“We profess to be a Branch of the Eastern Church and, therefore, a valid branch of the Universal Church, whose Symbol of Faith is the apostolic, eastern confession, and whose Orders through Episcopal Succession are derived from the ancient Eastern episcopate which is traced back to the primitive Church of the East and to the Apostles and to Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Rt. Revd. Arthur Wolfort Brooks (1889-1948); founder of the Apostolic Episcopal Church
The Apostolic Episcopal Church, founded 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 the Catholic tradition within Anglicanism. It is thus one of the older separated or “continuing” Anglican bodies currently in existence, and one of the few communions not formed by way of a split or division in another Church body.
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.
“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. However, it also maintains several active worshipping communities. Our clergy are based in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, the Philippines and Barbados. For over eighty years there have been close links between the AEC and the Order of Corporate Reunion, which pursues a similar ecumenical mission, and both communions enjoy friendly relations with the Old Roman Catholic Church based at St Lucy’s Cathedral in Brooklyn, New York. There are also formal agreements of intercommunion with a number of jurisdictions in the Orthodox, Old Catholic and Continuing Anglican traditions. Today, the AEC is closely linked with the Vilatte Guild, based in New York, and also with the Abbey-Principality of San Luigi, with which it is in personal union via the Primate.
Befitting its specialized mission and nature as a gathered church, the Apostolic Episcopal Church has intentionally remained a relatively small, if geographically widespread, community. Nevertheless it has remained active and influential within its areas of interest. 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. According to data reported in 2006 (the latest year available) by the Association of Religion Data Archives at Pennsylvania State University, the AEC counted 255 affiliated clergy, 200 churches and 12,000 members. These numbers can be taken to reflect the wide intercommunion relationships of the AEC, which continue to extend to a family of churches around the world.