The Apostolic Episcopal Church regards the Anglican Communion as one of its “parent churches” together with the Chaldean Catholic Church, and expresses its desire to work co-operatively in the common cause of Christian ministry wherever possible with other Anglicans. The Apostolic Episcopal Church affirms its position as an Anglican church, and its commitment to the historic faith and practice of the Catholic tradition within Anglicanism.
On 24 May 1947, Archbishop Brooks, then Primate of the Apostolic Episcopal Church, signed a private agreement of intercommunion with Dr Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury, in consequence of the involvement of the two prelates in Freemasonry. Today, however, in common with most conservative and traditionalist Anglican bodies, and in light of its position as a member church of a former Continuing Anglican federation, the Apostolic Episcopal Church is not a member of, and is not in formal intercommunion with, the Anglican Communion. We note the preamble to the Jerusalem Declaration, the Final Statement of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) of 2008, to wit: “Our fellowship is not breaking away from the Anglican Communion…While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury.”
Like other Continuing Anglicans, the Apostolic Episcopal Church does not ordain women to the major orders. This, however, is not the only reason why the Apostolic Episcopal Church is not a part of the Anglican Communion today. Within the Anglican Communion, the historic Catholic witness that gained so much impetus through the Oxford Movement has been steadily marginalized as Protestant and modernist Evangelical voices have prevailed. The traditional “broad church” approach has become distorted as Anglo-Catholic voices have found themselves fewer in numbers and more impoverished in both hierarchical support and resources. In such a position, it is perhaps not a surprise that for some, it is preferable to find a home within a small communion where their traditions are upheld faithfully rather than to face a continual struggle for their existence in a wider church that often gives the impression of indifference or outright hostility to Catholic worship.
Of course, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham offers one option for those who seek an immediate union with the Holy See. However, this option is unlikely to satisfy those who are traditionalist in their beliefs and who regard the Second Vatican Council as a catastrophic error. Traditionalist Catholicism has, indeed, been arguably somewhat better preserved within the Anglo-Catholic tradition than by Rome itself.
In such a situation, the Apostolic Episcopal Church offers a number of characteristics that may commend it to those attracted to its particular charism. First and foremost, its Apostolic Succession derives from Rome via the Chaldean Catholic Church (a Uniate or Eastern Catholic Church in full union with the Holy See) and so is indisputably valid according to a traditional Catholic sacramental understanding. In addition, it also holds the Anglican succession, which derives not only from Canterbury but from the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht and the Polish National Catholic Church. This position allows the Apostolic Episcopal Church to form a bridge between these two traditions.
Since 1988, the Apostolic Episcopal Church has been in full communion with the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Philippine Independent Church, Philippine Independent Catholic Church). The resulting consecrations of AEC bishops by the Primate (Obispo Maximo) and other bishops of the IFI have brought it into relations with a fellow Anglican church which has been in full communion with the Anglican Communion since 1960. It should be noted that since 1981 there has been a division in the IFI between the approximately half of the church that has remained loyal to the late Obispo Maximo Macario V. Ga and those who have opposed him. The AEC has been allied throughout with the party supporting Obispo Maximo Ga and the Continuing Anglican missions which he established in the USA, Europe and the UK.
The Holy Orders of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, which have been received by all current bishops of the Apostolic Episcopal Church, 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, which is similarly in full communion with the Anglican Communion. We should add that the episcopal orders of the Apostolic Episcopal Church were first recognized by the Church of Sweden, which is also now in full communion with the Anglican Communion, on 15 July 1951 in respect of Archbishop Perry N. Cedarholm of the AEC.
During the incumbency of Dr David Hope as Bishop of London (1991-95) two matters concerning the recognition of the Holy Orders of the Apostolic Episcopal Church were referred to him for decision. The first was in respect of a minister of the Caribbean Episcopal Church, a ministry which had been established by the Apostolic Episcopal Church. Dr Hope’s decision was that the minister’s ordination should be recognized within the Church of England. The second matter was in respect of the late Canon Dr Paul Faunch, a priest in the Church of England, who was granted permission by Dr Hope to accept an honorary Canonry in the Apostolic Episcopal Church in 1992.
There have also been several cases in recent years where clergy in Holy Orders deriving from the Apostolic Episcopal Church have had their orders accepted by the Episcopal Church in the USA, where AEC clergy have been licensed by Anglican provinces, and where AEC clergy have assisted on an informal basis within parishes of the Church of England and other Anglican communions.
Today, the Apostolic Episcopal Church stands ready at all times to show its solidarity in faith and practice with its traditionalist brethren serving within the Anglican Communion as well as within the Continuing Anglican churches, and to offer co-operation and assistance in ministry whenever this can be reasonably provided.