The Anglican Communion has developed ‘Instruments of Communion’ to aid communication and sharing of wisdom throughout the Communion. When the Archbishop of Canterbury invited bishops from the Communion to attend a meeting at Lambeth in 1867 to consult and seek common counsel for the good order and care of the churches of the emerging Anglican Communion the first of the Lambeth Conferences took place. In more recent decades the Anglican Consultative Council and Primates’ Meeting have developed to enable the bishops, clergy and lay people of the worldwide Anglican Communion to listen to one another, share their life and join in common mission. In recent years these four elements in international Anglicanism – the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting – have become known as Instruments of Unity or Communion. Tensions and fractures in the Communion have raised questions about the value or use of the so-called Instruments of Unity.This article analyses the concept of ‘Instrument’ and assesses its value for understanding the nature of the Anglican Communion. It argues that the Instruments have a gift-like character and function in a quasi sacramental manner. As such they are indwelt rather than used in a tool like way. This approach to the Instruments of Communion gives high priority to the character and disposition of human agents participating in Communion structures and the importance of fostering a deeper communion among the Instruments for the sake of the Church and its witness to the gospel.
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