The Apostolic Episcopal Church (The Holy Eastern Apostolic and Catholic Orthodox Church), organized in 1925 and recognized by the Statutes of the State of New York in 1932, is an autonomous and fully independent Christian church that combines the heritage of the Chaldean Catholic Church, of which it is an extension, with that of traditional Anglicanism. It is thus one of the few communions not formed by way of a split or division in another Church body, and is the second oldest conservative or “continuing” Anglican denomination to have been formed in the United States (the first, the Reformed Episcopal Church, having been founded in 1873). The Apostolic Episcopal Church has been in intercommunion with the Catholicate of the West since the formation of the latter body in 1944, and is today a member jurisdiction of the Catholicate under the auspices of the Abbey-Principality of San Luigi.
The mission of the Apostolic Episcopal Church has not only been towards congregational outreach but has been specifically directed towards ecumenical reunion, firstly in respect of bringing together bishops of different denominations through its communion, and secondly by the creation and dissemination of an Ecumenical Apostolic Succession in pursuance of a resolution of the 1920 Lambeth Conference. This work was furthered through a formal concordat relationship with the Catholicate of the West, a British-originated union of the smaller Apostolic churches, from 1944 onwards, with the Catholicate eventually being absorbed into the Apostolic Episcopal Church. This mission leads the Apostolic Episcopal Church to be regarded by some as an “inner church”; a body whose work is as much directed towards the existing communities of Christians as outside them. It draws inspiration from the traditional “Broad Church” view of Anglicanism as a movement of unity, praying with Our Lord that “all may be as one” and seeking to prioritise that which unites the different branches of the Church over that which divides them.
“Loyal to the Holy Scriptures, true to the orthodox Apostolic faith, diligent in service and broadminded in its attitude toward all scientific progress and intellectual approach to present day needs. In practice both sacramental and evangelical, rich in the possession of an unique liturgy which has come down through the ages from the undivided ancient Church, having the Ministry of Apostolic Succession – a combined spiritual heritage which qualifies her to minister in every community of the faithful of the Flock of Christ and to spread the Gospel by missionary effort for the salvation of mankind. United in the faith and fellowship of the Holy Apostles, wherein there has been preserved by the Word and Holy Sacraments, rites, orders and practices, the characteristic spiritual power and message of the Church of Christ for centuries – yet adapted to the spirit and needs of the present age.”
Official Statement of Metropolitan Synod, AEC, published by the Brooklyn City Mission and Tract Society (now Brooklyn Council of Churches), 1930s.
The inter-church episcopal mission of the Apostolic Episcopal Church is probably its most visible legacy today, reflected in formal agreements of intercommunion with a number of jurisdictions in the Orthodox, Old Catholic and Continuing Anglican traditions. In addition, the Apostolic Episcopal Church has absorbed a number of other churches that mainly derive from Orthodox missions.
Befitting its specialized mission and nature as a gathered church, the Apostolic Episcopal Church has intentionally remained a relatively small, if geographically widespread, community, and because its focus is broader than parish ministry it has some of the characteristics of a religious society. From the outset, it has attracted the involvement of the intellectually able and has fostered scholarship in a number of areas. In the days before the Internet, the AEC published several periodicals, including The Living Church and The Tover of St Cassian. Numerous liturgical and historical publications have also testified to the engagement of its clergy with their ecclesiastical tradition and mission.
The AEC is listed in the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, published annually by the National Council of Churches USA.
In the United States, the AEC has mandatory tax exemption as a church under 26 US Code 508(c)(1)(A) and donations to it are tax deductible under 26 US Code 170(b)(1)(A)(i).