A rose by any other name

Published June 1, 2011

The Church of England’s website was relaunched in January 2011 with a new design and web address. Notable is the fact that the word “anglican” has been dropped. The web address is now www.churchofengland.org. Before the change, the address “www.cofe.anglican.org” was generally confusing for people in England.Certainly it is understandable that what people in England want to deal with is the Church of England and not some vague Anglican entity. Simon Sarmiento, founder of the Thinking Anglicans website and U.K.-Europe editor of Anglicans Online, said that the name change “shows that the Church of England is not playing along with the rest of the Anglican Communion.” I’m sure this is true because I don’t believe it was originally envisioned that a fellowship of what have become autonomous churches would ever make claim to being a “church,” defining universal doctrine and exercising overall discipline. From the first Lambeth Conference in 1867, when the Archbishop of Canterbury invited bishops worldwide for an assembly of fellowship, to pray and share together, there were those who could foresee what might transpire. The Archbishop of York and a number of other English bishops declined the invitation to participate in that first conference.So I raise the question: is it time for a name change from “The Anglican Church of Canada”?  After all, we changed it once before, in 1955, from “The Church of England in Canada” to “The Anglican Church of Canada.” This was done to recognize and proclaim our existence and autonomy as something other than a colonial religious outpost. However appropriate the use of the word “Anglican” was then, our church has changed in its understanding of itself and its mission, in a greatly changed Canadian social context.Today we are developing new, mature relationships with the aboriginal peoples of Canada, our sisters and brothers in faith and mission. Our clergy in Quebec are becoming totally bilingual so as to work comfortably within a French culture. The tag in western Canada of our being the “English church” no longer holds true.I submit that it is time for us to give thanks for all we have received from the Church of England, and others, but have a name that more truly expresses who we are. I believe that the name “The Episcopal Church of Canada” would do just that.Many other churches in the Communion use such a designation—Scotland, Jerusalem and the Middle East, the United States, Cuba, Philippines and Sudan. By this change we declare our church’s autonomy with its own form of governance and our readiness to respond wherever the Holy Spirit may lead us. And that includes a readiness to share mutual responsibility and interdependence with all other churches that would share with us. The spirit of renewal is that we move on from where we’ve been. Alleluia! Ω

The Rev. Canon Gordon Baker is a former editor of the Anglican Journal.


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