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Other conventional Christian churches

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Keeping the sabbath


The Anglican Church is the official state religion in England only. There are, however, churches in other countries (such as Scotland, Ireland, the USA and Australian) which have the same origin and are almost identical to it in their general beliefs and practices. Members of these churches sometimes describe themselves as 'Anglican'. However, the term officially used in Scotland and the USA is 'Episcopalian' (which means that they have bishops), and this is the term which is often used to denote all of these churches, including the Church of England, as a group.

Every ten tears the bishops of all the Episcopalian churches in the world gather together in London for the Lambeth Conference, which is chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Despite the name 'Canterbury', the official residence of the head of the Church of England is Lambeth Palace in London.


In the last two centuries, the influence of the Calvinism tradition has been left in laws relating to Sundays. These laws have recently been relaxed, but shop opening hours, gambling and professional sport on Sundays are still all restricted in small ways. In some places in rural Wales, where nonconformism is traditionally strong, Sundays are still 'dry'; that is, the pubs stay closed.


In many ways, Anglicanism represents a compromise between Protestantism and Catholicism. Its stated doctrine, which rejects the authority of the Pope and other important aspects of Catholic doctrine, is Protestant. But its style, as shown by its hierarchical structure and its forms of worship, is rather Catholic.

When Protestantism first took root in Britain, there were many people who rejected not only Catholic doctrine but also 'Romish' style. These people did not join the newly-established Anglican Church. They regarded both the authority given to its clergy and its continuation of orthodox ritual as obstacles to true worship. Instead, they placed great importance on finding the truth for oneself in the words of the Bible and on living an austere life of hard work and self-sacrifice. They disapproved of the pursuit of pleasure and therefore frowned on public entertainments such as the theatre, on drinking, on gambling and on any celebration of the sexual aspect of life.

This is the origin of the Puritan/Calvinism tradition in Britain. The first church within this tradition was the Presbyterian Church. In Scotland, this form of Protestantism was so strong that it became the nation's established church. The Church of Scotland has a separate organization from the Anglican Church. It has no bishops. Its head, or 'Moderator', is elected by its general assembly. It is the biggest religion in Scotland, where it is often known simply as 'the kirk' (the Scots word for 'church'). There are also many Presbyterians in England and a large numbers in Northern Ireland.

In England, those Protestants who did not accept the authority of the Anglican Church were known as 'dissenters' and later, as tolerance grew, as 'nonconformists'. These days, when refusal to conform to the established church is irrelevant, they simply called 'members of the free churches'. A great many different free-church groups have come into being over the centuries. In the details of their organization, styles of worship and doctrinal emphasis, the various nonconformist groups differ considerably. However, they all share, in varying degrees, certain characteristics: they regard simplicity and individual prayers as more important than elaborate ritual and public ceremony; there is comparatively little difference between their clergy (if they have any at all) and their lay members; they praise self-denial, although to a lesser extent than the original Puritans. For example, many are teetotal (their members do not drink alcohol).

After Presbyterians, the largest traditional nonconformist group in Britain is the Methodist Society. Methodists follow the teachings of John Wesley, an eighteenth century preacher who started his career as an Anglican clergyman. He had little doctrinal disagreement with the established church. However, he and his followers considered that it did not care enough about the needs of ordinary people and that its hierarchy was not serious enough about the Christian message. The Salvation Army grew out of the Wesleyan movement.

Two other nonconformist groups with a long history are the Baptist and the Quakers. The former are comparatively strict both in their interpretation of the Bible and in their dislike of worldly pleasure. The latter, also known as the Society of Friends, are a very small group whose notable characteristics are their complete lack of clergy and their pacifism. They refuse to fight in any war, though they will do ambulance and hospital work.


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