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The Anglican Communion is a global association of 38 autonomous provinces in communion with the Church of England and its primate, the archbishop of Canterbury. With more than 80 million members, it’s the third-largest Christian body in the world, after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches.
There is no “Anglican Church” in the sense of a body that shares legal and ecclesiastical structure. Rather, the Anglican Communion is bound together by a shared tradition of worship and prayer, and especially in the Eucharist. This shared tradition is summed up in the statement lex orandi, lex credendi (the law of prayer is the law of belief) and informed by the Book of Common Prayer, which is the basis for the worshipping life of every Anglican church.
Anglicanism is often referred to by another Latin phrase, the via media, meaning “middle way.” Strictly speaking, the via media refers to the Anglican attempt to be both reformed and catholic, to maintain a connection with the historic Catholic faith while acknowledging the value of certain aspects of the Protestant reformation. More broadly, the via media refers to the fact that, historically, Anglicans have drawn on resources from a wide variety of Christian traditions to inform their belief and practice.
The works of Anglican authors have significantly influenced other Christian traditions. The King James Version of the Bible was produced at the command of King James I for use in Anglican worship under the leadership of Lancelot Andrewes. The works of Richard Hooker remain standard texts for students of theology, while the devotional works of Jeremy Taylor and the poetry of George Herbert have moved the hearts and minds of Christians for centuries. More recently, the influential writings of C. S. Lewis, the biblical scholarship of N. T. Wright, the theology of J. I. Packer and John Stott, and the evangelistic/educational Alpha Course have all come out of Anglicanism.