In this seminal work the failure of the decades-long struggles for Anglican Communion orthodoxy is laid squarely at the feet of inadequate structures—the so-called Instruments of Unity—that have plagued the Anglican Communion since a mid-nineteenth century decision not to employ at the international level the same conciliar (synod) norms employed at every other level of Anglican polity.
Author Canon Phil Ashey examines the conciliar structures that have characterized Anglican life from the congregational, to the diocesan, to provincial levels, but, curiously, not at the level of the Worldwide Communion.
This book—commended by thirteen global Anglican leaders—is of particular importance for Global South and GAFCON leaders; as the wineskin of British and Western dominance fails, there is an ecclesial deficit that only they can address. Under the authority of Scripture, and in submission to the Faith once for all delivered to the saints, the task before them is the creation of a conciliar structure among orthodox Provinces that can enable “the Church meeting to decide together.” The blueprint for a new Anglican future—yet one as ancient as the Council of Jerusalem of Acts 15—is set out in these pages.
This book is about how Anglicans can find each other around a common confession of faith and doctrine, and in a coherent way that is Biblical, apostolic, catholic and
classically Anglican. Its premise is simple: Conciliar decision making (placing final ecclesiastical authority in church councils) has never been practiced at the international level of the Anglican Communion—where governance developed through “bonds of affection” during times when there was still a shared faith and doctrine. That consensus collapsed during the 20th Century, so that survival of the Anglican Communion is now in question. What would it look like if, at the international level, Anglicans were to make decisions together in the same conciliar way of decision-making that is found among the national Anglican Churches and their various sub-jurisdictions? Such an extrapolation “from below” begins by examining the laws of various Anglican Churches to identify the common principles and practices of the “Church meeting to decide together.”
In sum this book proposes that the established theory and practice of Anglican conciliarism is a viable organizing principle for the entire Communion of Anglican Churches – and does so from a canonical approach; that this, from an examination of the laws of Anglican churches:
- CHAPTERS ONE and TWO examine the evidence for the principles and practice of conciliar decision-making in the laws and canons of the Church of England from before the Reformation to the present.
- CHAPTER THREE examines the evidence from four representative Churches (Australia, South East Asia, Nigeria, and Ireland), with two of their dioceses each. Since this is a canonical study “from below” of the actual laws (constitutions and canons) of these Churches, the Chapter is heavily footnoted with citations to those laws.
- CHAPTERS FOUR and FIVE focus on the historical development of Eleven (11) Principles and Practices of Conciliarism, from the Great Schism of the 14th and 15th Century Medieval Catholic Church to the Reformation in the 16th Century.
- CHAPTER SIX examines the loss of conciliar principles and practices at the global level of Anglican Communion in light of unilateral actions by some Churches in the last 50 years that have stretched the current so-called “Instruments of Communion” beyond the breaking point.
- CHAPTER SEVEN documents the significant differences in the principles and practice of conciliarism among the two contrasting North American Provinces and their sub-sets.
- CHAPTER EIGHT extrapolates the evidence in order to propose a model for conciliarism at the global level of Communion governance. The model that is proposed seeks to overcome the causative “deficit of authority” via Fundamental Declarations, giving enhanced responsibility to Primates for doctrine, discipline and order, and a “Council of the Anglican Communion.” Conciliar principles in this proposed model seek to promote “communion” and mission that is both loyal to its Christological center and intelligible to Anglicans and other Christians all over the world.