6/06/2005

What the Canons of the Church of England say about the Anglican Communion

Thinking Anglicans , a really fine and important site for CofE and Anglican Communion reflections, just put up a link to the Church of England Canons. My thanks to them for posting this.

I thought I'd take a look and see what the Canons have to say about the Anglican Communion. The answer is, not much.

This is a brief look at two tidbits, and no doubt is wrong in some too obvious ways, and in some subtle ways as well, but it is a beginning. Forgive me for not being an expert on canons. I stand ready to be corrected (as always but sometimes with more or less grace).

The Index gives only one reference to the Anglican Communion, pgs 206-208, and there there is reference to one other section (6.2).

(a) There is no mention of the Church of England being a constituant member of the Anglican Communion. Instead there is a list of those Churches with which the Church of England is in communion.. which includes the member churches of the Anglican Communion. (pgs 206-208) The CofE canons do not say it's list of the churches of the Anglican Communion IS the Anglican Communion, but that its list is of those churches in communion with the Church of England. Which is just as well, since the full list includes a church not mentioned in this list, namely the C of E itself.

There is a note at the end of this list (p. 208) that "3. The advice contained in this note is given in good faith, but does not constitute a definitive ruling. Rule 54(5) of the Church Representation Rules provides that ‘if any question arises whether a Church is in communion with the Church of England, it shall be conclusively determined for the purposes of these rules by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York’. Section 6(2) of the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967 makes similar provision for the purposes of that Measure." Seemingly, then that list consists of the churches included finally, when there is a question, by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

There is a wonderful logic problem that I remember from college days: there is a book in the library that lists all the books that do not reference themselves in the text of their books. Does this book list itself or not?

The problem with the list is this sort of problem. The list of the churches of the Anglican Communion in the Canons of the C of E does not list the C of E as a member. And why should it? This is not a list of all the members of the Anglican Communion, but of those whose membership is dependent on some other member church of the Anglican Communion. The C of E IS a member church of the Anglican Communion everywhere but in the canons of the C of E, where it IS NOT, being the defining instrument by which the list is generated.

(b) The first section of the Canons says as follows: "A 1 Of the Church of England: The Church of England, established according to the laws of this realm under the Queen’s Majesty, belongs to the true and apostolic Church of Christ; and, as our duty to the said Church of England requires, we do constitute and ordain that no member thereof shall be at liberty to maintain or hold the contrary." One presumes that the care taken regarding churches in communion with the C of E would extend this assertion to member churches of the Anglican Communion.

Other than these references, the second obliquely, there is no mention of the Anglican Communion as an extended community of churches belonging to the "true and apostolic Church of Christ."

Canon A 1, makes me wonder how such a canon would fare here, even removing the references to the Queen? What would happen if there was a canon that stated that "The Episcopal Church belongs to the true and apostolic Church of Christ, and, as our duty to the said Episcopal Church requires, we do constitute and ordain that no member thereof shall be at liberty to maintain or hold the contrary."?

What then would we say to critics that believe that the Episcopal Church does not belong to the true, etc..., but is rather apostate, revisionist, etc.? Would we say, "no member thereof shall be at liberty to maintain or hold the contrary."?

1 comment:

  1. What would happen if there was a canon that stated that "The Episcopal Church belongs..."

    I think it would be an excellent idea. After all, if you don't think the ECUSA belongs in that category, why on earth would you be a member of it ? And no, this isn't an attempt to limit freedom of speech, thought, etc...but simply a request that members of TEC be honest with each other and not maintain views that are "theologically dissonant."

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