Journal of Anglican Studies

G.A. Selwyn Symposium Articles

Two Streams Mingling: The American Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion

Colin Podmore c11


This article identifies and compares two ecclesiological ‘streams’ that coalesced when the Anglican Communion was definitively formed in 1867: the traditional western catholic ecclesiology of England and Ireland and the more democratic, egalitarian ecclesiology of the American Episcopal Church. These streams had already mingled in George Augustus Selwyn’s constitution for the New Zealand Church. Incorporation of laypeople into the Church of England’s synods represented further convergence. Nonetheless, different understandings of the role of bishops in church government are still reflected in attitudes to the respective roles in the Communion’s affairs of bishops and primates on the one hand and the more recent Anglican Consultative Council on the other. Differences between the two streams were noticeable at the 1867 Lambeth Conference. The efforts of Archbishops Davidson and Fisher, rooted in the work of Selwyn, to hold together what Selwyn called ‘the two branches of our beloved Church’ are praised.

(Online publication September 14 2010)


  • America;
  • bishops;
  • democracy;
  • ecclesiology;
  • laity;
  • primates;
  • synods


1. Dr Colin Podmore is a Cornishman who read history at Keble College, Oxford, completed a PGCE at Selwyn College, Cambridge, and later returned to Oxford to research for his DPhil in church history. He has served on the staff of the General Synod of the Church of England since 1988 and is currently Secretary of the House of Clergy and the Dioceses Commission. He writes here in a personal capacity.