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The passing of the English Christendom and the future of the Anglican Communion.

Traditional Anglican structures have developed little beyond provincial level. That has reflected an underlying provincial ecclesiology of disciplined order sufficient to provide a ministry of word and sacraments that is both catholic and apostolic It has also embodied a practical recognition of the limits of workable connection This is reflected in the persistent refusal of successive Lambeth Conferences to see themselves as a disciplinary body and their affirmations of provincial autonomy. As a consequence when we have had to deal with global Communion issues of order we have not had extensive ecclesiological precedent. Our history has not prepared us to handle such conflicts with confidence Communion. (2)


There is a particular focus in this paper on the social and relational aspects of the Anglican tradition because these are at the forefront of the recent and continuing conflicts amongst Anglicans which feed an interest in the future of the Anglican Communion. Perhaps it is helpful to draw a distinction at this point between the Anglican Communion and the churches that belong to it. The Anglican Communion is what Benedict Anderson has called an 'imagined community', that is to say one which you never actually get to see. (3) A primary community is one which involves direct relational engagement, like a parish church. An imagined community is one to which we relate without that sustained physical contact, like the Italian community in Australia or maybe a diocese. This Anglican Communion goes a little further than this in that it has consistently described itself as a 'fellowship of churches', (4) that is to say; it is not a church with individual members. In this respect it is conceptually different from the self-understanding of the Roman Catholic Church. This difference often caused misunderstanding in the work of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission. It was clear that the Roman Catholic members of the Commission reported back to a body in their church who could in due course speak for the church as a whole. In the case of the Anglicans they reported back to a divers group of institutions none of which could speak on behalf of all the constituent parts of Anglican churches around the world. The institutional arrangements of the Anglican Communion are of relatively recent creation and there have been other organisational experiments in the past that have not survived. (5)

As with all religious traditions it is crucial for an understanding of their dynamics to have some sense of their origins and development and especially is this so for the social and relational aspects of the tradition and their institutional expressions. In Roman Catholicism I assume that it is impossible to have some sense of the insitutionality of the tradition without an awareness of the contributions of Gregory the Great and Gregory VII, of Vatican I and Vatican II, to name just a few of the significant points in the story of that tradition. So in the narrative of what we now call Anglicanism there are some critical landmarks that need to be highlighted. It is to that task that I now turn before coming to the current arrangements in the Anglican Communion and how I think it might more helpfully be conceived.


a. In England

A few yeas before he died in 735 the Venerable Bede wrote from his monastery in Jarrow on the banks of the Tyne in Northumberland a Christian History of the English. He envisaged, what did not at the time of writing exist, a christian nation of the English that occupied the whole land. This English nation was not only blessed by God but also peculiarly called by God to be the christian nation of the land. The English did not become a united nation on the land until after the strenuous efforts of Alfred two hundred years later and following him of Harold. Both of these successfully held at bay the Scandinavian invaders, only to be conquered by William Duke of Normandy. Under William the nation was consolidated and confirmed as Christian. As in the terms of the day for both the English and Norman traditions, the King was supreme and the Archbishop of Canterbury was his servant in the maintenanCe of this Christian kingdom in whiCh the king was responsible for his people, body and soul. (6) When William I clarified the authority of the ecclesiastical courts he was not so much granting independence to them as clarifying the way in which the authority of the king was to be exercised. (7)

The Anglo-Norman settlement provided the foundations for later history and some themes continued well into the modern period and shaped the later forms of the English church. (8) The maintenance of the independence of this kingdom in both political and clerical terms was not easy and relations with the Pope, especially Gregory VII, were an ongoing theme of claim and counter claim. The conflict between Anselm, the Pope and Henry I on investiture and homage and between Henry II, Beckett and the Pope over the status of church courts illustrate the issues very clearly. (9) Nonetheless there was a clear and strong note of lay supremacy, seen in the relations between the archbishops of Canterbury and the king. (10) There was a tradition of monasteries being responsible to the diocesan bishop in contrast to the Cluny model (11) and of monks as bishops who were in turn subject to the king's authority. Even to this day every English bishop undertakes an act of fealty and an oath of allegiance to the Queen of England using a form that goes back to that given by Lanfranc to William I and by Anselm to Henry I. (12)

The central authority of the nation in the crown also meant that the faith of the people was uniform in that there was but one national church of England. Such a notion was repeated in extreme form and enlarged to require a high degree of uniformity in the sixteenth century Reformation legislation and the Restoration Act of Uniformity of 1662. These were the features of the christian nation of England, a lay ruler and clerical servants. This church was the Church of England, not the Church in England. It was the English Christendom.

The seventeenth century saw all the elements of this English christendom in conflict. The beliefs and practices of the people became more varied with the rise of a puritan or disciplinarian movement. The unity of the nation under the crown was challenged by conflict with the growing power of parliament, and the politico religious role of Charles I as a suspected Roman Catholic like his wife. These exploded in the civil war, the execution of Charles and the abolition of episcopacy in the national church. At the restoration parliament insisted on a return to the old order of episcopal ministry with an Act of Uniformity that saw the ejection of 2000 clergy from their parishes. The Act was part of the so-called Clarendon Code, which imposed severe civic disabilities on those who did not conform. (13) But it was too late. Continuing dissent led to modest toleration for dissenters in 1689. In the eighteenth century widespread religious dissent mainly in the form of Methodists led to more organised religion outside the borders of the established church. All of this made it impossible to think of the established church as the Church of England. Rather it was a Church in England attached to the state for certain privileges of establishment. The 'national church' had lost the Puritans, the Methodists and sundry others all for the sake of a notion of strict uniformity defined by the increasingly powerful parliament, only to find that in a relatively short time that same parliament was beginning to look to greater forms of toleration and plurality. (14)

These changes left the Church of England with a significant ecclesiological challenge. The issue of jurisdiction was now complicated and compromised and continues to be the subject of adjustment even to this day on such matters as the appointment of bishops and clergy. Not until the early twentieth century was a Church Assembly created with lay representation and not until 1970 was a General Synod established with clerical and lay representation. Even so key legislation of the General Synod still requires the approval of the British parliament.

It is not surprising that in the nineteenth century the Tractarian revivalists sought for some deliverance from the state bondage of the church and called for the bishops to assert their apostolic authority. Here at least was an attempt at an ecclesiology. It did not seem a very English call in a christendom tradition that had for centuries given overall authority to the laity in the form of the crown and it appeared to many to look like an appeal in Roman form. Also during the nineteenth century the changing pattern of understanding reflected in the organisation of disciplines in the universities led to a professionalization of theology with the clergy as its custodians, and the rectory as the focal point of that culture. In this way the fissiparous dynamics of social change and intellectual endeavour also divided theology into specific traditions. In due course this has lead British universities to have theology departments that incorporate the study of all religious traditions, not just christianity, and certainly not just Anglican theology. All of that in the one hundred and fifty years since the Royal Commissions into Oxford and Cambridge in the middle of the nineteenth century.

The English Christendom has passed away even though some of the furniture remains in place. It left behind a church with very significant issues of ecclesial and social identity.

b. The Influence of Empire and Colonies

The focussed national conception of this christendom meant that when English people or institutions moved outside the national borders some complicated and occasionally odd things emerged. Developments proceeded more quickly in the colonies than in England.

Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the world in the years 1577-1580. (15) The ship's chaplain was the Revd Francis Fletcher. During the crossing of the Pacific Drake excommunicated Fletcher because he considered he had shown a failure of faith during severe weather and because he undermined Drake's authority as captain. He did so on the grounds that he was the supreme authority on the ship and for ecclesiastical purposes represented the Royal Supremacy. He re-instated Fletcher when they reached the west coast of America where Fletcher conducted prayers for the ship's company and some indigenous Americans who had gathered. Thus was the first Anglican service held in the future USA. Travel and settlement outside of England created a multitude of strange and different episodes.

While much is made of the founding significance of the Puritan settlements in North America in 1620 the first colony was established at Jamestown in 1607 for commercial reasons by the London Company. There was a subsidiary motivation to convert the indigenous peoples to Christianity but trade was the first thought. When the company failed in 1624 Virginia was made a Royal Colony thus giving it direct protection of the crown. During the English Commonwealth period the Anglican establishment in Virginia was abolished. An elected General Assembly delegated church matters to local parishes. This local option came to an end with the restoration of the crown and episcopal church order in England with new laws in Virginia making Anglicanism the established religion. Royal colonies generally were administered through a Governor appointed by the Crown. This carried with it a degree of church establishment in some of the colonies. However there were no English bishops appointed to the North American colonies. Oversight of the Church of England churches and clergy was handled by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel with the episcopal oversight of the distant Bishop of London. After the War of Independence all oversight and jurisdiction from England ceased and the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America was formed with a constitution similar in outline to the new federal constitution of the USA. This involved significant ecclesiological issues that were not easy to resolve. Scottish Episcopal bishops consecrated the first bishop in the USA because the Archbishop of Canterbury was forbidden by law from consecrating bishops for areas outside England. (16)

All the Australian colonies began as Crown Colonies. New South Wales (1788) and Tasmania (1803) were the early examples and both were established in the main as convict settlements. Others such as Western Australia (1829) and South Australia (1850) were for free settlement and trade. In NSW the Church of England was essentially the established church, though this gradually changed and in 1836 Bourke introduced what was effectively a plural establishment of Anglican, Roman Catholic and Presbyterian churches. The Commonwealth constitution in 1901 prohibited the establishment of any religion, which the High Court has ruled means any particular religion and hence means the Commonwealth Government can support religions as long as it is on an equitable basis. (17) In 1847 the British government approved the appointment of bishops in South Australia, Victoria, and Newcastle, which, together with Tasmania and New Zealand, were constituted as an ecclesiastical province with Bishop Broughton in Sydney as Metropolitan. In Broughton's mind this meant that as a province they were free from the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury. (18) It is a conception of metropolitan province with a long history in Anglicanism and can be found very early in the attitude of the Norman archbishops of Canterbury, Lanfranc and Anselm, in their relations with the Pope. (19) In Australia synods emerged in the 1850s as the pattern for church governance. These synods were shaped by the political understandings of the time and an attempt in some way to give expression to the long history of lay controlled governance in the Church of England.

The English Christendom died in the colonies earlier and more systematically than in England. There is not as much furniture left around in these jurisdictions as there is in England.


The rise and fall of the English Christendom has left some clear ecclesial marks on the understandings and practices of Anglican churches around the world. The strong identity of church and nation has meant over the long term jurisdictional separateness from other Christendoms. That tradition has yielded a strong provincial ecclesiology. Anglicanism has never been and is not now a global church. This is what lies behind the understanding of the Anglican Communion as a 'Fellowship of churches'. (20) The precise nature of this 'fellowship' and how it operates is at the heart of the recent and continuing conflicts between Anglican Provinces. The passing of the English Christendom has eclipsed the long historical experience of lay control of the church in the person of the monarch. The place of the laity in church governance was thus a crucial and disputed matter in the nineteenth century and still is a matter of underlying tension. That tension is accentuated by the adoption of certain kinds of managerial approaches to organisational life in the church that often lead to the accrual of power to office holders like clergy and bishops.


In every tradition of christian faith there has been conflict. There have been many Peters with their Pauls to resist them face-to-face because they were thought to have stood self-condemned. (Gal 2.11-14)

It should not be surprising then that there have always been differences and often conflicts between the Anglican churches around the world. The current set of conflicts is made more prominent because in the modern world distances have shrunk and communication is more immediate.

The first Lambeth Conference in 1867 was sought by some of the colonial churches because of conflict in South Africa and was first conceived of as a conference for bishops within the British Empire. It was boycotted by a number of English bishops and opposed by the archbishop of York on the grounds that it could imperil church state relations in England. Christendom was still important to the Church of England, even in its attenuated form. Relations with the political powers was an area of friction and conflict in the colonial churches and would emerge in different cultural terms in the USA. It has had a complicated history in the noncolonial Anglican provinces, which can be seen in stark form in the experience of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai in Japan during the second world war. (21)

This aspect of the question came into focus in the second half of the twentieth century with the decolonisation of the British Empire and the consequent impact of different forms of nationalism in the former colonies on the Anglican churches in them. This process is sometimes characterised as the Harold MacMillan/Geoffrey Fisher road show setting up independent nations and independent Anglican provinces. The formation of the companion independent Anglican provinces that make up a great part of the Anglican Communion, especially in Africa, thus coincided with the mid twentieth century decolonisation period. Inevitably the underlying elements of the colonial and postcolonial period provide a framework for the ecclesial thinking and sentiments of these churches and for the churches of the colonising powers, England and the USA. These dynamics do not work in just one direction. They are complex, multilayered and not always apparent.

While this points to the gathering independence of Anglican Provinces in the post colonial period there were attempts made to establish arrangements to hold these independent provinces together. In the earlier phase of local independence a conference was held in London of Colonial bishops in 1852 to discuss inter colonial issues. Nothing came of it. St Augustine's College Canterbury was established to train missionaries and operated from 1848-1947. From 1947-1967 it functioned as a theological college for the churches of the Anglican Communion.

The first Lambeth Conference in 1867 was very clearly an event for 'connection through consultation'. (22) An attempt to provide more organised preparation for what might be "decisions", or resolutions was called for in 1897. The proposal was rejected. A pan Anglican Congress was held prior to the Lambeth Conference in 1908. The pattern was not repeated. At the 1948 conference Regional Councils for consultation were called for. Two were formed. (23) At the same conference Geoffrey Fisher successfully promoted a resolution for the establishment of an Advisory Council on Mission Strategy, but nothing came of it. A pan Anglican Congress was held in Minneapolis in 1954. An American bishop, Stephen Bayne, was appointed as an Executive Officer in 1959. Another pan Anglican Congress was held in Toronto in 1963 that approved a document called Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ. The rising power of the American "empire" was influencing the world of Anglican provinces. (24)

In 1968 the Anglican Consultative Council was established with lay, clerical and episcopal representatives from the provinces, who had approved a constitution for the Council. This is the only body with a constitution approved by the provinces. At the same time the position of Secretary General was established. In 1976 the ACC established the first Inter Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission to address the question of diversity and plurality in Anglican churches. The report was published in 1986 and virtually ignored. The same year a mission agencies consultation in Brisbane recommended the formation of a Global South Network of provinces from the South to consult on mission issues, especially in Asia and Africa. The network first met eight years later in 1994 in Limuru.

In the post war period some very powerful political dynamics were at play. New independent nations and churches in Africa, the rising influence of ECUSA in a phase of US empire expansion, local diversification in churches, decline in church life in the economically and historically powerful western nations and explosive growth in Africa. The long 1960s marked a manifest social break with the European Christendoms of the past and was accompanied by radical changes in social attitudes. Especially was this so for the Episcopal Church in the USA because of its involvement in the civil rights movement, particularly significant because of the historic association of Episcopalians with the slave owning South. Standing behind all of this was the threatening shadow of the Cold War in which Africa was a field of surrogates for great power conflict. In Europe the cold war was exemplified by the construction of the Berlin wall in 1961 and its collapse in 1989.

In the midst of these contrary cross currents Anglicans were trying to hold their separate Provinces together. The Lambeth Conference addressed wider political and social matters, the ACC started meeting (1971), The Primates were invited in 1979 to meet in between Lambeth Conferences to advise the Archbishop of Canterbury and in 1988 they decided on their own initiative to meet annually and constitute themselves as a kind of standing meeting of the Anglican Communion and to issue statements. After the fall of the Berlin Wall the social revolutions in the USA moved into the arena of the Anglican churches; the rights of women and relations between the sexes. That only in 1970 did the General Convention of ECUSA agree to admit women to its General Convention shows the traditional conservatism of that church which was being overwhelmed by the social revolutions of the long 1960s.

The Anglicans found themselves thrust into a new and strange question - how are we to understand this new form of an Anglican Communion of churches in the light of a tradition of faith so strikingly formed in a national and Provincial way.

The first theological response to this challenge focused on a theological account of plurality and the gospel (IATDC I - 1988) but it was ignored. The Lambeth Conference of that year called for study on homosexuality as it had a decade before asked for study and reports on the consecration of women. In both case nothing was done. The 1998 Lambeth Conference had been prepared for with regional meetings so that issues could be brought to the main conference. Observers and participants approached the conference thinking that something would be decided and as a result something done. The conference was being turned into a kind of parliament. (25) After a fierce and acrimonious debate a relatively conservative resolution was passed on homosexuality. Everyone went home with their own opinion intact. Some bishops published group resolutions after the conference decrying the Lambeth resolution.

The action now began to be dealt with by committees or commissions appointed outside the range and effective influence of the ACC. The Council called for a new pan Anglican Congress. Plans were drawn up but it all came to nothing in someone's corridors during a meeting of the ACC. The Primates had moved into the driving seat and with the Archbishop of Canterbury were looking for a form of administrative solution. The Virginia Report of IATDC II provided a theology of koinonia but was used to further instruments of "enhanced" structures and rules for communion.

It all turned serious and highly conflictual when the diocese of New Westminster in Canada authorised services of blessing for same sex unions in 2003, and Gene Robinson, a man in an openly gay relationship, was appointed to be bishop of New Hampshire in the USA. This set the stage for the so-called Windsor Process that looked to the acceptance of an Anglican Covenant that would enable some "decision" in relation to wayward provinces. (26) This process has continued on to this day, but it is like the proverbial Australian river in the dry - it has seeped out of sight into the sand.

Rowan Williams ran with all this as archbishop, though he made a major and stunning change to the character of the Lambeth Conference of 2008. It was a consultative and listening conference. He gave some of his finest speeches during the conference, and there were no resolutions. The Lambeth Conference as Parliament had been stopped dead. A GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference) conference was held in Jerusalem in 2008 for a large but selected group of mixed conservatives and a second has been held in Nairobi this year. It has a continuing organisation, the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, whose secretary has been Peter Jensen. It presents itself as a shadow Anglican Communion for what they are pleased to call "orthodox Anglicans". There is a significant splinter church in the USA and another in Canada. These dissenting conservative evangelicals give every impression of establishing themselves as an alternative Anglican Communion, which they will presumably present as the authentic version.


The issues before Anglicans at the present time in regard to the Anglican Communion are in broad terms ecclesiological. It is true the presenting questions refer to gender relationships in the public life of the church. Other themes like how to make a decision on such moral questions are crucial to dealing with these conflicts. However the question of how the institutions of the Anglican Communion are to act in this situation is essentially an ecclesiological one. In the light of the Anglican tradition of faith how is the Anglican Communion to be understood ecclesiologically?

i) A Pilgrimage Ecclesiology

In general terms I would characterise an Anglican approach as a 'pilgrimage ecclesiology'. Several years ago I was asked to write an Introduction to World Wide Anglicanism. The book was published in 2008. It was not to be a history of world Anglicanism. An excellent book had already been published on that. (27) So the first question before me was what actually is World Wide Anglicanism. Is it a global entity distinguishable from local manifestations, or a local church with an extensive diaspora? Is it a general term to describe the aggregation of diverse and independent churches around the world? Grappling with this forced me back to questions of ecclesiology in relation to this kind of tradition. My conclusions were something like this:
   The problem is that Anglicans wish to hold tenaciously to the
   traditional order of ministry while not being willing to regard it
   as part of an absolute hierarchy, whether Reformed or Roman
   Catholic. But then that is what the Anglican version of
   Christianity is all about. It claims that our faith is built on
   Jesus himself as the incarnate Word of God. It claims that as a
   consequence of that foundation our response is always limited,
   partial and contingent: not limited in the sense that we can go
   nowhere with it, but rather that wherever we go with it we will
   need necessarily to go by faith. The institutionalisation of church
   life is inevitable, indeed necessary. However, the precise form of
   the institutional arrangements is always sub specie aeternitas and
   always open to reformation, which is to say change. The
   institutions share the pilgrimage character of the faith of the
   community that has created those institutions. Those institutions
   are always in the nature of experiments. (28)

This way of approaching an understanding of Anglicanism enables a number of important issues to come out; how identity is conceived, the underlying principle of contextualisation, Catholicity and the provision of ministry and sacraments.

ii) Identity By Originating Narrative

Such a pilgrimage approach to Anglican ecclesiology sits very comfortably with the way in which Anglicans see themselves as belonging to a tradition of faith deriving from the long English experience. Indeed most of the constitutions of the Anglican Provinces tend to put their identity broadly in these terms. Within the broad scope of christian traditions identity is construed in a variety of ways. Lutherans in terms of the theology of Martin Luther, or in the case of the Reformed traditions, John Calvin, Methodists in relation to the revival led by John and Charles Wesley, Roman Catholics in relation to the role of the Pope as the Vicar of Christ and the instrument of the Magisterium. Each in their different ways provides a path for developing an identity that can be sustained and adjusted through passing generations. Each in varying ways looks to the origins of the faith in the life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The Anglican model is less precisely defined than some others and for that reason some Anglicans have tried to instantiate the sixteenth century reformation (its BCP and Articles of Religion) as the foundational defining documents for Anglicans. It is an assertion that is difficult to sustain historically and ignores the claims of those very reformers that they were agents of continuity in the history of their faith.

iii) Contextualisation (Incarnation)

Also buried deep in the history of this tradition is a notion of contextualisation. This is not unique to the Anglicans by any means. Indeed the first expression of it in the English context is in the letters of advice from Gregory the Great to Augustine in Canterbury. (29) Localisation is present from a very early time. The reform instincts of William the Conqueror and his Italian born and Norman trained archbishop Lanfranc, were directed by a determination to honour the older English traditions of church practice. This strategy nurtured in the Church of England a sense of a dispersed authority in decision-making and institutional power. It set the appeal to the New Testament scriptures in the context of an appeal to the life of the early church. It moderated the varying notions of Royal Supremacy. It sat comfortably with the legal framework represented in the fifteenth century by Sir John Fortescue (De Laudibus legum Angliae 1468-1470) (30) and had to finesse around the more imperial version of the time of the Tudors. It finds prominent expression in the first Anglican Communion Doctrine Commission Report For the Sake of the Kingdom (1986).

There is a further contextual aspect to mention and that is in relation to the degrees of proximity in the communities that go to make up Anglican churches. The parish is the primary community where a congregation is formed in the christian beliefs and practices by direct relational encounter. The diocese is a different kind of community with different tasks and different relationships. The bishop is the representative agent for the discipline of clergy who are the agents for the delivery of a ministry of word and sacrament. The Province is different again and juridically provides for the discipline of bishops and an appeal from the diocesan disciplinary judgements in relation to clergy. Clearly these communities also undertake other society related activity, but their essential jurisdictional function in to ensure the provision of a ministry of word and sacrament. The Anglican Communion has no jurisdictional role, though it clearly has the potential to exercise a very important role in sustaining a vital catholicity amongst the Provinces.

iv) Catholicity

Catholicity is a mark of the church in the early creeds and has been an habitual theme in the history of christianity. However catholicity reflects a semantic field with many aspects and is wide in its range. The term is used often in the sense of belonging to the catholic church as for example in the opening statement of the constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia;
   The Anglican Church of Australia, being a part of the One Holy
   Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, holds the Christian Faith
   as professed by the Church of Christ from primitive times and in
   particular as set forth in the creeds known as the Nicene Creed and
   the Apostles' Creed. (31)

Clearly this means that the ACA claims to be part of the mainstream of christianity.

It has been the subject of careful re-visiting in the IATDC report, Communion Conflict and Hope in relation to understanding the Anglican Communion. (32) The report elaborates a broader and more dynamic sense. It points out that from the beginning 'the local church has had a catholic dimension; it relates to the wider body of churches in space and time. Without such relationship it cannot function healthily as a local church.' (para 45) Even within the local church there are gifts that are received and 'the experience of catholicity is an experience of delight in the gift of the other both within the local church and beyond it.' (46) 'For Anglicans catholicity has, however, been an experience of incompleteness. Anglicanism has never sought to be a worldwide church sufficient to itself. It has sought from the first to find its place in the life of the universal church, from its beginnings to its eschatological consummation.' (48)

This is a dynamic notion of catholicity in terms of active inter dependence rather than in terms of status or membership. It is also a notion that highlights the place of gifts in ecclesial life.

The Commission went on to point out that 'the traditional Anglican structures have developed little beyond the provincial level. That has reflected an underlying provincial ecclesiology of disciplined order sufficient to provide a ministry of word and sacraments that is both catholic and apostolic.' (49)

This represents in a nutshell both the basic resources and the challenges for Anglican Churches in a global environment. At the level of inter-communion relations they have had to experiment and they will have to continue to experiment, not only in terms of a pattern of relationships and how they work, but also the kind of identity that can appropriately be ascribed to the Anglican Communion. Given the disposition to conceive identity in terms of the narrative of the tradition that might also contain lessons that could be learnt for any continuing experimentation.


The present so-called Instruments of Unity need to be revisited. They are an experiment that has not proved to be particularly effective or apt and they do not adequately represent some key elements in the tradition. They are biased in favour of the ordained, especially bishops, and they appear to me to be often confused as to their purpose. The only properly constituted body is the ACC and its fundamental role is to consult. At least this is going in the right direction. Whatever arrangements are tried the purpose should be to encourage the kind of catholicity set out in the IATDC III report. That is to say those activities that promote engaged mutual support and encouragement.

There is a further problem with the current arrangements. There is a long tradition of individual initiative in the Anglican narrative. One can see this in the role played by the religious orders prior to their destruction by Henry VIII and in their revival in the nineteenth century. It is also visible in the independent schools, societies and a multitude of church organisations that flourished in the nineteenth century and still today and which are not related to or part of the ecclesiastical judicatory. One thinks of welfare organisations, mission agencies, service agencies and ministry agencies such as colleges, publishers and groups like the Mothers Union. If one is thinking about those arrangements that serve the catholicity of Anglican churches, these are in many ways much more important than the four so called Instruments of Unity. There are a significant number of networks and groups established by the ACC that perform a similarly important role in this area. I think of the ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue groups and the various commissions that have existed from time to time. In this context regular pan Anglican congresses of the kind recently proposed but killed off behind closed doors would be valuable. Indeed that proposal amalgamated the Lambeth conference with such a congress, which would be a significant advance.

All these are instruments of catholicity in different ways and in relation to different aspects of the life of the Anglican churches around the world have been vehicles of the dynamic catholicity called for by the IATDC.

The role of the archbishop of Canterbury is a focal point for the historical narrative on this tradition. In that sense Rowan Williams' reversion to the terminology of 'Focus of Unity' has been quite significant. Any incumbent of that office should be encouraged to foster that narrative.

In such a diverse and scattered collection of churches with different ministries and gifts for each other there is a role for some kind of body that would encourage some balance amongst all these various means of catholicity to which I have referred. A similar role for relations between provinces would be appropriate. The ACC is the nearest entity we have for this purpose and it would be good if it saw as its primary role the encouragement of contacts and engagements between the provinces. Where conflict arises then there are well known relational strategies for approaching such conflicts. (33) It does not and should not seek to arbitrate between the provinces. Nor should it make these ministries of catholicity its agents. Rather it should have a sufficient sense of the whole that would enable it to encourage ministries so the whole becomes as rich and effective a tapestry as possible.

A perennial threat to effective catholicity amongst these Anglican churches is that dispositional alliances develop which often means that genuine catholicity is hindered. Dispositional alliances in themselves are not wrong. Indeed they are understandable and sometimes beneficial, but they often represent a failure of nerve in the face of difference. They provide the opportunity to retreat into a comfortable cordon sanitaire of agreement and mutual reinforcement instead of seeing difference and conflict as an opportunity to engage and learn. Such situations are part of the soil in which catholicity and faithfulness grow. What is at stake here is not the viability of sub groups but the good of the churches. That calls for commitment to the good of the churches through openness to learn from others who are different in the way they have received the tradition of Anglican faith and practices. The encompassing dispositional sub group often eats at the heart of catholicity in the church because it teaches its members the dangerous skill of disagreement instead of the constructive virtue of argument.

These considerations suggest that the Primates meeting needs to be reconceived, perhaps even let go altogether. The Primates could have a role as facilitating catholic interaction between provinces, but the current model of meeting has not had an outstanding record in recent years.

The ACC should be the operative consulting body and should focus on its original role of consultation. It should also have a coordinating role to encourage and facilitate the myriad of other means by which Anglicans and their churches are held in some degree of effective engagement and interdependence.

The Lambeth Conference has been moved back into a more viable and useful mode by the 2008 meeting. It is a trend to be pursued.

The two Anglican Congresses of 1954 and 1963 had a significant and constructive influence on the people who participated. They encountered a wider world of Anglican churches. These large congresses had very significant impact for those participating in making tangible the imagined community of the Anglican Communion. It has been a capital error not to continue with them.


The picture I have presented here is of an Anglican Communion that majors on mutuality and engagement across the wide range of ministries and activities of the churches in the provinces. It is of a fellowship of churches held in an identity for Anglicans arising from a common originating heritage sustained by the vigorous exercise of a dynamic form of catholicity. In formal terms this model does not have the determinative insitutionality of a magisterium, nor of a definitive theologian such as Calvin or Luther. In form it probably resembles more the pattern in the Orthodox families, though with a quite different narrative and thus resulting shape.

Another view of the Anglican Communion is that found in the so-called Windsor Process and the attempt to establish an Anglican Covenant with membership or status determining powers. This has been the response of the current Instruments to the conflict between and within Anglican Provinces. It has not in my view been a good idea and has not been particularly successful. Dissent has grown, and increasingly become institutionalised and thus divisions and conflict confirmed. But it has failed signally to honour the dynamics of the long narrative of Anglicanism and the pilgrimage that has produced a particular understanding of ecclesiology. The differences here are considerable. They imply different judgements about the kind of 'fellowship' the churches of the Anglican Communion should have and how that is best pursued. One is a precisely membership defining coherence, the other a more loose limbed relationship building cohering. The former seems to me to fly in the face of the Anglican narrative. I think the model of dynamic catholicity that is highlighted by the Doctrine Commission report, Communion Conflict and Hope reflects better some of the key elements in the tradition and reflects more adequately a pilgrim ecclesiology. In that sense it seems to be to be more defensibly Anglican.

End note 20: Lambeth Conference Resolutions, 1930, 49.

The Anglican Communion

The Conference approves the following statement of nature and status of the Anglican Communion, as that term is used in its Resolutions:

The Anglican Communion is a fellowship, within the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted dioceses, provinces or regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, which have the following characteristics in common:

a. they uphold and propagate the Catholic and Apostolic faith and order as they are generally set forth in the Book of Common Prayer as authorised in their several Churches;

b. they are particular or national Churches, and, as such, promote within each of their territories a national expression of Christian faith, life and worship; and

c. they are bound together not by a central legislative and executive authority, but by mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference. The Conference makes this statement praying for and eagerly awaiting the time when the Churches of the present Anglican Communion will enter into communion with other parts of the Catholic Church not definable as Anglican in the above sense, as a step towards the ultimate reunion of all Christendom in one visibly united fellowship.

Endnote 27: Lambeth 1998 1.10: This Conference:

a. commends to the Church the subsection report on human sexuality;

b. in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage;

c. recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God's transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;

d. while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialization and commercialisation of sex;

e. cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions;

f. requests the Primates and the ACC to establish a means of monitoring the work done on the subject of human sexuality in the Communion and to share statements and resources among us;

g. notes the significance of the Kuala Lumpur Statement on Human Sexuality and the concerns expressed in resolutions IV.26, V.1, V.10, V.23 and V.35 on the authority of Scripture in matters of marriage and sexuality and asks the Primates and the ACC to include them in their monitoring process.


Bede, et al., The Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation (London,: J.M. Dent, The Temple Classics, 1903)

CG Brittain, 'Confession Obsession? Core Doctrine and the Anxieties of Anglican Theology', Anglican Theological Review 90.4 (2008), (777-99)

Norman F. Cantor, Church, Kingship and Lay Investiture in England, 1089-1135 (New jersey: Princeton University, 1958)

H. E. J. Cowdrey, Lanfranc : Scholar, Monk, and Archbishop (Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2003)

C Cross, Church and People 1450-1660. The Triumph of the Laity in the English Church (London: Collins, Fontana Press, 1976)

John Fortescue and Shelley Lockwood, Sir John Fortescue: On the Laws and Governance of England (New York: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought, 1997)

Kaye, Bruce, 'The Strange Birth of Anglican Synods in Australia and the 1850 Bishop's Conference', Journal of Religious History 27.2, June 2003 (2003), (177-97)

Kaye, Bruce, 'How Can We Speak of 'Canonical Scripture' Today?', Journal of Anglican Studies 11.1 (2013), (1-14)

Philip H E Thomas, 'Unity and Concord: An Early Anglican "Communion" Journal of Anglican Studies 2.1 (2004), (9-21)

Sally N. Vaughn, Archbishop Anselm: Bec Missionary, Canterbury Primate, Patriarch of Another World (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012)

End note for footnote 15 The colonies were started over a period of 125 years as follows:
Colony name      Year founded          Founded by            Became

Virginia         1607                  London Company        1624
Massachusetts    1620--Plymouth        Puritans              1691
                 Bay Colony
New Hampshire    1623                  John Wheelwright      1679
Maryland         1634                  Lord Baltimore        N/A
Connecticut      c. 1635               Thomas Hooker         N/A
Rhode Island     1636                  Roger Williams        N/A
Delaware         1638                  Peter Minuit and      N/A
                                       New Sweden Company
North Carolina   1653                  Virginians            1729
South Carolina   1663                  Eight Nobles with     1729
                                       a Royal Charter
                                       from Charles II
New Jersey       1664                  Lord Berkeley and     1702
                                       Sir George Carteret
New York         1664                  Duke of York          1685
Pennsylvania     1682                  William Penn          N/A
Georgia          1732                  James Edward          1752

Bruce Kaye *

* Bruce Kaye is currently an Adjunct Research Professor at Charles Sturt University. Bruce was General Secretary of the Anglican Church of Australia (1994-2004). He has served on a number of groups for the Anglican Communion, including the International Theological and Doctrinal Commission, and was the Founding Editor of the Journal of Anglican Studies. His recent books include Introduction to World Anglicanism (CUP) and Conflict and the Practice of Christian Faith (Wipf & Stock) and he is currently working on a book on the Rise and Fall of the English Christendom.

(1) This article is based on a paper given at a meeting of the Australian Catholic Historical Association, November 17 2013. I am grateful for the invitation to give the paper and for the stimulating questions and discussion.

(2) Inter Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission, Communion, Conflict and Hope (London: The Anglican Communion Office, 2008) paragraph 49.

(3) See B Anderson, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1991).

(4) Lambeth Conference 1930 Resolution 49. Lambeth Conference Resolutions http:// . Accessed 8 November 2013.

(5) See B. N. Kaye, Conflict and the Practice of Christian Faith : The Anglican Experiment (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2009).

(6) See H. E. J. Cowdrey, Lanfranc : Scholar, Monk, and Archbishop (Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).

(7) See Cowdrey, Lanfranc, p.132. This emphasis anticipates the Westphalia axiom, cuis regio cuis religio.

(8) See Norman F. Cantor, Church, Kingship and Lay Investiture in England, 1089-1135 (New Jersey: Princeton University, 1958) and some recent modifications of his thesis in Sally N. Vaughn, Archbishop Anselm : Bec Missionary, Canterbury Primate, Patriarch of Another World (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012).

(9) King Henry I and Anselm were in conflict over the king's insistence on his right to invest bishops into their office, including Anselm. Supported by the Pope Anselm went into exile and the conflict was only resolved after a compromise by which Henry gave up the right to invest but retained the right to demand homage. This was settled by the concordat of London in 1107. The conflict between Henry II and Thomas a Beckett concerned the power of ecclesiastical courts alone to try criminous clerks. The issues were set out in the Constitutions of Clarendon established by Henry II in 1164. Beckett was supported by the Pope. After Beckett's murder Henry went to Avranches and did obeisance to the papal legates in penitence. However most of the Clarendon Constitutions stayed in place.

(10) As Christopher Hill puts it in relation to canon law in Anglican churches, 'The part played by representative clergy and laity alongside the episcopate is highly distinctive of Anglican Canon Law everywhere in the Anglican Communion. Christopher Hill, 'Ecclesiological and Canonical Observations on the Principles of Canon Law Common to the Churches of the Anglican Communion.', Ecclesiastical Law Journal, 14 (2012), (400-07).

(11) The Cluny model established a direct relationship to the Papacy and a network of authority back to the mother house. See the discussion of this and the moves of other monastic houses to seek closer alliance with the papacy rather than the diocesan bishop in Kathleen G. Cushing, Reform and the Papacy in the Eleventh Century : Spirituality and Social Change (Manchester; New York, New York: Manchester University Press ; Distributed by Palgrave, Manchester Medieval Studies, 2005) pp.59-61.

(12) See BN Kaye, 'How Can We Speak of 'Canonical Scripture' Today?', Journal of Anglican Studies 11.1 (2013), (1-14) 3.

(13) The Clarendon Code consisted of the Corporation Act (1661 repealed 1828), which required all municipal officer holders to be communicant member of the Church of England and to reject the Solemn League and Covenant, The Act of Uniformity (1662) which compelled uniformity of worship through a prescribed Book of Common Prayer for all clergy, The Conventicle Act (1664) which forbad meetings for unauthorised worship, The Five Mile Act (1665 repealed 1812), which forbad nonconforming ministers from coming within five miles of incorporated towns and from teaching in schools..

(14) See the account of this triumph of the lay parliament in C Cross, Church and People 1450-1660. The Triumph of the Laity in the English Church (London: Collins, Fontana Press, 1976)

(15) See endnote

(16) See Philip H E Thomas, 'Unity and Concord: An Early Anglican 'Communion' ', Journal of Anglican Studies 2.1 (2004), (9-21)

(17) See R Ely, Unto God and Caesar. Religious Issues in the Emerging Commonwealth 1891-1906 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1976) and BN Kaye, 'An Australian Definition of Religion', University of New South Wales Law Journal 14.2 (1991), (332-51).

(18) Broughton made his argument during the 1850 Bishops' conference in Sydney and is recorded in a diary kept by Bishop Perry which is kept in the archives of the Diocese of Melbourne. See also BN Kaye, 'The Strange Birth of Anglican Synods in Australia and the 1850 Bishop's Conference', Journal of Religious History 27.2, June 2003 (2003), (177-97).

(19) See Sally N. Vaughn, Archbishop Anselm : Bec Missionary, Canterbury Primate, Patriarch of Another World (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012) pp.153-166.

(20) See end note.

(21) In 1939 the government passed a Religious Corporation Law compelling all protestant churches into one united church (Koydan). It split the NSKK. See A Hamish Ion, The Cross under and Imperial Sun. Imperialism, Nationalism, and Japanese Christianity, 1895-1945, in M. R. Mullins (ed.), Handbook of Christianity in Japan, pp.69-96 (Leiden: Brill, 2003) and a short account in relation to the issue of contextualization in Bruce Kaye, An Introduction to World Anglicanism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008) pp.59ff..

(22) See Alan M. G. Stephenson, The First Lambeth Conference, 1867 pp. xviii. 380. pl. 12. Published for the Church Historical Society [by] S.P.C.K.: London, 1967)

(23) The South Pacific Council and the Council of the Church of South East Asia.

(24) See S. F. Bayne, An Anglican Turning Point: Documents and Interpretation (Austin, Tex.: Church Historical Society, 1964) and Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ, with Related Background Documents. Edited with Introduction and Concluding Chapter by Stephen F. Bayne (London: S.P.C.K., 1963) and the remarkably useful H. G. G. Herklots, Frontiers of the Church The Making of the Anglican Communion pp. 293. Ernest Benn: London, 1961)

(25) See endnote.

(26) For a critique of this in terms of an urge towards a new confessionalism see CG Brittain, 'Confession Obsession? Core Doctrine and the Anxieties of Anglican Theology', Anglican Theological Review 90.4 (2008), (777-99)

(27) Kevin Ward, A History of Global Anglicanism (Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006). See also WM Jacob, The Making of the Anglican Church Worldwide (London: SPCK, 1997) and the very incisive Hugh Gerard Gibson Herklots, Frontiers of the Church. The Making of the Anglican Communion. London, Ernest Benn, 1961).

(28) With some minor changes this comes from Bruce Kaye, An Introduction to World Anglicanism p. 215

(29) See Bede, et al., The Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation (London,: J.M. Dent, The Temple Classics, 1903) Book I, 27

(30) See John Fortescue and Shelley Lockwood, Sir John Fortescue : On the Laws and Governance of England (New York: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought, 1997).

(31) See The Constitution Canons and Rules of The Anglican Church of Australia 2010 (Melbourne, Broughton Publishing, 2011) p 2 Constitution Canons BOOK FINALrevclient_indexed.pdf

(32) Inter Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission, Communion, Conflict and Hope (London: The Anglican Communion Office, 2008)

(33) After the 1998 Lambeth Conference a group was set up that could have been a beginning in this direction, but unfortunately it was not pursued. The group published a report which was ignored in the subsequent debates. A Final Report from the International Anglican Conversations on Human Sexuality (City: Anglican Consultative Council, 2003).
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Date:Jan 1, 2013
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