The Church of England is the officially established Christian Church in England and the mother church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church dates its formal establishment principally to the mission by Saint Augustine of Canterbury, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, who was commissioned by Pope Gregory I in AD 597 to convert the Angles to Christianity. As a result of Augustine's mission, Christianity in England came under the authority of the pope in Rome. However, in 1534 King Henry VIII declared himself to be head of the Church of England.
The Church of England 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. The pope's 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. During the 17th century, political and religious disputes raised the Puritan and Presbyterian faction to control of the church, but this ended with the Restoration. The contemporary Church of England still continues to contain several doctrinal strands, now generally known as Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical. This reflects early divisions. In recent times, tensions between theological conservatives and progressives find expression in debates over the current ordination of women and homosexuality within the church.
The governing structure of the church is based on dioceses, each presided over by a bishop. Within each diocese are many local parishes, each containing one (or sometimes more than one) parish church. Parishes are locally administered, but all share the same bishop (termed "Father in God" in the Church's official liturgies) emphasising the diocese as the local "family unit" of the Church, and showing its episcopal polity. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the Primate of All England, leading the Church of England and acting as a focus of unity for the wider Anglican Communion. The General Synod is the legislative body for the church and comprises bishops, clergy and laity. Its measures must be approved by both Houses of Parliament.