Church of England

A corporate institution established by Queen Elizabeth and her ministers, chiefly by William Cecil, Lord Burghley. Constituted by the Act of Supremacy and Uniformity of 1558, it received its official doctrinal standards in 1571 by the promulgation of the Thirty-nine Articles, and claimed continuity with the Catholic Church through the pre-Reformation Church in England. Since continuity, however, presupposes a successive existence without constitutional change, Anglicanism, whose priests were consecrated by an entirely new form of ordination, cannot be considered to possess this continuity. It cannot have Orders, for at the first it disclaimed the institution of a sacrificing priesthood; it has no jurisdiction apart from what it receives from the sovereign and Parliament; it never had Apostolic succession, since it originated in a repudiation of the Holy Roman See, the only remaining source of Apostolicity. Down to the 18th century it had been accepted with little question as the national religion, but it became extremely unpopular during the reigns of George IV and William IV, as being the religion of the reactionary ruling caste. The Anglican Church embraces three irreconcilable schools of thought based on entirely different principles, united only by the tie of a legal establishment: the High Church party, whose teaching approaches in some matters to Catholic doctrine; the Low Churchmen, or Evangelicals, who look on Rome as Antichrist and on Luther and Calvin as apostles of the true faith; and the Broad Churchmen, or Latitudinarians, who hold dogma to be of trifling importance compared with conduct. An advanced section of the High Church, 1850-1900, the “Ritualists,” sought to establish the right to use Catholic vestments and Catholic ceremonials in their churches, and were eventually successfvl. Recently a great effort has been made to substitute the name Anglo-Catholic and even Catholic simply, for the older names of High Churchman, Tractarian, and Ritualist. The Low Church party is now insignificant in numbers and influence. The Broad Church or Modernist party has drifted much further from orthodoxy and has greatly increased in numbers and influence. Revisions in the Book of Common Prayer have quite recently created serious divisions in the Church. The Church of England is divided into the two provinces of Canterbury and York. The archbishops of Canterbury and York and the bishops of London, Durham, and Winchester always sit in the House of Lords.