I recently attended a service of the Church of England. There, the Nicene-­Constantinopolitan Creed was said. This creed contains the words

I believe one Catholic and Apostolic Church.

I wonder what is the sense in which Anglican theology uses the word "Catholic". Naturally, it does not refer to the Catholic Church (as in the Latin Catholic Church and other churches which are in communion with the Pope). But does it include it? Or is the word Catholic simply taken to mean "universal", as in the original Nicene creed, and so it does not have a particular interpretation?

It is quite hard to find online material on this, because as soon as you search "anglican catholic" and related searches, million of sites appear on the issue of anglican-catholicism. Maybe someone acquainted with the topic can help out.


Modern versions of the Nicene Creed use catholic, not Catholic

The original 1662 Book of Common Prayer did use a capitalized "Catholic" in the Nicene Creed.

And I believe one Catholick and Apostolick Church

However, this is more a stylistic choice used at the time in which many important words were capitalized (as the German language still does today). Other words such as "Begotten", "Baptism", and "Sins" are all capitalized. Thus we shouldn't assume that just because it is capitalized that it refers to the Catholic Church.

Common Worship, the 21st century successor to Book of Common Prayer, uses a lower case "catholic" to reflect how the English language and its grammar rules have changed over the last several hundred years.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

The word "catholic" means "according to the whole"

To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism, distributed by the Anglican Church of North America, has this to say about the word in its extended catechism:

95. Why is the Church called “catholic?”

The term “catholic” means “according to the whole.” The Church is called “catholic” because it holds the whole faith once for all delivered to the saints, and maintains continuity with the apostolic Church throughout time and space.

Wikipedia reiterates this belief in the following way:

The term ["catholic"] is used also to mean those Christian churches that maintain that their episcopate can be traced unbrokenly back to the apostles and consider themselves part of a catholic (universal) body of believers. Among those who regard themselves as Catholic but not Roman Catholic are Anglicans and Lutherans, who stress that they are both Reformed and Catholic.

In other words, Anglicans have the same quality as both the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church in that they have continuity with the early Church, but they are also Reformed in that they follow the teachings espoused during the Reformation.


It is Catholic as the universal Church of Christ. The Bishop of Canterbury has said we are Catholic but not Roman, Reformed but not Protestant.

  • 1
    The Anglican churches are still Protestant, despite what any archbishop of Canterbury might say. – curiousdannii Apr 26 '18 at 2:50

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