Anglicanism & Liturgy

Anglicans are the largest Protestant Christian tradition in the world, and one of the fastest-growing, especially in the Global South. The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), founded in 2009 to preserve and grow the biblical and orthodox faith here, has over 100,000 members in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Anglicanism is a biblical, time-tested, reliable, and beautiful way of making disciples of Jesus Christ and living for Him in this world. It is a tradition that comes out of England, and claims the long history of the catholic faith that was sharpened and clarified by the Reformation in the 16th century. This is why we say that Anglicanism is both catholic and reformed, bringing together the best of ancient Christian tradition with the Reformational and Evangelical distinctives.

Anglicanism in North America is sometimes said to have “three streams,” or three distinct but overlapping worship traditions: Evangelical, Catholic, and Charismatic. The Evangelical movement stresses the primacy of the Gospel and the authority of Scripture, which centers our lives and worship. The Anglo-Catholic movement, which began in the 17th and 19th centuries, renewed the church’s commitment to the sacramental life of worship. The charismatic renewals of the 20th century stress the life of the Holy Spirit that is active and working in and through the church today. Anglicanism is a home to all three of these worship traditions, which all have their distinctive emphases, but are united within Anglicanism around the authority of Scripture, our bishops, and the Book of Common Prayer.

It is the Book of Common Prayer that, more than anything, distinguishes Anglican worship and practice. Some have called the Prayer Book “the Bible arranged for public and private worship.” More than 90 percent of the text of the ACNA’s 2019 Book of Common Prayer is directly quoted from Scripture, and the rest includes prayers and songs that have been used by Christians for fifteen hundred years. It is through this biblical liturgy that we are formed in worship by the words of Scripture.

This is why we believe liturgical worship is important: because it forms us. It disciples us and trains our hearts and minds to pray. And when we have a biblical liturgy, that means we are being formed by the Word of God in order to worship God. These prayers, which are time-tested, biblical, and reliable means of communicating with the Lord, sink deep into our bones and orient our souls appropriately toward heaven, which then empowers us to live faithfully on earth.

I believe there is no liturgy in the world, either in ancient or modern language, which breathes more of a solid, scriptural, rational piety, than the Common Prayer of the Church of England.

John Wesley
Anglican priest, founder of the Methodist movement