As a result of Augustine's mission, the church in England came under the authority of the pope. Initially prompted by a dispute over the annulment of the marriage of King Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon, the Church of England separated from the Roman Catholic Church in 1534 and became the established church by an Act of Parliament in the Act of Supremacy, beginning a series of events known as the English Reformation. During the reign of Queen Mary I and King Philip, the church was fully restored under Rome in 1555. Papal authority was again explicitly rejected after the accession of Queen Elizabeth I when the Act of Supremacy of 1558 was passed. Catholic and Reformed factions vied for determining the doctrines and worship of the church. This ended with the 1558 Elizabethan settlement, which developed the understanding that the church was to be both Catholic and Reformed:
- Catholic in that it views itself as a part of the universal church of Jesus Christ in unbroken continuity with the early apostolic church. This is expressed in its emphasis on the teachings of the early Church Fathers, as formalised in the Apostles', Nicene, and Athanasian creeds.
- Reformed in that it has been shaped by some of the doctrinal principles of the 16th century Protestant Reformation, in particular in the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Book of Common Prayer.
Since the Reformation, the Church of England has used an English liturgy. The Book of Common Prayer was based on original writings and translations from the Latin services by Thomas Cranmer. This liturgy has been updated and modernised at various times. The church also adopted congregational singing of hymns and psalms.
The governing structure of the church is based on the traditional parishes which are gathered into dioceses presided over by a bishop. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the Primate of All England and a focus of unity for the whole Anglican Communion worldwide. The General Synod is the legislative body for the church and comprises bishops, clergy and laity. Although it is only the established church in England, its measures must be approved by both Houses of Parliament including the non-English members.
The Church of Ireland and the Church in Wales separated from the Church of England in 1869 and 1920 respectively and are autonomous churches in the Anglican Communion; Scotland's national church, the Church of Scotland, is Presbyterian but the Scottish Episcopal Church is in the Anglican Communion.
The Wesleyan Methodist Church was the name used by the major Methodist movement in Great Britain following its split from the Church of England after the death of John Wesley and the appearance of parallel Methodist movements. "Wesleyan" was added to the title to differentiate it from the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists, founded by George Whitefield who like Wesley and his brother Charles had been a member of the Holy Club in Oxford to which the (originally derogatory) epithet "Methodist" was first applied, and from the Primitive Methodist movement which separated from the Wesleyans in 1807. The Wesleyan Methodist Church followed the Wesleys in holding to an Arminian theology, as against Whitefield's Calvinism; its Conference was also the legal successor to John Wesley as holders of the property of the original Methodist Societies.
The title "Wesleyan Methodist Church" remained in use until the Methodist Union of 1932, when the church re-united with the Primitive Methodist Church and the United Methodist Church to form the current Methodist Church of Great Britain.
Nonconformist, also called Dissenter, or Free Churchman, any English Protestant who does not conform to the doctrines or practices of the established Church of England. The word Nonconformist was first used in the penal acts following the Restoration of the monarchy (1660) and the Act of Uniformity (1662) to describe the conventicles (places of worship) of the congregations that had separated from the Church of England (Separatists). Nonconformists are also called dissenters (a word first used of the five Dissenting Brethren at the Westminster Assembly of Divines in 1643–47). Because of the movement begun in the late 19th century by which Nonconformists of different denominations joined together in the Free Church Federal Council, they are also called Free Churchmen.
The term Nonconformist is generally applied in England and Wales to all Protestants who have dissented from Anglicanism—Baptists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Unitarians—and also to independent groups such as the Quakers, Plymouth Brethren, English Moravians, Churches of Christ, and the Salvation Army. In Scotland, where the established church is Presbyterian, members of other churches, including Anglicans, are considered Nonconformists.