Part 4 – 1986-present

The years of reunion

By 1986, there had been positive contact between Mar Alexander in Sweden and Mar Davids I and II at the Primacy and Province of the West in California. Both parties desired to put an end to the schism of thirty-eight years and re-unify the Apostolic Episcopal Church so that it might return to its original mission. A key figure in the negotiations had been Archbishop Paul G.W. Schultz (1931-95), who was a professional colleague of Mar David II (both were professors at the same college in California) and also served in the Order of Corporate Reunion under Mar David II. Already in July 1979, Mar David II was writing “a unified effort should be established to keep strong the ties of men in the work of the Lord…to have word that the AEC is alive in Europe is very important to the AEC in the Americas. I’m overjoyed!”

Unravelling the background to reunion

The last time that Metropolitan Synod had met validly was prior to the death of Mar John Emmanuel in 1948. Of those who had been episcopal members at that point, Mar Carolus, Mar Chrysostomos, Mar Georgius and Mar Philippus were all dead. Mar Haroldus and Mar Nikolaus had both been members of Metropolitan Synod as priests, and were subsequently consecrated bishop in the divided church of the post-1948 era, but both were also now deceased. Only Mar David I survived, and he remained the lawful Primate and Presiding Bishop of the AEC under the terms of the 1947 Concordat.

After the death of his last remaining colleagues, Mar Georgius and Mar Nikolaus, both in 1979, Mar David I was the sole surviving member of Metropolitan Synod of the AEC, having been its Ecclesiastical Administrator since 1948, and as a result his previously autonomous actions now carried the weight of that body as well. In these circumstances, Mar Davids I and II abrogated the Canons of the AEC and instituted government by decree, a position Mar David I had effectively maintained since succeeding to the Primacy given the divisions within the church.

As has already been related, various prelates had laid claim to the Primacy on an autonomous basis during the intervening period. Of these, Mar Carolus had resigned from the AEC and vacated his office in so doing. Mar Haroldus in New York had appointed Mar Alexander as his successor, uniting the Province of the East, USA, with the Svea Synod in Sweden. Mar Markus in Norway was the successor of Mar Philippus in the OAEK, but since the OAEK was a body that had been created separately and autonomously from the AEC, his position was moot; in any case his political views meant that the other clergy of the AEC did not want to be associated with him. Mar Georgius in England had attempted to assert his right to the Primacy and appoint his successors to office in the AEC through an autonomous act in 1966, but without this act having first been recognized by the other living members of Metropolitan Synod, namely Mar David I, Mar Haroldus and Mar Nikolaus, it was void ab initio.

Prince-Abbot Edmond II de San Luigi, who held title to the corporation of the AEC Province of the West, was violently opposed to any reunion; however, his belief that mere ownership of a corporation conferred proprietary rights to its name was not well founded. A letter from the California Secretary of State of 4 October 1988 addressed this issue directly, stating “The filing of [articles of incorporation] is purely ministerial and does not in anyway suggest the giving of property rights to a word or words in the conduct of corporate affairs”. Furthermore, his health was now fragile and while members of the AEC took cognisance of his position and would revisit the issue in 1996, it was clear that he was not able to sustain any active appointment. Nevertheless, the AEC continued to regard him as a bishop of the church, albeit separated from its mainstream. At his death in 1998 he appointed no successor and his representation of the AEC came to an end. Before that time, the Province of the West had used the name Apostolic Episcopal Catholic Church in order to avoid conflict.

In Europe, the OAEK survived Mar Markus’s death in 1992 for a short time, but ceased activity soon afterwards. In March 1994, the Synod of Mar Georgius’s church, now renamed the Orthodox Church of the British Isles, voted to become a part of the Coptic Orthodox Church, which as an Oriental Orthodox body confesses a position on faith which is at variance with that which has been maintained by the AEC since its foundation. By this act, they thus vacated any continuing claim to membership of the AEC (see The Tover of St Cassian, vol. 4 no. 1 (Winter 1996), p. 3).

Although reunion had been substantially achieved in 1986, it can be seen that by 1998, the competing claims to the AEC’s jurisdiction that had arisen in the post-1948 era had in fact been fully resolved.

Reunion and enthronement of the new Primate

On 7 November 1986, at the chapel of Archbishop Paul G.W. Schultz in Glendale, California, Mar David I installed Mar Alexander as his successor as the third Primate and Presiding Bishop of the AEC (thereby reuniting several branches of the church under canonical headship), and conditionally consecrated him on the same occasion. Mar David II also retired from his responsibilities in the AEC in favour of Mar Alexander, retaining the headship of the Ancient Christian Fellowship. The other bishops participating in the service were Archbishops Emile Rodriguez y Fairfield, Primate of the Iglesia Ortodoxa Catolica Apostolica Mexicana and Emeritus Primate of the Old Roman Catholic Church of Great Britain, Daniel N. McCarty of the Apostolic Catholic Church of the Americas, Jürgen W. Bless, and Arthur Garrow of the Philippine Independent Catholic Church in the Americas. Fr. Peter Hickman, later a bishop, was also present. A further document issued by Mar Davids I and II on 11 June 1988 attested to their understanding of the history and jurisdictional position of the AEC and affirmed Mar Alexander’s Primacy as well as giving canonical standing to the Scandinavian branch of the AEC which had developed autonomously in the post-1948 era. At the same service on 7 November 1986, Archbishop Paul G.W. Schultz was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the AEC Province of the East, USA.

In retirement, Mar David II consecrated Torkom Saraydarian (1917-97) as his co-adjutor in the Ancient Christian Fellowship. However, Bishop Saraydarian predeceased him. At one point he had designated Archbishop Francis Spataro as his successor in his other offices under the name Mar David III, but negotiations broke down before the ceremony of installation could be arranged. Mar David II reposed on 26 December 2000, having left his papers and library to Bishop Saraydarian’s foundation.

Missions with the Philippine Independent Catholic Church

A major development of the post-1986 era was the union between the AEC and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (a member church of the Union of Utrecht of the Old Catholic Churches and of the Anglican Communion) and the establishment of that church’s branch in the USA under the name Philippine Independent Catholic Church in the Americas. At a time when the IFI was divided into two factions, each representing around half of the church’s membership, the PICC was loyal to the longstanding Obispo Maximo Macario V. Ga (pictured right at the consecration of AEC bishop H. Edwin Caudill in 1993 at which he presided). Obispo Maximo Ga and his bishops had become closely associated with the nascent Continuing Anglican movement, for which they had consecrated bishops, which involvement had caused friction with other members of the Anglican Communion. On 26 February 1986, Archbishop Forest Ernest Barber (1922-92) was consecrated and appointed Bishop of Hugao in the IFI; he would be appointed AEC Archbishop of the Philippines on 3 April 1988 and spent several months of each year at his missions in that country. The AEC also used the name Holy Eastern Catholic Apostolic Philippine Church for its Philippine mission. In April 1986, Thomas Gore, a former Episcopalian priest, was consecrated bishop for the PICC by IFI bishops including Barber and incorporated the PICC in Texas. On 14 June 1987, Archbishop Barber conditionally consecrated Mar Alexander, who was incardinated into the IFI as Archbishop of Scandinavia and all Europe on 24 November 1987. Mar Alexander thereafter had responsibility for a number of dispersed Filipino immigrant congregations in Europe.

On 19 December 1987 at Notting Hill Methodist Church, London, England, Mar Alexander conditionally consecrated Archbishop George Boyer (1921-2008) (pictured left) and appointed him as Missionary Bishop of the PICC for the British Isles. As well as his mainstream church activities, Archbishop Boyer was a noted esotericist and the successor of Richard, Duc de Palatine, who had been consecrated and invested with multiple esoteric authorities by Mar Georgius in 1953. Archbishop Boyer’s Church of the Ascension had entered intercommunion with the AEC in 1983, with Archbishop Boyer being appointed AEC Missionary Bishop in London. In 1986, Archbishop Boyer and Mar Alexander had, through the AEC, provided the authority for the formation of the Caribbean Episcopal Church in the United Kingdom, for which body Archbishop Bancroft A.A. McCarthy was also conditionally consecrated and installed in office at the service on 19 December 1987. Archbishop McCarthy served as Bishop for the Diocese of Jamaica in the AEC from 1984 until 2015.

Archbishop Boyer’s mainstream missions were consolidated under the PICC banner and on 13 October 1990, he formed St Gabriel’s Ecumenical College of Bishops with seven other bishops of independent communions. This body offered “practical help and support to those Christian Groups lacking facilities and with specific religious needs: with particular regard to the Caribbean, Philippine, Ethiopian and other groups who are without a place of worship, and to help them to find fellowship within the wider Christian Community.” The IFI/PICC succession and connexions paved the way for a closer relationship with the Church of England, thus reaffirming the Anglican roots of the AEC. On 1 April 1993, Archbishop Boyer was appointed AEC Archbishop of Great Britain and acted as Secretary of Metropolitan Synod. He would retire on his 74th birthday in 1995, but in the event, no appointment to succeed him was made until after his death in March 2008. On 23 June 1996 he hosted the first meeting of Metropolitan Synod for many years in London.

Archbishop Francisco Pagtakhan (IFI/PICC) with Mar Alexander

At Archbishop Schultz’s chapel in Glendale, California, on 15 June 1988, an intercommunion agreement was signed between the AEC (represented by Mar Alexander) and the IFI/PICC (represented by Archbishop Francisco de Jesus Pagtakhan (1916-2008), IFI Archbishop of Cagayan Valley and the Americas and Secretary for Missions, Ecumenical Relations and Foreign Affairs). Despite the factionalism that attended its background, this was to be the first official concordat to be achieved between an Anglican Communion and Utrecht Union member church and one of the smaller Apostolic communions. Mar Alexander and Archbishop Schultz were conditionally consecrated by Archbishop Pagtakhan on the same occasion, Mar Alexander being installed in his offices as IFI Archbishop of Europe and Missionary General for Scandinavia and all Europe. On 24 July 1988 Archbishop Schultz was installed as Bishop of Los Angeles for the PICC.

Bishop Robert Amadou and Mar Alexander at the service on 17 September 1988.

On 17 September 1988 in Paris, Mar Alexander exchanged consecrations with Robert Amadou (1924-2006), a priest of the Syrian Orthodox Church and bishop of the Eglise Gnostique Universelle. This was the only episcopal consecration ever performed by Bishop Amadou, who was a professor at the Sorbonne and an expert in esotericism and parapsychology. As a consequence, Bishop Amadou’s Eglise Syrienne was established as a communion of the AEC; he was also appointed as Missionary Bishop of France for IFI/PICC.

In 1992, the Porvoo Agreement established co-operation between the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran Churches. This framework proved to offer a preferable alternative to the arrangements that had been in place for the care of Filipino congregations through IFI/PICC missionary bishops in Europe, and consequently Mar Alexander and the other European AEC clergy who served in the IFI/PICC retired in due course from their offices in that communion. This was not the end of the AEC’s witness in the Philippines itself, however. Following the death of Archbishop Barber in 1992, Harold James Donovan served as AEC Archbishop of the Philippines until his translation to the See of Java and the Far East in November 1994. After that time, the See of the Philippines was occupied by Archbishop Edmondo Molina Jickain (Mar Levi bar Thoma), whose mission is entitled Apostolic and Catholic Church of the East.

Ministry and Primacy of Archbishop Francis Spataro

Archbishop Francis Cajetan Spataro (Mar Timotheos III) (1936-) earned a Licentiate in Religion from the People’s University of the Americas, a BA degree from Long Island University, an MA from New York University and an MS degree from St John’s University, New York. In 1982 he received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from St Ephrem’s Institute of Eastern Church Studies, Scandinavia.

On June 25, 1976, with Father Eugenio N. Loreto of the Philippine Independent Catholic Church, the future Archbishop Spataro founded the Vilatte Guild, an historical and research organization with which he has been integrally involved over the course of nearly forty years. The Guild attracted significant interest and contacts from bishops of the independent communions both in the USA and overseas, and its Extension Academy published newsletters and a periodical, The Independent Catholic.

Receiving an honorable discharge from the United States Army in 1962, Archbishop Spataro embarked upon what would become a lifetime of service as an educator (serving as a teacher for 29 years) and minister. Early in his career, he served as pastor of Pucker Street Community Church in Conesville, New York. He was ordained Presbyter in the Orthodox Catholic Church on December 26, 1976 by Archbishop Uladyslau Ryzy-Ryski (1925-78), head of the American World Patriarchates with which the AEC was and is in intercommunion. Fr. Spataro established the Western Rite Vicariate as the vehicle for his ministry in New York. From 1978 to 1983, he was active in providing campus ministry services on Long Island to international students from India and Guyana. During the late 1970s he became faculty advisor to a high school pen pals’ club that connected its members to others abroad. Fr. Spataro’s own pen pal turned out to be none other than Mar Alexander.

(L to R) Archbishop Francis Spataro (AEC), Archbishop Patrick Trujillo (Archdiocese of Our Lady of Guadalupe), Archbishop Peter Paul Brennan (OCR)

Elected bishop in 1980, Fr. Spataro was responsible for the Province of the East, USA, from 1978 onwards, with Archbishop Paul Schultz acting as Apostolic Administrator from 1986. During this time, the ministry of the Province of the East was not only directed to other Christians, but embraced interfaith outreach, with Fr. Spataro emphasizing the interconnectedness of all religious ideas. Fr. Spataro published Charles Mason Remey and the Baha’i Faith in 1987, the first comprehensive biography of the founder of the Orthodox Baha’i movement, and was editor of The Remey Letter, the journal of the Charles Mason Remey Society which he had founded in 1979. He was also associated with the Societas Rosicruciana in America, which was formerly led by Mar John Emmanuel’s one-time colleague Archbishop George Winslow Plummer (and which received its charter from Mar Basilius Abdullah III in 1951), and is a Grand Cross of the Military Order of the Knights of the Temple of Solomon.

Since the 1970s, the AEC had a particular mission to provide spiritual care for the remaining adherents to the Catholic Apostolic Church (“Irvingites”) in Sweden. It should be remembered that 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 1971. 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 Mar Alexander consecrated Fr. Francis Spataro as AEC Provincial of the East there.

At the same service, 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 by Mar Alexander. At this time, Dr. Faunch was assistant curate at a central London church and also celebrated the Eucharist at the last extant church that had been associated with the Catholicate of the West, the Cathedral Church of the Good Shepherd of the Ancient Catholic Church in Clapton, north London.

The Revd. Dr. Paul Faunch with Mar Alexander, 19 November 1988

On 1 March 1998, Mar Timotheos III was officially installed as successor to Mar Alexander as the fourth Primate and Presiding Bishop of the Apostolic Episcopal Church. Mar Alexander was acting on medical advice to enter retirement given that he had recently been diagnosed with a heart condition.

The ministry of Mar Timotheos III for many years centred upon Camp St Cassian at Potter Hollow in the Catskill Mountains, established in 1990 with an attendant Society of St John Cassian using buildings and a chapel owned by the former Holy Orthodox Church in America, with which the AEC was in intercommunion. The Camp was a retreat centre with a mission to rehabilitate clergy of all denominations suffering from burnout and other problems affecting their ministry. In 2005, Mar Timotheos III retired from this ministry and the site was sold to the nearby St Dormition Abbey of ROCOR, which had shared its facilities with the Camp for many years. The Society of St John Cassian continues in existence today. The Tover of St Cassian was the printed journal of the AEC and the Order of Corporate Reunion for a number of years, being edited by Mar Timotheos III .

The Chapel of St Joseph of Arimathea at Camp St Cassian: Archbishop Spataro and fellow clergy, December 1996

The energetic ecumenical work of the 1970s and 1980s, during which links of friendship had been established with several of the major Orthodox communions as well as many Apostolic and non-Apostolic churches, had been highly productive and had raised the profile of the Apostolic Episcopal Church considerably, but its extremely wide scope had taken the Apostolic Episcopal Church into a position where its core identity was in danger of being lost. A major achievement of Mar Timotheos III’s Primacy was to return the church to its roots, firstly through reasserting its presence in its original home of New York, and secondly through a process of rationalization that concentrated upon its core spiritual heritages of Orthodoxy and Anglicanism, and that would lead the Apostolic Episcopal Church into the mainstream of Anglican Traditionalism.

In pursuit of this goal, the Apostolic Episcopal Church became a member of a Continuing Anglican body, the Anglican Church, Inc. (formerly the Anglican Church in the United States) from 1993 onwards, an international confederation of independent jurisdictions accepting the principles of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and the Affirmation of St Louis. This brought the AEC into communion with other Continuing Anglican churches in the USA, India, Ecuador, Mexico and the United Kingdom, under the leadership of Bishop Frank Benning. Following Bishop Benning’s death in 2000, he was succeeded by Bishop Wayne Ellis who merged the Anglican Church, Inc., into the AEC and continued to serve the AEC as Archbishop of the West and Central Provinces, USA, until 2015. Upon attaining membership, the AEC adopted the Canons of the Anglican Church, Inc.

Further links of intercommunion were established with Continuing Anglican and Orthodox jurisdictions, as well as ecumenical links of friendship with others. The AEC’s ministry in New York centred upon St John’s Episcopal American Catholic Church in Harlem (pictured left), which was under Fr. Cyril Kent as Rector. This church had been founded in 1928 by Bishop Joseph Byron of the Vilatte succession. In addition, the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ss. Peter and Paul under pastor Bishop Pedro Bravo-Guzman elected Archbishop Spataro as their Bishop Visitor in 2000. Ministry was principally directed to the Afro-American community in New York, as well as to immigrant Ecuadorians. Mar Timotheos III became a member of the Queens Federation of Churches, a member body of the U.S. National Council of Churches affiliated to the World Council of Churches.

The present day

The AEC suffered the loss of its central public ministry in New York when St John’s Church was compelled to close. During the remainder of the primacy of Mar Timotheos III, the ministry of the AEC was blessed through ecumenical friendship with the Old Roman Catholic Church at St Lucy’s Cathedral, Brooklyn, which hosted a number of ecumenical services including AEC clergy, and through a network of ministries both indigenous to the AEC and joined to the AEC through bonds of intercommunion.

Archbishop Spataro with Fr. Vladimir Raasch

In Great Britain, under Archbishop John Kersey, the AEC has pursued each of its main mission priorities: ecumenical outreach and fellowship, inter-church collaboration, and practical ministry both through mission parishes and through the work of individual clergy. Archbishop Kersey, an Anglican by birth and like Archbishops Persson and Spataro a former schoolteacher, has also concentrated attention on the AEC’s intra-church role, with increasing international interest in its research and scholarly work thanks to the development of the Internet. His education includes degrees and diplomas from universities and colleges in Britain, Africa and Latin America. In 2008, he received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from St Ephrem’s Institute of Eastern Church Studies, Scandinavia. He is the Chancellor of European-American University, Bunyoro-Kitara, and of its division the Western Orthodox University, and holds a number of consulting and honorary professorships, notably at the Universidad Empresarial de Costa Rica where he is a Full Professor in the International Program.

Dr Kersey was appointed Archbishop of Great Britain in the AEC in succession to the late Archbishop George Boyer in 2008, and has also served ministerial roles in the Ancient Catholic Church, Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church and the Ecclesia Apostolica Divinorum Mysteriorum, the latter ministry being a manifestation of the inner church tradition (in which he has a particular interest) founded by him under charter from the AEC in 2010. In 2011, he was elected the eighth Prince-Abbot of San Luigi (an office once held by Archbishop Joseph René Vilatte) with the regnal name Edmond III, and as such is Grand Master of the Orders of the Crown of Thorns and of the Lion and the Black Cross, and Superior-General of the Order of Antioch.

Mar Alexander (Persson) and Archbishop Kersey after his installation in London in 2008

His books, all of which are published by European-American University Press, include Arnold Harris Mathew and the Old Catholic Movement in England 1908-52 (2010), and Joseph-René Vilatte (1854-1929): Some Aspects of his Life, Work and Succession (2011). His research into the historic independent churches has resulted in many biographical articles on particular bishops, some of which are now available online.

In July 2014, Archbishop Kersey was elected co-adjutor with right of succession to the Primate and Presiding Bishop of the AEC, and succeeded as the fifth AEC Primate upon Mar Timotheos III’s retirement in February 2015. His Eastern designation as Primate is Mar Joannes Edmundus.