The Anglican Church came from the Roman Catholic Church about the same time as the Reformation was starting, but that doesn't answer how they are different on a practical level. How is the Anglican Church different from the Catholic Church in practice? What doctine(s) distinguish them as a separate denomination from Catholicism?
The 39 Articles are the foundational document of Anglicanism (though not all Anglicans accept them now). The major points of difference with Catholicism which are explained in the Articles are:
- Anglicanism does not accept the books of the Apocrypha as inspired. (Article 6)
- Anglicanism says that our righteousness before God is based only on the merit of Christ, and not on the basis of our works. (Article 11)
- Anglicanism rejects the Catholic idea of supererogation, that we can perform works above and beyond what God requires. (Article 14)
- Article 20 essentially states that the Church is subservient to scripture, rather than its traditions being of equal authority to scripture.
- Article 22 rejects purgatory.
- Article 24 says that the liturgy of a church must be in the language of the people. Catholicism has varied about this over the years, but there have been many times when the mass must be performed in Latin.
- Anglicans believe in only 2 of the 7 sacraments which Catholicism recognises (though this isn't universal, and Anglo-Catholics recognise all 7.) (Article 25)
- Anglicans reject the concept of transubstantiation, that communion is in any way a sacrifice, or that the cup can be denied to the laity. (Articles 28, 30, 31)
- Anglican ministers are allowed to be married. (Article 32)
- And for what really started the English reformation off, Anglicans say that the Bishop of Rome has no authority in England. (Article 37)
In addition, I would add that
- Devotion to Mary is generally uncommon in Anglicanism, at least compared to the extent of Catholocism.
- Many dioceses ordain women as deacons, priests and even bishops.
- As a result of the distributed authority structures of Anglicanism, there is a much greater diversity of beliefs than in Catholicism. Some dioceses for example endorse homosexuality, while others do not. This is a major issue in the Anglican Communion today, and will most likely result in a broken communion in the next few years.
There is so much that the two faiths have in common but I would simply state the 3 most important differences are:
- Anglicans put Scriptural Authority as ultimate authority. Roman Catholics put the Pope's authority as the ultimate authority
- Anglicans believe that the Eucharist is a precious memorial to Christ and, at it's heart, a mystery. The Roman Catholics believe the Eucharist is the actual flesh and blood of Christ (Transubstantiation).
- Anglicans revere Mary as a great example of servitude and that she did give birth to Christ as a virgin. Roman Catholics believe that her mother Anne was a virgin, that Mary gave birth to Christ as a virgin, and that Mary remained a virgin her entire life.