Far from being a faith of the past, Anglicanism is a rich spiritual tradition that connects the past with the present. People from all sorts of backgrounds are embracing the Anglican Church as the tradition that seamlessly blends many different Christian expressions. As Anglicans, we are part of the larger Christian family whose roots go back to the time of Christ. Many Americans are finding their spiritual roots in the Anglican tradition.
Anglicanism is not tied to our own time, but rather part of the larger body of Christ whose roots began, not with the Reformation or the evangelical movement, but with Jesus Christ. The Anglican tradition offers a refreshing alternative to our postmodern world by helping us reconnect to the historic Christian faith. Anglicanism is an ancient tradition that traces its roots back to the time of the Roman Empire when a Christian church first came into existence in the British Isles. According to legend, Christianity first came to England by Joseph of Arimathea. Early Christian writers mention the existence of a British church in the third century.
Christianity spread throughout the British Isles under the leadership of Celtic missionaries like Patrick and Columba. Pope Gregory the Great sent Augustine to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. He is considered by many to be the Apostle to the English and a founder of the English Church. Augustine became the first Archbishop of Canterbury and helped establish a center for Christianity in Britain.
Under the leadership of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, the Church of England began to embrace elements of the Reformation throughout England, yet retaining the historic practices of the Catholic Church. Cranmer was able to introduce a number of reforms in England such as the Great Bible in 1539. Cranmer’s greatest achievement was realized in 1549, where he helped organize the Book of Common Prayer in the English language.
In the years that followed, Anglicanism continued to develop and flourish and eventually grew into a worldwide movement that spawned later movements such as the Puritans, the Wesleyan revival, and the Oxford Movement. Over the years, the Anglican tradition has produced some of the world’s greatest Christian thinkers, writers, and leaders such as Jeremy Taylor, John Donne, John and Charles Wesley, Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, and Dorothy Sayers. Twelve United States Presidents from George Washington to George H.W. Bust have been Anglican, more than any other religious tradition. With over 1,800 years of rich history, this ancient Christian tradition still has the power to speak to our world today with a faith that is relevant for a new generation.