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  The Anglican Communion is a worldwide fellowship of Christian churches who recognize the Archbishop of Canterbury as their spiritual leader. Their representatives meet in conference at Lambeth in London every 10 years and they maintain the apostolic succession, while being independent of each other constitutionally. Anglicanism itself, however, is an ethos, a spirit, a shared history, a way of living and worshipping rather than a movement or an organization. Anglicans claim historical continuity with the first Celtic Christians in the British Isles, the Saxon monasteries and the medieval church, which often deviated significantly from Continental Christendom, and which, despite the martyrdom of Thomas à Becket in 1170, was usually dominated by the king. The break in 1532 between Henry VIII and Rome had more to do with his need for a son and heir than with religious reform, and the subsequent dissolution of the monasteries happened more because he needed ready money than for any religious principle. However, his loyal yet saintly archbishop, Thomas Cranmer, quietly prepared a Book of Common Prayer in English which has nourished public worship and private prayer to this day, and has been adapted and translated into many languages. It has established various liturgical principles for Anglicanism, for example use of the vernacular.

Everyone born in England is nominally Church of England and can call on its pastoral and educational services unless they declare otherwise. Actual membership is through baptism, confirmation, regular attendance at a local church and registration on its electoral roll. EMJ

Further reading Stephen Neill, Anglicanism.



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