This page explains how Anglican doctrine and practice is formally defined, and the process for how these can be changed. Teaching and practice centres on what are called “Formularies”.
Formularies are fixed forms, such as the Bible, and rites and prayers. Anglican doctrine and practice focuses on Formularies which are agreed as binding on the whole Church.
There is a statement from the early church, lex orandi; lex credendi (“the law of worship gives us the law of belief”) which is very clearly expressed in the Anglican Formularies approach and tradition. If you want to know Anglican doctrine and practice of ordination – look at the authorised ordination service. If you want to know Anglican doctrine and practice of baptism – look at the authorised baptism service.
In its Constitution, The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia has unalterable Fundamental Provisions. These are Formularies that explain the doctrine and Sacraments [the beliefs and practices] of Christ. Then there is a process for adding to and altering Formularies. Usually this process is dubbed the “twice round” procedure because it starts by being passed at General Synod level, then by the dioceses (and, since 1990’s change to the Constitution, by the three Tikanga – cultural streams – equivalent), and then it has to be passed by General Synod again.
The Fundamental Provisions originate in the Church’s first Constitution of 1857. Our Church
hath received and explained the same in the Book of Common Prayer, in the Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, and in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion. And the General Synod hereinafter constituted for the government of this Branch of the said Church shall also hold and maintain the said Doctrine and Sacraments of CHRIST, and shall have no power to make any alteration in the authorised version of the Holy Scriptures, or in the above‑named Formularies of the Church.The Constitution / Te Pouhere THE FUNDAMENTAL PROVISIONS
The General Synod Te Hīnota Whānui (GSTHW) adopted a revised constitution in 1990. There, in Further Provisions, it has:
This Church holds and maintains the Doctrine and Sacraments of Christ as the Lord has commanded in Holy Scripture and as explained inThe Constitution / Te Pouhere Part B 1
The Book of Common Prayer 1662
The Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating Bishops, Priests and Deacons
The Thirty Nine Articles of Religion
A New Zealand Prayer Book – He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa.
The Constitution also provides a way of adding to or altering Formularies. For example, the Church added the Revised Common Lectionary, an ecumenical 3-Year series of readings for Sundays and major feasts (Christmas, etc). The process for authorising or altering Formularies is often called the “twice around” process. This process first appears in the Church of England Empowering Act of 1928. The Church is a “voluntary compact” and needed parliamentary agreement to be able to add parts of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer to the organisation so that, obviously, the Church’s property etc. would not be contested by some people kept to the unaltered, original Formularies without alteration.
The Act has :
Such alteration, addition, diminution, framing, adoption, ordering, or permitting shall be deemed to be duly and validly made and to be authorized by section 3 of this Act only if—
(a) the General Synod shall at any session have adopted a specific proposal for such alteration, addition, diminution, framing, adoption, ordering, or permitting with a view to making the same known to the several Diocesan Synods; and thereafter
(b) a majority of the Diocesan Synods in New Zealand shall have assented to the proposal so made known to them; and thereafter
(c) the General Synod, at a session after there shall have been a fresh General Election of its members subsequent to such proposal having been adopted, shall have confirmed the same by a majority of two-thirds of the members of each order:
provided that not less than 1 year nor more than 5 years shall have elapsed between the first adoption of the proposal in the General Synod and its final confirmation therein; and
(d) such of the provisions of Title C, Canon I, of the Canons of the General Synod now in force (or any provisions hereafter made by the General Synod in amendment thereof or in substitution therefor) as are applicable to the circumstances, mutatis mutandis, shall have been observed; and
(i) a period of 1 year (from the day on which the General Synod shall under paragraph (c) of this section have confirmed the proposal) shall have elapsed without an appeal from the said proposal having been made in accordance with the provisions of section 5 of this Act to the Tribunal referred to in that section upon the ground that the proposal involves a departure from the Doctrine and Sacraments of Christ as defined in clause one of the Constitution; or
(ii) if such an appeal shall have been made within such period, the same shall have been dismissed.Church Of England Empowering Act 1928 Section 4
If General Synod put this in its passed motion, once a majority of the Diocesan Synods had assented to the proposal, the new or amended form of service could be used experimentally until, at longest, the last day of the next ensuing ordinary session of the General Synod:
Power to permit experimental use of new or amended form of serviceChurch Of England Empowering Act 1928 Section 4a
Where a proposal to add or alter the Formularies has been approved by the General Synod with a view to its being made known to the several Diocesan Synods, the General Synod may by resolution determine that, after the proposal has received the assent of the majority of the Diocesan Synods, the experimental use of the new or amended form of service be permitted under such conditions and for such period (terminating not later than the last day of the next ensuing ordinary session of the General Synod) as the General Synod shall determine.
The basic process was expanded to the new Three-Tikanga (3 cultural streams) introduced into the Church’s governance in 1990 (b) above is changed to:
(b) Te Runanganui o Te Pīhopatanga o Aotearoa, the Diocese of Polynesia and a majority of the Diocesan Synods in New Zealand shall have assented to the proposal so made known to them; and thereafterThe Constitution / Te Pouhere Part B 6 b
Confused Church Finally Removes Unlawful Rites
For many, many, many years, essentially between 1966 and 2014, the Church had a complex schedule (SRL3) of what it claimed were temporary “experimental services”. Anybody who has read to this point will realise, of course, that that was totally illicit. There was no such provision in the rules the Church had written for itself and had passed in Parliament and in its own GSTHW. The only power the Church had given itself to use services experimentally was between the majority of Diocesan Synods assenting to a new form passed at GSTHW and the next meeting of GSTHW. Once GSTHW had met, it needed to either confirm the new/changed formulary, or it could no longer be used. No longer able to have lengthy use of “experimental services” GSTHW rushed through some rites which were being trialed, and set about making this Church’s flexibility even more flexible.
Clearly, the Church has a lengthy history of not being clear what is required, what is allowed, and what is forbidden.