The word was coined in the 19 th century from the much older ‘Anglican’, perhaps under the influence of the contemporary term, Gallicanisme. It properly denotes the system of doctrine and practice of those Christians who are in communion with the See of Canterbury, England. It has come to be used in a more restricted sense of that system, in so far as it claims to possess a religious and theological outlook distinguishable from that of other Christian communions, whether Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant. The original formulation of Anglican principles arose [mid-16th century] in the reign of Elizabeth I rather than Henry VIII or Edward VI, for it was under her that the via media between the opposing factions of Rome and Geneva after the Reformation became a political necessity and Anglicanism as a doctrinal system took shape. Its formularies, including the Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-Nine Articles, and the two Books of Homilies… became the core of Anglican understanding, preaching, and doctrine.

After a period in which Calvinistic influences were dominant, the 17th century is often seen as the Golden Age of Anglicanism. In the lives and writings of Lancelot Andrews, William Laud, Jeremy Taylor, Thomas Ken, and many others…known as the Caroline Divines, the Church of England at once confirmed her rejection of the claims of Rome and refused to adopt the theological and ecclesiastical systems of the Continental reformers. Continental Classical Anglicanism avoided the tendency to confessional systems and refused to accept any form of authority as absolute. The historic episcopate was preserved…The Church’s right to adapt its ministry and even the form of its doctrine to changing times was not denied, but the extent of legitimate change was held to be limited by appeal to Scripture as containing all things necessary to salvation. Truth was therefore to be sought from the joint testimony of Scripture and ecclesiastical authority, which in turn was to be based on the traditions of the first four centuries of Christianity. [These contentions have been] distinctive features of Anglicanism until 1948 when the Lambeth Conference held the Book of Common Prayer to be a bond in the Anglican Communion. [The phrase is well translated “as we worship so we believe”].

Excerpted from
Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1997