Brief History of the Church of England

England, Church of, the established church in England and the mother church of the Anglican Communion. Christianity, brought by the Romans, was established in Britain by the 4th century, but it was nearly destroyed by invasions of pagan Anglo-Saxons beginning in the 5th century The mission of St. Augustine of Canterbury began (597) the reconversion of England and the reestablishment of its ties to the papacy. Conflicts between church and state during the Middle Ages culminated with Henry VIII's break with Rome. The pope's refusal to annul Henry's marriage to Katherine of Aragon led Henry to issue the Act of Supremacy (1534), which declared the king to be the head of the Church of England. Henry suppressed the monasteries and authorized the Great Bible (1539). Under Archbishop Cranmer the First Book OF Common Prayer was produced and adopted (1549). Mary I returned the English church to communion with Rome, but with the accession of Elizabeth I, an independent church was restored and steered along a middle ground between Roman Catholicism and Calvinism. During the English Civil War the Long Parliament established (1646) Presbytariasm, but with the Restoration (1660), the episcopacy was restored and the Prayer Book was made the only legal service book by the Act of Uniformity (1662). Since that time, despite internal controversies, e.g., the Oxford Movement, the church has held firm. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the chief leader (primate) of the church. In polity, the High Church party holds to ritual and apostolic succession and is contravened by the Low Church party, which emphasizes the Bible and preaching. Women were admitted to the diaconate in 1981 and to the priesthood in 1994.