ordination, the reconciliation of a penitent, and unction of the sick. These apply the grace of Christ to specific stages and states in the Christian life, and are not necessary for all people. We believe that these rites have been instituted in the life of the Church under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Sacraments are outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.
3. Why do Anglican clergy dress differently during different seasons and events?
Not all Anglican clergy dress alike. Anglican clergy have dressed differently at different times in history and in different places. Evangelical Anglican clergy, particularly in the British Isles, often dress just like the laity. Many clergy in America dress either like pre-reformation clergy…thereby stressing the traditional lineage of the Church; or they wear the clothing worn after the Reformation of the 16th Century…thereby stressing the reformed character of the Anglican Church; or they dress in the commonly worn white alb with stole that has become popular in many denominations today. At our 9:00 service, clergy and acolytes wear the alb, but at the 11:00 service, we do not.
4. Why do Anglicans stand, sit and kneel during worship?
Since we are embodied spirits, it is important to get our whole persons involved in worship. The body impacts the spirit. In many Anglican churches, people stand to praise and sing; sit for instruction; and kneel to pray. Just keep an eye on the leader and those in front of you, and do likewise.
5. Why do some people raise their hands or cross themselves?
Some people like to raise their hands in song or prayer as a gesture of surrender or praise to God. Uplifted hands in prayer is a thoroughly Biblical practice, and was a standard prayer posture in Jesus’ day. Others cross themselves because of the central importance of the Cross in the Christian life. Only Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and our faith in Him as Lord, enable us to enter into His presence in confidence. The sign of the Cross is a recalling of that gift. No one is required to do either of these, but they are ancient and appropriate signs and customs.
6. Why do we celebrate the Lord’s Supper every week on Sunday morning?
The Lord’s Supper is the central act of Christian worship. It reminds us of Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross for us, and it nourishes us by strengthening our union with Christ. As an “Acts 2 Church,” we order our lives in as close an accord with the first Church in Jerusalem as possible. This Scripture passage suggests that the earliest Christians celebrated the Lord’s Supper very often, and the latest scholarship on the early church suggests that from the earliest times, the Church celebrated it in most places every Sunday. Our liturgy has been reformed to look like the earliest liturgies we have found, like the liturgy of Hippolytus from about 215A.D. Some Anglican congregations celebrate the Lord’s Supper once a month or once a quarter, either in order to emphasize its importance by making it more special, or to give the congregation more opportunity to fulfill the biblical injunction to prepare for it through confession and reconciliation.
7. What is Apostolic Tradition and why is it important?
Apostolic Tradition refers to the passing along of the Faith and Fellowship of the Apostles through the life of the Church in history. This is carried on through a variety of means. The Scripture of the Old and New Testaments, the historic Creeds, the Gospel Sacraments, and the lineage of Bishops, Priests and Deacons all assist the Church to pass on the Apostolic Faith and Life.
Anglican Bishops are in “Apostolic Succession,” which means they are in an unbroken line of consecration from the time of the early undivided Church. This continuity in ministerial order is one evidence that our church is in Apostolic Tradition; that is, that it carries on the faith of the Apostles. However, along with evangelical Anglicans worldwide, we at Church of the Holy Spirit believe that the content of the faith taught is far more important than lineage in determining the true successors of the Apostles. We at CHS seek common mission with all Christians who believe without reservation in the authority of the Scriptures, the Historic Creeds, and who uphold the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.
8. Why do we have Bishops, Priests and Deacons?
The English word “priest” is a short form of the Greek word “presbyter,” or elder. At the Reformation of the 16th Century in England, the Anglican Church kept all in the life and witness of the Church that was good and in harmony with the Scriptures. Bishops, priests and deacons are forms of Church Orders depicted in the New Testament, and raised up in the early Church under the leadership of the Holy Spirit; and most bishops, priests and deacons at the Reformation were proponents of the Reformation and Biblical in their Faith. Thus the ancient Orders were kept as a blessing and an expression of continuity with the historic Church. Faithful Christians disagree on the need for and functions of these Orders, so other forms of ordained ministry were adopted in some other reformed traditions.
9. How are we the same as, and different from, the Roman Catholic Church?
The Anglican Church is both like and unlike the Roman Catholic Church. We are like the Roman Church in that we both uphold the traditional orders of ordained ministry: bishop, priest, and deacon; we both accept the first seven ecumenical councils and the theological statements made by those councils as normative; and many of our churches celebrate the Lord’s Supper every Sunday.
Chief among the ways we are different is that the Anglican Church embraces the theology of the Reformation, and continues to uphold the supreme authority of Holy Scripture. For a statement of classic Anglican Reformed docrtine, read the 39 Articles of Religion. Anglican Churches are not under the jurisdictional authority of the Bishop of Rome, nor do we require celibacy of the clergy. Anglicans disagree with the emphasis on and elevation of Mary in recent Roman tradition. While we both believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, our views on how that happens are different.
10. How are we the same as, and different from, other evangelical churches?
We are both like and unlike other evangelical churches. We are like other evangelical churches in that we uphold:
1) The authority and sufficiency of Holy Scripture;
2) The uniqueness of our redemption through the death of Christ on the cross;
3) The need for personal conversion; and
4) The necessity, propriety, and urgency of evangelism.
These four emphases are common to most Christians who call themselves evangelical. Most of us at Holy Spirit find ourselves at home reading Christianity Today, and listening to Michael Youseff and Tony Evans on the radio. As charismatic evangelicals who uphold Holy Scripture as our primary rule of faith, we also appreciate the supporting roles of tradition, reason, and experience in shaping our faith. We believe that the Evangelical, Charismatic, and Sacramental streams of the church are all important, valid expressions of the church. (For more information about our Distinctive, see “Three Streams, One River.“) Many evangelicals believe that some gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased many years ago, but we believe that all biblical gifts of the Holy Spirit do and should operate in the church today. Some fathers of Anglican Evangelicalism are Thomas Cramner, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, John Wesley, William Wilberforce, J.C. Ryle, John Stott, and J. I. Packer.
11. How are we the same as, and different from, other charismatic churches?
We are both like and unlike other charismatic churches. We share the belief that the Holy Spirit is active in distributing all the supernatural gifts in the Church today. We believe that the Holy Spirit can speak and work through any believer, even during Sunday worship! We are privileged to see many supernatural healings on a regular basis. Unlike some Pentecostal Churches, we do not believe that every believer must speak in tongues in order to be saved. We do believe that tongues and other spiritual gifts like prophecy and healings are a blessing and a gift to the church that should be sought and embraced. A good book that describes our charismatic beliefs is Fire in the Fireplace by Charles Hummel. We differ from the charismatics who teach the prosperity gospel, and others who teach that if you are not healed after prayer, you lack proper faith. Some fathers of the charismatic movement in Anglicanism are John Wesley, Dennis Bennett, Terry Fullam, John Wimber, David Watson, David Pitches and Nicky Gumbel.
12. What do we call our clergy? Pastor? Father? Reverend?
The Anglican tradition includes a variety of theological emphases, which carries forward in the titles of clergy. Like most Anglican pastors, Clancy, Dean and Dave are ordained both Deacon and Priest. (The word “Priest” is a short form of the word “presbyter,” or elder.) If you desire to use a title for them, the title we use is “Pastor,” as in “Pastor Clancy.” That title describes their function, and emphasizes our evangelical commitments. We prefer that adults simply call clergy by our first names, e.g., “Clancy,” and that children call them “Pastor Clancy” or “Pastor Dean.” If they prefer, adults may call us “Pastor.” We also call our Deacons “Pastor.” Many Anglicans of a more catholic piety call their clergy “Father.” “Reverend” is a title others give to an ordained person as honoring their office. So, the formal way to refer to our pastors in writing is, e.g., “The Rev. Clancy Nixon.”
13. How important is Anglicanism in our identity?
Our identity has several layers, listed here in order of their importance. First, we are people of the Kingdom of God, committed to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, whom we love unreservedly. Second, we are charismatic evangelicals – we value our deeply held theological commitments. Third, we are Anglicans, organically connected both with the vibrant Global South and with other orthodox Anglicans here in North America. Our Anglican affiliation emphasizes our commitment to the authority of Scripture, the uniqueness of Christ, and biblical standards for leadership. We love our Anglican tribe; for more on our denomination, the ACNA, click here. Anglicanism is but one of many faithful ways of following Christ, and it is a reliable way. We remain committed to unity with all who profess the historic Christian faith. We work and pray together with people from a variety of churches to help bring God’s Kingdom to earth.