England, Church of

Organization and Doctrine

The clergy of the church are of three ancient orders: deacons, priests, and bishops. Except for the celebration of the mass and giving absolution, deacons have the same clerical functions as priests. Only the bishop can ordain, confirm, and consecrate churches. A bishop is given consecration at the hands of other bishops. There are two archbishoprics, Canterbury and York, with the archbishop of Canterbury taking precedence over the archbishop of York. The church is established, and all episcopal appointments are still made by the crown; however, the clergy are not paid by the state. Women have been ordained as deacons since 1987 and as priests since 1994. In 2008 and 2010 the church voted to begin consecrating women as bishops, a move that Anglican traditionalists and evangelicals objected to; further approvals are needed before the decision can take effect. Homosexuality is not a bar to ordination, but being in a homosexual relationship is.

In 1919 the Church Assembly was established, consisting of three houses: the upper and lower houses of convocation (i.e., the bishops and other clergy) and an elected house of laity, with the power to prepare measures for enactment by Parliament. In 1970 the Church Assembly was replaced by the General Synod, which retained the basic administrative structure but streamlined certain aspects of church government and allowed for greater participation by the laity. Worship is liturgical and is regulated by the Book of Common Prayer and its revised alternatives, but it varies in degree of ritual between parishes. The creeds in use are the Apostles', the Nicene, and the Athanasian. General standards of doctrine are found in the Thirty-nine Articles, the Book of Common Prayer, the Catechism, and two 16th-century books of homilies. Authority rests in Scripture as interpreted by tradition.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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