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Other Churches: 2     Church of England

It may seem strange to begin a series on “other” churches by looking at our own – but we’d perhaps better be sure where we are before our train leaves the station.

The Church of England may seem as if it exists because Henry VIII fell out with the Pope over all his marital difficulties. But changes were happening all over Europe in how people viewed Christianity and how they felt the Roman Catholic church was getting it wrong. Things were on the move - a “Reformation” was taking place. People were becoming more radical about doctrine, worship, church government – and the Bible’s place in it all. And technologies like printing were having a big effect, just like computers today.

So the CofE was born here, independent of Rome. Ever since we have had our own service books and our own bishops and our own ways. But what is it that makes us what we are1? If you were asked to say what makes us distinctively “Anglican2”, what would you say?

If you feel tempted to define it by what you know of your local church, you’d possibly get it wrong. Local churches differ a lot from each other. You might also point to the Book of Common Prayer, which still has a certain authority in the Church of England as the bedrock of our position in Christendom, setting out not only our basic starting points in worship but also our doctrinal stance.

But better still, probably, is a source document from some years ago3 which might act like a “Mission Statement” for us. That document marked out our distinctive position in 4 key points:

Given that, of course, things aren’t ’arf different from place to place.