In his latest speech, Archbishop Welby acknowledged for the first time that the Lambeth conference—a once-in-a-decade gathering of Anglican bishops—might never happen again. Nor, he made clear, was it even certain whether the basis existed for convening another “primates’ meeting"—a global gathering of slightly lesser status which would normally take place every couple of years. In any case, he was no longer prepared to take sole responsibility for deciding such matters; instead there should be a "collegial model of leadership” with Anglican leaders from around the world deciding which meetings were worthwhile. Despite all this, the archbishop gallantly insisted, reports of the global club’s death were exaggerated. “The Anglican Communion exists and is flourishing in roughly 165 countries.”

That may be sort-of true as far as it goes, but it is rather like the Queen saying that the Commonwealth exists. Of course it does, in the sense that nobody has abolished it, and not many people have left it. But post-imperial arrangements can lose salience very very gradually, to the point where the boundary between existence and non-existence becomes almost imperceptible.