Anglican Theology

Authored by: Mark Chapman

The Routledge Companion to Modern Christian Thought

Print publication date:  March  2013
Online publication date:  October  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415782173
eBook ISBN: 9780203387856
Adobe ISBN: 9781136677922


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Anglican theology can be remarkably difficult to pin down. Although the Anglican Communion in the twenty-first century has become the third-largest Christian denomination across the world behind Roman Catholicism and the Orthodox churches (Ward 2006), its defining characteristics continue to be far less clear cut than those of other churches. This is principally because of the particular history of the Communion, which gradually emerged from the national Church of England as the sphere of British influence spread overseas. Where other churches of the Reformation were able to coalesce around a distinctive set of confessions and catechisms, the Church of England developed a more ambiguous approach to doctrine, while at the same time identifying itself in terms of uniformity of liturgical practice. Similarly, and again distinct from most other European countries, there was no one theological figure who set the pattern for Anglican theology during the Reformation period: there was nobody of the stature of Luther, Zwingli or Calvin. Similarly, there was nothing that resembled the developed and highly scholastic systematic theologies that had developed among Lutherans and Calvinists in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Church of England had failed to reform its theological education, which meant that although many of its clergy were highly learned, there was no undergraduate theology, apart from compulsory introductory courses, until well into the nineteenth century. This meant that theology tended to be done less for the pedagogic purposes of ministerial education and more for apologetic and polemical disputes.

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