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Anglicanism and the Anglican Communion

Anglicanism and the Anglican Communion


What is Anglicanism?

There are four great streams of Christianity: the Roman Catholic, the Orthodox, the Protestant, and the Anglican. Numerically, there are over one billion Catholics, more than 350 million Orthodox Christians, some 80 million Anglicans, and the many types of Protestant (Reformed, Lutheran, Baptist, Pentecostal) churches make up the rest of the 2.1 billion followers of Jesus Christ in the world.*

Anglicanism is a different approach to being the church. It is a method for being Christian. It identifies the Bible as the supreme tradition on which Christianity rests, while insisting that further tradition is necessary in order to interpret the Scriptures. The Apostles' and Nicene creeds, for instance, are considered sufficient summaries of what the Bible teaches concerning God's plan of salvation for the human race. The sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Eucharist (Communion) are required for living out the method, though the five other sacraments are recognized as helpful and made available as needed to Jesus' followers. The 'holy catholic church' that the creeds mention is the church to which Anglicans (known in some parts of the world as "Episcopalians") belong, without recognizing the Pope's authority over its local churches.

Anglicanism as a Method

As a method, Anglicanism invites all people to encounter Jesus Christ in a community, the parish, that is shaped by the common life of its congregants and clergy, in communion with its bishop and diocese. And it is conscious of the command that we must love God with all our mind, among other things. Part of the 'method' is, therefore, to treat people as adults who can and indeed must think for themselves. Anyone can find Christ among us, and follow him as Lord with us. We are profoundly convinced that it is the Spirit who converts. 

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Source: Includes excerpts from 'What is Anglicanism?' by The Rt Rev Pierre Whalon, D.D. Published by Anglicans Online ©

The Anglican Communion

The Anglican Communion – a term first used in 1885 – is a family of almost 80 million people in 39 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. We 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.

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.

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 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,  United Kingdom