Anglican Conciliarity
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Any attempt to move the Anglican Communion to acceptance of a central, ‘monarchical’ authority with the power to make decisions that would be binding on the member churches is doomed to failure. The vocation of Anglicanism lies in its distinctive approach to questions of authority where primacy, collegiality and conciliarity all have their integrity and are interrelated and mutually constrained.

However, this does not mean that the Communion can never have more than moral authority for its members. Conciliarity that lacks mandatory authority nevertheless has the potential to develop forms of mutual obligation (protocols of consultation, leading to common action or perhaps restraint, together with the sanctions that would apply in circumstances where they are not observed) that are intended to promote the common good. The common good of the Anglican Communion should be seen in ecclesiological and missiological terms, i.e. as the conditions that are required for the Communion as a whole and its member churches to grow in the four dimensions of the Church (unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity) and to carry out the mission of the gospel in the world. However, the common good of the Communion would need to be set within the context of the common good of the whole Church of Christ – which means that ecumenical considerations would also be taken seriously.

Such protocols may be freely accepted by the constituent bodies, following their own canonical processes. When so accepted they would become binding unless and until repudiated by a similar canonical process. A majority (threshold to be agreed) of the provinces may insist that membership of the Communion requires acceptance and observance of these protocols. Presumably, the consent of the Archbishop of Canterbury would be required before this condition could be implemented.

Conciliarity presupposes communion. Communion (koinonia) is a multi-faceted, dynamic and graduated reality that expresses and sustains the nature of the Church as the Body of Christ. The communion of the Anglican Communion goes well beyond the baptismal communion that pertains (e.g.) between Anglicans and Roman Catholics. Communion between Anglican provinces involves the interchangeability of ministries and therefore of Eucharists (any impairment of this can only be regarded as a temporary anomaly).

[Listening to: One Arm Steve – Widespread Panic – ‘Til The Medicine Takes (3:26)]