The Anglican Communion – a term first used in 1885 – is a family of almost 80 million people in 36 self-governing churches or provinces in 164 countries of the world. The member churches of this Anglican Communion represent the world in miniature, made up of a wide variety of races, languages, cultures and political conditions. They are, nevertheless, one worldwide family, held together by affection for one another, loyalty to common traditions and the continuing practice of consultation and mutual support.
All Anglican churches trace their origin to the form and expression of the Christian Faith which developed in the Church of England and a missionary expansion that followed the Reformation. It has been said that the Anglican Communion has rapidly outgrown its 'Englishness' as the expression of the Gospel message and worship is shaped within local contexts. The global Communion continues, in a natural progression, toward establishing its own identity as a multiracial, multilingual, multicultural family.
The Anglican Communion has never had a central executive authority or a legislative body able to make decisions for the Communion as a whole. We are aptly named a Communion, since it comes alive in worship and mutual intercession, in shared experience of community in the Body of Christ, in the bonds of affection developed between the Anglican leaders at the Lambeth Conferences and other meetings, and in consultation and encouragement that results from working together in inter-Anglican partnership.
The Churches of the Anglican Communion:
- are in full communion with the See of Canterbury and with each other, freely recognizing the Archbishop of Canterbury as a unique focus of unity within the Communion.
- uphold and proclaim the Catholic and Apostolic faith, based on the Holy Scriptures, interpreted in the light of tradition, scholarship and reason.
- Following the teachings of Jesus Christ, the member churches are committed to the proclamation of the Good News of the Gospel to the whole creation. Faith, order and practice have found expression in the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinals of the 16th and 17th centuries and in their modern successors.
- accept the document commonly known as the "Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral" (approved by the Lambeth Conference of 1888) which affirms the essential elements of faith and order in the quest for Christian unity:
- the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the revealed Word of God;
- the Nicene Creed as the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith;
the two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself – Baptism and the Eucharist – ministered with the unfailing words and elements used by Christ;
- the historic Episcopate.
Official bodies of the Anglican Communion include:
- The Lambeth Conference – a Conference of Bishops meeting every ten years under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is a conference, not a council, with power only to confer, consult, discuss, debate and vote on resolutions related to concerns shared within the Communion.
- The Primates Meeting – a meeting of the Primates (i.e. the senior Archbishops or Presiding Bishops) of the Churches of the Anglican Communion. They meet every two or three years for consultation on theological, social and international issues.
- The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) – an international assembly of the Anglican Communion, bringing together bishops, priests, deacons and lay people to work on common concerns. It includes two or three members selected by each Province of the Communion. Its function is to guide, oversee and support the work of the Anglican Communion Secretarariat.
- The Anglican Communion Secretariat – based in London, England, the Secretariat serves the Lambeth Conference, the Primates Meeting and the ACC. It helps coordinate Partners in Mission Consultations, Companion Dioceses Programmes, Inter-Church Ecumenical Conversations; produces the Anglican Cycle of Prayer and the Anglican World; supports the Anglican Centre in Rome; and provides an Inter-Anglican Information Network. Its address is: 157 Waterloo Road, London SE1 8UT.