The Windsor Report 2004

The practical consequences of a healthy communion

  1. Ephesians insists that the Body of Christ, taking Christ, its Head, as the source of its life, grows and builds itself up in love as each part plays its proper role (4.15-16). It is appropriate that we ground our report in some reflections on how this has been worked out within the Anglican Communion up to now.

  2. Life in the Anglican Communion, as a communion of churches, is indeed nourished by the presence and work of the Holy Spirit, building up the body in love. Throughout its history, the Anglican Communion has been sustained by a common pattern of liturgical life rooted in the tradition of the Books of Common Prayer; shaped by the continual reading, both corporate and private, of the Holy Scriptures; rooted in its history through the See of Canterbury; and connected through a web of relationships - of bishops, consultative bodies, companion dioceses, projects of common mission, engagement with ecumenical partners - that are the means and the signs of common life. This continues to flourish in a myriad of ways at the local as well as national and international level.

  3. This was given formal expression at the third 'Anglican Congress' [1] in 1963. Anglican life in communion was there described as “mutual interdependence and responsibility in the Body of Christ”. From that affirmation ten Principles of Partnership were developed by the Mission Issues and Strategy Advisory Group II, which form a valuable foundation to the life of the Communion[2].

  4. When these principles have been lived out and honoured, there have been practical consequences which have advanced the mission of the church and enhanced the life of the people of the Communion and of the world it exists to serve. Though we remain painfully aware of our many failures, we should not ignore the great achievements of our unity and communion. Over the centuries Anglicans have lived out the gift of communion in mutual love and care for one another. We have at times embraced costly grace in standing together in opposition to racial enslavement and genocide. We have reached out and offered aid to one another in combating famine, disease and the chaos caused by natural disasters. In the struggle against apartheid, in common efforts of evangelism and mission, in acts of solidarity with indigenous peoples, in bringing dioceses together from diverse parts of the globe through the communications network and partnership arrangements, in the development of centres of excellence in theological education, in common prayer for those facing persecution, in disaster relief and development projects grounded in the local reality and assisted by the resources of all - in all these things, Anglicans have shared their gift of communion for the building up of the whole and thereby for the advancement of God's mission.

  5. All these examples and many more spring from the organic reality that is life in communion. They are signs of a healthy attentiveness to the needs of other parts of the body and, moreover, of respect for the insights, hopes, beliefs and convictions of others within the Communion (1 Corinthians 12:25-26). We take courage from these signs of God's blessing upon our common life.

  6. What has been less clear in Anglicanism is exactly how this organic body should be sustained. In acknowledging Jesus Christ as our one and only Head, we are aware that at no point have we found the need to clarify the ways in which, through particular ministries, that Headship is brought to expression within the local and international leadership of the Communion. In recent years, there have been attempts to develop a common mind about how this great Communion might actually function together in those situations in which mutual discernment is necessary to sustain the life of the body. Those attempts form part of the context of our work.