Is the Anglican Church an off shoot of the Catholic church?
Hi Marie! Thank you for your question.
The short answer is this: Anglicans are catholic, but not Roman Catholic, so we are not an off shoot of the Catholic Church. Here is a very brief explanation that I hope is helpful.
The Christian Faith spread to Britain in the very early days of the Church. Celtic Christianity and influence from the Eastern Church were there before the Roman Catholic mission from Rome to Britain led by Augustine of Canterbury, who was sent by Pope Gregory the Great in A.D. 596. Christianity in Britain became predominantly Roman Catholic as a result of the success of Augustine’s mission and remained so up until the time of the Protestant Reformation in the A.D. 1500s. The spiritual abuses of the Roman Catholic Church to its people in medieval times through the selling of indulgences gave a theological basis for Martin Luther, a German monk, to try to restore the true faith that had been passed down from the Apostles and the Scriptures back into the Church which he had loved so much and to which he had given his life. Not long after, in England, the leadership in the church were dealing with the same theological grievances, as well as the need for the people to worship in their own language (the entire Western Church worshiped in Latin, and there were even English priests who did not understand it). Thomas Cranmer compiled the Book of Common Prayer that was first used in 1549, which contained the worship services of the Church in the English language for the English people. Cranmer was the Archbishop of Canterbury who served under the authority of King Henry VIII, who was a staunch Roman Catholic, and never wanted to be otherwise, even after his decision to break the Church of England away from Rome after the Pope would not grant him a divorce in his pursuit of a male heir to his throne. There were both theological and political issues that contributed to the Church of England no longer being under the authority of the bishop of Rome. However, the Church in England was a part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church before the Roman mission came in A.D. 596, and it remained the same through and after Henry breaking away from Rome and declaring himself as Supreme Head of the Church of England in A.D. 1532. And thus it can be said that Anglicans are catholic in the universal sense as being a part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church (Nicene Creed).
After that time, the Church of England became the center of a worldwide mission that resulted in what is now known as the Anglican Communion, as the English faith was spread around the globe and is the third largest body of Christians in the world, after the Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox. However, in recent years, the Church of England and other Anglican bodies in mostly the developed Western world embraced a striving after culture rather than Christ and thus abandoned the one true faith of the historic church. In this process, there has been a realignment in the church, as Anglicans who are faithful to Tradition and Scripture have formed congregations and dioceses and provinces and created relationships with other Anglican bodies throughout the world. And the epicenter of this new Anglican ecclesiastical realignment is in the Global South, namely Africa and South America, those places where the English had proclaimed the Gospel centuries before. And so even in the midst of this new ecclesiastical realignment within Anglicanism, the continuity of the one true faith endures, and we pray for the repentance, reconciliation, and restoration of those parts of the Anglican Communion that have abandoned Christ and seek not his acceptance, but the acceptance of culture.
Thank you again for your question. I hope I wasn’t too confusing!, and I hope it will be helpful to you in some way. God bless you.