Anglicanism (Anglican Communion) sprung up in the 16th century in England during the Reformation movement. It is characterized by a blend of protestant and catholic elements. Anglicanism began as the church of England which is now viewed as the mother of Anglicanism. The English Reformation, which was led by King Henry VIII among other leaders was one of the main events that led to the establishment of the Church of England.
On the flip side, Protestantism is a broader term that encapsulates several Christian denominations that sprung up in the 16th century as a result of the Reformation movement. The term protestant came from a protest that was led by German princes at the Diet of Speyer. They were protesting some decisions that had been made by the Roman Catholic Church and that, coupled with the Reformation movement of Martin Luther, became the foundation of the protestant church.
What is the difference between Anglican and Protestant?
Anglicans differ from protestants in their core beliefs, church governance, as well as in their historical origins. Protestants’ core beliefs are based on the five solas whereas Anglicans’ core beliefs are a blend of catholic and protest beliefs. Anglicans also have a more hierarchical structure than most protestant churches.
The table below summarises some of the important differences between Anglicans and Protestants
|Originated in 16th-century England during the Reformation movement
|Emerged as a broader term encompassing various Christian denominations from the Reformation movement
|Blends Protestant and Catholic elements
|Emphasizes the Five Solas of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, Soli Deo Gloria
|Sacraments and Rituals
|Recognizes two primary sacraments: Eucharist (Holy Communion) and Baptism, along with five lesser sacraments
|Typically acknowledges two symbolic ordinances: Baptism and Holy Communion, viewed as acts of obedience and remembrance rather than channels of grace
|Episcopal polity with a hierarchical structure led by archbishops and bishops
|Congregational governance model, giving autonomy to local congregations with some hierarchical leadership structures
|Clergy and Leadership
|Threefold order of ministry: Bishops, Priests, and Deacons
|Led by pastors, with lay elders providing spiritual guidance and decision-making support
|Interpretation of Scripture
|Values scripture, tradition, and reason in theology and doctrine
|Emphasizes the authority of the Bible as the sole source of divine revelation
Anglican Theology and Doctrines
- The Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer plays a vital role in Anglican theology and doctrine. It is a liturgical text that was originally compiled in the 16th century by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer but has gone through numerous revisions over the years. The Book of Common Prayer comprises liturgies, prayers, and guidelines for worship services in the Anglican communion. It can also be used by Anglicans for private devotions.
- Sacraments and Rituals
Anglicans have two main sacraments: the Eucharist, and Baptism. These two sacraments are believed to be visible illustrations of the grace of God. The sacraments are also believed to convey spiritual blessings to the participants. Baptism symbolizes the washing away of sins and is therefore a rite of passage through which individuals are initiated into the Christian family. The Eucharist, on the other hand, is a commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Anglicans believe in the actual presence of Christ in the elements of the Eucharist.
- Authority and Governance
Anglicans use an episcopalian system of governance. The term is derived from the Greek word episkopos and which means “bishop.” As such, the Anglican structure of governance believes in apostolic succession where the authority of the apostles was handed down to the present-day bishops and archbishops. Anglican churches are classified into provinces that are either led by an archbishop or a presiding bishop. Decisions in the Anglican church are typically made collectively with representatives from the different provinces at the Lambeth Conferences.
Protestant Theology and Doctrines
- Five Solas
Protestant theology can be summarized in the “Five Lutheran Solas” which were the main points of Martin Luther’s Reformation message. These are:
- Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone): Protestantism believes in the Bible as the ultimate authority in all issues of faith and practice. They decline any notion of equating the ecclesiastical authority of church tradition to the authority of God’s word.
- Sola Fide (Faith Alone): The doctrine of faith alone says that salvation can only be obtained by having faith in Jesus. It rejects any idea of using any other avenue to obtain salvation because Jesus is the only mediator between man and God.
- Sola Gratia (Grace Alone): This doctrine emphasizes that salvation is a free gift as a result of God’s grace. This implies that salvation cannot be earned through human effort.
Salvation is entirely a result of God’s grace, unearned and undeserved by human merit.
- Solus Christus (Christ Alone): This doctrine emphasizes that Jesus is the only mediator between man and God. It implies that Christians do not need to go through clergy in order to access God.
- Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone): This doctrine posits that the purpose of life is to give glory to God and that no one else should take God’s glory. This doctrine rejects any notion of treating clergy or any other person as a god.
- Sacraments and Ordinances
Protestants have two main sacraments – baptism and communion. Most protestants do not view the sacraments as channels of obtaining God’s grace but they view them as symbolic acts to signify their obedience to Christ. For instance, Baptism symbolizes their identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The holy communion, on the other hand, commemorates the sacrificial death of Christ. There is however no unifying interpretation of the sacraments as each protestant denomination has a different view of them.
- Congregational Governance
Most protestants have a congregational governance model. This is where the individual congregations are autonomous and self-governing. The congregational governance model allows for decisions to be made at the local church without the interference of a central ecclesiastical authority. However, protestants still have hierarchical leadership structures that help to offer some form of direction and order in the church. Even those that do not have formal hierarchical structures allow for the formation of associations to facilitate cooperation and fellowship between the respective churches.
To sum it up, Anglicans have an episcopal leadership structure that comprises archbishops, bishops, and priests. On the flip side, Protestants are mostly congregationally governed albeit with some form of hierarchical leadership. As such, most protestants are more autonomous as opposed to Anglicans who adhere to the order prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer.