Death of Archbishop Irl A. Gladfelter

St Francis Chapel, Queens

Archbishop Gladfelter (back row, third from left) with Archbishops Brennan, Spataro and Mack and other clergy of the Order of Corporate Reunion.

The death has been announced of Irl A. Gladfelter, founder and first Metropolitan Archbishop of the Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church until his resignation from that church in 2011, upon which he reconciled with the Roman Catholic Church without seeking to exercise his Holy Orders.

Irl Allen Gladfelter was born in 1944 and graduated with the degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery “with distinction” from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry and was a career officer in the Dental Corps of the United States Army, retiring as a lieutenant colonel after serving more than 20 years on active duty. He graduated (with honors) from the United States Army Command and General Staff College. His military decorations included the Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal with one bronze service star, the Korea Defense Service Medal, the Army Overseas Service Ribbon, and the Army Service Ribbon. Gladfelter also held a commission as a Kentucky colonel.

Gladfelter received the diaconate and priesthood at the hands of Archbishop Peter Paul Brennan, OCR, and was consecrated bishop on 10 January 2004 at St Peter and Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, Astoria, New York. Archbishop Brennan was the principal consecrator assisted by the Primate of the Apostolic Episcopal Church, Archbishop Francis C. Spataro, and AEC Archbishop Paget E.J. Mack. This consecration canonically established the standing of the Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church in the historic Apostolic Succession. Within that church, an Augustinian Order was established in which Gladfelter served. He was an active and enthusiastic member of the Order of Corporate Reunion, writing a useful summary of the nature and position of the Order.

The Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church had been founded in 1997 as an outgrowth of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and was headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was one of the churches to form the movement of High Church Lutheranism, looking throughout towards unity with Rome and with other traditionally minded Anglo-Catholics. Viewing Lutherans to be in a state of temporary involuntary schism from Rome, the ALCC taught that Lutheranism was a development of the Catholic Church, and was only Protestant inasmuch as its adherents adopted the teachings of Calvin and Zwingli. As such, it accepted the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, and the Small Catechism of Luther insofar as these were not in conflict with Catholic teaching. It did not accept the Formula of Concord. Like the Apostolic Episcopal Church, the ALCC accepted the seven Ecumenical Councils and the Thirty-Nine Articles of Anglicanism, interpreting these according to the writings of Blessed John Henry Newman. It further accepted the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, papal primacy and papal infallibility. After June 2008, ALCC clergy were required to sign a version of the Roman Catholic mandatum, which affirmed that they would not teach anything contrary to the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church.

On 15 May 2009, the ALCC submitted a formal petition to the Vatican to enter the Roman Catholic Church as a unified body, leaving the form of such entry to be decided in future negotiations. This petition remains with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the time of writing. Subsequent developments in the wake of Anglicanorum coetibus meant that the ALCC was invited to enter into discussions with the American Ordinariate with a view to reception within that body. Having subsequently undergone a change of name, the ALCC is today known as the Augustana Catholic Church.

Although he continued to be listed as Metropolitan Archbishop Emeritus of the ALCC, Gladfelter decided to pursue the path of personal reunion with Rome and retired from his offices in order to reconcile. He did not seek to exercise his Holy Orders in that communion and spent his retirement years among the laity.

Memory Eternal! Memory Eternal! Memory Eternal!

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