Anglican Communion

Anglican Communion
Type Communion
Classification Protestant
Orientation Anglican
Polity Episcopal
of All England
Archbishop of Canterbury
Justin Welby
General Secretary Josiah Idowu-Fearon
Headquarters Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England
Founder Archbishop Charles Longley
Origin 1867
Lambeth Conference, London, England
Separations Continuing Anglican movement (1977)
Members 85 million
Official website

The Anglican Communion is an international association of autonomous churches consisting of the Church of England and national and regional Anglican churches ("provinces") in full communion with it. [1] Full participation in the sacramental life of each church is available to all communicant Anglicans.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of All England, has a place of honour among the bishops of the Anglican churches. He is recognised as primus inter pares ("first among equals"). The archbishop does not exercise authority in the provinces outside England, but instead acts as a focus of unity.

The churches of the Anglican Communion considers themselves to be part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church and to be both Catholic and Reformed. For some adherents, Anglicanism represents a non- papal Catholicism, for others a form of Protestantism though without a dominant guiding figure such as Luther, Knox, Calvin, Zwingli or Wesley. [2] For others, their self-identity represents some combination of the two. The communion encompasses a wide spectrum of belief and practice including evangelical, liberal and Anglo-Catholic.

With a membership estimated at 85 million members, [3] the Anglican Communion is the fourth largest Christian communion in the world, after the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Oriental Orthodoxy. [4] Some of these churches are known as Anglican, such as the Anglican Church of Canada, due to their historical link to England (Ecclesia Anglicana means "English Church"). Some, for example the Church of Ireland, the Scottish and American Episcopal churches, and some other associated churches have a separate name. Each independent church has its own doctrine and liturgy, aligned in most cases with that of the Church of England; and each church has its own legislative process and overall episcopal polity, under the leadership of a local primate.

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.

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.

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 Church). Instead, Anglicans have typically appealed to the Book of Common Prayer (1662) and its offshoots as a guide to Anglican theology and practice. 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 seventeenth century with more 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. 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 as Richard Hooker, Lancelot Andrewes, John Cosin, and others.

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 by Archbishop of Canterbury Charles Longley in 1869. 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."

Other Languages
한국어: 성공회 연합
Bahasa Indonesia: Komuni Anglikan
interlingua: Communion Anglican
Basa Jawa: Gréja Anglikan
Bahasa Melayu: Golongan Anglikan
norsk nynorsk: Den anglikanske kyrkja
Simple English: Anglican Communion
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Anglikanska zajednica