The Church of England is the English national church. The Church traces its history back to at least the fourth century A.D. It contains High Church elements (similar in ritual to the Roman Catholics), Low Church elements (similar to Methodists), and a Broad Church middle. It is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Under King Henry VIII England broke with Rome and reasserted its independence in questions of religion.
The Church of England is sometimes call the "mother church" of the Anglican Communion, but that is misleading because the Church of England does not have authority over churches that are also part of the Anglican Communion in more than 160 other countries.
In July 2014, the Church of England voted to accept women as bishops, following a trend in the Anglican Communion of the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa Anglican-affiliated churches also accepting women as bishops.
Henry VIII, who reigned 1509–47, broke with the Pope on two issues, his divorce, and control over the Church inside England, as he declared himself head of the Church in England. Disagreement with Henry on religious issues was a political affront, and he could not tolerate it. Moderate reform took place in the 1530s because Queen Anne and top aides Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) and Cromwell had the king's ear and carried out attacks on the old religion. Queen Anne patronized and promoted clergy and bishops of a reforming turn of mind; Cromwell (1485?–1540), the Earl of Essex, was a convinced reformer and in effect the ruthless and unpopular prime minister from 1532 until he fell from favour and was beheaded in 1540. Cranmer (1489–1556) was archbishop of Canterbury after 1533. Henry persecuted those who still held to Papal Supremacy, and encouraged Protestant ideas to flourish. Protestantism was officially established during the short reign of Henry's son, Edward VI.
After Henry's death in 1547, Cranmer wrote much of the first Book of Common Prayer (1549, revised 1552), the centerpiece of the Anglican liturgy. The basic summary of Anglican beliefs and practices is the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, written by Cranmer and adopted in 1563 under Queen Elizabeth I. In these foundational documents the supreme authority and sufficiency of scripture for salvation was explicitly stated. In Cranmer's theology, the Holy Spirit inspires the proper understanding of the Bible in the faithful.
This marks the full establishment of the Church of England, largely Protestant in theology but with a hierarchical structure similar to the Roman Catholic establishment, and a largely Catholic liturgy translated from Latin into English. Numerous dissenters had theological differences, a major factor leading to the English Civil War of the 17th century.
Like Oriental and Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches (and unlike most Protestant churches), Anglicans maintain authority within the church through Apostolic succession.
The late Victorian social purity movement heralded a new phase in the history of moral regulation, generating significant levels of Anglican and Nonconformist support for male chastity and the elimination of the sexual double standard. Historians have studied the use criminal legislation and censorship to elevate standards of public morality. Morgan (2007) stresses the role of women activists who were prominent campaigners for social purity. Women purity workers exerted enormous pressure on the professional hierarchies of church and chapel, actively reworking Christian readings of the body so as to bring the moral influence of the churches to bear on public opinion. In so doing, they brought about a significant transformation in clerical attitudes that regarded discussions of sex as beyond the boundaries of civilized discourse and led in the promotion of a regulatory, but nonetheless highly public, religious discourse on sexuality.
High, Low, Broad
The Church of England struggled to maintain within itself the diametrically opposed tendencies of high-church Anglo-Catholicism and low-church evangelicalism. Even within the broad church movement, disciples of low-church historian and Rugby headmaster Thomas Arnold (1795-1842) and former Unitarian founder of Christian Socialism Frederick Denison Maurice (1805–72), while overlapping somewhat in their membership, based their comprehensiveness on different theology.
In the late 19th, 20th, and early 21st centuries, Anglican priests have participated in several ecumenical events. The Lord's supper was shared with Scottish Presbyterians in 1913. Three bishops of the Church of England converted to the Roman Catholic church in 2011, and more than a thousand clergy and laity have indicated that they are likely to convert as well.
The British monarch (currently, Queen Elizabeth II) is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The monarch also bears the title Defender of the Faith. A 1701 law, still in effect, prevents a Roman Catholic or spouse of a Roman Catholic from becoming king or queen. 
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the Primate of the church, head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and an ex officio member of Britain's House of Lords along with twenty other bishops. Recent moves to appoint Roman Catholic bishops have been disapproved by parliament.
The principal book of worship in Anglican churches is the Book of Common Prayer, however most churches now use Common Worship, a new set of worship resources developed in 2000. The Church of England is the "established church" of England. At the time of the American Revolution, it was a legal requirement in England that all public officials, including university professors, take an oath to uphold the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. There were no such requirements in the colonies, but the Church of England was established and tax supported in some southern colonies. It was disestablished during the American Revolution. The Church was in disarray during the Revolution, as many leaders returned to England. After the war it slowly rebuilt as the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.
Clergy form a three-level hierarchy, with Deacon at the lowest level, then Priest, then Bishop. An Archbishop is the presiding bishop of a province. Only bishops are able to ordain those below them and also have special authority in other matters. For example, it usually is only a Bishop who conducts the sacramental rite of Confirmation.
The Church has two provinces, Canterbury (Southern) and York (Northern). Each province is divided into dioceses, and each diocese is divided into parishes.
Protestant Experimentalists (group of Anglican modernists)
In the early 20th century several Anglican priests and scholars showed interest in the new wired and wireless communications technologies such as radio and their possible use in furthering Christianity. Their interests included telepathy, psychic research, psychology, and healing. Such Anglican intellectuals were the Anglican Archbishop Frederick Du Vernet and the Espicopal bible scholar Kirsopp Lake.
- Chapman, Mark. Anglicanism: A Very Short Introduction (2006) excerpt and text search
- Hassett, Miranda K. Anglican Communion in Crisis: How Episcopal Dissidents and Their African Allies Are Reshaping Anglicanism (2007) excerpt and text search
- Pawley, Bernard & Margaret Pawley. Rome and Canterbury Through Four Centuries: A study of the relations between the church of Rome and the Anglican churches 1530-1973 (1974)
- Porter, Muriel. The New Puritans: The Rise of Fundamentalism in the Anglican Church (2007)
- Rosenthal, James. The Essential Guide to the Anglican Communion (1998)
- Sykes, Stephen, and John Booty, eds. The Study of Anglicanism (1988), important essays by 31 scholars on all aspects of the Church
- Evans, G.R. and Robert Wright, eds. The Anglican Tradition: A Handbook of Sources (1991), over 600 historical documents
- Anglicana Ecclesia, primary documents
- Sue Morgan, "'Wild Oats or Acorns?' Social Purity, Sexual Politics and the Response of the Late-Victorian Church," Journal of Religious History 2007 31(2): 151-168 online at EBSCO
- Jeremy Morris, "The Spirit of Comprehension: Examining the Broad Church Synthesis in England," Anglican & Episcopal History 2006 75(3): 423-443
- Act of Settlement (1700). Retrieved on 2012-04-06.
- "Radio Mind: Protestant Experimentalists on the Frontiers of Healing", Journal of the American Academy of Religion 2007 75(3):651-683