To be an Anglican, then, is not to embrace a distinct version of Christianity, but a distinct way of being a “Mere Christian,” at the same time evangelical, apostolic, catholic, reformed, and Spirit-filled.
The Anglican Church or Ecclesia Anglicana (English Church) was shaped by the English Reformation and originally referred to the national Church of England. The earliest mention of Christianity in Britain appears in Tertullian in 200 A.D. and twenty years later in Origen. The Celts and later Anglo-Saxons founded communities of faith that helped shape the early culture that would become England. The church formally separated from the church of Rome under King Henry VIII. The primary leaders of the emerging Church of England were deeply shaped by Reformers in Europe. Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, longed for the reunification of the church as a whole and worked for a slow reformation through preaching, the Word of God and the Book of Common Prayer.
As the English Christians spread the faith through colonists and missionaries, Anglican churches extended throughout the world. Today Anglicans come from many ethnic and cultural heritages. There are currently 38 autonomous Anglican member churches, or provinces, of the Anglican Communion – which spans 164 countries with 85 million members.
“The Anglican Communion,” Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher wrote, “has no peculiar thought, practice, creed or confession of its own. It has only the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church, as preserved in the Catholic Creeds and maintained in the Catholic and Apostolic constitution of Christ’s Church from the beginning.” It may licitly teach as necessary for salvation nothing but what is read in the Holy Scriptures as God’s Word written or may be proved thereby. It therefore embraces and affirms such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the Scriptures, and thus to be counted apostolic. The Church has no authority to innovate: it is obliged continually, and particularly in times of renewal or reformation, to return to “the faith once delivered to the saints.”
Here is a printable pdf brochure developed by the ACNA (Anglican Church in North America) that may be helpful in explaining our common commitments.