Canon Law

"Canon Law begins from that basic affirmation of equity which is the fact of membership in the Body of Christ - a status deeper and stronger than any civil contract or philosophical argument. And it seeks clarity about who may do what and who is answerable to whom, because every Christian has to know how to work out their responsibility to God within the context of the various relationships and obligations they are involved in."  Former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams

The Anglican Communion as a whole, unlike the Roman Catholic Church, does not have a centralised canon law of its own. Each of the autonomous Member Churches, however, does have a canonical system. 

Some, such as the Church of England have an ancient, highly developed canon law while others, such as the Episcopal Church in the United States have more recently developed canonical systems originally based on the English canon law. 

In 2002 a network of Anglican Communion Legal Advisors was established by the Anglican Consultative Council at its meeting in Hong Kong. As of 2024, the Chair of ACLAN legal advisers is the Revd Russell Dewhurst.

In 2003, the Primates recognised that "the unwritten law common to the Churches of the Anglican Communion and expressed as shared principles of canon law may be understood to constitute a fifth instrument of unity in the Communion; and requested a statement of principles which may be added to and developed." 

In response, the Anglican Communion Legal Advisors Network prepared a document, The Principles of Canon Law Common to the Churches of the Anglican Communion. It identified the following common principles:

  • Order in the Church
  • The Anglican Communion
  • Ecclesiastical Government
  • Ministry
  • Doctrine and Liturgy
  • The Rites of the Church
  • Church Property
  • Ecumenical Relations.  

A second edition of Principles was launched at the Lambeth Conference in 2022.  Download it here or buy a copy from Amazon in many parts of the world.