The Continuing Anglican movement is a group of churches that broke away from the Anglican Communion, particularly from the Episcopal Church in the United States (ECUSA) and the Anglican Church in Canada.
Continuing Anglican churches maintain Anglican/Episcopal beliefs, liturgy, and practices, and are generally more conservative on matters of theology than the ECUSA. However because they are separate from the main Anglican bodies in their respective countries, Continuing churches are not "in full communion" with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Conversely, the Continuing Anglican churches do not seek such a relationship, owing to the differences in belief and practice which exist between the two.
The movement began during the late 1970s, largely over two issues:
- The 1976 decision by the Episcopal Church to begin approving the ordination of women to the priesthood
- The 1979 adoption of a new Book of Common Prayer, which greatly toned down the language regarding human sin from the earlier 1928 version, and introduced a choice of two rites (one in modern language) instead of a single rite.
In 1977 a statement of beliefs called the Affirmation of St. Louis was issued by the dissenting laypersons and clergy who agreed to form a new church. However, this church quickly split into three separate bodies.
The Continuing Anglican movement has been fractious, with other issues such as the debate between "high church" and "low church" worship styles coming into play. There are currently over 20 such church bodies, and each of them remains small. A few have affiliated together to form such associations as the Federation of Anglican Churches in the Americas and the Common Cause Partnership.
Continuing Anglican churches in the U.S. usually use the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, the 1940 hymnal, and the King James Version of the Bible, in preference to their modern counterparts used by the ECUSA. Thus, these churches seek to continue the practices, worship, and beliefs of Anglicanism as they were prior to the drastic changes that rocked the church after the 1960s. The name "Continuing Anglican," however, refers specifically to the concept held by these new church bodies that the Episcopal and Anglican churches that they formerly adhered to had cut themselves off from valid Apostolic Succession by permitting the ordination of women as priests. The Continuing churches, therefore, see themselves as continuing or prepetuating that lineage of priests and bishops which the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, and others have allegedly abandoned. Among the better known Continuing Anglican church bodies are the following:
- Anglican Catholic Church
- Anglican Church in America
- Anglican Province of America
- Anglican Province of Christ the King
- Episcopal Missionary Church
- United Episcopal Church of North America
In the 1990's and 2000's, additional Anglican groups have formed, most often over the issue of the eligibility of homosexual persons for (same-sex) marriage and/or ordination. These newer offshoots from the Anglican Communion consider themselves to be conservative and orthodox, but they are not "Continuing Anglicans." Most of them permit the ordination of women and the use of the controversial 1979 Book of Common Prayer. These newer Anglican churches are usually referred to as part of the "Anglican Realignment" because, again unlike the Continuing Anglicans, they aspire to remain part of the Anglican Communion headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Reformed Episcopal Church cannot technically be included as "Continuing Anglican," as it separated from ECUSA in 1873, and for different reasons,, but it shares most of the distinctive beliefs of the Continuing Anglican churches.