The Anglican Church of Australia is a member church of the Anglican Communion, that family of churches over which the Archbishop of Canterbury presides. It owes its origin to the activities of missionaries of and settlers from the Church of England and adheres to Anglican teaching and practice.

The formal establishment of the Church of England as a national church independent of the Pope, was the work of King Henry VIII in the third decade of the sixteenth Century. Its origins were political, but under Queen Elizabeth, Anglicanism as a doctrinal system distinguishable from that of other communions, both Catholic and Protestant, emerged. Its liturgical and doctrinal formularies - the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty Nine Articles - in their settled form, date from Elizabeth's reign. Although it took a century of controversy and conflict culminating in the English Civil War, the final settlement which followed the Restoration of King Charles II remained true to its Elizabethan Settlement.

While elements of Church life in pre-reformation England anticipate some later, specifically Anglican, features, Anglicanism as such originates at the Reformation. At the same time it is a development out of, not a reaction against, historic English Christianity.

What made the English Reformation different and Anglicanism unusual was its conservatism. As a result, the post-Reformation Church of England took over a great heritage of material organisation, of custom, and tradition. In addition, it maintained its essential continuity in faith and doctrine with the Church of the early fathers as it developed from its New Testament roots and found expression in the Creeds of the Church. The centuries-old structuring of dioceses under bishops and parishes under parish priests continued to function. An ordered and uniform liturgy was prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer. The Articles of Religion are inclusive rather than exclusive with truth being sought in the joint testimony of Scripture and Tradition intelligently understood.

Attempts to impose an Anglican pattern on the Church of Scotland failed and in the Church of Ireland succeeded only to a limited extent. By the Eighteenth Century, religious passions had spent themselves, and while the challenges of Deism and rationalism were successfully met, the Church made little impact on intellectuals and the newly-emerging industrial communities. The Evangelical Revival went far to raise the levels of personal religion, but it remained for reforming bishops and supporting politicians and to the Oxford Movement to renew the institutional life of the Church of England.

Anglicanism in Australia

Members of the Church of England in the newly-independent United States organised themselves as the Protestant Episcopal Church. In the following years, the expansion of the British Empire saw bishops appointed for Canada, India and, in 1836, Australia. William Grant Broughton, the first bishop, worked hard to plant churches in new settlements beyond the early chaplaincies. The outcome of this was the creation of dioceses of the Church of England in each Australian colony.

However, this development took place in a setting of denominational pluralism. While occupying a prominent position in society, the Church of England in Australia had no formal links with the State. Hence, all the pioneer bishops had to evolve new forms of church government, typically a Synod of clergy and parish representatives. As well, lacking the endowment of its parent, Australian Anglicans had to accept responsibility for the support of their clergy, the buildings of their churches, and the development of educational and charitable institutions. This has meant that while basic parish and diocesan structures have been in place for over a century, the Anglican Church of Australia has remained a church of large responsibilities, but limited resources.

The various dioceses of the Australian Church, by and large, continue to reflect the theological emphasis of their first bishops. Apart from the largest diocese, Sydney, which remains staunchly Evangelical, Australian dioceses exhibit varying shades of Anglo-Catholicism relieved by Pentecostalism and Liberalism.

Their Anglicanism is usually defined by reference to the Lambeth Quadrilateral - that summary of essentials agreed to by the Anglican bishops in their world-wide assembly at the Lambeth Conference of 1888. This comprises four Articles:

  • "The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as 'containing all things necessary to salvation', and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.
  • The Apostles' Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith.
  • The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself - Baptism and the Supper of the Lord - ministered with unfailing use of Christ's Words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.
  • The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church."
    By the Right Rev’d James Grant

Brief History on the Diocese of Adelaide

Bishop Augustus Short

The Diocese of Adelaide was founded in 1847 with Bishop Augustus Short as its first bishop. Until 1856 the diocese included Western Australia. The Diocese now forms part of the Province of South Australia, with Willochra (1915) and The Murray (1969).

The first Anglican services were held in 1837, shortly after the founding of the Colony of South Australia, which unlike the other Australian colonies, was founded on Wakefield's principles of systematic colonisation, without convicts. As this colony was the first to end the granting of public funds to religion (1851), the Church of England in the colony had no establishment status.

Today, the Diocese of Adelaide is geographically the smallest diocese in Australia. It is largely an urban, metropolitan diocese, although its rural parishes include Kangaroo Island and in the north extends to the wine-producing Barossa Valley and Kapunda.

The Anglican Church in South Australia has always been closely involved with the local community. The first bishop was the first Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide. It was the wife of an Archdeacon of Adelaide who was largely responsible for establishing what was then called the Home for Incurables, and is now known in her honour as Julia Farr House for the chronically ill and disabled. Other Anglican welfare institutions were consolidated in recent years as Anglicare SA, one of the biggest welfare agencies in this state which has its own web site.

Located on traditional Kaurna lands, the Nunga Ministry serves the Aboriginal community. Anglicare SA continues to provide services to children, the aged and family services and emergency relief. St Peter's Cathedral in North Adelaide is the mother church. While predominantly Anglo-Celtic in background, it has a multi-cultural and mission ethos, and has played a significant part in the growth and development of the state.