Anglican Communion

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Anglican Communion
Type Communion
Classification Anglican
Polity Episcopal
of All England
Archbishop of Canterbury
Justin Welby
General Secretary Josiah Idowu-Fearon
Headquarters Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England
Founder Charles Longley
Lambeth Conference, London, England
Separations Continuing Anglican movement (1977)
Anglican realignment (2002)
Official website OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg

The Anglican Communion is the third largest Christian communion. Founded in 1867 in London, England, the communion currently has 85 million members [1] [2] within the Church of England and other national and regional churches in full communion. [3] The traditional origins of Anglican doctrines are summarised in the Thirty-nine Articles (1571). The Archbishop of Canterbury (currently Justin Welby) in England acts as a focus of unity, recognised as primus inter pares ("first among equals"), but does not exercise authority in Anglican provinces outside of the Church of England.

Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and the savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Hebrew Bible, called the Old Testament in Christianity, and chronicled in the New Testament. It is the world's largest religion with about 2.4 billion followers.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Church of England Anglican state church of England

The Church of England is the established church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the most senior cleric, although the monarch is the supreme governor. The Church of England is also the mother church of the international Anglican Communion. It traces its history to the Christian church recorded as existing in the Roman province of Britain by the third century, and to the 6th-century Gregorian mission to Kent led by Augustine of Canterbury.


The Anglican Communion was founded at the Lambeth Conference in 1867 in London, England, under the leadership of Charles Longley, Archbishop of Canterbury. The churches of the Anglican Communion consider themselves to be part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, and to be both catholic and reformed. Although aligned with the Church of England, the communion has a multitude of beliefs, liturgies, and practices, including evangelical, liberal and Anglo-Catholic. Each retains their own legislative process and episcopal polity under the leadership of local primates. For some adherents, Anglicanism represents a non-papal Catholicism, for others a form of Protestantism though without guiding figure such as Luther, Knox, Calvin, Zwingli or Wesley, [4] or for yet others a combination of the two.

Lambeth Conference

The Lambeth Conference is a decennial assembly of bishops of the Anglican Communion convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The first such conference took place in 1867.

Charles Longley Archbishop of Canterbury; Archbishop of York; Bishop of Durham; Bishop of Ripon

Charles Thomas Longley was a bishop in the Church of England. He served as Bishop of Ripon, Bishop of Durham, Archbishop of York and Archbishop of Canterbury from 1862 until his death.

Four Marks of the Church four adjectives—“one, holy, catholic and apostolic”—attributed to the Church according to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed

The Four Marks of the Church, also known as the Attributes of the Church, is a term describing four distinctive adjectives—"one, holy, catholic and apostolic"—of traditional Christian ecclesiology as expressed in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed completed at the First Council of Constantinople in AD 381: "[We believe] in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church." This ecumenical creed is today recited in the liturgy of the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Church of the East, the Moravian Church, the Lutheran Churches, the Methodist Churches, the Presbyterian Churches, the Anglican Communion and by members of many Reformed Churches.

Most of its 85 million members live in the Anglosphere of former British territories. Full participation in the sacramental life of each church is available to all communicant members. Due to their historical link to England (Ecclesia Anglicana means "English Church"), some of the member churches are known as "Anglican", such as the Anglican Church of Canada. Others, for example the Church of Ireland, the Scottish and American Episcopal churches have official names which do not include "Anglican". (Additionally, there are now breakaway churches called "Anglican" which are not of the Communion.)

Anglosphere set of developed English-speaking nations based upon British populations: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S.

The Anglosphere is a group of English-speaking nations that share common cultural and historical ties to the United Kingdom, and which today maintain close political, diplomatic and military cooperation. While the nations included in different sources vary, the Anglosphere is usually not considered to include all countries where English is an official language, although the nations that are commonly included were all once part of the British Empire. Most definitions include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The term can also encompass the Republic of Ireland and English-speaking Caribbean countries such as The Bahamas, Barbados, and Jamaica.

Anglican Church of Canada church organization in Canada

The Anglican Church of Canada is the province of the Anglican Communion in Canada. The official French-language name is l'Église anglicane du Canada. In 2007, the Anglican Church counted 545,957 members on parish rolls in 2,792 congregations, organized into 1,676 parishes. The 2011 Canadian Census counted 1,631,845 self-identified Anglicans, making the Anglican Church the third-largest Canadian church after the Catholic Church and the United Church of Canada. The Queen of Canada's Canadian Royal Style continues to include the title of Defender of the Faith, and the Canadian Monarch continues her countenance of three Chapels Royal in the Realm.

Church of Ireland Anglican church in Ireland

The Church of Ireland is a Christian church in Ireland and an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion. It is organised on an all-Ireland basis and is the second largest Christian church on the island after the Catholic Church. Like other Anglican churches, it has retained elements of pre-Reformation practice, notably its episcopal polity, while rejecting the primacy of the Pope. In theological and liturgical matters, it incorporates many principles of the Reformation, particularly those espoused during the English Reformation. The church self-identifies as being both catholic and Reformed. Within the church, differences exist between those members who are more Catholic-leaning and those who are more Protestant-leaning (evangelical). For historical and cultural reasons, the Church of Ireland is generally identified as a Protestant church.

Ecclesiology, polity and ethos

The Anglican Communion has no official legal existence nor any governing structure which might exercise authority over the member churches. There is an Anglican Communion Office in London, under the aegis of the Archbishop of Canterbury, but it only serves in a supporting and organisational role. The communion is held together by a shared history, expressed in its ecclesiology, polity and ethos and also by participation in international consultative bodies.

In Christian theology, ecclesiology is the study of the Christian Church, the origins of Christianity, its relationship to Jesus, its role in salvation, its polity, its discipline, its destiny, and its leadership.

Polity group of people who are collectively united by a self-reflected cohesive force

A polity is an identifiable political entity, or any group of people who have a collective identity, who have a capacity to mobilize resources, and are organized by some form of institutionalized hierarchy. A polity can be the government of a country, or country subdivision, or any other group of people organized for governance.

Ethos guiding beliefs

Ethos is a Greek word meaning "character" that is used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation, or ideology. The Greeks also used this word to refer to the power of music to influence emotions, behaviors, and even morals. Early Greek stories of Orpheus exhibit this idea in a compelling way. The word's use in rhetoric is closely based on the Greek terminology used by Aristotle in his concept of the three artistic proofs or modes of persuasion.

Three elements have been important in holding the communion together: first, the shared ecclesial structure of the component churches, manifested in an episcopal polity maintained through the apostolic succession of bishops and synodical government; second, the principle of belief expressed in worship, investing importance in approved prayer books and their rubrics; and third, the historical documents and the writings of early Anglican divines that have influenced the ethos of the communion.

Episcopal polity Hierarchical form of church governance

An episcopal polity is a hierarchical form of church governance in which the chief local authorities are called bishops. It is the structure used by many of the major Christian Churches and denominations, such as the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Church of the East, Anglican, and Lutheran churches or denominations, and other churches founded independently from these lineages.

Apostolic succession the method whereby the ministry of the Christian Church is held to be derived from the apostles by a continuous succession

Apostolic succession is the method whereby the ministry of the Christian Church is held to be derived from the apostles by a continuous succession, which has usually been associated with a claim that the succession is through a series of bishops. This series was seen originally as that of the bishops of a particular see founded by one or more of the apostles. According to historian Justo L. González, apostolic succession is generally understood today as meaning a series of bishops, regardless of see, each consecrated by other bishops, themselves consecrated similarly in a succession going back to the apostles. According to the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, "apostolic succession" means more than a mere transmission of powers. It is succession in a Church which witnesses to the apostolic faith, in communion with the other Churches, witnesses of the same apostolic faith. The "see (cathedra) plays an important role in inserting the bishop into the heart of ecclesial apostolicity", but, once ordained, the bishop becomes in his Church the guarantor of apostolicity and becomes a successor of the apostles.

Synod council of a church

A synod is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. The word synod comes from the Greek σύνοδος (sýnodos) meaning "assembly" or "meeting", and it is synonymous with the Latin word concilium meaning "council". Originally, synods were meetings of bishops, and the word is still used in that sense in Catholicism, Oriental Orthodoxy and Eastern Orthodoxy. In modern usage, the word often refers to the governing body of a particular church, whether its members are meeting or not. It is also sometimes used to refer to a church that is governed by a synod.

Originally, the Church of England was self-contained and relied for its unity and identity on its own history, its traditional legal and episcopal structure and its status as an established church of the state. As such Anglicanism was, from the outset, a movement with an explicitly episcopal polity, a characteristic which has been vital in maintaining the unity of the communion by conveying the episcopate's role in manifesting visible catholicity and ecumenism.

Early in its development, Anglicanism developed a vernacular prayer book, called the Book of Common Prayer. Unlike other traditions, Anglicanism has never been governed by a magisterium nor by appeal to one founding theologian, nor by an extra-credal summary of doctrine (such as the Westminster Confession of the Presbyterian churches). Instead, Anglicans have typically appealed to the Book of Common Prayer (1662) and its offshoots as a guide to Anglican theology and practise. This had the effect of inculcating the principle of lex orandi, lex credendi (Latin loosely translated as "the law of praying [is] the law of believing") as the foundation of Anglican identity and confession.

Protracted conflict through the 17th century with radical Protestants on the one hand and Catholics who recognised the primacy of the Pope on the other, resulted in an association of churches that were both deliberately vague about doctrinal principles, yet bold in developing parameters of acceptable deviation. These parameters were most clearly articulated in the various rubrics of the successive prayer books, as well as the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion (1563). These articles have historically shaped and continue to direct the ethos of the communion, an ethos reinforced by their interpretation and expansion by such influential early theologians such as Richard Hooker, Lancelot Andrewes and John Cosin.

With the expansion of the British Empire, and hence the growth of Anglicanism outside Great Britain and Ireland, the communion sought to establish new vehicles of unity. The first major expression of this were the Lambeth Conferences of the communion's bishops, first convened in 1867 by Charles Longley, the Archbishop of Canterbury. From the beginning, these were not intended to displace the autonomy of the emerging provinces of the communion, but to "discuss matters of practical interest, and pronounce what we deem expedient in resolutions which may serve as safe guides to future action." [5]

Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral

One of the enduringly influential early resolutions of the conference was the so-called Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1888. Its intent was to provide the basis for discussions of reunion with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, but it had the ancillary effect of establishing parameters of Anglican identity. It establishes four principles with these words:

That, in the opinion of this Conference, the following Articles supply a basis on which approach may be by God's blessing made towards Home Reunion:
(a) The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as "containing all things necessary to salvation," and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.
(b) The Apostles' Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.
(c) The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself - Baptism and the Supper of the Lord - ministered with unfailing use of Christ's Words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.
(d) The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church. [6]

Instruments of communion

As mentioned above, the Anglican Communion has no international juridical organisation. The Archbishop of Canterbury's role is strictly symbolic and unifying and the communion's three international bodies are consultative and collaborative, their resolutions having no legal effect on the autonomous provinces of the communion. Taken together, however, the four do function as "instruments of communion", since all churches of the communion participate in them. In order of antiquity, they are:

The Chair of St Augustine (the episcopal throne in Canterbury Cathedral, Kent), seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury in his role as head of the Anglican Communion Canterburycathedralthrone.jpg
The Chair of St Augustine (the episcopal throne in Canterbury Cathedral, Kent), seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury in his role as head of the Anglican Communion
  1. The Archbishop of Canterbury functions as the spiritual head of the communion. [7] The archbishop is the focus of unity, since no church claims membership in the Communion without being in communion with him. The present archbishop is Justin Welby.
  2. The Lambeth Conference [8] (first held in 1867) is the oldest international consultation. It is a forum for bishops of the communion to reinforce unity and collegiality through manifesting the episcopate, to discuss matters of mutual concern, and to pass resolutions intended to act as guideposts. It is held roughly every 10 years and invitation is by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
  3. The Anglican Consultative Council [8] (first met in 1971) was created by a 1968 Lambeth Conference resolution, and meets usually at three-yearly intervals. The council consists of representative bishops, other clergy and laity chosen by the 38 provinces. The body has a permanent secretariat, the Anglican Communion Office, of which the Archbishop of Canterbury is president.
  4. The Primates' Meeting [8] (first met in 1979) is the most recent manifestation of international consultation and deliberation, having been first convened by Archbishop Donald Coggan as a forum for "leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation".[ citation needed ]

Since there is no binding authority in the Anglican Communion, these international bodies are a vehicle for consultation and persuasion. In recent times, persuasion has tipped over into debates over conformity in certain areas of doctrine, discipline, worship and ethics. The most notable example has been the objection of many provinces of the communion (particularly in Africa and Asia) to the changing acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals in the North American churches (e.g., by blessing same-sex unions and ordaining and consecrating same-sex relationships) and to the process by which changes were undertaken. (See Anglican realignment)

Those who objected condemned these actions as unscriptural, unilateral, and without the agreement of the communion prior to these steps being taken. In response, the American Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada answered that the actions had been undertaken after lengthy scriptural and theological reflection, legally in accordance with their own canons and constitutions and after extensive consultation with the provinces of the communion.

The Primates' Meeting voted to request the two churches to withdraw their delegates from the 2005 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. Canada and the United States decided to attend the meeting but without exercising their right to vote. They have not been expelled or suspended, since there is no mechanism in this voluntary association to suspend or expel an independent province of the communion. Since membership is based on a province's communion with Canterbury, expulsion would require the Archbishop of Canterbury's refusal to be in communion with the affected jurisdictions. In line with the suggestion of the Windsor Report, Rowan Williams (the then Archbishop of Canterbury) established a working group to examine the feasibility of an Anglican covenant which would articulate the conditions for communion in some fashion. [9]



A world map showing the provinces of the Anglican Communion:
Autonomous churches
Episcopal Church of the United States
Church in the Province of the West Indies
Anglican Church in Central America
Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of America
Anglican Church of Southern Africa
Church of the Province of Central Africa
Church of the Province of West Africa
Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East
Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean
Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia
Church of the Province of Melanesia
Diocese in Europe of the Church of England
Extra-provincial to the Archbishop of Canterbury
Church of the Province of South East Asia
No organised Anglican presence
Note that the Church of Ireland serves both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and the Anglican Church of Korea serves South Korea and, theoretically, North Korea. Indian Anglicanism is divided into a Church of North India and a Church of South India. The Diocese in Europe (formally the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe), in the Province of Canterbury, is also present in Portugal and Spain. The Episcopal Church, USA affiliated Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe has affiliates in France, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Kazakhstan. AnglicanCommunionProvinces.png
A world map showing the provinces of the Anglican Communion:
  Autonomous churches
  Episcopal Church of the United States
  Church in the Province of the West Indies
  Anglican Church in Central America
  Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of America
  Anglican Church of Southern Africa
  Church of the Province of Central Africa
  Church of the Province of West Africa
  Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East
  Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean
  Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia
  Church of the Province of Melanesia
   Diocese in Europe of the Church of England
  Extra-provincial to the Archbishop of Canterbury
  Church of the Province of South East Asia
  No organised Anglican presence
Note that the Church of Ireland serves both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and the Anglican Church of Korea serves South Korea and, theoretically, North Korea. Indian Anglicanism is divided into a Church of North India and a Church of South India. The Diocese in Europe (formally the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe), in the Province of Canterbury, is also present in Portugal and Spain. The Episcopal Church, USA affiliated Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe has affiliates in France, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Kazakhstan.

The Anglican communion consists of forty autonomous provinces each with its own primate and governing structure. These provinces may take the form of national churches (such as in Canada, Uganda, or Japan) or a collection of nations (such as the West Indies, Central Africa, or Southeast Asia).

ProvincesTerritorial JurisdictionMembership (in thousands of people)
Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia Aotearoa New Zealand, Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga 469 [10]
Anglican Church of Australia Australia 3,100 [11]
Church of Bangladesh Bangladesh 16 [12]
Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil Brazil 120 [13]
Province of the Anglican Church of Burundi Burundi 800 [14]
Anglican Church of Canada Canada 1,600 [15]
Church of the Province of Central Africa Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe 900 [16]
Anglican Church in Central America Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama 35
Anglican Church of Chile Chile NA
Province of the Anglican Church of the Congo Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of Congo 500 [17]
Church of England England, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey, Europe 26,000 [18]
Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui Hong Kong, Macau 29 [19]
Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles 505
Church of Ireland Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland 410 [19]
Nippon Sei Ko Kai Japan 57 [20]
Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East Algeria, Bahrain, Cyprus, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen 40 [21]
Anglican Church of Kenya Kenya 5,000 [22]
Anglican Church of Korea South Korea, North Korea 65 [23]
Anglican Church of Melanesia New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu 200 [24]
Anglican Church of Mexico Mexico 100 [25]
Church of the Province of Myanmar Myanmar 62 [26]
Church of Nigeria Nigeria 18,000 [27]
Church of North India Bhutan, India 1,500 [28]
Church of Pakistan Pakistan 500 [29]
Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinea 167
Episcopal Church in the Philippines Philippines 125 [30]
Province of the Anglican Church of Rwanda Rwanda 1,000 [31]
Scottish Episcopal Church Scotland 31 [32]
Anglican Church of South America Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay 23 [33]
Church of the Province of South East Asia Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam 98
Church of South India India, Sri Lanka 3,800 [34]
Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan South Sudan 3,500
Anglican Church of Southern Africa Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Saint Helena, South Africa, Swaziland 3,000 - 4,000 [35]
Province of the Episcopal Church of Sudan Sudan 1,100
Anglican Church of Tanzania Tanzania 2,000 [36]
Church of the Province of Uganda Uganda 8,000 [18]
The Episcopal Church British Virgin Islands, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Europe, Guam, Haiti, Honduras, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, United States, United States Virgin Islands, Venezuela 1,836 [37]
Church in Wales Wales 84 [19]
Church of the Province of West Africa Cameroon, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Senegal, Sierra Leone 300 [38]
Church in the Province of the West Indies Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saba, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Eustatius, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands 770 [39]

Extraprovincial churches

In addition to the forty provinces, there are five extraprovincial churches under the metropolitical authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Extra-Provincial ChurchTerritorial Jurisdiction
Anglican Church of Bermuda Bermuda
Church of Ceylon Sri Lanka
Parish of the Falkland Islands Falkland Islands
Lusitanian Catholic Apostolic Evangelical Church Portugal
Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church Spain

Former provinces

ProvinceTerritorial JurisdictionYear EstablishedYear Dissolved
Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui China 19121949
Church of Hawaii Hawaii 18621902
Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka 19301970
Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America [ citation needed ] Confederate States of America 18611865
United Church of England and Ireland England, Wales, Ireland 18001871

Churches in full communion

In addition to other member churches, the churches of the Anglican Communion are in full communion with the Old Catholic churches of the Union of Utrecht and the Scandinavian Lutheran churches of the Porvoo Communion in Europe, the India-based Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian and Malabar Independent Syrian churches and the Philippine Independent Church, also known as the Aglipayan Church.


The Anglican Communion traces much of its growth to the older mission organisations of the Church of England such as the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (founded 1698), the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (founded 1701) and the Church Missionary Society (founded 1799). [40] [note 2] [note 3] The Church of England (which until the 20th century included the Church in Wales) initially separated from the Roman Catholic Church in 1534 in the reign of King Henry VIII, reunited in 1555 under Queen Mary I and then separated again in 1570 under Queen Elizabeth I (the Roman Catholic Church excommunicated Elizabeth I in 1570 in response to the Act of Supremacy 1559).

The Church of England has always thought of itself not as a new foundation but rather as a reformed continuation of the ancient "English Church" (Ecclesia Anglicana) and a reassertion of that church's rights. As such it was a distinctly national phenomenon. The Church of Scotland was formed as a separate church from the Roman Catholic Church as a result of the Scottish Reformation in 1560 and the later formation of the Scottish Episcopal Church began in 1582 in the reign of James VI of Scotland over disagreements about the role of bishops.

The oldest-surviving Anglican church building outside the British Isles (Britain and Ireland) is St Peter's Church in St. George's, Bermuda, established in 1612 (though the actual building had to be rebuilt several times over the following century). This is also the oldest surviving non-Roman Catholic church in the New World. It remained part of the Church of England until 1978 when the Anglican Church of Bermuda separated. The Church of England was the established church not only in England, but in its trans-Oceanic colonies.

Thus the only member churches of the present Anglican Communion existing by the mid-18th century were the Church of England, its closely linked sister church the Church of Ireland (which also separated from Roman Catholicism under Henry VIII) and the Scottish Episcopal Church which for parts of the 17th and 18th centuries was partially underground (it was suspected of Jacobite sympathies).

Global spread of Anglicanism

The enormous expansion in the 18th and 19th centuries of the British Empire brought Anglicanism along with it. At first all these colonial churches were under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London. After the American Revolution, the parishes in the newly independent country found it necessary to break formally from a church whose supreme governor was (and remains) the British monarch. Thus they formed their own dioceses and national church, the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, in a mostly amicable separation.

At about the same time, in the colonies which remained linked to the crown, the Church of England began to appoint colonial bishops. In 1787 a bishop of Nova Scotia was appointed with a jurisdiction over all of British North America; in time several more colleagues were appointed to other cities in present-day Canada. In 1814 a bishop of Calcutta was made; in 1824 the first bishop was sent to the West Indies and in 1836 to Australia. By 1840 there were still only ten colonial bishops for the Church of England; but even this small beginning greatly facilitated the growth of Anglicanism around the world. In 1841 a "Colonial Bishoprics Council" was set up and soon many more dioceses were created.

In time, it became natural to group these into provinces and a metropolitan was appointed for each province. Although it had at first been somewhat established in many colonies, in 1861 it was ruled that, except where specifically established, the Church of England had just the same legal position as any other church. Thus a colonial bishop and colonial diocese was by nature quite a different thing from their counterparts back home. In time bishops came to be appointed locally rather than from England and eventually national synods began to pass ecclesiastical legislation independent of England.

A crucial step in the development of the modern communion was the idea of the Lambeth Conferences (discussed above). These conferences demonstrated that the bishops of disparate churches could manifest the unity of the church in their episcopal collegiality despite the absence of universal legal ties. Some bishops were initially reluctant to attend, fearing that the meeting would declare itself a council with power to legislate for the church; but it agreed to pass only advisory resolutions. These Lambeth Conferences have been held roughly every 10 years since 1878 (the second such conference) and remain the most visible coming-together of the whole Communion.

The Lambeth Conference of 1998 included what has been seen by Philip Jenkins and others as a "watershed in global Christianity". The 1998 Lambeth Conference considered the issue of the theology of same-sex attraction in relation to human sexuality. At this 1998 conference for the first time in centuries the Christians of developing regions, especially, Africa, Asia, and Latin America, prevailed over the bishops of more prosperous countries (many from the US, Canada, and the UK) who supported a redefinition of Anglican doctrine. Seen in this light 1998 is a date that marked the shift from a West-dominated Christianity to one wherein the growing churches of the two-thirds world are predominant, [43] but the gay bishop controversy in subsequent years led to the reassertion of Western dominance, this time of the liberal variety.[ citation needed ]

Ecumenical relations

Historic episcopate

The churches of the Anglican Communion have traditionally held that ordination in the historic episcopate is a core element in the validity of clerical ordinations. [44] The Roman Catholic Church, however, does not recognise Anglican orders (see Apostolicae curae ). [45] Some Eastern Orthodox churches have issued statements to the effect that Anglican orders could be accepted, yet have still reordained former Anglican clergy; other Eastern Orthodox churches have rejected Anglican orders altogether. Orthodox bishop Kallistos Ware explains this apparent discrepancy as follows:

Anglican clergy who join the Orthodox Church are reordained; but [some Orthodox churches hold that] if Anglicanism and Orthodoxy were to reach full unity in the faith, perhaps such reordination might not be found necessary. It should be added, however, that a number of individual Orthodox theologians hold that under no circumstances would it be possible to recognise the validity of Anglican Orders. [46]


One effect of the communion's dispersed authority has been that conflict and controversy can arise over the effect divergent practices and doctrines in one part of the Communion have on others. [47] Disputes that had been confined to the Church of England could be dealt with legislatively in that realm, but as the Communion spread out into new nations and disparate cultures, such controversies multiplied and intensified. These controversies have generally been of two types: liturgical and social. [48]


The first such controversy of note concerned that of the growing influence of the Catholic Revival manifested in the tractarian and so-called ritualism controversies of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. [49] This controversy produced the Free Church of England and, in the United States and Canada, the Reformed Episcopal Church.

Social changes

Later, rapid social change and the dissipation of British cultural hegemony over its former colonies contributed to disputes over the role of women, the parameters of marriage and divorce, and the practices of contraception and abortion.[ citation needed ] In the late 1970s, the Continuing Anglican movement produced a number of new church bodies in opposition to women's ordination, prayer book changes, and the new understandings concerning marriage.

Same-sex unions and LGBT clergy

More recently, disagreements over homosexuality have strained the unity of the communion as well as its relationships with other Christian denominations, leading to another round of withdrawals from the Anglican Communion. [50] Some churches were founded outside the Anglican Communion in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, largely in opposition to the ordination of openly homosexual bishops and other clergy and are usually referred to as belonging to the Anglican realignment movement, or else as "orthodox" Anglicans. [50] These disagreements were especially noted when the Episcopal Church (US) consecrated an openly gay bishop in a same-sex relationship, Gene Robinson, in 2003, which led some Episcopalians to defect and found the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA); then, the debate re-ignited when the Church of England agreed to allow clergy to enter into same-sex civil partnerships in 2005. [51] The Church of Nigeria opposed the Episcopal Church's decision as well as the Church of England's approval for civil partnerships. [52]

"The more liberal provinces that are open to changing Church doctrine on marriage in order to allow for same-sex unions include Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, Scotland, South India, South Africa, the US and Wales". [53] The Church of England does not allow same-gender marriages or blessing rites, but does permit special prayer services for same-sex couples following a civil marriage or partnership. [54] The Church of England also permits clergy to enter into same-sex civil partnerships. [55] The Church of Ireland has no official position on civil unions, and one senior cleric has entered into a same-sex civil partnership. [56] The Church of Ireland recognised that it will "treat civil partners the same as spouses." [57] The Anglican Church of Australia does not have an official position on homosexuality. [58]

The conservative Anglican churches, encouraging the realignment movement, are more concentrated in the Global South. For example, the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Church of Nigeria and the Church of Uganda have opposed homosexuality. [59] GAFCON, a fellowship of conservative Anglican churches, has appointed "missionary bishops" in response to the disagreements with the perceived liberalisation in the Anglican churches in North America and Europe. [60]

Debates about social theology and ethics have occurred at the same time as debates on prayer book revision and the acceptable grounds for achieving full communion with non-Anglican churches. [61]

See also


  1. The Chair of St Augustine is the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury in his role as head of the Anglican Communion. Archbishops of Canterbury are enthroned twice: firstly as diocesan ordinary (and Metropolitan and Primate of the Church of England) in the archbishop's throne, by the Archdeacon of Canterbury; and secondly as leader of the worldwide church in the Chair of St Augustine by the senior (by length of service) Archbishop of the Anglican Communion. The stone chair is therefore of symbolic significance throughout Anglicanism.
  2. Efforts to grow and develop the church in lands outside the British Isles began with the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (1698) and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (1701) but received a significant boost from the Church Mission Society (1799). [41]
  3. The Church Missionary Society, originally called the Society for Missions to Africa and the East, was founded in 1799... Though later in date than the S.P.C.K. and the S.P.G. it became the first effective organ of the C. of E. for missions to the heathen... Its theology has been consistently Evangelical. [42]

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Anglican–Roman Catholic dialogue is the historical communication between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church, through their ecumenical relations. These were notably shaped subsequent to the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965).



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Avis, Paul (1998). "What is 'Anglicanism'?". In Booty, John E.; Sykes, Stephen; Knight, Jonathan (eds.). The Study of Anglicanism (rev. ed.). London: SPCK (published 2004). pp. 417–419. ISBN   978-1-4514-1118-8.
Brittain, Christopher Craig; McKinnon, Andrew (2011). "Homosexuality and the Construction of "Anglican Orthodoxy": The Symbolic Politics of the Anglican Communion" (PDF). Sociology of Religion. 72 (3): 351–373. doi:10.1093/socrel/srq088. hdl:2164/3055. ISSN   1069-4404.
Chapman, Mark (2006). Anglicanism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0-19-157819-9.
Cross, F. L., ed. (1957). The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. London: Oxford University Press.
Jenkins, Philip (2002). The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0-19-803341-7.
McKinnon, Andrew M.; Trzebiatowska, Marta; Brittain, Christopher Craig (2011). "Bourdieu, Capital, and Conflict in a Religious Field: The Case of the 'Homosexuality' Conflict in the Anglican Communion" (PDF). Journal of Contemporary Religion. 26 (3): 355–370. doi:10.1080/13537903.2011.616033. hdl:2164/4260. ISSN   1353-7903.
Melton, J. Gordon, ed. (2005). "Anglican Communion/Anglican Consultative Council". Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Encyclopedias of World Religions. New York: Facts on File. pp. 27–29. ISBN   978-0-8160-6983-5 . Retrieved 11 October 2017.
Miller, Duane Alexander (2014). "The Bricolage of Global Anglicanism". Anglican and Episcopal History. 83 (1): 67–73. ISSN   0896-8039. JSTOR   43049823 . Retrieved 2 February 2015.
O'Riordan, Michael (1907). "Apostolicae Curae"  . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia . 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company. pp. 644–645.
Pickering, W. S. F. (2008). Anglo-Catholicism: A Study in Religious Ambiguity (rev. ed.). Cambridge, England: James Clarke & Co. ISBN   978-0-227-67988-3.
Ward, Kevin (2006). A History of Global Anglicanism. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. ISBN   978-0-521-00866-2.
Whipple, H. B.; Gilbert, M. N.; Nichols, Harry P.; Wright, John; Faude, John J.; Ten Broeck, Wm. P. (1896). Unity and the Lambeth Declaration: Lectures Under the Auspices of the Minnesota Church Club, 1896. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: The Young Churchman. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
Worsley, Howard (2015). "Anglican Church Christian Education". In Kurian, George Thomas; Lamport, Mark A. (eds.). Encyclopedia of Christian Education. 1. London: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 50. ISBN   978-0-8108-8493-9.

Further reading

Buchanan, Colin. Historical Dictionary of Anglicanism (2nd ed. 2015) excerpt
D'Arcy, Charles Frederick; Jayne, Francis John; Paige Cox, W.L. (1923). Anglican Essays: A Collective Review of the Principles and Special Opportunities of the Anglican Communion as Catholic and Reformed : with Extracts from the Pastorals of the Late Bishop Jayne [Francis John Jayne]. Macmillan.
Fahlbusch, Erwin; Bromiley, Geoffrey William, eds. (1999). The Encyclopedia of Christianity. Vol. 1. Eerdmans. pp. 57–59. ISBN   978-90-04-11316-9.
Hebert, A. G. The Form of the Church. London: Faber and Faber, 1944.
Wild, John. What is the Anglican Communion?, in series, The Advent Papers. Cincinnati, Ohio: Forward Movement Publications, [196-]. Note.: Expresses the "Anglo-Catholic" viewpoint.