The Apostolic Episcopal Church is eager to co-operate and work in harmony with all, who believe in Personal Redemption through the Sacrifice on the Cross of our Divine Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who died, was buried and rose again for our Justification. It claims in this sense to be fully ecumenical.
Statement of Perry Nikolaus Cedarholm, AEC Archbishop of Sweden, 1970
The ecumenical outreach of the Apostolic Episcopal Church has been expressed from its earliest days both in formal agreements of intercommunion and in relationships of friendship and mutual understanding with churches large and small. Throughout, the Apostolic Episcopal Church has stood for bringing Christians of diverse backgrounds and approaches together despite their differences, in obedience to the prayer of Our Lord that “all may be as one”. This work may also be seen as furthering the “broad church” tradition of Anglicanism.
This ecumenical history is inherent in the foundation of the AEC as a mission that stands between the Eastern tradition of Orthodoxy in our parent church the Chaldean Catholic Church and the Western tradition of the Anglican Communion. On 7 January 1929 our founder, Archbishop Arthur W. Brooks, was recognized by a document issued by Archbishop Leon Tourian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America. This was followed in July 1930 by similar recognition from the future Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens, then acting as the ambassador in the United States of the Ecumenical Patriarch, His All Holiness Photios II. On 29 May 1929, at Christ’s Church-by-the-Sea, New York, Archbishop Brooks organized a united Holy Communion service with clergy from ten different communions participating.
In July 1933, the AEC entered into intercommunion with the Society of Clerks Secular of St Basil under its superior, Bishop Ignatius (William Albert Nichols), Archbishop Brooks being one of the first members of that society. Bishop Ignatius also worked with Archbishop Brooks’ former ministerial colleague Archbishop George Winslow Plummer (Mar Georgius) to form the Holy Orthodox Church in America as a continuation of the original Brooks-Plummer mission. Intercommunion between the AEC and the Holy Orthodox Church in America was reconfirmed under Plummer’s eventual successor, Archbishop Stanislaus de Witow (Theodotus).
During the 1930s and 1940s there was a close relationship between the AEC and The Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church in North America under Archbishop John More-Moreno (Mar Chrysostomos). There were also ecclesiastical relations between the AEC and the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum) (through bishop John Taylor Hamilton), the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Reformed Episcopal Church, the Liberal Catholic Church, and Baptist, Congregational and Presbyterian congregations. Archbishop Brooks had charge of the Greek Orthodox Church of St Michael, New York, a responsibility bestowed on him by the Patriarch who at that time had no Greek Orthodox bishops in the United States.
Ecumenical service at St Francis Chapel, Queens, New York: Left to right: Fr. Samuel, Archbishop Francis Spataro (AEC), Archbishop Irl Gladfelter (Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church), Bishop Pedro Bravo-Guzman (Association of Independent Evangelical Lutheran Churches), Archbishop Peter Paul Brennan (Order of Corporate Reunion), Archbishop Paget Mack (AEC)
On 8 October 1941, Archbishop Brooks accepted the office of Presiding Bishop of the Old Catholic Orthodox Church in England. On 23 March 1944, this church united with others to form the Western Orthodox Catholic Church, subsequently to become known as the Catholicate of the West. From 29 June of that year, formal union existed between the AEC and the Catholicate of the West. Some of the vicissitudes of that union are discussed in our History pages.
In 1933, the semi-secret Order of Corporate Reunion appointed Archbishop Ignatius (Nichols) as OCR Pro-Provincial for the USA and Archbishop Brooks as Prelate and Rector Provincial for the State of New York. This was the beginning of a long relationship between the AEC and the OCR. Brooks also became a member of three other clandestine ecumenical communions: the Archbishop John Carroll Original Synod, the Evangelical Catholic Communion and the World High Church Fellowship. This continued a thread that had begun with his initial election to the episcopate by the Universal Kirk of Scotland of the Old Original Catholic Sees of St. Andrews and Glasgow.
On 24 May 1947, Archbishop Brooks signed a private agreement of intercommunion with Dr Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury, in consequence of the involvement of the two prelates in Freemasonry. Four months before his death, Archbishop Brooks entered into discussions with Pope Pius XII.
Divisions within the AEC and the difficulties experienced by the Catholicate of the West caused a hiatus in ecumenical activities during the following two decades. However, this period was not without progress. On 15 July 1951, when Archbishop Perry N. Cedarholm returned from the United States to his homeland of Sweden, his episcopate in the Apostolic Episcopal Church was recognized by the Church of Sweden.
In the 1970s and 1980s, much of this lost ground was reclaimed. During the Primacy of Archbishop Bertil Persson, the AEC established ecclesiastical relations with several major Orthodox communions: the Syrian Orthodox Church (through Patriarchs Moran Mor Ignatius XXXIX Yacoub III and Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka Iwas), the Ancient Church of the East (through Catholicos-Patriarch of the East Maran Mar Adhai II), the Coptic Orthodox Church, Eparchy of France (through Metropolitan Amba Marcos, who was formerly a priest in the AEC), and the Melkite Greek Catholic Church (through Patriarch Maximos V Hakim).
Intercommunion relations were also established with a number of the historic Apostolic independent communions. These included the Independent African Orthodox Church (through Patriarch Moran Mor James II (Daniel James Augustine Kanyiles)), the American Catholic Church (Syro-Antiochean) (through Archbishop-Primate Herbert T. Wilkie), the Old Roman Catholic Church in Italy (through Archbishop-Primate Viktor Ivan Busà), the Patriarcat Orthodoxe de l’Europe Latine (through Patriarch Louis J.S. Canivet (Aloysius Basilius III)), the North American Old Roman Catholic Church (through Archbishop-Primate Edgar Ramon Verostek), the American World Patriarchates (through Patriarch Uladyslau I (Ryzy-Ryski), The American Orthodox Catholic Church (through Patriarch Christian I (John Arthur Chiasson)), The Church of the Ascension (through Archbishop-Primate George William Boyer), Église de la Nouvelle Alliance (through Patriarch Stephanos (Roger Caro)), Gesellschaft des Guten Hirten (through Superior General Victor J. J. Schoonbroodt), Église Chrétienne Catholique Traditionnelle (through Archbishop-Primate Thomas Julius Ottó Csernohorszky-Fehérváry (a confirmation of full communion, first entered in 1932 through bishop Victor de Kubinyi)), Iglesia Católica Apostólica Méxicana (an autocephalous communion of the North American Old Roman Catholic Church: through Archbishop-Primate Emile Rodriguez y Fairfield), the Reformed Catholic Church (UK) (through Archbishop-Primate Richard Kenneth Hurgon (a confirmation of full communion, first entered in 1946 through Archbishop Wallace de Ortega Maxey)), Igreja Católica Apostólica Brazileira (through Patriarch Luís Castillo Méndez), Christ Catholic Church of the Americas and Europe (through Patriarch Peter II (Zhurawetsky)), the Western Orthodox Catholic Church in America (through Archbishop-Exarch Joseph John Skureth), and the Ethiopian Orthodox Coptic Church of North & South America & Europe (through Metropolitan-Archbishop-Primate Philip Lewis).
In addition to these Apostolic communions with Orthodox or Catholic roots, intercommunion was also established with a number of churches with their origin in Anglicanism and Nonconformism, including the Catholic Apostolic Church (“Irvingites”) (through subdeacon Norman Priddle at the Central Church, Gordon Square, London, UK), the Methodist Episcopal Church (through Bishop Odd Hagen), the Original Unitarian Church (as founded in 1568 by Bishop Ferenc Dávid) (through Bishops Joseph Ferencz and Lajos Kovács), and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (through Obispo Maximo Macario Ga). The Apostolic Episcopal Church also established the Caribbean Episcopal Church of the British Isles in 1986. In 1992, with the permission of the Bishop of London, the Revd. Dr. Paul Faunch, a priest in the Church of England, was admitted to an Honorary Canonry in the Apostolic Episcopal Church.
Under the Primacy of Archbishop Francis Spataro from 1998 onwards, a revision of the AEC’s ecumenical relationships took place. This revision reflected the need to assert a clearer Orthodox and Anglican identity for the AEC, as well as the fact that a number of the ecumenical links of the previous decades had been tied to the personal ministry of Archbishop Persson. It also marked the return of the AEC Primacy to the State of New York for the first time since the death of Archbishop Brooks fifty years previously.
In consequence of this return to its core values, the AEC became a member of the International Confederation of Traditionalist Anglican/Episcopalian Churches (headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, under the leadership of the late Archbishop Frank H. Benning). Archbishop Spataro also became an active member of the Queens (New York) Federation of Churches which in turn affiliates to the US National Council of Churches and thus the World Council of Churches.
During Archbishop Spataro’s Primacy, the AEC incorporated The Anglican Church, Inc., under Archbishop Wayne Ellis (having been in intercommunion with that church since 1992), and entered into agreements of full communion with the Iglesia Católica Anglicana del Ecuador, the Anglican Independent Communion (Original Province), the Byelorussian Orthodox National Church in Exile, the Ethiopian Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, and the Uniate Western Catholic Church (an inner communion of the Order of Corporate Reunion). In 1996, Archbishop Spataro was the co-founder of the Association of Independent Evangelical Lutheran Churches and from 2000-02 was Bishop Visitor of St. Peter & St. Paul Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church, New York. In 2010 the AEC chartered the Ecclesia Apostolica Divinorum Mysteriorum (Church of the Divine Mysteries).
In addition to its intercommunion with the Catholicate of the West, the Apostolic Episcopal Church also affirmed its intercommunion with the parent body of the Catholicate, the Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church. This church had been formed as a result of the 1943 Council of London which had been composed of representatives of the smaller Apostolic jurisdictions in England, including the Old Catholic Orthodox Church whose Primate was the Most Revd. Arthur W. Brooks (Mar John Emmanuel), also Primate of the Apostolic Episcopal Church, and the Order of Antioch. The resolutions of the Council of London deposed the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch for schism due to his act of repudiation of the British clergy of Antiochene descent in 1938. It elected to the vacant Patriarchate the Most Revd. William Bernard Crow (1895-1976) under the title Mar Basilius Abdullah III, who thus led the British clergy during their period of exile from their mother church. Intercommunion was entered into between Mar Basilius Abdullah and Mar John Emmanuel immediately afterwards. The AEC continued to enjoy close relations with the only living bishop of the Apostolate of the Holy Wisdom, the Most Revd. Kermit W. Poling (Mar Titus), who was consecrated by Mar Basilius Abdullah III in 1972, and was thus the senior bishop of the Antiochean Western succession. On his death in 2015 he was succeeded by the Primate of the AEC as canonical head-at-line.
The 1988 intercommunion between the Apostolic Episcopal Church and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Philippine Independent Church, Philippine Independent Catholic Church), and the resulting consecrations of AEC bishops by their fellow bishops in the IFI, brought it into relations with a fellow Anglican church which has been in full communion with the Anglican Communion since 1960, and also with other Continuing Anglican bodies that were supported by the IFI. The orders of the IFI are recognized under the Church of England’s Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967. The IFI has also been in full communion with the Union of Utrecht of the Old Catholic Churches since 1965.
In 2017, the Apostolic Episcopal Church entered into an agreement of recognition with the Venerabile Confraternita (o Compagnia) detta del Buonconsiglio di Città di Castello and the OR.VEN. – Ordine Venerabile della Venerabile Confraternita di Maria Ss.ma del Buonconsiglio della Buona Morte e Misericordia, Città di Castello, Italy (Order of the Venerable Confraternity (or Company), known as of (Our Lady of) Good Counsel of Good Death and Mercy of Città di Castello). This Italian organization is probably the oldest Christian brotherhood in continuous existence today, dating from around 990AD.
For many years, the Apostolic Episcopal Church has had a relationship with the Catholic Apostolic Church, sometimes called “Irvingites”. The Catholicate of the West was, in part, an attempt to continue the mission of that church, whose public ministry came to an end with the death of its last clergy in major orders in 1972. During the 1970s, the community of the Catholic Apostolic Church in Sweden came under the care of the AEC. Subsequently an intercommunion between the Catholic Apostolic Church and the AEC was agreed by the late Norman Priddle, an underdeacon who served the Central Church in Gordon Square, London. In 1992, the only episcopal consecration to take place at Gordon Square since the Catholic Apostolic Church entered into the “Time of Silence” in 1901 occurred, when Archbishop Francis C. Spataro was consecrated for the AEC there.