The Anglican Communion comprises 38 self-governing Member Churches or Provinces that share several things in common including doctrine, ways of worshipping, mission, and a focus of unity in the Archbishop of Canterbury. Formal mechanisms for meeting include the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Primates’ Meeting, together known as the Instruments of Communion.
Most Communion life, however, is found in the relationships between Anglicans at all levels of church life and work around the globe; dioceses linked with dioceses, parishes with parishes, people with people, all working to further God’s mission. There are around 85 million people on six continents who call themselves Anglican (or Episcopalian), in more than 165 countries. These Christian brothers and sisters share prayer, resources, support and knowledge across geographical and cultural boundaries.
As with any family, the Anglican Communion’s members have a range of differing opinions. This means that the Anglican Christian tradition has always valued its diversity, and has never been afraid to publicly tackle the hard questions of life and faith.
In continuity with the ancient Celtic and Saxon churches of the British Isles, and Britain’s place within Catholic Europe, Anglicanism found its distinctive identity in the 16th and 17th centuries. At the Reformation national churches emerged in England, Ireland and Scotland. With the American Revolution, an autonomous Episcopal Church was founded in the United States and later Anglican or Episcopal churches were founded across the globe as a result of the missionary movements of the 18th and 19th centuries.
It was in 1867 that Lambeth Palace hosted the first conference for Anglican bishops from around the world. Today, the Archbishop of Canterbury calls a Lambeth Conference every ten years. The last, in 2008, saw more than 800 bishops from around the world invited to Canterbury. Bishops attending the 1968 Lambeth Conference called for a body representative of all sections of the churches—laity, clergy and bishops—to co-ordinate aspects of international Anglican ecumenical and mission work. The resulting body was the Anglican Consultative Council that meets approximately every three years.
Since 1979 the Archbishop of Canterbury has also regularly invited the chief bishops of the Provinces (known as Primates) to join him in a meeting for consultation, prayer and reflection on theological, social and international matters. These Primates’ Meetings take place approximately every two years.
These Instruments of Communion are served by a secretariat based at the Anglican Communion Office in London, as well as in New York, Geneva and from 2012 in Nairobi.
(See below for more information on the Anglican Communion Office)
There can be many differences between individual Anglican churches, but all Anglicans hold these in common:
This quadrilateral, drawn up in the 19th Century, is one of the definitions of Anglican faith and ministry. Another is a style of worship which has its roots in the Book of Common Prayer and the Services of Ordination (the Ordinal). Anglicans also celebrate the Eucharist (also known as the Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper or the Mass), the Sacrament of Baptism and other rites including Confirmation, Reconciliation, Marriage, Anointing of the Sick, and Ordination.
Anglicanism rests on the three pillars of Scripture, Tradition and Reason as it seeks to chart ‘a middle way’ among the other Christian traditions.
Following the teachings of Jesus Christ, Anglicans are committed to proclaiming the good news of the Gospel to all creation as expressed in the Marks of Mission:
This is expressed in all areas of a Christian’s life: their words and their actions. Therefore, members of the Anglican Communion around the world are involved with a range of life-changing activities that include evangelism and church growth; providing food, shelter and clothing to those in need; speaking out with and for the oppressed; and setting up schools, hospitals, clinics and universities.
There are also international Anglican networks and Anglican Communion Commissions, Committees and Working Groups that work to achieve these Marks and more. Current projects include a campaign to end violence against women and children, a project to understand how Anglicans read and understand the Bible, and an alliance co-ordinating global Anglican relief, development and advocacy efforts.
The Episcopal Church Includes overseas dioceses in Taiwan, Haiti, Columbia, Honduras, Dominican Republic and Ecuador
Extra-Provincial Churches and other dioceses
Churches in Communion
The Mar Thoma Syrian Church
The Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht
The Philippine Independent Church
Anglicans/Episcopalians in certain parts of the Communion are in full communion with some Lutheran Churches.
Office of the Secretary General
Finance & Administration
Anglican Communion Secretariat Services
Unity, Faith and Order
Anglican Communion Office at the United Nations (ACOUN)
Address: St Andrew’s House, 16 Tavistock Crescent, London, W11 1AP
Phone: +44 (0)207 313 3900 Fax: +44 (0)207 313 3999
The permanent secretariat serves the Anglican Communion and is responsible for facilitating all meetings of the conciliar Instruments of Communion as well as the Commissions and Networks of the Communion. Anglican Communion Office staff, from countries including Japan, Wales, Canada, Zambia and Colombia, also maintain the Anglican Communion website where visitors can find the official prayer cycle (daily prayer intentions for the dioceses of the Communion); vast amounts of official information and documentation about the Anglican Communion’s Instruments and its ministries; plus the very latest news from around the Anglican world via the Anglican Communion News Service.
Funding for the work of the office comes from the Inter-Anglican budget supported by all Member Churches according to their means.