Ethnicity Online

Cultural Awareness in Healthcare

Christianity Chengland

This section on the Church of England is subdivided into:

introduction to church of england

Christianity began as a Jewish sect ~2000 years ago, but soon broke off from Judaism. It is based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, or Jesus of Nazareth, whom mainstream Christians believe to have been God's human representative on Earth.

Christians believe that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, was resurrected after death and finally ascended to heaven. His life and stories pertaining to God's relationship with mankind are recorded in the Bible, a collection of books, dating from ~1000BC to 100AD,

upon which Christianity is based.

Christians believe in the Trinity – that God is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Christianity encompasses many groups and sects, but the main one in the UK is the Church of England, or the Anglican Church (the Churches of Wales, Scotland and Ireland are also Anglican Churches). The Church of England is a Protestant Church, so called because it began as a form of protest against the Roman Catholic Church during the 16th century Reformation.

The Church of England is headed by the Monarch, or Defender of the Faith, as opposed to other Protestant Churches, which are referred to as 'Free Churches' because they are not controlled by the state. Because the Church of England is the established church in this country, many non-practising Christians cite it as their religion, some as a matter of course, and may or may not seek comfort from it during times of illness.

religious beliefs

Christians believe in the Trinity of one God, the father of mankind who created heaven and earth, and sent his son, Jesus Christ, to save mankind, and then the Holy Spirit to continue his work in human affairs.

Christians are committed to marriage until the death of a spouse, and many Church of England vicars refuse to marry divorcees. More liberal vicars may embrace the Christian value of forgiveness, and see remarriage as the opportunity to make a fresh start in life.


Some members of the Church of England may wish to receive the Eucharist, or Holy Communion, when they are in hospital, and possibly the sacrament of the sick, which involves being anointed with holy oil. Key rites of passage (birth, initiation, marriage and death) are commemorated.


Christians celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday. This is a day of rest when many of them attend Church. Christian healthcare workers may object to working on the Sabbath. There are also many special holidays in the Christian calendar when particular church services take place (see 'Christian holiday' section).

Church of England preachers are called vicars, or priests, and answer to the bishop of their diocese in the hierarchical structure of the Church. Some Christians will not accept the ministry of a female member of the clergy.

Patients in hospital may wish to be visited by the chaplain or their own vicar if they are unable to attend services themselves. They may ask for the Eucharist to be brought to them, particularly before they have an operation. They may also appreciate the opportunity to spend some quiet, undisturbed time to pray and read the Bible. Some patients may wish to have a cross at their bedside, or wear one on a chain around their neck if possible.

healthcare-related issues

This subsection contains an alphabetic listing of specific healthcare-related information and advice for members of the Church of England.

birth and baptism

Although no specific rites and rituals are associated with birth, Church of England parents usually have their children baptised, or christened, in church as infants. The parents and godparents make promises on behalf of the child, who may then choose to be 'confirmed' of those beliefs when they are much older and able to understand for themselves. There is, however, no age limit on baptism, and adults who have come to the Church in later life may also be baptised.

Parents may request a baptism if their new baby is unlikely to survive. Although this is usually carried out by a member of the clergy, anyone can perform the ceremony in an emergency by making the sign of a cross, pouring a little water on the forehead and saying the words '…(child's name), I baptise you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen'. If a child dies without being baptised, the parents may wish the chaplain to offer a blessing and perform a naming ceremony.

blood transfusion

The Church of England has no objections to blood transfusions.


The Anglican Church is not opposed to contraception. It maintains that God has given parents the responsibility for planning their families.


Some Christians may not eat meat on Fridays and should therefore be offered a fish or vegetarian alternative. Devout Christians may fast for an hour or so before taking the Eucharist, but this is not a requirement and certainly need not apply to the very young, elderly or infirm. Some Christians do not drink alcohol, but this is not a requirement of the Church of England, unlike some of the Free Churches.

dying and death

A dying patient may wish to see a member of the clergy before they die and receive the sacrament of the sick, which is carried out using holy oil. They, or their visitors, may wish to have prayers at their bedside. Routine last offices are appropriate for a dying Christian. More prayers may be said after someone has died.

Christians believe that the righteous spend eternity in heaven with God and Christ when they die. The damned go to hell.

After death, a Christian should be wrapped in a sheet with their arms and hands placed at their sides. They may be buried or cremated, in accordance with their wishes.


Because the Church of England views sexual intercourse as an act of total commitment between a married couple, the acceptability of homosexuality is a matter for great debate. It is felt that homosexual acts fall short of this ideal and are therefore sinful. Christians do not condone any kind of hatred towards homosexuals.


There are no religious restrictions on medication.

organ donation and post-mortem

Most Christians are unlikely to have any religious objections to organ donation and post-mortems.


Suicide has not been a crime in the UK since 1961. Most Christians view suicide as a rejection, not of life itself, but of a particular life, and as a cry for help. Anyone who has attempted suicide will not be morally condemned, but offered support and understanding.

termination of pregnancy

The Church of England is opposed to abortion because all human life is believed to be God-given and should therefore be nurtured, supported and protected. It does, however, recognise the rights of the mother (and to some extent those of the father), and would not morally condemn a woman if she sought a termination in order to preserve her own mental or physical health.

The General Synod of the Church of England actively seeks to ensure that the laws on termination are not interpreted too liberally, and that any terminations that are deemed necessary are carried out as early as possible. It also seeks to support medical staff who object to being involved in the termination of a pregnancy.

The Church has long been involved in assisting parents to find suitable adoptive parents for their baby, should they choose that option rather than seeking an abortion.

further information

See also:

Christian Medical Fellowship

The Christian Medical Fellowship website provides articles on a range of medical issues that arise for Christian medics.

The Church of England

The official website of the Church of England includes a section on the views of the church, which covers medical ethics, life and death, and human sexuality. It lists contact details for the many dioceses within the organisation.

church of england

The Church of England is the established or state church in England. It was formed as a separate branch of Christianity in 1534, when King Henry VIII of England broke away from the Roman Catholic Church with the Act of Supremacy, which declared the king of England to be the head of the Church of England.

The Church of England is a Protestant denomination of Christianity, and is one of the main Christian churches in the UK. Its members are also known as Anglicans. Like all Christians, those who belong to the Church of England believe in God and the divinity of Christ.