When the idea of a new province in England for traditionalist Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals emerged a few years ago, it was assumed that only General Synod could institute it by means of legislation. In fact, this is legally incorrect, and contrary to historic precedent. Traditionalists have the right to form their own province without reference to General Synod; and this seems the moment to exercise that right.
English ecclesiastical law contains no definition of either a province or a diocese. But Halsbury’s Laws of England, an authoritative commentary, defines a province as ‘the circuit of an archbishop’s jurisdiction’ [vol. 14, para. 428], and a diocese as ‘the circuit of a bishop’s jurisdiction’ [vol. 14, para. 454]. Thus a diocese is a voluntary association of congregations that choose to put themselves under the oversight of a particular bishop; and a province is an association of one or more dioceses placing themselves under an archbishop.
The voluntary nature
The voluntary nature of dioceses, and by implication provinces, was confirmed in 1841 by the Bishops in Foreign Countries Act (still in force), which gives permission for such ‘Protestant congregations as may be desirous of placing themselves under [a bishop’s] authority’ [s2]. Thus the thirty-six Anglican provinces outside England formed not because the convocations of Canterbury and York passed laws allowing them to do so, but because congregations chose to form them. Once created, a province can devise its own constitution and laws. Read more
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