I don’t think it’s possible to pin down the word ‘Anglican’ so that it means anything more precise than ‘of the Church of England’. So, in England, people use the word ‘Anglican’ interchangeably with ‘Church of England’ (‘an Anglican church’ being ‘a church of the Church of England’). Similarly, the Anglican Communion is a family of churches that are ‘of the Church of England’, in that they emerged out of the Church of England, and in that they are still in full communion with the Church of England.
But what about GAFCON, the Global Anglican Future Conference? And what about AMiE, the Anglican Mission in England? Are they Anglican? Are they ‘of the Church of England’? GAFCON includes the ACNA, the Anglican Church in North America, which is not part of the Anglican Communion. Is the ACNA ‘of the Church of England’? Likewise, AMiE is busy pioneering ‘Anglican’ churches in England. But these churches are not part of the Church of England. Are these AMiE churches ‘of the Church of England’?
Of course, you could argue that these churches are ‘of the Church of England’ in that they have XYZ in common with the Church of England. But that seems about as incontrovertible and worthwhile as arguing that Scotland is English, because Scotland has XYZ in common with England. We will return to Scotland shortly…
So here’s my suggestion: how about trying to find an alternative to the word ‘Anglican’?
If GAFCON and AMiE include within themselves churches that are, in a very real sense, not ‘of the Church of England’ – and hence, in a very real sense, not Anglican – then why not find a more suitable way of expressing what they mean by ‘Anglican’? ‘Reformed Episcopal’? ‘Orthodox Episcopal’? ‘Confessing Episcopal’? For example:
- The ACNA could adopt the name of one of its constituent parts, and become the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC) of North America.
- AMiE could broaden its horizons beyond England, and become the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC) of Great Britain. (Think for a moment: there’s a reason there is no ‘Anglican’ church in Scotland!)
- GAFCON could become the Fellowship of Reformed Episcopal Churches (FREC). Or, keeping the concept of being in communion, it could become the ‘Communion of Reformed Episcopal Churches’ (CREC).
This kind of change would immediately solve the problem of competing bodies apparently saying, ‘We are the true Anglican Communion!’ and ‘We are the true Anglican church in England!’ It might even make it easier for GAFCON and AMiE to go about their business of reaching people with the gospel without so much unnecessary controversy.