Presbyterian and Anglican Compared: Charts, Summaries


The Anglican and Presbyterian traditions were both born out of 16th-century protests against the Roman Catholic Church in Europe. The denominations are in agreement on several important Christian doctrines, yet they have significant differences on certain matters.

Presbyterianism is a thoroughly Protestant tradition. The Anglican Church is a mixture of Protestant and Roman Catholic convictions, however The 39 Articles of Religion reflects Protestant theology. Both traditions affirm doctrines such as the Trinity, the inspiration of Scripture and the resurrection of Christ.

How do the origins, theologies, and practices of the Anglican and Presbyterian traditions compare? Was the founder of Presbyterianism, John Calvin (1509-1564), and the founder of Anglicanism, King Henry III (1491-1547), united in their 16th century protest? Keep reading to learn more.

Presbyterianism and Methodism have similarities and differences. See Presbyterian vs Methodist: What’s the Difference? to learn more.

Presbyterian church pews
Do Presbyterians and Anglicans both believe in predestination? See below

Anglican vs Presbyterian: What’s the Difference?

AnglicanPresbyterian
NameThe term “Anglican” comes from the Latin word for England. It’s first use was in the 13th-century Magna Carta, which reads “the Anglican church shall be free.”The term “Presbyterian” is derived from the Greek word presbyteros, meaning “elder.” In New Testament context, the word refers to a form of church government that is elder led.
OriginChristianity in England dates to the first few centuries after Christ. However, the Church of England declared independence from the Roman Catholic Church under King Henry III in the Act of Supremacy.John Calvin (1509-1564), 16th century France
Early influencer(s)Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), King Edward VI (1537-1553)John Knox (1514-1572), 16th century Scotland
Significant writing outside the BibleBook of Common Prayer (1549); 39 Articles of Religion (1571), which are included in the Book of Common PrayerThe Westminster Confession of Faith (1647)
Primary doctrineThe Trinity, the fallenness of humanity, the death of Christ as an atonement for sin, the physical resurrection of Christ, the inspiration of Scripture, the Second ComingThe Trinity, the fallenness of humanity, the death of Christ as an atonement for sin, the physical resurrection of Christ, salvation is by grace through faith, the inspiration and authority of Scripture, the Second Coming
TheologySome describe Anglicanism as Protestant; others describe as a middle way between Catholicism and Anglicanism; still others describe as a middle way between Presbyterianism and LutheranismPresbyterian churches are Reformed; historically, the teachings of John Calvin shape the tradition’s doctrine; Covenant Theology undergirds their faith and practice
Theological and social worldviewIt depends on the communion; for example, churches in the Anglican Communion in America, Canada, Brazil, and other countries have vocalized support over same-sex marriage and some have formalized their support of it.It depends on the denomination; the PCUSA welcomes liberal and progressive theological positions and social causes; the PCA maintains conservative positions on theological and social matters

Something a lot of people wonder about Christianity is Do All Denominations Go to Heaven? Follow the link to learn the answer to this important question.

Anglican church
“And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church.” Ephesians 1:22 (ESV)

Anglican and Presbyterian Beliefs Compared

The primary doctrinal statement of the Anglican Church is the 39 Articles of Religion. The primary doctrinal statement of the Presbyterian Church is the Westminster Confession of Faith. The comparison chart below provides a starting point in comparing the documents and beliefs of each tradition.

Neither statement is reproduced in its entirety and readers are encouraged to examine each document in full to further aid their understanding following the links provided after the table. (Also see Presbyterian vs Pentecostal: What’s the Difference?)

Trinity
39 Articles of ReligionThere is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Westminster Confession of FaithIn the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding: the Son is eternally begotten of the Father: the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son. (Ch. II)
Son
39 Articles of ReligionThe Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took Man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God, and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men.
Westminster Confession of FaithThe Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon Him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin: being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man. (Ch. VIII)

Also see Presbyterian vs Roman Catholic: What’s the Difference?

Resurrection
39 Articles of ReligionChrist did truly rise again from death, and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of Man’s nature; wherewith he ascended into Heaven, and there sitteth, until he return to judge all Men at the last day.
Westminster Confession of FaithOn the third day He arose from the dead, with the same body in which He suffered, with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of His Father, making intercession, and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world. (Ch. VIII)
Holy Spirit
39 Articles of ReligionThe Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory, with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God.
Westminster Confession of Faith…the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son. (Ch. II)
Scripture
39 Articles of ReligionHoly Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.
Westminster Confession of FaithThe authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God. (Ch. I)
Sin
39 Articles of ReligionOriginal sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk;) but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation.
Westminster Confession of FaithOur first parents, being seduced by the subtilty and temptation of Satan, sinned, in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory… They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation. (Ch. VI)

Also see Presbyterian vs Baptist: What’s the Difference?

Justification
39 Articles of ReligionWe are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.
Westminster Confession of FaithTo all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, He doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same, making intercession for them, and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation, effectually persuading them by His Spirit to believe and obey, and governing their hearts by His Word and Spirit; overcoming all their enemies by His almighty power and wisdom, in such manner, and ways, as are most consonant to His wonderful and unsearchable dispensation. (Ch. VIII)
Predestination and Election
39 Articles of ReligionPredestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honor.
Westminster Confession of FaithAll those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased in His appointed and accepted time effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God,(d) taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace. (Ch. 10)
Church
39 Articles of ReligionThe visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same. As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred, so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith.
Westminster Confession of FaithThe visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. (Ch. XXV)
Sacraments
39 Articles of ReligionSacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God’s good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.
Westminster Confession of FaithSacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace, immediately instituted by God, to represent Christ and His benefits; and to confirm our interest in Him; as also, to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the Church, and the rest of the world; and solemnly to engage them to the service of God in Christ, according to His Word. (Ch. XXVII)
Baptism
39 Articles of ReligionBaptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed, Faith is confirmed, and Grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God.
The Baptism of young Children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ.
Westminster Confession of FaithBaptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church; but also, to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God through Jesus Christ, to walk in the newness of life. Which sacrament is, by Christ’s own appointment, to be continued in His Church until the end of the world. (Ch. XXVIII)

Also see Presbyterian vs Lutheran: What’s the Difference?

The Lord’s Supper
39 Articles of ReligionThe Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but rather it is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ’s death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.
Westminster Confession of FaithIn this sacrament, Christ is not offered up to His Father; nor any real sacrifice made at all for remission of sins of the quick or dead; but only a commemoration of that one offering up of Himself, by Himself, upon the cross, once for all: and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God for the same: so that the Popish sacrifice of the mass (as they call it) is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one, only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of His elect. (Ch. XXIX)

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