The consecration of James Orin Mote in 1977preserved the historic episcopate.
The consecration of James Orin Mote in 1977preserved the historic episcopate.

The Influence of Modernism
In the course of the Eighteenth Century the Protestant and Catholic tendencies within the Church of England were joined by a third force that flowed from the skepticism of the Enlightenment. At first the Enlightenment produced English Latitudinarianism, a movement that accepted some clear Biblical fundamentals in doctrine but that argued for latitude and liberty in most matters. Gradually, as Biblical authority was subjected to a corrosive influence by the Broad Church and Modernist movements, the accepted fundamentals grew fewer and fewer in number. The result was a theological minimalism which sapped the strength of the Church of England and its daughter churches throughout the world. By the 1970s global Anglicanism was in crisis, as it moved away from the catholic and apostolic faith and towards a kind of liberal theism that was heavily influenced by secular culture.

One of the key issues at stake was that of women’s ordination. Contrary to the manner in which it has been portrayed, the question was not simply about equal rights in the workplace. Opponents of women’s ordination were neither disputing the idea of equal pay for equal work, nor were they suggesting that women could have no role as ministers within the Church. Rather they were questioning whether one branch of the “Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church” could unilaterally alter doctrine. While this may not be an issue of concern for those give precedence to secular concerns, it represented within the Anglican tradition a marked departure from the historic faith and practice of the undivided Church.

Theologically speaking, a priest is not only a minister or teacher. These roles can, and have, been filled by women in the history of the Church. One has only to look at the lives of such extraordinary figures as Hildegard von Bingen and Teresa of Calcutta to see examples of each. Instead, what makes a priest unique is his sacramental role; his functioning as a living “icon of Christ” the celebration of Holy Communion. It is for this reason that the office of the priest has since earliest times, and in churches both East and West, been understood as male in provenance. In sanctioning women’s ordination, the Anglican Communion appeared to abandon the Apostolic Order that was so carefully preserved at the time of the Reformation.

Other issues, equally troublesome for those who held to the traditional understanding of the faith, were increasing levels of support for abortion, confused teaching on the sacrament of marriage, and a Prayer Book revision, which in addition to being couched in language that was largely forgettable and mundane, seemed to minimize man’s condition as a sinner in need of forgiveness and grace. All of these were symptomatic of a shift away from the historic faith and practice of the Church, and so, in response to decisions by the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church in the United States to adopt a this secular orientation, a decision was made to form a jurisdiction wherein traditional Anglicanism could be preserved.

Keeping the Faith
In 1977 an international congress of nearly 2,000 Anglican bishops, clergy and lay people met in St. Louis, Missouri, to take the actions necessary to establish an orthodox jurisdiction in which traditional Anglicanism would be maintained. Acting according to the principles determined by the seven great Ecumenical Councils of the ancient Church and adopting initially the name “Anglican Church of North America,” (ACNA) they placed themselves under the jurisdiction of the retired Episcopal bishop of Springfield, Illinois, the Right Reverend Albert Chambers. In 1978, Bishop Chambers, with the assistance or consent of other orthodox bishops, expanded that jurisdiction and devolved it upon others, and the Anglican Catholic Church was born.

The Reverend Charles Doren, sometime Archdeacon of the Diocese of Taejon in South Korea, was consecrated first. Joining Bishop Chambers in the consecration were the Right Reverend Francisco de Jesus Pagtakhan of the Philippine Independent Catholic Church, and through Letters of Consent and Desire, the Right Reverend Mark Pae, Bishop of Taejon. The Right Reverend Charles Boynton, Suffragan Bishop of New York, also indicated his intention to participate in the Denver consecrations, and his consent thereto, by advance letter to the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. However, a critical hospitalization prior to the consecrations prevented Bishop Boynton’s physical presence. Bishop Boynton subsequently joined the Anglican Catholic Church, confirming his consent to and approval of the Denver consecrations.

After Bishop Doren’s consecration, he joined Bishops Chambers and Pagtakhan on the same day and place in consecrating three other bishops: James Orin Mote, Robert Sherwood Morse, and Peter Francis Watterson. These four Denver consecrations of 1978 bestowed the Apostolic Succession upon the ACNA (now called the ACC) and permitted it to move from provisional organization, an Acting Metropolitan, and proto-dioceses to full and permanent Church organization. Sister jurisdictions were subsequently established by Bishop Morse (Anglican Diocese [later Province] of Christ the King) and Bishop Doren (United Episcopal Church of North America), and these ‘Denver Succession’ Churches remain in full communion with one another.

Since that time, the ACC and its affiliated jurisdictions have grown to include traditionalist Anglicans in Europe, India, South America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Australia. As we move into the twenty-first century, we look forward to spreading the Good News of Christ through evangelism and the preservation of our heritage as Catholic Anglicans. We hope you too will join us.