Anglican Organisation

1. Anglican Churches and their Relationship to the Church of England

2.  The Parish

3.  The Diocese

4. The National Church or Province

5.  The Anglican Communion

6. Relations with other churches

7. Membership of the Anglican Communion

8. The 38 Provinces of the Anglican Communion


Since the 18th century the Church of England has started churches in many other countries. Many of them began after British colonies were established. Some of these colonies resulted from the migration of British people in pursuit of trade, and others from conquest. Many of the churches established by the British were designed to minister to the English speaking community.  However the period of colonial expansion was also the period of great missionary expansion. The Church of England was part of a missionary movement which tried to start churches among the indigenous people where the British had settled.

1. Anglican Churches and their Relationship to the Church of England

The Anglican Churches which were planted in other  countries became independent national churches, such as the Anglican Church of Nigeria. In some cases the churches in neighbouring  countries grouped together to become a Province, such as the Province of South East Asia. In some countries the national church has more than one province, for example in Nigeria, England and Australia.

Anglican parish churches are organised into  Dioceses and Provinces.

Each National Anglican Church or Province is independent and has its own constitution. It is not under the authority of the Church of England or the Archbishop of Canterbury. The national churches and the Church of England are related because of history and because they share the same liturgy and theology.  They are also part of the Anglican Communion (see below Part 5).

2.  The Parish

A parish is a congregation within a Diocese which is able to pay an ordained minister according to the diocesan scale as well as pay all the diocesan contributions. A congregation can become a parish if these conditions are fulfilled and the Bishop and the Synod agree.

2.1 The Rector/Vicar

The minister in charge of a parish is usually called a Vicar or Rector. Different Dioceses use different terms.

2.2 The Priest-in-Charge

This is the  traditional term for the minister in charge of a congregation which is not yet a parish. It is sometimes used for a person who is in charge of a parish but has not been appointed as the Rector.  In some dioceses the Vicar/Rector has more rights than the Priest in Charge.

2.3 The Church Wardens

The Church Wardens are the senior lay leaders of a Parish. One is appointed by the Rector (and is known as the Rector’s Warden) and the other elected by the parishioners (and is called the Peoples’ Warden). They are part of the Church Council.

2.4  The Church Council

The Church Council is elected each year at the Annual Meeting of parishioners. The Church Council is responsible for the affairs of the parish under the leadership of the Vicar.  It includes a treasurer who reports to the Council about the finances of the parish. The Church Council is responsible for the finances of the Parish.

2.5  The Lay Synod Representatives

Lay representatives are elected by the Annual Meeting of parishioners. They are usually elected for three years which is the length of time a synod meets.

2.6  Other Church Workers

Lay Readers, Lay Pastoral Ministers, Pastoral Assistants  are different terms for lay people who are authorised to preach or to lead services. Sometimes they have undertaken extra study.

Parish workers may be paid or honorary. They may have had some training or they may be undergoing training. Parish workers may include youth and children’s workers, evangelists, and pastoral workers. They are usually appointed by the Church Council and Rector, are responsible to the Rector and are paid by the Council. Usually they are licensed by the Bishop.

The Administrative Staff. Some parishes employ other staff to help administer the parish. For example a Parish may employ a secretary, a  property manager, or a verger (a person who looks after the building and prepares it for services).

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3.  The Diocese

The Diocese is made up of the parishes in a particular area.  The term Diocese describes both the geographical area as well as the churches which are under the oversight of the Bishop in that area.

3.1 The Diocesan Bishop

The Bishop is the leader of a diocese. The constitution of the Diocese of Singapore says, “The Diocesan Bishop shall have general oversight  over all the clergy as well as over all  other members of the church in the Diocese. His Primary duties are to guard the purity of the teaching and life of the Church and to lead the Diocese in its Mission.”

3.2 The Diocesan Synod

The Diocesan synod consists of the Bishop, the clergy who hold the bishop’s licence, and elected lay representatives from each of the parishes of the Diocese. The synod looks after the affairs of the Diocese and is responsible for organising its affairs so that the church is strengthened and becomes more and more a living body. It is able to make rules and regulations for the life of the Diocese and the churches and organisations in the Diocese. A synod usually meets over a period of three years, each annual meeting being called a Session of Synod.

3.3 The Cathedral

The Cathedral is considered as the mother church of the Diocese. It is led by a Dean. The Cathedral Chapter is the group with responsibility for the life of the Cathedral. The Chapter is made up of Canons, who are clergy and laity elected by Synod or appointed by the Bishop.

3.4 The Archdeaconry

An archdeaconry is part of a Diocese. It is usually both a geographical area and a group of parishes and other ministries. The Archdeacon is a clergy person who may also be in charge of a parish. Archdeacons help the bishop by looking after some of the affairs of the church in their area.

3.5 The Deanery

In the Anglican church a  Deanery is usually a part of an Archdeaconry, and consists of a number of parishes. A Dean (sometimes called a Rural or Area Dean) helps the archdeacon by looking after some of the affairs of church in their area.

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4. The National Church or Province

A Province is made up of a number of Dioceses.

4.1  The Archbishop

The Archbishop is the Bishop of a Diocese who also acts as the leader of the Province.

The Archbishop who is the leader of a National Church or independent Province is also called a Primate. The Primate represents the National Church in meetings with other Primates (see 5.4)

4.2  The Provincial Synod

The Provincial Synod is made up of the bishops of the Dioceses in the province as well as representative clergy and lay people from each of the Dioceses. The Synod of the Province acts like a church parliament to make rules and regulations for the whole Province.

5.  The Anglican Communion

The Anglican Communion is a fellowship of all the National Anglican Churches and Provinces in the world.  There are 38 Provinces and 38 Primates.

“The Anglican Communion is a communion of churches… It has a common pattern of liturgical life rooted in the tradition of the Book of Common Prayer; shaped by the continual reading, both corporate and private, of the Holy Scriptures; rooted in its history through the See of Canterbury; and connected through a web of relationships – of bishops, consultative bodies companion dioceses, projects of common mission, engagement with ecumenical partners…” (The Windsor Report 2004).

We could add to this definition and say that the Anglican Communion also has a shared theology which is based on the scriptures, formed by the early Christian Creeds, and stated again in the theology of the Reformation. The Anglican Communion has a theological heritage that is Apostolic, Catholic (meaning universal and orthodox), and Reformed.

The Anglican Communion is not a hierarchical or centralized  organization like the Roman Catholic Church.

There are four “Instruments of Unity” which try to help this communion of churches to remain united.

5.1 The Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury, both the person and the office, has become the main focus of unity of the Anglican Church.  He is not like the Pope because he does not have any authority over the churches outside his own Province. But he is respected as the leader among the bishops of the Anglican Communion.

5.2 The Lambeth Conference

The first Lambeth Conference was held in 1867, and was called by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was not a synod and it was not a General Council (for example like the Council of Nicea – see Article 21). It is a conference of the bishops of the Anglican church which is held every ten years.  It does not make laws which Anglicans must follow but its resolutions are given great respect because they are made by the leaders of the church.

5.3 The Anglican Consultative Council

In 1897 the Lambeth Conference established a consultative body so that a wider group of people could have a say in the life of the Communion. In 1968 the Anglican Consultative Council was formed. It includes lay people and clergy. It is not a formal synod but is meant to represent the world wide Anglican Communion.

5.4  The Primates Meeting

In 1978 the Lambeth Conference asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to begin regular meetings with the Primates of the Anglican Communion. The purpose of the regular meetings of the Primates is to consult and advise about important questions in the life of the Anglican church. In  recent years they have been given more “responsibility in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters”.

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6. Relations with other churches

The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral

In  1886 the American House of Bishops and later in 1888 the Lambeth Conference adopted the following statement as a summary of the basis of unity between Anglican and other churches. The Statement was meant to describe those things which the Anglican Church regards as essential to the nature of the Church.

…As inherent parts of this sacred deposit, and therefore as essential to the restoration of unity among the divided branches of Christendom, we account the following, to wit:

(a) The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the revealed Word of God.

(b) The Nicene Creed as the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith.

(c) The two Sacraments, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord, ministered with unfailing use of Christ's words of institution and of the elements ordained by Him.

(d) The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the unity of His Church.

7. Membership of the Anglican Communion


Map of the Anglican communion by province


8. The 38 Provinces of the Anglican Communion (in 2005)

Province Dioceses Members
Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia 9 220,659
Australia 23 3,998,444
Bangladesh 2 12,500
Brazil 7 40,000
Burundi 5 425,000
Canada 29 740,262
Central Africa 12 600,000
Central American Region 5 13,409
Congo 6 300,000
England 44 26,000,000
Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui 3 29,000
Indian Ocean 5 90,486
Ireland 12 410,000
Japan 11 57,273
Jerusalem & Middle East 4 10,000
Kenya 28 2,500,000
Korea 3 14,558
Melanesia 8 163,884
Mexico 5 21,000
Myanmar 6 49,257
Nigeria 77 17,500,000
North India 26 1,250,000
Pakistan 8 800,000
Papua New Guinea 5 246,000
Philippines 5 118,187
Rwanda 9 1,000,000
Scotland 7 53,553
South East Asia 4 168,079
South India 21 2,000,000
Southern Africa 23 2,000,000
Southern Cone of America 7 22,490
Sudan 24 2,000,000
Tanzania 17 1,379,366
Uganda 28 8,000,000
United States of America 111 2,400,000
Wales 6 93,721
West Africa 12 1,000,000
West Indies 8 770,000
TOTAL 625 76,497,128



































Copyright © Dale Appleby 2010.