About the Anglican Church
  No central authority?
  The Anglican Communion
  Church administration
  Church governance
  Church history
  More information
Official web pages
Make your web site
Getting more help
About this web site
Church words
Staying in touch
Site map
The worldwide Anglican Church does not exist—at least not in the form that one might think. There are millions of Anglicans, many thousands of parishes, and hundreds of dioceses. There are nearly 40 independent Anglican national churches, none of which has authority over any other. But there is no central administration: no Pope, no Patriarch, no overall director. There is no Parliament or Congress. There is certainly a Church of England. But there is also the Church in Wales, the Church of Ireland, and the Scottish Episcopal Church, none of which is governed by the Church of England.

The Anglican church was originally spread to other countries through English colonization. As the colonies became independent from England, so did their churches. After the end of the colonial era, the Anglican church continued to spread via missionary work. There was never a postcolonial attempt to regenerate a central administration with actual authority over the churches outside England. During the Colonial era the overseas churches were held to be under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London, but when they got their own bishops, they could be independent.

There is a structure for doctrinal centralization, but in the absence of central authority the doctrine is followed by consensus and not by mandate.

The doctrinal centralization is based on a concept and organization called the Anglican Communion, of which a church either is a member or is not. There is a set of beliefs, and if a church holds those beliefs and meets certain other requirements, it is welcome to be in the Anglican Communion. The administration associated with the Anglican Communion is in the Anglican Communion Office in London. It is closely affiliated with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and manages the paperwork, the press releases, and the meetings every ten years of bishops from around the world. The Anglican Communion Office maintains the "Instruments of Unity": The Lambeth Conference, The Primates Meeting, The Anglican Consultative Council, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is more the media spokesman for the church than its leader. The official description of the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury explains that he is primus inter pares—first among equals—of the various Primates of the Anglican Communion.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is selected by the government of Great Britain rather than by any unified church process.