The Anglican Communion is an organization of autonomous national churches connected with the Church of England, which has its roots in the 16th century Protestant Reformation.
Anglicanism or Episcopalianism is the general form of doctrine, worship and structure based on the tradition of the Church of England, which extends beyond membership in the Anglican Communion.
Anglicanism is characterized by a via media (middle way) between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Anglicans are not subject to the Pope and are Protestant in most areas of doctrine, but Anglicans also retain many Catholic forms of worship, including a hierarchy based on bishops (which is the meaning of the world "Episcopalian").
Anglican and Episcopalian Beliefs
Anglicanism in general allows for significant freedom and diversity within the bounds of scripture, reason and tradition. This has led to considerable variation in Christian beliefs and Christian practices between Anglican churches in different provinces.
For example, some Anglican churches ordain women to the priesthood while others do not, and some emphasize Protestant doctrines while others hold more to Roman Catholic teachings.
This diversity has sometimes caused strain with regard to issues of authority and comprehensiveness of the Anglican Communion, which is especially apparent after the recent ordination of a practicing homosexual bishop in North America, which most other Anglican churches do not agree with.
Anglican rituals are expressed primarily in the Book of Common Prayer, a collection of liturgy developed by Thomas Cranmer in the 16 th century and periodically modified since then. However, the Book of Common Prayer is not held to be normative. Much diversity has recently developed in Anglican worship around the world, and many different Prayer Books have been issued.
In general, Anglican worship tends to be Catholic or "High Church" in flavor, with prescribed rituals and readings, bishops and priests, vestments, saints' days and elaborately decorated churches.