Since 1929, the governing authority of the Apostolic Episcopal Church has been its Metropolitan Synod. In the modern era, the relatively small size of the AEC and the close links between its bishops have led to a position where the Decrees, Ordinances and Regulations of the Primate motu proprio are binding on Metropolitan Synod, the other members of which fulfil a role that is principally advisory and consultatory.
The Canons Ecclesiastical of the Apostolic Episcopal Church, which form its governing authority, have been augmented by specific legislative provisions that pertain to the organization of the AEC. In 1932 the legislature of the State of New York gave particular legal status to the Apostolic Episcopal Church by enacting a special article of the Religious Corporations Law (art. 3-A., chap. 597 of the Laws of 1932) which became a law on April 1, 1932, when it was signed by the governor, Hon. Franklin D. Roosevelt, subsequently President of the United States. In 1933 the law was amended providing for granting of ecclesiastical degrees of orders in theology, which became a law on April 3, 1933, when it was signed by Gov. Herbert H. Lehman. Under this legislative charter, which remains in force today, the Apostolic Episcopal Church, its Metropolitan Synod, its parishes, and its religious orders derive their legal standing.
In the light of legislative changes in the State of New York since the initial organization of the AEC, the Church has taken additional measures whereby the Primate and Presiding Bishop of the AEC is today constituted a Corporation Sole in the State of Hawaii with perpetual succession. The Corporation Sole gives recognition to the authority of the Canons of the AEC which are its governing bylaws.
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).
The matter of governance is kept under continual review so that the AEC can adequately meet the needs of its mission and clergy without undue bureaucracy. Membership of Metropolitan Synod is generally extended to all bishops who hold their authority from the Apostolic Episcopal Church and who are able to participate actively in Synod’s proceedings; there is further provision for the representation of other clergy and for a lay synod at such a point in the future when the number of committed adherents makes this practical.
Under the Primacy of Mar David I (Maxey) (1948-86), the Apostolic Episcopal Church abrogated its former Canons with the exception of those principles that are enshrined in the applicable legislation of the State of New York. Instead, it adopted a form of administration whereby the Decrees of the Primate motu proprio were binding on Metropolitan Synod (which included those elements of the erstwhile Canons referred to above).
Between 1993 and 2000 the Apostolic Episcopal Church reverted to canonical governance once more, when it adopted the Canons of the Anglican Church, Inc., with which it was in intercommunion. After the merger of the Anglican Church, Inc., with the Apostolic Episcopal Church in 2000, the smaller size of the resulting communion led to the restoration of government by decree. Upon taking office in February 2015, the present Primate promulgated a new edition of the Canons Ecclesiastical that enshrined the governing principles that had come to characterize the practice of the Church during the previous decades.
The Canons are the formal enshrining of the quotidian governance of our church. However, they are not a full reflection of that church as a community of faith. The strongest emphasis of such a system of governance is on a responsible and effective means of internal regulation and an adequate response to issues that affect the outside world as that world looks upon our church in practical terms. When people seek to ask questions about accountability, governance, responsibility and practice within the Apostolic Episcopal Church, they will find the answers in these Canons.
The nature of canonical governance in the Apostolic Episcopal Church reflects the practical position whereby Metropolitan Synod, due to the geographically widespread situation of its members, is no longer able to meet regularly in person. Nevertheless, it remains possible for Metropolitan Synod to enact its own regulations and to be constituted either in full or in committee. Metropolitan Synod is thus a means whereby matters of concern to the Church may be referred for wider discussion, and additionally the Primate may choose to refer his own decisions to Metropolitan Synod for the purposes of review or ratification. For the purposes of the laws of the State of New York, the governance of the Apostolic Episcopal Church is classified as hierarchical, which is to say that it belongs to the category of churches that are organized as a body with other churches having similar faith and doctrine with a common ruling convocation or ecclesiastical head.
The current rescension of the Canons of the Apostolic Episcopal Church can be read here:
Merged churches – past and present
Within the overall structure of the Apostolic Episcopal Church there are several church bodies which have been merged over the years. These are as follows:
The American Catholic Church
The AEC Province of the West, USA, was merged with the American Catholic Church under its Primate, Archbishop Lowell Paul Wadle, from 1951 until Wadle’s death in 1965, whereupon the two churches separated once more.
The Ancient British Church (Catholic Apostolic Church of the West)
This church, also known as the British Patriarchate, being founded in 1874 under the authority of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, merged with the Catholicate of the West in 1945 (see that church).
>>Ancient British Church – Primatial Decree
The Ancient Catholic Church
This church, which was in intercommunion with the Apostolic Episcopal Church at its chartering by the Catholicate of the West in 1950, was placed under the primacy of Archbishop John Kersey of the AEC in 2008.
>>Ancient Catholic Church further information
>>Ancient Catholic Church – Primatial Decree
The Ancient Christian Fellowship and Divinity School of Divine Science Universal
Initially formed by Archbishop Maxey in 1930 as the Old Catholic Church of America; renamed 1936. On 31 July 1946 it merged in the AEC, but was shortly afterwards recreated as a dependent religious society of the AEC. Its headship has been merged in the AEC Primacy since the death of Patriarch Robert R. Ramm in December 2000.
>>Ancient Christian Fellowship (Old Catholic Church of America) – Primatial Decree
The Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church
Intercommunion was entered with the AEC immediately following the establishment of this church on 17 October 1943, the Old Catholic Orthodox Church (then under the primacy of the Primate of the AEC) and the Order of Antioch being two of the parties represented at the Council of London. This was reconfirmed under AOCC bishop Mar Titus (Poling). Upon the death of Mar Titus in 2015, the Primate of the AEC succeeded him as canonical head-of-line of this church.
>>Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church and Order of Holy Wisdom – clarification
>>Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church etc. – Primatial Decree
The Anglican Church, Inc.
This church was one of the Continuing Anglican churches whose Diocese of the Southwest was led by the late Archbishop H. Edwin Caudill, also AEC Archbishop of the Central and Western Provinces, USA, and his successor in both offices and from 2000, Presiding Bishop of The Anglican Church, Inc., Archbishop Wayne Ellis. The church has formally merged with the AEC.
The Apostolic Episcopal Church – Order of Corporate Reunion
This body was incorporated by the AEC in New York in 1995. In 1996, the corporation was separated from the AEC when Dr Donald Hugh left the AEC and established his own organization under its aegis as part of his Holy Celtic Synod (see below). The AEC-OCR organization that had been established within the AEC, and that had been placed under the corporation until 1996, was then re-absorbed into the AEC.
The Apostolic-Episcopal Universal Church
This church was formed in 1927 by Archbishop Brooks when he separated his ministry from the Anglican Universal Church of Christ in the United States (Chaldean) led by Archbishop George Winslow Plummer. It was redesignated as the AEC in 1930.
The Catholic Apostolic Church (Catholicate of the West)
This church was formed in 1944 from a number of small churches in the British Isles and was in intercommunion with the AEC from its foundation. In 1977 it was formally merged with the Apostolic Episcopal Church by Primate Mar David I (Maxey), who was the head of both bodies.
>>Catholicate of the West – Primatial Decree
>>Catholicate of the West – documents
Christ’s Church-by-the-Sea, New York
This church corporation was one of the original bodies that formed the AEC corporation in 1932. Archbishop Charles W. Keller, who was Rector from 1948, joined the Episcopal Church in 1950; the ministry of Bishops Perry N. Cedarholm and Harold F.A. Jarvis continued there until March 1951 when the AEC ceased its involvement with the church. The congregation of the church then voted to become a Presbyterian parish, and this still remains the case today. Friendly relations have been established between the AEC and the present church authorities, and AEC clergy have been involved in several services there in recent years.
Ecclesia Apostolica Divinorum Mysteriorum
This body was chartered by the AEC in 2010 and represents a continuation of the inner mission of the Christian Church with particular interests in the study of the Templar and Gnostic traditions.
>>E.A.D.M. further information
The Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church in North America
This church was founded by Archbishop Aftimios (Ofiesh) in 1927. From 1934-51 it was under John More-Moreno (Mar Chrysostomos) who served as a bishop in the AEC and from 1950-51 was in union with the AEC Province of the East, USA, under More-Moreno as Ruling Prelate. In April 1951 the two churches separated once more.
The Lord’s Evangelical Church
This New York church corporation, founded by Bishop William H. DuBois, was one of the original bodies that formed the AEC corporation in 1932.
The Methodist Renaissance Church of Pakistan
This church was incorporated as a diocese of the AEC in 1996 under its bishop, Fakhrud Din.
Eastern Apostolic Episcopal Church (Oosters Apostolisch Episcopale Kerk)
This body was established in 1953 by Archbishop Herman Philippus Abbinga as his continuation of the work of the AEC in Scandinavia. Shortly before Archbishop Abbinga’s death in 1968 he appointed Bishop Harold F.A. Jarvis his successor as Patriarch, thus reabsorbing this church back into the canonical AEC. See also below.
The Old Catholic Church of Great Britain
Established in 1968 as the British extension of the Celtic mission of St Tugdual de Saint-Dolay, this church has been under the Primacy of Archbishop John Kersey, now Primate of the AEC, since August 2012.
>>Old Catholic Church of Great Britain further information
The Old Catholic Orthodox Church (1925)
This church was formed by members of the Old Roman Catholic Church of Great Britain in 1925 and in 1941 entered into personal union with the Apostolic Episcopal Church when Archbishop Brooks was elected its Presiding Bishop. It was merged in the Catholicate of the West at its foundation in 1944.
>>Old Catholic Orthodox Church – Primatial Decree
The Order of Rievaulx
This body was established in England, and in 1946 Archbishop Maxey was appointed its Grand Prior for the Americas. It was structured as an Order of Franciscan Tertiaries, open to both men and women, and following a modified Rule. While the English branch became extinct, the American branch survived and its headship today is merged in the AEC Primacy.
The Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Church (Apostolic Church of the Indies)
This church formed circa 1938 in India and asserted that it was the successor to the Independent Catholic Church of India (Metropolis of the Diocese of Ceylon, Goa and India (excluding Malabar)) of Mar Julius I Alvares, who had died in 1923, being a presbyteral continuation of his movement. It entered intercommunion with the Catholicate of the West in 1948 (see that church) and merged with that church in 1956.
>>Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Church – Primatial Decree
The Syro-Antiochean Church
This church was established as a part of the AEC under the late Bishop Robert Amadou, who was also a priest in the Syrian Orthodox Church, and reverted to the AEC Primacy upon the death of Bishop Amadou in 2006.
The Syro-Chaldean Metropolitical See of India, Ceylon, Mylapore, Socotra and Messina
This See was re-erected in 1862 by the Syro-Chaldean Patriarch of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, and passed in due course to the English bishop Ulric Vernon Herford. It was merged in the Catholicate of the West in 1945.
>>Syro-Chaldean Metropolitical See of India, Ceylon, Mylapore, Socotra and Messina – Primatial Decree
The United Armenian Catholic Church in the British Isles
This church was founded by the Armenian expatriate Mar Leon (Chechemian) in 1889 and its primacy was united with the Ancient British Church until 1945, when it became united with the Catholicate of the West (see that church).
>>United Armenian Catholic Church in the British Isles – Primatial Decree
The Visiting Church
This New York mission church was established in June 1933 by Harold F.A. Jarvis, later a bishop in the AEC, and absorbed into the AEC later in that decade. It was highly active under Bishop Jarvis and an account of its ministry is given in our History pages.
Associated institutions and societies
In addition, the AEC incorporates and is associated by virtue of its clerical outreach with a number of institutions and societies, which are used as needed for the purposes of mission. These include the following:
The Anglican Association of Colleges and Schools
The Association is the in-house accrediting body for the educational institutions of the AEC, also being open to other institutions offering programmes of a Christian nature.
The Catholic Apostolic Church
The AEC claims no jurisdiction over the Catholic Apostolic Church, commonly but erroneously called “Irvingites”, but accepts a number of its teachings and continues certain aspects of its mission.
>>Catholic Apostolic Church – Primatial Decree
The Epiphany Guild
Founded in 1924 and incorporated in 1931 by Archbishop Brooks. Revived in the 1980s as the Epiphany Fellowship under the leadership of the Revd. Canon Paul Faunch as a correspondence scheme for the training of lay readers. Today it offers awards in Public Worship and operates as a division of the Western Orthodox University (see below).
Holy Apostles Glastonbury Biblical Seminary of the Apostolic Episcopal Church
Founded in 1941 by Archbishop Brooks, this remains the seminary of the Apostolic Episcopal Church today and is attached to the Western Orthodox University (see below).
The International College of Arms of the Noblesse
A heraldic and nobiliary organization founded in 1925 at the International Convention of the Noblesse de Race by virtue of powers confirmed to the Noblesse by Francis ll, King of France, and extended by Ordinances of the Kings of France dated 1725 and 1760 respectively, as recognised and maintained by Articles XXXVII and XIV of the Capitulation of Montreal 1760 and guaranteed by the Quebec-Canada Act 1774 and by Articles II and XXIV of the Treaty of Paris 1763. Since 1950 it has been a constituent corporation of the Catholicate of the West (see above).
>>ICAN further information
The Order of St James the Apostle
Founded November 1934 by Archbishop Brooks, who became its first Superior with the title Knight Grand Chaplain. Today, the Order is retained as a means of recognizing service to the AEC or its intercommunion partners.
The J.S.M. Ward Society
Established in 2016, the Society exists to further interest in the life and work of Archbishop John Sebastian Marlow Ward (1885-1949) of the Orthodox Catholic Church and Catholicate of the West. It is attached to the Western Orthodox University.
The Order of St Martin of the Holy Cross
An order of chivalric character established by the former Apostolic Episcopal Church Archdiocese of the Caribbean.
St John’s Society for Welfare and Service
Founded 1 March 1934 by Archbishop Brooks.
The Nicholson Orders
Established originally under the Catholicate of the West in 1951-52, these three orders of the Ancient Catholic Church (The Valiant Order of St John the Baptist, The Order of Ave Maria and The Order of S. Teresa – The Little Flower) were re-founded under Archbishop John Kersey, now Primate of the AEC, in 2008.
The Western Orthodox University
Founded in 1945 and incorporated as a constituent corporation of the Catholicate of the West since 1950 (see above). As part of the Catholicate it was formally incorporated in the Apostolic Episcopal Church by act before the Secretary of State of California in 1977. It received accreditation from the Pontificia Accademia Tiberina, Rome, in 2016 and since 2019 has been a division of European-American University, Panama.
Churches in personal union with the Apostolic Episcopal Church
The Abbey-Principality of San Luigi
Founded in 1883 and a part of the Roman Catholic Church until 1899, the Abbey-Principality was briefly a sovereign theocratic state in the Fezzan. As of 1899, under Prince-Abbot Joseph III (Archbishop Joseph-René Vilatte, also known as Mar Timotheus I), the exiled administration of San Luigi was re-established in France. Since his death, the jurisdiction has had close Anglican and Orthodox links, and includes a religious order, the Order of Antioch. Its current head is (as Prince-Abbot Edmond III) Archbishop Kersey, Primate of the Apostolic Episcopal Church.
The Byelorussian Patriarchate of St Andrew the First-Called Apostle
The Patriarchate was established in exile in 1965 under the late Patriarch Peter II Zhurawetsky, who was ordained and recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. Though exiled and marginalized, it remains the only fully continuous embodiment of the Belarusian church from pre-Soviet years. Its current Ecclesiast is Archbishop Kersey, Primate of the Apostolic Episcopal Church.
Churches not in our communion
There have been several churches whose name is the same as or similar to ours, but that are not part of our communion.
The Apostolic Episcopal Church – Order of Corporate Reunion (Inc.)
This body, incorporated in the State of New York, is headed by Dr Donald Hugh, who was formerly Archbishop of the Province of the West in the AEC. It is connected with his Holy Celtic Church, which ceased to be in communion with the AEC in June 1996, and Celtic Synod.
Magyar Apostoli Epizkopális Egyház
This Hungarian body was formed by Tamas Szeles and Bertil Persson, former bishops of the Apostolic Episcopal Church, following their departure from our communion. Bertil Persson resigned from the Apostolic Episcopal Church with effect from 5 February 2015 and Tamas Szeles ceased to be a member of the AEC for disciplinary cause on the same date. These men are excommunicates and neither possesses any form of jurisdiction or authority from our church.
Eastern Apostolic Episcopal Church (Oosters Apostolisch Episcopale Kerk)
Although Archbishop Abbinga had appointed Harold F.A. Jarvis to succeed him as Patriarch of this church, there remained one bishop of the OAEK in Sweden, Dag Giverholt (Mar Markus), who continued independently, although he conducted no public worship. As of 1989 there were two priests under him. Shortly after his death in 1992, the OAEK ceased ministry altogether.
Igreja Apostólica Episcopal Portuguesa/Portuguese Apostolic Episcopal Church (Old Catholic)
This entity has no connexion with the Apostolic Episcopal Church. Its website became inactive around 2009.