Anglicanism is a tradition within Christianity comprising the Church of England and churches which are historically tied to it or hold similar beliefs, worship practices and church structures. The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to the Magna Carta (1215) and before, which means the "English Church".
Adherents of Anglicanism are called "Anglicans". There is no single Anglican Church with universal juridical authority, since each national or regional church has full autonomy, but the great majority of Anglicans are members of churches which are part of the international Anglican Communion, which is the third largest Christian communion in the world, after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. As the name suggests, the churches of the Anglican Communion are linked by affection and common loyalty. They are in full communion with the See of Canterbury and thus the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his person, is a unique focus of Anglican unity. He calls the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference, chairs the meeting of primates, and is President of the Anglican Consultative Council. There are, however, a number of churches that are not within the Anglican Communion which also consider themselves to be Anglican, most notably those referred to as continuing Anglican churches, and those which are part of the Anglican realignment movement.
Anglicans base their Christian faith on the Bible, traditions of the apostolic Church, apostolic succession ("historic episcopate"), and writings of the Church Fathers. Anglicanism forms one of the branches of Western Christianity; having definitively declared its independence from the Holy See at the time of the Elizabethan Religious Settlement. Many of the new Anglican formularies of the mid-16th century corresponded closely to those of contemporary Protestantism. These reforms in the Church of England were understood by one of those most responsible for them, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, as navigating a middle way between two of the emerging Protestant traditions, namely Lutheranism and Calvinism. By the end of the century, the retention in Anglicanism of many traditional liturgical forms and of the episcopate was already seen as unacceptable by those promoting the most developed Protestant principles.
In the first half of the 17th century the Church of England and its associated Church of Ireland were presented by some Anglican divines as comprising a distinct Christian tradition, with theologies, structures and forms of worship representing a different kind of middle way, or via media, between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism – a perspective that came to be highly influential in later theories of Anglican identity and expressed in the description of Anglicanism as "Catholic and Reformed". The degree of distinction between Protestant and Catholic tendencies within the Anglican tradition is routinely a matter of debate both within specific Anglican churches and throughout the Anglican Communion.
Following the American Revolution, Anglican congregations in the United States and British North America (which would later form the basis for the modern country of Canada) were each reconstituted into autonomous churches with their own bishops and self-governing structures, the United States Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. Through the expansion of the British Empire and the activity of Christian missions, this model was adopted as the model for many newly formed churches, especially in Africa, Australasia and Asia-Pacific. In the 19th century the term Anglicanism was coined to describe the common religious tradition of these churches; as also that of the Scottish Episcopal Church, which, though originating earlier within the Church of Scotland, had come to be recognised as sharing this common identity....LESS
LONDON (AP) — The Scottish Episcopal Church voted Thursday to allow its clerics to marry same-sex couples, the first Anglican branch in Britain to permit gay weddings in church. Church members voted to remove the doctrinal clause which stated that marriage is a "union of one man and one woman." The proposal was passed with 80 percent support from bishops and laity and 67 percent of the clergy — achieving the required two-thirds majority overall.