Traditional Anglican bloc eyeing union with Rome is far-flung group

January 14, 2010
TAC seal

TAC seal

The question of how many Anglicans will join the Roman Catholic Church has been hanging in the air since Pope Benedict made his offer last October to take in Anglican groups that cannot accept reforms such as ordaining women bishops. The largest figure mentioned is the 400,000-strong membership of the Traditional Anglican Communion, a traditionalist group that is not actually a member of the Anglican Communion that most Anglicans belong to. It is sometimes presented as a bloc whose transfer will be an important event.

Even though the TAC left the Anglican Communion two decades ago, it could be quite important to the Roman Catholic Church if that many Anglicans (of whatever standing) came knocking on the door seeking entry. And the sight of so many switching to Rome could also have an indirect impact on the Anglican Communion.

St. Peter's Basilica, 3 Nov 2008/Tom Heneghan

St. Peter's Basilica, 3 Nov 2008/Tom Heneghan

But those TAC members, even if their total does add up to 400,000, are so widely spread out that they might actually  have only a small local impact if and when they “swim the Tiber.” The Church Times has a breakdown of the TAC membership that shows that 92% of the communion’s members live in India and Africa. The largest congregation, the 130,000 reported in India, might seem like an impressive number in Britain, but it’s small by subcontinental standards.  The numbers in Britain and Europe (1,800), Canada (2,000) or the United States (2,500) are really small. Even if all members join at the same time, it may not seem like they are joining en bloc.

It’s interesting to see the TAC is strongest in countries where the local Anglican churches are mostly not liberal reformers. It’s also interesting to note this communion reflects far more than other Christian groups the growing concentration of global Christianity in developing countries. We’d be interested to hear from readers who can say why this is the case.

Here’s the membership breakdown, with a hat tip to Simon Sarmiento of Thinking Anglicans who reported on it:

Territory Attendance Proportion
India 130,000 54%
Southern Africa (including Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia and the Eastern Cape) 65,000 27%
Central Africa (including Kenya, Cameroon, Eastern Congo and Tanzania) 26,000 11%
UK and Europe 1,800 0.7%
Canada 2,000 0.8%
USA 2,500 1.0%
Central America 7,000 2.3%
Australia (inc Torres Straights), New Zealand and Japan 6,500 2.7%

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