[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Communion loves its jargon – key words and buzz phrases that spring up in conversations, sermons and speeches. One of these phrases is “the Five Marks of Mission.” The Anglican Communion News Service has commissioned a series of articles looking at each of the Five Marks and we will publish these in the coming weeks. In this article, Gavin Drake explores their background and history.
The Anglican Communion has no central authority or decision-making body. It is a family of 40 – soon to be 41 – independent but interdependent churches. The Anglican Communion’s four Instruments of Communion – the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates’ Meeting, the Lambeth Conference and the Anglican Consultative Council – have no right to impose policies or initiatives on those autonomous member churches.
But they can come up with ideas which they propose to the churches. These ideas may gain acceptance in some churches but not in others, they may be rejected by most churches or they may gain wide acceptance. This process is often referred to as “reception.” It is a way of testing whether the proposals by the Instruments have been received by the churches.
Once such proposal that has been universally accepted by the churches of the Communion is the Five Marks of Mission. Some member churches will have debated these in their provincial synods or councils, while others will have just adopted them through usage. The Five Marks of Mission are such an important resource that churches outside the Anglican Communion often reflect on them too. But what are they?