This way of life is the system of doctrine, and approach to polity of Christians in communion with the See of Canterbury. The term derives from the word which, in a variety of forms, refers to the people of the British Isles, and especially the English. Anglicanism reflects the balance and compromise of the via media of the Elizabethan settlement between Protestant and Catholic principles. Anglicanism also reflects balance in its devotion to scripture, tradition, and reason as sources of authority. The via media of Anglicanism is expressed frequently in terms of a “golden mean” between extreme positions on either side of various issues. Anglicanism is both traditional and dynamic in the discovery of new expressions. It retains the ancient authorities of scripture and tradition. It also allows for development of new understandings of Christian faith and practice in continuity with the historical church. Until the present century, Anglicanism was largely defined in terms of its English origins and preservation of the language and customs of English-speaking peoples. For example, the Episcopal Church and the various Anglican churches in the British colonies retained their English heritage through a common language, Prayer Book worship, and an episcopal polity. At the end of the nineteenth century, however, Anglicanism began to take on a new identity. The national churches which derived from the Church of England became more conscious of their own identity while remaining in communion with the See of Canterbury. They also retained a common Anglican theological and ecclesial identity. Anglicanism is now a worldwide family of churches which share a common theological heritage and polity. See Authority, Sources of (in Anglicanism); see Elizabethan Settlement; see Via Media.
Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.