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Anglicanism in Europe

English churches and congregations have been established on the Continent since before the Reformation. The number of these grew to such an extent that in 1633 congregations of the Church of England in all foreign countries were placed under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London (London then being the chief port of England). Anglican dioceses and then provinces were later formed in all parts of the world outside the United Kingdom.

The Church of England was present in Continental Europe from before the Reformation and in its earliest phases. The Bible translator William Tyndale was strangled and burned at Vilvoorde in Belgium in 1536 – King Henry VIII of England had earlier asked the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V to extradite him to England to answer charges of sedition for opposing his divorce from Catherine of Aragon, but Charles in the end tried and executed him for heresy. During the reign of Mary I, Anglican bishops sought refuge in Protestant European countries, and the unique theological blend of Erasmus and Calvin which characterises Anglicanism emerged in this period. Embassy and merchant factory chapels from Hamburg to Istanbul were established in the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, and Charles I put all Anglican chaplaincies in Europe under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London in 1633.

After the British victory at Waterloo in 1815, and the increase in general peace and stability on the continent, Anglican chaplaincies grew in number and size: in the three years after Waterloo, they were established in Brussels, Boulogne, Rome, Tours, Lausanne and Florence. By 1845, just after the creation of the Diocese of Gibraltar in 1842, the British churches in Gibraltar and Malta were joined by 25 permanent chaplaincies in France, 18 in Germany, 11 in Italy, 9 in Belgium, 7 in Russia, 4 in Switzerland, 3 in the Netherlands, and 2 each in Greece, Portugal and Turkey. The Bishop of Gibraltar had responsibility for the Mediterranean basin, but chaplaincies north of the Alps or the French Mediterranean coast remained under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London, as did Madeira and the Canaries. Meanwhile, the American Episcopalians founded their own chaplaincies in Paris (before 1864), Rome (1859) and subsequently in Florence, Geneva, Dresden and Munich. Since 1971 they have been placed in the care of the Bishop-in-Charge of the American Convocation in Europe. The Spanish Episcopal Reformed Church and the Lusitanian Church (Portugal) are also full member churches of the Anglican Communion.

One of the bases for the founding of chaplaincies and for the new Diocese of Gibraltar was an optimistic ecumenism, with strenuous efforts being made not to appear to proselytise among Catholics or Orthodox as well as to begin informal talks with those churches. Hopes for ecumenical progress with Rome were dashed by the conclusions of Vatican I in 1870 and especially by Leo XIII's rejection of the validity of Anglican ministerial orders in 1896. But Anglicans did established full communion with the Old Catholic Union of Utrecht in 1931, and the general atmosphere of ecumenical cooperation with Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants has been utterly transformed since Vatican II and its Orthodox and Protestant analogues.

The Church of England now enjoys full communion with Scandinavian and Baltic Lutherans (since 1996) and the warmest partial communion with German and French Lutherans and Reformed (since 1988 and 2000). The Church of England is also in full communion with the Old Catholic churches of the Union of Utrecht (since 1931) and has a special agreement with the Roman Catholic Church in France.

Organisationally, the new Diocese in Europe was created in 1980, combining the Diocese of Gibraltar in the south with the chaplaincies in the north under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Fulham on behalf of the Bishop of London. The cathedral remains in Gibraltar, with pro-cathedrals in Malta and Brussels. The diocesan office is in London, but the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe lives and works in Brussels.

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