Church Governance

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There is no central governance of the Anglican Church. Each of the member churches or provinces of the Anglican Communion is governed independently. The rules under which a church is governed are called canon law.

The structure of canon law is not altogether unlike that of modern civil law. A parish has rules or bylaws, which must conform to the rules or canons of the diocese of which it is a member; that diocese in turn must stay within the canons of its province or national church. The provinces and national churches, by choice, have inherited the canons of the Christian church dating back to its earliest days. This accumulation of canons over the centuries and throughout the world is collectively referred to as Anglican Canon Law.

Some of the member churches of the Anglican Communion have placed their constitutions and canons online; so have many dioceses and even a parish or two. You can find these by using a search engine and the key words 'Anglican' 'Canon' Law' and whatever other modifier you like.

Every 10 years there is a Lambeth Conference at which all of the bishops of the Anglican Communion gather to debate issues of doctrine. Doctrine can indirectly affect church governance, but resolutions passed at the Lambeth Conference are not binding on any member churches unless they choose to modify their own canons to be bound by them. However, a church that rejects too much of the doctrine of the Anglican Communion may find itself unwelcome to be or remain part of that Communion.