Denomination Differences

Catholic vs. Anglican Beliefs

Historically, England has been a Catholic nation. When Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, England adopted it readily. By the 400s, England was faithfully following Roman Catholic Church. It would then continue to do so for over 1,000 years.

King Henry VIII

However, on November 3, 1534 King Henry VIII passed the First Act of Supremacy, officially declaring himself head of the Church of England instead of the Pope. With this act, he officially created a separate Anglican Church. The next few monarchs would waver back and forth between Catholicism and Anglicanism, but eventually England largely submitted to its new religion (not least because of the harsh punishments for following a different religion than the monarch until the Toleration Act was passed in 1689).

The original cause of this break was because Henry VIII was childless and believed his wife to be infertile. As divorce is strictly prohibited among Catholics (and his wife's nephew, the Holy Roman Emperor, was currently occupying Rome), King Henry felt unable to secure an heir while his nation followed the Pope. Once King Henry was head of the church, he had his marriage annulled, but otherwise little changed immediately.

King Henry did not have any religious disagreements with the Catholic Church. In fact, just 13 years earlier, King Henry denounced Martin Luther as a heretic for his statements against the Pope. King Henry just wanted a son, so initially Anglicanism was the same as Catholicism except for being a bit more permissive with royal annulments.

However, King Henry soon began dissolving the English monasteries and selling the church lands to pay for the numerous wars he was involved in. Untethered from the Pope and with a pervasive Protestant influence in England, the Anglican church would diverge greatly from Rome over time.

After Henry VIII died in 1547, his son Edward VI became king, and he did have significant disagreements with the Catholic Church, having largely Reformed theology. Icons began being destroyed as idolatry, relics and holy water were denounced as superstitions, denying the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and liturgy underwent major changes. The largest liturgical change was that English supplanted Latin as the language of the church. Perhaps the biggest theological change was that the Anglican Church began to teach justification by faith alone, without works.

Eventually Queen Mary I would take the throne and briefly restore Catholicism and persecute Protestants instead, but her childless death would mean that her Protestant sister Elizabeth I would become queen.

Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth eventually settled on a confessional statement called the Thirty-Nine Articles. Although this did not go as far as her brother Edward VI's reforms, the Elizabethan Settlement would permanently define the Anglican church as a "middle way" between Catholicism and Protestantism.

While the Anglican Church still contains people who want it to be more Protestant and people who want it to be more Catholic, the Anglican Church is still a compromise between the two. Total depravity is believed, but the sacraments are still believe to be key to salvation. Services are still typically liturgical, but a wide variance in practice is permitted. Transubstantiation is denied, but not the real real presence of Christ. Purgatory is denied, but no doctrine of what does happen after death has been established. The Apocrypha is not believed to be canon, but it is still regularly taught from. The Catholic roots are still quite visible in the Anglican Church, but it is certainly divergent.

Belief Table

CatholicAnglican
a.k.a.Episcopal
Number of Members1,360,000,000[1]80,000,000[2]
How does one get saved?Repent of your sins, believe in Jesus Christ's death and resurrection to save you, be baptized, participate in the Eucharist, and don't die with any unconfessed mortal sins.[3][4]Repent of your sins, believe in Jesus Christ's death and resurrection to save you, be baptized, and participate in the Eucharist.
Who gets saved?Anyone who chooses by his own free will to believe and accept God's gift of grace will be saved.Anyone who chooses by his own free will to believe and accept God's gift of grace will be saved.
Can one lose his salvation?Yes, a Christian can lose his salvation by apostasy or by committing a mortal sin.Yes, a Christian can lose his salvation by apostasy.
Who gets baptized and why?The unsaved, typically as infants, get baptized as the first sacrament of Christian initiation, cleansing them of all sins.The unsaved, typically as infants, get baptized as the first sacrament of Christian initiation, cleansing them of all sins.
How should baptism be done?Baptism should be by pouring water on the head.Baptism should be by pouring water on the head.
When does one receive the Holy Spirit?The Holy Spirit is received at baptism.The Holy Spirit is received at baptism.
What is the trinity?The Trinity is God existing as one god in three equal, eternal, cosubstantial persons: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit.The Trinity is God existing as one god in three equal, eternal, cosubstantial persons: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit.
What is the human nature?Human nature is not totally corrupt but is wounded and inclined to evil.[5]Total depravity: Human nature is corrupt, naturally inclined to evil, and incapable of choosing God on his own.
Are we guilty of Adam's original sin?No, we are not guilty of Adam's sin, but we did inherit the consequences and a corrupt human nature from him, causing us all to sin.[6]No, we are not guilty of Adam's sin, but we did inherit the consequences and a corrupt human nature from him, causing us all to sin.
Are Christians required to keep the Old Testament ceremonial laws?No, the ceremonial laws of Judaism were fulfilled and done away with by Jesus.No, the ceremonial laws of Judaism were fulfilled and done away with by Jesus.
Can Christians become sinless in this earthly life?"Christian perfection" is attainable in this life, but this does not mean one is sinless, as one will always commit minor "venial sins".No, although Christians can and should sin less, they can never become sinless in this life.
Do the elements of communion become the body and blood of Christ?Transubstantiation: Yes, the bread and the wine change into the body and blood of Christ.Consubstantiation: No, the elements do not become the body and blood of Christ, but Christ's body and blood are present alongside them.
Can one be baptized of behalf of someone who has died?No, the dead cannot be baptized.No, the dead cannot be baptized.
What happens if a saved person dies without being perfect?Christians who die imperfectly purified must be purified through purgatory.[7]There is no purgatory, but Christians may need to be purified after death in some way.[8][9]
Did Mary ever sin?Immaculate conception: No, Mary was free of original sin and remained sinless throughout her life.No established doctrine
What spiritual gifts are available today?Most believe that all spiritual gifts are still available to believers.Continuationism: All spiritual gifts are still available to believers.[10][11]
What framework has God used in dealing with man?Covenant theology: God acts either within the covenant of works or the covenant of grace.
What is the gift of tongues?Varies widely
What are the requirements for clergy?Priests must be unmarried men over 25 ordained by bishops.Priests must be unmarried men over 25 ordained by bishops.
How many church ordinances/​sacraments are there?The church has seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.[12]The church has two sacraments: Baptism and Holy Communion.[13]
To whom do Christians need to confess their sins?Mortal sins must be privately confessed to a priest at least annually.[14][15]General sinfulness should be confessed to a priest. This is usually done as a group during a service.[16]
How should a church be structured?Episcopal: Churches should be governed by the bishop in that diocese, who in turn is governed by an archbishop, who is governed by the Pope.Episcopal: Churches should be governed by the bishop in that diocese, who in turn is governed by a primate of an autonomous province. The Archbishop of Canterbury is first among equals and is appointed by the King of England.
What day of the week should Christians worship?Christians worship on Sunday.Christians worship on Sunday.
How does God's revelation come to us today?Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition have equal authority and comprise one finished deposit of faith.Prima scriptura: There are many sources of God's revelation, although none can contradict the Bible.
How was the Bible written?Dynamic inspiration: God inspired the thoughts of the human authors, but the words were chosen by the authors.
How many books are in the Bible?There are 73 canonical books of the Bible: 39 protocanonical books, 7 deuterocanonical books, and 27 New Testament books.There are 66 canonical books of the Bible: 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books, but the Apocrypha is regularly used for examples of life and instruction of manners.
Is the Bible inerrant?No, the Bible was written inerrantly on matters of salvation but may contain errors in other matters.No, the Bible is not inerrant in any respect.[17]
Who can speak with God's authority today?The Pope speaks infallibly with God's authority when speaking ex cathedra.[18][19]
How was the earth created?The earth was formed by gravity pulling dust together, which ultimately came from the Big Bang.The earth was formed by gravity pulling dust together, which ultimately came from the Big Bang.
What is marriage?Marriage is a covenant before God between one man and one woman.[20]Varies widely
Is sex permissible outside marriage?No, sex outside of marriage is not permissible.Varies widely
When is divorce permissible?Divorce is never permissible.Most believe divorce is only permissible for adultery.[21]
May a Christian remarry while his former spouse is still alive?Divorce is never permissible.Yes, a Christian may freely remarry after divorce.[22][23][24]
When does a fetus become human?Humanity begins at conception.[25]Humanity begins at conception.[26]
Is contraception permissible?No, contraceptives are not permissible.[27]Yes, contraceptives are permissible.[28][29]
Are blood transfusions permissible?Yes, blood transfusions are permissible.Yes, blood transfusions are permissible.
Should women cover their heads?No, head coverings are no longer required due to cultural changes.[30]No, head coverings are no longer required due to cultural changes.
Should Christians drink alcohol?Yes, drinking alcohol is fine as long as one does not get drunk.[31]Yes, drinking alcohol is fine as long as one does not get drunk.[32]
Should Christians fight in wars?Yes, Christians should fight in just wars.[33][34]Most believe that yes, Christians should fight in just wars.[35][36][37]
How should Christians musically worship God?Any style of worship music is acceptable.
Whom does the Holy Spirit come from?The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.[38]Varies widely[39][40]
Do icons glorify God?Yes, icons are holy and should be venerated.Yes, icons can be an aid to worship, but they are not used in liturgy.[41][42]
Where does a Christian's soul go after death?Some Christians first go to purgatory to be purified when they die.[7]No established doctrine[9]
When will the church be raptured?The church will not be raptured at any point.