Anglican Vs. Catholic: What Is the Main Difference

By Paul King •  Updated: 09/12/23 •  14 min read

One might argue that the differences between Anglicanism and Catholicism are insignificant, given their shared historical roots and similar core beliefs. However, a closer examination reveals distinct disparities in doctrine, church hierarchy, worship practices, and the relationship with the Pope. Understanding these variations is essential for individuals seeking a comprehensive understanding of these two influential Christian denominations. Let us delve into these differences using relevant facts and quotes from the Bible.

In terms of doctrine, Anglicanism and Catholicism differ in their views on the authority of scripture. Catholics believe in the authority of both scripture and tradition, as stated in 2 Thessalonians 2:15: "So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter." This emphasizes the importance of oral tradition alongside written scripture. Anglicans, on the other hand, emphasize the primacy of scripture, as mentioned in 2 Timothy 3:16: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." This highlights the belief that scripture alone is sufficient for guiding faith and practice.

In terms of church hierarchy, Catholicism follows a centralized structure with the Pope as the head of the Church. This is based on Matthew 16:18-19, where Jesus says to Peter, "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church… I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven." This passage is seen by Catholics as Jesus establishing Peter as the first Pope and the foundation of their ecclesiastical authority. Anglicanism, on the other hand, has a more decentralized structure with individual provinces having autonomy. Anglicans believe in the importance of bishops but do not recognize the Pope as the supreme authority.

Regarding worship practices, the Catholic Mass is characterized by the belief in transubstantiation, where the bread and wine used in the Eucharist become the literal body and blood of Christ. This is based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 26:26-28: "Take and eat; this is my body… Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant." Anglicans, while also believing in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, hold a broader range of interpretations, including consubstantiation and memorialism.

Lastly, the relationship with the Pope is a significant difference between Anglicanism and Catholicism. The Pope is considered the infallible head of the Catholic Church, able to make binding pronouncements on faith and morals. Anglicans, on the other hand, do not recognize the Pope’s infallibility and make decisions collectively through synods and councils.

To further illustrate the differences, let’s refer to the story of the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. This story shows the early Christian leaders coming together to discuss and make decisions on matters of doctrine and practice. It emphasizes the importance of collective decision-making and the absence of a single supreme authority figure.

In conclusion, while Anglicanism and Catholicism share historical roots and core beliefs, there are significant differences in doctrine, church hierarchy, worship practices, and the relationship with the Pope. Understanding these differences requires studying the Bible, examining historical context, and considering the interpretations of each tradition. By doing so, individuals can gain a comprehensive understanding of the unique characteristics of Anglicanism and Catholicism.

Key Takeaways

Historical Background

The historical background of the Anglican and Catholic churches is rich with significant events and teachings from the Holy Bible. Both churches have unique origins and developments that have shaped their differences.

One of the key events that influenced the formation of the Anglican Church was the Reformation, which occurred in the 16th century. During this time, King Henry VIII of England desired to divorce his first wife, which led to a break with Rome and the establishment of the Church of England. This event had a profound impact on the development of the Anglican Church as a separate entity from the Catholic Church.

In understanding the origins of the Catholic Church, it is important to trace its roots back to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the early apostles. The Holy Bible serves as the foundation for the Catholic Church’s beliefs and practices. It views the Pope as the successor to St. Peter and the ultimate religious authority, as stated in Matthew 16:18-19: ‘And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’

On the other hand, the Anglican Church recognizes the monarch as its supreme authority, with no central figure equivalent to the Pope. This distinction in religious authority is rooted in the historical events surrounding the establishment of the Anglican Church.

To further underscore the significance of these differences, let’s turn to a biblical story that reflects the importance of religious authority. In Numbers 16, we read about the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram against Moses’ leadership. They questioned his authority and challenged his position as the chosen leader of the Israelites. The consequences of their rebellion were severe, as the earth opened up and swallowed them and their families. This story serves as a reminder of the importance of recognizing and respecting religious authority as established by God.

These historical developments have also influenced the theological perspectives and practices of both churches. The Anglican Church places a strong emphasis on the authority of the Holy Bible and seeks to maintain a balance between tradition and innovation. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, places a significant emphasis on the teachings of the Pope and the Magisterium, which consists of the bishops in communion with the Pope.

Doctrine and Beliefs

Doctrine and beliefs of the Anglican and Catholic religious groups diverge in several key areas. However, it is important to approach these differences with a spirit of growth and understanding, rather than division. Here are three significant areas where interpretation differences arise, along with relevant facts and quotes from the Bible:

  1. Authority: Both Anglicans and Catholics recognize the authority of Scripture. However, Catholics also rely on the Pope and the Magisterium for guidance, while Anglicans place greater emphasis on the autonomy of individual churches and bishops. In Matthew 16:18-19, Jesus says to Peter, ‘And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church… I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.’ This verse highlights the role of Peter as the foundation of the Church and can be seen as a basis for the Papal authority in Catholicism.

  2. Sacraments: Both Anglicans and Catholics acknowledge the importance of sacraments and rituals, such as baptism and communion. However, there are differences in how these sacraments are understood and administered. In John 3:5, Jesus says, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.’ This verse emphasizes the significance of baptism as a means of spiritual rebirth. The Catholic Church practices infant baptism, while Anglicans may allow for a wider range of baptismal practices.

  3. Intercession of Saints: Catholics believe in the intercession of saints and the veneration of Mary, while Anglicans may hold a more nuanced view on these practices. In 1 Timothy 2:5, it is written, ‘For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.’ This verse emphasizes the role of Jesus as the sole mediator between humanity and God. While Catholics believe that saints can intercede on behalf of believers, Anglicans may focus more directly on the intercession of Christ.

These biblical references help shed light on the theological perspectives of both Anglicans and Catholics. Understanding these differences can foster dialogue and promote a deeper appreciation for the richness and diversity within the Christian faith.

Now, let us transition into the next section about ‘church hierarchy and governance’ by exploring how these beliefs influence the structures and leadership within each religious group.

Church Hierarchy and Governance

Church hierarchy and governance in Anglicanism and Catholicism differ in terms of their organizational structures and decision-making processes.

In Catholicism, the highest authority lies with the Pope, who is considered the successor of Saint Peter and has ultimate decision-making power. This is supported by Matthew 16:18-19, where Jesus says to Peter, ‘And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’

The Pope appoints bishops, who oversee individual dioceses and are responsible for the spiritual well-being of their respective regions. This hierarchical structure is similar to the early Christian church, where the apostles appointed bishops to lead and guide local communities. In Acts 20:28, Paul tells the elders of the church in Ephesus, ‘Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.’

Below the bishops are priests, who serve as spiritual leaders within their parishes. They administer the sacraments and guide the faithful in their spiritual journey. In 1 Timothy 4:14, Paul advises Timothy, ‘Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.’

Anglicanism, on the other hand, has a more decentralized structure. While the Archbishop of Canterbury holds a position of honor, he does not possess the same level of authority as the Pope. Instead, decision-making power is shared among bishops, who have autonomy within their dioceses. This structure allows for a greater degree of local decision-making and flexibility, reflecting the Anglican belief in the importance of the local church community. James 1:1 addresses this idea, saying, ‘James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.’

The differences in church structure and leadership roles have an impact on how worship is conducted and liturgy is practiced in Anglicanism and Catholicism. The centralized nature of Catholicism allows for a more uniform and standardized liturgy, with the Mass being celebrated in a consistent manner across the globe. This is exemplified in 1 Corinthians 14:40, where Paul advises, ‘But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.’

Anglicanism, with its decentralized structure, allows for more variation in worship practices and liturgy. Each diocese has the freedom to adapt and develop its own liturgical traditions, while still adhering to the core principles of Anglican worship. This flexibility is akin to the early Christian communities, where worship practices varied based on local customs and traditions. In Romans 14:5, Paul addresses this diversity, saying, ‘One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.’

Worship Practices and Liturgy

Worship practices and liturgy in Anglicanism and Catholicism draw inspiration from the hierarchical structures and decision-making processes of these traditions. These practices aim to reflect the divine perspective, love, and compassion that are central to these churches. By incorporating music, sacraments, and rituals, Anglicans and Catholics seek to create a transformative and uplifting worship experience that fosters a deeper connection with God.

  1. Church Music: Both Anglicanism and Catholicism hold music in high regard as a means of worship. The power of music to evoke reverence and awe is evident in the use of hymns, chants, and choirs during worship. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 3:16, ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.’ This verse emphasizes the importance of music in expressing gratitude and teaching one another.

  2. Sacraments: Anglicanism and Catholicism share a recognition of the sacraments as sacred rituals that convey God’s grace to believers. Baptism and the Eucharist hold particular significance in both traditions. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus commands his disciples to ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.’ This directive underscores the importance of baptism as a means of initiation into the Christian faith. Similarly, the Eucharist, or Holy Communion, commemorates Christ’s sacrifice for humanity, as Jesus said in Luke 22:19, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’

  3. Rituals: Both Anglicanism and Catholicism incorporate liturgical rituals into their worship services to guide believers on their spiritual journey. These rituals often include prescribed prayers, readings from the Bible, and symbolic gestures to express devotion and reverence. Jesus himself participated in various rituals, such as the Passover meal (Luke 22:7-20), which later became the foundation for the Eucharist. These rituals help believers engage their senses and deepen their connection with God.

Understanding the worship practices and liturgy in Anglicanism and Catholicism provides insight into their relationship with the Pope. These practices are rooted in biblical teachings and aim to foster a genuine and transformative encounter with the divine. By embracing the hierarchy and decision-making processes of these traditions, believers seek to align themselves with God’s divine perspective and cultivate a profound sense of sacredness and reverence in their worship.

Relationship With the Pope

The relationship between Anglicanism and Catholicism with the Pope serves as a significant point of distinction between these two traditions. In Catholicism, the Pope is believed to hold the highest authority as the successor of Saint Peter, chosen by Jesus Christ Himself. This belief is rooted in the scripture, specifically Matthew 16:18-19, where Jesus says to Peter, ‘And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’

The Catholic Church sees the Pope as the Vicar of Christ on Earth, someone who represents Jesus and has the power to make infallible declarations on matters of faith and doctrine. This understanding is based on the belief that Jesus entrusted Peter with the keys of the kingdom of heaven, symbolizing his authority over the Church.

On the other hand, Anglicanism does not recognize the Pope’s authority in the same way. Anglicans uphold the authority of scripture, tradition, and reason, seeking guidance from these sources rather than a centralized figure like the Pope. This approach is rooted in the belief that all believers have access to God’s wisdom and can interpret scripture for themselves.

However, it is important to note that in recent years, there have been efforts to improve ecumenical relations between Anglicanism and Catholicism. Dialogue and cooperation on various issues of mutual concern have taken place, fostering a greater understanding and appreciation of each other’s traditions.

One story from the bible that illustrates the importance of unity and cooperation among different believers is the story of the early Christian community in Acts 2:42-47. This passage describes how the believers ‘devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’ They shared their possessions and met together regularly, experiencing a sense of unity and mutual support.

This story reminds us that despite our differences, we can still come together in faith and work towards common goals. It is through dialogue and cooperation that we can deepen our understanding of each other’s traditions while maintaining the distinct differences that make us unique.

Paul King

I post written versions of my powerful sermons exploring topics like prayer, praise, biblical truths, and more expressions of faith. My church has a deeply spiritual culture, which I try to convey through vivid storytelling and applications in our everyday life. I spread the Good Word with lots of conviction and passion.