The Anglican Communion
The Anglican Communion is made up of 38 Anglican autonomous Churches around the world covering 160 countries with a membership of approximately 70 million. The Communion has developed in two stages. Following the establishment of the Anglican Church in Britain in the 16th century, Anglicanism spread into the colonial countries of USA and Canada, then to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. As the result of the missionary work of the British churches and chaplaincies in the 18th century, Anglican Churches were planted all over the world. Each Church is divided into dioceses led by a bishop who oversees the parishes within his diocese.
Anglican/Episcopal Churches uphold and proclaim the Catholic and Apostolic faith, based on the Scriptures, interpreted in the light of tradition, scholarship and reason. Following the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Churches are committed to the proclamation of the Good News of the Gospel to the whole creation.
The Churches of the Anglican Communion are linked by affection and common loyalty. They are in full communion with the See of Canterbury and thus the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his person, is a unique focus of Anglican unity.
The Lambeth Conference is a gathering of bishops, meeting every ten years under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Since 1979, the Primates (the senior archbishop or presiding bishop) of the Churches of the Anglican Communion have met regularly in consultation on theological, social, and international issues.
The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) is the most comprehensive gathering of the Anglican Communion, representing the voice of the inner life of the provinces, with representatives of laity, clergy, and bishops.
A diocese that has entered into a mission partnership with one or more dioceses in the Anglican Communion is called a Companion Diocesan Link.
The Dioceses of the Anglican Communion have enjoyed fellowship and partnership in mission through the many relationships of the Companion Diocesan Links for over thirty years. Many stories can be told of mutual sharing in partnership, of support and strengthening of mission between dioceses, engaging Christians in exchange programmes, prayer and the sharing of insights and expertise. The programme continues to grow and is strongly based on relationships between dioceses and individuals.
Companion Diocesan Links have strengthened relationships in the Anglican Communion between churches, cultures and traditions as they have joined in equal partnership in mission. Relationships have grown and dioceses have experienced an interdependence of giving and receiving within the worldwide church. They have also stimulated and encouraged mission and prayer that has resulted in a new understanding and appreciation of the ‘Rainbow People of God’ in our world today. These experiences of exchange have influenced and changed the lives of many Anglicans around the Communion and deepened their spiritual growth and walk with God.
Some experiences of companion diocese relationships
How to get started
Companion Diocesan Links are built strongly on relationships that have usually been made between bishops. This is why there is no formal way to start a link with another diocese. Some have come into being because of a personal contact with mission partners or as a result of inter-diocesan exchange visits. Many news links were made after the Lambeth Conference and when bishops discovered mutual interests and how their dioceses can benefit from each other. There are occasions when direct contact has been made with a diocese from a diocese that is searching for a new link. It is generally experienced that those links where the bishops are involved are the stronger.
Consult with your bishop and others in your diocese who are interested in having an international relationship. Form an exploration team to pursue the idea further. Ask questions of what kind of link do you want, what sort of diocese would strengthen your diocese and what does your diocese have to offer. What are the expectations of the link. Before starting a link, preparation is very important. Examine the Anglican Communion Companion Relationships Guidelines to stimulate your thinking and look at priorities, then form your own purposes and aims for a link.
The guidelines are available on the anglicancommunion.org website and there is also a Diocesan Profile Form that can be used by a dioceses searching for a link. The completed form can be posted on the ACO web and other dioceses can respond directly to you. Contact the Mission and Evangelism Director at the Anglican Communion Office. The Director maintains a list of existing links throughout the world that also includes those dioceses that have no link at all. The ACO staff may also be able to link you with a diocese who is also looking for a link.
In all this pray for the Guidance of the Holy Spirit. The decision you make in this important ministry could be a life changing experience in the life of your diocese and individuals.
Lambeth Conference 98 Resolution II:3
The Lambeth Conference declared in 1998 that ‘the time has come for significant new initiatives in encouraging all dioceses to develop companion relationships across provincial boundaries, as part of the process of developing the cross-cultural nature of the Communion. The bishops resolved that by the next Lambeth Conference every diocese should have made ‘a serious effort to identify one or more dioceses as a companion, in formal and informal ways.’
Most gracious God, your son, Our Lord,
prayed for his disciples, that they may be one.
Bless and guide your holy church on earth;
strengthen its fellowship;
increase its stewardship
and sustain it in mission.
May the Holy Spirit govern
and kindle the hearts of the people of the
that in all things said and done,
we may serve only Christ,
crucified, risen and glorified;
Christ alive and present
in our day in his body the church.
May our unity come from living out of lives, strengthened by word and sacrament,
and our love for the Christ that we see in each other.
May we be faithful to the Risen Christ
in whose name we pray. Amen