Presbyterianism and Anglicanism are two of the oldest Christian denominations in the world. While they share some similarities, there are also significant differences between the two.
In this article, I will explore the differences between Presbyterian and Anglican churches, including their origins, key beliefs, and structures.
Presbyterianism was founded in Scotland in the 16th century by John Knox, a disciple of John Calvin.
It is a form of Reformed Protestantism that emphasizes the sovereignty of God, the authority of the Bible, and the importance of preaching.
Anglicanism, on the other hand, originated in England in the 16th century when King Henry VIII broke away from the Roman Catholic Church.
It is a form of Protestantism that emphasizes the importance of tradition, liturgy, and sacraments.
Despite their different origins and emphases, Presbyterians and Anglicans share many core Christian beliefs, such as the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus, and salvation through faith in Christ.
However, there are also significant differences in their beliefs and practices, including their views on predestination, the role of bishops, and the sacraments.
- Presbyterianism and Anglicanism are two of the oldest Christian denominations in the world.
- Presbyterianism emphasizes the sovereignty of God, while Anglicanism emphasizes tradition and sacraments.
- While Presbyterians and Anglicans share some core Christian beliefs, they also have significant differences in their beliefs and practices.
Origins and History
Both the Presbyterian and Anglican denominations have their roots in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.
The Presbyterian Church traces its origins to the teachings of John Calvin, a French theologian who was a leader of the Reformation movement.
Calvin’s teachings emphasized the sovereignty of God and the importance of predestination.
The Presbyterian Church was founded in Scotland in the 16th century, and it quickly spread to other countries around the world. John Knox, a Scottish reformer, was instrumental in the spread of Presbyterianism in Scotland.
Knox’s efforts transformed Scotland into the most Calvinistic country in the world and the cradle of modern-day Presbyterianism.
Today, the Presbyterian Church has a significant presence in many countries, including the United States.
The Anglican Church, on the other hand, has its roots in the Church of England. The Church of England was established by King Henry VIII in the 16th century after he broke away from the Roman Catholic Church.
The Anglican Church combines elements of Catholicism and Protestantism, and it is sometimes referred to as the “middle way” between the two.
The Anglican Church has a long and complex history, and it has undergone many changes over the centuries.
The church has played a significant role in the history of England and the world, and it has had a profound influence on the development of Western culture.
In America, both the Presbyterian vs Anglican denominations have a significant presence. The Presbyterian Church has been a part of American history since the colonial period, and it played a significant role in the American Revolution.
The Anglican Church, on the other hand, has a long and complex history in America, and it has undergone many changes over the centuries.
While they share some similarities, they also have many differences, particularly in their beliefs and practices.
Key Beliefs and Doctrines
Presbyterians believe in the sovereignty of God, which means that God is in control of everything that happens in the world.
They also believe in predestination, which means that God has already chosen who will be saved and who will not be saved. Presbyterians believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God and that it is the final authority on all matters of faith and practice.
They also believe in the Trinity, which means that there is one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Westminster Confession of Faith is the primary doctrinal statement of the Presbyterian Church.
It outlines the beliefs of Presbyterians on a wide range of topics, including the nature of God, the doctrine of the Trinity, the nature of sin, the role of faith, and the resurrection of the dead.
Anglicans believe in the Trinity, the resurrection of the dead, and the inspiration of the Bible.
They also believe in the importance of confession and repentance, and the need to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Anglicans believe that salvation is based solely on Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross, without the addition of human works.
The Book of Common Prayer is an important part of Anglican worship. It contains prayers, liturgies, and other resources for worship, and is used in Anglican churches around the world.
The 39 Articles of Religion is the primary doctrinal statement of the Anglican Church. It outlines the beliefs of Anglicans on a wide range of topics, including the nature of God, the doctrine of the Trinity, the nature of sin, and the role of faith.
Anglicans also believe in the importance of tradition and the historic creeds of the church, including the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed.
The Church of England, which is the mother church of the Anglican Communion, has a long history and tradition that is deeply rooted in the history of England and the British Isles.
Overall, while there are some differences in the beliefs and practices of Presbyterians and Anglicans, both denominations share a commitment to the authority of scripture and the importance of following the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Structure and Governance
The Presbyterian Church is governed by a system of elders, which is referred to as a “presbytery.”
The presbytery is responsible for overseeing the congregations within its jurisdiction, and it is made up of representatives from each of the congregations in the area.
The presbytery is further divided into smaller bodies, called “sessions,” which are responsible for the governance of individual congregations.
Each congregation within the Presbyterian Church is led by a group of elders, who are elected by the congregation.
These elders are responsible for the spiritual care of the congregation, as well as the management of the church’s affairs. The highest governing body within the Presbyterian Church is the General Assembly, which is made up of representatives from each of the presbyteries in the denomination.
The General Assembly is responsible for setting policy and making decisions on matters of doctrine and discipline.
The Anglican Church is led by bishops, who are responsible for the spiritual care of the members of their diocese.
Each bishop is assisted by a group of priests, who are responsible for the governance of individual congregations.
The highest governing body within the Anglican Church is the Lambeth Conference, which is held every ten years and is attended by bishops from around the world.
In addition to the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Church also has a number of other governing bodies, including the General Synod, which is responsible for setting policy and making decisions on matters of doctrine and discipline.
The General Synod is made up of representatives from each of the dioceses in the Church of England, as well as representatives from other Anglican churches around the world.
Overall, the Presbyterian Church is governed by a system of elders, while the Anglican Church is led by bishops.
While both denominations have a hierarchical structure, the Presbyterian Church places a greater emphasis on the role of the congregation in governance, while the Anglican Church places a greater emphasis on the role of the bishops.
Sacraments and Worship
Presbyterian and Anglican denominations have some similarities and differences in their worship and sacraments.
In this section, I will discuss the worship and sacraments of both denominations.
Presbyterian worship is characterized by simplicity and a focus on preaching.
It is based on the Westminster Confession of Faith, which emphasizes the sovereignty of God, the authority of the Bible, and the centrality of Christ.
Presbyterian worship services typically include the following elements:
- Call to Worship
- Prayer of Confession
- Assurance of Pardon
- Scripture Readings
- Prayers of Intercession
Presbyterian worship services may also include hymns, psalms, and other music. Communion is usually celebrated once a month or on special occasions.
Anglican worship is characterized by its use of the Book of Common Prayer.
The Book of Common Prayer is a collection of liturgies, prayers, and other texts used in Anglican worship. It is based on the idea that worship should be based on the Bible and the traditions of the church.
Anglican worship services typically include the following elements:
- Hymns or Psalms
- Scripture Readings
- Prayers of Intercession
- Confession and Absolution
Anglican worship services may also include other elements such as baptisms, confirmations, weddings, and funerals.
In terms of sacraments, both Presbyterian and Anglican denominations recognize two sacraments: baptism and communion.
Baptism is seen as a symbol of the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of the believer and a sign of membership in the church. Communion, also known as the Eucharist, is seen as a memorial of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and a means of grace.
Both church denominations have different styles of worship, but both emphasize the importance of the sacraments in the life of the believer.
Presbyterian and Anglican Today
As of 2023 and 2024, both churches continue to have a significant presence in the United States and around the world.
The PCA is a conservative and evangelical Presbyterian denomination with over 1,500 churches and around 370,000 members in the United States.
The Presbyterian Church is a more liberal and progressive Presbyterian denomination with around 1.3 million members in the United States.
The Anglican Church has a worldwide membership of around 85 million, with the majority of members residing in the Global South.
The Episcopal Church is the main Anglican denomination in the United States, with around 1.7 million members.
The Anglican Church is known for its liturgical worship and emphasis on tradition, but there are also many Anglican churches that are evangelical and charismatic in their worship style.
In recent years, both Anglican, as well as Presbyterian churches have been grappling with issues related to gender and sexuality.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) allows for the ordination of women and the blessing of same-sex relationships, while the PCA and other conservative Presbyterian denominations do not.
The Anglican Church has been divided over the issue of homosexuality, with some provinces affirming same-sex relationships and others strongly opposing them.
Both are also involved in the ecumenical movement, which seeks to promote unity and cooperation among different Christian denominations.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) is a member of the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches, while the Anglican Church is a member of the Anglican Communion and the World Council of Churches.
At the individual and local congregation level, Presbyterian and Anglican churches vary widely in terms of their beliefs and practices.
Some of them are more traditional and formal, while others are more contemporary and informal.
Some emphasize social justice and community outreach, while others focus more on evangelism and personal piety.
These churches have a rich history and continue to play an important role in the religious landscape of the United States and the world.
While there are differences in theology and practice, both denominations share a commitment to worshiping God and serving others.
In conclusion, Presbyterian and Anglican denominations share many similarities, but they also have significant differences.
Both denominations are part of the Protestant tradition that emerged from the Reformation movement in Europe. They both believe in the authority of scripture and the inerrancy of the Bible.
However, there are differences in their origins and traditions. The Anglican Church emerged from the Church of England, while the Presbyterian Church originated in Scotland.
Anglicans place a strong emphasis on the sacraments, while Presbyterians focus on the preaching of the Word.
Another difference between the two denominations is their approach to ordination. Anglicans have a three-fold ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons, while Presbyterians have a two-fold ministry of elders and deacons.
In terms of theology, both denominations affirm the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation, but there are differences in their beliefs about Mary and the Pope.
Anglicans have a high view of Mary and believe in the concept of the “branch theory,” which holds that all Christian denominations are branches of the one true Church.
Presbyterians reject the authority of the Pope and do not have a formal view of Mary beyond her role as the mother of Jesus.
Overall, while there are differences between Presbyterian and Anglican denominations, both share a commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ and seek to live out their faith in the world.