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ACO: The Anglican Communion

Posted on: January 13, 1997 12:01 PM
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There are nearly 70 million members of the Anglican family in 36 self-governing Member Churches or Provinces in more than 160 countries.

The Anglican Communion has developed in two stages. Following the first stage, which began in the 17th century in Britain, Anglicanism was later established by colonisation in places such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Southern Africa, and the USA. The second stage began in the late 18th century. During that era Anglican churches were planted all over the world as a result of the missionary work of the Churches in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, which were joined in this task by the Churches formed in the previous two centuries.

Anglican Churches uphold and proclaim the Catholic and Apostolic faith, based on the Scriptures, interpreted in the light of tradition, scholarship and reason. Following the teachings of Jesus Christ, the 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, Ordinals of the 16th and 17th centuries, and most succinctly in the 'Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral' which was first approved by the Lambeth Conference of 1888. This document affirms as the essential elements of faith and order in the quest for Christian unity:

    1. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as the revealed Word of God;
    2. The Nicene Creed as the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith;
    3. The two Sacraments - Baptism and the Eucharist - ministered with the unfailing words and elements used by Christ;
    4. The historic Episcopate.

Central to worship for Anglicans is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist (also called the Holy Communion, the Lord's Supper, the Mass). In this offering of prayer and praise are recalled the life, death and resurrection of Christ, through the proclamation of the word and celebration of the Sacrament. Worship is at the heart of Anglicanism. Its styles vary from simple to elaborate, from Evangelical to Catholic, as well as from Charismatic to Traditional. The Book of Common Prayer, in its various revisions throughout the Communion, gives expression to the comprehensiveness found within the Church whose principles reflect, since the time of Elizabeth I, a via media in relation to other Christian traditions.

Baptism, with water in the name of the Trinity, unites one with Christ and the Church. Other rites include Confirmation, Holy Orders, Reconciliation, Marriage, and Anointing of the Sick.


The Churches of the Anglican Communion are linked by affection and common loyalty. They are in full communion with the see of Canterbury and thus the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his person, is a unique focus of Anglican unity. He calls the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference, chairs the meeting of Primates, and is President of the Anglican Consultative Council. The 103rd Archbishop, in the succession of St Augustine, is the Most Revd and Rt Hon George L Carey, enthroned in April 1991.


is served by:


The Lambeth Conference is a gathering of bishops, meeting every ten years under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury. There have been twelve conferences to date, with the first being held in 1867. The date of the next conference has been announced for 1998. Until 1978 the conferences were for bishops only, but in 1988 the full Anglican Consultative Council membership and representative bishops of the Churches in Communion (the Churches of Bangladesh, North and South India, and Pakistan) joined with the bishops in the discussions, as did bishops of the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht.


Since 1979, the primates (the senior archbishop or presiding bishop) of the autonomous Churches of the Anglican Communion have met every two or three years in consultation on theological, social, and international issues. Meeting locations: Ely, England 1979; Washington, USA 1981; Limuru, Kenya 1983 ; Toronto, Canada 1986 ; Cyprus 1989 ; Ireland1991 ; Cape Town, Southern Africa 1993 ; Windsor, England 1995 ; and Jerusalem 1997.


The ACC was formed following a resolution of the 1968 Lambeth Conference which discerned the need for more frequent and more representative contact among the Churches than was possible through a once-a-decade conference of bishops. The constitution of the Council was accepted by the general synods or conventions of all the Member Churches of the Anglican Communion. The Council came into being in October 1969.


The ACC meets every two or three years and its present policy is to meet in different parts of the world. Since it began there have been nine meetings of the Council: Limuru, Kenya 1971; Dublin, Republic of Ireland 1973 ; Trinidad 1976 ; London, Ontario, Canada 1979 ; Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England 1981 ; Badagry, Nigeria 1984 ; Singapore 1987 ; Wales 1990 ; Cape Town, Southern Africa 1993 ; and Panama 1996.


The following activities and projects were inaugurated, implemented, and supported, in some way, by the Lambeth Conference, the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council:

  • Partners in Mission
  • Companion Dioceses Programmes
  • Inter-Church Ecumenical Conversations
  • (with the Lutheran, Oriental Orthodox, Orthodox,
  • Reformed, and Roman Catholic Churches)
  • Anglican Cycle of Prayer
  • Anglican World
  • Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission
  • The Anglican Centre in Rome
  • The Liturgical Consultation
  • Inter-Anglican Publishing
  • Inter-Anglican Information Network
  • United Nation Observer
  • Inter-Anglican networks


There is a permanent secretariat, based in London, England, led by its 99th Secretary General, the Revd Canon John L. Peterson. The staff serves the Lambeth Conference, the Primates Meeting, and the Anglican Consultative Council. All are funded by the Inter-Anglican budget which is supported by all Member Churches according to their membership and means. Member Churches and other organisations are also invited to contribute to special projects authorised by the Council, such as the Personal Emergencies Fund.


n.b. - * Are NOT PROVINCES -

  • The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia
  • The Anglican Church of Australia
  • The Church of Bangladesh
  • The Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil
  • The Church of the Province of Burundi
  • The Anglican Church of Canada
  • The Church of the Province of Central Africa
  • *The Church of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) Extra Provincial
  • The Church of England (York and Canterbury)
  • The Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean
  • The Church of Ireland
  • The Holy Catholic Church in Japan
  • The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East
  • The Church of the Province of Kenya
  • The Anglican Church of Korea
  • The Church of the Province of Melanesia
  • The Anglican Church of Mexico
  • The Church of the Province of Myanmar (Burma)
  • The Church of the Province of Nigeria
  • The Church of North India
  • The Church of Pakistan
  • The Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea
  • The Philippine Episcopal Church
  • *The Lusitanian Church of Portugal
  • The Province of the Episcopal Church of Rwanda
  • The Scottish Episcopal Church
  • *The Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church
  • The Church of the Province of South East Asia
  • The Church of the Province of Southern Africa
  • The Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of America
  • The Church of South India
  • The Episcopal Church of the Sudan
  • The Church of the Province of Tanzania
  • The Church of the Province of Uganda
  • The Episcopal Church in the United States of America
  • The Church in Wales
  • The Church of the Province of West Africa
  • The Church in the Province of the West Indies
  • The Province of the Anglican Church of Zaire
  • plus the Extra Provincial Dioceses of Bermuda, Taiwan, Cuba, Hong Kong and Macao, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. Several new provinces are also currently in formation.

Churches in Communion include the Mar Thoma Syrian Church, the Philippine Independent Church, some Lutheran and Old Catholic Churches in Europe. The Church in China is known as a "post denominational" church whose formation included Anglicans.


The last ten years of this millennium have been designated by the Anglican Communion as a Decade of Evangelism. sharing the Gospel of Christ is the work of each Member Church, and all the members in their own unique way. Provinces, dioceses, parishes, evangelistic organisations, are enabling Christians, by various programmes, to accomplish this goal of evangelisation.


The emblem of the Anglican Communion, the Compass Rose was originally designed by the late Canon Edward West of New York. The modern design is that of Giles Bloomfield. The symbol, set in the nave of Canterbury Cathedral, was dedicated by the Archbishop of canterbury at the final Eucharist of the Lambeth conference 1988. The Archbishop dedicated a similar symbol in Washington Cathedral in 1990, and one in the original design in New York's cathedral in 1992, demonstrating that its use is becoming increasingly world-wide. The centre holds the Cross of St George, reminding Anglicans of their origins. The Greek inscription 'The Truth Shall Make You Free' (John 8:32) surrounds the cross, and the compass recalls the spread of Anglican Christianity throughout the world. The mitre at the top emphasises the role of the episcopacy and apostolic order that is at the core of the Churches of the Communion.

The Compass Rose is used widely by the family of Anglican/Episcopal Churches and is the logo of the Inter-Anglican Secretariat, and is used as the Communion's identifying symbol.