Being a Christian

There’s no uniform way of being a Christian in the Anglican tradition, but the following pages will give you some general information about the diverse Anglican theologies around subjects such as Baptism, the Bible, worship and the Holy Communion.

To discuss these issues further, please feel free to contact someone at your local Anglican parish.

Baptism

Baptism, at its most practical level, means gaining membership to the Church. There would be few Anglicans or Christians however, who would regard Baptism as only that.

Baptism is a sacrament where God is at work, an outward and visible sign of the inward and invisible action in which God engages, as the person being baptised makes promises in the way that they seek to live and are then “washed” in the waters of baptism. This marks the beginning of a new relationship with God and the person who has been baptised.

Bible

Anglicans believe that the Bible provides everything needed for our salvation and for the salvation of the world. The Bible does not provide all things needful for science or for any other branch of human learning, but it does give us all that we require for our ultimate well-being with God.

We hold the Bible, a repository of many types of writings, as true, because it bears witness to the one Word, Jesus Christ—the Word who is present in the life of the Church from age to age. If we read the Bible responsibly and in community together, with awareness of the dynamic presence of the Spirit, God will be revealed to us as holy Trinity, as life, salvation, hope, and joy.

At the same time, our faith as Anglicans combines deep loyalty to the Bible with respect for the experience of the Church over the centuries, the testimony of prophets, martyrs, saints, scholars and reformers. For Anglicans, this rich heritage has its source in the Bible, and looks to the Bible for inspiration, direction and challenge.

The biblical witness requires of us devoted study and creative endeavour in order to interpret God’s word for the times. Not all Anglicans will agree in their interpretation of the sacred text. Such disagreement may be difficult, but it is also a feature of the Anglican via media, the attempt to hold together diverse poles of Christian faith. Disagreement is also the result, in part, of the diversity of the Bible itself and the fact that it utters its saving words with more than one voice. The Bible is the ‘treasure in earthen vessels’, the diamond of revelation in which we see truth in its multiple facets, the ultimate being that of Christ himself.

Baptism is a sacrament where God is at work, an outward and visible sign of the inward and invisible action in which God engages, as the person being baptised makes promises in the way that they seek to live and are then “washed” in the waters of baptism. This marks the beginning of a new relationship with God and the person who has been baptised.

Prayer

Prayer is a way for Christians to be with God, converse with God, understand and enter into a relationship with God.

Prayer is undertaken in many different ways. Some people pray aloud, some pray silently. Some pray alone, and many enjoy praying together in groups. Some people also use forms of Christian meditation.

Many Anglicans use the daily offices to encourage their prayer life. The daily offices (morning and evening prayer) are set prayers that follow the lectionary (a set cycle of readings from the Bible) and include reading the Bible from the Old and New Testaments, including the Psalms.

Prayers related to the lectionary are also used. Intercessory prayers, that is, prayers on behalf of others, may follow a schedule as established by the Anglican Communion Prayer Cycle, which can be found each month in TMA and online [link], and many people also find great peace and reward in making their own intercessory prayers.

Daily offices can be found in various prayer books, including A Prayer Book for Australia, or the Book of Common Prayer. There are of course many other resources for daily prayer.

Holy Communion

Celebrated the sacramental meal known variously as Eucharist, Mass, Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion. This pattern of meeting to share bread and cup looks to ancient customs such as the Jewish Passover meal, but for Christians is founded on the command of Jesus to do this in memory of me (1 Cor 11:24-25).

The sharing of bread and wine as a participation in the body and blood of Christ was the central and distinctive act of Christian community meetings in the first centuries. Originally celebrated in the context of a more substantial community meal, the growth of the Church and concern about reverent participation that had already been expressed in the New Testament (1 Cor 11:27-30) led to the separation of the sacramental ritual into its historic liturgical forms.

During the Middle Ages, the consecrated bread and wine came to be revered in isolation from its liturgical sharing. The Reformers of the 16th century, including theologians of the Church of England, wished to exclude wrong understandings and restore the centrality of receiving the sacrament. Although they tended to seek greater participation in the sacramental meal, concerns about proper reception were in some tension with this, and for many years Anglicans participated largely in Morning Prayer, rather than Holy Communion.

The Book of Common Prayer (where the term ‘Holy Communion’ was coined) nonetheless reflects a renewed understanding of the Eucharist as central to Christian practice. In the 19th and 20th centuries many Anglicans sought to retrieve the centrality of the sacrament as the characteristic act of Christian worship.

Anglicans have had varied understandings of exactly how Christ is present in the celebration of the Holy Communion, but share a commitment to the central place of this shared prayerful action, accompanied by reading and exposition of the Scriptures.

Confirmation

In confirmation, the candidate confirms the promises made (usually on their behalf when they were an infant) at their baptism. While confirmation is not strictly speaking a sacrament, it is still required to be a fully communicant member of the Anglican Church.

Confirmees may be sponsored by a member of the Anglican parish in which they are to be confirmed, but this is not mandatory. Preparation for confirmation usually involves instruction by the parish priest, and confirmation is carried out by the bishop and usually within the context of a service of the Eucharist. In the past people usually wore white for confirmation, but this is no longer expected.

During Confirmation, the bishop extends his or her hands over all the candidates while he or she says the prayer for the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit. The confirmee may be anointed with oil marking a sign of the cross on the forehead.

Worship

Anglicans gather in parish churches and other places to form local groups of faith and learning, and to share Holy Communion.

We worship Jesus Christ as Lord in our singing, our reading and in our praying. We find ourselves drawn into the holy mystery of God’s presence.

When Anglicans gather for worship we hear the scriptures read and explained and pray together using authorised prayer books – the most recent issued in 1995 – so that everyone can join in, and so that common prayer becomes a familiar part of spiritual life.

But Anglicans respect diverse styles of worship, formal and mystical, family or youth events with lots of singing and activity, or a quiet early morning service, for example.

Sacraments play in integral part in Anglican worship. A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.

According to the (39) Articles of Religion, there are Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel (which are Baptism and Holy Communion), and other services Commonly called Sacraments but not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, which include Confession and Absolution, Marriage, Confirmation and Ordination, and Anointing of the Sick.

The church building usually houses an altar or holy table (for Holy Communion), a font (for baptism), a lectern (for Bible reading), and a pulpit (for preaching). It may be grand, of traditional or contemporary design, and embellished with windows and other works of art – or a plain assembly hall. Flowers, real or artificial, are almost always on display.

The bishop of a diocese authorises the ministers and forms of worship (including variations) for every congregation of the diocese. The congregation, and not just the priest, must petition the bishop for major changes to worship or its conduct.

Mission

The Anglican Church takes seriously the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew chapter 28: 19-20:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

What is called the Mission Imperative is an integral part of our church, but is expressed in various ways. Many Anglican churches support either Church Missionary Society or Anglican Board of Mission, often having their own link missionary (CMS) or project or partner (ABM). 

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We pay our respects to elders past and present, and affirm our commitment to the work of reconciliation.

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