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What is Anglicanism

That’s kind of a difficult question to answer is one quick phrase. We live in a world where sound bytes give us mere glimpses of what is the whole story. What we hope to do is provide the reader with a more in depth approach to a complex task. In order to give a fuller understanding of Anglicanism, we must first start with a brief history lesson.

The English Church in the early Years of Henry VIII

Religion in the beginning of the 16th Century was typical of the Christian West. Churches were well attended. Foreign visitors often commented on English piety. But the deficiencies in religious life were to have a profound change in the Western Church: clergy were not well educated, inadequate instruction of the laity, minimal theological conformity, mechanical participation in the liturgical and sacramental life, and a relative decline in the spiritual quality of life. Many laity resented the political influences of the clergy when they held civil offices, their judicial power in church courts and, above all, their economic power in managing a significant portion of the national wealth in the properties that provided income for clergy. Also deeply resented was the fact that these institutions sent more money to Rome than was accessible to the King. His royal income was less than what was sent overseas.

Before the great continental Reformation began to be heard on English shores, the prevailing religion was being called into question by two movements: one local, covert and comprised largely of humble men and women: the other more international and patronized by the upper levels of ecclesiastical and lay society.

The first movement was unique in that it contained a loosely affiliated gathering of people who read their Bibles in English. This was forbidden at the time; only clergy were allowed Bibles and those were in Latin. These people adhered to an order of Bible reading, preaching and a rejection of medieval theology.

The second group of people were heavily influenced by Renaissance Humanism which struck deep roots in England. They believed in introducing reforms in the teaching and life of the Church. But both these groups focused on the wide spread dissatisfaction with the religious status quo in England.

Into this pictures comes Henry VIII. He ascended the throne in 1509 and immediately became immersed into the politics of Europe and the Church. In spite of growing nationalism throughout Europe, the idealism of Christianity was still symbolized by the papal office in Rome. The majority of governments on the continent were examples of a confusing duality of civil and religious powers, with the Church holding the ultimate authority. As elsewhere, royal and priestly authorities often clashed.

In part motivated by a pervasive lay anti-clericalism, England’s Parliament was uniquely active in championing the royal cause against a church hierarchy whose upper reaches belonged to a foreign papacy. The strains might have been contained, had not discontent with religion provided the impetus for the nationalism that was sweeping across Europe, including England.

St. Peter’s Anglican Church is located on Park Street Forestville. Sunday services are held at 10:30 a.m.