Anglicanism emerged in the 16th century during the Reformation movement that was jumpstarted by Martin Luther. It is believed that King Henry VIII inspired the formation of the Church of England because he was seeking autonomy from the Roman Catholic Church. In 534, the Act of Supremacy declared the English monarch as the supreme head of the Church of England. Over the years, the Church of England developed its liturgy, theological positions as well as ecclesiastical structures and it developed the Anglican communion that is still used by Anglicans across the globe.
Lutheranism also emerged around the same time albeit with different motivations. Lutheranism was seeking to follow the teachings of Martin Luther who had set out to reform the doctrinal issues in the catholic church. Initially, the Lutheran Reformation resulted in the emergence of the protestant movement. Lutheranims then emerged as a branch of Protestantism.
The Anglican churches are organized in provinces that are governed by Bishops while ArchBishops govern over multiple provinces. Lutherans, on the other hand, are arranged into synods which are made up of pastors and lay leaders. There are also some notable doctrinal differences.
Let us take a close look at how these two denominations differ in doctrine and leadership structure below.
Both Lutherans and Anglicans have been shaped in the crucible of time and have adapted to different cultural contexts. Let’s have a look at their core beliefs and practices in order to better understand how the two differ.
Anglican Doctrinal Beliefs
The Book of Common Prayer is at the heart of Anglican beliefs and practices. This is a liturgical book that unifies all Anglicans in worship. It was first published in 1549 but has undergone various revisions over the years. The Book of Common Prayer contains hymns, prayers, and liturgies of sacraments and rites to be administered in a worship service. Anglicans use the same book which helps to create a seance of common worship in all Anglican churches.
There are three pillars upon which Anglicanism is founded – Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. The pillar of scripture emphasizes the authority of the Bible. Anglicans believe the Bible is God’s inspired word which should therefore be the primary source of Christian doctrine. Tradition has to do with the cumulative wisdom, teachings, and practice of the early church as well as the past Christian generations. Anglicans believe in the value of tradition when interpreting scripture. The third pillar – reason – entails the thoughtful reflection and application of human intellect in understanding and applying religious teachings in the contemporary context.
Lutheran Doctrinal Beliefs
The Augsburg Confession is arguably one of the most important confessional documents in the Lutheran denomination. It was authored in 1530 by Philipp Melanchthon and presented to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. The document outlined the important theological beliefs of the Lutheran doctrine. It affirmed the five solas as the main pillars of Lutheran doctrine. The five solas are:
- Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone): Lutherainims emphasize that the Bible is the only source of Christian doctrine. Scripture is elevated above any human tradition or teaching.
- Sola Fide (Faith Alone): Lutherans believe that salvation can only come by faith. For an individual to be saved, he must believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The Sola fide principle teaches that salvation cannot be worked for but only accepted by faith.
- Sola Gratia (Grace Alone): Lutheranism teaches that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace. Individuals cannot earn salvation either by being good/ good deeds or by observing certain rituals and sacraments. Salvation is a fruit of God’s grace that is independent of human effort.
- Solus Christus (Christ Alone): Lutherans believe in Christ as the only mediator between man and God. As such, they do not believe in going through intermediaries to access God. This is also the foundation of their belief in the priesthood of all believers.
- Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone): Lutheranism teaches that all honor and Glory belongs to God alone. This doctrine was specifically meant to correct the fallacy of holding church leaders in God-like status.
These five solas are the foundations of Lutheran theology. They have also had a significant influence n the formation of protestant doctrine.
The Anglican leadership structure has Archbishops and Bishops at the top of the hierarchy. The bishops are in charge of geographical regions (dioceses). They offer both spiritual guidance and pastoral care for their diocese. Bishops also ordain clergy as well as confirm young members of the church. Larger ecclesiastical provinces, comprising several dioceses, are headed by Archbishops. The Archbishop of Canterbury holds a symbolic primacy in the Anglican communion. The Anglican Communion is an association of autonomous churches that have their own governing structures but are united in their adherence to Anglican principles. The Archbishop of Canterbury is considered the spiritual focal point of the Anglican communion.
The Lutheran leadership structure is based on pastors. Pastors are in charge of their respective congregations and they conduct worship services, preach sermons, administer sacraments, as well as offer spiritual guidance. Lutherans do not have a hierarchical system based on Bishops and Archbishops as is the case with the Anglicans. Lutherans organize their administrative and governance structures into regional bodies known as Synods. A synod is an assembly of pastors and lay people drawn from several Lutheran congregations in a given geographical location. The synods are autonomous and as such, may vary in practices and specific structures. Apart from leadership and governance, these synods also serve as a means of fostering cooperation and unity in the Lutheran church.
To sum it up, Anglicans and Lutherans differ mostly in doctrine as well as in leadership. The Anglicans are guided by the Common Book of Prayer as well as the three pillars of Scripture, Reason, and Tradition. On the other hand, Lutherans base their doctrine on the five solas (Sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, solus christus, and soli deo gloria) as taught by Marin Luther during the agitation for reformation.