The Church of England is the principal religious institution of the global Anglican Communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury is in charge of the “C of E” (the Church of England is also referred to by this abbreviation). The church counts both conservative and liberal members and clergy as its adherents. As of 2015, there were nearly 26 million followers who abide by the tenets of the Church of England. The origin of this Christian religious institution can be traced back to 6th century AD when Augustine of Canterbury spearheaded the Gregorian mission in Kent.
Henry VIII, the English monarch was in dire need of a male descendent or heir to the throne as his first wife, Catherine of Aragon had given birth to a daughter. He wanted a separation or divorce from Catherine but the Roman Catholic Church’s Pope was vehemently against it. Therefore, he decided to separate the English church (which would go on to become the Church of England) from the Roman Catholic Church and formally announced the renunciation in the 1530s. The transformation and evolution of this church in England saw a steady progress under regents appointed by King Edward VI.
However, Queen Mary and King Philip somewhat revived the amalgamation back with Catholicism. Nevertheless, the ‘supremacy act of 1558’ again a fresh lease of life back into the breakaway movement with the consequence that the subsequent Elizabethan Settlement aimed at retaining the catholic character of the church albeit with ‘reformations’. The Church of England was to be catholic in considering itself as an offshoot of the original church founded by Jesus Christ. At the same, it was to be considered to be reformed and refined or rather redefined following the Protestant Reformation Movement that originated in 16th cent Germany.
The hierarchy or organizational structure of the Roman Catholic Church can be defined in two distinct ways-in terms of structures and in the perspective of individuals who head these structures. The principal religious organization or church of Roman Catholicism or Roman Catholics (as distinct from Eastern Orthodoxy or Protestantism) is the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome which lies at the pinnacle or top of the all the institutions around the world. Next in the hierarchical order are the dioceses where every diocese controls all churches or parishes lying within its jurisdiction. The local church, therefore lies at the bottom of this hierarchical order and is often referred to as a parish.
As of now, there are a total of 2946 dioceses or mother churches, and 2, 19, 583 parishes or local churches throughout the world. The religious head of the local church is known as the priest, and is variously referred to as Reverend, father or pastor. The territorial jurisdiction of a church is clearly defined and the priest heading this church reports directly to the bishop of the diocese under which the parish belongs. He is answerable only to the bishop of his church’s diocese and of course to the Pope. Just above the priest is the bishop or the archbishop who’s in charge of a diocese. So, there is only bishop for each of the 2946 dioceses in the world.
Technically speaking, there’s no difference between an archbishop and a bishop as far as wielding authority is concerned. An archbishop has command over a larger geographical territory compared to a bishop and his home church (called cathedral) where he officially presides and resides is usually located in a large city usually the capital of a state or nation. The bishop reports only to the Pope who appointed him and also has the authority to fire him. The St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City is technically a church and the priest heading this religious establishment also functions as a bishop (bishop of Rome Diocese) and as a Pope. The Pope, therefore, is the religious head of not only the Roman Catholics but also of all the institutions under Roman Catholicism.
The origin and evolution of the parish church is inextricably linked to Roman Catholicism which is the dominant religious or spiritual sect of Christianity, the other two branches being Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy. The history or parish church’s origin is in fact synonymous with the history of Roman Catholic Church (R C Ch) or Christian Church. The parish church came to be established in the wake of the gospels of Jesus Christ-founder of Christianity, who lived and preached in Judea, a province of the Holy Roman Empire. Jesus anointed one of the 12 apostles, Saint Peter to head the first or original church in Rome and is regarded as the first bishop.
The bishop or the head of the Roman church came to be known as the pope and so all subsequent popes of the church in Rome are considered to be successors of Saint Peter. With passage of time, churches began to be formed throughout the Roman Empire with the bishop heading the structural unit. Towards the turn of the 3rd cent, the church in Rome or the Roman Church started functioning as the supreme appeals court to which the bishops of different churches turned for resolving religious issues which regional synods could not mitigate or solve.
If historians are to be believed, Christianity as a religion went through epochal ups and downs for the first three centuries after its founding. Early followers and proponents of the religion were immensely persecuted as the Roman Empire had put heavy restrictions on its propagation. However winds of change started blowing in favor of Christianity with the advent of Constantine who advocated religious toleration. He strongly felt that by allowing the religion to take roots, the vast empire that was getting difficult to govern and was on the verge of collapsing could be prevented from disintegrating. Slowly and gradually over the centuries, the Roman Catholic Church has played a key role in making Roman Catholicism the major religious sect after Islam with approximately 1.1 million followers or Roman Catholics throughout the world.