Bishops, our leaders, are not the sum total of the Anglican Church.

So wrote the Bishop of Cork, in his response to the communiqué issued by the 35 chief bishops (or Primates) of the national churches in the Anglican Communion.

Anglicans should remember this goes back to the very formation of Anglicanism. For a reason one might consider good or bad - he wanted a divorce from Catherine, who could not produce a male heir - Henry the VIII broke from Rome and decreed that he, not the bishops, not the Pope, was the head of the Church of England. "Erastianism!" shouted the Pope's followers - the heresy of subjugating the Church to the State. (One learns a new word every day.)

And still in that country Elizabeth II heads the established church - not the Archbishop of Canterbury or any group of bishops. (Hence all the fuss about Prince Charles' marriage to a divorcee, since Charles may one day head the Church of England.)

As Britain's colonies gained independence, so did the Anglican Churches in each country. But since these seldom were established churches, supreme authority had to go somewhere other than to the monarch or the government.

It did not go back to the bishops! In Canada, the church is run, not by the bishops, but by the General Synod. The bishops are important - but no more important, collectively, than the clergy, or the elected laity. This is Anglicanism's usual pattern.

A lot of other religious groups think we're wrong, especially Roman Catholics. "To this day the lack of a living Church Spiritual Authority...has been to the Anglican Church a constant source of weakness, humiliation, and disorder," wrote the English Catholic James Moyes in the Catholic Encyclopedia around 1910.

Well, maybe, Anglicans have their problems (the RC system isn't exactly heaven on earth), but there are many advantages to having a Church where bishops share power, and don't monopolize it.

But, as the Bishop of Cork puts it, the Primates' meetings are taking on "a life of their own." Too many media are suggesting this body has kicked the Canadian and American Anglican Churches out of the Anglican Communion. They didn't do that (they can't) but the Primates very, very strongly suggesting that the Canadian and American Churches withdraw from the Anglican Consultative Council.

Just who do these Primates think they are? The Anglican Consultative Council is its own body _ whose formation predates the Primates' regular meetings, by the way. The Anglican Consultative Council should decide itself whether it wants to consult Americans and Canadians.

And the Canadian and American representative to the Council should go to the ACC meeting in June and give that body _ the only Anglican "instrument of union" with lay and clergy members - the opportunity itself to welcome fellow Anglicans, or turn them away.