The Anglican Communion

The Anglican Communion is the gathering of Anglican and Episcopal churches located around the world. Today, the Anglican Communion comprises more than 80 million members in 44 regional and national member churches in more than 160 countries.

The Episcopal church is part of the Anglican Communion, and is comprised of 110 dioceses in 16 nations.

At the head of the Anglican Communion is the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

The Episcopal church, established shortly after the American Revolution, has its roots in the Anglican church. The Anglican Church, known as the Church of England, had a strong following in colonial America. But when the colonies won their independence, the majority of America’s Anglican clergy refused to swear allegiance to the British monarch as was required. As a result, the Episcopal church was formed.

The vibrancy of the Anglican Communion reflects the lives of its congregants and their commitment to God’s mission in the world.

Ecumenical Relations: “That they all may be one”

The ecumenical movement is the Church’s response to Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in John 17:21: “that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

The Episcopal Church is in relationship with a wide range of Christian communions at home and around the world.  We participate in formal dialogues, conferences, and consultations seeking to nurture a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect. By doing this, we live into the God-given unity of our baptism.

We join our prayers for unity with that of our Lord, and offer our endeavors toward unity in the Holy Spirit. Our search for a fuller expression of visible unity, a ‘communion of communions,’ is for the sake of living and sharing the gospel and furthering God’s mission.

The 1958 Lambeth Conference recommended “that where between two Churches not of the same denominational or confessional family, there is unrestricted communio in sacris, including mutual recognition and acceptance of ministries, the appropriate term to use is ‘full communion,’ and that where varying degrees of relation other than ‘full communion’ are established by agreement between two such churches the appropriate term is ‘intercommunion.’

Meaning of Full Communion – EIR Handbook
Communion in the Church and communion between and among the churches is a dynamic reality, a reality in progress, a reality never perfectly achieved, a reality with which we struggle as we struggle in our personal communion with God and with one another.

We understand full communion to be a relation between distinct churches in which each recognizes the other as a catholic and apostolic church holding the essentials of the Christian faith.  Within this new relation, churches become interdependent while remaining autonomous…Diversity is preserved, but this diversity is not static.  Neither church seeks to remake the other in its own image, but each is open t the gifts of the other as it seeks to be faithful to Christ and his mission.  They are together committed to a visible unity in the church’s mission to proclaim the Word and adminster the Sacramens. (from Called to Common Mission, paragrah 2).

Full communion on these terms has been established between The Episcopal Church and these Churches

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
On January 6, 2001, The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America entered into a relationship of full communion on the basis of the document “Called to Common Mission,” culminating thirty years of dialogue with one another. Not a merger, in full communion both churches retain their autonomy and structures but agree to work together for joint mission and witness in the world. In accord with procedures established in “Called to Common Mission,” clergy and laity may move freely between the two churches.

Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht
The Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht consist of serveral national churches in Europe, located in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Poland.  These churches could not accept the definition of papal infallibility of the first Vatican Council in 1870.  The Episcopal Church entered into full communion with the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht on the basis of the Bonn Agreement in 1934.  Included in this full communion arrangement was the Poish National Catholic Church (PNCC), which was a member of the Union of Utrecht until 2003.  The PNCC terminated its relationship of full communion with the Episcopal Church in 1978 over women’s ordination.

Philippine Independent Church
The Philippine Independent Church was founded in 1902 and has over five million members.  It also has a diocese in the United States to minister to Filipinos in this country.  In 1961, the Philippine Independent Church (also knon as the Iglesia Filipina Independiente) and the Episcopal Church entered into a relationship of full communion.  A concordat council meets annually to oversee the relationship.

Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, India
The Mar Thoma Church of India is one of several Chritian churches in India tracing its ancestry back to the apostle Thomas.  It currently has over a million members in India and an increasing presence in North America.  The Mar Thoma Church has been in full communion with the Episcopal Church since 1979 and is in full communion with other provinces of the Anglican Communion.

The Merger of Anglican Churches with other Churches
Full Communion has been established between Provinces of the Anglican Communion and these Churches resulting from the union of Anglican dioceses with Christians of other traditions, such as the Church of North India, the Church of South India, the Church of Pakistan and the Church of Bangladesh.

As part of the Episcopal Church’s aim of fostering unity among the separated branches of the Christian church, for the sake of cooperation and mission in the world, dialogues constitute a major component of the work of the EIR.

Click on the appropriate link for more information about the Episcopal Church’s ecumenical relationship and dialogues with the following churches:

United Methodist Church
An international Anglican-Methodist dialogue met in the 1990s and produced its final report, Sharing in the Apostolic Communion, in 1996.  Anglicans and Methodist in Great Britain came very close to reunion and full merger in the early 1970s, but the proposal did not garner the majorities it needed.  In 2002, the Methodist Church and the Church of England signed a Covenant, beginning a 10-year process of examining how the churches might grow together.  In the United States, the Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church have been in dialogue.  In 2006, the two churches entered a relationship of Interim Eucharistic Sharing through which churches grow together by sharing worship while continuing to study remaining issues.  The theological dialogue group continues to meet, focusing on how the two churches might reach agreement on full communion, which would allow for interchangeability of ministries.

Moravian Church
The Moravian Church is a worldwide communion of over 900,000 members in 19 different provinces.  The Moravian Church – properly known as the Unitas Fratrum – dates back to 1457.  Anglicans and Moravians have been in dialogue on and off for more than 250 years, both in the US and in England.  The Moravian-Episcopal dialogue met from 1999-2008 and submitted a proposal for full communion, “Finding Our Delight in the Lord,” to both churches.  The 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal Church approved this proposal, and in 2010 the Synods of the Moravian Church will vote to enter into full communion.

Presbyterian Church USA
The Presbyterian Church, USA and The Episcopal Church have been in dialogue as members of Churches Uniting in Christ (and before that, the Consultation on Church Union) since 1962.  A bilateral theological dialogue met from 2002-2007 and produced an Agreement between the two churches.  This Agreement is not full communion or interchangeability of ministers, but does commit the two churches to work together in mission and ministry where possible.  On the international level, the Anglican-Reformed Dialogue, sponsored by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Anglican Consultative Council, published their final report, God’s Reign and Our Unity: The Report of the Anglican-Reformed International Commission, in 1984.

Orthodox Churches
The Orthodox Church is the oldest official dialogue partner of the Episcopal Church, with contacts dating back to 1862. The Episcopal Church is involved in dialogues with the Orthodox Churches mainly on the International Anglican-Orthodox dialogue, established in the 1960s, which operates through the Anglican Communion Office.

Roman Catholic Church
The Roman Catholics are the oldest ecumenical partners of the Anglican and Episcopal Churches. Dialogues between these two traditions gained new impetus after the Second Vatican Council, resulting in the formation of international and local ecumenical commissions.  In the United States, the Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue (ARC-USA) has been meeting regularly since the 1960s.  There have been three rounds of dialogue at the international level, the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Consultation (ARCIC).

Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC)
Churches Uniting In Christ (CUIC) represents a commitment to living in unity in Christ and common mission by the following denominations: African Methodist Episcopal Church, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Episcopal Church, International Council of Community Churches, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, and United Methodist Church.  Churches Uniting in Christ has taken combating racism as its primary mission and focus.

For more complete information about the Episcopal Churches affiliations and partners go to