The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church was founded by Jesus Christ to be the instrument of his love in the world. We are called to worship the one true God and draw others into the fire of his love. Sadly, because the church is also a human institution, it has been bedeviled by splits and divisions over the centuries. The Church of England has never claimed to be the whole church, but she is clear that she is truly part of that one church founded on Jesus Christ and the Apostles. We therefore believe in the Trinity. So at their ordination and induction every priest has to affirm:“The Church of England is part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It processes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit it has borne witness to Christian truth in it historic formularies.”
The Church of England has its origins in the mission of St Augustine in 597 AD. He was sent by Pope Gregory to bring the Christian faith to the Anglo-Saxons. There was already an earlier Celtic church in Britain – its bishops are mentioned attending a council in 314 AD – but it had been seriously weakened by the invasion of the pagan Anglo-Saxons. Augustine re-established the church in England. The 16th century Reformation saw many changes, both good and bad, in the church. The Eucharist was translated into English. Priests were once more allowed to marry. There was a rediscovery of the Bible. But sadly the church was again divided. Rome and Canterbury have been out of communion ever since. Nevertheless, the Church of England retained the same catholic ministry and sacraments. The Church of England remained Apostolic with a continuous link through history to the time of the Apostles. Our Scriptures are those of the universal church. Our faith is that of the early Ecumenical Councils. Our bishops are in the unbroken succession back to the time of the Apostles and the church is ‘sent’ by Christ to transform the world with God’s love. Hence Justin Welby is the 105th Archbishop, counting from Augustine. Jonathan, our bishop, is deemed the 98th Bishop of Lichfield, counting from St Chad, not from the reformation. The Church of England is Catholic: in that it is open to all, regardless of nationality, class, gender, age or orientation.
The Church of England is therefore both Catholic and Reformed. Yet, if we look to our roots to find nourishment, we also look to the future to be fruitful in transforming our world today. This faith the church “is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation”. Find out more about what the church believes with Gospel Imprint leaflets here. Come along to your local church if you want to get involved.