The Most Reverend Rowan Williams has written an Advent Letter to the Primates of the Anglican Communion as he nears the end of his time as the Archbishop of Canterbury:
… Despite many questions about how our decisions about doctrine and mutual responsibility are made in the Communion, and some challenges to the various ‘Instruments of Communion’, the truth is that our Communion has never been the sort of Church that looks for one central authority. This doesn’t mean that we are not concerned with truth or holiness or consistency. It simply acknowledges that all forms of human power and discipline can become corrupted, and that in the Church we have to have several points of reference for the organising of our common life so that none of them can go without challenge or critique from the others. Our hope is that in this exchange we discover a more credible and lasting convergence than we should have if someone or some group alone imposed decisions – and that the fellowship that emerges is more clearly marked by Christlikeness, by that reverence for one another that the Spirit creates in believers.
Another way of saying this is that (to use the language of a great Anglican theologian of the early twentieth century, J.N. Figgis) we are a ‘community of communities’. And perhaps in our own time we could translate this afresh and say we are a ‘network of networks’. Certainly this language has something to recommend it in an age when, so we’re told, networks are the decisive social fact for most younger people, often networks that are maintained through the new electronic media.
But what has brought this alive for me is the experience at two successive ACC meetings of how the official networks of the Communion function to keep our relations alive. In our recent meeting in New Zealand, I was deeply struck by how important the networks had become, and how they were increasingly shaping the possibilities and hopes of our provinces, almost without exception….