Anglicans and Baptists

Anglicans and Baptists

The Anglican Communion views the Eucharist (Lord’s Supper) as the center of church worship and theology. The form of government is, naturally, Episcopal; that is, consisting of a hierarchy of bishops.

Baptists enjoy the idea of autonomy from church to church. And mission, or personal responsibility and action, is the focus of most Baptist churches. There are no bishops, nor is there an official line of historic succession.

Origins of Anglicans and Baptists

The Anglican Communion is actually an international association; there is no “Anglican Church” as such. The Church of England parted ways with the Roman Catholic Church in 1538 during King Henry VIII’s reign. By the mid-18th century, the Church of England and the Church of Ireland were the only bodies resembling the original Anglican Communion.

As time passed, there were changes in liturgy and practical matters. Eventually, the Anglican Communion developed into 38 independent provinces. Some are a collection of nations (such as the West Indies), while others are national churches (such as the Episcopal Church USA).

Unlike the general agreement of origins of the Anglicans, the Baptists have varying opinions of their own beginnings. Actual documented Baptist tradition begins with those congregations that begin to practice baptism with vigor around 1608. Yet there are those that believe that Baptists go back to the apostolic era of New Testament times. In any case, Baptists today are themselves diverse, and the theological and philosophical slants vary from extremely liberal to ultra-conservative.

Worship and Theology of Baptists and Anglicans

Aldo Read

If one is Anglican, particularly Episcopalian, one can go to almost any Anglican church on a given Sunday morning and feel right at home. The familiarity of the service and structure of worship is a comfort to its followers. Baptists, on the other hand, experience so much diversity in worship that, essentially, no two churches are alike.

Anglicans practice 7 sacraments: baptism, Holy Eucharist (Lord’s Supper), Holy Matrimony, unction (anointing of the sick), reconciliation (confession), confirmation, and ordination (Holy Orders). The Book of Common Prayer is the manual for church worship.

The Baptist church practices two ordinances (sacraments): baptism and the Lord’s Supper. For the most part, they are more of a ritual than mystical. Many Baptists will admit to some sort of identification with John the Baptist, a forerunner of Baptist thought and practice. The Bible is considered the source of faith and practice; no creeds or doctrines regulate the individual believer’s thinking.

The liturgy in the Anglican or Episcopal Church is rich with tradition and is often formal. The majority of Baptist churches practice reverent but informal worship. The Eucharist itself is the center of church worship for Anglicans. The sermon, or message from the pulpit, is central for most Baptists.

In the Episcopal Church, Holy Orders (ordination) is a sacrament that can only be conferred by a bishop. Bishops are considered to be in the line of true apostolic succession, a direct lineage of Jesus Christ. In the Baptist church, ordination is also a separate, pastoral office, but not considered to be a holy mystery. Also, most Baptists believe that all believing baptized Christians are in communion with Christ.

Anglicans and Baptists differ in theology, polity, and structure. It is hoped, however, that common ground is found in the belief that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that salvation and redemption are attained through that belief.

Sources:

Baptist Life and Thought: A Source Book. Ed. William H. Brackney, Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1998.

The Study of Anglicanism. Ed. Stephen Sykes and John Booty, London: Fortress Press, 1988.

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