The Anglican Communion is an international association of churches consisting of the Church of England and of national and regional Anglican churches in full communion with it.〔(【引用サイトリンク】title=St Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church History )〕 The status of full communion means, ideally, that there is mutual agreement on essential doctrines and that full participation in the sacramental life of each church is available to all communicant Anglicans.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of All England, has a precedence of honour over the other bishops of the Anglican Communion. He is recognized as ''primus inter pares'', or first among equals. The archbishop does not exercise direct authority in the provinces outside England, but instead acts as a focus of unity.
The Anglican Communion considers itself to be part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and to be both Catholic and Reformed. For some adherents it represents a non-papal Catholicism, for others a form of Protestantism though without a dominant guiding figure such as Luther, Knox, Calvin, Zwingli or Wesley. For others, their self-identity represents some combination of the two. The communion encompasses a wide spectrum of belief and practice including evangelical, liberal and Catholic.
With a membership currently at 85 million members worldwide, the Anglican Communion is the third largest Christian communion in the world, after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. Some of these churches are known as Anglican, such as the Anglican Church of Canada, due to their historical link to England (''Ecclesia Anglicana'' means "English Church"). Some, for example the Church of Ireland, the Scottish and American Episcopal churches, and some other associated churches have a separate name. Each church has its own doctrine and liturgy, based in most cases on that of the Church of England; and each church has its own legislative process and overall episcopal polity, under the leadership of a local primate.
== Ecclesiology, polity and ethos ==
(詳細はecclesiology, polity and ethos and also by participation in international consultative bodies.
Three elements have been important in holding the Communion together: first, the shared ecclesial structure of the component churches, manifested in an episcopal polity maintained through the apostolic succession of bishops and synodical government; second, the principle of belief expressed in worship, investing importance in approved prayer books and their rubrics; and third, the historical documents and the writings of early Anglican divines that have influenced the ethos of the Communion.
Originally, the Church of England was self-contained and relied for its unity and identity on its own history, its traditional legal and episcopal structure and its status as an established church of the state. As such Anglicanism was, from the outset, a movement with an explicitly episcopal polity, a characteristic which has been vital in maintaining the unity of the Communion by conveying the episcopate's role in manifesting visible catholicity and ecumenism.
Early in its development, Anglicanism developed a vernacular prayer book, called the Book of Common Prayer. Unlike other traditions, Anglicanism has never been governed by a magisterium nor by appeal to one founding theologian, nor by an extra-credal summary of doctrine (such as the Westminster Confession of the Presbyterian Church). Instead, Anglicans have typically appealed to the Book of Common Prayer (1662) and its offshoots as a guide to Anglican theology and practice. This had the effect of inculcating the principle of ''Lex orandi, lex credendi'' (Latin loosely translated as "the law of praying () the law of believing") as the foundation of Anglican identity and confession.
Protracted conflict through the seventeenth century with more radical Protestants on the one hand and Roman Catholics who recognised the primacy of the Pope on the other, resulted in an association of churches that were both deliberately vague about doctrinal principles, yet bold in developing parameters of acceptable deviation. These parameters were most clearly articulated in the various rubrics of the successive prayer books, as well as the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. These Articles have historically shaped and continue to direct the ethos of the Communion, an ethos reinforced by their interpretation and expansion by such influential early theologians as Richard Hooker, Lancelot Andrewes, John Cosin, and others.
With the expansion of the British Empire, and hence the growth of Anglicanism outside Great Britain and Ireland, the Communion sought to establish new vehicles of unity. The first major expression of this were the Lambeth Conferences of the communion's bishops, first convened by Archbishop of Canterbury Charles Longley in 1869. From the beginning, these were not intended to displace the autonomy of the emerging provinces of the Communion, but to "discuss matters of practical interest, and pronounce what we deem expedient in resolutions which may serve as safe guides to future action."
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