Canon law expert Perry says, however, that the 39 Articles also spell out that a priest must be appointed by the local bishop to be allowed to preach within a diocese, something the Network churches have relinquished by voting to split.
“The notion that a parish could be freestanding and claim to be Anglican is perverse in the Anglican structure,” he said. “It just wouldn’t exist.”
Liberal Anglicans also argue that theological understanding continues to evolve.
“It’s an ongoing revelation,” Niagara Archdeacon Michael Patterson says.
And there is no requirement that the revelation be the same for everyone, says Perry, adding that a founding principle of the church was that, unlike the Catholic Church from which it split in the 16th century, there is no central authority decreeing the beliefs that define an Anglican.
Says Perry, “Somebody once said that the good thing about the Church of England is that it doesn’t tend to interfere with your religion.”
In fact, he says, the openness to diversity of opinion has traditionally been its strength, enabling it to span divergent cultures around the world.