The definition of the Anglican Communion, dating from the 1930's is that it is "a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer." ( The form used here is that found in the Constitution of the Episcopal Church.)
The whole business of using the word "provinces" is increasingly problematic. The word implies that there is a larger something - a nation, a church, a social grouping - that is the reality and that there are subsections of that exist here and there with approval of the whole. The idea is that Provinces exist at the pleasure of the whole and that they are under the authority of the whole. It is an matter of governance.
Until fairly recently this is not the way that Anglican national and regional churches thought of themselves. Churches that grew from other churches and took up a life of their own, separate from their "mother" church did so with full autonomy not as subgroups of the larger entity, but as full independent churches. Their inclusion in wider Anglican Communion life was really defined by invitation to Lambeth and recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury as churches with which the Church of England was in communion.
The notion that a new province might apply for inclusion in the life of one of the "instruments of communion," namely the Anglican Consultative Council, and by that be somehow "approved" as a member of other Anglican bodies - the Primates Meeting, the invitation list to Lambeth, etc, is all a post World War II phenomena closely aligned with the rapid expansion of Provinces as the colonial period was coming to a close.
But now, regrettably, the notion of Province has become all important. The Anglican Communion has come to mean that world wide conglomeration of decision makers who determine if a Province is in or out of the Communion. That is, the Anglican Communion has come to assume that being a Province is more important than being a national or regional church in an autonomous relation with the See of Canterbury.
This is a mess and likely to get messier. So in the interest of clarity, I would like to propose that we drop the use of the word "Province" and use some other phrase, the easiest being "autonomous national or regional churches." Using either, the definition of the Anglican Communion would read,
"...a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, and autonomous national or regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer."
On that criteria the Archbishop of Canterbury's list is the working list of the Anglican Communion. Churches make some effort to convince him that this or that church ought not be part of the Communion, or use the ploy that a particular church might break communion with Canterbury if he did not break with someone else. They might even suggest that the Anglican Communion defined this way was simply unbearably colonial, giving the list over to some white guy appointed by the Crown, etc. But so long as that definition held the matter would be simple. If you are in Communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury you are in. If you are not you are not.
More, there would be no shame in not being in communion with the ABC. There might be regret, but that's a different matter. This is because the beginning premise is that the churches are indeed autonomous and the Communion is not a Church of which the Provinces are members.
I have read what the Archbishop said today in his closing Presidential Address. He made a plea for catholicity in pushing for a communion wide covenant, display of restraint, etc. I think he is profoundly mistaken. It is not catholicity that he is arguing for, it is the sense that the churches of the Anglican Communion first think of themselves as part of the whole, and not as autonomous churches. The ABC understands exactly what a Province is. It is a part of a whole whose life is greater than the parts. In a broken Christendom, catholicity is defined otherwise than by inclusion in a world wide church itself out of communion with the big three - Rome, Constantinople and Geneva.
So let's correct our misuse of the word. It is a word of governance, one which got misapplied to the churches of the Anglican Communion and continues a patriarchal model that fits no one well.
Let it go. We are not a Province of anything. We are a church in communion with the see of Canterbury and hope to remain so. If either of us chooses not to be it will be part of the broken pot of Christianity, or perhaps a sign of the limp of Jacob Israel. But for God's sake and the sake of the Gospel, let's stop worrying about what happens if we are not bound by subservient relationship as a province, conquered or otherwise. There is no reason for us to be instruments of our own oppression, or of others. (tip of the hat to Canon Edward Rodman).