ˈdɒktrɪn/ noun 1. a belief or set of beliefs held and taught by a Church, political party, or other group.

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What do Anglicans believe?

Anglicans believe that there is only one God, but there are three elements to this one God: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit; that human beings' decision to reject this eternal God and live according to their own standards (sin) causes a relational breakdown between them; that God the Son, Jesus Christ, lived and died to give people a model and a way to be reconciled with God.

Anglicans consider the Bible to be fundamental to life as a Christian and believe that "the Scriptures contain all things necessary for salvation".

Anglicans believe that the Christian life involves regular praise and prayer, both private and public, and that Christians must practise what they preach and pray - both on Sundays (the day when Anglicans normally gather for worship) and every day, as they seek to live out their worship.

Anglicans believe that people become members of God's Church through Baptism, and all Christians celebrate Holy Communion (also known as Eucharist) as a shared ‘meal’ (of bread/wafer and wine) which they eat together in Jesus’ name.

Anglicans accept the major Creeds as expressing their Christian faith: The Apostle's Creed is the statement of faith used in Baptism and Morning and Evening Prayer, while the Nicene Creed is prayed in the service of Holy Communion. (These can be found in any Anglican prayer book.) Anglicans summarise their basic beliefs in The Catechism (an old word, meaning “what is to be taught”). [Learn more about these foundations of faith here]

What's particularly distinctive about Anglicanism?

An important caveat is about this question is that if you ask three Anglicans about doctrine you’ll get five different answers! Anglicanism’s greatest strength - its willingness to tolerate a wide variety in Anglican faith and lifestyle - is also the thing that provokes the most debate among its practitioners.

Anglicans, however, do agree that their beliefs and practices, their authority, derive from an integration of Scripture (the Holy Bible), Reason (the intellect and the experience of God) and Tradition (the practices and beliefs of the historical church). This ‘three-legged stool’ is said to demonstrate a ‘balance’ in the Anglican approach to faith contrasting it with Roman Catholic and the Protestant doctrines. The term via media when used in reference to the Anglican tradition generally refers to the idea that Anglicanism represents a middle way between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.

Rather than saying Anglicanism is Protestant – like Lutheranism or Calvinism – rather it would be more accurate to say it is catholic (believing it is still part of God’s one Church and having bishops as Church leaders) but reformed (in that it shares the principles of other Christian Churches that broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in 16th Century) in what has become known as the Protestant Reformation.

[For a more extensive, though occasionally subjective, write-up on Anglicanism take a look at the Wikipedia entry here]

Do all Anglicans/Episcopalians around the world share the same doctrine?

While Anglicanism generally has declared the Bible to be supremely authoritative for matters of doctrine and has broadly subscribed to the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, the 39 different provinces/Member Churches and six Extra-Provincials around the world have varied greatly as to the status given to the Thirty-Nine Articles and other secondary statements of faith (including the 1662 Book of Common Prayer).

They have also varied considerably as to the limits of orthodoxy (conformation to the Christian faith as represented in the creeds of the early church) and the appropriate sanctions (if any) for breaching those limits.

A very brief summary of a worldwide common Anglican stance is to be found in the Lambeth Quadrilateral, but individual provinces have established doctrine commissions or doctrine and worship committees to advise the House of Bishops and the General Synod or comparable body on doctrinal issues. The House of Bishops in each province is generally held to have a special responsibility for guarding the faith and its formulation in each generation.

The Anglican Communion's global committee for doctrinal issues is the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order. NB: doctrine is only part of IASCUFO's remit and it is the General Synods of the Provincial Churches that are the final arbitrators of doctrine.