Church of England

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Church of England
Church of England logo
Church of England logo
Belief Anglicanism
organization Episcopal Church
organization structure List of dioceses in the Church of England
distribution England , Wales (Cross Border Municipalities)
Isle of Man
Channel Islands
Continental Europe
Supreme Governor of the Church of England Queen Elizabeth II.
Primate from all over England Archbishop Justin Welby
membership Anglican Community
Origin and development
Spin-off from

Roman Catholic Church
(16th century)


English Dissenters
Methodism (18th century)
Episcopal Church (USA) (1789)
Plymouth Brethren (1820s)
Free Church of England (1844)

Members 25 million
Also called: C of E

The Church of England ( English for Church of England ) is the mother church of the Anglican Communion , so that its history largely coincides with this. It is the last actual regional church ( state church ) within this community and is subject to the authority of the head of state.

The Church of England has the largest number of members of all Anglican churches worldwide. Today it extends over the territory of England , the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man and is still a national church in the classical sense, as it is headed by the British monarch with the title of Supreme Governor of the Church of England . The two archbishops and 24 other bishops are also members of the House of Lords . However, its members are no longer the majority of the English and it is struggling with further dwindling membership. In terms of the number of people attending services, it is now exceeded by the Roman Catholic Church in England. In Scotland and Wales , which do not belong to England, there are other Anglican churches, the Church in Wales and the Scottish Episcopal Church .

Dioceses of the Church of England
  • Ecclesiastical Province of Canterbury
  • Ecclesiastical Province of York
  • Within the national church it is presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury as Primate of all England, who also enjoys an honorary priority within the Anglican world church community. The Archbishop of York ranks second in honor as a Primate of England. The Church of England is divided into two ecclesiastical provinces , Canterbury and York , with a total of 42 dioceses .

    For the theology of the Church of England see the article Anglican Communion .


    The Church of England dates its history back to Roman times . The Christianization of Britain , which had begun since the Constantinian change (313), continued independently among the Celtic tribes in Scotland and Ireland in the form of the Iro-Scottish Church . After Rome withdrew in 411 at the latest, anglers , Saxons and Jutes increasingly settled in what is now England. In the area of ​​these Anglo-Saxon tribes , Germanic cults were initially cultivated. It was not until the mission of Augustine of Canterbury to the court of Kent in 597 that the Catholic Church began to spread again in England. At the same time there was a mission by Irish monks (see Columban ).

    With the refusal of Pope Clement VII to annul the marriage of King Henry VIII , the English bishops decided to no longer recognize the authority of the Pope in the Kingdom of England and declared on February 11, 1531 that their king would now be head (Supreme head) of the Catholic Church in England. This triggered the English Reformation, which initially provided little changes in liturgical life, except for the use of English instead of Latin. The Supreme Act was passed by parliament in 1534.

    Although the dynastic problems of Henry VIII were the reason for the secession from Rome , other aspects for the emergence of the Anglican Church must also be taken into account, which have their origins in the Middle Ages : Already in the High Middle Ages , the following was demanded: Ecclesia Anglicana libera sit (“The English Church should be free ”). This demand was then put into practice in the late Middle Ages : the English king had much more freedom in the occupation of the dioceses than other rulers very early on. Even before the breakaway under Henry VIII, the Church of England was the one with the least obligations to Rome of any country in Europe. The dynastic problems simply radicalized a development that had already arisen.

    After the death of Henry VIII, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer , along with Richard Hooker , Craig John Stuart Heselton and Matthew Parker initiated further reforms, including the introduction of the first Book of Common Prayer . With the death of Heinrich's successor, Eduard VI. , his half-sister Maria Tudor came to the throne and the Church of England renewed its ties with Rome as many theologians of the Reformation met their deaths. It was only after Mary's death that the church became Protestant again under Elizabeth I. The influence of the Puritans grew steadily in the following century, but was never fully developed by royal authority. In the 19th century, with the Oxford Movement and the advent of Romanticism , large parts of the Church of England reverted to their Catholic inheritance.

    In 1994 the Church allowed women to be ordained , so that in March of the same year women received the sacrament of Orders for the first time .

    In 2008 the Church of England regretted its misunderstanding (“misunderstanding”) of Darwin's theory of evolution and described the “anti-evolutionary fervor” prevailing in some “corners of the Church” as a mistake.


    Characteristic of the Church of England is the broad spectrum, which extends from the Catholic High Church to the “ evangelicalLow Church , between the two there is the Broad Church .


    The Church of England does not disclose the number of its members. In their latest statistics on church activity, especially official acts ( Statistics for Mission ), it only states that there are 32 million Christians in England (2015). How many of them are Anglicans is not stated. This figure corresponds roughly to the result of the census in 2011, which resulted in a number of 31,480,000 Christians in England (= 59.4% of the population). Unlike Scotland and Northern Ireland, England (and Wales) only recorded religious affiliation in the most recent census, not denomination . The Church of England's last membership was in 2005, when it had about 25 million members. Insofar as the number of deaths exceeds the number of baptisms year after year, the number of members has probably fallen significantly since then and is between 22 and 23 million (as of 2015).

    Participation in worship and reception of the sacraments

    In 2015, an average of 752,000 worshipers took part in the Sunday services ( Usual Sunday attendance , the annual count takes place on four Sundays in October). This means that an average of all 16,000 churches in the Church of England worship 51 worshipers on Sundays. 1,142,000 believers attended the service “regularly” (defined as “once a month or more often”); this wider circle is referred to as the “worshiping community”. Since 2005, the number of regular worshipers has decreased by 11%. At Christmas, 2,526,000 believers came to the church (2015).

    It is not so easy to specify the percentage of all members who come to the services. In the Church of England's Statistics for Mission for 2015, the proportion of participants in Sunday worship (in the sense of common Sunday attendance ) is given as 2.3%, but not based on their own membership, but on the number of all Christians in England. This is because the Church of England invites all Christians to participate, not just those of their own (Anglican) denomination. 2.3% attendance at church services is the average; there are considerable regional differences. Attendance at church services is highest in the dioceses of Hereford (3.5%) and Gloucester (3.4%), lowest in Liverpool (1.6%), Birmingham (1.4%) and Durham (1.2%) .

    The reception of the sacraments has also decreased . In 2015, 109,000 children were baptized (for comparison: 125,000 children were baptized in 2005). 16,700 believers settled in 2015 company , 44% of them were adults.

    Ecumenical Relations

    The Church of England is a member of the Porvoo Fellowship and has agreed full communion with these churches . It has been in full church fellowship with the old Catholic churches of the Union of Utrecht since 1931 .

    Controversies of the last decades

    Ordination of women

    On November 11, 1992, the General Synod of the Church of England voted with a narrow majority for the admission of women to the priesthood . On March 12, 1994, the first 32 priestesses were ordained.

    In June 2006, the general synod in York decided by a majority to allow women to hold the office of bishop in future; this is justified theologically. However, this vote did not take effect at first because the draft resolution was not approved by all three chambers of the General Synod (bishops, priests, lay people): In the chamber of the laity it failed to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority.

    The General Synod's intention to admit women to the office of bishops prompted priests and bishops to convert to the Roman Catholic Church. Vincent Nichols , Catholic Archbishop of Westminster and Pastor of Catholics in England and Wales, ordained three previous Bishops of the Church of England, Andrew Burnham, Keith Newton and John Broadhurst, as Catholic priests on January 8, 2011. About 50 Anglican priests also converted to the Catholic Church.

    In a second attempt, women were admitted to the office of bishop in the Anglican Church. On July 14, 2014, the General Synod passed the relevant resolution with the required majority in all three chambers. At the same time , it was decided to set up ombudsmen if parishes do not want to accept a bishop. This concession had proved necessary in the negotiations in order to achieve sufficient approval. After the corresponding adaptation of canon law, the Church of England consecrated the previous Vicar of St Peter's Hale and St Elizabeth's Ashley in the Diocese of Chester, Libby Lane , as bishop on January 26, 2015 . Immediately before the consecration, the Anglican pastor Paul Williams stepped forward when the candidate was called by name and raised an objection, in which he described the consecration as "unbiblical" and the gender of the candidate as an "absolute obstacle to consecration".

    Attitude towards homosexual couples

    Since 2013, the Church of England has allowed same-sex couples to be blessed in a service.

    In January 2013, the Church of England announced its willingness to elevate priests living in registered same-sex partnerships to the episcopal status, provided that they commit themselves to celibacy with their episcopal ordination . In April 2014, a homosexual Anglican priest was officially married . He was therefore released.

    See also



    • Peter Itzen: Disputable Church. The Church of England before the challenges of change 1945–1990 . Nomos, Baden-Baden 2012, ISBN 978-3-8329-6608-9 .
    • Manfred Jacobs: Anglican Church versus Rome . Schmid, Durach 2003, ISBN 3-932352-83-1 .
    • Diarmaid MacCulloch : The second phase of the English Reformation (1547–1603) and the birth of the Anglican Via Media . Aschendorff, Münster 1998, ISBN 3-402-02979-0 .


    • Anna Schneider: Dimensions of Unity. Ecclesiological Concepts of the Church of England in the 19th Century . de Gruyter, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-11-031769-5 .

    Worship and piety

    • The book of common prayer, and administration of the sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies of the Church according to the use of the Church of England. Together with the proper lessons for sundays and other holydays . Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, Oxford 1877.
    • Gustav Adolf Krieg : Introduction to Anglican Church Music . Dohr, Cologne 2007, ISBN 978-3-936655-44-5 .
    • Nicholas Sagovsky: The Formation of Anglican Spirituality in the Years 1534–1662 . In: Peter Zimmerling (Hrsg.): Handbook Evangelical Spirituality , Vol. 1: History . Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2017, ISBN 978-3-525-56719-7 , pp. 167-185.


    • Harald Rein : Church fellowship. The Anglican-Old Catholic-Orthodox Relationships from 1870–1990 and their ecumenical relevance , 2 volumes. Lang, Frankfurt am Main 1993 and 1994.


    Web links

    supporting documents

    1. ^ Kaya Burgess: Church congregations fall below one million for first time , The Times, January 12, 2016.
    2. ^ David Gordon Newcombe: Henry VIII and the English Reformation . Routledge, London 1995, ISBN 0-415-10728-8 , p. 45.
    3. ^ 'Send down your Holy Spirit upon your servant Angela': History is made. March 13, 1994, accessed March 24, 2020 .
    4. John Darnton: After 460 Years, The Anglicans Ordain Women . In: The New York Times . March 13, 1994, ISSN  0362-4331 ( [accessed March 24, 2020]).
    5. ^ Church of England, Rev Dr Malcolm Brown, Director of Mission and Public Affairs: Good religion needs good science
    6. According to the traditional characterization, the word has now got a slightly different meaning, especially in the USA.
    7. See Church Statistics 2010/11 , the last comprehensive statistical representation.
    8. Statistics for Mission 2015 , p. 19.
    9. Office for National Statistics: Religion in England and Wales 2011 (59.3% in England and Wales as a whole; 59.4% in England only).
    10. Catholics set to pass Anglicans as leading UK church ( Memento of September 18, 2011 in the Internet Archive ). In: The Times, February 15, 2007.
    11. Statistics for Mission 2015 , p. 14.
    12. Statistics for Mission 2015 , p. 24.
    13. Statistics for Mission 2015 , p. 7.
    14. Statistics for Mission 2015 , p. 25.
    15. Church of England press release: 2015 Attendance Statistics published , October 27, 2016.
    16. Statistics for Mission 2015 , p. 6.
    17. Statistics for Mission 2015 , p. 29.
    18. Statistics for Mission 2015 , p. 30.
    19. Statistics for Mission 2015 , p. 35.
    20. 1992: Church of England votes for women priests. BBC News, November 11, 1992, accessed October 19, 2017 .
    21. MSN Encarta: Church of England (English) ( memento of March 23, 2005 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on March 11, 2009
    22. ^ Synod in England: The Anglican Church Admits Women to the Episcopate , Spiegel Online, July 14, 2014
    23. ^ Synod of the Church of England: New attempt for women in the episcopate
    25. Gay priests are allowed to become bishops in England
    26. BBC: Chaplain defies gay church wedding ban