What is the essence of Anglicanism?
The essence of Anglicanism is that it is Christian. It professes a biblical faith. It is part of Christianity but not the whole of Christianity. Anglicanism is rooted in the Protestant Reformation. It is a witness for biblical Christianity, and it is Christianity that re-formed back to a form agreeable to the early church. Anglicanism’s whole identity rests in its being Christian.
What makes Anglicanism recognizable and distinct from other Christian churches?
The essence of Anglicanism is its belief. The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion are the statements of critical Anglican doctrine. The Articles do not stand on their own merit; rather, they are proven by Holy Scriptures, the source of all Anglican doctrine. The Bible is the core document of Anglicanism. The Articles of Religion are settled doctrine in Anglicanism and must be accepted for those who wish to be Anglican. No church is Anglican if it does not hold to the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion.
The outward and most recognized expression of Anglican worship is found in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (and those revisions that are agreeable to it). The prayer book expresses, in both public and private worship, the doctrines contained in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and the Scripture. The Book of Common Prayer leads the user through the whole Bible each year. The regular use of the Book of Common Prayer instructs the worshipper in the doctrines of Christianity.
The most concise definition of Anglicanism is this: it is a Reformed Christian church founded on biblical doctrines and practices, that upholds the doctrines stated in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, and that uses the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (or a faithful revision). Any deviation from these points negates any claim to being truly Anglican.
There are churches that do not accept the strictures of this definition but call themselves Anglican. They sometimes politely say that “you can believe anything and still be Anglican.” Churches calling themselves Anglican can be divided into two categories: real Anglicans and Pretend-Anglicans. True Anglicans accept the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Pretend-Anglicans do not accept the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion.
The Pretend-Anglicans can be further divided into the Anglicanesque and the Pseudo-Anglican. The Anglicanesque rejects the Articles of Religion, though he uses a prayer book based on the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, or one at least sounds like it. The Pseudo-Anglican neither accepts the Articles of Religion nor uses a prayer book based on 1662. Such churches, although they call themselves Anglican, are not recognizable as Anglican in doctrine, practice, or tradition. Though the Pretend-Anglicans could fit the definition of “the pursuit of the reasonable center of a broad and orthodox catholicism” (as one group describes Anglicanism), they do not fit the true definition of Anglicanism. The heart and core of Anglicanism is the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.