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24 September 2014

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You are in: London > Faith > Communities > I - Z > Protestant London

A Protestant Baptist Choir

A Protestant Baptist Choir

Protestant London

Welcome to our pages dedicated to Protestant Christianity in the capital

In the UK today, the Christian/Protestant religion has progressed in many different directions, with three of the largest churches in London being the Church of England, the Methodist Church and the Baptist Church.

It is not just a centre of worship but seen to these communities as a centre of friendship, support and unity, helping with all sorts of emotional, financial and spiritual needs.

The formation of the Church of England dates back to the times of Henry VIII, although there had been Christian churches long before this date. It was then that the Church Of England broke away from the Church Of Rome, and Roman Catholicism to form a separate branch of Christianity.

The Church England now has over 16,000 churches and 42 cathedrals. Members of the Church of England are more commonly known as Anglicans. There are reported to be as many as 70 million followers in over 161 countries worldwide.

Queen Elizabeth II

The Queen is head of the Anglican Church

There are two books which are central to the Church of England and the Anglican religion. These are the Book of Common Prayer and The Common Worship: Services and Prayer.

The first contains services of morning, evening and night prayer, which are central points of worship. The Church of England's doctrine can also be found there as well the ancient creeds and the Thirty-Nine Articles.

This book cannot be altered without the approval of Parliament. The second book is an updated version of the previous one, with the central theme being that the life of a Christian is a journey, one that non-Christians can also join.

At the Head of the Church of England is the Queen, who is Supreme Governor. Her tasks involve the appointing of archbishops, bishops and deans of cathedrals, she is helped in this duty by the Prime Minister who advises her.

The Church of England is split into two provinces, each led by an archbishop - the Archbishop of Canterbury for the southern province and the Archbishop of York for the north. These areas are then split into diocese, of which there are 43 in England, and then into parishes which are then overseen by a parish priest or vicar.

London is split into two diocese. Southwark looks after South London and East Surrey. The diocese has an estimated population of 2,358,000, covers 317 square miles, has 302 parishes and 377 churches.

The Diocese of London serves North London. The diocese covers 277 square miles and 17 boroughs of Greater London north of the River Thames. In the majority of the dioceses, it is the vicar who is involved in the community as a whole.

There has been a steady decline in attendance levels for the Church of England in recent years. This is indicative, in part, to the level of importance placed on the church in British culture today.

In contrast there has been a significant rise in the attendance figures of the other denominations such as the Methodists and Baptists.

The Methodist Church was born out of a movement to revive the Church of England in the 18th century, which was led by two brothers. Their names were John and Charles Wesley. The brothers were both ordained by the Church of England and are said to have had a spiritual experience, which profoundly changed them, and the way they viewed their faith.

While Charles Wesley began to write hymns (over 6000), John Wesley was preaching outdoors in fields to mass meetings of working class people. The Sermons of John Wesley, which were published, form a large part of the doctrine of The Methodist Church. He also believed that faith and good works should go hand in hand. The Wesleys were involved in caring for the poor, prisoners, widows and others who were socially disadvantaged.

Although he did not want to break away from the Church of England, the impact of Wesley's preaching made it almost inevitable and in the 19th century it had become a separate denomination but with many strains.

Southwark Cathedral

Southwark Cathedral

It wasn't until 1932 that the three main groups came together to form the Methodist Church as we know it today. There are around 6,100 Methodist churches with a total membership of almost 330,000. The Methodist Church is governed by the Methodist Conference which is held each June and presided over by a president and vice president.

The Church itself is linked together through a system called Connexion, which consists of circuits and districts. A circuit is the basic structure of the Methodist Church and is made from local churches in defined areas and a certain number of circuits make a district. London has more than 150 Circuits, and one London District with a considerable membership.

The Baptist Church was formed in the 16th century. Baptists emphasise the need for a personal faith and a relationship with Jesus. They reserve the sacrament of Baptism for those people who can make a personal confession to Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Baptism takes the form of full immersion of the body in water not just the top of your head.

This emphasis on personal faith was perceived as a threat to the state church in the 16th century, as they expected people to belong to the state church whether they had faith or not. Baptists, however, refused to join the Church of England and argued that Christ, not a king or queen, was the Head of the Church.

By the 17th century there were two strains of Baptists - The General Baptists, who believed that Christ died for everyone and the Particular Baptists, who believed that Christ died for a select few i.e. a particular group. These two strains of thought later came together to form the present day Baptist Union of Great Britain.

There are at least 2150 Baptist Churches in the UK today with a membership of almost 160,000 and 150,000 churches with around 40 million members world wide. In the London area there are approximately 280 Baptist churches, with a membership of over 25,000, (this figure does not include those people who attend the church and are not members). Baptists see the church as a community of believers with every member having a very important and equal role to play within the church.

Unlike the Church of England the Baptist Church does not have a hierarchy of priests and bishops - each local church appoints its own ministers or leaders. Although each church is independent of the other, they do come together on a regional, national and international level to promote the Baptist faith. The churches themselves are self-supporting and self-governing and as such can range in size from a few members to hundreds.

last updated: 19/02/2008 at 12:33
created: 19/05/2005

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