Canons of 1604 are the most important item of ecclesiastical law in Anglican Christianity. Ratified with the great object of setting the Church upon a new systematic and universal basis of ecclesiastical law, they remain in force (with amendments) to this day, and have affected the law of every Province of the Anglican Communion.
During the progress of the Reformation in the 16th century there were multiple projects to attain a system of unified Church canon law, the most notable being Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum, a system of canons drawn up Archbishop Thomas Cranmer with the aid of several divines, which was cut short due to the accession of Queen Mary, and the persecutions of Churchmen that then ensued.
After the restoration of the Church until the end of the century, the Church continued to be governed by a motley patchwork of canons, the old medieval canon law, amended where necessary by sundry individual canons in this or that area of Church government as the needs required.
In 1604, the whole Convocation of the Church gathered for the great task of providing the Church with a clean new set of systematic and universal canon law. Guided by Richard Bancroft, Bishop of London, future Archbishop of Canterbury, the convocation had incorporated many smaller canons from the 1580s and 1590s, with elements from the Reformatio Legum, into a new systematic code of canon law of utmost importance, for that canon law is still active, with changes and amendments through the centuries, to this day.
We present you with a faithful republication of this law, down to the last comma, as a service to the Church, and a faithful image of Her during one of her most important moments. Editions of the Canon law have sometimes been reprinted together with the Book of Common Prayer, and that is what we have taken as the basis for our text here.
January 15, 2013 Anno Domini