Official Website of the
World Spirituality Organization

 


 

 Anglican Communion

Anglican Communion

 ANGLICAN COMMUNION, the name used to denote that great branch of the Christian Church consisting of the various churches in communion with the Church of England. The necessity for such a phrase as "Anglican Communion," first used in the 19th century, marked at once the immense development of the Anglican Church in modern times and the change which has taken place in the traditional conceptions of its character and sphere. The Church of England itself is the subject of a separate article (see ENGLAND, CHURCH OF); and it is not without significance that for more than two centuries after the Reformation the history of Anglicanism is practically confined to its developments within the limits of the British Isles. Even in Ireland, where it was for over three centuries the established religion, and in Scotland, where it early gave way to the dominant Presbyterianism, its religious was long overshadowed by its political significance. The Church, in fact, while still claiming to be Catholic in its creeds and in its religious practice, had ceased to be Catholic in its institutional conception, which was now bound up with a particular state and also with a particular conception of that state. To the native Irishman and the Scotsman, as indeed to most Englishmen, the Anglican Church was one of the main buttresses of the supremacy of the English crown and nation. This conception of the relations of church and state was hardly favorable to missionary zeal; and in the age succeeding the Reformation there was no disposition on the part of the English Church to emulate the wonderful activity of the Jesuits, which, in the 16th and 17th centuries, brought to the Church of Rome in countries beyond the ocean compensation for what she had lost in Europe through the Protestant reformation. Even when English churchmen passed beyond the seas, they carried with them their creed, but not their ecclesiastical organization. Prejudice and real or imaginary legal obstacles stood in the way of the erection of episcopal sees in the colonies; and though in the 17th century Archbishop Laud had attempted to obtain a bishop for Virginia, up to the time of the American revolution the churchmen of the colonies had to make the best of the legal fiction that their spiritual needs were looked after by the bishop of London, who occasionally sent commissaries to visit them and ordained candidates for the ministry sent to England for the purpose.

The change which has made it possible for Anglican churchmen to claim that their communion ranks with those of Rome and the Orthodox East as one of the three great historical divisions of the Catholic Church, was due, in the first instance, to the American revolution. The severance of the colonies from their allegiance to the crown brought the English bishops for the first time face to face with the idea of an Anglican Church which should have nothing to do either with the royal supremacy or with British nationality. When, on the conclusion of peace, the church-people of Connecticut sent Dr. Samuel Seabury to England, with a request to the archbishop of Canterbury to consecrate him, it is not surprising that Archbishop Moore refused. In the opinion of prelates and lawyers alike, an act of parliament was necessary before a bishop could be consecrated for a see abroad; to consecrate one for a foreign country seemed impossible, since, though the bestowal of the potestas ordinis would be valid, the crown, which, according to the law, was the source of the episcopal jurisdiction, could hardly issue the necessary mandate for the consecration of a bishop to a see outside the realm (see BISHOP). The Scottish bishops, however, being hampered by no such legal restrictions, were more amenable; and on the 11th of November 1784 Seabury was consecrated by them to the see of Connecticut. In 1786, on the initiative of the archbishop, the legal difficulties in England were removed by the act for the consecration of bishops abroad; and, on being satisfied as to the orthodoxy of the church in America and the nature of certain liturgical changes in contemplation, the two English archbishops proceeded, on the 14th of February 1787, to consecrate William White and Samuel Prevoost to the sees of Pennsylvania and New York.

This act had a significance beyond the fact that it established in the United States of America a flourishing church, which, while completely loyal to its own country, is bound by special ties to the religious life of England. It marked the emergence of the Church of England from that insularity to which what may be called the territorial principles of the Reformation had condemned her. The change was slow, and it is not yet by any means complete.

Since the Church of England, whatever her attitude towards the traditional Catholic doctrines, never disputed the validity of Catholic orders whether Roman or Orthodox, nor the jurisdiction of Catholic bishops in foreign countries, the expansion of the Anglican Church has been in no sense conceived as a Protestant aggressive movement against Rome. Occasional exceptions, such as the consecration by Archbishop Plunket of Dublin of a bishop for the reformed church in Spain, raised so strong a protest as to prove the rule. In the main, then, the expansion of the Anglican Church has followed that of the British empire, or, as in America, of its daughter states; its claim, so far as rights of jurisdiction are concerned, is to be the Church of England and the English race, while recognizing its special duties towards the non-Christian populations subject to the empire or brought within the reach of its influence. As against the Church of Rome, with its system of rigid centralization, the Anglican Church represents the principle of local autonomy, which it holds to be once more primitive and more catholic. In this respect the Anglican communion has developed on the lines defined in her articles at the Reformation; but, though in principle there is no great difference between a church defined by national, and a church defined by racial boundaries, there is an immense difference in effect, especially when the race—as in the case of the English—is itself ecumenical.

The realization of what may be called this catholic mission of the English church, in the extension of its organization to the colonies, was but a slow process.

The Church in the Colonies.

On the 12th of August 1787 Dr. Charles Inglis was consecrated bishop of Nova Scotia, with jurisdiction over all the British possessions in North America. In 1793 the see of the Québec was founded; Jamaica and Barbados followed in 1824, and Toronto and Newfoundland in 1839. Meanwhile the needs of India has been tardily met, on the urgent representations in parliament of William Wilberforce and others, by the consecration of Dr. T. F. Middleton as bishop of Calcutta, with three archdeacons to assist him. In 1817 Ceylon was added to his charge; in 1823 all British subjects in the East Indies and the islands of the Indian Ocean; and in 1824 "New South Wales and its dependencies"! Some five years later, on the nomination of the duke of Wellington, William Broughton was sent out to work in this enormous jurisdiction as archdeacon of Australia. Soon afterwards, in 1835 and 1837, the sees of Madras and Bombay were founded; whilst in 1836 Broughton himself was consecrated as first bishop of Australia. Thus down to 1840 there were but ten colonial bishops; and of these several were so hampered by civil regulations that they were little more than government chaplains in episcopal orders. In April of that year, however, Bishop Blomfield of London published his famous letter to the archbishop of Canterbury, declaring that "an episcopal church without a bishop is a contradiction in terms," and strenuously advocating a great effort for the extension of the episcopate. It was not in vain. The plan was taken up with enthusiasm, and on Whitsun Tuesday of 1841 the bishops of the United Kingdom met and issued a declaration which inaugurated the Colonial Bishoprics Council. Subsequent  declarations in 1872 and 1891 have served both to record progress and to stimulate to new effort. The diocese of New Zealand was founded in 1841, being endowed by the Church Missionary Society through the council, and George Augustus Selwyn was chosen as the first bishop. Since then the increase has gone on, as the result both of home effort and of the action of the colonial churches. Moreover, in many cases bishops have been sent to inaugurate new missions, as in the cases of the Universities' Mission to Central Africa, Lebombo, Corea and New Guinea; and the missionary jurisdictions so founded develop in time into dioceses. Thus, instead of the ten colonial jurisdictions of 1841, there are now about a hundred foreign and colonial jurisdictions, in addition to those of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States.

It was only very gradually that these dioceses acquired legislative independence and a determinate organization. At first, sees were created and bishops were nominated by the crown by means of letters patent; and in some cases an income was assigned out of public funds. Moreover, for many years all bishops alike were consecrated in England, took the customary "oath of due obedience" to the archbishop of Canterbury, and were regarded as his extra-territorial suffragans. But by degrees changes have been made on all these points.

Provincial Organization.

(1) Local conditions soon made a provincial organization necessary, and it was gradually introduced. The bishop of Calcutta received letters patent as metropolitan of India when the sees of Madras and Bombay were founded; and fresh patents were issued to Bishop Broughton in 1847 and Bishop Gray in 1853, as metropolitans of Australia and South Africa respectively. Similar action was taken in 1858, when Bishop Selwyn became metropolitan of New Zealand; and again in 1860, when, on the petition of the Canadian bishops to the crown and the colonial legislature for permission to elect a metropolitan, letters patent were issued appointing Bishop Fulford of Montreal to that office. Since then metropolitans have been chosen and provinces formed by regular synodical action, a process greatly encouraged by the resolutions of the Lambeth conferences on the subject. The constitution of these provinces is not uniform. In some cases, as South Africa, New South Wales, and Queensland, the metropolitan see is fixed. Elsewhere, as in New Zealand, where no single city can claim pre-eminence, the metropolitan is either elected or else is the senior bishop by consecration. Two further developments must be mentioned: (a) The creation of diocesan and provincial synods, the first diocesan synod to meet being that of New Zealand in 1844, whilst the formation of a provincial synod was foreshadowed by a conference of Australasian bishops at Sydney in 1850; (b) towards the close of the 19th century the title of archbishop began to be assumed by the metropolitans of several provinces. It was first assumed by the metropolitans of Canada and Rupert's Land, at the desire of the Canadian general synod in 1893; and subsequently, in accordance with a resolution of the Lambeth conference of 1897, it was given by their synods to the bishop of Sydney as metropolitan of New South Wales and to the bishop of Cape Town as metropolitan of South Africa. Civil obstacles have hitherto delayed its adoption by the metropolitan of India.

Freedom from state control.

(2) By degrees, also, the colonial churches have been freed from their rather burdensome relations with the state. The church of the West Indies was disestablished and disendowed in 1868. In 1857 it was decided, in Regina v. Eton College, that the crown could not claim the presentation to a living when it had appointed the former incumbent to a colonial bishopric, as it does in the case of an English bishopric. In 1861, after some protest from the crown lawyers, two missionary bishops were consecrated without letters patent for regions outside British territory: C. F. Mackenzie for the Zambezi region and J. C. Patteson for Melanesia, by the metropolitans of Cape Town and New Zealand respectively. In 1863 the privy council declared, in Long v. The Bishop of Cape Town, that "the Church of England, in places where there is no church established by law, is in the same situation with any other religious body." In 1865 it adjudged Bishop Gray's letters patent, as metropolitan of Cape Town, to be powerless to enable him "to exercise any coercive jurisdiction, or hold any court or tribunal for that purpose," since the Cape colony already possessed legislative institutions when they were issued; and his deposition of Bishop Colenso was declared to be "null and void in law" (re The Bishop of Natal). With the exception of Colenso the South African bishops forthwith surrendered their patents, and formally accepted Bishop Gray as their metropolitan, an example followed in 1865 in the province of New Zealand. In 1862, when the diocese of Ontario was formed, the bishop was elected in Canada, and consecrated under a royal mandate, letters patent being by this time entirely discredited. And when, in 1867, a coadjutor was chosen for the bishop of Toronto, an application for a royal mandate produced the reply from the colonial secretary that "it was not the part of the crown to interfere in the creation of a new bishop or bishopric, and not consistent with the dignity of the crown that he should advise Her Majesty to issue a mandate which would not be worth the paper on which it was written, and which, having been sent out to Canada, might be disregarded in the most complete manner." And at the present day the colonial churches are entirely free in this matter. This, however, is not the case with the church in India. Here the bishops of sees founded down to 1879 receive a stipend from the revenue (with the exception of the bishop of Ceylon, who no longer does so). They are not only nominated by the crown and consecrated under letters patent, but the appointment is expressly subjected "to such power of revocation and recall as is by law vested" in the crown; and where additional oversight was necessary for the church in Tinnevelly, it could only be secured by the consecration of two assistant bishops, who worked under a commission for the archbishop of Canterbury which was to expire on the death of the bishop of Madras. Since then, however, new sees have been founded which are under no such restrictions: by the creation of dioceses either in native states (Travancore and Cochin), or out of the existing dioceses (Chota Nagpur, Lucknow, &c.). In the latter case there is no legal subdivision of the older diocese, the new bishop administering such districts as belonged to it under commission from its bishop, provision being made, however, that in all matters ecclesiastical there shall be no appeal but to the metropolitan of India.

Spiritual autonomy.

(3) By degrees, also, the relations of colonial churches to the archbishop of Canterbury have changed. Until 1855 no colonial bishop was consecrated outside the British Isles, the first instance being Dr. MacDougall of Labuan, consecrated in India under a commission from the archbishop of Canterbury; and until 1874 it was held to be unlawful for a bishop to be consecrated in England without taking the suffragan's oath of due obedience. This necessity was removed by the Colonial Clergy Act of 1874, which permits the archbishop at his discretion to dispense with the oath. This, however, has not been done in all cases; and as late as 1890 it was taken by the metropolitan of Sydney at his consecration. Thus the constituent parts of the Anglican communion gradually acquire autonomy: missionary jurisdictions develop into organized dioceses, and dioceses are grouped into provinces with canons of their own. But the most complete autonomy does not involve isolation. The churches are in full communion with one another, and act together in many ways; missionary jurisdictions and dioceses are mapped out by common arrangement, and even transferred if it seems advisable; e.g. the diocese Honolulu (Hawaii), previously under the jurisdiction of the archbishop of Canterbury, was transferred in 1900 to the Episcopal Church in the United States on account of political changes. Though the see of Canterbury claims no primacy over the Anglican communion analogous to that exercised over the Roman Church by the popes, it is regarded with a strong affection and deference, which shows itself by frequent consultation and interchange of greetings. There is also a strong common life emphasized by common action.

Pan-Anglican Congress.

The conference of Anglican bishops from all parts of the world,  instituted by Archbishop Longley in 1867, and known as the Lambeth Conferences (q.v.), though even for the Anglican communion they have not the authority of an ecumenical synod, and their decisions are rather of the nature of counsels than commands, have done much to promote the harmony and co-operation of the various branches of the Church. An even more imposing manifestation of this common life was given by the great pan-Anglican congress held in London between the 12th and 24th of June 1908, which preceded the Lambeth conference opened on the 5th of July. The idea of this originated with Bishop Montgomery, secretary to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and was endorsed by a resolution of the United Boards of Mission in 1903. As the result of negotiations and preparations extending over five years, 250 bishops, together with delegates, clerical and lay, from every diocese in the Anglican communion, met in London, the opening service of intercession being held in Westminster Abbey. In its general character, the meeting was but a Church congress on an enlarged scale, and the subjects discussed, e.g.. the attitude of churchmen towards the question of the marriage laws or that of socialism, followed much the same lines. The congress, of course, had no power to decide or to legislate for the Church, its main value being in drawing its scattered members closer together, in bringing the newer and more isolated branches into consciousness of their contact with the parent stem, and in opening the eyes of the Church of England to the point of view and the peculiar problems of the daughter-churches.

The Anglican communion consists of the following:—(1) The Church of England, 2 provinces, Canterbury and York, with 24 and 11 dioceses respectively. (2) The Church of Ireland, 2 provinces, Armagh and Dublin, with 7 and 6 dioceses respectively. (3) The Scottish Episcopal Church, with 7 dioceses. (4) The Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States, with 89 dioceses and missionary jurisdictions, including North Tokyo, Kyoto, Shanghai, Cape Palmas, and the independent dioceses of Hayti and Brazil. (5) The Canadian Church, consisting of (a) the province of Canada, with 10 dioceses; (b) the province of Rupert's Land, with 8 dioceses. (6) The Church in India and Ceylon, 1 province of 11 dioceses. (7) The Church of the West Indies, 1 province of 8 dioceses, of which Barbados and the Windward Islands are at present united. (8) The Australian Church, consisting of (a) the province of New South Wales, with 10 dioceses; (b) the province of Queensland, with 5 dioceses; (c) the province of Victoria, with 5 dioceses. (9) The Church of New Zealand, 1 province of 7 dioceses, together with the missionary jurisdiction of Melanesia. (10) The South African Church, 1 province of 10 dioceses, with the 2 missionary jurisdictions of Masbonaland and Lebombo. (11) Nearly 30 isolated dioceses and missionary jurisdictions holding mission from the see of Canterbury.

AUTHORITIES.—Official Year-book of the Church of England; Phillimore, Ecclesiastical Law, vol. ii. (London, 1895); Digest of S. P. G. Records (London, 1893); E. Stock, History of the Church Missionary Society, 3 vols. (London, 1899); H. W. Tucker, The English Church in Other Lands (London, 1886); A. T. Wirgman, The Church and the Civil Power (London, 1893).

 

 

 

 

 

Home
Up
Contents

Back
Next