What is full Communion?

Glenn Davies

The Synod of the Diocese of Sydney passed the following motion in October 2009:

Synod -
(1) welcomes the creation of the Province of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) under the leadership of Archbishop Bob Duncan and notes the GAFCON Primates Council's recognition of the ACNA as genuinely Anglican and its recommendation that Anglican Provinces affirm full communion with the ACNA and -
(a) therefore expresses its desire to be in full communion with the ACNA, and
(b) furthermore, requests that Standing Committee seek to have a motion brought to the General Synod affirming that the Anglican Church of Australia be in full communion with the ACNA,
(2) welcomes Archbishop Duncan's assessment that the recent Vatican offer of a Personal Ordinariate 'will not be utilised by the great majority of the Anglican Church in North America's bishops, priests, dioceses and congregations' and urges all Anglicans to reject the Vatican's proposal, and
(3) asks the General Synod Standing Committee to -
(a) bring the Anglican Covenant to the September 2010 General Synod in such a manner as to enable each diocesan synod to consider the document, and
(b) bring a motion to the General Synod noting the publication of the Jerusalem Declaration and to encourage its study as a means to Anglican identity and cohesion.


Bishop Duncan of the ACNA subsequently announced on 30 October:
The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) welcomes the affirmation from the Anglican Diocese of Sydney (Australia) that it is in full communion with the ACNA.
Of course the resolution of synod does not expressly state that the Diocese of Sydney is in full communion, but merely "expresses its desire to be in full communion."
Why the fudge?  Well the Diocese of Sydney is part of the Anglican Church of Australia, whose Constitution defines those with whom we are in communion.
This Church will remain and be in communion with the Church of England in England and with churches in communion therewith so long as communion is consistent with the Fundamental Declarations contained in this Constitution.

However, at a practical level, what does full communion mean? It generally means that an ordained person can move from one church to another, without being re-ordained. By way of contrast, an Anglican minster would need to be re-ordained if he were to become a Roman Catholic priest, since the two churches are not in full communion.

Would we re-ordain a presbyter, who wanted to minister in Sydney and who was currently in good standing in the ACNA? Certainly not! We would readily receive such a person as a validly ordained presbyter.  Furthermore, Canons David Short and Jim Packer each hold a licence in our Diocese (both being canons of St Andrew's Cathedral), notwithstanding their having been defrocked by the Diocese of New Westminster. Fortunately, they relinquished their licences in New Westminster prior to the purported disciplinary measure by the bishop. It would have been an interesting case for Sydney to contemplate if the Diocese of New Westminster, with who we are in communion, had defrocked one of their minsters - would that require us to re-ordain them so that they could hold a licence in the Diocese of Sydney!