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Church of England

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The Church of England is the leading Christian church in England. It is the church established by law, with its formal head being the English monarch (Elizabeth II). It is the mother church of the Anglican Communion.

The Church of England understands itself to be both Catholic and Reformed:

  • Catholic in that it views itself as a part of the universal church of Jesus Christ in unbroken continuity with the early apostolic church. This is expressed in its emphasis on the teachings of the early Church Fathers, as formalised in the Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed and Athanasian Creed.
  • Reformed in that it has been shaped by the doctrinal principles of the 16th century Protestant Reformation, in particular in the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Book of Common Prayer.

There are other Protestant churches in England which are not part of the Anglican Communion.


The Church of England was created by King Henry VIII in 1534. Henry VIII was married to Catherine of Aragon, but asked the Pope to annul the marriage (say that there was a mistake and that Henry and Catherine were never really married). He had wanted to annul the marriage because he wanted a male heir to his throne and Catherine could not produce one. When the annulment was refused, Henry VIII used his position as King to break away from the Roman Catholic Church, and establish the Church of England, sometimes called the Anglican (English) Church. Methodism broke away from the church in the 18th century. The Oxford Movement brought Catholic beliefs back into the church in the 19th century. More recently, the Church has made women priests but a measure to allow women to be bishops was defeated in 2012.

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