Anglican Communion

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The Anglican Communion is a confederation of regional churches, each considered independent, yet sharing full communion or, in some cases, impaired communion, with one another and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the spiritual (although not administrative) head of the Communion. The Anglican Communion maintains the traditional three-fold hierarchy of clergy: Bishops, Priests and Deacons. In some member churches, women have been admitted to one or more of these orders, whereas some member churches have maintained an all-male clergy. Beyond the three-fold order the administration and leadership of each regional church is decided by that particular church. In the Church of England, for example, the Queen appoints Bishops. In the Episcopal Church (USA), on the other hand, bishops are elected by diocese and then confirmed by the triennial General Convention, or standing committees of advice in the majority of the diocese (depending on when a bishop-elect is chosen by a diocese).

Of particular interest to Orthodox inquirers is the current Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Rowan Williams, formerly Archbishop of Wales. Dr. Williams, an academic, has written two books on the spirituality of iconography (The Dwelling of the Light: Praying With Icons of Christ and Ponder These Things: Praying With Icons of the Virgin) and did his doctoral thesis on the theology of Orthodox theologian Vladimir Lossky.

Other major thinkers to come out of the Anglican Communion have been reformers and founders of the Methodist Church John and Charles Wesley, convert to Roman Catholicism Cardinal John Henry Newman, social activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and authors Dorothy Sayers and C. S. Lewis.

Relationship with Orthodox Christians

Anglican/Orthodox Organizations

Largely through the initiative and work of Oxford Movement figure Father John Mason Neale, in 1863 there was formed the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association. This organization publishes a journal (Eastern Churches News Letter)and encourages interaction of Anglican and Orthodox Christians, particularly through encouraging pilgrimages. In 1928 an organization with similar goals, the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius was formed and also publishes a journal (Sobornost). In the 1960s an international commission of Orthodox and Anglican clergy and theologians entitled the Anglican-Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Commission was formed and has issued two historic statements which will be addressed below.

Raphael of Brooklyn was for two years the Vice President of the "Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Association", but resigned in protest following a series of events that led him to examine Anglican doctrine, and conclude it was incompatible with that of Eastern Orthodoxy. Specifically, Anglican clergy, on the basis of his membership in the association, had been poaching members of Antiochian Orthodox Parishes, citing the existence of the association as proof of a non-existent episcopal endorsement from St. Raphael, and encouraging members thereof to take the sacraments exclusively at Anglican churches. In response to this unethical behavior, St. Raphael of Brooklyn undertook an extensive review of Anglican doctrine, and concluded it was fundamentally incompatible with that of Orthodoxy, and in an encyclical, forbade his parishioners from attending Anglican and other non-Orthodox services.

Agreed statements

In the 1960s, largely through the ecumenical work of Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey and Patriarch Athenagoras I (Spyrou) of Constantinople, both the Anglican Communion and the Orthodox Churches established commissions to consider Anglican-Orthodox relations. Between 1973 and 1976 an "Anglican-Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Commission" met which led to the Moscow Agreed Statement which dealt with "the Knowledge of God, the Inspiration and Authority of Holy Scripture, Scripture and Tradition, the Authority of the Councils, the Filioque Clause, the Church as the Eucharistic Community, and the Invocation of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharist."

In 1984 the Commission again produced a joint doctrinal work entitled Dublin Agreed Statement. This one dealt with the Mystery of the Church, the Holy Trinity and worship and tradition.

Another report was released by the Commission in 2006, including all of the interim agreements since 1989. It is entitled The Church of the Triune God: The Cyprus Agreed Statement.

At the time of the first agreed statement, the hope of the Commission had been for the eventual reunion of the Anglican and Orthodox Churches. However, in between the two, a major development in Anglicanism changed the direction of the Commission. In 1978 both the Episcopal Church U.S.A. and the Lambeth Conference put forth positions accepting the ordination of women. This drastically changed the understanding of the Commission. Following the Lambeth Conference in 1978, it had now come to be seen, in the words of co-chairman Archbishop Athanagoras, "simply as an academic and informative exercise, and no longer as an ecclesial endeavour aiming at the union of the two churches."

As there is much theological variation within Anglicanism, Bishop Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia has explained rightly when he writes, "The Orthodox Church, however deep its longing for reunion, cannot enter into closer relations with the Anglican communion until Anglicans themselves are clearer about their own beliefs" (Ware, p. 321).

Anglican-Orthodox Resources

The following resources may be of interest to the Orthodox Christian who wants to know more about Anglicanism, or the Anglican who wants to know more about Orthodoxy.

  • Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue: The Dublin Agreed Statement 1984 (ISBN 0881410470)
  • The Church of the Triune God: The Cyprus Agreed Statement 2006 (ISBN 6000000061)
  • Billerbeck, Franklin. Anglican-Orthodox Pilgrimage (ISBN 0962271357)
  • Pinnington, Judith. Anglicans and Orthodox: Unity and Subversion (1559-1725). Forward by Rowan Williams. (ISBN 0852445776)
  • St. Andrew Service Book. Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, 1996. (This is the service book for the Western Rite Vicarate, which includes the Liturgy of St. Tikhon and Matins and Vespers, which are based upon the old Anglican liturgies)
  • Williams, Rowan. The Dwelling of the Light: Praying With Icons of Christ (ISBN 0802827780)
  • Williams, Rowan. Ponder These Things: Praying With Icons of the Virgin (ISBN 1580511244)


  • Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue: The Dublin Agreed Statement 1984. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1985.
  • Bede. Ecclesiastical History of the English People. New York: Penguin, 1990.
  • Bernadin, J.B. An Introduction to the Episcopal Church (Rev. Ed.). Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse, 1983.
  • The Book of Common Prayer. New York: Church Hymnal Corporation, 1979.
  • Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2003. New York: Church Hymnal Corporation, 1993.
  • Ware, Timothy. The Orthodox Church (New Edition). New York: Penguin, 1997.

External links