In addition to the churches claiming Old Catholic and Orthodox descent, there are a variety of groups which have emerged from the Anglican tradition and separated themselves from communion with the Episcopal Church and the see of Canterbury for a variety of reasons. The first of these groups is the Reformed Episcopal Church, formed in 1873 by Bishop Cummins of Kentucky. The Reformed Episcopal Church currently has membership of roughly 8,000, and is the oldest and most stable of non-ECUSA expressions of Anglicanism. It is in a different category than the other “continuing” churches described below.
A second wave of groups emerged from the Episcopal Church in the 1960s, dissatisfied with perceived “liberal” trends in the Episcopal Church. Another, larger, wave of laity and clergy left the Episcopal Church in the late 1970s over the ordination of women and revision of the Book of Common Prayer. These groups have remained very small; the largest ones probably have 6,000-7,000 members, the smaller ones only several dozen. They have received episcopal orders from a variety of sources, including a retired Episcopal bishop who was censured for his actions by the House of Bishops.
More recently there has been another series of groups departing the Episcopal Church, this time over disagreements on human sexuality. Unlike the 1970s groups, these persons do not emerge from the Anglo-Catholic tradition but are largely evangelical and charismatic. In 1999 two priests of the Episcopal Church were ordained to the episcopate by bishops from the Anglican Church of Rwanda and the Church of Singapore. Declaring the Episcopal Church apostate, the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) was formed. The intent was to form a separate province of the Anglican Communion for disaffected Episcopalians in the United States. In 2001 four more bishops were consecrated for this group, which numbers roughly 5,000-6,000 members. These bishops are technically canonically resident in the Church of Rwanda, but neither the Episcopal Church nor the Archbishop of Canterbury has recognized the right of these bishops to perform episcopal acts in the United States.
Like the “episcopi vagantes” groups, these “Continuing Anglican Churches” should be approached with caution. Many of them have undergone subdivision and schism, and few have shown stability. Some have begun to form alliances and partnerships with one another, as well as with other Anglican churches overseas.
Clergy from “Old Catholic” or Continuing Anglican Churches
The Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations regularly receives inquiries about clergy from “Old Catholic” or other Anglican churches seeking to be licensed or received into The Episcopal Church.
Title I, Canon 20, of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church was created to clarify the churches with which this church is in full communion:
Title I, Canon 20: Of Churches in Full Communion
Sec.1. The Episcopal Church, a member of the Anglican Communion, has a relationship of full communion with those Churches in the historic episcopal succession and with whom it has entered into covenant agreements including:
(a) the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht,
(b) la Iglesia Filipina Independiente / the Philippine Independent Church, and
(c) the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar.
Sec.2. The Episcopal Church has a relationship of full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America under the terms of “Called to Common Mission,” which was adopted by the 73rd General Convention of the Episcopal Church as Resolution A040.
While not passing judgment on the validity or invalidity of the Holy Orders of any non-Utrecht Old Catholic Church or any Anglican Church not in communion with the see of Canterbury, canonically clergy from these churches should not be considered as clergy ordained in churches in full communion with this church. As such Title III, Canon 10, Section 2, “Clergy Ordained by Bishops in Communion with this Church,” is not appropriate. It would be up to the diocesan, in consultation with the Presiding Bishop as specified in Title I, Canon 16, to determine whether Title III, Canon 10, Section 3 or Section 4 would apply.