Statement on the Order of Corporate Reunion

The connection between the Apostolic Episcopal Church and the Order of Corporate Reunion (OCR) reaches its eighty-fifth anniversary this year. Recent changes in the Order have prompted us to issue a public statement, so that it may be understood where the Apostolic Episcopal Church stands on a number of issues related to the Order, and what its relationship is to those branches of the Order with which it is not in communion today.

It is not necessary to give a detailed account of the history of the Order since its foundation in 1874 in order to highlight the Order’s challenges in terms of mission and leadership. When I was first admitted to the Order in 2008, as its Pro-Provincial of Canterbury and Bishop of the Order, I was more interested in the Order’s present ecumenical activities, which at that time were being vigorously pursued under the late Archbishop Peter Paul Brennan (1941-2016), than in tying up the various historical and jurisdictional loose ends that surround the Order’s past. That emphasis on mission and what the Order means in today’s world is to my mind the correct focus for a Christian organization. Nevertheless, there are also some important historical and jurisdictional points to be borne in mind.

Nature and purpose of the OCR

The OCR was never intended to be a general ecumenical society or a loose confederation. It had a well-defined purpose reflected in its name; that of achieving corporate reunion between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church; that is to say, the absorption of the Anglican Communion within the Roman Catholic Church and its cessation as a separate (or in Rome’s view schismatic) entity. The OCR’s specific role in this process was to impart valid Apostolic Orders, deriving from the consecrations supervised by the Archbishop of Milan in 1874, to Anglican clergy so that Rome’s objections to the validity of Anglican Orders (as would be detailed in the bull Apostolicae Curae of 1896) could be overcome. Both the original OCR and its 1911 revival after some years of dormancy under Archbishop Arnold Harris Mathew (1852-1919) of the Old Roman Catholic Church operated as clandestine societies, re-ordaining Anglican clergymen and in that respect generating much opposition among the Anglican hierarchy for what they saw as unwanted incursions into their jurisdiction. The OCR continued this pattern of activity up to the 1950s under such bishops as Archbishop Carmel Henry Carfora (1878-1958) of the North American Old Roman Catholic Church and Mar Georgius (Hugh George de Willmott Newman) (1905-79) of the Catholicate of the West and the Apostolic Episcopal Church, who re-ordained some of those Anglicans who approached them. During the 1960s, the OCR became inactive, and it only re-emerged during the 1980s under Archbishop Bertil Persson (1941-). More of this below.

Several observations are pertinent concerning the character of the OCR. Firstly, it was a religious Order, not a church, and held no jurisdiction of its own. The revived OCR under +Mathew had a Rule to which members were subject, including the daily celebration of the Mass according to the Roman Rite, either in Latin or the vernacular. It also endorsed “The Anglican Missal” which had been published in 1911, inter alia, as a means of making up the defects in the Communion Rite of the Book of Common Prayer. The members were almost all Anglicans with a few Old Catholics and autocephalous Orthodox. No member was not also already a clergyman under obedience to another church. The OCR could not be said to be anything other than a bridging body between the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church. The OCR acknowledged the complete authority of the Roman Catholic Church and never sought to exercise an independent existence as a communion in its own right; to a large extent it was a Roman “trojan horse” within the Anglican Communion. When in 1874 the Church of England rejected the suggestion that it should officially embrace the OCR, the OCR still saw that it could carry out its mission, though in conditions of some secrecy. Essentially, therefore, the idea of an OCR that is neither secret nor primarily concerned with relations between Rome and the Anglican Communion is a major departure from its original mission.

One point that causes particular difficulty was that the OCR, unlike most Old Catholics, accepted the First Vatican Council of 1870 and there is nothing to indicate it would not also have accepted the Second Vatican Council a century later. Indeed, +Mathew’s successor in the Old Roman Catholic Church, Archbishop Bernard Mary Williams (1889-1952), adopted just such a position officially in 1924 and this remains that of most branches of the Old Roman Catholic Church today. The OCR’s purpose is therefore neither more nor less than that “every creature on earth should be subject to the Roman Pontiff”. It was designed to secure Anglican acceptance by and submission to Rome. For those of us who hold to an Old Catholic, Orthodox or Continuing Anglican faith, this is highly problematic. We may accept the principle of Corporate Reunion in a wider sense of ecumenism, but we reject the First and Second Vatican Councils and therefore are prevented from submission to Rome on these, and often other, doctrinal and theological grounds.

Moreover, events have overtaken the OCR. In 1874, Corporate Reunion seemed a long way off. Today, both the United Kingdom and the United States have Personal Ordinariates within the Roman Catholic Church that permit Anglicans to enter the Roman Catholic Church without losing their ecclesiastical character or their forms of worship such as the Book of Common Prayer. Rome has reaffirmed its non-recognition of Anglican Orders and now appears to re-ordain Anglican clergy in the absolute, not the conditional form. This is notwithstanding a deliberate attempt by the Anglican Communion to introduce validity via the Bonn Agreement of 1931 with the Union of Utrecht of the Old Catholic Churches, which has resulted in every clergyman of the Anglican Communion today (deriving his orders through a male episcopal line) having received an Old Catholic (and therefore supposedly valid according to Rome) line of succession. Our position in the Apostolic Episcopal Church is, and has been since our foundation, that Anglican orders are valid. But Rome’s position on validity now is not even what it was twenty years ago. Rome has become increasingly antinomian on this matter and according to my contacts has adopted the view that even were the Great Schism to be healed, Orthodox clergy would need to undergo conditional ordination – and this from a church that cannot trace any of its extant episcopal successions to a time before the consecration of Cardinal Guillaume d’Estouteville in 1440.

Meanwhile, traditionalist Anglo-Catholicism within the Anglican Communion now occupies a very marginalised position indeed. There is a small handful of clergy within the Anglican Communion who have received conditional ordination from Roman or Old Catholic sources, but there is no evidence that there is any further demand for conditional ordination, or that if such were needed, the OCR would be where those clergy would turn rather than to other valid sources. Increasingly, most Anglicans regard abstract arguments about validity as arcane and the preserve of only the most extreme of Ritualist clergy. Their concern is that their own communion regards them as valid clergy, not that Rome or anyone else does. If they decide to go to Rome, they accept that Rome will re-ordain them as a condition of their acceptance.

It is difficult to argue that when there are structures today that make it easy for Anglicans to enter the Roman Catholic Church, and that have effectively created Corporate Reunion, there is still a case for the OCR’s defined mission. The position taken by some bishops of the Anglican Communion seems to be that it would in fact be happier if most of their Anglo-Catholic clergy went to the Ordinariates. There is also now an extensive Continuing Anglican movement (including the Apostolic Episcopal Church) which preserves orthodox and traditional Anglicanism, and where clergy in most cases hold Orders considered valid both by the Anglican Communion and (according to its past statements) by Rome. In addition, through Anglican realignment, there are now provinces of the Anglican Communion that are traditionalist and that reject the liberal line of Canterbury. In some cases, these groups have begun to send missionary conservative clergy to minister to traditional Anglicans disaffected with the Episcopal Church or the Church of England.

Historical issues

The history of the OCR up to the death of +Mathew in 1919 is relatively straightforward, although there is still some doubt as to exactly what happened in the consecrations of 1874. Until there is a better history, the work of Henry R.T. Brandreth (“Episcopi Vagantes and the Anglican Church”, S.P.C.K., London, 1961), Peter Anson (“Bishops at Large”, London, Faber & Faber, 1964), Mar Georgius (“A Chapter of Secret History”, Patriarchal Press, Glastonbury, 1961), and Bertil Persson (“The Order of Corporate Reunion”, Solna, St Ephrem’s Institute, 2000) will need to suffice for an account of the OCR’s foundation and early years.

It will be noted that with the exception of Mar Georgius’s account, in which he put forward his own well-reasoned claim to be the head of the OCR, all of these authors essentially stop at the death of +Lee in 1902 (or +Mathew in 1919) and there is good reason for this. That said, there is no reason to question the basic facts at issue in that earlier part of the OCR’s history. Brandreth, in particular, was an Anglican priest who had no reason to support the OCR, which he described as a “complete failure”. While Brandreth records that +Lee’s son Ambrose destroyed his father’s OCR papers, he does not indicate whether or not he or others known to him had been given sight of their contents before that event took place. As Brandreth says, “it is almost certain that the consecrators of Lee and Mossman were prelates in communion with Rome” (p. 106) and “there seems to be no reason to doubt that the Orders [of the OCR] were accepted as valid at the Vatican, and Lee preserved a document, which has been seen by many persons still living, giving some sort of recognition to their validity.” (ibid.) Such assertions from an essentially unsympathetic party should be accorded significant weight.

When dealing with a body whose existence is almost wholly clandestine, it is inevitable that there are lacunae where we would expect a more extensively documented historical record in a body that was open, public and accountable. There are numerous divergent claims concerning historical membership in, and succession from, the original 1874 OCR. Myth, rumour and legend surround the OCR as a body, and it seems likely that there is still much that awaits discovery about its past and perhaps its present activities. This, however, is not so far removed from the other challenges that face scholars of the smaller sacramental churches as a whole. We do not consider that any of the histories that have been put forward for the OCR in the post-1919 period are either definitive or without problems that are still in need of resolution. We do, however, consider that a number of the historians who have applied themselves to this problem, including Dr Bertil Persson, have acted essentially in good faith and have submitted their work as a contribution to scholarship, to be proved, disproved or amended by others in due course. By contrast, those who have attacked the OCR have generally been those with personal or denominational axes to grind.

The Apostolic Episcopal Church has had an unbroken association with the OCR since 1933, when its founding Presiding Bishop, Arthur Wolfort Brooks (1889-1948) was appointed Rector Pro-Provincial of New York in the OCR by the OCR Provincial of America, Archbishop Ignatius Nichols (1877-1947). +Brooks succeeded +Nichols as Provincial on the latter’s death, and was in turn succeeded by +Wallace David de Ortega Maxey (1902-92), also AEC Primate and in due course head of the Catholicate of the West. Indeed, every Primate of the AEC from its foundation in 1925 has also held senior office in the OCR.

The separation of the headship of the AEC and OCR; the Missouri corporation

In 1998, the retiring Primate of the AEC, Dr Bertil Persson, separated the headship of the AEC and the OCR. He did so, however, not citing the antecedence of the OCR within the AEC, but rather the resignation in his favour of Archbishop Diederik Quatannens (also sometime archbishop of the AEC) who he accepted as OCR Universal Primate based on a lineage traced through Friedrich Heiler and +Arthur Howarth. This lineage also asserts a lineal descent of +Mathew through a clandestine consecration in 1909 by bishops of the OCR who were in succession from its three founders. The AEC, for its part, accepted at that time the unification of its own OCR heritage with that of the +Quatannens branch, but did not at any point extinguish those claims that it had made in its own right. As witness to this, the AEC on 21 November 1995 had caused a non-profit corporation to be established in New York under the name Apostolic Episcopal Church – Order of Corporate Reunion. That corporation, though it has since been separated from the AEC, continues to exist today.

In 2004, Dr Persson retired and was succeeded by the late Archbishop Peter Paul Brennan (1941-2016). During Dr Brennan’s time in office he accepted the offer of Archbishop Michael Kline to establish a Missouri benevolent (or “pro forma”) corporation for the OCR, and this action was completed in 2010. This was seen as being a means of achieving unity in the OCR and acting against the various false claims that had arisen from time to time.

Missouri law requires that there be proper investigation of the bona fides of any organization seeking incorporation in this manner, to establish that it is indeed a benevolent association. The Missouri Corporations Law does not require, or indeed empower, the judge considering the application to conduct an investigation into historical or jurisdictional claims, and there is no evidence that the Circuit Court of Jackson County did so before granting the petition of Archbishops Brennan, Kline, Persson and Spataro, which included a claim to exclusive representation of the 1874 foundation. Nor does the fact that this claim is included in the corporate charter mean that it is necessarily endorsed by the State of Missouri or by any authority beyond the corporation itself. Archbishops Brennan and Kline were the only officers of the corporation. Perhaps surprisingly for a corporation intended to represent the interests of a membership body, the corporation provides only for a single voting member, the Universal Primate.

The AEC gave its support to the Missouri corporation at the time of its formation because it had received the support of Archbishop Brennan, because there was general satisfaction with Archbishop Brennan’s leadership of the OCR, and because it desired unity in OCR matters rather than the division which has sadly been the lot of many of the smaller church bodies. It did not foresee that the formation of the Missouri corporation would become as significant as it proved to be after Archbishop Brennan’s death. Nor did it ever accept that the OCR as it was constituted prior to 2010 had become the Missouri corporation by the mere fact of that incorporation. Archbishop Brennan certainly never allowed that impression to be given to us.

Although Archbishop Brennan appointed no successor at the time of his death, Archbishop Kline became the sole director of the OCR Missouri corporation by default. He was subsequently endorsed as OCR Universal Primate by Archbishop Spataro and Dr Persson in their positions as executor and administrator under the terms of the Missouri corporation. The corporation bylaws do not provide for any role of the other OCR members in the election of the Primate, and they vest absolute power in the Primate. It should be noted that Archbishop Brennan did not make any appointments under the corporation powers although it was his right to do so; this may give some idea of the way in which he viewed the corporation.

Although Archbishop Kline has asserted that the Missouri OCR corporation has worldwide legal authority, this is not a position accepted by the AEC. We hold that the Missouri OCR corporation has no more and no less legal authority than any other benevolent corporation established in the State of Missouri. It has no other standing beyond this, and its claims regarding history, exclusivity and jurisdiction are matters that are properly the subject of ongoing scholarly debate, not issues to be shut down by legal threats and censorship. Certainly, we acknowledge that the Missouri OCR is one of the authentic successors of the 1874 foundation. But the AEC had absolutely no intention when it decided to give its support to the Missouri OCR corporation of thereby giving up its own jurisdictional claims or OCR heritage, and indeed I said as much to Archbishop Kline at the time of his appointment. Nor was its support of the Missouri corporation intended to give carte blanche to any future Universal Primate to make substantial changes to the nature of the OCR that would bring it into conflict with the AEC.

Throughout, it remains the case that while an existing church or an Order may form a corporation for the holding of assets or the conduct of its affairs, that corporation is a separate legal entity from the church or Order itself, which continues to exist alongside any corporate body as an unincorporated association until and unless there is an explicit agreement among the members of that association that it should dissolve itself or merge with another organization. There has been no such decision in respect of the OCR’s membership, nor was there any formal ballot of that membership when the Missouri corporation was formed on the initiative merely of four senior members. As stated previously, Archbishop Brennan never gave any impression but that the Missouri corporation was a vehicle for the support and organizational convenience of the OCR. Its role under him was supplementary, not primary.

Moreover, none of the AEC clergy holding office in the OCR were appointed under the Missouri corporation, nor did they accept that the formation of the Missouri corporation was in any way something that affected their own positions, but solely that it was a matter of administrative good order for the conduct of the OCR’s affairs. The appointments received by AEC clergy in the OCR prior to 2010 were not as non-voting members of any Missouri corporation, but as full members of a religious order of worldwide scope whose Universal Primate was seen not as a hierarch but as primus inter pares. None of those members has resigned from the OCR, nor do they consider that Archbishop Kline has the authority to remove them from membership of anything but his Missouri corporation.

The changing nature of the OCR post-1998

In many ways, the OCR post-1998 has come to be affected by a number of problems similar to those that had been created within the AEC during Bertil Persson’s primacy.

The most important of these problems is a lack of continuity of mission. Bertil Persson’s ministry has been above all a personal ministry. He has had a very wide range of ecumenical contacts both within and beyond Christianity. His successor +Peter Paul Brennan was similarly tireless in his establishing of further ecumenical contacts with almost all the major Christian groups in the United States. These contacts were then seen by association as part of the visible ministry of the OCR. However, with the retirement of +Persson and the death of +Brennan, the reality is clear that the contacts in question were in fact far more associated with +Persson and +Brennan than they ever were with the OCR. In terms of anything substantial, they have not left anything for the OCR to retain or build on.

This explicit association of the OCR with the personal ministries of +Persson and +Brennan was allied to a deliberate abandonment of the original ultramontane vision and purpose of the OCR, and re-invented the OCR as an open ecumenical society of clergy. Both of these primates had in common their desire and ability to work with both highly conservative and extremely liberal groups. They established a visible presence at ecumenical gatherings, putting forward a straightforward message of the promotion of Christian unity and the healing of division. This was something that Christians of all  denominational affiliations could readily support.

Alongside this was the more specific ecumenism of the gatherings of clergy from the smaller churches that took place under OCR auspices at St Lucy’s Cathedral in New York. These clergy were almost all both members of the OCR and in intercommunion with the AEC, meaning that the two bodies came to be seen as synonymous by a number of people. Indeed, +Brennan at one point had to address a note to members saying that he did not endorse the abbreviation AEC-OCR and that the AEC and OCR were in fact separate bodies. With the death of +Brennan and +Patriarch Yuri of the American World Patriarchs, and the increasing incapacity through age and ill-health of some other clergy, it seems less likely that such ecumenical gatherings will be taking place in the future, even if the Rector of St Lucy’s were minded to permit Archbishop Kline the use of the Cathedral.

Practical issues

In late 2017, a number of proposals were circulated to the OCR membership from the Missouri corporation. These included that the OCR should establish a hierarchical administration, that it should seek to expand its membership significantly, and that it should as a matter of policy impart valid Apostolic Succession to any clergy requesting this.

Our principal concerns in response were that the OCR had now essentially changed its nature from a loose order of clergy to what was in essence an independent sacramental church, and that the current proposals, if implemented, would have taken this still further. We took the view that this was not what the OCR’s founders or Archbishop Mathew intended the OCR to be, and that its original mission as a bridge between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion seemed to have been cast aside.

Moreover, from an Anglican perspective, we hold that a church grows from the bottom up, not the top down. Securing buildings for worship and a lay community of the faithful are an essential challenge for us, and one which we have only managed to meet in the AEC through the considerable sacrifice and efforts of our members. Much work still remains to be done. Top-down organizations consisting almost entirely of independent bishops, and particularly organizations with little or no lay following, are not something which we consider comparable to this, nor something we would seek to be associated with as we move forward. They have no history of contributing to the mission of furthering the work of our Lord Jesus Christ and of glorifying Him.

It seems to us, too, that the idea of imparting consecration in the manner proposed fundamentally misunderstands what consecration is. Consecration is not the collection of lines of succession, nor is it an act, in itself, that absent from a properly constituted church with authentic jurisdiction and mission has any meaning whatsoever. Within the AEC, we define “validity” as that which our communion considers to be valid. Others consider us to be valid too, but if they did not, that would not affect the meaningfulness of our own validity for our mission and purposes. Too many independent clergy consider that this question is all about being able to tell others that Rome or Canterbury somehow recognizes them. The Roman Catholic Church today, according to the views of its own canon lawyers as expressed to me, does not understand Holy Orders in this manner. The Anglican Communion is likewise unimpressed and in its eyes, claims of multiple successions are a handicap, not an asset. Consecration in the OCR, throughout its early years, was intended to use the order’s Roman jurisdiction to make Anglican clergy with (as the founders saw it) valid jurisdiction but invalid Holy Orders into Anglican clergy with both valid jurisdiction and valid Holy Orders. It was never intended to do anything more than this.

The OCR has worked extremely closely alongside the AEC for some eighty-five years on the basis that the AEC defines itself as a canonical and recognized church and the OCR is an order of clergy functioning as a society or religious membership body. The change in this relationship since the death of Archbishop Brennan must obviously cause us to reassess our position. Moreover, without disrespect to others who see the matter differently, the AEC is not a part of the independent sacramental movement, nor does it wish to be, but a part of the Continuing Anglican movement with all that this implies. The decision by the OCR to seek greater links with the independent sacramental churches, and to move further away from its Anglican roots, inevitably pulls it in a different direction from the AEC. Most obviously, clergy are being asked in effect to serve two churches, the AEC and the OCR, which are governed separately and according to different priorities, and despite the goodwill of those involved, this situation has given rise to significant problems.

As a prime example of these problems, the Missouri OCR now includes multiple clergy who have been excommunicated by the AEC, of whom the most prominent is Bertil Persson. It is against the canons of the AEC for its clergy also to belong to communions that include clergy who have been excommunicated or deprived of faculties for disciplinary cause from the AEC (Canon IX:12b). This prohibition also applies to members of the Order of Antioch according to its Statutes, specifically Statute IX:11b. Moreover, the Missouri OCR has for the first time in the OCR’s history excommunicated one of its members in controversial circumstances, and the AEC remains nonetheless in communion with that prelate. As stated earlier, if the OCR is construed historically as a religious order and membership body of clergy, it has no jurisdiction to excommunicate anyone (and can, at the most, merely demit them from its membership). Jurisdiction, as the OCR properly conceives it, can only properly belong to the Pope.

The Missouri OCR has appointed a number of new clergy to office in recent years. It has also defined itself more clearly as a conservative organization, though it is not entirely clear to me what it means by this. I do not know whether any of the more liberal clergy who were previously involved with it have resigned, or simply ceased involvement. It has defined its mission as including the conferral of Apostolically valid Holy Orders on prelates who wish to receive this. In my view, this policy, though doubtless motivated by the best of intentions, carries with it a number of risks. Firstly, those who belong to a defined and canonical communion such as the AEC have stringent requirements for acceptance for ordination. We have put those requirements in place not only because there is a general problem within the smaller churches of ill-prepared and unstable clergy, but also because we prefer to live within a small church where a clear identity and mission can be defined, rather than a larger one where there is effectively little control or accountability. The AEC does not seek to exercise any veto over the decisions of the Missouri OCR, but it must in any intercommunion relationship be satisfied that candidates accepted for ordination in that intercommunion partner are required to meet certain basic tests as regards their educational background, their ministerial history and suitability, and above all that they be personally known to existing senior clergy for a reasonable amount of time. Even these safeguards do not always prevent problems, as I myself can testify. But they do ensure that when they are in place, any charge that the body in question is a mere ordination mill can be refuted.

A further difficulty is that there are some genuine divisions among the OCR membership. There will always be some measure of compromise in any such organization. But this compromise should not be such that members feel they are uncomfortable with the position they are placed in. The views expressed by some members concerning Archbishop Kline’s leadership have deserved more than the dismissive treatment they have received from him. A membership body such as the OCR cannot be led in the same hierarchical manner as a police department. Even hierarchs ultimately rule by consent.

The proposals made recently would, if implemented, result in the OCR expanding further. Rapid expansion without a period of consolidation, and rapid expansion of membership without that membership actually committing to something substantial, both bring problems of instability within organizations. Since the independent sacramental movement is relatively small, and since clergy of the larger churches do not generally apply to join the OCR at present, this seems to me to indicate that any expansion at the moment would involve a dilution of standards. That is not to say that there are not some excellent independent clergy who might become OCR members. But it is nevertheless true that they do not necessarily have enough in common to generate an organization with a meaningful mission and with the prospect of putting that vision into action. The progress the OCR has made in the past has been made through personal contact face to face between members, not through building a long list of clergy on a website. Unless things are done on the ground that give the OCR life, it will remain beset by these problems.

Conclusions

We in the AEC have taken the view that the OCR is at a point where a complete revision of its position and purpose is needed. Because the original aims of the 1874 organization have effectively been achieved through the Personal Ordinariates, the OCR finds itself in a difficult position. Possibly there remains work to be done to fulfil the 1874 mission, but that work would need to be directed towards unity with a Rome which many OCR members regard as being today in a state of profound error. The obvious question would be, if we want union with Rome, why do we not merely submit to Rome?

Another approach would be to look to the reasons why the OCR became inactive during the 1960s – surely because there was no longer a pressing need for the mission it maintained – and to consider whether the OCR had not, in fact, run its course then and should admit this and cease activity.

The revived post-1998 OCR seems to me to be the least convincing option. It is difficult to keep count of the number of ecumenical communions that have come and gone over the years – the Catholicate of the West (today part of the AEC), the Ligue Oecumenique of +Julien Erni, the Brazilian ICAN, FICOB, and so on. Moreover, the AEC continues to define itself as an ecumenical communion within its conservative Anglican/Orthodox outlook, and indeed Bertil Persson’s history of the OCR identifies the AEC as the only organization to have put the ecumenical vision of the founders of the OCR into practice. I find it hard to see how the OCR could now take on a mission as an expanding ecumenical communion without directly duplicating the mission of the AEC. That was an outcome that during the +Brennan era we managed largely to avoid because +Brennan was so active in the liberal end of the movement while we in the AEC confined ourselves to the conservative end. Now the OCR has assumed a more conservative character, it is not so easy to see these missions as being separate.

If the OCR became larger, it would also experience more of the problems that come with expanding clergy numbers. The biggest of these is accountability. Where clergy are all known to each other personally, fully assessed over a number of years, ministerially well-experienced and academically well-qualified, the basics at least are taken care of. When admitting clergy whom one has never met in person, in countries which one has no intention of visiting, it is frankly asking for trouble. Many such clergy are honest and worthy. But it only takes one or two bad apples to permanently damage a communion in the eyes of the public, and thereby the ministries of honest and worthy clergy. Those bad apples will look for whatever gives them the easiest route to status without being subject to oversight. A prelate and church based abroad and unable or unwilling to keep tabs on them are effectively tailor-made for them. We might say that the OCR is merely admitting clergy to membership of a loose ecumenical federation, not licensing them as ministers. But recent experience has shown that the OCR can and will be used by disenfranchised clergy to claim affiliation with a body that is old and credible, and the public cannot be expected to be interested in fine distinctions concerning canonical obedience. In essence, you cannot have rules for the admission and conduct of clergy unless you have a means to enforce them – and that means a willingness to enforce them across national boundaries and across continents.

There are two inner communions of the OCR. These two churches are both still headed by Archbishop Francis Spataro as Primate (appointed as such by +Brennan in 2001). That action of appointing a separate Primate has effectively separated their governance from that of the OCR, although of course Archbishop Spataro remains a senior OCR member. They have in some cases entered into separate intercommunion arrangements that do not involve the OCR.

They are firstly the body founded by Archbishop Mathew in 1916 and variously called The Uniate Western Catholic Church, The Uniate Western Catholic and Apostolic Church, The Western Catholic and Apostolic Church, and The Old Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church. This church professes the Uniate position of the Roman Catholic faith. It accepts Vatican I and is dedicated to union with Rome. It was designed by +Mathew to fill the role in Britain that is today filled by the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. The other church is The Universal Christian Communion/The Universal Episcopal Communion founded by +James Christian Crummey of the North American Old Roman Catholic Church in 1930. This church most closely resembles the OCR in its post-1998 role. If the OCR desired to continue as a world federation along the lines proposed in late 2017, it would seem to me that the UCC is a more obvious banner to do that work under than the OCR. That does not mean, however, that the other caveats regarding expansion and accountability that I have mentioned above would not apply.

As explained above, the AEC continues to represent the unincorporated OCR association, and while it makes no claim to exclusivity or primacy, it has no intention of allowing either the Missouri corporation or Archbishop Kline as that corporation’s single officer to affect its position. The complete failure of our discussions with Archbishop Kline and his subsequent actions in disregard of the AEC and its interests have caused the AEC and the Order of Antioch to remove themselves from communion with him and with the Missouri OCR that he continues to head. For the purposes of clarification, the AEC continues to assert that its clergy, being members of the OCR appointed wholly independently of the Missouri corporation, remain members of the unincorporated worldwide OCR association that traces its roots to the 1874 OCR foundation. We do not claim that we have any exclusive right to that heritage, nor do we deny that others may have equally justified claims. With immediate effect, we are not connected with, and have withdrawn any endorsement from, Archbishop Kline’s Missouri corporation.

For the AEC, the OCR’s role so far as the future is concerned is therefore intended to be largely commemorative, confined to AEC members in the main, and by its nature non-public, being more akin in spirit to the original vision of the Order than to any of its post-1998 manifestations. In this aim, we ask for God’s help and the prayers of those who support our communion.

(L+S) ++JOANNES EDMUNDUS
9 April 2018 a.d., no. 11 of 2018

Attest: DOM A.M.D.G. WALSH OSB(SL)
Secretary to the Metropolitan Synod of the Apostolic Episcopal Church

About johnkersey

Historian, musician and educationalist.
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