The Free Church of England and the Church of England have a long relationship. At times there have been formal contacts between us, as in 1920 when the Lambeth Conference issued its ‘Appeal to all Christian People’ and during the 1990s when the two Churches had official conversations.
The Canons of the Church of England permit clergy and laity of the Free Church of England to perform certain liturgical functions within Church of England worship, subject to necessary permissions being granted. Church of England Canons also permit a congregation to enter into a Local Ecumenical Project or Partnership (LEP) with a Free Church of England congregation.
Nationally, the two Churches relate in the wider inter-church context, via the Free Churches Group and Churches Together in England. Locally, Free Church of England and Church of England clergy and congregations co-operate in a range of activities.
The Free Church of England is required by its Constitution to ‘conform to the ancient laws and customs of the Church of England’. Our doctrinal basis, structures, organisation, worship, ministry and ethos are therefore recognisably ‘Anglican’. Anyone coming from an Anglican background would find much that was familiar to him or her – including the layout of our Churches, robes, churchwardens, church councils and the like.
Our worship is that of the Book of Common Prayer or conservative modern-language forms that belong to the Anglican tradition. The Free Church of England is not a member of the Anglican Communion – though the Provinces that make up the Communion are currently re-defining their relationships with each other and with the See of Canterbury.
Since the 1870s the Free Church of England has been in full communion with the Reformed Episcopal Church in the United States and Canada. The REC is a full member of the recently-formed Anglican Church in North America. The fact that the ACNA has been recognised by some Provinces of the Anglican Communion means that the Free Church of England now stands in some degree of relationship with them, though the precise details have not yet been worked out.
Most definitely, Yes - in the sense that we believe that the Church is brought into being by the Evangel – the Gospel – and is commanded to share that Good News with others so that they might come to know Christ and be added to the Church which is His Body.
Many of the emphases in our theology and preaching we share with Christians and Churches that are designated ‘Evangelical’. We believe that salvation – being brought into an eternal relationship with God – is only possible through repentance and faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
We believe that the Bible is God’s reliable record of His dealings with mankind, to make it possible for us to return to Him. We believe that the Holy Spirit is given to Christians so that they may offer back to God spiritual sacrifices of praise, thanksgiving, and sanctified lives.
also believe that it is possible to preach and live this ‘evangelical’ faith in a Church which is itself part of God’s gracious provision.
Locally and nationally the Christian community is to be a place where Christ is made known through preaching, sacraments, prayer, pastoral care, teaching and acts of witness and service.
The ministry of our bishops, presbyters and deacons is to lead and equip the local Churches in all these tasks.
A major problem in discussing the differences between the Free Church of England and the Church of England is that the modern Church of England is extremely diverse, both in practice and belief. The Free Church of England does not have this range of belief and practice. Worship styles (robed and liturgical) are virtually the same in each congregation. There are no ‘parties’, with the result that there is a much greater uniformity of faith and doctrine, centred around the traditional Anglican formularies.
The structures of both Churches are parallel – Church Councils, Diocesan Synods, Convocation/General Synod – but the Free Church of England does not of course have any legal link with the State and can, for example, alter its Canons without going to Parliament for approval. The Queen is not, of course, the Supreme Governor of the Free Church of England, but is regularly prayed for in the State Prayers and on other occasions. There is no Archbishop, but one of the Bishops is elected as Bishop Primus (a title used in other parts of the Anglican Communion as well) and presides at meetings of Convocation. The Primus also speaks on behalf of the whole Church when occasion requires.
The Free Church of England is a member of Churches Together in England, www.cte.org.uk and as such our understanding is that for schools within the Blackburn with Darwen area the Free Church of England falls with the same category as the Church of England and other Anglican churches.
More clarification can be found here on an external link to churches together in England.