What is most significant to us is the fact that in faith and order and ecclesiastical system of administration, this Church is so thoroughly representative of the basic principle of unity that prevailed in the early Apostolic Church…here in this Church, worshipping together every Sunday are Christians of Catholic and Protestant heritage, all united around the Altar and Lord’s holy table. All the bitter religious conflicts of the centuries seem to be forgotten.
From “Practical Christian Unity: Christ’s Church-by-the-Sea, A Symbol of the Future Trend of Christianity in New Era of Religious Recovery” by Henry J. Geigher, Ph.D., Religious Research and Surveys, 1940.
The Apostolic Episcopal Church still holds to the special mission defined by our founder, Archbishop Brooks:
- To bring into clearer manifestation the Ancient Fourfold Mission of the Universal Church, viz.:
a) True Apostolicity.
b) True Prophetic Office.
c) Unbiased and unhampered preaching of Christ the Messiah.
d) Demonstrating DIVINE LOVE through true pastoral work.
- To awaken in the minds and hearts of mankind all over the earth the Blessed Hope of the Return of Jesus the Christ, and to prepare ourselves for His Coming.
- The awakening in man of his true destiny, that he may once again exercise those charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit, with which the Church was once so generously endowed.
- To demonstrate before the world the Grace of the Sacramental Life as it can manifest in body, soul and spirit.
- To revive and practice the Divine Gift of Healing.
- To act as a center for the reunion of Christendom; especially Eastern and Western Branches of the One Holy Catholic Apostolic and Orthodox Church.
Nature and Ideal
The Apostolic Episcopal Church is a western-rite extension of The Chaldean Catholic Church; an evangelical-ecumenical-ecclesiastical movement, oriented to New Thought and New Age according to the original understanding of those concepts, and works in the spirit of the declaration of the Assembly of The World Council of Churches in New Delhi 1961.
With its origins in a purely missionary movement aimed to provide spiritual ministrations to a particular group, the Apostolic Episcopal Church knows no bounds whatsoever regarding race, colour or nationality, and ministers to all peoples in the spirit of the primitive, undivided Christian Church. In this respect it differs in practice from the majority of Orthodox churches which are ethnically based.
Our ideal is expressed in these words of our founder:
The brotherhood of man in the Fatherhood of God, in union with the Son, Jesus Christ, true God and true man, bound in the unity of the Holy Spirit, is the only foundation of fellowship in the Universal Church; which must be above all class, racial and national differences, as the outward and visible expression of the spirit of Christ. On this principle of Christian fellowship we hope to build for the future, and trust we may prove to be worthy of the noble heritage of the East, which has inspired this body to do its best to uplift humanity.
In recent decades, it has been the AEC’s ecumenical mission (“to act as a center for the reunion of Christendom”) that has been the most prominent aspect of its work, expressed through the development of the Ecumenical Apostolic Succession and a wide variety of inter-church collaborations.
However, witness at the parish level has also continued throughout. The ministry of the AEC is not primarily expressed through building a network of parishes; to do so would be counter-productive in that it would attempt to compete with other churches – notably within the traditional Anglican heritage – whose work we desire to support. Nevertheless, there remains a considerable work to be done in terms of ministry to the unchurched and those who, for whatever reason, find themselves more attuned to the experience of ministry within our company than elsewhere. This work may find expression in a parish or mission, or it may be reflected in the work of clergy within the wider community, through specialist ministries, or in formal or informal chaplaincy. Moreover, the clergy of the Apostolic Episcopal Church have always been ready to offer assistance and co-operation with their colleagues in other churches, including a number of such collaborations with fellow Anglicans over the years.
It follows that the work of the Apostolic Episcopal Church remains committed to evangelism, but not to proselytisation. We do not seek to have others leave their churches in order to join ours. We are not interested in numbers for their own sake. We stand ready to answer the call of those who need us – perhaps for a specific time in their lives, or in a more enduring relationship.
Inevitably, limited resources have always been an issue, particularly in a situation where our clergy are geographically widespread, yet we continue to serve Our Lord with joy and dedication. Those laity who are associated with us – through mission parishes, prayer or study groups – take on the responsibilities of maintaining contact with their clergy, and often travelling some distance in order to attend worship and enjoy the fellowship that is a vital part of the Christian life. Where there is a need for our work, we are happy to hear from enquirers who are interested in starting a mission or a prayer or study group. We also encourage all our laity to keep in touch with their local parish church – be that church Anglican or of another tradition – so that they are not denied participation in the communal life of their parish, while still being able to experience the particular charism that the Apostolic Episcopal Church offers when the occasion allows them to do so. Of course, such links must be considered carefully, and if the local Anglican parish is served by female clergy this may give rise to issues where specific advice is needed in order that witness is not compromised.
Where a parish has formed and has prospects of stability, clergy and lay members will form a parish committee that will be charged, among other things, with the administrative and financial responsibility for the parish. Parishes within the State of New York are governed by specific legislation, while those elsewhere are free to establish their regulation in accordance with the policy of the Church. The Apostolic Episcopal Church maintains no central fund, and its clergy receive no stipend, giving their vocations without expectation of financial compensation. Parish funds are required to be maintained in accordance with the law on non-profit organizations in the country in question, and will usually be used for the hire and maintenance of buildings where worshippers meet, for the provision of the essentials for worship, and for any charitable works that the parish may wish to support. It is up to each parish to decide whether they wish to introduce formal tithing for members, or to rely purely on ad hoc voluntary contributions to meet their expenses.
Part of the Mission of the Apostolic Episcopal Church is the encouragement of the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are described by St Paul in 1 Cor. xii 8-10 as being nine in number: the Word of Wisdom; the Word of Knowledge; Faith; Gifts of Healing; Miracles; Prophecy; Discerning of spirits; Divers kinds of Tongues, and the Interpretation of Tongues. These were all manifested in the early Church, but were lost as the later Church suppressed them. In the nineteenth-century, prayers began for the restoration of these gifts, and in answer to those prayers, they continue to be available to those Christians who desire them. In the Apostolic Episcopal Church, the clergy are responsible for the lay ministry of charismatics within their parishes, and any person wishing to exercise this lay ministry in public must first obtain a license to do so from their regionary or provincial bishop.
The Apostolic Episcopal Church practices Divine Healing through the sacrament of Unction, but also encourages the exercise of a healing ministry by those who have been blessed with this charismatic gift. Services of Divine Healing may be held involving prayer and the laying-on of hands; these may be led by lay members holding a license from their bishop. The Church does not present such services as a substitute for medical care, but as an adjunct to it.
One particular feature of the Apostolic Episcopal Church is that, following a long Anglican tradition, a number of its clergy (including four of its Primates) have been engaged professionally in education, and the Church has made educational engagement a particular mission priority. This has shown itself in several journal and book publications dealing with aspects of theology and church history, as well as the practical work of classroom teaching. Our most vital educational role comes in the form of instruction in the Faith for those who are new to us and exploring our particular charism within Christianity, and of course, for catechumens.
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