The Protestant Church consists of those Christian groups that are neither Orthodox nor Roman Catholic. The Protestant Church is divided into many groups. The largest has millions of members. One of the main differences between groups is the way that they are organised.
The Anglican Church
The Anglican Church is not just a British Church – it has has about 70 million members worldwide and is made up of about 37 member churches (groups) throughout the world. It includes the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church of Ireland. Although these groups are not based in England they are part of the Anglican Church, because they grew out of it.
The Anglican Church is organised like the Orthodox Church in that each of its member groups is self-governing.
The Church of England may have been the first Anglican Church but it does not control the others.
The Church of England differs from other Protestant Churches because it is an Established Church. This means that it is the official church of the State – and has a role to play in the way the country is run.
The head of the Church of England is the Queen and the most senior member of the clergy is the Archbishop of Canterbury who is appointed by the Archbishop.
Besides the Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England clergy include Bishops and Vicars.
Church of England clergy do not have to be celibate. Women may also become members of the clergy.
The Free (or Non-Conformist) Churches
The expression “Free Church” covers Protestant groups that have separated from or do not conform to (accept) the beliefs or direction of the main Protestant church groups.
Examples of such churches include the United Reformed Church, the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church and the Scottish Free Church (known as the “Wee Frees”).
Other non-conformist groups include:
The Society of Friends or Quakers
William Fox started this in the sixteenth century. He wanted Christians to return to simple ways of worship. Quakers have involved themselves in many areas of social reform e.g. prison reform
The Salvation Army
William Booth started this in the nineteenth century. His aim was to convert the poor and social outcasts to Christianity. The Salvation Army remains heavily involved in social work. It exists today in about 100 countries. Booth called it an Army, as he wanted its members to fight against evil. It is organized like an Army, with ranks and a uniform. The head of the Salvation Army is the General. The High Council appoints him. The high Council is made up of the Salvation Army’s top leaders from around the world.