Part III: The Anglican Communion
Despite my fancy rhetoric, the limited structures of Anglicanism cannot be seen just as a slightly reformed version of the Roman Catholic Church. The Archbishop of Canterbury is not equivalent to the Pope, and the Anglican hierarchy is just a little more flat. Remember that I said earlier, that bishops are figures of unity. In the ancient world, for example, the Church at Carthage could be said to be in communion with the Church at Alexandria only if their bishops recognize the validity of each others' episcopal ministries; that is, they understand one another to to be properly ordained and consecrated as bishops, and that they both teach the Catholic faith as witnessed in the Bible and the Creeds.
Bishops function as shepherds and teachers of the Faith in the context of their wider college of bishops, united under an Archbishop, Metropolitan, or Patriarch. The five ancient Patriarchates were located in the cities of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Rome. Bishops who had departed from the Faith might be deposed and replaced by an orthodox bishop, but usually not without a fight, a colorful trial, and a banishing.
The point is, in the ancient churches, in Anglicanism and (I believe) in Orthodoxy, a bishop is a bishop is a bishop. The bishop is the chief shepherd of his diocese, and his priests function there by his will and in his name. The college of bishops might depose a bishop as a heretic or correct him in a council, but outside of that, bishops function in a flat organization, and the episcopacy is a ministry that they share together. This is why Anglican bishops outside of the Church of England don't swear obedience to the Archbishop of Canterbury; it would not be expected, nor asked for, nor in any way proper.
Wherever the British Empire planted a flag, the Church of England planted a mission. In many places, indigenous churches emerged, and were especially active in evangelism in the wake of decolonization: this is why the most representative Anglican today is a black woman living in the two-thirds world, even though the word itself used to mean "English person."
The Anglican Communion was established by default, when the first British colony gained independence (sometime around 1776, I think). I think you can guess when the other member churches were established. The Communion consists of 44 member churches across the world, each with its own bishops and system of canon law. There is no unified church law across the Communion, and there is no binding decision-making body. They do have the Bible, the Creeds, the Councils, and the 39 Articles of Religion (the principles of the English Reformation) - and some member churches hold them more loosely than others. Does the problem become apparent?
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