The Episcopal Church

Anglican and Episcopal Church History

ENGLISH CHURCH HISTORY

 

SUMMARY: The beginnings of the Church of England, from which the Episcopal Church derives, dates to at least the 2nd century, when merchants and other travelers first brought Christianity to England. It is customary to regard St. Augustine of Canterbury's mission to England in 597 as marking the formal beginning of the church under papal authority, as it was to be throughout the Middle Ages.
In its modern form, the church dates from the English Reformation of the 16th century, when royal supremacy was established and the authority of the papacy was repudiated. With the advent of British colonization, the Church of England was established on every continent. In time, these churches gained their independence, but retained connections with the mother church in the Anglican Communion.

SPREAD OF THE CHURCH: From the time of the Reformation, the Church of England followed explorers, traders, colonists, and missionaries into the far reaches of the known world. The colonial churches generally exercised administrative autonomy within the historical and creedal context of the mother church.
As the successor of the Anglo-Saxon and medieval English Church, it has valued and preserved much of the traditional framework of medieval Catholicism in church government, liturgy, and customs, while it also has usually held the fundamentals of Reformation faith.

HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH CHURCH: The conversion of the Anglo-Saxons, who began invading Britain after Rome stopped governing the country in the 5th century, was undertaken by St. Augustine, a monk in Rome chosen by Pope Gregory I to lead a mission to the Anglo-Saxons. He arrived in 597, and within 90 years, all the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England had gradually accepted Christianity.
In the 11th century, the Norman conquest of England (1066) united England more closely with the culture of Latin Europe. The English Church was reformed according to Roman ideas: local synods were revived, celibacy of the clergy was required, and the canon law of Western Europe was introduced into England.
The English Church shared in the religious unrest characteristic of the latter Middle Ages. John Wycliffe, the 14th century reformer and theologian, became a revolutionary critic of the papacy and is considered a major influence on the 16th century Protestant Reformation.
The break with the Roman papacy and the establishment of an independent Church of England came during the reign of Henry VIII of England (1509-47). When Pope Clement VIII refused to approve the annulment of Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, the English Parliament, at Henry's insistence, passed a series of acts that separated the English Church from the Roman hierarchy, and, in 1534, made the English monarch the head of the English Church. The monasteries were suppressed, but few other changes were immediately made, since Henry intended that the English Church would remain Catholic, though separated from Rome.